‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for December 31st

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Today I hear the laughter of children at play. Their voices filled the air almost like chimes. And I felt their arms about my neck and their sticky kisses on my face. How blessed I am! Today I heard a mockingbird trilling out every single song it every heard from its winged friends. I closed my eyes and in the trees I heard all the voices I’ve heard since childhood, and it took me through all the happy, breathless, precious times I loved so much.

Today I heard my mother’s voice calling to me happily. It was a good, strong, healthy voice that has called to me courage, and hope and peace, and shall continue to call down many lanes to me.

Today I heard my child’s voice. I heard her singing, I heard her praying, I heard her laughing and talking. I heard her teasing and moving from place to place in all the activities I love to see her in.

Now, even more than ever I realize how grateful I am that Gods has given me the excellent faculty of hearing. I shall with all diligence try to hear nothing evil, but only love and peace which is my heritage.

________________________

Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 31

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 31

“They must give themselves to Wakan’ Tanka and live a spiritual life. They will have the peace that frees them from fear.”

–Frank Fools Crow, LAKOTA

There are two wills available for us: self will and God’s will. Our choice is: figure it out ourselves, or have the Creator involved in our lives. If we are honest with ourselves and look at past experiences, what are our lives like when we try to figure it out ourselves? Is there fear, confusion, frustration, anger, attacking others, conflict, fault finding, manipulation, teasing others, belittling others or devaluation? If these things are present, they indicate that we are choosing self will. What is it like if we turn our will over to the Creator? What are the results if we ask the Great Spirit to guide our life? Examples are: freedom, choices, consequences, love forgiveness, helping others, happiness, joy, solutions, and peace. Which will I choose today, self will or God’s will?

Creator, I know what my choice is. I want You to direct my life. I want You to direct my thinking. You are the Grandfather. You know what I need even before I do. Today I ask You to tell me what I can do for You today. Tell me in a way I can understand and I will be happy to do it.

December 31 – Daily Feast

December 31 – Daily Feast

A feast is a huge banquet of wonderful foods and wonderful friends to share it. It is a time when people honor people – and many memories are laid aside for this celebration. But another kind of feast is in the heart – at the core where life is decided. It is the human way to believe himself victim of many things, and he starves at his center. He worries excessively about who will take care of him and who will feed him and if he will survive at all. Never start a day without gratitude – without an inner singing of “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” Never start a day being sour and hard to get along with. Never talk trouble nor give credence to those who do. Never give another person reason to be unhappy….. And remember, this is your day. This is a day of celebrating new life and purpose.

~ On the other side of the river there is plenty of buffalo. When we are poor we will tell you. ~

BLACKFOOT – MOUNTAIN CROW

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily Motivator for December 31st – Too precious to waste

Too precious to waste

This is your life, so don’t settle for a cheap imitation. Live each moment of  it with substance.

Life is too precious to waste even a little bit of it on meaningless junk.  Give your time, your attention, your efforts and your energy to what really  matters.

If something doesn’t concern you, don’t let it consume you. If something  doesn’t really matter, then let it go.

There are only so many hours in this day. Choose to spend every one of those  hours in the service of what truly matters.

Your priorities are based not on what you say or intend, but on what you  actually do with your time. Choose positive, meaningful priorities by spending  your time in positive, meaningful ways.

Devote yourself to what truly matters. And add more richness to your world  with each passing moment.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for December 31st – Putting Yourself First

Putting Yourself First

Daily Self-Care

by Madisyn Taylor

Putting yourself first means that it may be necessary to say no to someone else in order to say yes to yourself.

We have all heard the instructions of an airline attendant reminding us to put on our own oxygen mask before we help anyone else with theirs. This advice is often cited as a metaphor for self-care because it so accurately expresses why it is important. It seems to say, iron

ically, that if you can’t take care of yourself for yourself, do it for others. Few situations in our daily lives mimic the wake-up call of an airplane emergency, so it’s easy to keep putting self-care off—easy, that is, until we get sick, overwhelmed, or exhausted, and suddenly don’t have the energy to care for the people who count on us. That’s when we realize we haven’t been getting the oxygen we need to sustain ourselves. We begin to understand that taking care of ourselves is neither selfish nor indulgent; it’s just plain practical.

Putting yourself first means that it may be necessary to say no to someone else in order to say yes to yourself. For many of us, there is always something we feel we could be doing for someone else, and it helps to remember the oxygen metaphor. You can even encourage yourself by saying “I am caring for myself so that I am better able to care for others or some other mantra that will encourage you. It also helps to remember that self-care doesn’t have to be composed of massively time-consuming acts. In fact, the best prescription for taking care of yourself is probably small, daily rituals; for example, taking one half-hour for yourself at the beginning and end of the day to meditate, journal, or just be. You might also transform the occasional daily shower or bath into a half-hour self-pampering session.

Whatever you decide, making some small gesture where you put yourself first every day will pay off in spades for you and the ones you love. The oxygen you need is all around you; sometimes you just need to be reminded to breathe.

The Daily OM

Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality

Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality

Author:   Cu Mhorrigan 

Introduction:

Paganism has received a lot of attention in recent years with the increased use of the internet, television shows like Charmed, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel and movies like The Craft, Harry Potter, as well as cartoons like Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch.

Nowadays, it has become fashionable to announce oneself to be a Pagan, or Neo-Pagan, Wiccan or Witch – especially for teenagers, wishing to attract attention, adults trying to follow the latest fad in spirituality, or just as an excuse to justify weird or aberrant behavior.

However, calling yourself a Pagan is one thing; actually following the spiritual path is something else. It is my hope with this ‘class’ that I might explain in practical terms what it actually means to be a Pagan in our modern age and to assist those who wish to implement the following of this spiritual path.

Definition of the word “Pagan”:

The Word Pagan is derived from the Latin word ‘paganus’, which is loosely translated to mean “of the country”. It should be noted however that the usage of ‘paganus’ within the Roman Empire (Where they spoke Latin. Duh!) was always meant to be a slur meaning “hillbilly, redneck, hick, trailer trash, or white trash”. Much in the same way we would talk about guests on the Jerry Springer Show.

Later, when the Christian faith took over the Roman Empire under Charlemagne, it was used to describe those outside of the Christian faith and those in need of conversion. Not an improvement, because paganus was still pretty much of an insult.

Turning a negative into a positive:

It wasn’t until recently that the term ‘Pagan’ gained a more positive use with the resurgence of Pagan beliefs within the European and American Cultures. Those who sought spirituality closer to that of their “ancestors” adopted it. Eventually, it came to mean ‘those who follow the Old religions’ or ‘those who follow a spiritual path outside of the big three Abrahamic religions’. (What are the big Three Abrahamic religions?)

What DO Pagans Believe?:

An it harm none Do as thou wilt.

Speaking in general terms, Paganism is an earth-centered spirituality, which believes in the sacredness of all things, equality of all persons regardless of gender, sexual, and spiritual and social practices. The practices within Paganism are extremely diverse and open-ended allowing individuals to incorporate whatever rituals and belief systems they feel comfortable with.

Since there is so much diversity within our spiritual path, we stress personal liberty, and responsibility for one’s own actions. That as long as a person does not cause physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual harm to others or himself, he/she is free to pursue one’s physical, mental and spiritual development as he/she sees fit.

Which brings me to my next point: Pagans, in general, do not proselytize! That means you aren’t going to get a call from us at three o’clock in the morning asking us if you are going to ritual or not. There is no High Priestess going around smacking people over the head if they haven’t worked on their Book of Shadows or if they bought the wrong candle for a personal ritual. Aint gonna happen.

Why? We are assuming that if you are here, you want to be here. We’ll give you information, let you know your options, and the rest is up to you. We aren’t going to stand on a street corner and scream at folks for not worshipping Athena nor at women/men who chose not to go around sky clad (That’s ‘nekkid’ for those of us who are really new to this).

The Law of Return (or sowing and reaping):

There are no true “sins” within our spiritual practices. There are only things that cause harm (or, as I like to call them, “Stupid Ideas”) and things that are helpful (Or as I like to call them, “Good Ideas”).

When you do good things, good things tend to happen to you (Eventually). When you do bad things, bad things tend to happen to you (Eventually). Of course, since we do not live in a static environment, and people tend to interact with one another, sometimes things get a little ‘fa-kakhed’. However, the Universe always balances Itself out in the end.

This concept is called, karma and it’s a relatively complicated matter, which I have here boiled down to its lowest common denominator. Of course, there are differing views of Karma, one of which is the Three-Fold Law What you do comes back three-fold, or three times, back at you. (If you are not sure as to whether an act will have some kind of repercussion, ask yourself, how much would I really like this done to me?)

(The self-defense caveat: Like all “Laws”, there are loopholes. If someone else is out to cause you harm in some way it would be a really STUPID (Bad Karma) idea not to protect yourself, or your family, or your friends. However, make sure you have as many facts as possible (like the guy is holding a knife and threatens to cut you up) before beating the oneness of all things back into these individuals.

Pantheons, Divinities, Spirits, Energies:

Okay this is where it gets a little tricky, but stay with me. The most common (and extremely annoying) question we as Pagans get is, “Don’t you folks worship Satan?” (Everyone roll his or her eyes here.)

The answer to that is a resounding, “NO!” For the most part, you need to keep in mind that Paganism is a separate religion from Christianity. Hence Satan (Whom I call, the Christian God of Evil and Nastiness) is not a part of our pantheon. Sorry…

For the most part (depending on the tradition you follow) the Pagan concept of Divinity falls under one of the following expressions:

Duo-Theism: (Duo=Two or Dual, Theos=Divinities):

The Worship of a Co-Equal God and Goddess, each having unlimited power, compassion, wisdom, energy or what-have-you, but maintaining different roles and functions.

The God is aggressive, powerful, sexual adventurous, skillful. He handles the Male side of fertility.

The Goddess is nurturing, passionate, creative, sensual and artistic. She oversees the power of creating life through birth and the Female side of fertility.

This belief is widely held by the Wiccans and Wicca-like factions of Paganism.

Poly Theism: (Poly=Many, Theos=Divinities) The belief in multiple Gods and Goddesses.

Many folks see these Gods as extensions of the God and Goddess (i.e. Monism) with each one taking on different aspects at the time of their encounter with the worshipper. Others (like myself) believe that They are actually separate entities with Their own personalities, quirks and motives.

Not every god or goddess is a real people person nor does every god and goddess have a laid back attitude. If you are going to get involved with a particular deity, you had better make sure you do a LOT of research as to what they like, don’t like, and if a particular god or goddess is right for you. Otherwise your life will get extremely interesting in a bad way.

The third school of though in polytheism is the idea of the gods and goddesses being archetypes within a person’s own psyche. This is sort of like a piece of our own subconscious wrapped up in a costume and a mask in order to teach our conscious minds lessons they need.

Of course, there is more than those three Schools of thought, but I’m just giving the basics here.

Pantheism:

Simply put, this is the idea that the Divine is in everything; hence all things are a part of the energy we call god. Since all things are a part of god, all things are sacred and are expressions of the divine in some way, shape or form. When I worship a tree, I am worshipping the Divine; when I give food to a hungry stray, I am feeding the Divine; when I am hurting someone, I am hurting the Divine.

Then there is the Fourth Category:

I-have-no-Friggin-Clue-ism:

For the beginner, this is the best spiritual idea I can suggest. The idea is essentially, “I have no friggin’ clue if there is a Divinity or not, therefore unless I am shown otherwise, I will not say that the Gods are this way or that. I will respect the Power behind the name, but I will not pledge myself to him/her/it unless I have an absolutely good reason to.”

This is actually one of the safest belief systems to take as a new student of the Pagan path because you are open enough to receive enlightenment, but at the same time, you do not run the risk of making a total, complete ass out of yourself. The Gods will instruct you as They see fit.

Now of course, Pagans will usually incorporate not only one, but perhaps two or three of the ideas listed above. This usually comes from personal experience and cannot be learned any other way.
Keep in mind that it’s okay to shift from one idea to another or even to incorporate two or more of these ideas…it’s all good. Just find out what works best for you.

So How the Hades do I Become a Pagan? (Or stupid questions that are commonly asked)

Well, for the most part, it’s a matter of doing a lot of reading and a lot of self-exploration. It took me at least two years of studying online and reading books and attending classes to even consider myself a Pagan. A lot of the traditions under the banner of Paganism will have different views on training and initiation (think of it as baptism), and how one becomes a member of that tradition.

The best way is to start out attending Pagan gatherings, visiting bookstores and such, and talk to other Pagans. Eventually, you will either find a religious path that works for you or you will throw your arms up in dismay and run screaming back to your religion of birth. And there is nothing wrong with that. NOT AT ALL! We realize that the Pagan spiritual path is not for everyone, and we will not be offended. Just make sure you don’t tell people we sacrificed your cat and you’ll be cool with us.

Do I Need to Buy Special Clothes and Dress in Black?

The answer is: Only if you really want to. Yes, there are special robes some folks wear, but unless your coven says otherwise, you can pretty much wear what you want.

Just some basic suggestions: Wear something comfortable and wear something you won’t mind getting dirty. Most of our rituals take place outdoors and, while you may look really good in an Armani suit and Gucci shoes, there is a good chance your clothes will get messed up and your shoes scuffed.

Loose, light clothes in summer and spring is always a good idea, and warmer clothes in the fall are really smart. Most winter rituals will be held indoors, depending on the weather. If it makes you comfortable to wear black Witch clothes and pointed hats and cloaks… Knock yourself out…You’ll be getting lots of stares and odd looks (mostly from us), but all-in-all, if it makes you comfortable, then that is all that matters.

Do I Need to Buy Special Jewelry?

Again, only if you want to and if you enjoy it. Jewelry is a personal matter to the people who wear it. And it’s usually best to find a piece that says, “HEY! I LIKE YOU. WEAR ME AROUND YOUR NECK!” Otherwise, No special jewelry is required to be a Pagan.

Do I Need to Kill Something (like a kitten) and Drink its Blood?

No, you don’t have to kill an animal to be a Pagan. For the most part, we are animal friendly and don’t believe in killing a critter in order to work our rituals. Yes, there are some Pagan groups that practice animal sacrifice and it is left alone…but fear not, the only thing usually killed has already been slaughtered and put on the feasting table in a sacred bucket marked, KFC.

Do I Need to Become a Vegetarian?

Nope, being a vegetarian is a matter of personal preference and what you feel in your heart. While many of us are vegetarians, a lot of us aren’t. It may be a good idea to eat a little healthier, but no one is going to come down on you for eating meat or using meat-based products. However, you might want to do your own research and come up with your own choices.

So, What DO I Need to Do?

Excellent question. One, as I suggested before, do a lot of research, a lot of reading and, when in doubt, do more research. A lot of Pagans keep what is called a “Book of shadows”, which is just a fancy name for a Journal. Write down everything you learn in that book and when you get a chance, read it. If you see a cool article on the net, feel free to print it (for your personal use only, please).

To create a book of shadows, I would suggest buying a loose-leaf binder and fill it half-way with paper. It’s also a good idea to invest in a three hole punch. That way, you can put articles that you printed from the net and use them for later reference. Do not worry about using blood and special things to “make it official”. It is your study guide — your book — and so, make sure you personalize it to suit your needs.

When you feel you are ready, and you have found a religious tradition you feel comfy with, take that Book of Shadows and attend any class you can afford. A lot of places have very reasonable rates for their classes. The Learning Annex is one source, but so is your local Pagan bookstore. Just make sure you talk to the person running the store to make sure he knows what he/she is talking about. If you are not entirely comfortable in studying there, consider looking for another teacher. Remember, this is about YOUR spiritual growth and enrichment and you need to be in an environment conducive to YOUR learning.

Holidays, and Rituals:

There are eight major Holy Days during the Pagan year that a lot of us agree upon. There are also rituals that are held on the New Moon and the Full moon depending on how often your coven (A group of Pagans you worship with) meets.

The Eight Major Holidays are listed in the order they fall on:
Imbolc (February)
Spring Equinox (March 21)
Beltaine (May 1)
Summer Solstice (Litha) (June 21)
Lughnassadh or Lamas (August)
Autumn Equinox (Mabon) (September 21)
Samhain or Halloween (October 31 to Nov 1)
Winter Solstice (Yule) (December 21)

Each Holy Day represents a certain mythological event in our religion, which will be discussed by the High Priest (ess) in advance.

It’s usually a good idea to find out what you would need to bring so that you can best participate in the ritual.

Now most likely you are going to have a hard time pronouncing the names of the days when you first start out, so don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions; it’s the only way you are going to learn.

Tools For Rituals:

Energy: This is the most important, and since I am assuming people know Jack about Paganism, I’m going to make this explanation brief: When we perform rituals and cast spells, we are attempting to gather energy. This energy comes from the universe and ourselves. Depending on what we are trying to do, we use certain rituals, and tools. Think of it this way: It’s like gathering up a whole bunch of snow together. We eventually gather enough to make a snowball and then we pack it in and send it off to impact your friend. It’s basically the same thing. When we perform these rites, they help our minds to focus on gathering this energy and tell it what we want done. Energy is the most important part of any ritual, and without it, we are just looking stupid.

Cauldron: This is basically a black, three-legged pot to be used for burning incense and for other things. They range from tiny to huge and can be used to burn incense, burn paper, and make potions. Now cauldrons tend to be rather expensive, so if you are a bit “Price Sensitive” like me, find yourself one of those old fashioned iron pots that Mom uses to make rice. Make sure you clean it before and after use. If you have one of these in your own home and have had it for a long time, you are pretty much used to it and it is used to you. So, you really don’t have to “charge” it with energy.

Athemae: Essentially, this is a knife or a really small sword. This is used to direct energy raised up during rituals. THESE ARE NOT USED TO CUT PEOPLE (of any species). It can be used for cutting vegetables. Most traditions prefer a double sided blade, small enough to conceal. (You would be amazed how many cops will stop you for carrying a broad sword.) If you’re unable to get an athamae, it’s totally cool to make yourself a wand or use your index finger to direct energy.

Wands/Rods: Okay, these are wooden or crystal sticks also used to direct energy as well as to draw it to yourself. Wands tend to be no longer than your arm, while rods can be longer. Best way to get a rod is to go out on little walks in the park and look for a stick. Once you find a stick you like and that screams out for you to take it, take it home, and sand it and decorate it until you are totally comfortable with it. Viola! You have a wand or rod. If you have as much mechanical aptitude as a slug, ask around your local occult bookstores. Keep in mind they are going to be slightly expensive and you will have to charge it once you get it home.

Candles: Candles are used in rituals to help get your mind into the practice of Magic (No, I am not spelling magic with a K or a J…I’m keeping this as simple as possible. If you want to use the funky spellings in your own notebooks, knock yourself out. You’re not being graded here). Candles are lit in order to help get the mind into a state where it’s easier to put the patterns in for the energy to flow. I would strongly suggest getting candles of all colors and sizes and as many as you can afford. (Usually one of each color.) You can pick them up anywhere.

Incense: Like candles, incense helps the mind get energy together to cast spells. It’s a good idea to make your own incense or to purchase them from a botanica, or occult bookstore. Incense sticks may be colored, but it’s usually a good idea to purchase them based on their smells. Pungent or spicy incense is normally used to send stuff away. (Mainly because they are offensive.) Sweet incense is used to bring stuff to you. Earthy smells help to facilitate healing and to strengthen you.

Divination tools: Things like Tarot Cards, Runes and what not. These are mainly used to help you to make decisions or to gain some kind of insight as to what is going on around you. Keep in mind, these items themselves are not magical in and of themselves, but are based on your own intuition interpreting what you are seeing.

Books, books and more books: Like I said earlier, it is suggested you read religiously. It’s best to keep a library of things you have read or are about to read. Don’t just pick books only by one author, but of different ones. Some people may know a lot about what they are talking about; others are complete and utter horse feces. However, the only way you are going to find out is if you look for yourself and keep your Book of Shadows nearby while you read. If something sounds like nonsense, or if you aren’t sure about whether or not what is true within a book, do some research. It sounds like a lot of work, but this is your spirituality we are talking about here.

It is a good idea to question everything and find out if there is an agreement between the authors you have read. Another thing to keep in mind is that some folks are completely full of fluff and bluster while others deliberately water stuff down to keep from divulging too much about their path. And some are completely straightforward about the things they are writing about.

One of the best ways to learn about an author is find out when they are going to be doing a book signing near you. Get to meet them (Most book signings are free and most will give a short lecture about their book just to whet your appetite for it.) Some of the most intense learning experiences I gained were in attending some of these lectures; it’s also a great way to actually see the person who is writing.

Use your intuition…and don’t be shy about picking their brains. That is what they are there for. In fact, I would suggest doing the same thing at the store where you get your tools and books. It helps you learn a lot faster; especially when you ask Stupid questions. Yes you will get looks. Yes, you will even get the occasional shake of the head, But if you don’t ask, you wont know. It’s worth it.

Suggested Things to do:

Check out different groups that meet in your area. You can do this by attending open (public) circles or classes. Use them as a way to meet other Pagans and eventually find a group that you feel comfortable studying with. If you are Solitary Pagan, it helps to “meet and greet” other Pagans.

Look around for Pagan shops, botanicas and other places where you can get supplies. Most botanicas are devoted to Santeria or Voudu, but you can get some really good equipment at cheap prices.

Check out the local library, as well as the bookstore for things you can read about your particular pantheon.

Ask a lot of questions. Even stupid ones. It’s one of the chief tenets of Paganism to question everything you come across. If you get an answer that sounds like horsesh*t, then verify, verify, verify.

Things Not To Do:

Don’t panic; this seems like a lot of information, but it really isn’t. This is just the primer for your own research.

Don’t sweat if you cannot find a teacher right away, Nine times out of ten, they usually show up when you are ready to learn more about a particular aspect of your tradition.

Don’t start off calling yourself a High Something of a particular tradition. Most systems within Paganism have their own methods of teaching and credentials for clergy and what not. No faking!

Don’t be afraid of getting criticized; it’s going to happen. Learn to grow a thick skin, and if someone points something out to you, listen and check out your own motives and conscience. If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, then don’t.

Don’t take everything at face value…Learn how to question what you hear and not be a total jerk about it.

Don’t try and convert people, It rarely works just put out information let people know where you stand and end it there.

Recommended Websites:

http://www.witchvox.com “The Witches’ Voice” —  It’s a great place to start since they have information about everything.

http://pantheon.org —  A great place to learn about the Gods of your chosen pantheon. It doesn’t have all the information, but enough for you to get your feet wet and do some research.

Yahoo.com — They have a plethora of Pagan groups and places where you can talk to people of different walks of life. It’s also a great way to meet Pagans in your area.

Google and other search engines — Another great website with links to thousands of Pagan websites.

Recommended Books:

The Truth about Witchcraft Today: Scott Cunningham
Urban Primitive: Tannin Silverstein and Raven Kaldera
The Book of Shamanic Healing: Kristin Madden
The Celestine Prophecy: James Redfield (Yes, it’s a novel but it helps to get an idea about energy-work and how energy can be gathered and stolen.)
The Wiccan Warrior: Kerr Cucuhain
Witchcraft Theory and Practice: Ly de Angeles
When I see the Wild God: Ly de Angeles
Drawing Down the Moon: Margot Adler (of NPR)
The Spiral Dance: Starhawk
Buckland’s Complete Witches Handbook: Raymond Buckland

Pride and Paganism in the 21st Century

Pride and Paganism in the 21st Century

Author:   Melanie Marquis   
 
As one of the fastest growing and multi-faceted religions in America, Paganism has lately enjoyed more understanding and awareness from the mainstream community. Today, more Pagans than ever before choose to openly express their beliefs and practices. But what led to these changes?

I talked to many of today’s most notable Witches and Pagans, those who have been legends for decades, and those on the cutting edge of the modern Craft, to find out where the magical community stands today in terms of openness, expression, and public understanding, and to shed some light on how we got here.

“Hiding one’s magickal inclinations can be detrimental, ” says Raven Digitalis, Neopagan Priest, Gothic DJ, and author of Goth Craft (Llewellyn 2007) and Shadow Magick Compendium (Llewellyn Sept. 2008).

“It can be mysterious to a point, and perhaps manageable if someone only dabbles in charmery or kitchen witchery, but for someone who lives the magickal lifestyle, hiding and denying this part of one’s constitution can reinforce ideas of shame and insecurity, which builds up and can become suffocating over time. I have never hidden my beliefs, practices, or lifestyles; I simply see no need to do so unless the self-protective necessity is absolutely dire, which is the case for a handful of individuals.”

Considering that handful used to be a gigantic armload or two, we’ve come a long way.

Gwinevere Rain, college student and author of Llewellyn titles Spellcraft for Teens, Moonbeams and Shooting Stars, and Confessions of a Teenage Witch, is the founder and Editor of Copper Moon, http://www.copper-moon.com, an ezine for Wiccan and Pagan young adults. “I think that my generation and those younger than myself are more open about being Wiccan, ” she says. “I hope that ‘staying in the broom closet’ is a fading custom, but I guess, only time will tell.”

Early Pagan leaders like Circle Sanctuary’s Reverend Selena Fox, who organized one of the U.S.’s first officially recognized Wiccan churches, and spearheaded the ultimately successful effort to get the U.S. military to recognize the Pentacle as a religious symbol that can be used on military graves, have been catalysts in the evolution of modern Paganism, speaking out about their beliefs in a time when doing so entailed a lot more risk and a greater amount of boldness and bravery than it generally does today. They’ve witnessed firsthand how Paganism has transformed over the years, and they offer insight into the forces behind that change.

“Since its revival in the mid-20th century, ” says the Reverend Selena Fox, “Paganism has grown in size, scope, diversity, maturity, and visibility. The quest for equal rights for Pagans in the USA and in some other countries has had many successes through the years due to the combined efforts of those of many traditions.”

Carl “Llewellyn” Weschcke, current Chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, the U.S.’s largest and oldest New Age/Occult/Magick publishing house, has been a major force in educating our communities about Paganism for decades, through the countless books published by his company, and also through his own willingness to be a Pagan in the public eye in the 1960’s and 1970’s, his magical and metaphysical practices and beliefs being the focus of media attention for many years. Commenting on the changes he’s seen regarding the Pagan community, Carl points out that even the word “Pagan” has much different connotations today than it did in the past:

“People may challenge our beliefs, ” he says, “but there is far more respect today for ‘alternative spirituality’ than 50 years ago, and when we use the word ‘Pagan’ today, most people know what we’re talking about. The basic change is that “Pagan” no longer means just ‘non-Christian, ’ or worse, ‘anti-Christian, ’ but is more often recognized as “alternative spirituality.” Paganism shares very little with Indian or Japanese Buddhism, for example, as non-Christian religions. On the other hand, Japanese Shinto does compare comfortably with European and American Paganism.

As a further point, ” he says, “modern Paganism is much more than Celtic spirituality and more and more is inclusive of Nordic, Germanic, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and on to Egyptian and African Spiritism, to Mayan and Afro-Caribbean, and native American traditions. “Paganism” has become a word for Earth-based spirituality – with nurturance of Nature and non-human life, visible and invisible, as key principles. Not all non-Christian religions share that with Paganism.”

“There are obviously several factors at work, ” says Ray Buckland, who is known as The Father of American Wicca due to his enormous role in introducing Witchcraft to the U.S. “Number one is probably the education that people of today have, both in general and specifically regarding paganism. They are more inclined to think for themselves and to take an interest in and express that interest regardless of what others may think or say. With the knowledge of what paganism – and especially Neo-Paganism – is, there is not the fear of being branded as a tool of Satan! There seems to be more of a thirst for knowledge these days, than in earlier generations. All of this, in turn, has led to the openness of mass media to previously occult subjects that, in turn, have led to more seeking and enquiring about what is presented.

“In the past there has always been a general fear about this whole field; that fear due to ignorance as to what was involved. It is by examining and learning all about a subject that such fear is erased. With today’s Internet access, among other things, there is the ability for anyone to research anything. In the “early days” of Neo-Paganism, Wicca, and the like, a few “pioneers” set out to straighten misconceptions and to show what was really believed and practiced. I think that started the ball rolling and today, with computer access so readily available, the ball (of enlightenment) is now traveling at very high speed!”

Brian Ewing, Membership Coordinator of the Pagan Pride Project that organizes large public gatherings, reports that their events are growing in popularity, with tens of thousands participating in activities each year around the world. Like Ray Buckland, he also credits the Internet with helping to facilitate some of that growth. The Pagan Pride Project’s website at http://www.paganpride.org serves as a source of information and a means of communication for people interested in the project.

“The Internet and email lists greatly facilitated the growth of the Project, ” he says. “Being able to connect quickly, despite living in different cities, and finding out about each other’s plans and existing events, helped us band together.

“The Internet also helps us advertise our events more widely, and for less money, than was possible in the past. In this way, we attract more people to our events. I also believe that Pagan events, including our own, are growing rapidly because our religion is now growing rapidly. We reached some kind of critical point, when there was enough practicing Pagans that they wanted to hold larger events where they could practice and worship together.

“Lastly, Pagan Pride events, and probably other events, were partly galvanized by the election of George W. Bush, and the fear that a neo-conservative administration would adversely affect our movement. I remember in 1999 George W. Bush and Congressman Bob Barr were both making some pretty negative comments about Paganism. People responded to that by writing to newspaper opinion sections and starting events such as Pagan Pride Days.”

Thriving and ready to take action, it seems that today’s Pagan community has undergone a lot of positive changes in recent years. Of course, not all the changes are seen as positive.

Flash Silvermoon, creator of The Wise Woman’s Tarot, a matriarchal Tarot deck, describes some of the negative changes she’s seen in the Pagan movement.

“One of the main differences that I see in the changes within and without this movement if you will is the fact that most of the movers and shakers in the early 70’s were powerful women, and most specifically, the Dianic branch of Wicca.

“This rising tide of Women’s Spirituality blended a Goddess centered Spirituality with Feminism, which is really humanism when you get down to it. The Womanspirit Movement swept through the country like wildfire, creating a more fluid and anarchistic style of Goddess Worship than some of the more traditional Wiccans.

“One of the problems that I have seen with the new mixed Pagan groups is that most are not at all really reverent of the Goddess or women. The talk is there but the walk is not, and most of the Pagan fests that I have attended bear the same old world sexist practices of male domination and sexual objectification of women. I realize that this can’t be totally true of all the new pagan groups but it sure seems to predominate. Even the women in some of these groups can tend to be very hierarchical.”

However, the Pagan faiths still generally enjoy a reputation of equality and respect for both sexes. Copper Moon’s Gwinevere Rain explains, “I was first attracted to Wicca because it was very empowering. It showed women being equal to men; additionally, the idea of magick was so appealing to me. The religion represented everything I wanted: to be equal, empowered, and spiritually comforted.”

So where do Wicca and the other branches of Paganism stand today? Have we really moved past a need for secrecy and concealment?

“I have had mail from guys in prisons who are openly allowed to practice their craft, ” says Ly de Angeles, outspoken environmentalist, screenwriter, and Australian author of Tarot Theory and Practice (Llewellyn 2007) and the collaborative work, Pagan Visions of a Sustainable Future (Llewellyn 2008). “I have also had a long connection with another guy who is in the US army, and I am very aware that Wicca (not Witchcraft) is a recognized religion and yet … the open expression of Paganism is still seen as fluff and twaddle by most; a bunch of very evil people by others.”

Gwinevere Rain agrees that negative and false stereotypes still exist. “I hope that the stereotypes about Wiccans and Witches are changing, ” she says. “It used to be that people’s vision of a witch was a green old hag; now that that has subsided, other images are at the forefront of people’s minds. It seems that one of the persistent false stereotypes is of real witches seeking to hurt people by casting hexes and curses.”

Because of such myths, some Pagans are deterred from expressing their beliefs openly. Christopher Penczak, teacher of magick and author of the popular Temple of Witchcraft series published by Llewellyn Worldwide, explains, “I think we are blessed to live in a time and place where more Pagans feel comfortable being out of the broom closet. While it’s important to be grateful for great strides we have taken in the recent decades, it’s also important to remember that not all Pagans and Witches have the same freedom, both across the world, and even in more conservative areas of the United States. Thankfully, most of us can live openly if we desire, and I think most pagans who can do so safely, do live an open life.”

When I asked Carl “Llewellyn” Weschcke if he feels that Pagans today are more open about expressing our beliefs, he also pointed out that where we are has a lot to do with it. “The best I can do for a short answer is to presume that today most of us are relatively comfortable in speaking about being Pagan in most selective social environments, ” he explains. “In other words, we can’t be particularly comfortable as Pagans at a Baptist convention, but we are comfortable doing so in our family and familiar social environment.”

The Pagan Pride Project’s Brian Ewing states, “The rapid growth of Pagan events, including Pagan Pride Days and many others, has allowed people to reveal their practices in public. But there are still many Pagans who practice in private, because there are occasional, but very real, instances of discrimination in the workplace or among neighbors.”

Brian reports that their events have been fairly well received by the public. He recounts only one protestor that he’s personally seen, at an event in Los Angeles. The protestor simply held a sign that read “Jesus Saves” on one side, and something about “You’re going to Hell” on the other side.

Raven Digitalis, who likes to host community worship circles in his hometown of Missoula, Missouri, reports that his gatherings have not attracted serious protest. “We are getting quite an outer circle going on! We have even performed some circles in the yard, ” he says.

“Living on a busy street, many cars have witnessed this; the reactions have been varied. Most people in this case simply drive by and look strangely, while others stop their cars to watch. It hasn’t escalated beyond that, luckily, though nearly all of our circles are now held in private places because the ‘public’ energetic exchange should only be reserved for certain times, places, and intentions.”

Tierro, lead guitarist and producer of the international Pagan tribal psychedelic rock band Kan’Nal, recalls an incident where his band encountered “polite” discrimination:

“Kan’Nal was booked to play a high end ‘Captain Planet’ fund raiser in Atlanta last year. The booking agent delicately requested that we not do anything ‘Pagan Like’ on stage in fear of offending the guests. We all laughed as if of course we would behave, but never said we would not… As far as I am concerned, the act of being born is a pagan act; it proves our equality and connection to the animals, plants, and the mysteries of the universe. To breathe is a pagan act, for we breathe together with the trees, fish, birds and bees. To experience joy, love, sorrow and loss is a pagan act, for all these emotions are reflected in the animal and plant kingdoms. So to show up and rock out a Kan’Nal set … well that alone is definitely a pagan act.”

So what is it about our religion that stirs our passions to the point that we want to speak out about it, wave our wands in the face of dissent and proclaim our magical faith to a world that, despite an increase in public awareness of what Paganism truly is, still couldn’t hardly care less? Says Christopher Penczak, “The more witches we have out and open, the more it becomes ‘normal’.”

Raven Digitalis expresses a similar sentiment. “It shatters commonly-held notions for a person to see a ‘Witch’ looking and behaving like a (relatively) ordinary person, ” says Raven. “When people learn about the validity of the modern Craft, it brings a modern and more realistic context to an antiquated stereotype. People see us operating and functioning and being progressive in our own lives, and not choosing to hide ourselves (and not having many adverse responses as a result), which can encourage others to do the same.”

Gwinevere Rain first started writing about Paganism when she was 14 years old, publishing articles in Cauldrons and Broomsticks. “I wanted to show others that young Wiccans can be as serious about religion as adults, ” says Gwinevere. “At the time there were many stereotypes about young practitioners just practicing Wicca to be ‘cool.’ I wanted to help counteract this misconception. For me, it’s worth being open or ‘out of the broom closet’ because Wicca is a part of who I am. I don’t want to hide a significant part of myself.”

Of course, not everyone wants to be open about his or her Pagan faith. Says Gwinevere, “It is important to do what is best for yourself and not succumb to any pressure within the magical community. Just remember that everyone moves at their own pace and you may not be ready to become an outspoken figure of this beautiful religion.”

Christopher Penczak stresses that the individual’s chosen path should be respected: “We should respect our sisters and brothers who wish to be secretive, as the spiritual path is a personal, and sometimes secretive, path. We cannot decide to out someone who wishes to remain private.”

Raven Digitalis emphasizes that the ways we express our beliefs to others should be appropriate for the person we are talking to. Says Raven, “There is always a balance. I believe that people should be communicated and interacted with based on their own levels of understanding. Whereas it might be appropriate to call oneself a ‘Witch’ to someone familiar with magick, it might be better to call oneself a ‘Wiccan’ or ‘Pagan’ or even ‘Earth-honoring Healer’ to someone else, who instead understands the definition of that vocabulary.”

So, what does the future hold for Paganism? How can we publicly express our beliefs in a way that ensures the well-being and growth of our community? “One of the best ways of showing Wiccan/Witch pride is to be a good person, ” says Gwinevere Rain. “Society will catch up with us if we make a collective effort to be kind, healthy, and smart people.”

Ly de Angeles also says that responsible actions are key. Ly explains, “The open expression of Paganism and magical beliefs, in my opinion, needs to be backed with very real and credible behavior, as I have seen way too much hubris and listened to way too much jargon and sheer wankery. I apologize to those who are not that way (and you are many) but the rest really need to look to what you wish to achieve for the greater community of Paganism in the future. Education and knowledge in diverse areas is the key. Acting on that is a way through. I suggest we enter the sciences, politics, the education system, as well as the Green movement.” She also shares a warning: “I am disturbed by the rising tide of radical right-wing fundamentalism, in the USA in particular, and suggest it may be very necessary for openly expressed Pagans to watch their constitutional backs in the future. This is not paranoia but prophecy, darling.”

The Wise Woman’s Tarot creator Flash Silvermoon comments that respect for women is integral. “To my thinking, ” she says, ”one earns their position through study, dedication and commitment, and if one truly loves and worships the Goddess, then women must be more empowered and respected as Her surrogate.”

Raven Digitalis is hopeful about the future of modern Paganism. Says Raven, “I think Neopaganism is becoming more and more personal and personalized every day. As more and more people are drawn to the ways of magick, self-empowerment, and mysticism, personalizing one’s own beliefs and practices will serve to allow the Pagan movement to grow and establish itself with much fuel and dedication behind it.”

The Reverend Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary puts it in a way that resonates throughout the heart of Paganism: “It is important that Pagans of many paths and places continue to find ways to work together in our quest for freedom and in bringing more health and balance to the greater Circle of Nature of which we are all part.”

Perceptions of Pagans: What Are People Afraid Of?

Perceptions of Pagans: What Are People Afraid Of?

Author:   Ares Hearthfire   

It is amazing to me that 30-plus years after the late Dr. Leo Martello won his right to hold a ritual in Central Park we still have to come back to discussing how we are perceived. The public at large is not afraid of our religion. No, most of them tend to let us be and mind their own business. I say that with certainty since that is human nature. However, there are still those that fear…or do they?

It seems that every few weeks there are more stories mentioning Witches, Wiccans or Pagans in general. While most of the articles are now positive and informative, there are still those that report that so and so of blah blah blah church held a meeting that people are going to the devil. In listening to them talk we find that they really do not fear us. They fear the loss of their own voice.

One reason why many see the Christian extremists in this country demanding that laws be made to support the Judeo-Christian belief system is that they can feel the changes coming. Just like us, they open the same papers and do the same Internet searches and find so many articles and sites discussing Pagans. We are all humans after all; it is not like we have different sources of news and information!

They, like us, can plainly see that there has been a rise in articles and hence, a rise in the amount of Pagans there must be. While many complain that these people see the devil in all things not Christian, I feel that is very much another reason that they perceive us differently. They do not care about reading what Pagans believe. What we believe does not matter. It is not our beliefs that bother these extremists. It is the fact that we exist and breathe. There really is no logic in this.

The goal of these groups and people is not to slander our paths. That actually is just a means to an end. They simply want to make sure that people keep following their ideas. They have been brought up in regions where there has been nothing more than pure homogeneity. Almost everyone in their communities was the same in terms of race and religion. In reality, they simply fear change. For some reason they are just resisting the tides of change that are happening in the communities. It is the change that they truly fear, not us.

In general, most people are very accepting of our beliefs. There have been Pagans serving with and even as heads of interfaith organizations for over ten years. The organizations that they have sat with and chaired accepted their membership. From this it can be implied that clergy of many other religions have absolutely no problem with the Pagan path. Indeed, many are intrigued and want to learn more about it themselves. This type of inclusion would have been impossible to dream of several decades ago. This shows a great deal of progress. After all, if you can gain acceptance of some shepherds you also gain the acceptance of their flocks.

During Samhain season, it seems that almost every newspaper in America interviews a Witch. Most of these reports are positive. While some still include words like “warlock” and may describe some practices as “hokey,” we cannot let that blind us as to what is truly being said. Since many of the journalists do not read books on Witches or Wicca they would not know what “warlock” means to us. Since they do not tell us every word they are using, we cannot correct them ahead of time.

Behind the semantics, they still report normal people doing things a little differently. They may seem hokey to those that do not practice our faiths, but they do see that we are not harming anything and have fun doing what we do. That is the point! The general public is not stupid. They do not care what we do, as long as they see we are open to people watching and reporting they will begin to trust us.

In some parts of the country being a Wiccan is not even a big deal. Here in New York the Covenant of the Goddess used to have a local council, however the “Gotham” council was disbanded. Simply put, the community here is accepting of us already so the need is not there. Pagan shops operate without opposition, festivals happen in major parks with no protestors showing up at all. While this may not be the case in some areas, things do take time!

Remember, a long time ago it was the cities that converted to a new faith and the country dwellers were slow to follow. Now times are changing, history is repeating. The cities are becoming more accepting of their Pagan residents and the rural folk are coming around, but slower. We can see plainly through the media and the interviews in these more rural locations that the general consensus is favoring acceptance. The majority will only grow larger over time.

All we need is to do what we are currently doing and a lot more of it. We need to take ourselves seriously. We should indicate our religion when the census is taken. We should take part in political campaigns and send letters to the elected officials. Whenever we see an article that is not positive, we should send letters to the paper…even if it is not a local one! More than everything else we should make Pagan Pride Day every day of the year. Always be proud of who you are as a person and as a Pagan. For every voice that is willing to speak there is always a larger audience of people that are willing to hear.

In conclusion, the people that fear us do not fear us for what we believe or how we practice. This information is readily available to anyone that wants to read it. The general populace is becoming more and more accepting of our beliefs. Interfaith groups are accepting Pagans as members and leaders. We as Pagans always talk about the past; we remember the burning times and the witch-hunts. We should also remember that those in the country come around slower to new ideas, but after a time they will begin to accept them.

Rethinking Community for Solitaries

Rethinking Community for Solitaries

Author:   Incense Dragon   

For two decades or more, I have been involved in some way with Community building among Pagans. During that time I have attended countless group meetings, attended every kind of fundraiser imaginable, seen groups build up and rip themselves apart, and watched a lot of very well-meaning people expend tremendous amounts of energy, time, and money only to see their efforts bring little or no fruit as a result. Sometimes these efforts are very successful (look at Heartland Pagan Festival or PantheaCon as examples) but sometimes they find only short-lived benefit (if any) .

After sitting out of these kinds of activities for nearly 5 years, I was drawn into this same old model once again when a local leader asked me to run for an open position on the board of directors of her organization. I very quickly found myself back with the same old problems, same old types of conflict, and had to ask myself “how did I end up here yet again?” The answer is simple: Community building is very important to me. It was important to my Pagan mentor decades ago and it has always been important to me. That hasn’t changed a bit. I am still very concerned with building bridges between all Pagans and Pagan groups.

The problem is not necessarily with the well-meaning people who start these groups. When they survive their early efforts, they can develop into long-running events or groups. These types of groups and events are critical to networking, communication, creating a broader community, and giving us ways to come together and celebrate. We need to embrace those successes, but recent events have caused me ask what other approaches there might be. Are there alternatives that would make our efforts at community building more successful?

So I began to meditate on this topic. I asked my patron god and goddess for direction, opened myself to all friendly powers, and began a process of self-examination. In the end, I was surprised by what was revealed to me. Like the majority of American Pagans, I am a Solitary. In my heart, I have always been Solitary, despite my time in a coven. I am Solitary by Choice. I love meeting with other Pagans of all walks of life and going to festivals and conventions with throngs of my fellow Pagans, Solitary and Traditional Pagan alike. But I am a Solitary and decided to walk that path long ago. So why am I trying to act like I am not Solitary?

Large organizations are essential to the building and networking of the Pagan Community. However, I believe we have really missed the boat by using this as our primary (and often exclusive) method of organizing. Large groups are a typical, conventional approach to organization. Pagans are not typical people, however, and conventional approaches may not always be the best way for us. I’m a devote Solitary but that does not mean that I cannot work in a group nor that Solitaries are unable to organize events. Those of us who are Solitary by Choice are still able to work with others to achieve common goals, but we have to recognize that we are a different breed than Traditional Pagans.

I am somewhat sympathetic to those used to the, comparatively, orderly nature of Covens who are thrust into dealing with Solitaries. Solitaries are a group in name only – the reality is that each one of us is different and it is only our basic beliefs that tie us together. Traditional Pagans are, of course, also individuals and I don’t mean to paint them as if they are just in lock-step with their HP or HPS. They view the Pagan world through the eyes of a Coven, and that is quite a different perspective than held by many Solitaries. Our inability to recognize this basic difference has led to countless conflicts, misunderstandings, and worse.

So what do we do?

We can’t possibly ask our Coven Brothers and Sisters to do all of the work. This is something that often happens. Solitaries go to festivals and conventions organized by others, but less often do the work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s completely unfair to enjoy the fruits of the work of others without giving back. We cover some of that by volunteering during the event (picking up trash, hauling wood, etc.) but many Solitaries do not know how, or do not feel welcome, to be part of the organizational side of things. For many, however, it is the feeling of being an “outsider” or feeling excluded (because we are not part of the group behind the organizing of an event) that can lead to feelings of disenfranchisement.

This is the line of thinking that took me into my two month-long meditation about my future with the Pagan Community. My personal conclusion is that I have taken the wrong approach to growing the Pagan Community for all of these decades. Some Solitaries may not be “into” large groups by their nature. This type and form of organization is not native to many of us, and for some it is downright offensive. I just went through a conflict with a local Pagan leader for whom I had the deepest respect and trust. When I failed to act within the organization as a “Covener” would be expected to act, conflict exploded. In the end it turned out to be that this leader did not understand how our email list worked and she believed that I was sending internal organizational information to the general public. It was a simple misunderstanding on her part that led to a painful several months for us both and obliterated my trust in and respect for her.

This led to a horrible conflict between us. She relied on how she was used to people communicating within the bounds of a Coven. I am an “independent operator” with very strong ethical rules and put a lot of emphasis on written communication (I live 60 miles away from the city where meetings are held) . When the Traditional approach and the Solitary approach clashed, the results were horrific. I was insulted and demeaned both publically and privately because someone did not understand how something functioned. This doesn’t mean that the leader is a terrible person. She’s simply not equipped to deal with those of a very different history and perspective. I am not like those she is used to working with. Once our perspectives came into conflict, she interpreted that as a conflict between the two of us personally. Things rapidly spiraled out of control to the point that I was ready to resign from her organization in spite of being a member of the board of directors.

The conflict with that leader will be my last of this nature. I am moving out of these types of organizations and instead I am transforming my efforts to connect and build the Pagan Community into an approach that I should have been using for 20 years. Why have I spent all of this time attempting to fit into an organizational model that I have actively avoided in every other context? I am not saying that I am going to resign from the Pagan organizations to which I belong. Even the organization where I was so heavily impacted by someone else’s ignorance is a place where I intend to keep a membership and continue to participate. I have, however, resigned from that group’s board of directors. The organizational expectations that exist there are designed for those who are prefer the Coven approach. I am not such a person. I am an independent operator and trying to be something I’m not has resulted in recurrent failure.

Instead, I want to use my Solitary approach as an advantage rather than a shortfall to overcome. I am self-reliant and dependable. In fact, it’s difficult for me to rely on anyone else outside my immediate family anyway, so why not rely on the one person upon whom I can always depend? Over the years, I have built very close relationships with a few select Pagans I have grown to trust. Between those people and myself, there is little that we cannot do within our own scale. We will never be a large enough group to accomplish some of the things that large organizations do, but we can certainly do a great deal.

Looking at the overall Pagan Community in America, it seems to me that we mostly exist as individuals or small groups scattered around the country. Think of it as the way that America looked in the 19th Century, especially along the various frontiers. Villages and tiny towns were the way that the individuals or small families who lived in the wild lands would trade and communicate. These are like small Covens or other small, local Pagan groups. There were a few large cities near the frontiers where far more goods and services were available. Using that model, the frontier is where the Solitaries dwell and the cities are the home of large Covens or other large, formal organizations. We are all part of the same society, same nation, and same general geographic area. Yet we are clearly distinct. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Nevertheless, for the nation as a whole to operate, each of these parts must work together.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it gets to the heart of how we can work together. Cities depend on food and other materials that come from the frontiers/wild places. Raw materials are processed into goods and are available to frontiers people. Each provides something that the other needs and together we operate as a complete economy.

So where does that leave me and thousands of others in a similar situation? How can a Solitary even help to build community? What can a Solitary do that is different than the “standard model” that we have used for community for so long?

One nice thing about being a Solitary is that I have neither reason nor desire to tell anyone else what to do. Don’t look for me to tell you what anyone else should do. I can tell you what I’m going to do. First, I have resigned from all leadership positions in these types of Traditional Pagan organizations. I still think those organizations are important and useful and I will remain a “rank-and-file” member of such organizations, but I will no longer take any type of formal or leadership role within those organizations. Instead, I’m going to focus on projects that help to build community interconnectivity whether between groups or individuals. Some are old projects that I’ve had in mind for a long time, but for which I could never get support from the various organizations with which I worked. Only recently, I realized that I can do a lot of this work alone and that would give me the freedom to try whatever approaches I wish. No meetings, conferences, committees, diminution of the original concept, and no need to find “compromise solutions”. If a project fails, there are no political ramifications and nobody will accuse me of wrongdoing or making a bad decision. If I make a bad decision, I will deal with the consequences myself.

There are drawbacks to this approach. If things go wrong there is nobody else to blame. When you work alone, you have to accept all successes and failures as your own. As a Solitary you can only hope to work with others on occasion. I am not “married” to the idea that I always have to work alone, but I do know that if I plan to work alone I will never be disappointed when someone else fails to show up. Working alone, or with just one or two other people, means you have fewer “person hours” per week to work on a project, you have a lesser ability to raise funds, have to carry all of the needed equipment, set it up, and tear it down with little outside help. It is harder to bounce ideas off someone else when they are not involved in the development of the project. I am also limited by my own knowledge and experience. In a large group you often have a variety of knowledge and skills upon which you can draw.

Working alone also means that the scope or scale of your projects have to be appropriate. Although it is theoretically possible that I could plan a large event and pay for it by myself, realistically I am limited as to the size of projects that I can take on alone. A primary project I am doing currently is a Public Access television show for Pagans ( http://www.incenseboopks.com/moment.htm or http://www.youtube.com/user/PentOclockNews) . I am doing the whole process by myself (aside from the people in the videos) – I record the video and operate the camera, I do the editing, titles, voiceovers, set up the interviews, buy equipment, etc., by myself. It would be nice to have someone else along who can run a camera or just carry equipment (although it has yet to happen) , but this is a Solitary project. And it is a project that can definitely make a difference and help our community statewide. Eventually, perhaps, it will be helpful nationwide.

I am able to (and often do) travel around the state to visit my fellow Pagans and attend their events or meetings. When I do this as an active leader for some organization, like it or not, my visits to those other communities are seen as “official” by many people. As a standing officer, even if I know it’s not true, I have to accept that a lot of people would still see it this way. If the group I want to visit is in some kind of dispute or disagreement with the organization to which I belong, people can easily misinterpret such a visit. Yet if I am not affiliated with the leadership of any particular group, then those problems vanish.

I want to give one more example of what a single person can do to help build a stronger Pagan community. Casting my mind back to the autumn of 2007, I can think of something fun I did (as a Solitary) , that provided an immediate positive impact on my community. I have a friend who holds an annual “non-Event” that is a camping gathering of Pagans in central Oklahoma. This is an open event where Pagans gather at a state park for a weekend of camping, drumming, and fun without any agendas, formal rituals, or planned workshops. Beej’s Non-Event is another great example of a Solitary effort – Beej had the idea, told people, and they came. Naturally, everyone brings their own camping gear and feeds himself or herself. I asked myself what I could do, on my own, to make this event more enjoyable for everyone? There is no staff or schedule, so it truly was a Solitary situation.

My solution was to create the “Greenman Kitchen”. On Saturday morning of the non-event, I set up my canopy, fired up 3 camping stoves, and cooked breakfast for everyone who cared to get up (I fed roughly 35 people that morning) . I did the work and provided everything – it was simply my way to say “thank you” to my community for everything they did for me throughout the year. It required not a single meeting or committee or vote. I didn’t need anyone’s approval nor did I have to compromise on the menu or methods. I did something nice and fun for everyone, and it was a blast. Yes, it was hours of hard work but it was all on my own terms. Best of all, it was a huge Solitary success. I hope to one day bring the Greenman Kitchen back to life in the Oregon Pagan Community. These are not the only such Solitary activities I’ve done for the community, but a nice example of the power of A Circle of One.

Our community benefits from all kinds of people. Our diversity is possibly our greatest strength yet we so often take steps to squash that diversity rather than benefit from it. Those who work well in groups are crucial to the future of the Pagan community in America. One or two individuals simply can’t create the large, organized events that we occasionally get to enjoy. We NEED those who can work with and effectively lead groups of Pagans. They are a huge part of how we can draw closer and bring our energies together. I just hope that if you’ve read all the way to the end of this article that you can now see that YOU as an individual can do a great deal to build and improve our community. Solitaries, Traditional Pagans, and those in-between or beyond those limits can all contribute to making ours a stronger, better-connected community.

Solitary individuals have far more ability to positively impact the Greater Pagan Community than most of us have thought in the past. We Solitaries owe a big debt to those organizations that have worked so hard to create events over the decades. Now we Solitaries need to step up and do our part to help this community connect and grow. The great news is that we can do this while remaining true to our Solitaries paths. We need not try to work within organizations that run counter to how we function in order to be part of the community and to positively contribute to its growth.

Religious Tolerance in Wicca

Religious Tolerance in Wicca

Author:   Aphrodisios   

For the most part and in my experience, Wiccans seem to be religiously tolerant. Wicca is one of those things that will call to you if it is your path. I have been to open circles though and after the ritual, one often will hear one or two witches ‘Christian bashing’. In some ways, I can understand the sentiment because there are fanatics of other religions who likewise judge us. On the other hand, this only causes more intolerance and misunderstanding of our religion.

If we want to be recognized as a positive religion, I believe we must show what Wicca is about through our actions and words.* Not something I normally throw out there but, as an example, I know a doctor who is a Christian clergyman. By being respectful, and over time explaining our belief, he thinks it is positive for some people. When we disrespect other religions, it only makes others frown upon our beliefs.

There are so many things you can do to show the positive sides of Wicca. Do something for the community or to help others…something as simple as sending a happy holiday card around times the times we have holidays. Basic positive actions and friendliness can go a long way, even helping people via some simple magicks if you know they won’t be offended. I have programmed appropriate gemstones before to help people I know who are afraid of witchcraft and after respectfully explaining their history and meaning, the people were in fact happy to receive those gifts.

If someone becomes open to it and understands, then invite him/her to observe a ritual, solitary or not. They don’t need to be in the circle but if they have an understanding, curiosity, and respect, there should be no concerns about letting people see what Wicca is about. I do not think in any way we should push our religion, but if we want others to be more accepting, we should explain and show them what we are about.

Once I went to an eclectic open training circle; I noticed that when the ‘religion bashing’ started the high priestess got quiet and then simply walked away. I don’t think most people noticed it, but in my opinion, she took the higher road, so to speak.

Many Abrahamic religions associate Wicca with evil and dark magicks because they do not understand us. If they were to see us out in nature casting our circles, calling upon the elements and Gods or Goddesses it would scare them. Many people fear what they do not understand. This goes both ways, because I’m sure many Wiccans have encountered Christians they do not understand.

I know many that say they just blow off or ignore the people that come to their door to talk religion. Whenever a Mormon, Christian, etc. has come to my door, I invite them in and am polite. They tell me about what their religion has done for them and tell me about their beliefs. I always explain I follow a pagan path and talk shortly about religion with them. I imagine in some cases you may find a fanatic, but being respectful I have not once been insulted by a person I invited into my home to talk about his/her religion.

There are so many misunderstandings and symbols that scare people and I think we need to be aware of that. Someone who has not been exposed to Wicca and notices a pentagram on you may think you’re worshipping Satan. This can be somewhat blamed on movies and that is how it is introduced to most people in today’s society… as an evil symbol. Most people don’t know the inverted pentagram was adopted as satanic symbol. Now, I may be wrong but if I remember correctly, I believe the inverted pentagram is sometimes used in Wicca as well depending on tradition or coven at a certain degree, the reason being for the individual to understand and accept the darker aspect of self but not let it take control. That may even cause more confusion for someone only vaguely familiar with Wicca. (Please feel free correct me if I’m wrong about why the inverted pentagram is sometimes used, as I’m not well educated on when or how it is used in Wicca) .

Disrespect will get us nowhere, when someone says, “God bless you”, “you will be in my prayers” or maybe even offers you a paper to attend their church, there is no reason to be rude. Also, tactfulness is something I believe we should always keep in mind as witches or pagans. When dealing with people who don’t understand us and want to tell us about their religion, we should think of a way to politely tell them that we are not interested.

You will run into your religious nuts but just keep a low tone and be a better person. Making off color comments or insulting them only makes their negative attitude towards other religions stronger. For that matter, when it comes to the fanatics, I sometimes find it useful to use their own book against them (politely, of course!) One of my favorite quotes, if being judged is: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. (Matthew 7:2; New International Version 1984, ©1984)

I know some Wiccans or pagans say they never touched a Bible, but sometimes reminding a person of his/her own religious text can be your best weapon. Using that as tool, tactfully, can put them at a loss for words.

Respect is earned, and if we want to receive it we must do so through positive actions. While I do think many of us try to respect other religions, we need to keep in mind religious tolerance means respecting all religions.

Namaste,
Aphrodisios

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Footnotes:
* I would like to say I did start this as a topic on another site just a few moments ago but it was ¼ the length of this article. I wanted to expand on it though but just felt it appropriate to say this was partially posted elsewhere. For reference I posted the short version on
http://online.fireflyacademy.org/