31 Days of Paganism– Day 7

How do your friends and family feel about you practicing paganism?

My friends and family are mostly okay with me being pagan. Actually, most of them probably don’t even know that I am pagan unless they read this blog. It’s not that I’m “in the broom closet” or anything, it’s that spirituality and religion are things we don’t often talk about, so it’s never really come up. My mother’s side of the family is Catholic, although my mother is not– in fact, I don’t think she identifies as a Christian at all. She does, however, believe in god in the sense that she believes in a higher power and she is a a proponent for prayer. Any time I’m having a hard time with something, you can bet her advice is to pray about it (or stop caring so much about what people think, that’s a big one). That’s not to say that she thinks prayer is the answer to everything! She really sees prayer as a way to lift the burden of worry and anxiety, and get yourself to a place of action. Give your fears to god, so your mind is clear enough to do something about whatever is plaguing you. That’s an idea I can get behind. Anyway, the whole point of that paragraph was to say that even if she isn’t a Christian she is certainly Christian-like, and many of her values stem from that tradition and history. However, my mom is pretty liberal and even if she doesn’t understand paganism, she certainly isn’t afraid of it and I don’t think she believes that I’m some kind of devil worshiper or anything like that. So I suppose that’s good. Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 6

How do you like to worship?

I worship mainly through prayer, I suppose. I’m real big on prayers of thanksgiving, basically showing my gratitude to the Divine for a pretty good life. I have a great job, clothes on my back, a home to rest my head, and food to eat everyday. I have great friends and family who support me and believe in me. And my wife….. she is truly a gift from above (not sure how I got so lucky!). Really, I consider any conversation to the Divine as prayer, but I’m sure others would disagree. I also have an altar set up (so far it’s pretty lackluster since I’m not able to afford everything I would like to have on said altar, but it is functional!), and I use that as my space for ritual work. Again, my ritual work is very simple and is mostly prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. I try to turn off anything that is distracting, and light a candle to focus my energy. Ritual time is for me and the Holy Ones, without distractions, so I try to create an environment of quiet. That’s surprisingly hard to do– I live close to an airport, so there’s a lot of airplane noise around the neighborhood. But I think I should get an A for effort, right?

I’ll talk more about prayer later this month (there’s another question about it in this series, so I don’t want to give too much away), but I will say that I use prayer in formal and informal settings, pretty much anytime and anywhere I feel the need to do so.

I always imagine myself doing grand, formal ritual (like at night, under the moon, with people in cloaks and “the grandest of wordsmithing” to cast a circle and call the four corners and it would be beautiful and tears would run down my face because of the intense moment I shared with the Divine. But yeah, that never happens (not that it will never happen, I still have hope). But I try to at least try to make a habit of doing some kind of ritual at home, even if it means lighting a candle and saying a prayer. I would love to perhaps meet with a group for Sabbats and Esbats, but that is a whole other conversation, for another day.

31 Days of Paganism– day 5

Are there any secular activities that you incorporate into your religious practice?

I don’t know if there are any secular activities that I include in my religious practice. So here’s a Disney/Pokemon mashup to make up for such a short post:

image

There are some pretty common interfaith practices that go on in our household (think Yule-Christmas-Hanukkah, Halloween-Samhain, etc.)

Actually, if we think about Halloween as a secular holiday, I would say that I do celebrate it just as much as I do Samhain. But I don’t necessarily consider giving candy to trick-or-treaters as a spiritual practice. But you just might see me dressed up as a wench as I bring a plate of food to our ancestral altar. Does that count?

Rise and Shine

I wrote a song.

It’s not the first ┬ásong I’ve ever attempted, but it’s the first one that I’ve completed. Unlike previous attempts, this one came out with minimal effort. I felt inspired to write something easy and repetitive when I was thinking about my future children (I’ve got serious baby fever right now), and how I want them to not only be raised to at least understand and appreciate paganism, but also be raised in a house filled with music. There are so many songs from my childhood that I still remember fondly and sing to myself when I need a good pick me up. Those songs are precious memories to me, and I want that for my children.

So I began to think about ways I could use pagan-ish words with an easy melody. And I remembered that I’ve actually recorded melodies on my phone in the hopes that I could one day craft songs. So I took a listen to some of them and found one I thought would be really easy for kids to remember, and then I wrote a song/prayer for getting up in the morning. the song is in two parts: one is a structured rhythm with repeated phrases (that rhyme, oh my!) and the second part is more of a chant with less structure no rhyme. I feel a little vulnerable sharing it here, but didn’t I create this blog as a safe space to share my spirituality? So here it is. Maybe when I’m feeling really courageous I will post a video of me singing it. But here are the words:

Rise and shine! Rise and shine, let us give thanks
Rise and shine! Rise and shine, let us give thanks
Thanks for the ground below, sun up above
Thanks for our home and the ones that we love

Rise and shine! Rise and shine, let us give thanks
Rise and shine! Rise and shine, let us give thanks
Thanks for the food we eat to help us grow
For the wisdom of ancestor from long ago

We thank you, Holy Ones
For the blessings you’ve given us
For the world you’ve created for all to share
For ancestors who paved the way
For the gifts of love and kindness,
Of strength and compassion
Of truth and peace

We thank you.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 4

Do you see witchcraft as a religion or a practice?

This is a really good question, and my answer is pretty short: practice.

But the long answer is, and pardon the foul language, but WHO THE FUCK KNOWS. It seems that there isn’t a real consensus out there, honestly. Google, it seems, is not my friend in this instance because entering “is witchcraft a religion” came up with tons of articles and websites that said, “Well, some say it is and some say it isn’t.” That’s the problem with paganism in general– there’s not governing religious body that makes decisions on how to define yourself and your path (just kidding, I actually really like that about paganism). Everyone is more or less free to define their religion as they please. That’s not to say that there isn’t some fighting about it, but at the end of the day you get as many definitions of paganism as there are practicing pagans.

I’m also gonna just throw it out there that there are some sites who start their Wicca 101 pages using Wicca and witchcraft interchangeably, calling both a religion. So it’s no wonder people call witchcraft their religion, considering the most easily accessible resources are defining witchcraft that way.

But as for my own beliefs, I see witchcraft as a practice, not a religion. People from different religions practice witchcraft or magic, even if they call it by another name, and that doesn’t make them pagan. I’m sure some would disagree but honestly, does it matter? People will define themselves as they want to, and really, how much harm is done? Not a lot, if any. It was only until very recently that I saw myself as a soon-to-be Jew who also happened to practice witchcraft (and that is not as uncommon as one would think). As you may know from previous posts (here and here), I have stepped back from that path, but I don’t regret it, and I may come back to it some day. I don’t know if the two are mutually exclusive, and there are Jewitches who would agree with me (and many Jews who wouldn’t).

This question has got my mind going all over the place. I hope something in there made sense to someone. Hopefully day 5 goes a little better!

31 Days of Paganism– Day 3

Do you believe in anything supernatural/paranormal?

I was originally going to answer what tradition/path I was, but that was too similar to yesterday’s question, so I scrapped it and chose another. I will fix the question list accordingly.

I absolutely believe in supernatural things, although I wouldn’t necessarily consider them supernatural. Supernatural for me implies that the things that happen in this world that are beyond our understanding are somehow beyond the laws of nature or science. I believe that supernatural things are part of this world and our everyday lives, and science just hasn’t discovered how they work yet (and maybe never will). And I also think that sometimes see/hear/believe what we need to see/hear/believe. For instance, if someone close to you dies, and you say you still feel their spirit with you, it doesn’t matter if that person’s spirit is really here or not. What matters is that having that spirit close to you gives you some kind of comfort. Who’s to say that it’s real or not? I sure as hell don’t know– what do I look like, the All Knowing? I am not. No human on this earth knows or understands the complexities of the universe. So, are spirits within the realm of possibility for me? Absolutely. Do I believe in the spirits of the ancestors connecting with us in the here and now? You bet I do.

Now, do I believe in supernatural beings like werewolves, fairies, elves, etc? I’ve never seen them personally, but who knows, really. Maybe these creatures are the result of human minds that are trying to process things they don’t really understand. I mean, we only use 10% of our brain, right? For whatever reason, the rest is not accessible, and maybe that’s the part that can see everything that’s out there that alludes us, the creatures we have heard stories about but have never seen first-hand, the experiences that we can’t explain– including men who turn into wolves. I’m not in the business of trying to explain the supernatural, so I don’t really feel the need to explore anything beyond the folklore and myth. I’m perfectly happy not knowing if they are real or not. In the end, it doesn’t really matter to me because they are not critical parts of my spirituality.

Weight Loss Journey Update

I went to the wls seminar hoping that it would help me make a decision on whether or not I want to get the surgery. However, I left feeling just as conflicted as when I arrived. I think the issue for me was that I was waiting for someone to tell me point blank that getting the surgery was either the worst idea in the world (too risky or unsafe), OR tell me that it was my best choice and that everything would turn out okay (perfectly safe). I’m not afraid of being in pain, I’m not afraid of putting in the work. I’m afraid of dying either during or immediately after surgery. That’s my biggest hang-up. I was waiting for someone to tell me I wouldn’t die. Because the whole point of me getting this surgery is to use it as a tool for health, so I can live longer than I would if I stay on this current path I’m on. What if I get the surgery and a week, or month, or year later my pouch leaks or ruptures or something and I DIE? After all that work to get into the surgery program, to lose the weight and change my relationship with food, and my body kills me anyway? That’s terrifying to me.

Later I talked to my grandmother and she made me feel better. I know that there are people out there who get the surgery and regret it. But I’m hoping I’m not one of those people. I decided to call my doctor and ask her for a referral to the bariatric surgery program. She sent it in, and I have to get some tests done (including a pap smear, WHY), and if they think I’m a good candidate I’ll begin to take their pre-op classes on nutrition and meal planning and preparing for a post-op lifestyle. We’ll see how the classes go, and if by the end I’m not 100% sure then I won’t get the surgery. I don’t know when I will find out if they have accepted my referral, but as soon as I get the news I’ll be sure to post it here.

31 Days of Paganism- Day 2

What kind of Pagan are you?

Like I said in the previous post, I don’t really know where I fit in with the many different pagan traditions currently practiced. I would say right now I’m and eclectic pagan/witch. I don’t belong to any particular tradition or practice. Even though I’ve been pagan for a number of years, I’m only now beginning to develop a sense of what path might be right for me. Well actually, I’m still very unsure, but I have a strong urge to explore and figure out which one fulfills me spiritually (if any– I could remain eclectic forever, if that’s what is truly best for me). I’m just not ready to commit to any one practice.

I’m more interested in exploring witchcraft as a practice than I was when I first started exploring pagan paths, so that’s something that I’m committed to exploring. However, there is a part of me who is incredibly…. skeptical? One might call me a non-believer, I suppose. for instance, I believe in magic as a way to connect to the Divine, but not in the sense that I think my magic will actually make a difference. It’s not about the end result, it’s about maintaining a relationship with the universe. So for example, if I were to do spell work for money or a new job, I wouldn’t think that my increase cash flow is the direct result of that spell work. In fact, I probably wouldn’t do the spell in the first place. I would instead pray for guidance from the Divine on how to find ways to increase my cash flow or use my networks effectively to get a new job. Or I would use tarot to help me look at my situation in a new or creative way. Connecting with the Divine can sometimes keep me open to new ideas, change my perspective, help me see what I couldn’t see before. I think that is pretty magical all on its own.

But since I don’t really see magic in the same way that many books seem to (and if you have any books that explain magic differently, feel free to recommend them) I’m maybe more reluctant to call myself a witch than I am to call myself a pagan. And of course, I have no better definition for myself– am I more suited to Druidism? Dianic Wicca? Shamanism? I took an online quiz just for fun and it said my top pagan path is Asatru. I don’t put much stock into that, since the questions were mostly either-or questions, and my religious beliefs are more complicated than that. But hey, something to explore, right? We’ll see.

31 Days of Paganism- Day 1

How did you discover your path?

That’s a good question, that I’m not really sure how to answer (what a way to start this challenge off with a bang, right?). I think it’s difficult for me to answer because I don’t really know what this path is. I mean, I know that I am some kind of pagan, but not which kind, or what tradition I want to be affiliated with. But I can say how I was introduced to paganism as an umbrella term for a bunch of (sometimes) polytheistic, nature-based religions. I was raised in a Christian family– my mother’s side of the family is Catholic, but we were raised Protestant, I would say in evangelical churches mostly (although my mother took us to a great Methodist church when we were in elementary school, a church that I still think about with fondness). I was baptized in a lake when I was eight years old, and I took Christianity pretty seriously.

But when I was in high school I started to question my place in the church and wondered what else was out there for me if Christianity wasn’t a good fit. So I made an effort to do research on what else was out there. Basically I discovered my path through a lot of searching and reading lots of books and articles about any liberal-minded religion that I could think of, and some that I didn’t know I existed until I looked. Nature-based religions really made sense to me because I felt that if the Creator made the earth, surely They meant for us to take care of it, to be grateful for it, and to see the divinity in it. There was less talk of sin and more talk about being a responsible citizen of the earth and I liked that a lot. I also appreciated the ideas of interconnectedness and interdependence that I saw many people incorporating into their ritual and practice as pagans. So I thought, I think this could work!

Unlike many, my introduction to paganism wasn’t through Wicca, and I honestly had little interest in witchcraft or Wiccan traditions when I first explored paganism. I was way more interested in Druidism and straight up nature worship. Like white hoods and chanting and maybe hugging trees and spending the night stargazing and praying. I dunno, I had a very limited view of what paganism meant. Not that paganism can’t include those things, but there’s so much more to it than I originally anticipated.

I’m now more interested in incorporating witchcraft practices to my daily life and embrace the word Witch, although I don’t see myself wearing all black and stirring potions in my cauldron anytime soon (although how cool would I be?!). I want to learn more about herb lore and maybe spell work. However, I still heavily rely on prayer and more formalized worship as my main connection to the world and to the Divine. I use my words more than my hands, I guess I should say. My voice is my most powerful spiritual tool.