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Ten Reasons Not to Become Pagan

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People become Pagans or Wiccans for a variety of reasons. Most of those reasons are pretty good - sometimes it involves a connection to the divine, a sense of coming home, or even just a gradual transformation. However, there are plenty of reasons that aren't so great. If yours appear on this list, you might want to rethink your whole spiritual journey and what you hope to get out of it.

1. I want to cast spells on people!

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So there's a really cute guy you like, and you figure the best way to get his attention is to start flinging some hot and sexy magical mojo his way. Or maybe you lost your job, and you're thinking a spell aimed at your former boss is a great idea. Well, while both of these are things that you could do, that doesn't mean that you should. Although the majority of Pagans do incorporate magic into their spiritual practice, it's not generally the primary focus. If you're only interested in spellwork, that's fine - but keep in mind that the word work is a key component of that. There's a reason that not everyone in the world practices magic.

Also, keep in mind that some traditions of modern Paganism have guidelines regarding spellwork aimed at other people. Be sure to read about the ethics of love spells before you start targeting the hottie in the next cubicle.

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2. I was raised Christian but now I hate going to church.

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So for whatever reason, you've decided the Christian religion isn't for you. That's fine - everyone is allowed to evolve and grow and move on. However, if you're seeking out Paganism simply as an act of rebellion against your upbringing, you may find yourself disappointed later on. Many Pagans say they feel more at home in their spiritual path once they realized they were running TO something, instead of trying to get away from something.

If you were raised Christian, and now you're thinking about becoming Pagan, it's important to ask yourself why. Switching religions isn't like trying on a new pair of shoes, and often involves some degree of commitment on your part. Be sure you're exploring Paganism because it feels right to you - not because it seems wrong to your family.

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3. I want to conjure up spirits! They’re cool.

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So you read about some guy who conjured up a spirit to do his bidding, and he got all kinds of cool powers, and blah blah blah. Well, while working with the spirit world is something that some Pagans do, it's not something everyone does. And if you do decide to work with the spirit world, it's important to remember that they're not pets or playthings - just because you invoke a spirit doesn't mean it's interested in doing you bidding.

Many people do have spirit guides that visit them periodically - and there are a number of different types. However, if you're going to call upon otherworldly beings, make sure you do so safely. They can be hard to get rid of if you change your mind later on about having them as guests.

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4. I’m a seventeenth-generation hereditary Wiccan.

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Many people believe that they're descended from a long line of witches - and indeed, some people do have a few witchy branches in their family tree. However, just because someone in your family was a witch or Pagan doesn't automatically make you one by default. Also, it's important to remember that Wicca itself is a fairly new religion, created by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. That means that your great-great-great-great-grandmother who lived in Salem wasn't Wiccan. Also, that ancestor who lived in Appalachia and gathered herbs and was known as a cunning woman? Not Wiccan. However, she may well have been practicing some form of folk magic - much of which co-existed happily with Christianity for centuries. But she still wasn't Wiccan.

5. Everyone knows Pagans are really kinky and open about sex.

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If you're thinking about becoming Pagan because it's going to increase your opportunities to get laid, think again. While many Pagans are pretty open about sex - and there are a lot of polyamorous Pagans - that doesn't mean we all want to sleep with you. Open-mindedness and tolerance of different sexual preferences isn't the same as promiscuity. Also, although some Pagan groups include ritual sex as part of practice, if ritual sex is performed, it is nearly always between two individuals who are part of an existing relationship already, and who are of equal levels of power within the dynamic of the coven.

If you want to have kinky sex, go have it. But don't use Paganism or other beliefs as an excuse or justification.

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6. I want to be part of a religion that lets me do what I want.

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Some people mistakenly believe that Pagan religions, specifically Wicca, are "do whatever you want" belief systems. While there's a lot of room for leeway in how people practice and what they believe, that doesn't necessarily mean you can do things that defy the laws of logic and common sense. For instance, if you want to worship Hecate, go right ahead -- but don't proclaim to everyone that you honor her as a goddess of love and beauty instead of one of sorcery and destruction.

Also, some established traditions do have guidelines in place. Many Wiccan groups follow the Wiccan Rede, and other Pagan belief systems may have their own set of rules. If you're joining one of these established groups, you'll be expected to follow their tenets. If you're starting your own tradition, or practicing as a solitary, you can create your own system - but make sure you establish some consistency in things.

7. People are mean to me, and if I’m a witch, they’ll be scared to pick on me.

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Um, no. If people are mean to you, they're going to continue being mean even if you're a witch. If you're interested in becoming Pagan just because it sounds spooky and scary, that's not a great reason. In fact, you could find yourself having even more problems if you walk around telling the people who are harassing you that you're now Pagan. If you're a student and you're being picked on - for whatever reason - you need to let an adult know so they can intervene. If you're an adult and you're being harassed by others, there are a number of ways to resolve the problem - call the police if it's your neighbor, speak to your boss if it's a co-worker.

Mean people are mean no matter what religion you are. Being Pagan isn't going to change that.

8. All Pagans are peaceful and loving, so I want to be one.

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Many people enter into the Pagan community thinking that every event they attend will be full of sunshine and rainbows, with happy Wiccans frolicking in fields, hugging trees and singing Kumbayah. Then, unfortunately, they get a rude awakening when someone at the potluck dinner says something snarky about someone else, one of the Druids makes a comment about the Heathens, and the drum circle erupts into a brawl because the High Priestess' boyfriend drank too much.

Look, Pagans are people just like everyone else. We're not all sparkles and light, and it's unreasonable to expect everyone to be like that. Also, there are so many different sets of beliefs that you can't just assume everyone's going to be hugging it out in a giant gooey love-fest. Some Pagans are peaceful, others are not. But it's a bad idea to expect every single one of us to be exactly the same - you'll be sorely disappointed if you're operating under these misconceptions.

9. I have psychic powers. That makes me a witch.

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No. It makes you someone who's psychically gifted. That doesn't necessarily make you witchy or Pagan. There are many people who have varying degrees of psychic abilities - and there are a number of ways you can develop these skills so you can use them in a positive way. Witchcraft, on the other hand, is a matter of practice. In other words, practicing witchcraft makes you a witch, while using your psychic abilities makes you a psychic.

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10. I want to be like the girls on Charmed!

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This email shows up in the About Pagan/Wiccan mail box about once a week. Charmed is a television show - you can't use magic to change your eye color, levitate, resurrect the dead, or any of the other amazing things that Phoebe and her sisters do. Likewise, The Craft and Harry Potter are make-believe too. While television and movies might have you believe that practicing witches do all this fantastic stuff, most of the time we're just hanging around trying to balance our checkbooks, prepare dinner for our families, get to work on time, and walk the dog.

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