Just Do It

So, you have decided to peruse the Path of Paganism. What should you do to start? Where are good starting points for various perspectives? How do I know I am doing the right things? I have been Pagan since late 1986. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this from Seekers (and others) throughout the years, especially the further I get from my own initial steps.

Distance Does Not Equal Sagacity

In the course of discussions, I tend to get that feeling that I am considered “wise” or “smart” within Paganism because I have been on my path for…what?….carry the one….approximately thirty-three years. I have dabbled in Wicca for a good part of those years, generic Paganism, and (now) Druidry. None of that time means that I have mastered anything, except maybe length of time – and that does not mean a thing. And yet, there have been folks that hang on my every word, like I am some sage philosopher located in a cave high on some mountain. The reality is a bit different. I am an expert on how I have approached Paganism as a part of my own Spiritual Path. Nothing more. But, if you want to sit and talk about how you would formulate your own Path of study and dedication, I am more than happy to do so.

Books Are Still One Individual’s Perspective

I remember the first time I ever met a Pagan author – Pattilee Glass-Koentop – in her own Pagan-oriented shop. I was in awe of who she was. When I started treating her words as something that was infallible, she stopped me and discussed why I needed to see her statements as advice, not as immutable law. When I tried to point to her writings as being pure law, she laughed and told me that writings were the same as talking to someone. The book seemingly provides more weight, simply because it exists in physical form. The reality is that it is still an individual’s perspective.

Several years later, I was sitting around a fire having a conversation with several other people over this same perspective. One particular young lady (who I found out was the High Priestess of her group) asked me to describe the fire from where I sat. Once I finished, she patted the spot on the log she was sitting on, asking me to come sit with her. Once I reached her spot, she asked the same question – what did I see when I looked into the fire. I gave a different description. She nodded and pointed to a spot at the other side of the fire, and asked me to go there. Again, the question, followed by my description. She then told me to sit where I felt comfortable and I moved closer to her so I could hear better.

“So, you’re sitting at a different fire each time?” she queried me. I explained that I was not. I saw the fire from three different positions. Plus, the fire was always ever changing, so there was really no way I could describe the same fire. “Could the same not be said about the journeys that we all take within our own Spirituality? After all, we cannot occupy the same space around the same fire. So all of us would have a different perspective.”

Books are tangible perspectives. The words contained within them does not change, unless a new, revised edition is created, printed and provided for mass distribution. Because of this never changing perspective, we tend to treat books as unchanging law, rather than the perspective of the individual writing them – frozen in that perspective of time. They, indeed, can be considered as “set in stone”, but even the writer’s perspective may change over time.

Distance in Time Matters Less Than Experience

Every single day of our existence is spent in gathering more experience to one’s life. No matter what I do, those experiences gather up like data points on life. When I make salsa for the games on Sunday, which I admittedly have on the television as background noise, I also deviate slightly from the recipe I have. I work with what I call the base recipe – the parts that I know work correctly – first. I need that base to be able to make the changes I am seeking, and most of that comes from the spices I use. Every time, I make a mental note of what did not work versus what seemingly worked this time. One day, I may actually perfect this, but in the meantime, I add and alter as I move along.

Moments like this, standing in front of the fire and thanking the Gods for the safe travels of all, used to frighten me. (Picture by John Beckett)

I do the same – somewhat – with my Spirituality. Over thirty-three years, I know what works best for me. My rituals tend to be impromptu because I already have a sense of what will be best for my, in my own practice. I do follow the ritual aspects of The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids because it is the system I work within – but rarely are the parts of that in my own personal rituals. However, when I am with others, I follow the ritual aspects because it is something everyone knows, which makes it easier to work with others. How did I get to the point of being able to do impromptu aspects though? Through experience.

Just because I have been a Pagan for thirty-plus years means so very little. Its what I have managed to do inside that thirty-plus years that matters. So, if you’re looking for the secret – its simple. Even Nike understands it with their shoes. Just do it. Those experiences become life lessons. Those life lessons will mold you into the Pagan you will become. Just do it.

Answering the Questions

So let’s answer the questions in the best manner we can. As a refresher: What should you do to start? Where are good starting points for various perspectives? How do I know I am doing the right things?

Well, there is always researching the material. Interested in Wicca? Read some Wiccan books. Find some Wiccans who are blogging online and read what they say. Those books and blogs are excellent starting points for understanding the various perspectives that are out there. As for knowing when you are doing things right – experience will tell you that. Just do it. If something seems a little off, look at what you’re doing – and alter it slightly to fit your own feelings. The blue candle does not necessarily have to be at some cardinal point in the circle. Put it somewhere else or do not use it, if it offends your sensibilities. Do the stuff. And don’t be afraid to fail. That’s one of the best lesson-masters out there. How do I know not to wear loose-hanging sleeves in ritual? Because I caught myself on fire, that’s why. Flaming fail = lesson.

I will add one final warning to making changes to anything….be aware that there can be consequences for doing things in odd ways. Be prepared to deal with the unknown. Be prepared to apologize. Making mistakes is an excellent way to learn. Its also an excellent way to get hurt. As they used to say on the tv show Hill Street Blues – be careful out there. But remember, being careful is not a reason to not get out there and do it.

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