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Paganism FAQ
Author: Scarlet

Topics Covered:
1. What is Paganism? Neo-Paganism?
2. I'm new and interesting in becoming Pagan.
3. What is a witch?
4. I want to learn how to do magic
5. What is the oldest pagan religion? Cuz I want to do THAT!
6. Everyone knows that the Christians STOLE all of OUR pagan holidays!
7. What tradition am I? Where should I start?
8. I'm under 18, what will my parents think?
9. How do I do a spell if I don't have the right ingredients?
10. Where can I find a good Book of Shadows?
11. How do I find a Magickal Name?
12. What about clergy? Covens? Teachers?
13. Why are you being so mean to me! That's not very pagan of you!
14. How do I cast a spell on someone else?
15. What books are good?
16. But isn't everyone supposed to use the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold law?
17. Why do some people spell Magic with an extra K... it looks retarded!
18. I'm so persecute for being a witch! Will the burning times never end?


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1. What is Paganism? -

"First understand that Paganism is not a religion but a category of religions and that the widest and most accepted definition refers to any non-abrahmic religion (Meaning you're not Christian, Jewish, Muslim etc.). Buddhism, Hinduism and Vodoun all count as pagan religions, although most practitioners of those religions don't think of themselves that way.
What's usually referred to when people talk about modern paganism is the Neo-Pagan revival movement which consists of some reconstructed religions (Celtic, Egyptian and Germanic traditions, to name a few), some new-age religions and many other assorted paths. Paganism as a whole has been going on since Mankind first dreamed, but Neo-Paganism is more of a spiritual and revivalist movement that also has sort of a politicality to it and seems to cross paths with the New Age movement an a regular basis. It's a very large and diverse body of works and thought that started in the 40s, or maybe as early as the late 1800s with Spiritualism, and has become a sort of Pagan Identity. It's still an umbrella term for lots of very different religions, but it's slightly more unified as a community than Paganism of old (which spanned the globe before Judaism came along). See any New Age shop or pagan gathering for evidence of this. Most people who identify themselves as Pagan today (or are involved in the pagan community, I should say) are Neo-Pagan. Others may disagree with me here.*


2. I'm new and interesting in becoming Pagan -

*If you want to talk to people online about paganism, you may want to answer a few questions first to get them pointed in the right direction. What got you interested in Paganism? What have you discovered, so far, about paganism (books you've read, articles, things people have told you, observations etc)? What about the things you've learned most appeals to you?*


3. What is a witch?

*A witch is someone who practices witchcraft. You do not need to be Wiccan, or even pagan, to practic witchcraft. It's not a religion, but a craft. I've known Christian witches. Witchcraft is the crafting of magickal practice and powers which can be defined in numerous ways. Witchcraft and magick are NOT a religion, though many religions, especially pagan religions, are associated with it.*


4. I want to learn how to do magic-

*Magic? There's lot of resources. What sort were you looking for? Religious magick? Secular magick? I've heard of Wiccan Magick, Chaos Magick, Ceremonial Magick, Hoodoo, Natural Magick, Green Witchcraft, the list goes on and on...*


5. What is the oldest pagan religion? Cuz I want to do THAT! -

*Here we go again. Older does not equal better. Ok, to the first point. The definition of pagan that I use would make every religion that was around before Judaism, pagan as well. This would make the very first human conception of religion a pagan one. Was it the Mesopotamians? The Egyptians? The Neanderthals? It depends on how you define religion and the fact is, we'll probably never know. Aside from some artwork, religious ideas don't survive that well once you start getting that far back in the archeological record. We can draw some conclusions based on tribal religions and what we know of human nature, but we can't really ever KNOW. Frankly, I think we know enough about it since it lives in us through our human nature. I think almost anyone can find the essence of that ancient spirituality within themselves, and that essence is the only part that’s necessary today... do you really want to be living under the mysteries and misconceptions early man had about the universe since we've learned about science? If a religion or idea isn't logical, doesn't make sense, can't stand on it's own without some historical backing, what good is that faith? It's not useful to modern people. I think seeking the historical evidence that your religion was practiced for hundreds of years is defeating the purpose. Ideas change, people grow. No one person can believe the exact same thing as any other person, just like they can never truly know another’s private thoughts and feelings entirely. Why lean on history when you're the only person that can ever believe what you believe? Doing otherwise is like trying to teach a fish to breath air.*


6. Everyone knows that the Christians STOLE all of OUR pagan holidays!

*It's well known among pagans that many of the traditions associated with our modern christian holidays have some roots in pre-christian celebrations. From eggs and bunnies at Easter to wreaths and holly at Christmas, the landscape is peppered with rituals, practices and symbols that seem appropriated from earlier religious beleifs. The placement of these holidays, too, seems suspect and are often considered evidence that early christian leaders were manipulative plagerists trying to "save" the pagans.
Ok, sure, I can see that pagan practices had an influence on how christianity developed, particularily catholicism and their pantheon of saints and I'm sure some of it was done quit on purpose to gain new recruites from the old religions. On the other hand, many of these practices may have allready lost their initial meanings, having become secular habit. It's common for people to see the major figures in Christianity in their own image and often practice christiantiy alongside their native religion, so to the european pagans, Jesus would have probably been a pagan like them, so would have celebrated the same way they did. They felt no shame or guilt in celebrating their old traditions after having been "saved" and would have been eager to bring christian meaning to their traditions, as if Christ had been with them all along.
On that note, no christian I know celebrates pagan holidays. Sure, they have big parties on Winter Solstice, hang wreaths and holly, and put images of the Holly King all around their homes, but Christmas is not a pagan holiday, even though it takes place on the same day as one. They are not worshiping a sun god, nor celebrating the passing of the Holly King and welcoming the Oak King. They are welcoming their savior (who, despite uncanny similarities, is not actually a Sun God). Easter, especially, is not pagan. No one would be Christian if it weren't for Easter. Easter is the focal point of Christianity, the moment of promise, so calling it a pagan holiday is disrespectful. Think about it. Just because a day is a pagan holiday doesn't mean that everything that happens on that day is pagan. Are you christian just because you happen to light a candle on Dec 25th? Does someone have a copywrite on Holloween? So let the Christians have their holidays allready...*


7. What tradition am I? Where should I start? -

*Look around you. What do you already have an interest in? What does your heritage say? Is that important? How were you raised? What are your interests? What have you always been fascinated by? You may have books or decorations in your home that have already been the first steps down your chosen path. What deities or pantheons have you always had an affinity for? When cultural practices appeal to you? These are great sources for finding your path. Once you start researching these things, you may find a whole new world or hints into another that lead you down new paths. Know as much about the traditions you pass as possible, even if you don't practice them. The more you know about WHY you don't like them, the easier it is to find something you DO like.*


8. I'm under 18, what will my parents think? -

*I don't know your family. Spirituality is a very personal thing and I don't see why it's so important to tell people about it. You're still discovering things; I don't like to talk about things like this until I feel like I can answer all of the most important questions they're likely to ask with confidence. There's no need to make your religion a soapbox or a battle about your individuality. If you feel that your family will be open-minded, then go ahead and try to talk with them about it. Throw some concepts and ideas out there and see how they react. If they get uptight, don't worry about it and keep it to yourself. Always be honest, but don't advertise unless you want them to ask you about it. Remember, while you live with them, you're subject to their rules, so if they want you to attend church even if you have told them you don't want to, then just go with the flow and find a way to appreciate the services. They're really not that bad if you think about it. If you find it difficult to study what you want to study at home, find other places and times. Try to avoid using alarming words like "witch" and "magic spell" and that sort of thing. Prayer, meditation and spirituality will serve those same linguistic functions. If you want to study up on magick, try studying eastern practices, like meditation and Buddhism (many new-age and pagan concepts can be found in some form in eastern practices and meditation is a strong base for later spellwork). Try studying up on the Classics, the pantheons of classical cultures, like Egypt, Greece, the Celts, the Vikings and even the Hindus. These can be seen more as an interest in culture and history than as devil-worship, and will familiarize you with the myths and deities you may later wish to devote yourself to. Remember, in most cases you don't need lots of fancy objects, necklaces, wands, or even books to be pagan or to practice magick, so don't sabotage yourself by getting too wrapped up in the material side of things that could be either discovered by disapproving relatives or could go missing or break causing you to feel vulnerable and unable to practice. Give yourself time. It's not a race to become as pagan as possible as fast as you can.*


9. How do I do a spell if I don't have the right ingredients? -

*Where did you get the spell? Did you write it yourself or did you get it from a book? Just like religion, magick isn't any good when it's old and stale. If every single aspect of the ritual doesn't feel 100% appropriate, re-write it. I, personally, think that the act of planning a ritual is an essential part of the ritual. It helps you identify what you are REALLY trying to accomplish, gets the mental ball rolling and helps you unravel all the moral implications of your work. The focus, concentration and creative energy produced and used while authoring a magick spell is really a big part of the power of it. If you DO plan on using a pre-fabricated ritual, do a close examination and make sure every part of it belongs in YOUR spell. I always recommend changing at least one detail to make it unique to you. As far as tools and ingredients go, use what you have, use what's going to be physically safe in the context of he ritual, use only what you feel are the most special and powerful images and symbols, because that's what you’re tools are. They're just tools, images, symbols. You don't need fancy daggers and a special crystal or type of string to do your ritual; it's all in your head. That's where the magick is; it's in YOU, not the tools. While having specialized tools and a special environment can help set the mood, depending on your preferences, don't let yourself get trapped in the idea that if you don't have the necessary tools, you can't do magic. I often cast spells with no tools at all... without even casting a circle or even moving! I've done them in public on a busy street-corner and no one has been the wiser for it!*


10. Where can I find a good Book of Shadows? -

*Again, older isn't better. While published books of shadows (or books of light and shadows) and even hereditary books can provide a lot of information and interesting techniques, the purpose of a book of shadows is to record your own work. Like I stated about writing your own rituals, writing your own book of shadows is where the power of the book comes from. It's a record of your works, a witch’s journal. It can be in any form, a pretty diary, a spiral note-book, a three-ring binder, a file cabinet full of disorganized scraps of artwork, poetry, herbal lore, rituals you've transcribed, a record of the results... it's a learning tool.*


11. How do I find a Magickal Name? -

*It'll come to you. If you even need one. Some people like to have one, others don't think they're necessary. The Gods created you, so why wouldn't they know who you are? You don't need to pick one out right away. If you feel you want to, don't worry about it being a big choice. You can always change it when a new name comes your way. Native Americans used to change their names every so often and names were given to one another as great gifts. My current name came to me in the shower, I wasn't even looking for it. You may try a meditation or a vision quest or just pick something that's always been with you. Some people choose to tell everyone their name because they believe it given the name more power while others choose to keep it in ultimate secrecy. Others will only tell coven-mates and group members, swearing them to secrecy, believing that knowing w witches "true" name allows you to hex them. Personally, I don't think it's anyone’s business. It's for your use and yours alone. I'm in the camp where telling others strips it of it's power, mainly because it opens you up to criticism and reveals something spiritually sacred. I choose to reveal only part of my name.*


12. What about clergy? Covens? Teachers? -

*Be cautious when searching for other pagans with which you wish to practice. It's an unfortunate fact that paganism can attract all sots of sketchy people. I've seen quite a few people who think that paganism is an easy place to gain the sort of power and respect given to Christian priests. Except that Christian priests have to go through a widely accept and understood training period. Sure, they can lie, but it's harder to do because there are other organizations involved. Pagans tend to be quite a bit more isolated (which is probably just the reason you’re looking for companions!) but it also means that verification of someone’s priesthood is much harder. Use your best judgment. If you're uncomfortable about them or they ask you to do something you're not willing or ready to do, find someone else. Beware of people that make fantastic claims and do your research on them AND their claims. No one can teach you everything and if they claim they can, it's a good bet that they can't teach you much of ANYTHING. www.witchvox.com is a good website for pagans to network. You can find covens, groups, clergy, stores, meetings, gatherings, articles and more on that site. Always look out for yourself.*


13. Why are you being so mean to me! That's not very pagan of you! -

*That's like saying "You disagree with me! You must not REALLY be pagan, you poser! I don't understand your beliefs so you must not be SERIOUS about them!" Calling on someone’s religion to undercut their aggressive behavior is a really low blow and is unnecessary. No one is perfect and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I said "opinion." Please be aware that when you start asserting things are FACTS, your facts are up for debate and can be debunked, while your opinions should be respected. If someone is being a little harsh with you about falsities you've claimed to be fact, don't get uptight. Back up a bit and re-assess what you said, then re-state it as opinion or cite your source politely and allow for debate on the validity of your source. Never be afraid to admit your mistake, it will earn you far more respect than stubbornly insisting that your mistakes were correct.
Also, there's nothing about paganism that indicates we aught to "stick together" or be one big happy tribe. We're all humans with vastly different lifestyles, politics, religious beleifs, backgrounds... how do you suppose we all get along? We try, but there's nothing special about us that says we aught to be nice to one another more so than any other disorganized community of not-quite-like-minded people.*


14. How do I cast a spell on someone else? -

*Most Wiccans and many others will gasp "NO!! You can't do that!! That's against the threefold law and manipulates free will!!" I disagree. I think casting spells on others doesn't interfere with free will but rather creates opportunities. Love spells are just as effective as prosperity spells or cleansing spells. Hexes and curses are also just as effective. One method I've heard of to curse someone involves doing everything you'd do to cast a "positive" spell, but in reverse and with a lot of protective elements added to protect the worker. Other methods are simpler and simply involve understanding the balance of the universe. Understanding "This is how it is" and there, the deed is done with no recoil on the worker. Deciding to cast a spell, ANY spell, is a matter of following your gut. If you know it's wrong, don't do it, if you know it's right, don’t let someone else’s moral compass stop you... that's silly.*


15. What books are good? -

*The ones that make sense and whose information can be substantiated through practice and other research. Take everything you read with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to historical information. There has, at least in the past, been a bad habit of pagan authors making up their own historical information that has nothing to do with reality. Beware of this.*


16. But isn't everyone supposed to use the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold law? -

*"An it harm none, do as ye will"? Everything you do will come back to you threefold? First of all, the Rede is only a Wiccan thing, though many people try to embrace it. In essence, it's the golden rule, but in wording, it can be hard to apply. Just about anything you do harms something in some way or another. Many pagans don't like or use the Rede and scoff when someone throws it in their face in an argument. How can anyone ever truly "harm none"? It's not the moral high ground. My own variation is "Consider the Consequences" and "Do I know better?" Always think through any action and consider every potential consequence you can possibly come up with before you do anything. Is it worth it or not? Does it feel right or wrong? If I do this, will I regret it? What's my gut telling me?
The threefold law seems excessive to many pagans. Isn't one bad consequence enough? I don't think energy multiplies like that. I think the threefold law is meant to remind us that our actions have consequences beyond ourselves. If we do harm, harm is part of our life, the life of the victim and the life of any innocent bystanders. If we help, we help others, ourselves and the world.*


17. Why do some people spell Magic with an extra K... it looks retarded!

(I shall leave this in the hands of Wikipedia)

"Magick is an alternative term for magic that was coined by Aleister Crowley to differentiate "the true science of the Magi from all its counterfeits". [citation needed] In the broadest sense, magick is any act performed in order to cause intentional change in reality in accordance with one's will. This term is spelled with a terminal "k" to differentiate it from other practices, such as stage magic. According to Crowley it should also be pronounced differently – mage-ick – though this pronunciation is now uncommon. The letter "k" is the 11th letter of the Latin alphabet; in numerology the number 11 represents hidden energies and thereby magick.
It should be noted that Aleister Crowley merely coined the spelling in modern times, as the spelling with a final 'k' has been around since ancient times and was the normal spelling at that time[citation needed]. Crowley simply 'resurrected' the word to distinguish it from stage magic (illusions and sleight of hand). The spelling has been adopted by some modern occultists and Neopagans."


18. I'm so persecute for being a witch! Will the burning times never end?

*So were the Jews. So were the Christians. (What did you think those lions were for in "Gladiator"? Christians are apperently as crunchy and good with ketchup as a witch is flamible.) Please be reminded that the "witch-hunts" and the inquisition took place mostly in Europe. They hunted, tortured and murdered people, most of whom were christians, for political reasons based on false accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship. Remember, Wicca wasn't even around then, so Wiccans weren't killed in witch-hunts. There were no witches in Salem, besides, they were hung or crushed, not burned. Society lost many wise people to early witch-hunts, not because of their witchcraft, but because of them posing a political threat, or even sometimes because the whole village was taking accidental overdoses of halucinagens through mouldy food!!
It's important not to get it stuck in your head that actual witches, like ourselves, were hunted down en-masse and murdered. Some, sure, but were real witches any more persecuted than Jews? (Haulocaust anyone?) What about Africans? (Ever heard of Slavery?) What about early Christians? (Heck, Jesus himself was persecuted to death!!) So you're not the only one. Humanity has some bad habits, don't make yourself a victim, especially if no one is actually hunting you.*




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Author: Scarlet