Deciding Between Paths: How To Know When You Are Ready?


I’ve been raised as a Christian my whole life. But about 2 years ago, I realized that it wasn’t my true calling or a place where I felt at home at all. But about a year ago, I fell upon Wicca. To me, it feels true and right and I feel so at home within it, so I just decided to call myself Wiccan. More recently, I realized that that wasn’t any way to follow Wicca and that I’d gone about it in a way that wouldn’t truly benefit me. So now I’m taking the time to learn more about both Christianity and Wicca and I’m so excited to finally choose and follow Wicca as I should’ve done in the first place.

However, going to church every Sunday has made it increasingly difficult to commit myself to Wicca so I’m left feeling unsure whether I was too quick but in Christianity I feel uncomfortable and unsafe and judged so I know it’s not what is right for me. I guess I’m just looking for advice and how to release all this doubt and fear. I truly want to dedicate myself to the God and Goddess but I’m just doubting whether I’m ready or not. At my age and in my ‘situation’ it’s hard to find other Wiccans who I can speak to and learn from and be guided by.

Probably not what you are going to want to hear, but at 14 you have plenty of time to figure which path is right for you. Particularly if you are having doubts, it’s good idea to take as much time as you feel is necessary.

From a traditional standpoint, Wiccan covens will not initiate anyone who is under the age of 18 (sometimes even 21), so there is not any need to rush to anything at this point. If you still feel pulled towards Christianity, keep in mind that, even if you are uncomfortable at your current church, that may not be indicative of all churches, or even all denominations. So it may be worth it to explore other areas of Christianity before making any major decisions.

Once you are sure that Wicca or Wicca-inspired NeoPaganism is more your calling, there is still not any real reason to start dedicating or oathing yourself to anyone at this point. Oaths and vows are something that the Gods take very seriously and doing such during the teen years is just not a good idea (in any way). It’s not always a good idea for some, even when they are older – things change and we think we will always be able to follow through, but that’s not always the case. And trying to take back an oath… it doesn’t always go well and some Gods are less forgiving than others. So patience at this stage is a good thing.

In the meantime, I would suggest lots of reading. We have a couple of previous posts with some recommendations (here and here). This doesn’t mean you can’t practice anything, but it simply means don’t look to settling in just yet. Give yourself plenty of time to explore.

Additionally, if you feel that maybe there are bits of both Paganism and Christianity that call to you, there are things like ChristoPaganism which may be of interest as well. In particular ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path by Joyce and River Higganbotham is a good one. Another book that encompasses multiple views is CUSP: A New Way to Walk An Old Path by Eric and Katrina Rasbold. In terms of going to church, it may also be worth checking out the Unitarian Universalists.

I know that when we are young, it often seems like we need to make a decision about things NOW, but in truth – particularly with the really important things, careful consideration is the better course of action. During our teen years things change rapidly and those things that we feel strongly about one day soon fade, and by the time we reach young adulthood we are often completely different people. Making any sort of decision, particularly involving dedicating oneself to a God (or Gods), is not something to make until one is absolutely sure that one can keep that commitment*. So don’t feel that you need to be doing anything, until you have resolved any lingering doubts are are fully ready to take those next steps.

*worth noting too that for some people, they are never ready to take an oath or dedicate themselves, and that is perfectly ok too. Never feel like you have to do such a thing, even if it said so in a book or on a website, etc… 😉

What Beliefs or Practices Link All Pagans Together?


  • what is the pagans/wicca community belief system?
    and i am a beginner so i do not know much
    thank you
  • Pagan seams to be a very vague term for non main stream religion, but what is it that links these particular religions that are labeled pagan together?

In fact there really isn’t much of anything that links ALL Pagan religions and paths together. At it’s most basic, the term Pagan is an umbrella term that encompasses all “non-Abrahamic” religions, and that’s it. Some paths may share some similarities, but there is nothing else that ALL share as a defining practice or belief. Even when used as a short-hand for the NeoPagan paths that are loosely based on the non-oathbound parts of Wicca, the joke is – ask a hundred people, get a hundred answers. In terms of a label, it works well enough for those who don’t know and don’t care to know the actual differences, but within the community itself, it can be a poor description of what one does. When possible, it is better to look to words which are more specific to one’s own path, as these terms are better at conveying the actual idea of one’s practices and beliefs.

For example: If we are all standing around at a local meet up and everyone introduces themselves, and tacks on at the end “I’m Pagan” – no one has really learned anything about anyone else’s path. But if that same group tacks on “I’m Heathen,” “I’m Celtic Recon,” “I’m Kemetic,” etc… (or other appropriate term), then we have a better idea of what it is that each of them do.

This of course assumes that one has a general idea of what some of the specific Pagan religions entail, but even if one doesn’t, it’s a great way to start discussion and dialogues, which can be used to learn more about those other paths.

As we have gotten a couple different questions on the subject recently, thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that the Paganism FAQ link at the top of the page is there to answer some of this directly and to give a bit of background on some of the more common Pagan traditions.

Of course, if there are specific questions, that are not covered in the FAQ, please feel free to ask! 🙂

Consequences of Suicide within Pagan Religions


TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicide

NOTE: If you are depressed and contemplating suicide, please, please get help. If you have a trusted friend or family member, counselor, teacher, etc… that you can talk to, do so. Otherwise (in the US) you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255 or chat online with someone who can help via IMAlive or CrisisChat. For international assistance you can check the International Suicide Prevention wiki for resources. No matter how bad things may seem right now, they will eventually get better. Taking your own life is not the best solution, and there are people out there who can help.

~*~

Hello, I’ve had this question for a few months now and I’m still trying to find the right way to ask about it. I’ve been looking up people to ask, but it never seems to work. When I found you, I got excited. If you commit Suicide, will you not be welcomed in by the Great Mother and Great Father? I’ve been told that if you commit suicide out of Deep Depression, you wont be loved or forgiven by the divine. I’m sorry if the question makes you feel uncomfortable, but I had to ask.

Thank you.

 

Within Abrahamic religions (and potentially others as well) the main issue that many will cite in terms of “forgiveness” is that you have to, not only ask for it directly, but also be truly repentant – neither of which one can do if they have already passed beyond the mortal/physical world. However others feel that in the end, it is one’s actions during their life (outside of that final moment), which will better determine whether or not there is love and forgiveness when they are received by God.

As many have come to Paganism from an Abrahamic religion, they will often carry over some of these beliefs, even if they are not necessarily relevant to their current path. The more relevant issue within Paganism though, is which Pagan religion? As, not all believe the same things, or may even have a particular stance on suicide. In general, in terms of NeoPaganism, you will probably find a very wide variety of personal opinions on the subject – ranging from it’s your life, do what you want, to extremely strict interpretations of the “rede” which equate an it harm none to mean don’t harm anything ever (including yourself).

Keep in mind too though that Wicca, and those paths that are inspired by Wicca are often about taking responsibility for one’s actions in the “here and now”, rather than preaching the concepts of “Hell” or divine retribution. So what we do on Earth, during our life (including ending such life), has little bearing on the afterlife. For those who believe in reincarnation – it may set the course for additional lessons that one may need to “learn” in a future life (if one believes in such things).

Within other Pagan traditions, again it varies. For example, Norse lore offers multiple examples of suicides occurring, and typically those who committed such would go to Helheim in the afterlife. As this is where most of the dead would go (outside of those killed in battle – who went with Odinn and Freyja), it was clearly not any sort of punishment or lack of love/forgiveness that got one sent there. Within Kemeticism, when one dies, their heart is weighed against Ma’at’s feather, and those who are found unworthy would stay in Duat, while the others would move onto the afterlife in Aaru. There are no specific prohibitions against suicide within the lore though, and again it’s more about having lived a virtuous life in general. Within Greek and Roman traditions, suicide was generally only condemned if done for petty reasons. Keep in mind too that for thousands of years some cultures upheld the practice of Sati, in which it was perfectly acceptable (or even encouraged/forced) for wives to kill themselves via immolation when their husbands died.

In the end (literally and figuratively), it’s really going to depend on your own beliefs on the subject. There is no clear rule or opinion, and even within the same traditions if you ask 20 people, you’ll probably get 20 different answers. My personal thoughts on the subject are this – any God or Goddess that one is devoted to, or has spent time serving or honoring, is not going to forget that devotion. So unless one spends their final days/hours completely repudiating said God/Goddess, when the time comes they will be welcoming. It’s entirely possible that they may express disappointment, if they don’t agree with the choice, but I do not think that they would withhold love because of it. The Gods know what is in our hearts, and particularly in the case of someone who has struggled with severe depression, or other mental illness for many years, it doesn’t follow they would punish someone for losing that battle.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Suicide has been a hot topic the last few weeks in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. This question was actually submitted a day or so before that tragic event and I had been in the process of writing it up when I saw the news. The original intention, when we’d gotten the question, was to post the reply immediately, however with the flood of suicide and depression/bipolar related commentary that was suddenly going around, we felt that it would be better to wait (at least a little bit). It was an emotional time for many people, and this would give everyone a chance to process their grief and/or any feelings on the topic of suicide, without bombarding one more thing on top of it all. However, we also don’t want to let too much time pass, as it is a timely topic and for some people an important one. It’s also a sensitive subject for many though, so if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

If anyone knows of more specific myths or lore which directly speak to the topic, relating to a particular culture or religion, please feel free to comment as well so that we can add it.

And again if you need help, never hesitate to ask for it. Particularly when one is depressed, it can often seem like there is no one who cares, but this is often just a symptom of the illness. There are people that care, and who can help. You are not alone.

 

Pagans in the Workplace


I’m currently a student studying radiography and I was wondering if there are other Wiccans in the modern healthcare industry? I have researched this topic but have yet to get an answer so I figured I would ask.

The simple answer is yes – there are Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, Witches, etc… in almost every career sector imaginable. It’s common misconception I think, to view Pagans as fringe-dwellers, who only live off the land, or who only use “traditional” healing methods as they make their daily journey through the seasons of the year. Not saying that this is how you specifically view them, but many often seem to (or at least variations of it).

The fact is (contrary to most typically portrayed stereotypes) Pagans (of all flavors) are just like everyone else. They live, eat and breathe in the modern world – drive cars, use computers/technology, eat fast-food, aren’t always very environmentally friendly, and can be just as mean and hateful as the next person, etc… The only real difference is their religious/spiritual choices are a bit different than what is considered “mainstream”.

Other than that, there is really no way to know exact numbers. Religious affiliation is one of those “not allowed to ask” type questions for employers, so there is really not any sort of concrete data available on that front. Additionally, religion is one of the three big “taboo” subjects (along with sex and politics) in terms of maintaining “healthy” employee/co-worker relations, so it can sometimes make it exponentially more difficult to find out if there are fellow Pagans in the workplace, or if you are the only one for miles around.

New Pagan Mentors and Ritual Advice


I’ve been interested in Paganism for a few years, but I’ve gotten more serious about delving into it in the past month. I’ve been doing a ton of research and trying to read as much as I can about different viewpoints and paths within the umbrella term of Paganism. But I’m still so overwhelmed with all that is out there. I have so many questions I’m not finding answers to on the internet. So first of all I’m really wondering where I can find a teacher or mentor. I live in Madison, WI, which is a fairly open minded, liberal city, but I haven’t been able to find any groups that meet. Are there sites online where you can be paired with someone older and wiser, or do you suggest trying to forge a relationship in person.

Working with someone in-person will almost always be the best choice (and in some cases a requirement), when it comes to learning Pagan related material. Particularly if you are interested in any witchcraft or energy-based paths, attempting to learn via books or online can make it a daunting task. In general though, it will probably be somewhat difficult to find a mentor, until you are able to narrow down a particular path that you are interested in. In the meantime you can check places like Witchvox, where you can filter groups by state to see if there is anything near you. Occasionally you can find groups via Pagan Meetup as well.

As far as online resources, forums can be kind of hit or miss, with a lot of them being angsty drama filled areas, rife with misappropriation and misconceptions. So for a beginner it can be hard to navigate especially when you aren’t at a point where you are better able to distinguish good information from the bad. Having said that, I would suggest checking out the eCauldron Paganism for Beginners forum. They’ve been around for years, and seem to have done better than most at keeping it from getting too crazy around there (unlike some other more well known forums). Of course too you can always continue to ask questions here on the blog, or even via our FB page, or Tumblr page.

I tried my first ritual (a very simple one) for Beltane yesterday night, and I don’t feel like I did it “right”. I didn’t really get anything from it, or something?

First time rituals, especially for those who are practicing solitary are often less than spectacular. Part of it, is just because we are nervous and not entirely sure of what we are doing, and constantly wondering if we did it right, or if we have forgotten anything. As well, we have all these huge expectations, from what others have said, or what we’ve seen in movies, etc… and it’s usually not ever the same. Then sometimes, it’s just that “stuff” happens – even if we’ve done everything perfectly, the energy is off and it just wasn’t meant to be. All of which is perfectly normal, and the more often you practice and do ritual work, the easier it will get.

On that note though, if you are unsure of which path/religion you are interested in – what sort of Beltane ritual were you attempting? Not all Pagan paths celebrate Beltane – generally it’s only the Wiccan or NeoPagan related ones that do (though various others may have similar celebrations around that same time), so it could be too that it didn’t feel “right”, because it really wasn’t something that you are ultimately called to celebrate. The same holds if you called on a particular God or Goddess, it could also be that they choose not to respond, or that they are Gods of a path that you aren’t really being called to.

It’s also worth mentioning as well, that ritual workings are not typically an “instant” sort of thing. Especially if you follow a “Wheel of the Year” type model – what we plant in the Spring, we harvest in the Fall, and even outside of that framework, it can still (and often does) take time for energy/magic to manifest. So it may not be that it didn’t work, it’s just taking the appropriate time it needs to come to fruition.  

Also, I’d done it outside, so I’d gathered all the materials together in a bag. I left it carelessly in my room when I got back in, and my mom noticed it in the morning (stuff was sort of falling out) and started looking through it, asking why I had candles and some clay bowls (which I’d borrowed without asking from her). I don’t want to tell her about my interest in Paganism quite yet, as I’m not even sure where I’m going myself. My family isn’t religious, and I know they’d be supportive, but my mom has a tendency to act like she understands when she doesn’t (she has good intentions). But she got really mad that I’d taken her stuff and kept asking why, and I couldn’t really think of an excuse. Should I tell her? I don’t really want to, but now she also thinks I was stealing or planning on selling her bowls. So overall, I’m sort of lost at the moment, but I also feel so happy about the idea of becoming further involved with this spirituality.

If you feel that she would be supportive (or at the very least not react negatively), then you should be honest with her, and explain that you are interested in Paganism, and that you were trying a basic holiday ritual. It’s definitely much better than being thought of as a liar or a thief.

While you are talking to her about it though, just let her know that you are still in the very beginning stages, and that you are still learning the basics. I would also apologize for taking her stuff, and let her know that you won’t do so again without permission (that could be why your ritual didn’t feel right either – if you were using items that didn’t belong to you, and you didn’t have the owner’s permission, it could definitely have affected the energy).

Overall, as mentioned previously – continue to study, and work on figuring out what particular path you are interested in. While there are a myriad of paths out there, as well as the potential to choose an Eclectic path (which requires quite a bit more work than one would think), it can also be fun to learn about the different cultures and practices associated with each one. So don’t stress too much if you start feeling overwhelmed, just take your time and eventually it will work itself out.

 

Pagan Coming Out Day… Things To Think About


May 2nd is International Pagan Coming Out Day, a day when all Pagans should band together and joyously shout to the world… “I’m Pagan and Proud!!!” and dare anyone to take issue with it. Ok, not really, however it is an annual “event” that strives to “achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.

As mentioned directly on their website, “coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so“, and there is an absolute truth to that. While it would be very nice if we could all be open about our religious/spiritual choices or practices, in actuality it’s something that we need to think long and hard about. On the one hand we shouldn’t have to hide who we are, on the other, it’s worth noting that there are still plenty of countries that will kill Witches almost on sight, and even in countries where there are laws against that sort of thing, many have very poor opinions of Pagans, or really anyone who has a different religion than what is considered mainstream.

So when considering “coming out of the broom closet” we need to first decide if the benefits of doing so, outweigh any potential negative consequences. Then given that there will likely be at least a few negative consequences – are they manageable, or will having to put up with them make life miserable enough, that staying silent is the wiser course. Some things to think about…

  • First and foremost how will your friends and family react? If you are still living at home, or having to depend on your family for support, this can be a major factor in keeping one’s path to oneself, especially if you think they won’t take it well, and might kick you out. Are you willing to put up with potentially losing friends and/or alienating your family if they don’t understand where you are coming from? Are you willing to gather up relevant information on your path, and have calm, rational (can’t stress those two words enough) discussions, in an attempts to inform others on what your path is about?
  •  How will your employer react? Unless you plan on wearing overt symbols of your faith/practices to work everyday, this may not be a huge issue, but it’s still something to consider. Job security isn’t the best these days, so if there is any possibility that being out will cause you trouble at work, it might be better not to say anything at all. This would still apply if you are in school as well – though they can’t fire you, teachers (and fellow students) can make things difficult for you if they so choose. So it’s something to keep in mind.
  • How will your local neighborhood/community react? If you live in a large city, again this might not be a big deal, but if you are in a smaller town, or a close-knit neighborhood, then outing yourself as a Pagan, could have an impact.
  • For those who are married or in a committed relationship – how will your significant other react? I have this separately, even though it’s technically lumped into friends/family, but it’s a really big one, so it deserves it’s own consideration. If you are in a relationship with someone (or married to them), and they don’t know that you are Pagan, be absolutely sure that they will be ok with it, before saying anything to them. Keep in mind that telling them, can literally be the end-game to your relationship. Things may eventually work out, but you need to be willing to weather the bumpy ride, to get through it, if they are not overly thrilled about your choices.

I know at this point it may seem like I’m against Pagans coming out, and in reality that isn’t true, as I dream of the day that we can all live – if not harmoniously, then at least in perfect apathy to each other’s religious/spiritual choices.  However as we are not yet at that point, “coming out” can be a monumental, life changing event, and I don’t think that mere words can adequately convey the seriousness of the situation. I’d like to think that in this day and age, most people are cool with it, but if I’ve learned anything out of recent “current events” in the US, it’s that we really aren’t as “cool” as we’d like to think we are, if anything we’ve started to backslide quite a bit.

So while I encourage those Pagans who can, to “come out” on May 2nd, I definitely urge everyone to think carefully before jumping right out. Not that we shouldn’t all be proud to be Pagan, but ultimately it’s a question of… is this the right decision for me at this time? If it is… go for it!! If it isn’t, then there is nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself. You’ll know when the timing is right!!

If you are out, or are planning to come out, on the 2nd… feel free to comment and share your story with us. We’d love to hear from you!!

For more information on IPCOD, you can also check out their FB page.

TIP: Discussing Religion


In terms of everyday conversations, the topic of religion really shouldn’t come up all too often. There are exceptions of course – the occasional nosy family member, friend or co-worker, or that random stranger you just met, that wants your whole life story in 10 seconds or less. However when it does, there really is not any need for anyone to know all the juicy details of your practices, especially if you feel that the person you are talking to will be less than welcoming about your choices.

While we can understand completely not wanting to stay in the “broom closet”, it is best to come up with a short, concise description of what you do, and leave it at that. Truthfully among those who are intolerant (or even apathetic at best) – it might be better to dodge the question if you can (it’s none of their business anyways), however if you feel that you must answer, then just sticking with the generic “pagan” answer is really your best bet. This wouldn’t normally be something that we’d advocate (since it doesn’t mean anything really), however in this case they likely won’t know the difference, nor are they likely to care, if they are not actually open to learning more about other faiths/practices.

Among those who are like-minded, or those who are truly interested in learning more, you can expand your description a bit, and go into as much detail as you are comfortable with. However you will still likely find those who will question you about your beliefs and practices, but this isn’t always a bad thing, as that is usually how we learn and grow in our practices.

In either case, try not to be defensive if someone asks you something. If you are going to be open about your religious/spiritual practices, especially if they are something other than what most people consider “normal”, then you have to be willing to deal with the consequences of that – both positive and negative. If you can’t discuss your practices calmly, and with confidence, others who are less tolerant of such paths are more likely to seize on that, and work extra hard at their attempts to steer you back on to (what they see as) the “right” path.

Religious and spiritual practices are very personal, and can be difficult to explain to others who have not been through the same experiences. Too often we diminish the sacredness, and ineffable qualities that are so much a part of many paths, when we try to explain too much. So sticking to the basics, rather than extensive details, is usually the best course of action, when the topic comes up.

Welcome


The Informed Pagan is a collaborative Pagan community that can be used as a resource for learning more about the various religions and practices that fall under the Pagan umbrella. A place where one can ask any question and expect thoughtful, honest answers, based not only on collective experiences, but currently available scholarly research.

Founded by a group of Pagans from various paths, we are dedicated towards promoting responsibility and integrity within the Pagan Community, through knowledge and awareness. Paganism is a very broad topic, and there is a ton of misinformation that has been perpetuated over the years, and unfortunately, very little has been done to stop it.

Most of us started out, as many do, rather “fluffy”, not knowing what we were doing, and often trusting what we thought were reliable resources, only to find that we’d been misled. The misleading wasn’t always done intentionally, but it was clear that there was a serious lack of genuinely reliable resources for those who were seeking a Pagan path. In talking about how far we had come and how embarrassed we were at some of the things we had once said and written (and yes we have ALL been there), we felt strongly that more guidance should be available for Pagans of all types. Talking about this wasn’t enough, and we decided we needed to take action. Which brings us here, to TIP.

The Informed Pagan is for anyone who needs a bit of help navigating the world of Paganism. If you are unsure of what you should be doing, which authors are reliable, or even what you believe, just ask. ALL QUESTIONS ARE WELCOME!! We have the knowledge and experience to help you find the answers that you seek, as you journey forward on your Pagan path.