Happy Spring Equinox!

For those of you who celebrate the Spring Equinox/Ostara, I hope you have a wonderful holiday! The day is off to a nice start here, with my altar being refreshed and updated for the springtime.

Time for a fun pink pastel tablecloth!

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this day for a while. It’s horribly cold around here, and winter lasts forever, so the start of spring is always an amazing day. To celebrate, I’ll be going for a walk later (that may sound trite, but considering it was well below zero here up until recently, being able to safely go for a walk is a godsend). Hopefully, there will be some wildflowers I can respectfully pick and add to my altar later.

For dinner, we’ll be having an egg dish of some sort with lots of leafy greens, ideally. If any of you have Ostara recipes that you enjoy, please feel free to share them in the Comments below. I’m always on the lookout for new meals.

Again, hope you all have a lovely day and can enjoy the outdoors, wherever you may be!

My Personal Rules and Ethics

I have always enjoyed reading about other Pagans’ personal rules, since they can vary so greatly. The following is my own set, which I have in my Book of Shadows. There is quite a bit of repetition in it, since I struggle with some factors more than others (such as setting healthy boundaries between myself and others). In the past, I focused too much on helping others to my own eventual detriment, and so you’ll see this expressed multiple times throughout. Some of the rules I also struggle to follow, such as being open about what I believe with others. I’m trying my best to better live up to these rules as of late, however.

My Rules and Ethics

Do your best not to harm others intentionally. Try not to harm others unintentionally as well, but understand you are part of a giant web, and sometimes, mistakes will happen. Try to live well, respect others, and take care of yourself.

Listen to others, but know you have the final say over your life, beliefs, and actions.

Take responsibility for your actions and life. No one else controls you; only you have the power to decide how you live.

Tragedies and obstacles will appear, but you are always in control of your reactions.

Always seek to better yourself. Understand stagnation is comfortable, but ultimately fruitless. Push your boundaries and find new limits. When mistakes happen, embrace them as opportunities for learning.

Never give away your power. Your strength and freedom is your own.

Respect others’ beliefs, thoughts, and feelings, but not to the extent that they override your own. You are also a person, and you are also deserving of respect.

Try to help others, but realize you are also in need of care. Never focus on others to the extent you make yourself miserable. Others are important, but you are as well. Find a balance.

You can never please everyone. There are 7 billion people in this world; do your best to be polite, but understand there is only so much to be done.

Never take someone’s words at face value. Think for yourself. Decide for yourself. If something doesn’t seem right, analyze why, no matter how strongly the other party may feel about their opinions.

Practice gratitude daily. Thank the gods and higher powers for all they have done for you.

Live honestly and in a forthright manner. Do not hide what you believe or who you are.

Do not cast spells or prayers to harm others. Focus on yourself, when possible.

If someone’s actions are hurting yourself or others, you may protect yourselves or them. Do your best to word it in a way which doesn’t bring specific harm to the person, but protects people, throws the negativity back at the party who created it (since it came from them, you may send it back), or exposes the truth.

Always finish every spell with, “Let this be true only if it harms none, is meant to be, and is for the good of all.”

You may cast positive general spells/prayers for people, such as healing, happiness, and safety. Always finish with your safety catch. Anything more specific or iffy, and ask for permission first.

Your beliefs are your own. Worship any deity or being you please. Practice however you want. Spirituality is personal; you do not need to cast aside something that works for you because it offends others. Actual harm is the only factor you must avoid (such as murder, assault, theft, lying, cheating, slander, etc.). Anything beyond that is subjective and up to you to decide.

Only you will be held accountable for your actions.

Pagan Perfectionist

“Perfectionism” tends to get marked as a flaw that is actually a strength in disguise. People laugh about mentioning it in a job interview, trying to convince the employer that their “flaw” is how hard they work. So it’s a positive trait, then, isn’t it?

I think many perfectionists out there would shake their heads at a blinding speed. Yes, it can be useful in some situations, but for those of us who take it too far, there is hardly anything more insidious and destructive. As a lifelong perfectionist myself, curbing this impulse has always been an issue; it even manages to flare up in my Pagan practices, no matter how much I tell myself to relax.

“Is this offering right?” I muse to myself for the umpteenth time as I sit at my altar, lighting incense for my deities. “Maybe I should give food or a drink instead. Maybe this isn’t good enough, and I have to do better.” Unbidden, my mind latches onto all the perceived inadequacies in my craft: Not sitting at my altar two times a day, as I promised myself I would at the start of the year. Not reading enough books to truly call myself “educated” in my designated path. Not actively working with my guides enough—when was the last time I went on a shamanic journey, anyway?

“I’ll do better,” I think to myself firmly. And sometimes, I do. But oftentimes, by pushing myself forward at maximum speed, always seeking something gleaming in the distance, I stumble. And after stumbling, it can be hard to get up. Drained and exhausted from trying to be a perfectionist, my path switches from something that gives me strength to a soul-sucking force. At these times, the very thought of calling myself a Pagan seems not only ludicrous, but almost insulting to other Pagans. When I am so clearly a “failure”, as I believe in those times, how can I call myself a Pagan amongst those who are so much more put together than myself? They are much more knowledgeable in their path, more certain in their direction, more devoted in their everyday practices. What right do I have to call myself one of their peers, or to attempt writing on Pagan topics?

The silliness of these thoughts is obvious, of course; there isn’t any proof I have truly failed, and I don’t actually know if other Pagans are truly “better” than me, whatever that even means to begin with. It’s nothing but the irritating whispers of anxiety and low self-esteem, fed by my perfectionism. But during these times, the fear can feel very real, and I regret to say it has led to me freezing in the past, where I stay in one place out of fear of moving forward and making my (perceived) situation worse.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter if I reach the high bar I set for myself, or how I compare to others. All that matters is whether my gods and guides are happy with my progress, and whether that is enough for me. If Ammit tells me she’s happy with my worship, Anuket is telling me to slow down and go with the flow, and Ganesh reminds me I have lessons to learn from these obstacles…maybe, just maybe, it’s time to ratchet down the self-deprecating thoughts and pay attention to what they are saying. After all, they more likely than not have a much better view of the situation than I do. If they think I’m doing just fine and don’t need to be at 110% all the time, then why do I care? What does it matter if I can’t always meet my lofty expectations? All the gods demand of me is that I honor them and keep moving forward, even at a slow pace. One solid step forward is much better than three leaping jumps, followed by stagnancy once the exhaustion sets in.

It can be hard to ignore the pictures of beautiful, expensive altars online, or the recountings of extravagant offerings for patron deities. But whenever I find myself wondering if my bar is too low, if I should set it higher once again, I look at the statues of my deities and remind myself they’re fine with me just as I am.

Finding My Path (Part 2)

This is the continuation to Finding My Path (Part 1). If you haven’t read it yet, please check it out now, and then head back here.

Caught up? Then let’s get going!

As a new, solitary Wiccan, I filled the lack of a coven with books. Many, many books, more than I could possibly name. I read books on Wicca voraciously, trying to learn and implement as much as I could. My first altar was placed on my bookshelf with pride, a little zen garden with various crystals used for the Lord and Lady, along with representations for the elements.

I felt far more nourished than I ever did in my old religion; this helped lessen the trepidation that naturally comes from leaving one path and starting another. When your past religion says everything about your new one is evil and to be avoided, it can place much stress on your mind. There were quite a few moments I almost fled from Wicca, not out of any bad experiences, but because of the old whispers of hell and demons. When these moments cropped up, I batted them away by reminding myself that I was quite unhappy in my old religion, while my new one helped me through difficult battles. Through attempting to rationally compare and contrast my experiences in both religions, I was able to justify continuing forward in Wicca. As time passed, my fears ebbed away more and more, as it became obvious I was much happier than before.

However, while Wicca did give me spiritual satisfaction, it wasn’t perfect. Now, nothing is, of course—chasing perfection is a futile game. However, there were simply some aspects that did not resonate with me. For instance, I felt no connection to the elements, despite trying to honor and include them in my practices regularly. The concepts of fire, water, air, and earth failed to ring true for me, and so I started incorporating them less and less. And then there was the matter of the Lord and Lady. I appreciated the idea of the Goddess, but I didn’t spend much time on the Lord. Slowly, my altar began to shift, with the elements’ symbols disappearing, followed sometime after by my removal of the Lord’s crystal.

Around a year after starting my Wiccan path, I decided it was high-time to interact with others of like mind. Being solitary in real life, while freeing, was more than a little lonely on occasion. I registered on multiple Pagan sites and followed posts on Wicca/Paganism, eager to see all the rich ways others practice their craft. It was through all these online interactions that I realized my view on Paganism had been so very sparse. I had thought Wicca was by far the dominant path in Paganism, followed (at least in part) by nearly all who called themselves Pagan. I had taken for granted that all would follow the Wiccan Rede, or the Threefold Law. Suffice to say it was quite a shock to find that the Threefold Law is not followed by the general Pagan community. In hindsight, this was incredibly narrow-minded of me to assume, but with only specifically Wiccan books as my guide before this point, I simply did not know any better.

After my initial shock wore off, I was enchanted by what I found: I discovered that many Pagans do not worship the Lord and Lady, with some choosing to solely honor specific deities instead. Some Pagans were completely fine with casting curses, while others worked with demons or darker entities. On the flip side, there were those who refused to touch any of these things with a pole. And then there were all the varied groups under the umbrella of Paganism: Druidry, Kemetism, Asatru, and many others. While in theory I was aware of at least some of these groups, it had never hit me how relevant they were until I interacted with others. My limited view of Paganism expanded in such a short amount of time.

While some areas did admittedly scare me away, such as working curses, I began implementing these new discoveries into my path. Specific deities entered my practice, while the Goddess took a back seat and eventually disappeared. I gave up trying to find meaning in the elements and cardinal directions entirely. I followed the Wiccan Rede, more out of personal philosophy than anything, but discarded the Threefold Law as a hard truth. More time passed, and one day, it hit me: I was no longer Wiccan. While I had never tried to deliberately leave the religion, all my little edits and substitutions here and there had added up. With gods from multiple pantheons, a strange hodgepodge of many different paths, and a penchant for discarding anything that did not make sense to me, I was solidly an Eclectic Pagan by this point.

What I lost in structure, I more than gained in freedom and unlimited potential. I have never been the type to take something at face value; if people claim that something is the correct way, but I can’t logically understand their reasoning, I’ll walk the other way. Being eclectic gave me the ability to not accept anyone else’s dogma. My path was my own, which meant I was free to pick, choose, and make mistakes. If something did not work, I would understand why because I had tried it for myself. From there, all there was to do was pick myself up and move on.

And this is where I am now, as an Eclectic Pagan who loves getting messy. Piecing together a path can be difficult, but it’s one of the most rewarding experiences I can imagine. For me, there is nothing more satisfying on a spiritual level than communing with my gods, practicing my craft, and knowing my path is always free to evolve with me as time passes.

Finding My Path (Part 1)

Everyone has their story on how they found the spirituality that best suits them. This is my own. Please note: I refer to the religion I was born in, Christianity, throughout this post, as I do not want to censor anything. However, I do not mean any disrespect to Christianity whatsoever; there is much wisdom in the path, and I know it works wonderfully for many. This is just my story on where I came from.

Back in my earlier years, shortly before I was to begin Confirmation (a sacrament in Christianity where children decide they want to devote themselves to the religion), I was very much torn on what I believed. On the one hand, all my family and friends were devout Christians, and I didn’t want to go against them; after all, they meant the world to me, and if something worked so well for them, why wouldn’t it work for me? On the other hand, I knew that I was not being spiritually fulfilled. Where my family talked about the love and grace of Jesus, I felt only a hollowness; no matter how often I tried to pray through Him, I never heard or felt anything in return.

The distance and repetition of the weekly mass also left me feeling dissatisfied. Attending mass never nurtured me. I felt only lost and alone, wishing I could be out in nature or actively participating in the worship in some way. Knowing that my Confirmation was quickly approaching, I wanted to study other religions first, to be sure that Christianity truly was the right religion to me. If I was going to devote myself to something, I should know inside and out that this was the right path for myself.

Around this same time, a well-meaning teacher was shocked by my love of the Harry Potter series. Wanting to turn me away from the series, she gave me one of those many anti-Harry Potter books. You know the kind; they were everywhere back in the heyday of the Potter craze, preaching about the dangers of the series and how your children will fall into witchcraft and the like. Since I had great respect for this teacher, I read the book cover to cover, hoping to gain some insight as to what was wrong with the beloved series.

There was just one problem—it didn’t quite work out that way. To this day, I will forever point to that book as what started me on my Pagan path. I was incredibly disappointed by what I found within that book’s covers. The Christianity it spoke of was filled with judgment and fear, and in my time of questioning the religion, it only served to push me further away. Of course, in hindsight I know that this book presented a very skewed, extremist view, but at the time, this had a huge influence in how I viewed the religion.

There was also the matter of how it presented Wicca. Before reading the book, I had never heard of Wicca, thanks to my sheltered upbringing. The book chastised Wicca as being an evil religion of the devil, citing how children who read Harry Potter were bound to be led into its grasp. The way Wicca was presented didn’t seem right to me; even having never heard of it before now, I could tell the book was again heavily biased. None of its arguments convinced me Wicca was evil, as the author’s reasoning revolved around verses in the Bible. To be fair, this certainly works for fellow believers. However, for someone on the fence about Christianity, I wanted actual examples and statistics on why Wicca was a negative movement.

I went to my library and found actual books on Wicca, and sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed: Wicca was not even remotely devil-worship, but was instead a peaceful nature religion. This served to lower my impressions of the book even more, but more importantly, it gave me a direction: I had always loved nature, and equality of the sexes was (and still is) very important to me. Here was a religion that honored both. Wiccan teachings resonated with me far more than Christianity ever did, especially with the doom-and-gloom judgments in the anti-Harry Potter book still ringing in my ears.

I was forced to go through Confirmation, as I was not allowed to seriously consider other religions at the time. However, I kept Wicca in the back of my mind regardless. Under the guise of school projects, I researched various religions in zeal throughout the years, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and many others. This gave me plenty of time to see what religions resonated with me; while there were many aspects of other religions I appreciated, it was always Wicca that called to me the most. Once I became old enough to truly choose for myself, I started practicing Wicca and officially cut ties with my old religion. And so began my path.

While I am no longer Wiccan anymore (being Eclectic Pagan, which will be covered in Part 2), this was how I initially started down the road, and so I like to pay it homage from time to time. I still find it rather interesting that it was not Harry Potter that led me astray, but rather, an anti-Harry Potter book meant to warn of its dangers. As much as I may dislike the book, for this reason it holds an almost spiritual significance for me. It just goes to show how inspiration can come through in the most unexpected places.

A Final Note: I want to take another moment to stress I do not mean to insult Christianity in my above post. Nowadays I have a much more positive view on the religion, but ill feelings were admittedly part of what led me away back then. I wanted to share that, rather than cover it up. I mean no ill will to any Christian readers out there; if your path brings you happiness, then I’m glad for you!

Deities

Currently, I work with three deities: Anuket, Ammit, and Ganesh. Anuket and Ammit come from the Egyptian pantheon, while Ganesh is from Hinduism.

Anuket, the Goddess of the Nile, is the first deity I ever worked with, starting years back. At the time, I was very new to Paganism and didn’t quite know what to do, or how to get started. After doing research, the general consensus seemed to point toward meditation and letting the gods or your guides speak to you. Feeling some trepidation, coming from my closeted Christian background, I meditated with the intention of meeting any gods who were interested in working with me. A figure popped into my mind, a woman wearing white robes, with a headdress of reeds on her head. A large river gushed behind her. She was very gentle and patient, but would not tell me her name; she wanted me to research her first and see if I could figure out who she was. The images I saw led me to studying the Egyptian pantheon, and from there, I narrowed it down to a couple different goddesses, Anuket being one. After meditating again, she confirmed that she was Anuket, and I started working with her from that point on.

For quite a while, Anuket was the only deity I worshiped. After being indecisive for a long time, I finally decided to worship Ammit. Ammit is a being in the Egyptian pantheon who would devour the hearts of the undead, specifically those deemed unworthy to continue on to the afterlife. Something about Ammit fascinated me for many years; it may have been her combination of three powerful animals (crocodile, lion, and hippo), or perhaps it was the harsh judgment she unleashed. Even so, I kept away from her at first because I was wary of working with darker entities. It wasn’t until I realized darker beings still have a lot to teach us that I took the leap; after all, I can’t just focus on the light or “good” side of the world. Dark deities exist for a reason, and I believe it is important to acknowledge this and respect the place they have.

Ganesh is the most recent deity for me, yet one that has had a close place in my heart for many years (similar to Ammit in this respect). The Hinduism faith always called to me, and I had a great experience visiting a local Hindu temple a few years back. The leaders there were quite patient and kind with us newcomers, and they stressed that anyone can worship the Hindu deities, regardless of their ethnicity or specific religion (I’m sure individual people may disagree, of course, but I’ll take the temple’s word). This was wonderful news for me–even though I loved Hinduism, I was quite happy with my Pagan faith and didn’t know if it was ok for me to mix-and-match these faiths. Receiving the go-ahead to do so cleared up this issue, and so, when the time felt right, I began worshiping Lord Ganesh.

As of this writing, all three deities are represented on my altar and play an important part in my life. I’ll go into more detail on my relationships with each of these three gods in future posts.