“THINK on THESE THINGS”
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Sensibility is said to be neither good nor evil in itself, but in its application. Sometimes we just “out-sensible” ourselves. In the course of years we come to see the pattern of the truly sensible. What have we at this moment that really means anything? Does it give us happiness? Did it once seem most impractical? Was it worth fighting for?
The intellectual strives for knowledge and in his absorption leaves the world but hardly leaves a vacancy. The materialistic must have everything at the price of peace, and their possessions decay but never their chaotic souls. And the insecure forfeit the most minute comforts to save for that rainy day. Happiness would have been greater and far more lasting if the fund had been smaller and used as an opportunity fund.
The fine line of sensibility can be most elusive, but it seems to be more clearly seen when we relax and quit shoving to get there. If the place we desire is meant for us, it will come when we learn the way isn’t always sharp and direct and by demand.
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
Elder’s Meditation of the Day – June 23
“He [Wakan Tanka] walks with us along the pathways of Life, and He can do for us what we could never do on our own.”
–Fools Crow, LAKOTA
With the Creator in our lives, we are everything. Without the Creator, we are nothing. When the Creator is in our life, suddenly the impossible becomes possible. The extraordinary becomes ordinary. Things we thought could never happen start to happen. Talents we never know we had, start to blossom. Resources appear. Help arrives to give us guidance and direction. We become happy. We have peace of mind and confidence.
Oh Great Spirit, today I want You in my life. The days that I know You are with me are the days that are perfect. Let me be joyful today.
June 23 – Daily Feast
Our vitality does not go first – our interest goes. Dreams, one by one, that we let skip through our fingers, cannot be sustained and they drift. When that happens, what else is there? Like rare pieces of old delicate lace, we fold away our dreams in tissue and forget them. Without realizing it, we have put away our vitality as well. Vitality – life, strength, creativity. Priceless interest must be restored if we are to be strong and healthy and able to contribute to our own benefit as well as others.
~ All living creatures and all plants are a benefit to something. ~
OKUTE – TETON SIOUX, 1911
“A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Follow through and get it done
Whatever you are working on is important enough to deserve your focus and your continued effort. If you’ve chosen to begin the effort, keep going until it is finished.
Once you’ve decided to get it done, don’t allow yourself to doubt yourself. Just go ahead, maintain your focus and keep up the work until you’re finished.
Your initial instinct was to get started, so trust that instinct. Honor your choice by following through with it.
Yes, it could get tedious or frustrating, and you’ll probably be tempted to jump to something else. But if all you ever do is jump to the next thing before the first is finished, you’ll never get anything accomplished.
It’s easy to come up with a perfectly reasonable excuse to quit. Yet a small accomplishment is far superior to the most well-reasoned excuse.
Follow through, keep going, and get it done. Your future self will thank you over and over again.
— Ralph Marston
The Daily Motivator
Masculine And Feminine Sides Of The Body
Paying attention to the male and female sides of your body can help give you clues in how to balance your life.
If you look in the mirror and view your profile from each side, you may notice that the two sides of your face are slightly different from one another. Additionally, your left hand is similar to but different from your right hand. In fact, these subtle differences pervade both sides of your entire body. Considering these differences in the context of the idea that the right side of your body is masculine and the left side feminine may shed some light on how balanced you are in relation to your masculine and feminine qualities.
Intuition, feelings, openness, and unselfishness govern the feminine side of our natures. The masculine side is characterized by logic, facts, systems, and self-interest. If you are giving too much to others to the detriment of yourself, your feminine side may be overactive and your right side may need strengthening, to speak up on your behalf, protecting and conserving your energy. If your life is too rigidly structured, your masculine aspect may be overactive; developing your feminine aspect will bring a more open-ended and creative approach.
Maintaining harmony between the left side and the right side, the feminine and masculine, is a key to wholeness. We can foster awareness of our own relative state of balance by tuning in to our bodies. When you close your eyes and scan your body, what do you see? You may find that most of your ailments, from acne to muscle tension, occur on the left side of your body. This might indicate that your feminine aspect is out of balance in some way. Similarly, if you notice a lot of tension in your right shoulder, perhaps your masculine side is overtaxed or weakened. Just noticing an imbalance is the beginning of healing it. Some imbalances may be long-standing, and it may take time to bring your system into equilibrium. Remember to be gentle with yourself and listen to your body. Over time, doing this can guide you to a dynamic state of inner and outer balance.
The Daily OM
Pagans: Loved, Yet Misunderstood
Author: Davina Sullivan
“We are loved, yet misunderstood.”
Within the last few months, I have recently explained to my friends and family that I am a Pagan, and more than proud to say so. I have been asked so many questions sense then, it’s unbelievable. However, I’m glad that they asked because I’ve realized that many people in general has such a high misunderstanding, that we Pagan’s are judged unfairly. I have the opportunity to be able to help others understand and not judge us based on the word of others.
I was raised in a Baptist family, therefore, a great many of my relatives were upset, confused, hurt, or a combination of all three. My mother particularly, believed that being a Pagan was the devil’s way of tricking us into worshipping him, specifically because of the pentagram. I calmly explained to her that yes, the five-point star originated from the Pagan religion. After, that same star also became the Star of Bethlehem, which represents Jesus’ birth and carnation in the Christian religion. The bible explains this in the book of Matthews in chapter two. Lastly, Satanists took the five-point star and turned it upside down to claim as their own.
The image of the devil was the most difficult questions to answer. Even though I had explained that the image of Satan also originated from a Greek God, the Horned God named Pan. He has horns as well as hooves and carries a flute. That is where Satan’s image originated. Many didn’t want to hear my explanations or did not believe it to be so. Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I only talk of the questions that people ask.
Another explanation that was quite interesting to give was the use of magic. I was asked questions such as, “How do you do magic?” “Why do you think magic is real?” “Don’t you think that God is the only one that can bring magic?” There was one question that I found very surprising, which was, “Will you teach me to do magic?”
When I was asked how to do magic, I simply explained that magic is just channeling what is already there. You are working as one with the elements of the earth to bring the God’s and Goddesses into your heart and soul to walk together into the Divine. This also brought questions about. However, I truly believe that no one can answer what the Divine is but you, and only when you feel it.
Those that has asked me why I believe magic to be real, this was the easiest explanation of all. Every time I answer this question, I smile and reply, “Because I’ve felt it. I’ve been there. I’ve become one with magic and have become one with The Divine.” Some are confused at this point, but the answer to this specific question is something only you can answer for yourself.
Many were respectful, many horrified at my response to God being the only one that can bring magic into my life. I respect those that live by the bible and God’s word. Though, I truly feel the connection with the Pagan God’s and Goddesses. My personal Goddess, Isis, has brought a light and a great sense of fulfillment into my life. I call upon her often and the magic that I have done and experienced is unexplainable. For someone who does not believe magic to be true, it will sound like nonsense to them. Until they experience magic for themselves and can answer that same question for me, there is nothing that I could say to them about working with Earth Mother to do magic.
There was one person and one person only who asked me to teach her magic. She is a very good friend of mine. I explained a few basics of my religion, and explained to her that being a witch and learning of magic by doing your own personal studies and research is the first step. Being a witch is something to be taken very seriously and to understand every aspect of everything or any spell before attempting to actually performing one. I also explained that I have seen those dabble in black magic, and that is something that will bring you sorrow and pain in the long run. ‘An ye’ harm none, do as ye’ will.’ I most defiantly expressed how important it is to keep the Three Fold Law in mind.
The purpose for me writing this paper is to express to anyone that is willing to listen that you should always be proud of who and what you are. It has taken me 24 years to find my path because it is sometimes difficult to step away from what you are so accustomed to and be able to search for your true self.
Religion, regardless of what it may be is a big part of every one person’s life. To lie and hide from your self is the most painful lie that anyone could tell. To be a witch is hard, it is difficult, it can be stressful and it can seem almost impossible to be accepted by society at times. In today’s world, yes, we need to be in society in some way, shape or form. Just remember, we are no better, nor are we any worse than any other person that may walk this glorious earth. Paganism is rejected by many, but accepted and loved by so many more. We have support and family to help us through these times.
Today, we have the wonderful world of technology! Take advantage of it. Witchvox.com is only the start. Wiccantogether.com is a lot like a myspace.com page for Wiccans. There’s plenty of ways on the Internet, not to mention the people around you that you have no idea are even there to help you.
I cannot express enough how strongly I believe that there are many that are afraid to be their true selves because of societies opinions of our religion. Be strong, stand tall, and be proud of who you are. Please, help, love and support those who need us.
In conclusion, we are loved, yet misunderstood. This is not our fault; this is our pride. I’m more than willing to help those who are misunderstood to understand. No matter the outcome may be, I am who I am. I’m being true to myself, and that is what is most important in my opinion.
Paganism and Morality
Author: Morgan Ravenwood
In a previous article I wrote entitled “The Joys and Pitfalls of Pagan Parenting, ” I repeated what my then-teenaged daughter, “Jane, ” said to me in response to my attempts to keep her on the “straight and narrow”: “But, mom, it’s not like you’re a religious Christian or something!”
I spent the rest of our conversation trying to explain why you don’t have to be a Christian to be religious and to believe in—and practice—leading a decent life. Fortunately, time and maturity has proven this to Jane, who now has three children of her own to teach it to.
In some of the online discussion boards I belong to, it has been mentioned repeatedly that many people believe that morality needs religion—and preferably the Christian religion–to exist, and vice versa. Of course, both myself and others, including some Atheists, have hastened to explain that this is in no wise true, presenting our own personal points of view and experiences as proof.
However, a member of one of the boards recently posed a question that demands an answer, both to ourselves as well as the outside world:
“So that we may learn how to properly judge those of other religious persuasions, specifically how are Wiccans and Pagans and Atheists supposed to behave in accordance with their beliefs?
How do we know when they are being true to their religious ideals, and when they are being hypocrites?”
A fair question, especially given that neither Pagans nor Atheists have the words of a prophet or set scriptures to govern their behavior. While I cannot speak for Atheists, where Paganism is concerned, it’s understandable that members of mainstream religions would find it odd, not to mention immoral, that some Pagans perform their rituals “skyclad”—i.e., in the nude–and even participate in what might be considered to be immoral sexual behavior, including homosexuality and polyamory (which simply means “more than one” lover).
The fact that there is no stigma attached to these in Paganism only reinforces this belief.
It is a sad fact that Pagan parents have had their children removed from their custody once their religion becomes public knowledge because Paganism has so often received a negative reputation as a religion with little to no morality.
In view of this, we are almost obligated to try to demonstrate as strong a behavioral standard as possible so as to build and retain integrity for our religion.
While we’ve probably all met a few “Happy Nekkid Pagans” with seemingly looser morals than most, the majority of Pagans I have known have led far more moral lives than many of their Christian counterparts.
I believe that this is due to the fact that some Christians are really only “Sunday Christians, ” named so because they crawl to church on Sunday and feign repentance, only to resume their evil ways on Monday.
But for us Pagans, it’s a little different; we consider ourselves to be “24/7 Pagans” because our own sense of honor and personal responsibility prohibits us from behaving in such a cavalier manner.
And what is the source of this personal responsibility, since it does not depend upon the threat of punishment from an angry god or a feeling of obligation to obey scriptures? I think the basic answer can be summed up quite nicely in three words: The Golden Rule. You know, the one that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The wording of this has been slightly changed but retains the same meaning in our own Wiccan Rede, which the majority of Wiccans DO adhere to: “An it harm none, do what thou will.”
To do any differently would be to harm oneself if one believes, as most Pagans do, that we are all part of each other as well as the earth. Think how wonderful the world would be if everyone practiced this for even one day!
Also, it is worth noting that some Pagan traditions, which are similar to Christian denominations, have their own set of guidelines that members are expected to follow. Though they are certainly not binding to ALL Pagans, nor do all of them adhere to them, The Thirteen Goals of a Witch, especially numbers one and four through seven, give very good guidelines for ethical behavior:
The Thirteen Goals of a Witch
1) Know Thyself
2) Know Thy Craft
3) Learn, Knowledge is Power
4) Apply Knowledge with Wisdom
5) Achieve balance in your life and everything around you
6) Keep your words in good order – negativity breeds negativity –
7) Keep your thoughts in good order
8) Celebrate life and all the stages of it
9) Attune with the cycles of the Earth and Moon
10) Breathe and eat correctly
11) Exercise the body as well as the spirit
12) Meditate everyday
13) Honor the Goddess and God
It is worth remarking that many of these mirror the behavioral guidelines as set out in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, which does not carry the stigma of immorality that Paganism does. Yet another Eastern faith belief of importance to Pagans is Karma—that which you do, comes back to you.
Many Wiccans adhere to this belief, but with one notable difference: that which you do, comes back to you—THREEFOLD. Whether or not this is true, the reality of “cause and effect” is indisputable, which certainly prompts some serious consideration in making important decisions, particularly those that concern other people.
Another area in which most Pagans strongly attempt to behave responsibly is preservation of the environment. In these days, especially with a government and national population that are less concerned about preservation and more with maximum utilization, this is no easy task. And yet, believing as we do that the earth is our Mother, we each owe it to Her to do our share. Recycling, composting, and making responsible decisions about using products that are harmful to the environment are all things we can do as individuals.
Lastly, in the “Charge of the Goddess, ” which quite thoroughly lays out recommendations for responsible and moral behavior, Doreen Valiente wrote these words, which are dear to the hearts of the many Wiccans who aspire to live by them:
“Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you, ” and “keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside.”
Surely, nobody of ANY persuasion, religious or otherwise, could aspire to any higher goals than these.
This article has previously been published on The Wiccan-Pagan Times website.
Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality
Author: Cu Mhorrigan
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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
Paganism – Past or Present
One often hears neo pagans talking about following the “old ways” and I stop and wonder why? There are even neo pagan groups who call themselves re-constructionists. Exactly what is it that they are trying to reconstruct and more importantly, why?
These particular groups use the title “Celtic” within their group descriptions but in all reality little is known about the ancient Celts. They were a people who believed in passing down their beliefs and customs orally and so there are very few written records. For the most part what we do have is the Christianized versions of the oral history of the Celts. And in all actuality, those who call themselves Celtic re-constructionists draw upon information from the Nordic, Hindu, Egyptian and so forth to form their particular Celtic neo pagan gathering.
But this article is really not about yet another neo pagan group seeking to establish what is pagan. It’s about neo pagans and their beliefs in general.
Why do neo pagans, as a religious/spiritual movement feel such a deep need to validate themselves by referring to the way things “used” to be done? Do you really think that the pagans who lived in 5000 BCE tried to emulate the pagans who lived in 7000 BCE? Did the pagans who lived in 500 CE try and emulate the pagans who lived in 1000 BCE? Was it even a concern?
I personally believe that prior to the recent neo pagan movement which began about the mid 1950’s, that pagans in general lived in accordance with the beliefs and customs of “their times”.
And so I have to wonder why is it so important that neo pagans forgo their own moment in history in an effort to emulate those who went before them. Theoretically society advances forward and does not (in theory anyway) regress backwards. And yet the neo pagan movement of today seems determined to do just that.
One would have to venture into an isolated section of a jungle in South America and perhaps parts of Africa to find a societal community, which has not evolved in accordance with the world growth pattern.
So why it is that neo pagans are so determined to buck the trend of thousands of years of paganism and try to revert back to what they think might have been at one time. In all reality, one cannot return to the womb. So what is it that scares the neo pagan movement so badly that a legacy of paganism as it applies “today” is avoided at all costs?
Could it be that subconsciously it’s known how superficial today’s society has become and with that superficiality there is a severe lack of spiritual will? A possible answer to such a lack of will l is to first acknowledge that such a problem exists and then be true to oneself and set a different example one neo pagan at a time.
Of course this sounds easier then it is because of the pervasive influence that the so called organized religions has had on the hearts and minds of folks. And such a cancer will take time and a sincere effort to heal.
Could it be that the concept of paganism relies on an interpretation of values and morals such as those found in many of the Lebor’s associated with Celtic paganism? This thought can be extended to other forms of paganism, but as an Irish witch I speak from my comfort zone. And yet again in today’s society such values and morals have become a memory of yesteryear.
In today’s society, many folks consider their individual selves to be far more important then Mother Nature and even their fellow travelers within this realm. Could it be that paganism, which was once akin to a massive island, is now no more than a tiny atoll just barely hanging on? With such a sad demise related to the erosion of spiritual values, and human morals?
Quite frankly, I personally believe that the Celtic pagan societies that existed prior to the Christian invasion from England were far superior to the society that we have today as far as morals and values go.
The Celtic pagans had a legal system called the Brehon Laws that was brilliant. It applied fairness in law, throughout Celtic pagan society regardless of ones wealth, social status, sex and so forth. These laws unfortunately were preempted by way of the invasion of the Christians into Celtic lands and beliefs.
As it is today, we have pimps in Washington D.C. who cater to special interest groups such as the Right Wing Christians, Oil companies, Lawyer groups and many others who offer their money, special favors and votes in return for certain laws favorable to their particular groups. And in place of a legal system that one could be proud of, we have the Patriot Act, which is a frightening affront to any imaginable concept of freedom within a free society. In short we have managed to regress as a society.
And what about the determination to associate with a particular pantheon of Deity, even though many neo pagans do not live in the areas that such Deity held sovereignty over? Does a particular pantheon only recognize and respond to those peoples found within their particular geographic areas of worship? Or do they respond to the hearts and minds of those folks who recognize those particular Deity regardless of where they reside?
Is Deity in fact the same throughout the world, albeit known by different names and aspects? Or are neo pagans inadvertently being irresponsible in their approach to Deity. For instance what of the Deity that Native Americans recognize and worship?
Very few non -Native Americans acknowledge and worship that particular pantheon. Is this a form of disrespect for a particular pantheon that has long been associated with a specific geographical area? Does the pantheon that was recognized by the original inhabitants of the US have precedence over Deity imported from other parts of the world?
At any rate if neo pagans want to be like the pagans that preceded them for thousands of years why not do as they have always done? And that is to actually exhibit a deep love and reverence for Mother Earth not just in words but also by substantive actions.
Neo pagans might also want to take a look at themselves and their current society. And apply pagan concepts and ideals in a way that works in “today’s” society. Pagans are indeed different in that we are as one with nature and not as some would have us believe, above or lords of nature. If one is to follow true pagan precepts then one should work to set the right example for others to possibly follow.
Paganism did not begin in 1954 CE. Trying to re-create the pagan wheel has done little but set the stage for would be elitists groups and to give a platform to egotists with massive insecurities. There are more pseudo “masters” today then there have been real masters over the last five thousand years.
At least there are thousands of years of pagan history for our ailing atoll to “reclaim” the values and morals that could once again restore us to the Grand Island that paganism once was. I use the analogy “island” because paganism is a diverse belief system and not one that can be contained or properly described under just one description or continent if you will.
At the end of the day when lay our heads down, it is in the current society that we sleep and not one from hundreds or thousands of years ago. So we can as pagans either work to improve the woes of our modern society or we can continue to try and emulate a pagan society long since gone…