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When Someone You Love Is Pagan

An introduction to Pagan spirituality

Perhaps you're uncomfortable with the mere idea of Paganism. Perhaps you're asking yourself, "How could my child/friend/co-worker have gotten involved with this? " Relax. The Pagan in your life does not worship the devil or cast evil spells.
Maybe you prefer not to think about it at all. Maybe you secretly hope that some day you'll be talking on the phone with the Wiccan in your life, and he or she will say, "Oh by the way, I found this nice little main stream church that I have been attending, and I'm thinking about joining. " Or maybe you've accepted that, while Paganism is not your choice for religion and spirituality, you respect the right of each person to make his or her own spiritual choice. I believe knowledge is a powerful tool to help people get along better in this crazy world we live in and it’s my hope to pass along a little knowledge, today.
Just as Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican and Baptist refer to different forms of Christianity, Paganism, Wicca, and Witchcraft are all part of a worldwide belief system of spirituality and a religion that is based in deep reverence for nature. The term "Pagan" refers to a group of people, loosely associated and organized, who consider themselves members of what is basically a nature religion. That's why it's called "Nature Spirituality. " This movement believes that Mother Nature, or Mother Earth, is actually as much a part of God as is God the Father. Some Pagans think of Mother Nature as a Goddess, so this religion is often called Goddess Spirituality. Nature religions are an important part of the "New Age" philosophies, but because of prejudice and ignorance, open sharing about the subject was difficult until a few years ago.
The majority of Pagans are of the Wiccan tradition, but there are also Witches and other groups such as the Church of All Worlds, Feraferian, the People of Holy Earth, and also many of the Native Americans. Wicca is a new religious movement, but is based on ancient spiritual practices from around the world. Nature Spirituality is not a cult, and Pagans do not worship the devil. Pagans don't even believe in the devil.
If you are religious or spiritual person, I'm certain your faith or belief system means a lot to you. Perhaps you are an active member of your church, and have raised your children in that faith. Even though Paganism and Wicca may seem strange and unusual to you, I hope you'll see that Pagans are just as devoted and committed to the highest principles of Nature Spirituality as other people are to their faiths, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, or whatever. The Pagan path may not be the same as yours, but Pagans walk it with a similar sense of commitment, integrity, and responsibility.
For Wiccans and Pagans, their path is about becoming a better person and working for the healing of our natural environment and our society.
It may be difficult for you to accept that someone you love is a Witch. After all, in our society, Witches are often thought to be bad people, malevolent evil-doers who curse and poison their enemies. Today there remains much ignorance about the religion of Witchcraft and the Pagan movement. In so many people's minds, witchcraft - or craft of the wise - is still linked to evil. Television, movies and popular books on the subject have compounded the problem by the perpetuation of superstitions and stereo typing. Of course, Pagans believe these stereo types are inaccurate and unfair, based on centuries of misunderstanding. But it is understandable if the word "Witch" makes you uncomfortable.
If the Pagan you know is your child, it may bother you that he or she does not participate in your religion. This can be especially difficult for those who ascribe to traditional or conservative belief systems. Some believe that if you merely dabble in non-traditional religions, then you have sinned against God and are going to hell. Perhaps you're afraid that a Pagan's eternal soul may be in danger. I honor and respect your concern. I began studying modern Paganism in 1973, and have actually practiced the Pagan path, as a solitary practitioner, since 1980. In other words, I spent seven years thinking about and researching Wicca, and other forms of Paganism, before I took the step of actually living a Pagan life. Let me share with you some of the things that I learned in the years I spent researching Paganism and Witchcraft.
  • Paganism (or "Neopaganism, " which simply means the new Paganism) is the overall name for the modern nature religions. Just as Christianity has many different forms (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, and so forth), so does Paganism. Some of the forms of Paganism include Wicca, Witchcraft, Guardinarian, Llwellanism, Druidism, Shamanism, Odinism, Goddess Spirituality, and many others. Although there are differences between the many forms of Paganism, they also have much in common.
  • The spirit of Paganism can be described as independent and interdependent relationships between these peoples that consider themselves "Children of the Earth. " There is no ONE person, nor one set of scriptures to follow. Neither is there a body of dogma that must be learned.
  • Witchcraft and other forms of Paganism have nothing to do with devil worship or Satanism. As a matter of fact, there is no Satan or devil concept in the Pagan belief system. On the contrary, Paganism teaches the importance of living an upstanding and ethical life.
  • Christians subdivide God into a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Pagans do something similar, only they see God as a Mother and a Father. In other words, as a Mother Goddess and a Father God. In fact, some Pagans prefer a feminine image of the Goddess over, or in addition to, the traditional masculine image of God, thus the Maiden, Mother, Crone aspect. There are Wiccans who follow a Christian pantheon of Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Mother, Maiden, Crone and are quite comfortable incorporating the two together.
  • The Pagan way is very close to the soul and common heritage of humanity. It is a natural belief which sees man and woman as they are and seeks to push neither one into a preconceived role model. Paganism sees the mystery and richness of nature and opens the way to an understanding of it that the modern world has overlooked. Pagans conceive of the creative power in the universe as manifesting through polarity; as masculine and feminine; and that this same creative power lives in all people and functions through the interactions of the male and female energies. They value sex as pleasure, and as a symbol of and attunement with the forces of nature. They do not seek power or personal benefit through the sufferings of others.
  • To Pagans, it makes no sense to see spirituality as separate from the material world. The Goddess is present in the material world, just as she is present in prayer and meditation. For this reason, Pagans see nature as holy and many Pagans get involved in recycling and ecological preservation as a way of expressing their religious convictions. A witch’s catechism might include "reduce, reuse, recycle, resell, re-gift, " as a way to walk more lightly on Earth Mother.
  • Most Pagans talk about magic -- an easily misunderstood term. To Pagans, magic is not about pulling rabbits out of hats, or conjuring up spirits to do one's bidding. Some Pagans actually prefer the spelling "m. a. g. i. c. k." to differentiate their practice from the " nothin’ up my sleeve" type of magic. Instead, it is best seen as " using spiritual power in their daily lives. " For example, just about anyone who believes in God will pray for healing when someone is sick. What the main stream calls prayer, Pagans call magick, or a spell. A spell is a prayer with special effects in order to attract the attention of the unconscious. It's basically the same thing: relying on spiritual power to achieve our goals and live happier lives. Just as Christians ask for God's blessing through their prayers, Pagans ask for the Goddess' blessing through their magick.
  • Wicca is basically a new religion. It didn't really exist before the 1950s, but it is based on ancient spirituality (such as the spirituality of the Druids, the ancient priests of Ireland and Scotland), as well as on modern science and psychology. For many Pagans, following this religion is about getting in touch with one's (ancient) roots. For example, the more I have learned about the ancient Celts, the more I admire their civilization and spirituality. Modern Pagans try to honor the old ways of our foremothers and fathers, who lived close to nature and who believed in Mother Earth as much as in a heavenly Father.
  • Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people around the world follow the Pagan path. Pagans come from all walks of life: rich and poor, male and female, straight and gay, high school dropouts and Ph.D.s. Pagans can be found in every corner of society: as lawyers, teachers, computer programmers, doctors, nurses, mechanics, and writers. They are witches descended from the old families of Europe; they are seekers discovering their desire to be witches; they are priests and priestesses of the Temples of Isis and Horus, and Ishtar and Ra; they are people like you and me in organizations derived from religions in Greece, Africa, Egypt, Mayan traditions, Celtic traditions, Native American culture, in Canada and the United States.

The Military has a thriving Pagan population, since many Pagan groups consider it an honorable thing to be a warrior, and acknowledges Pagans as practicing a valid religion. Many military bases have Pagan chaplains or chaplain assistants. There is even a new symbol approved by the military for use on a pagan soldier’s grave marker. It is the pentacle! At this time I’d like to mention an important point. The symbol of the five-pointed star, the pentagram, is a sacred symbol of Witchcraft representing the goddess, the Craft, the 4 sacred directions (north, east, south, west), protection and the perfection of man and woman. It does not represent evil or the devil, nor has it ever been anything but a positive symbol of the Craft Tradition.
Now, you may be thinking, "All this is okay, but I still don't like the idea of Witchcraft." Let's take a closer look at that.
I grew up in the Anglican Church, but while living in Saskatchewan I went to a Lutheran Church. I learned an interesting tidbit about Lutheran history. Once upon a time, calling somebody a Lutheran was an insult. It meant that the person was a radical, a heretic, a follower of that terrible Martin Luther. But as the Protestant Reformation swept much of Europe, Lutheranism became a noble and honorable religion. Today, millions of people all over the world are proud to be Lutherans. Witchcraft is similar. In ancient times, and as recently as the late 18th century, to call somebody a Witch meant to accuse them of using spiritual power to curse or harm others. We now know this was based on superstition and fear. Meanwhile, scholars have determined that much of what was considered to be "Witchcraft" in ages past may have actually been the nature-based spirituality commonly practiced in Europe up until and overlapping, the coming of Christianity. As people began to see Witchcraft as Nature Spirituality and not as something harmful, they began to see it as a good and upstanding thing. So today, when someone calls them self a Witch, they mean it in a totally positive way.

What Do Witches Do?
When people become Witches, how do they practice their spirituality? Wicca and Paganism are considered a Craft of the Wise. It involves the pursuit of wisdom in many forms. Thus, people who explore the old religion will do any or all of the following:
  • Study.Witches often love to read, and many longtime practitioners of the craft have houses crammed full of books. Nowadays, this love of research also extends to the Internet, where countless websites provide information on mythology, ritual, Goddess lore, and magic.
  • Ritual.This would be the closest equivalent to going to church or synagogue. Rituals can be performed alone, in small groups, or in larger gatherings. As a general rule, they are performed on the night of the full moon, new moon, or on one of eight special Pagan holidays known as Sabbats. These are considered sacred acts or Sacraments to Earth Mother. Pagan and Witch religious practice recognizes the mother goddess as physically manifested in the earth around us and also in the energy of the moon. Her consort, the lord, is also recognized with various solar and woodland symbologies; although to varying degrees depending on the particular tradition. Because of the emphasis on the goddess, women, in most cases, have an officiating role at religious gatherings. In practice, Pagan worship, ritual and meditation seek to tune in with the forces of nature. The movement of these natural forces - called tides by some - directly affect our lives, the evolution of humankind, and the course of the manifested universe. Witches and other pagans celebrate this tidal movement, and, in fact, unify with it through the eight festivals of the year. The eight festivals start at sundown on the day previous to the calendar day listed.
  • Magic. Less formalized than a ritual, magic consists of any activity aimed at channeling spiritual energy to achieve a specific goal. This can be as simple as meditating before a lit candle or as complex as an intricate ritual involving a series of carefully prepared symbolic objects. Incidentally, the process of doing a magical working is known as casting a spell.
  • Craft activities. Many Wiccans and Pagans love to make candles, incense, oils, salves, herbal tinctures, and other items, imbued with natural ingredients that have spiritual significance. Such items are created only for positive magical or healing purposes, and are often used in spells or rituals.
  • Nature-based activities. From planting an herb garden to helping clean up a polluted river, to simply enjoying long walks in the woods, nearly all Witches and Pagans truly revere the outdoors. To Pagans, such ecological activities as recycling or composting are not just good civic duties; they are also spiritually sacred acts.
  • Other activities designed for spiritual growth. These miscellaneous pursuits can include meditation, studying a divination system such as astrology, Tarot, or psychometry, taking classes to develop psychic or intuitive ability, or making pilgrimages to ancient sacred sites such as Stonehenge in England or Newgrange in Ireland. Witches and pagans are generally encouraged to learn a form of divination, a form of healing, herbal craft, incense and oils, meditation, astral travel, and many other disciplines with some being quite similar to spiritualism and shamanism. Because Witches and Pagans regard all of life as sacred, any of these activities can be spiritually meaningful and an important part of their overall religious observance. They honor the passages of birth, "baptism" which is known as wiccaning, puberty, marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, middle age, old age and death and have create ceremonies to mark these passages.

There's no one right way to be a Witch, and so not all Wiccans or pagans will do all of these things. But this variety of activities shows the richness and depth of spirituality that is available to modern Pagans.
There aren’t many admonitions, dogmas or creeds, but one thing a Wiccan learns early on is "an it harm none do as you will". Sound familiar? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. " Another of Christianity’s more well known verses is a piece usually written under a picture of the Christ knocking on a door and it reads something to the effect of "…behold, I stand at the door and knock (etc). " If you look closely, there is no knob or handle on the door. This infers that enlightenment is an inside job. In the Charge of the Goddess it states " for those of you who seek to know me without, all your seeking will be in vain. For behold I have been with you from the beginning and I await you now. " – an inside job. Paganism has one primary law - the law of Threefold Return, which states: "Whatever you do, for good or for ill, returns to you threefold. " In the spirit of the threefold law many Pagans and Witches are involved with service oriented activities. I would like to mention that Wicca is in the top five categories of religions today and growing rapidly. Love, tolerance and inclusion are universally practiced by Nature Spiritualists.
Now, before I close, I’d like to leave you with a Pagan blessing:

" In perfect love and perfect trust Joy be shared by all of us. Merry meet and merry part With living wisdom in our hearts. "

Willow