Altars (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

Altars can take all shapes and sizes.  Many have a simple representation of the patron deities, some candles, a cup, and herbs and crystals.  It can be as big as an entire table, and as small as a small statuette. There can be sage bundles and lighter present, or frilly scarves and flowers.  Whatever the setup, altars have a sacred meaning for Pagans, and many religions.

There is no hard or fast rule for what goes on an altar.  I am sure you have seen a few set ups, in which a chalice (cup), athame (knife), cauldron (holds burning cinder blocks for burning herbs), representations of the 5 elements, a Goddess statue, a God statue, a plate for food, incense holder (usually holding a stick ready to be lit, or smoking), and candles.  Some altars are set in the cardinal directions-North, South, East, and West.  There may be a large geode in the northern quadrant, a feather or incense in the east quadrant, a candle or something burning in the south, and water or seashells in the west.  The fifth section, called spirit by many Pagans, may be represented by the deities, or with something special.

Many Pagans believe that each cardinal direction has an association.

In the north is the element of earth.  Earth is honored and represented as an homage to the fact we live on a big chunk of rock floating out into the cosmos that happens to sustain life.  Geodes, semi-precious stones, or a good ole river rock is a representation of the earth, and in it we place the rock in the north.  Other associations with north is the idea that the earth provides stability.  Standing in a boat on water gives you a feeling of not being connected to earth through gravity.  The idea of being grounded comes from the lack of movement sensation.  Another attribute is the idea that the way a person acts or presents their energy is being rock solid, or earth-like.  I am the earth element in my coven, as I am constantly reminding people that there is no need to get spun up over something, and we should investigate before we have a reason to get upset, or read too much into a statement. Other attributions to the north, and to earth is the zodiac signs.  Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn signs are all considered earthy and grounded.  Now, there are a LOT of other factors that form the personality of any person, and it is no different than that of astrological sign.  The colors normally associated with earth is brown, green, or any other forest color.

East, the next direction, is associated with air, communication, and learning. Oxygen sustains us, and when we talk, we use the air to transmit sound waves, and our thoughts are like the wind, untouchable, yet tangible.  Those items that can represent air, communication and learning can include feathers, smoke, or a scroll. Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius’ are all considered air elements, and really good at communication.  My zodiac sign is Libra, and I am very good at communicating.  It is not my end all and be all, but at times Pagans can find themselves more communicative, and at times less communicative. It just means we are channeling an element stronger at times than others. The colors associated with

South is fire, and yes, the first few thoughts you have regarding what fire represents can be passion, desire, ego, and heat.  It can also represent release, as burning something releases and destroys the ties that bind. The fire is as life sustaining as the earth and air.  Flames can be saving and damaging, depending on how you treat it.  Too much passion, and you burn out, too little, and you are cold. Those with a fire sign in the zodiac is Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius’.

In the west is the water element that is closely associated to emotions, and while water is the most flexible of nature, it can also be the most destructive.  It can wear away at you over time, or it’s absence can cause you a lot of pain. Emotions are the same.  They can overwhelm you like a tsunami, or withdrawn, it can make you feel desolate.  Those who are emotionally deep usually channel this element more.  Why each direction is associated as it is has had me postulate that in Europe, in the south, toward the equator, the sun makes the lands get warmer and warmer.  The west has the Atlantic ocean with it’s massive amount of water. However, my hypothesis goes flat when you think of the east in Europe, as in the east there is a significant amount of land mass, which does not explain the air element being in the east, and the earth element in the north. 

Many questions arise in how Pagans made the determination as to what or why there is an association to the directions, or any of the other baffling determinations are made.  I cannot answer that, as you have me at a similar loss!  Just wait until you get into astrology, there is more illogical determinations, and less in the way of explanations than you would believe.

Spirit does not get a direction, and some Pagans do not acknowledge it as a fifth element.  But some Pagans do, and it is exactly what it means, the spirit within us all, and with the universal spirits or deities.

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Passion for this Pagan (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

I went on an adventure this weekend that had me connecting with myself, and my beloved coven.  I began with going to Hallowed Homecoming.  This is not your normal Pagan festival, with vendors, performances, or community bonfires and drumming.  This had a little more gravitas in which the presentations were a little more focused toward lectures from guest speakers, and rituals specific to the season.  Because the event was scheduled just after Samhain, the topics covered a little more toward channeling of spirit, and connecting with the dearly departed.  One of the lectures I attended was specific to the Welsh tradition of Wassailing.

I love a good cultural exchange of information, and this did not disappoint.  In the Welsh tradition, Rhiannon was giving birth to the horse Goddess, Epona, and was thrown out of their stall by Mary and Joseph, who gave birth to Jesus.  Rhiannon had to give birth in the frigid cold with no shelter, succor, or food.  It is said that the spirit of Epona wanders the earth, tapping on doors looking for succor.  Here is the Wiki link to the tradition. At this point I am immensely enjoying the conversation that this is generating, and recording the lecture for future reference.  (Unfortunately I was incredibly technology challenged that weekend, and only ended up with a large number of pictures.) The Welsh (admittedly a little drunk) will dress up the skull of a horse with veils and other decoration, and wander the village, knocking on doors and requesting entrance via song and verse.  At this point the owner will then respond in song as to why not, and a sing off begins.  Should the homeowner run out of reasons why, the Mari Lwyd is then granted access and proceeds to run around the house, breaking things, scaring the inhabitants, and will only leave when bribed with scotch.  When the lecturer informed the class that we were going to perform a Mari Lwyd, I nearly threw my knitting at her, volunteering to be the Mari Lwyd.  I was channeling this beautiful chaotic energy that seemed to fit my life situation, and I wanted to channel it out into the world.

Our goal with the Mari Lwyd?  A nearby class that was teaching protection rituals!  The instructor was aware we were coming, and would invite us in.  We learned the song, marched to the class, and proceeded to request access in Welsh. To my disappointment, he did not sing back, but just invited us in.  Channeling Cowbell, something I had just learned from my coven, I proceeded to channel my banshee wild spirit and follow my passion for shocking people, and tore around the classroom (as prescribed by Welsh tradition, mind you!) with the rest of the class following me and doing the same.  My passion had infected the rest of my class, and we owned the Mari Lwyd ritual.  It was the most fun I had in years.  I had blocked myself, and this was very cleansing for me!

Rituals (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

There is a significant difference between rituals and spells.  Some can consider rituals to be for a celebration of the Sabbats and Esbats, the passing of a loved one, to honor a deity, to honor a familiar, to provide personal protection, or to send healing energy to a distant person.  What happens during a ritual depends on the practitioner and group.  Some use established norms they were introduced to by their mentors, and some use the rituals published in books. The gestures, clothing, activities, and statements used are usually carefully selected to enhance the ritual.  The ritual is usually designed to help the practitioner express something that will connect them to the divine, and allow the end result to benefit the participants.

Careful consideration on when the ritual should take place is done. Pagans sometimes associate specific moon cycles or sun cycles with specific desired outcomes.  To conduct the ritual during those beneficial timeframes enhance the energy generated, and amplifies the affects on the outcome. Pagans often use herbs and crystals in the same manner, and will select these two items to include in the ritual to enhance the energy being focused.  Crystals can be worn, or the energy can be directed into the crystals for a kind of time release of the desired energy over a period of time.  Herbs are often burned, or used to cover some of the ritual objects to enhance their role in releasing energy.  Statements used to speak the practitioners intent are usually developed under careful consideration for what the practitioner is actually asking for, either in general terms or specific terms.

Some of the activities can include the writing of intention on paper, to be subsequently burned in order to release the intent into the universe.  Some will use this method in order to release something, such as negativity, breaking of bonds, or cutting off a negative influence.  Another activity is to create special jewelry to be worn later to either remind the practitioner of a promise or dedication, or to hold a specific type of energy that can be absorbed by the practitioner when theirs is depleted. Sometimes the point of the ritual is to open up the practitioners stream of conscious to flow into a journal for consideration later.  The stream of conscious can be what the person really wants without the fear of judgment.  The practitioner can then use the realization of what they really want to actualize into a solid plan and goal. A healing ritual can consist of the person in need being the focus for healing energy, and may have the group place hands on them for direct reception of the flow of energy, or (in the case of a long distance) the group can visualize caring for the person in their own way that will assist the recipient to heal better, faster, or in a specific manner.  Some rituals consist of celebrating the earths cycle, and during a Sabbat celebration a specific activity linked to that holiday is conducted.  Beltane has a traditional May Pole, and some Pagan communities will use the pole as a symbolic representation of fertility, and invoke the energies associated with reproduction and sexuality whilst dancing around it, weaving the ribbons.  While this list can go on, the activities are usually chosen to represent the process to the end goal of the practitioner, or the reminder of the desired end state.

Rituals usually begin with the creation of sacred space.  Deities that are petitioned are usually chosen due to their predilection for the desired outcome.  Examples include the invocation of Athena and Apollo for wisdom, learning, and organization.  Should the desired outcome need these qualities, these would be the deities invoked in order to enhance the desired energy flow, and positively influence the outcome.  Some deities are specific to a season. Other forms of deity representation can be in the idea that the deity energy is that of a young person, a mature person, or a wiser older person.

 

Sacred Space (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

For a Pagan to practice their faith, many believe that the need to create a sacred work space in which to conduct their work. Many faiths do this, and it is a way for the mood, atmosphere, and mindset to coincide in order to get the best possible results.

How sacred space is created is much like the geometry of a snowflake. Every snowflake is different and unique in it’s frozen state. Some Pagans believe they need to use certain gestures, certain chants, certain herbs and move in specific directions. In the following I will provide an example of the procedure and steps used in ritualistic format to create sacred space:

  1. The materials for the ritual is gathered, staged for use, and the chants are available for the practitioner(s).  The space used is roughly a circle, with tables placed around the edge of the circle containing items associated with a cardinal direction.  A main table is close to the center that contains the material used to cast a spell, or to conduct an offering.
  2. The physical space is identified, and in order to make the space spiritually ready the practitioner(s) light a bundle of dried sage to produce a thick smoke.  The smoke is believed to remove and banish negative energy.  The sage bundle is carried around the circle in a clockwise direction (called deosil by Pagans) multiple times, usually 3 times, while the practitioner makes a statement of the space is being cleared, cleaned, and cleansed (by chanting in rhyme or otherwise). Those who are in the ritual are likely standing at the edge of the circle, and may have the smoke of the sage wafted over them in order to cleanse them of any negative energy.  Sometimes the participants are invited to join the circle in an individual ritual, in which a priestess or a priest blesses them and welcomes them in.
  3. An invitation for the elements associated with a cardinal direction is performed.  The leader of the circle sometimes turns to face the direction (sometimes it starts with East), and makes a statement inviting the elemental spirit, and sometimes makes references to their associated quality, to join the sacred space and to provide protection and guidance.  There may or may not be a specific formula, gesture, or lighting of a candle done in order to appropriately invite the spirit of the (insert direction here) to join and provide protection or guidance.  Each direction, going clockwise from the starting point, is then invited in the same or similar manner.  Depending on the Pagan group or practitioner, a specific cardinal direction is first, and a specific order may be followed.
  4. Deities are usually next to be invited in, by specific name or embodiment.  It is likely the Goddess will be invited first, followed by the God.  In the same manner the directions were invited, the Gods are also invited.  An offering of some sort may occur, or it may wait until the end of the ceremony.  On the main altar is likely a physical representation of the deities, and a candle for each may be lit for them.
  5. Depending on the ritual, this is when the practitioner will transition in the to main point of the ceremony, be it a spell, an acknowledgement of the season or holiday, or for general study purposes.

Creating sacred space can be done without the ceremonial ritual as well.  Someone may begin listening to music, a mood is created, the person begins gathering energy, and then releases it with their intent.  Once sacred space is created, many believe that the area be respected, and no one enter or leave until the conclusion of the ritual has been done.  The sacred space is believed to provide protection against negativity, and a blank space or canvas that does not hold any influence on the ritual.  Some Pagans visualize and describe the sacred space to be similar to an energy force field that extends over them like a bubble, and below them underground that nothing targeting those inside can get through. Inside the sacred space, the practitioner then creates intent, gathers energy, and releases it out into the universe to manifest itself.  You will find a variety of Pagan points of view regarding this, as some will acknowledge that sometimes it is impossible to keep from leaving the space, or a family pet wanders in, or the requirement to attend to the needs of a family member arises in the middle of a ritual. Attitudes regarding this vary, as many practitioners will find a way to have absolutely no interruptions during their  ritual and maintain the sacred space uninterrupted.  Other Pagans use the idea of cutting a hole or door through the energy field erected to transition through without removing the protective field created.  Others believe that the idea of sacred space as something flexible, that can be crossed with no negative side effects when necessary.

My own opinion and personal experience has me tend to be the latter.  Some days it is nearly impossible to start and complete any ceremony with no interruptions.  Due to this, I like to think of my normal area of practice as constantly being a sacred space and place for me.  Many times I will enter the room, and immediately gain relaxation and focus for what I need to do.  I have a difficult time setting aside any specific time to regularly practice, and interruptions that can last a long time prevent me from having a very strong attitude toward breaking of a sacred circle and space.  When I am a guest to the ritual, I will respect the wishes of the leader and treat the sacred space in accordance to their terms.  It is only Pagan politeness, or so I hear.

After the ritual or spell is complete, the sacred space is released.  Sometimes the release is done in reverse order of the initial creation of the sacred space.

  1. The leader of the ritual brings everyone’s attention to the conclusion steps.  It is likely an offering of thanks is made to the invoked deities in the form of a bread like item, and a liquid that may or may not be alcoholic.  Sometimes a statement is made to indicate gratitude to the deity, and the intent to offer the items in symbolic offering to them.  This is usually referred to as cakes and ale, but it may not always mean cakes and ale is used.  Some Pagans do not consume the food items, and may place all or part of it in to the nearest nature location as an offering.  Other Pagans may share the food and consume all or part of them.
  2. If following the reverse order, the deities are thanked for their support and presence.  They are then released from any further requests of support. It is good to note that some older forms of Pagan practice indicate that there was wording in the invoking of the deities to indicate that deity is summoned and their support was demanded or commanded.  Many have taken a different stance on this, and instead invite and request help from the deities.
  3. Usually going in reverse order, each cardinal direction and spirits are thanked and released from further requests  in a statement or a chant.  It is not usual to have an offering for each direction, but sometimes there is incense smoke that is wafted toward the direction.  The statements or chants do not have to rhyme.  It is nice to find a very well written chant that rhymes and sets the tone of the ritual, but it is not required.  Some practitioners will either write their own, or follow a formula published in a book they are using for their spell or ritual.
  4. The sage smudging bundle is then taken counterclockwise (called windershins) around the sacred space, usually three or more times.  A statement is made regarding the sacred space has released it’s protective energy bubble, and the participants can then be released from the ceremony, and depart freely.
  5. Clean up of the sacred space is then conducted.

 

Divination, Part 1 (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

Essentially divination is a way for the human plane to contact a spirit plane and request information. The results are channeled in the form of specific cards showing up, runes cast in specific locations, etc. The receiver of the reading wants the message, but the reader is the person making contact with the spirit plane and being their tool for the drawing of the cards, etc.

There are many different methods of divining an answer to a question. Tarot cards and reading them is a system of setting a certain number of cards down in a specific pattern and based on the location and card, has a specific meaning. There are 72 cards, and each card has a specific meaning. There is a significant amount of symbolism contained within the pictures of each card. Many are often quite pretty, but the nice thing is, the meanings of each card is almost universally recognized by those who read cards for people. If you hadn’t noticed, I keep using the phrase some, not all, and just being all around vague as to who and how many believe in the statement I am about to make. But I digress. Tarot is not the only form of divination, although it is quite popular. Another form of divination is rune casting. A set of symbols in old Norse alphabet is inscribed on stones, wood, or any solid object that is drawn from a bag, or cast upon the ground. Like tarot, each symbol has a specific definition. Details are a little fuzzier as to the exact origins of this method. Another divination form is astrology. Well, rather the location of specific planetary objects as they align within this galaxy, and each planet is given a specific energy influence on the personality of a person when they are born, or have a specific energy influence on the population each day. More to follow on this topic. Crystal ball gazing, aura reading, tea leaf in a cup reading, palmistry, dowsing, etc, are all forms of divination.

I find that there is a unique paradox between those who profess being Christian, yet request divination readings, namely in the form of tarot card readings. Yet it happens.

Tarot cards are my personal favorite, as there is no discrepancy as to the expected meaning of the card. And I have had some amazing accuracy in being the reader, and being the receiver. I enjoy discourse with an Atheist friend, and while we were discussing a reading I had done for myself, he wanted to know if there were any other situations to which the meanings of the cards could apply to? I agree that there is a 100% chance that that can be the case. I have also done readings for this Atheist friend, and he decides often not to tell me what his chosen question is. And in those readings there are sometimes the most unexpected answer. He has outright laughed at me twice, and then had to take back and eat those words with humble pie as a side. Could the reader give you a reading that may not apply ever? Absolutely. As with all divination, the response is a snapshot in time for that moment with the present conditions and circumstances being taken into account (by the spirit world). Often times the response is given in the form of life advice. Who doesn’t like to receive advice on how to emotionally mature or manage a situation? Probably teens and young adults. Should you receive that message and change how you act or respond with that information in mind, then the answer is likely going to change. Should you go back and ask again and again? Probably not. I say this because you can drive the spirits nuts, and they will give you the middle finger, and you can drive yourself nuts. Another friend of mine observed that the reason why someone who is not usually friendly toward divination will get a reading because they are desperate. I make the same observation for the increase in lottery sales. Psychic readings are the one industry that booms during a depression phase in the economy. It is a sign that there is extreme discomfort in the present circumstances of that person, and a little bit of hopelessness as well, because not all people can leave their circumstances whenever they want to and walk away.

Spirits (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

There are a great many books and teachings that have a lot to say regarding this topic. I am a well read person, but after a little bit of reading some of these books my head begins to swim and I have lost where the author was leading me to believe, and living in the counter-argument that was forming in my head. Simplistically, (I think this is a science thing too) there is likely multiple levels of existence. Some call them planes. What I am in here and now is the human physical and conscious plane (human plane). Any being not on this plane can be considered in an enlightened plane, or somewhere else all together. Where are the dead? I have no idea. The spirits of the dead appear to have many options, depending on their chosen belief system. Reincarnating religions such as Buddhists, Hindu, and Krishna believe their spirits are reborn in a new baby, come back to earth to re-live life, either on a higher or lower part of the totem pole, until they have become the best possible person they can ever achieve. Standards of what that is is not published, and a little fuzzy. If you are of the Abrahamic faith (Christian, Jewish, and Isliamic) then you get one shot at being in the human plane, and then you move on to another plane of existence, your moral and ethical practices on the human plane being the determining factor in where you go. Follow a set of rules that was provided by a being from a different plane of existence, go to happy plane of existence; failure to do so finds you sent to a horrific plane of existence. A mulligan is provided upon request, in unlimited number (sincerity not required). Some Pagans believe that they are of the reincarnation group, and others believe they are of the being sent to a happy plane of existence group without the bothersome rules. Now whether or not any of that happens, only the dead know (hah! I crack myself up!).

Now there are some who believe the spirits that are in regular contact with the human plane have not been sorted into their plane of existence, or chose to stick around for their own reasons. Some Pagans have the capability to contact spirits and communicate with them. Their abilities allow them to do some, but not all, of the following: sense the spirit, determine gender, hear or sense a message, determine the relationship the spirit has to the person being read. How a reader does this can be various, and can stretch the limits of common sense and imagination.

However, if you are greatly influenced by conservative Christian groups, this can be viewed as a gateway to evil. Many times I encounter Christians who really like me, and are terribly afraid that I will be taken over by an evil demon, and that the things I know and do come from a great source of evil and I should stop.

Let’s explore Good and Evil, or, Positive and Negative. Pagans do not believe in the Christian concept of an ultimate negative being that has the capability to directly influence those on the human plane of existence in a manner that would cause harm and chaos to the rest. They do believe in energies that can be positive or negative. It is rare to find a Pagan that believes these energies can manifest themselves in a little more physical form to directly conducts acts of good or bad. Some Pagans use cultural appropriation from the Buddhists and Hindus and use the concept of Karmic balance. One external act of positive or negative causes the same in kind on you, in equal proportions. A majority of Wiccans believe that if a Wiccan does it, then it comes back on them-triplicate. Some Pagans have the ability to determine if an object, location, or person is exerting positive or negative energy. Some Pagans believe they can concentrate the negative energy into specific objects (called charging), then burn them to release the negativity out into the universe away from them and others. Some believe they can use their own positivity to concentrate positive energy into objects for long term, slow release of positive energy for the owner of the object.

It can be difficult to determine the credibility of any Pagan you happen upon who lets you know there is a spirit connected to you that is hanging out wanting to chat. If you happen to be in a space and place that it is expected that you get a message like that, say-oh- a psychic fair, then this shouldn’t be a great surprise and a cause of too much stress and pain. Whatever the circumstances, the following advice will always be the same. A person will tell you what they are being paid to tell you. I hardly believe that if you pay a psychic to tell you if you are haunted that they would tell you nope, you are terribly mistaken! I also would say that the state of mind you are in determines how vulnerable you are to suggestion. Being in an unfamiliar place, that can be slightly uncomfortable and creepy, that has you uptight and stressed out is a perfect moment to be told that the spirit of a long (or recently) dead relative is hanging out eating a snickers waiting for you to listen. When you chose to believe this, then you take on the extra stress of feeling attacked and targeted. Those with a vulnerable personality will likely either: request that the spirit is banished- and that will only cost you upwards of going into debt forever; or begin going into a psychiatric spiral of fear and depression. Keep yourself together people! Unless you have had your senses tingling without being prompted that something or someone was there, and you could sense who, then keep your head, and make your own common sense determination as to the credibility of the information being provided by any outside source.

So what are spirits likely to communicate. A lot of things. They are asked to weigh in on divination readings, or provide a message of love and comfort to the intended receiver to boost their spirits, or that they are too bored with the other planes of existence options, and just want to kick it with the rest of us.

What ever the relationship with a spirit, it will only go as far as you want to take it. Some Pagans believe you can banish a spirit and set up protective energies to ward any off, if you chose. The best time to communicate with a spirit? Samhain, more locally known as Halloween. Some Pagans believe that two planes of existence (human and spirit) are separated by something they can only describe as a veil. This separation, or separating (thing?) either gets weaker, thinner, or translucent, and provides optimal conditions to easily communicating with those on the spirit plane, whether they had made an appearance on the human plane, or not.

I am sure I am missing a whole host of other things I can say on the topic of spirits, but I am drawing a blank.

What We Believe (NaNoWriMo Series, 2015)

I have long hesitated to write this, and it has a lot to do with the variety of ideas that Pagans believe in. One thing may be true to one particular sect of Pagandom, it may be offensive and the opposite to another sect. Honestly, it can be viewed as a mess. I will attempt to give a very succinct answer, as I will give a quick once around the world of the highlights I think is good to know now.

Many Pagans believe in two deities, a Goddess and a God. Some Pagans believe that there is one universal spirit, and humans gender identify this spirit with male and female attributes. The Gods that are worshiped can come from any pantheon from any society, ancient or modern. Popular deities come from the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hindu regions. Clearly this is not an exclusive list of the deities Pagans believe in, but it is often where new Pagans start before being attracted to one deity, or pantheon, or another.

A significant amount have focus has been given to worshiping, strengthening, and developing mythology around the Goddess. Of note, some Pagans believe that the Goddess is universal, but has many aspects to her. There are Goddesses who are nurturing, mothering, intelligent, warriors, city builders, protectors, hunters, key holders, and the list goes on. Their jobs range from being the Mother of All Creation, to the Destroyer of All Creation and anywhere in between. In many ways the Goddess can be viewed as a single dice, but with multiple sides. Many turn to certain aspects of the Goddess in order to beseech and request assistance from that facet of the Goddess. In many ways women have been attracted to this religion due to the primacy of the Goddess in it. They are not too happy with a patriarchy being the primary societal model, and long to find a tool to take back their power by having a strong tool on their side, a Goddess, that lends them credibility, authority, and power. Some early Pagan groups have taken this concept of returning power and authority back to women a little far. A few groups are exclusively female, and have strict guidelines for membership if you had not been born female. In recent years the broader Pagan community has taken exception to that, and has pointed out the reverse discrimination these groups are now practicing. Believing in the Goddess is not a prerequisite to being Pagan, but I have yet to meet a Pagan who does not profess at least a little bit to following one Goddess or another.

The Goddesses that initially come to mind are from the Greek and Egyptian pantheon. Isis, Hathor, Sekhmet, Diana, Demeter, Hera, Aphordite, Athena are some very popular deities. A few other Goddesses that are not main stream knowledge that are worshiped with similar popularity is Hecate (heck-ah-tae), and Morrigan. Some, but not all, Pagans have a tendency to classify Goddesses by their relative duties. Mothering Goddesses, warrior Goddesses, wise Goddesses, love Goddesses, etc. The one classification that is not apparent to outsiders is the dark Goddesses category. These Goddesses deal with deeper emotions and difficult life topics. Some deal directly with death, destruction, and depression. Some Pagans believe that these Goddesses are necessary for spiritual progression. To work with some of these Goddesses, or this facet of the single Goddess can be very freeing for the Pagan practitioner. It is psychologically healthy to explore your feelings to the utmost and accept them. Working with dark Goddesses gives a sense of purpose and expected outcome to those following her.

On a less focused note, not much effort has been given toward developing spiritual religious practice and dedication to the God. To clarify, the majority of Pagans do not believe this God is the same as the Christian God, however, there are a few Pagans who do worship this God as the Christian God. For clarification, I would suggest you do some searching for Christian Pagans. They are a real thing. Whatever the attribution, some Pagans believe in balance, and will worship the Goddess and the God equally. While there is some emphasis on the Goddess, the God has not been forgotten. There are some specific Gods that are popular for beginner Pagan practitioners. Odin, Thor, Zeus, Poseidon, Mercury, Horus, Oman-Ra, Jupiter, Cernnunous, Osirus are some very popular deities. Unfortunately there are no groups that have an exclusive desire to worship only a God, however, Odin and the Norse religion has come close. While there is a tendency to classify the Goddesses as described previously, there has been little interest in classifying the Gods in the same manner. Dark Gods are generally associated with their Goddess counterpart. Hades would be mentioned in the same breath as Persephone. Apollo with Diana or Artemis.

In addition to worshiping two deities, in whatever form, Pagans have in interesting tendency to give attributes to other unrelated things. There are some who believe that not only do herbs and plants have the physical property and capability to be used as medicine, but they also can have a spiritual energy that has specific properties. This belief extends to gemstones and semi-precious rocks and minerals. These two items are used to aid in spell work.

According to many Pagans, the use of spells will assist with accomplishing their goals. To put it simply, they believe that putting their intention out into the universe, with the aid of the energy properties of herbs, crystals, and other similar items, in a ritual, they will affect the laws of probability in their favor. As an atheist, it was a very difficult concept to grasp, and simplifying it down in this manner has helped me understand the idea of spell work better. Some Pagans who practice spell work can use a variety of means to send their intention and energy toward accomplishing this goal. Petitioning deities, using specific wording, creating a positive, clean, sacred space, using certain tools, and having a work space, choosing a specific time of year, day, night, or moon phase can be all a part of the creation and release of a spell. Does it work? In one of my a previous posts one spell did. Does it make us all rich? As someone I know put it, does it look like I would be here doing this if money spells made you win the lottery every time I wanted to? And if it did, why would I even let you know that I knew a spell that did? As stated before, affecting the laws of probability in their favor, and to be more specific, my personal belief that unless there is a lot of time and effort put in by a multitude of people, it may only be a minutia affect.

There are an abundance of covens, and an abundance of Pagan practitioners who are solitary in their practice. There are NO HARD AND FAST RULES REGARDING COVENS. I say this due to a coworker who was Druid mentioned that he knew that I had to wear white, and only have a specific role due to my lack of time in being a Pagan. I gave him a “whaa—?” look before he realized that he may have some different information that what I believe. Covens generally come together due to human nature’s need to work together and socialize as a group. Some Pagans stay solitary due to their personal journey of self discovery, disinterest in practicing with others, or a lack of agreement or friendship with other Pagans of similar practices and beliefs. Like any social club, you can find covens of all stripes. Typically there is a Priestess. Less common is a Priest. The purpose of the coven is either a universally recognized reason, because they are Pagan, Wiccan, Witches, or otherwise; or covens come together out of mutual interest and friendship. Their activities can range from mundane to spectacular.

Pagans can pray as a part of their practices. Others prefer to speak to their Gods only through ritual. Whatever the case may be, some Pagans point out that Christians who pray are doing the same as them, sending their intent out into the universe to affect a specific change. As you can imagine, this is not a wildly popular belief among the Christians.

Some Pagans believe they have supernatural abilities. My wish is that one day these beliefs will be validated as fact by the scientific community. As for myself, I have personally felt the Goddess, and I have witnessed some amazing coincidences that are often too regular too often. Divinatory systems are, at times, amazingly accurate. Some divination can seem to make absolutely no sense, yet after a while make perfect sense.

Pagans do have a code of ethics, with the addition of more by the practitioner. The first rule is if you are going to do something for someone, have permission by the person being affected. In many ways this prevents the receiver from accusing the practitioner from attacking them, if the outcome is not a desired one. Another rule is no recruiting. Pagans recognize when a person is a product of their environment, and not of a free choice situation. If a person is not right for the religion, they will make their own choice to believe (or practice) or not, and not be persuaded into it. While many of you may have immediately assumed one of the rules as “As you harm none, do as you will”, I have specifically avoided making this a Pagan ethic, as I do know those who do not follow this particular rule.

By no means am I an expert on all, or many of the Pagan religion. For me there is simply not enough time to explore to my heart’s content. Specific rules, ethics, doctrine (if any), dogma (if any), variety and differences in all of Pagandom just cannot be explored in any depth without making this a very long blog post (hopefully a book at some point). I encourage you to explore, ask your local Pagan, keeping in mind that their answer will always be from a personal experience and belief perspective, yet not a hard and fast rule for all Pagans. I have only touched on these topics that I have introduced, and I plan to explore them more fully in subsequent blog posts.