How do I get started on a Spiritual Path of Paganism? What books do I need to buy? What clothes do I need for rituals? Where can I get a staff like yours? How much does it cost to move up in your progressive levels of Druidry? If I spend more, can I go faster? When I’m done with all the training and the levels, how much power will I have? Will I be able to make the hot girl that works in Marketing fall in love with me? Will I be able to curse the Trump supporter that lives next to me? Wait. Where are you going? I thought you were going to answer all my questions….
It can be tough dealing with new Pagans. It can be especially tough when they see all the stuff that they can spend their money on, in the hopes that all the extra stuff will make them look more “witchy” like Stevie Nicks, or more sage and powerful like Gandalf the Grey or Obi Wan Kenobi. That commercialization aspect even digs into the reading of the books. Read this book once through, and ::poof:: you’re a bloody fscking Pagan genius. Like the magick and wisdom just mlet off the page and collect within your body and mind…. I really cannot count the number of times that I have quietly walked away from these scenarios. I practice patience and kindness, but at some point, I feel like I may take the tip of my staff and ram it through their right eye. After all, Odin lost an eye for wisdom, right? Maybe it would work…except that its assault and battery in our local laws. And I prefer not to spend my time in a jail cell waiting to explain to a judge why I did it. “He wanted wisdom, your Honor, so in keeping with Norse perspectives…I helped him out.” “Six months, and a psychiatric evaluation, Mr. Van Hook.” ::slams gavel:: “Next.”
These commercialized versions of Pagans are everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. For the most part, they are harmless. Many of them saw some idiotic marvel movie (I’m not a fan of the movies, so take that however you will) and decided that this was their Path. Now here, I have to stop for a moment. Is that wrong? Are they bouncing into Paganism in the wrong way? Do they need to be sent to the back of the line, and told to wait their turn? All because they came to this because of a stupid set of movies? Well, as I stated in Thursday’s post…no, they don’t have to. What they will find is a Pagan world that takes those Gods seriously, utilizes a set of practices that are a discipline to their Spirituality. And that those folks – and many others – will be loathe to bend on all of that. That even goes for those attracted to Wicca from “The Craft” or those attracted to Druidry from ::shudder:: either version of “The Burning Man.” People find their entrances into the wider world of Paganism where they do. So, how they got to this point isn’t really up for debate. What is up for debate – what should they do, now that they’re here?
Taking one’s first steps into the realm of Paganism is sometimes fairly narrow. They have bumped into a single Wiccan tradition in their local area, poked around for a bit, and have eventually been invited into the first steps into that tradition. This is what happened to me. In the beginnings, I thought all of Paganism looked and acted like the people in this Wiccan coven. In my third week, Joni, Mary, and John changed all that for me. It was a weekend that I had off (I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth), so I was able to stay the night instead of driving back immediately. They took me to a bookstore down by the State Fairgrounds near downtown Dallas. I think it had “Aquarian” in the name somewhere. But it was here that I found books on different types of Wicca, Witchcraft itself, Druidry, Norse beliefs, Greek beliefs, and even more stuff I had never considered. There were tarot cards (I guess they played “Go Fish” or “Five Card stud” with those?), beautiful chalices, and the most massive crystal ball I had ever seen. It was easily larger than a basketball. I think we all stood and marveled at it. Joni helped me pick out ‘Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler for my reading materials, explaining to me that this would help me understand the wider world of Paganism. It certainly did. This remains the first book that I recommend to any new Pagan I come across.
Over the next seven months, I was part of the coven’s “Year-and-day” class. We met physically once a month, where we discussed the various assignments that had been given to us. However, my military schedule was always subject to momentary change (which it often did), and I was set aside as a solitary student, allowed to upload my written assignments to a Bulletin Board System that John and Mary ran. I would show up when I could, sometimes driving across Dallas/Fort Worth after working twelve hours the night before (and having just got off shift when I started driving). Eventually, the military schedule changed completely, and I was being whisked away to the operational theater of Desert Shield. Reluctantly, I had to stop my “year-and-a-day” training because I could not provide assignments on a regular basis. I carried my dog-eared copy of ‘Drawing Down the Moon” with me, so I could read and understand more.
Over the next four years, I would find myself coming back to Adler’s book, seeking clarification on a single point I had noticed before. I started to understand the wider world of Paganism. On my assignment to the Kaiserslautern Military Command Area, I encountered even more distinctly different Pagans. I started to see the wider world for what it was: all the choices that I could make. And it was supremely overwhelming.
I can understand the nervousness of the new Pagans I encounter. Their Spiritual eyes are barely open. They are stepping from a Christian world that demands immediate and unchangeable obedience into a diametrically opposed one. They are about to have more choices than they could ever dream were available. Right there in the wider Pagan marketplace. Groups and Spiritual Paths are going to be screaming for them to “look here!” “We’ve got what you’re seeking!” “We’ve got awesome, matching robes…with our names sewn on the back so we can find one another during dark rituals.” “You need this Path because we’ve got a cornerstone on the truth for the masculine Diving. Oh you’re female? Well, we’ve also got the answer for the Feminine Divine.” And many of them are not sure what exactly they are looking for. They only know that they don’t want what they had before.
Its easy to get caught up in all the glitzy merchandising of what you see. “This person wrote a book on that. Certainly, they know what it is that I am seeking.” “This person is offering classes for free. Plus, I think he thinks I’m hot.” Well, buyer beware… Even here in the Pagan Marketplace, we have predators – people who look for unsuspecting newbies to follow their Path…at the price of sexual favors or whatever notch of power they are offering. There’s also more than one cult of personality as well. So, even though you’ve arrived in this wonderful marketplace of ideas and spirituality….you still need to be on your guard.
Me? I have no group that I’ve formed. In my Spiritual practice, I’m a group of one. I belong to the order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, where I have met so many lovely people that I am proud to refer to as “family”. But I’m just one guy. I have no students, other than myself. Occasionally, I help new seekers find potential destinations that they seek. But beyond that…I’m not trying to point a single soul in any direction. I’ll sit….I’ll listen to you talk…you’re going to fill the void with your voice. I’ll toss in some comments or question s to help figure it out the best that I can. When I think I understand, I’ll nudge you in the right direction…and if I know someone there, I’ll let them know you’re coming. But even the directions I nudge you are just suggestions. You are the only one that knows if “this” is a fit for you. I’m not a tailor. I’m not making you a suit. Your own travels on your Spiritual path will do that for you. Just as it has done the same for me…over the past… ::counting fingers:: ::counting toes:: …uhm…let me gat a calculator here….thirty-six plus years. Don’t look at me like that. All it means is that I’m old.