Thinking About – What do people want from their Paganism?

Thinking About – What do people want from their Paganism?

Is/has what people want from their Paganism changing?

If I look back to when I first began to explore my spiritual path it was magic I was looking for. I guess it came from my love of the paranormal and the occult as a teenager. So when I discovered the works of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (no relation to the far right political party by the way) I was smitten. It served me well for many years, until I began to yearn for something a little more earthy, and it was this that led me to Druidry.

I’m older now. Magic, at least the magic presented by the Golden Dawn, is not my path or world view anymore, and hasn’t been for many years. My eyes turned towards animism, towards a more spiritual connection with the land and its stories. Magic is still a part of my life but now it is the magic of folklore, of bud and tree and leaf. That’s what I want my Paganism to be for me. I am less interested in manipulating the Universe to do my will through solemn scripted spells and rituals, and more interested in building a relationship with it, with my Paganism helping me to find my place within the web of life.

I was listening to Gordon White’s Rune Soup podcast the other day. It was a ‘state of the magical world’ address with Peter and Alkistis of Scarlet Imprint, and something that came up was Ronald Hutton’s new book Witches. Let’s just say that they were quite scathing about it. In their opinion Ronald had an agenda and wanted to paint a very bland picture of what the Witch was and should be. I’ve not read the book so cannot comment personally, I’m just relaying what was said. They went on to say that the Millennial no longer wants the Wicca of Gardner or Sanders (I  have met a number of Millennial Witches who have no idea who Gerald Gardner was), but rather wants the older Witchcraft (again, not ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ – this they also said was a creation simply to counteract the Wicca being presented by Gardner). This older Witchcraft was not the Wicca that would sit down happily with the local vicar for tea. They said that Wicca was on the way down, and this ‘other’ Witchcraft was on the way up.

I’m assuming they mean the types of Witchcraft presented by people like Gemma Gary in her books published by Troy Books – The Devil’s Dozen Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One and Traditional Witchcraft a Cornish Book of Ways. I’ve read them both and really enjoyed them. Gemma is a speaker at next year’s AnderidaFest. I’ve seen her speak before at the Pagan Federation Devon and Cornwall conference and she was amazing. Is Wicca on its way down? I’m not sure about that, but there is an edginess to Gemma’s approach to the Craft, and maybe that is what some people want now. There was a time when Pagans had to fight every Samhain against the they are all Satanists media circus. Any suggestion that Witchcraft had any darker traits had to be stamped out. Now it appears that some modern Witches are out to reclaim things like the ‘Devil’, not the Christian Satan, but rather something else. I had to deeply consider whether I wrote those words. I know how sensitive this topic can be, but I don’t think it’s something we should avoid talking about. It’s there. And as the people on the Rune Soup podcast said, it’s a growing path.

In the podcast they said that the old model of a magical group having a secret, where a person needed to join the group via initiation to have access to that secret, is also an old, outdated path. They suggested that, in this modern day of the internet there simply were no secrets left. That all of those groups based themselves on masonic rituals and methods of initiation, and quite frankly, its day was done. I get that the ‘secrets’ are all out, but I’m not sure I totally agree that it’s done. I remember searching for a path. There was so much information, even back then, it was impossible to make sense of it all. It must be even more complicated now, being new to the path and trying to find the gems in such a vast network. And all of those voices on Facebook groups, all saying different things, and arguing over the minutest detail. I still think there is a place for groups. The secrets may all be out, but the mystery still takes effort and sometimes guidance from those who have walked the path before.

So tell me. What do you want from your Paganism? I’m not talking about the Pagan community here, I’m talking about your personal quest. Is group work/initiation important anymore? What do you want your path to help you feel/see? Does it achieve that? What turns you on spiritually? Ecstatic dance? Drums? Or quiet contemplation? Has Paganism lost its teeth over the past couple of decades in an effort to become acceptable to the mainstream? Does that bother you?

28 responses to “Thinking About – What do people want from their Paganism?”

  1. In my humble opinion, I don’t think Paganism has lost its teeth in modern times, I think especially in the last 15 to 20 years the Western Culture at least has become more tolerant to such things. What do I want from my Paganism? I want freedom from the mundane secular, from the Monotheistic religions that have rooted themselves deep into our Western Culture. I want to be free to indulge in Nature and appreciation of the Divine. And to learn how our Ancestors practiced this. And how to work a little magic too.

  2. I too feel a calling to animism, specifically through a Ásatrú. In my faith, I look for a connection to the land and most importantly a connection to the divine in a context that doesn’t suppress or demand – one that promotes spiritual liberty, while promoting self-improvement and self-empowerement. The idea of magic/magick/etc is nice, but I am not compelled to practice it. I feel that my faith so far achieves what I want, but I lack material resources (altar goods) that would help me feel that connection more. My belief is surprisingly visually oriented, as well as intuition-focused. Personalized ritual is something I’d love to develop, but lack the time as a university student… Being a solitary practitioner also has its drawbacks. But it’s all worth it in the end.

  3. My journey within religion/spiritual path has been most varied. Christened into the Anglican church in 1940. Converted into Pentecostal movement when 18 years, then struggled in regard to Spiritualism because of the evangelists warning me about the devil. But I grew in the Spiritualist movement. My healing and sensitive energies grew over the following decades. But now, I choose not to follow any one religion, I can see all the beauty in various religious angles and nature, I am privileged to see the fairy kingdom from time to time, and I hold conversations with Nature. I know I am a spiritual being living in a heavier physical vehicle, I am blessed and privileged not to follow a rigid path and I express love, tolerance to all. I have physical ailments, but am looked after and nurtured and I honour and trust that “all is well” Blessings and love to all. Margaret.

  4. Firstly im listening to the audio book The Witches by Ronald Hutton this book is a historical look at witches throughout the ages all over the world.
    With regards Wicca and other forms of the craft, it evolves and people will always look for something else. Its being human and thirsting for knowledge until you reach a point where you find what you are happy with.
    Todays witches are modern witches and have a vast amount of knowledge to feed upon. All books are the authors perception and I use them as reference.
    Myself im a grazing witch. I enjoy what speaks to me. I work with nature and the moon. I love music it fills my heart with joy. A walk on the beach fill my very being with calm. A walk in woodlands calms my mind. I work with anything that i connect with. The sound of voices lifted in OM is so empowering and fills you full of an energy thats is from a joined union. I forage, I craft, i grow.
    Ive never been wiccan myself, I dont see it as dying. I see it evolving. We as modern witches are evolving and thats as it should be.

  5. Honestly, I wasn’t looking for “paganism” per se. It found me. I have been more or less a student of the pagan worship since my earliest memories – finding God outside and in the animals and trees, plants and mountains, ocean waves and sculptured rocks. Everyone reads books that change their lives. Probably the one that affected my religious view the moot was “The Mists of Avalon”. I haven’t read any of these books you refer to, and probably won’t. I read a lot of Native American books, “Black Elk Speaks”, “Pretty Shield”. Etc. What do I seek? Meaning. Peace. I don’t give a half a crap about manipulating the Universe, I just want to try and make sense of all the heavy shit that has happened to me in my life. I’ve not been bad in this life. I don’t believe I was bad in a previous life. I don’t even believe in reincarnation – hell I don’t believe in anything much – which is part of my problem. People need a sense of order and meaning. In the cycles of nature, the basic representations of male and female, birth and death, seasons and stars – these all make things make sense. You don’t have to believe in a “plan” to fit into nature’s cycles. They simply are. And evil is something men create. Living my life daily connected with animals gives me a greater sense of purpose in just trying to be in the moment. Experiencing life as fully as possible. There is so much pain, suffering, disease, sorrow – yet there are full tummies, baby laughs, sex, love, music, poetry, art, amazing amazing things. We are animals transcended. Paganism allows me to hold all of he bad in a place where it can make sense without details and minutea. And to fully enjoy the beauty of being alive, then seeing the beauty in coming death. And yes, in the absolute knowledge there will be a spring. A new season. Even after death. Paganism has saved me in a very dark time. No religion has given me answers or peace. In paganism, I find both.

  6. I think that a connection to something more natural, primal and old is a great thing to aim for within a group. It can be achieved through meditation and contemplation, as well as acknowledging and encouraging the thriving of the natural world. I think that by doing this, groups will develop their secrets and will realise that if you look hard enough, there are plenty more to be found- you just have to look within and not without!

  7. My paganism needs to be a path to growth. To becoming a fuller, truer, better me. That’s all I want out of a spiritual path.

    • Yeah, I like this. It’s not just an activity or a hobby, it is something that enables you to become the best person you can be. It’s what a spiritual path should be like- inspiring and beneficial.

  8. As a second degree Wiccan, approaching her third in July next year, I went to Gardnerian Wicca because, as previously a solitary, I wanted something with structure, a good sound learning point, a sister/brotherhood, and the power of tradition.

    I think that witchcraft is currently scarily “In fashion”.. Clothing is available emblazed with “Witch bitch”, “Dion Fortune” and other craft like statements,(Killstar) and it is cool to say you are a “witch”. Yes all publicity is good publicity, but is it really?

    I feel that covens, and traditions are needed to keep Wicca strong. Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente made it as it is, with amazing words in poetry and rituals. This must not be forgotten. When it comes to initiation. This is important. The magic changes, evolves and empowers all that tread this pathway.

    From a personal note, I also think that Skyclad is something that as a practice must not be allowed to die out.
    This is a sacred, powerful practice, where one comes into the world naked, and in the eyes of the goddess, we must continue to be this way. Naked in all rites, unable to hide in the presence of the mighty ones. Where all is seen. The goddess sees and knows all.

    • I agree and I don’t think it will ever die down. This could be another ‘wave’ where it goes into hiding a bit but still continues in the shadows, which I think it’s quite apt for the practice.
      Traditional practices such as being skyclad and just ritual in general is amazingly important to those following a spiritual path, even if they maybe don’t realise it yet.. There’s nothing similar that can replace it.

  9. My paganism is, primarily, a way to connect. I’ve felt like I was drowning in an information sea, and the world around me provided so many ways for me to keep in touch, but I still felt utterly alone. My path is a lot like yours, though I come to it young. I am a child of the Earth. For me, It’s not all about spells; I adore the rooted symbolism, spirituality, and the people; and I would rather not shun the possible presence of divine being.

  10. What I find helpful and extremely interesting is to observe how the Japanese carry out their “faith,” Shintoism. It is perhaps one of the oldest animist practice or belief. It can provide some clues on how our ancestors viewed the world prior to Christianity.

    Japan’s national media, NHK, broadcasts in English here in US on cable to for free. They have tons of programming that deals with the subject or related. If you can’t find on tv download their app and watch either live programming or select past topical shows.

  11. Individualism is probably the most important factor from my perspective. As unique Beings that we all are we approach our Connection from the inside out. We may have different ways of expressing this, but when it comes down to it Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds might just cover what we need to do to make the world a better place for the whole planet, the creatures, and humans. It may be that we are in a crucial moment of time where these things are important?

    Trends can make witchcraft sexy, and Thelema a way to Will. But it is what is in our hearts that tell us the Truth. My heart sings in Nature. And opens like a flower to the creatures on this Earth. I love my fellow humans, I want them to find peace and happiness. My magic is one of Love.

    I have explored my Shadow. I am unafraid of the Dark. I have sought power. I have cast spells for my own gain. But ultimately I found the True Magic resides in my soul. My essence, as in all Beings really is Love. How can a world exist without it? Our subjective consciousness is driven truly to love the world and everything in it. This cannot be taught by dogma, or threats of hell, it can only be found in the heart, whatever Path you find it on.

    Call yourself what you will, it matters not. Intention is all.

  12. What I want from my Paganism is connection. Ironically, I’m more connected to God/Jehovah/Yahweh/Allah/whatever you wish to call that energy through my Paganism than I was ever able to be as a Christian. He’s not my main spirit Ally, but it’s nice to have a better connection free from the fear which was drilled into me throughout my childhood. Once I was able to connect properly to spirit Allies I was amazed at the richness of the world. All those Beings I was brainwashed to believe were just “fairytales” and “fantasies”? They’re my best Allies. The day I realized in the middle of a conversation with several ghosts that I would never be lonely again as long as I live is still vivid in my mind. Nobody will ever be lost to me again unless I choose for them to be so. Paganism gave me that. 🙂

    You don’t have the space and I don’t have the time to write about everything else Paganism has given me; I truly came into my own as an autonomous human being once I started following a Pagan path. I value the growth as well as the connections… don’t think I could have had either one without the other, and I’m surely not willing to give up either one at this point.

  13. My Paganism is a way of life that I have followed for 46 years. Although I have the opportunity to belong to a local group & join them, which I have done, my path is one of sole practioner. It is not that I don’t think groups of like minded Pagans are a thing of the past, I think that there is room for both in today’s world. When I was first drawn to the Pagan way of life, I was in my early teens & it was a time when Pagans & Witches were thought by many to be Devil worshiper a and because of this I kept my Paganism a secret & learnt & practised alone, it is now something that I find not so easy to give up. This is a very personal view & I a believe that each one of us has a valid view on the way they see their Paganism.

  14. I am fairly new to the Pagan path, but I fear that modern Paganism is in danger of becoming too dilute. So many people thinking they can rewrite what Paganism is, or create their own version of it.

    I think there is great power in following a path that many others have followed before.

    I am not saying you can’t do it yourself, or find your own way, but there is a greatness in learning, following, and being initiated into a defined path. Once you have followed this path into a depth of knowledge and understanding, then you can aid in its evolution, and if necessary, create something new without diluting the original.

    I also feel that initiation is very important. It helps replace the Rites of Passage that our modern lives are lacking.

  15. You have to question, otherwise you are not alive. The path you choose has many off roads which you can explore and should explore, this is the reason we have chosen the to see the horizon in the fashion, in the way that we have! Of course new ideas come into our lives from those with less years in our field then we have, but, that is what keeps us and our views alive! We can listen to different ideas, perhaps take what we can use and keep moving on, living is building and if we all have a firm foundation we can reach for the sky.

  16. So many beautiful answers here already! Personally, I’m looking for something that helps me to give a bit of form to how I feel about the sacredness of nature, the gods and their stories, and how all of this connects us to the land and to one another. And I’m looking for a community of people who will support one another, who will stand up for the “rights” of the natural world, a community that will grow into its power and walk in that power. I think that Wicca and various strands of witchcraft have their place in this, along with Druidry and other strands, including the solitary and the eclectic.

  17. What I want is to find my place as a high-functioning part of the larger universe (both the objective universe and the subjective “worlds”); to find ways my talents can serve my community, and vice versa; and to worship the Old Gods openly in the company of those of like mind.
    Over the last 50 years, a huge surge of not-properly-prepared folks launched onto the Pagan seas. Most of them have given it up as too hard, many have washed up on alien shores and set up their own “cargo cult” spiritual/magickal lives, some have drowned, and a few have sailed through to more-masterful seamanship (if not more tranquil seas!). The ones who have made it through may seem like a poor remnant of those who embarked, but are a vast crowd compared to the tiny numbers who plied these spiritual waters before 1965. The fact so many didn’t make it is cause for neither distress nor celebration — it is merely the way things are.
    Our job, going forward, as always, is to MAKE IT BETTER. That is all.

  18. I’ve been a pagan for over 20 years now, and like me, my path has developed its own twists and turns. I began wanting the magic of ritual and ceremony. I’ve found with my busy life, it’s hard to find time to perform detailed ceremonies. Now, I prefer my pagan path to help keep me connected to the earth. I’ve found that my ceremonies can be simple yet just as effective. My path meanders much like the paths I walk in the forest, yet still keeps me rooted in my love of nature.

  19. I seek balance, with a large part of that coming from attempting to live in harmony with the natural world. I’d like to say I attempt to live in harmony with the human world, as well, but that is increasingly difficult in Trump’s United (?) States. However, our large and diverse spiritual community is wonderful—vibrant and supportive—from gathering to ritual to drum circle to walk in the woods.

  20. A paganism truly rooted in the natural world and in the mysteries of time and place would challenge our perceptions of individuality. It would bring us to the realisation of our unity with the world.

    Its community would facilitate and support the moral and emotional shifts that come with that perspective (best explained through Arne Naess’ idea of the Ecological Self).

    Its rituals would be about encountering and celebrating the mundane mysteries of life and death, together as a community, through the medium of nature imagery, poetry and song.

  21. What fantastic comments! Here and on Facebook and Twitter, so thank you all!

    I really love the ‘Big Tent’ analogy for Paganism. It really works for me, and constantly reminds me to not judge others’ paths by my own. That there is room for huge amounts of diversity all within that big Pagan marquee.

    Polytheism? They’re over there by that pole.
    Atheism? By that one.
    Odinism? They’re by the bar 🙂

  22. At the young age of nine, I began my search for a more balanced, sensible Spiritual Path, that satisfied my inner quest for knowledge & truth. I was in a Sunday school class where the priest was talking about the God of that Religion, and I asked, “But where is God’s Wife?” He couldn’t answer that, and later when I asked, “What was there before there was God?’ He said, “We’ll find out when we die.” I was not satisfied with that, and so my search began…

    I am grateful that I was raised with the parents & siblings I “came in” with this time around, & I know why I chose them. I always felt safe & loved. When I left their church officially, My Father gave me a hug, & said, “I can see how Your Path has changed your life, and you seem happy, I just want you to be happy.” Although my Mother still loved me, and accepted that fact that I was NOT of Her faith, she was worried that I wouldn’t go the “Special Place” in Heaven (that her church had convinced her was where those members & their families went, IF they were WORTHY). If you were no longer a member, you weren’t worthy, & you would be lost from your loved ones forever more…

    As an older teen, I began studying Occult writings, & Teachings of Annie Beasant, etc, I read “Psycic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain,” & then one by Issac Bonewits. Books seemed to fall off the shelves, at libraries & book stores, & I began a serious study of ancient religions. My Own personal path & meditation led to connections with other Kindred Spirits, & I participated in various group ceremony & ritual.

    My Ancient Welsh, Scottish, Norse, & Danish ancestors called to me, to go back to nature & the Goddess, which I did. Although through the years, I was initiated into (& meditated & practiced with) Buddhists, A “Path of the Masters” Teacher, etc , I continued to have my own Solitary path, which I later found to be MOST like my Beloved Mentor, Fred Adams’s, Feraferia (a Neo Pagan Goddess Path), & OBOD Druidry. I also enjoyed RJ Stewart’s work, & found it to be very valuable.

    In my meditations & my work with my Spiritual Guides since the 80’s, I was guided to help bring the awareness of Gaia & the “Divine Feminine” to the planet. The best ways for me to support the knowledge of the Divine Feminine & Gaia (& the Divine Masculine), at this time, is with my Goddessence Path & Hypnotherapy, Healing Music, OBOD Druidry, & The Stargate Academy work (which encompasses & works with Spiritual Truths, energies, & Beings from Higher Dimensional Realities).

    I appreciate & agree with the OBOD training process, & the requirement of each aspirant to gain actual experience & expertise, before leading groups & doing deeper trance work for self & others (& the Planet). I also agree with the warnings & cautions concerning “Spiritual Glamour,” that many fall into, as the immature ego strives for power & recognition. I have attended events where the Leaders of the event were not trained, & lacked experience, yet were “Self-Proclaimed” Teachers.

    I was at times, “Guided” to help ground, clear, & balance energies created unknowingly by them, & sometimes had to assist in “Guiding” Beings home, etc, after they had been “called on” unknowingly (by using another Groups’ work, without knowing/understanding the true purpose, without permission, & without the proper training or background & experience). I find that this can lead to confusion, unwise & unsafe outcomes, & more fuel for negative comments & judgements about Paganism & related paths. I have also attended some lovely, powerful, high quality, well run/balanced events, (with highly qualified Teachers).

    For me, Spirituality is about continuing on my Path to Spiritual Maturity & Enlightenment, in Service to Goddessence, Gaia & The Universe. It is the agreement I made before incarnating at this time, and as I have done many Lifetimes before.

    Brightest of Blessings to All in your varied Ways of Paganism & Spirituality.

  23. I spent many years of my life trying to find my “path”. My parents tried to raise me Nazarene Christian. For anyone who does theistic research, it’s a rather extreme faith with little to no forgiveness for anything. Let’s just say, it didn’t work for me. By the age of 11 or 12, I realized that it was NOT my path, much to my parents dismay and disappointment. For decades I searched for something to give some sort of inner peace and solace. It was not until I met my wife, who is from the UK (a Yank, myself), that I started to feel something else, something different. She is of course C of E by family tradition. After being together for a few years, we both started to hear the call. I am hereditarily Anglo Saxon/Celt. What more natural path to take than the old ways?
    On a visit we made back to England, we went to Burley. In one of the shops we found a book by Glennie Kindred. It was a revelation! After a quick peruse of the pamphlet style book, we decided that we wanted to follow the Old Ways. We came back to the states and went looking for circles to get involved with. After a few experiences, most of them unpleasant at best, we simply decided to start our own circle. We were guided toward this decision by a quote from book. “There is no such thing as doing ritual wrong.” After a great deal of research and experimental writing, we (well, my wife) came up with a ritual that really sounded good to us. The first few were a bit shakey, but as we went on, we got better at it and more people joined. We are now in our tenth year of doing circle. The best way to describe it is Wiccan/Druidic. We don’t ask for money, which many circles here do ask for, sadly. Nor do we demand any study or “levels” to attend or take part. Gardnerianism is just too strict for us.
    In short, we created something that felt right to us. We honor the Gods and the Sabbats. We also accept any path. Worship who you like, we are non-pantheistic. We don’t care who accepts it or not. If you like it, come, if not, we wish you well in seeking your path. In as far as ‘mainstream’, that’s a very tenuous term. To me that implies that everyone should follow the same path. Not so. That’s the whole point of Paganism. It’s your own path. Take it how you feel you need, to get to where and what you want. I personally feel that I have connected with my roots and my ancestry, which has given me a hugely gratifying sense of who I am and where I came from.
    And no, Paganism has not lost it’s teeth. It’s just slightly confused right now. Unfortunately many are using Paganism as a political tool (or in some cases, a weapon). Paganism has NOTHING to do with politics! Leave it out of it. It otherwise gives the mundane public more ammunition to criticize and mock us. We have enough to fight against, without adding that to the fray. We have members on both sides of the battlefield. To which my wife put up signs throughout the house designating it a “NO POLITICS” zone. End of discussion.
    Paganism seems to have taken a much stronger hold in recent years. People are looking for something that makes more sense to them. If we all did the same thing we would be rather boring, wouldn’t we? Take pride in your practice and don’t be swayed by what others may or may not think of you or what you do. “And ye harm none, do as you will.” Right?
    Herne Protect Us
    Peace, Love and Mead!

    • Politics is just a collective discussion about which values to live by. What could be more Pagan than such a discussion, and how could Paganism not be political when it embodies certain values? If it does not have values of its own, or at least encourage people to examine their values, then what use is it?

  24. In a form, yes. But as I stated, people are using politics as a means to judge others. You know, like mainstream theology judges us as Pagans. Remember those days? Burnings, drownings, etc.? Yes, everyone has the right to their opinions, that’s what makes us thinking individuals. Unfortunately the discussions these days lead only to anger, hatred and the loss of friendships and sometimes family. Rarely, if ever, do political conversations show tolerance. If we come together as PAGANS and not “parties”, we can build a stronger community filled with more tolerance and care for each other. Does this not make a bit more sense?
    Peace, Love and Mead!

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