Monday, March 23, 2015

Confessions of a Bad Pagan: Sabbats

I have a hard time with all the Sabbats  (well ok, not Samhain). My first years of Paganism I was all gun ho and ready to go; I planned detailed rituals, spent weeks preparing for each Sabbat, shopping and stocking up on supplies. The day of the actual Sabbat my entire day revolved around the ritual. I sweated while I was away from home, worrying about everything that could go wrong, wondering if I had everything I needed. When I got home I would re-read my notes at least a dozen time and went over my supplies twice as much. By the time I actually performed the ritual I was so keyed up that it was hard for me to focus and get my words straight. After everything was done and cleaned up I would crash and sleep very deeply.

This went on for about two years or so until one Sabbat I got such a terrible flu that it was all I could do to light a candle and make it back to bed without collapsing. The Sabbat after that I was in the process of moving and couldn’t even find the box with my ritual supplies (my brother was thinking he was being funny and labeled that box as “Garden Supplies”) so I didn’t even so much as light incense for that one. The Sabbat after that, well I made a half hearted attempt at a ritual but just really didn’t want to. The anxiety I put myself through to be perfect at it was getting old.

Over the next few years I would try to “get back on the band wagon” and get into regular practice of Sabbats. Sometimes I would make it a few Sabbats in a row, trying rituals and ritual formats ad getting nothing out of it, before lapsing into non practice again. While I was in the group I was in I started practicing regularly again but each ritual felt… hollow. Between the rituals feeling hollow, not getting anything out of them and the desire to avoid the stress and drama (created by myself) I ended up not celebrating the Sabbats at all.

Over the past few months I have been taking a long hard look at myself, my life and my spirituality. I’ve been looking at the parts I want to change, the areas I want to improve and the things I want to throw out the window. My spirituality was on the list of things I wanted to improve and so I started to think I would start with the Sabbats again… or not. As soon as I started to try and think about Sabbat rituals and observances I felt blah, and did not want to do it. So instead of forcing myself to celebrate the Sabbats I decided to examine my feelings.

You see the truth of the matter is I really just don’t feel the Sabbats (again except for Samhain). I would go to all this trouble to plan and create these great rituals (which by the way I’ve discovered I’m not a fan of rituals as I have learned them, but a topic for another day), and get nothing out of it. Not exactly productive is it? Especially when you consider that the whole point of a Sabbat ritual is to honor the divine and connect with the energy of that Sabbat. Ok so epic fail on my part here.

Now I love the idea of the wheel of the year, and some of the ideas of the Sabbats, but the way they have been explained to me/read about is not making much sense to me. I was trying to get my celebrations to match these descriptions and it just wasn’t… working… for… me… DUMBASS! And then it hit me, I once again am trying to fit into this cookie cutter mold when my life and the seasons as I experience them totally do not fit the damn mold! For crying out loud I chose Paganism for the flexibility and not to follow any "Holy Book" and here I am still doing the same damn thing!?! I need some tea.... and to rethink how I approach each Sabbat. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Confessions of a Bad Pagan: Am I Even Pagan?

Over the past few months I have been thinking about my path and about my "Paganisyness" and I am really begin to wonder if I am even really a Pagan anymore! And if I am still a pagan, well I'm not a very good one!  I suppose some of this comes up because I have this terrible tendency to compare myself to everyone around me, which is really something I should stop doing. This goes to every aspect including my work, my social life, my writing and even my Paganism. I think it is part of human nature to look at others and see the flaws within ourselves (or in our arrogance to see how we are better than others).

In reading other people's blogs I began to see the flaw in the way I was blogging, and came to some pretty cool ideas about how and what I wanted to blog (which still remains remarkably random). In seeing the lady in line in front of me be friendly to the cranky cashier I am inspired to treat that cashier in a kind manner myself. Conversely when I read a bad blog I gloat at how much better my own blog is, and when I see somebody being a jerk to the cashier I have been known to step in and tell the jerk to be nicer (although probably not in a very kind manner) and then take pleasure in the fact that I am much more polite to the cashier.

With paganism it's a hell of a lot more complicated than my simple comparisons. First of all I read a lot of blogs by really good Pagans, the activists and teachers, the ones who have been cutting their teeth in the Pagan world for at least 15 to 20 years. These people have a set path and set deities that they work with. Whereas I seem to have no real set path and while I work with a select group of deities I sometimes have to wonder if they are even listening. In addition to all the wonderful blogs I read I have a nice sized library of books by multiple pagan writers, each offering their own advice and flavor of paganism.

Then of course there is the challenge of the diverse number of Pagan paths there are out there. You have Wicca, Druidism, Dianics, Shamanistic paths, Kitchen Witches, Hedgewitches, Astaru's, Helenistic Pagans, Egyptian Pagans. Not to mention the activist pagans, the political pagans, the eclectics, the Monotheists, the duotheists (is that a word?) the soft Polytheists, the hard Polytheists, those who work in circles, those who work in covens, or groves or any other group configuration. And just when you think you have found all the nooks and crannies there are a thousand more to fin, and a thousand more that I will probably never hear of even if I were to live to be three hundred!

With all of this it’s no wonder I sometimes want to throw up my hands and scream until I turn blue in the face. When I first came to Paganism I didn’t realize just how many trails this forest contained! What’s more I didn’t even realize that there would be so many different flavors and definitions of Paganism! I often wonder what it means to be Pagan, what it means to be a good Pagan or a bad Pagan. I mean we can’t always even agree on a definition! Add to that problem I’m not even sure I have a set path myself.

I have wandered in and out of a handful of Pagan trails, trying on different ways, reading and thinking on what they believe, what they follow and how they practice. Each of them have been beautiful and have taught me something. I however perhaps have too much of  a wanderlust spirit and never stay, eventually I either get restless and uninspired, or I find parts of their tradition do not jive in any way with my own thoughts and ideas. And so I wander to another trail. This worries me sometimes, I wonder if I lack in motivation and self discipline (probably, I still can’t say no to cheese cake). Once I even tried to force myself to stay on one path despite what my inner barometer was telling me, and that one blew up in my face so badly it took a year for my spirit to recover. So I wander still.

So here I am today, wandering around, making shit up as I go and trying to make sense of it all as I go. Which is a huge difference from what most of the people whose books and blogs I follow are doing. While they grow and learn new things they seem to at least be rooted somewhere, and after as many years as they have spent on their paths they have gained the wisdom to speak well about their paths.  I often wonder if there are others like me who are utterly lost (but are playing it cool trying not to look so fucking lost) but not really wanting to get a shit ton of advice because let’s face it, you already get advice from the world whether you want it or not. And to be honest, I’m kind of liking being lost!

I love that Paganism has the diversity it does, the multitude of paths and trails it has! The opportunity to grow and nourish my spirit from so many different points of view thrills me! I like that we can’t even come up with a common definition of Paganism. And I like that by many people’s definition I am a very bad Pagan, in fact I want to explore this more! And since this is my blog I will! So look for many more chapters of why I am a bad Pagan (and to quote Maxwell Smart… “And loving it!”).

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wandering Witch… How I started

I sometimes wish I had an awesome story for how I wandered into Witchcraft. I’ve heard stories of people who could always hear the voices of their Gods or Goddesses, of being directed by their Witch Great Grandmother into the path, of being chosen by somebody of great importance in the path. Unfortunately for all of us my story is rather well… ordinary. It was a bit of a slow progression. Growing up both my parents followed some Christian traditions, like having a manager up at Christmas (right next to the ceramic Santa), having a Bible in the house etc. However we never went to church or actually read said Bible (other than at Christmas). Easter was more about the Bunny than Christ and we didn’t do any kind of prayer.
My Grandparents on my father’s side are devoutly Catholic and taught me about their faith but only when I asked. My Grandmother took me to Mass when she went if I asked her if I could come too. When I asked her about her Rosary she taught me how to use one and gave me one of hers (I can still actually do the Rosary by memory and still have the one she gave me tucked away). I went to Catholic school for most of elementary and middle school because they had the best French Immersion program. I didn’t know anybody of any other faith groups and so I spent much of my youth thinking that Christianity was just the religion (although I was vaguely aware of Judaism). In high school I dated a conservative Christian for a while and tried to follow his faith. It wasn’t that it was bad, I still like a lot of things I learned as a Christian, it’s just that it didn’t fit.

After he and I broke up and I stopped going to Church I never actively looked for a new religion, I was more focused on figuring out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I researched colleges and programs, and immersed myself into reading. I remember the books I first read that opened my mind to the possibility of magic, the books I read that featured a Mother Goddess (wait… the divine can be female?!?). I had always been interested in mythology but for some reason it wasn’t until my last year of high school that it clicked with me that these myths were once part of a religious system (ok so I was a little thick).
While I worked to save money for college I began to meet people from different faiths. I asked some questions about their religions and read up what I could. I then became a leader in my youth group and realized how important it was that I learned everything I could about other faiths so that I could be a better leader. I however had not yet found a system that spoke to me. Then in college when I was introduced to Paganism and Witchcraft, thanks in part to a great set of boobs! No really, a great set of boobs got me into Witchcraft. How did that happen you ask? Want to know? Are you dripping with anticipation yet (probably not but I’m having fun). Ok, I’ll tell you!

When I started college I was a bit of a loaner. I had been badly hurt growing up and had a very small circle of friends, most of whom I had met through my youth group and a few at high school. I worked for a year after high school before going to college so I had drifted away from many of the friends I had and the ones I was still in touch with either went to a different college or were in totally different program from me. So for the first weeks I spent all my time sitting in a quiet corner of the college, trying to look all cool and grown up, and not looking as panicked as I felt. 

One day I was sitting in a little corner reading one of my textbooks when I heard a female voice using terminology I only had ever heard used in my youth group, and the organization it was modeled after. Surprised to hear the terms I look up to the speaker and see this fairy like creature, with the sharpest and edgiest spiked and multi colored pixie cut I have ever seen. She wore skin tight jeans and a black sheer shirt with a lacy black bra underneath. Boldly tattooed across her boobs was feathers, like a bird’s wings and just beneath the bra line I could see the tattoo of a Celtic knot. I couldn’t help it, I began to stare, mesmerized by the wings as she spoke. After a long time I realized that I was being rude, got up and walked over to her.

“Hi, I’m the creepy chick who has been staring at your boobs for the last.. I don't know how long, nice tattoo... and no I'm not hitting on you”

“Hi, nice to meet you creepy chick! Thanks, the tattoo is in devotion to my Goddess.”

“Cool… wait Goddess?”

“Yeah, I’m Pagan”

She waved me into the seat next to her and after exchanging names and introducing me to the friend who sat beside her we talked. And then we talked some more. The next day after class she and her friend were there again and we talked a whole hell of a lot more. Later that week we went out for coffee. Little by little they both introduced me to their respective paths and lent me books to read. Eventually I got bold and bought a few books for myself. While I had no idea where the hell I would end up I knew I had found the beginnings of the right spiritual path for myself.