Most people who come to a Pagan belief system didn’t start out that way. Simply because of the numbers, the majority of people who are now Pagan were once Christians or some other religion. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, sometimes, people have trouble letting go. It’s not uncommon to meet folks who swear up and down that they’re Pagan, and yet they live by the dogma of their old religion - they’ve simply changed the names of the deities.
Sandra, who follows a Greek reconstructionist path, says, “I had been raised Southern Baptist, so it was hard - really hard - for me to adapt to this idea of a god and goddess that didn’t make any demands on me. I was raised to believe that there was one god only, and to find deities that not only didn’t mind sharing me with others, but who wouldn’t punish me for it -- well, that was a big thing. I had trouble with it at first, and was always wondering, “Well, if I honor Aphrodite, can I still celebrate Artemis, or am I going to get caught in some kind of deity war, and cause trouble?”
A South Carolina Pagan named Thomas is now a Druid. He says, “My family is Catholic, and once I realized that the gods of the Druid path were calling me, I had no trouble walking away from Catholicism. Except for the idea of sin. I still kept finding myself feeling like I needed to go to confession every time I had sex with my girlfriend or used swear words.”
Don’t try to put Paganism - of whatever flavor - into a Christian (or other kind of) box. Just let it be what it is. You’ll be much happier in the long run.
There are lots of Pagan traditions. They’re not all the same. In fact, some are vastly different. While there may be some common threads that bind MOST Pagan religions together, the fact is that every tradition has its own set of rules and guidelines. Are you someone who insists that all Pagans must follow the Law of Threefold Return or the Wiccan Rede? Well, not all groups have those as a mandate.
Look at it this way: if you’re not Christian, you don’t follow the Ten Commandments, right? Likewise, if someone isn’t part of your tradition, they’re not obligated to follow your tradition’s rules and laws.
Accept that each person - and group - is capable of thinking for themselves, and that they are able to create laws, guidelines, tenets, and rules that work best for them. They do not need you to tell them How To Be Pagan.
Got a feeling something is going on, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Believe it or not, most people have some degree of latent psychic ability. If you’re interested in developing your gifts and skills, then stop ignoring those messages. You may find that they’re telling you some pretty important stuff. Magic happens, as does psychic phenomena. But if you keep rejecting it as “Oh, there’s no WAY that just happened,” then you may be missing out on a very valuable tool and resource.
Many Pagan traditions follow a guideline that includes the idea of keeping silent. In that circumstance, keeping silent refers to the idea that we shouldn’t go around blabbing endlessly about our religious beliefs, our magical practice, or the people we’re standing in circle with.
That’s not what we’re talking about here.
No, instead, when we say “Stop being silent,” we’re talking about a lack of speaking out when injustice is done. There’s a common thread in our society in which no one really wants to get involved when things are going on that do not directly impact us. However, as Pagans, we’re in the minority, in the United States and in most other countries. That means that when things happen to other minority groups - even those that are not Pagan - we should still be standing up for those other groups.
Frequently, on the About Pagan/Wiccan home page, we discuss current events that relate to freedom of religion and other first amendment rights. Often, those news stories are not about Pagans at all, but about Muslims, or Jews, or even atheists. Why are they relevant?
Because if one group can face discrimination, we all can.
Remember that old saying attributed to a German pastor, who was saddened by the failure of the intellectual community to speak out during the Nazi reign? He said, "First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Finally, they came for me, and there was no one left to speak.”
If we don’t speak up when other groups are treated unfairly, who’s going to speak for us when we ourselves face discrimination?
There are literally thousands of books and websites about modern Paganism. One of the things people typically find themselves asking is, "How do I know what books are reliable?," followed almost immediately by "Which authors should I avoid?" As you learn and read and study, you'll learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and you'll eventually be able to figure out on your own what makes a book credible, or worth reading, and what makes it one that should probably only be used as a doorstop or paperweight.
But here’s the thing to remember. As long as people keep buying books that are awful, or at the very least, academically suspect, the authors of these titles will continue to repackage and publish them.
Demand more. Patronize publishers and authors whose work is credible, and not those who simply slap a cover with a pentagram and some glitter on a new version of the same garbage you’ve been reading for thirty years.
If you’re someone who follows a nature- or earth-based religion, it stands to reason that the natural world should be, at least to some degree, sacred. While it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all out in the forest worshiping rocks and stumps, it does mean that we should have the decency to treat our natural world with some respect.
Become environmentally conscious and aware. Even if you simply focus on the patch of earth you live on, or your immediate area, rather than on a global level, it’s a start. Take care of the land on which you live.
“I want to be Pagan but I just don’t have time to study!”
How many times have you caught yourself saying or thinking that? It’s an easy rut to fall into - we’ve all got jobs, families, and lives, and it’s easy to let ourselves fall into the habit of not making time for our spirituality. However, if you think about some of the ways we waste the twenty-four hours a day we DO have, it’s not so hard to re-prioritize. If you feel like you don’t have the time you need to work on your spirituality as much as you’d like to, then take a long and hard look at how you are spending your days. Are there ways you can save time, that you can then dedicate to your spiritual journey?
“Christians are all such jerks.”
“Wiccans are a bunch of fluffy weirdos.”
“Those Heathens are way too aggressive.”
Ever overhear any of those from someone in the Pagan community? Unfortunately, judgmental behavior is not limited to the non-Pagans. Remember how we talked about how each Pagan path is different, and they’re not all like you? Well, part of accepting that people are different includes not being judgey because they’re different. You're going to meet a lot of people who are not like you. Don’t stereotype anyone based on misconceptions - instead, base your opinion of them upon their merits or flaws as individuals.
If you’re ready to be part of a non-mainstream religious group, you’ll notice really quickly that the Pagan community is full of free thinkers. It’s full of people who question authority, and who try to make right decisions based upon their own moral codes, rather than what may be popular or fashionable. Don’t take things at face value - ask questions, and don’t accept what you’re told just because someone tells you to. Take the time to find a good teacher - and realize that the best teachers will want you to ask questions.
Sorcha is a Pagan from Maine who says she has learned not to accept dogma from other Pagans. “I met this high priestess who really wanted everyone to do things her way - not because her way was necessarily better, but because she wanted to be in charge. Everyone in the group was blindly following along, never stopping to say, “Hey, maybe we could try it this other way instead.” They were like a bunch of sheep, and I had to walk away. I didn’t become Pagan so I could have an authority figure making my spiritual decisions for me. I became Pagan because I wanted to continue thinking for myself.”
“I don’t have time to study.”
“I don’t have the money to buy supplies.”
“I live in a town that’s really religious.”
“My spouse doesn’t want me to be Pagan.”
Are you making excuses for all the reasons you can’t practice your Pagan faith? Aleister Crowley once said that to perform magic is to express dissatisfaction with the universe. In other words, if you’re happy with the way things are, then there’s no need for magic. While Crowley may have said a lot of things that people disagree with, he’s spot on with this one.
If you’re a Pagan who accepts that magic can happen, and that change can occur, then you have no excuse for not making things different where they need to be. Don’t have time to study? Sure you do - you have the same hours in your day as everyone else. Change how you spend those hours. Set goals to make things change for you.
Don’t have money to buy supplies? So what? Make magic with what you have on hand.
Live in a town that’s religious? No big deal. Keep your beliefs to yourself and practice in the privacy of your own home. No need to be in your neighbors’ faces about it.
Got a spouse who doesn’t want you to be Pagan? Find a way to compromise. Interfaith marriages work all the time, as long as they’re built on a foundation of mutual respect.
Stop making excuses for all the reasons you can’t, and start making changes so that you can.
For people new to Pagan spirituality, there is often a sense of elation and joy - after all, you’ve finally found that elusive sense of belonging that you’ve been looking for all this time! However, with that elation and joy sometimes comes bad decision-making rooted in enthusiasm. Here are a few common mistakes that new Pagans - and a few veterans - often make. Let’s take a look at what they are, and how you can avoid these pitfalls and traps: Five Common Mistakes New Pagans Make