Friday, November 13, 2009

What makes a pagan?

I was listening to episodes of the Wigglian Way that I had missed, and I do have a bit of an obsession with them as they are my favorite pagan podcast.  It was episode 55 I believe, and they were discussing what makes someone 'Wiccan'.  I think this is an interesting topic not just for classifying Wiccans but for Pagans in general.  I refer to myself under the umbrella term 'Pagan' but it's well accepted amonst my friends that when I use this term it is simply in reference to my 'non-Christian' belief system.
The Neo-Pagan movement is a very real thing though, and with the 80s introduction of 'pick and choose' Neo-Wicca for the masses it becomes difficult to describe what people believe. 

Disclaimer: The following is my opinion.

Personally, I agree with the Wigglians in that I believe that Wicca is a term referencing a religion with specific initiatory traditions (Alexandrian, British Traditional, Gardnerian, etc.), NOT Eclectic.  'Eclectic' is NOT a tradition, it's the creation of a personal path but isn't Wicca in the sense that you were initiated into this tradition by people you studied under (unless your tradition was originally a form of eclecticism that developed into a trad).  From my understanding (and feel free to contradict me) 'eclectic wicca' typically deals with self dedication which, in the words of the Wigglians, is "between you and your gods".

I do have eclectic friends, and I love them all so much... I am a witch and I don't characterise my spirituality because it really doesn't fall into categories.  I used to characterise myself as Eclectic, now I just call myself a Witch or a Pagan (in the non-christian sense of course).

I'd love to hear everyone's opinions (if more than a whole 2 people read my blog...).

Happy Travels!

Oh, if anyone was curious: I resolved the issue that inspired my "I Am Afraid" post, it saddened me to an extent because he (the man I was eliminating from my life) has been making really positive changes in his life.  For the first time he sincerely apologized to me and recognized that he overreacted a lot over the course of our time together.  I know it will be for the best though, and the two of us parted on a good note knowing that our doors remain open for one another.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Am Afraid

I am afraid.  Maybe if I say it out loud and type it plainly then I can master my fear.  Yet I still feel afraid.  I'm not afraid for my physical well-being in the sense that I'm afraid I'm going to get shot or raped or anything, but a change needs to me made in my life that I'm terrified of making.

This really comes out because I had a long talk with a friend who I haven't really been in contact with.  She's exploring various aspects of Paganism and Wicca, but that really isn't the point.  The point is: the girl has had a lot of experiences I haven't.  Right now I'm trying to decide how best to go about cutting all ties with a person who I've been involved with for well over a year now.  And I'm positively terrified.

People have no right to control who I am, who I see/associate with or what I do.  He has this peculiar power over me that I give (or rather, gave) him for some odd reason.  I feel like now is the time (because I've been putting it off) to make the decision to cut ties and throw myself into it wholly.  Being a wuss and "thinking we can still be friends" or "thinking I can have a relationship with someone else while he's in my life" is flat out dumb and utterly impossible.

Why do I feel the need to dedicate time and energy to a person who gives me so little in return?  Why have I devoted myself to someone who seems to have so little affection for me?  I'm not worthless and I shouldn't have to defend myself on the most basic of issues.  Yet I am still gripped by fear, and I hope that I can rally the courage to make this decision.  I have confidence in the wisdom of those wiser than me and in my growing feelings of dissatisfaction.  The fear lingers, and I hope to soon master it.

So I 've taken some time to collect myself and think about how I've been feeling.  Fear is a really gripping emotion that I don't often feel and I think that, to an extent, magical practice or spirituality can be a great source of stability and comfort.

That is not to say that magic can allay all of our fears and make the world all sunshine and rainbows, as any semi-experienced witch will tell you.  Magic can, however, ground us deeply and provide a means through which we can seek the courage to overcome our fears.  In this respect it is like any belief system or practice... but extremely meaningful to the people who are a part of it.

Having the support of my friends and family is extremely important, and having that magical support is just an added bonus.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A final update on Iolair's situation and my comments.

Well, I think Iolair's situation has been resolved.  He found out a few days ago that it was indeed security who confiscated his things, and they had attempted to contact him* prior to entering his dorm room.  That answers that question and did something to allay some of his fears of discrimination from the people he lives with.  Evidently he has tried to talk to the official security folks at his school and they've been quite rude, but that's another issue.

Now for my comments.  First, the whole situation could have been avoided if he hadn't had those things in his room.  (Personally, I think the athame was really the trigger for the whole thing, and the burning...)  I wouldn't have a lot of those things in my room if I lived in college housing.  Perhaps I'd have some crystals and an unlit pillar candle, but no incense or athame.  So maybe him having all those things that weren't allowed in his room wasn't in the best judgment... Maybe this whole deal happened to teach him a lesson. I don't really know.

At least it's over and his things have been returned.  It was the source of headaches and worry, but now that it's over he can go back to worrying about more important things, like school.

* The so-called 'attempt' was evidently someone knocking on his door once when he wasn't in his dorm room.  This should not really be considered an attempt to inform him of the intentions of the security staff.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A shout-out to my favorite pagan podcast...

I'd just like to take a moment to recognize my favorite pagan podcast: The Wigglian Way. If you've never listened to the Wigglian Way, I would highly recommend it. Sparrow and Mojo do a fabulous show that covers a whole host of topics and have a really wide variety of segments including nice 101 segments and other really informative and extremely entertaining bits.

The inspiration for this post comes from their most recent episode which was put out about a week and a half before Samhain and focused on the Crone aspect of the goddess. Sparrow read some absolutely beautiful poetry and presented basic information about the crone. She shared some own aspects of her life as well and it was a show that really spoke to me for a number of reasons. Mojo also talked about the other, darker aspects of the Crone and gave his opinions on the topic. It was a really nice episode that gave me lots of ideas for further incorporating the crone into my practice, especially during the times of the year when the crone aspect of the goddess dominates.

All of the episodes of the Wigglian Way have some light-heartedness, whatever the topic may be and that's one of the reasons I love the show so much. The fact that two people have a great dynamic host the show makes it unique and really engaging, perhaps more so than other podcasts with a single host (but that's all a matter of personal opinion).

I highly recommend the podcast and would really, again, encourage everyone to check it out!

The Wigglian Way Pagan Podcast

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Troubling events and practicing witchcraft at a university.

I received some troubling news this morning from my dear friend Iolair regarding his personal possessions in his dorm room at his University. He sent me a rather startling text message this afternoon saying that he suspected his University of going into his dorm room and taking some of his things, specifically his candles, smudge stick, incense and ritual athame. He also said that it seemed as though his books and tarot cards had been disturbed, though none of them seemed to be missing.

Let me first preface this by saying, that we don't yet know for sure whether or not these actions were taken by the University or by students. I will also say that the burning of candles/incense is expressly prohibited in the housing policy of his University. However, to my knowledge his RA has said to him in the past that storing these things in his room was not a violation of the policy. The athame, as a blade, is more likely than not prohibited, but it isn't as though he leaves it lying out in plain sight (and anyone who knows anything about paganism knows that a ritual athame is typically not used for anything violent).

It still isn't clear whether or not the University has confiscated his things or not, and I should get a call from him sometime in the nest few days, but this incident brings up important topics for anyone practicing witchcraft at a University, particularly in University or College Housing.

First, knowledge of your University's housing policy is extremely important. Most universities don't allow the burning of candles or incense in dorm rooms, though having these things typically isn't against the rules as long as they aren't lit. Ritual blades (athames, bolines or swords) tend to be prohibited because they are viewed by some as weapons. Knowing these policies and acting in accordance with them can typically prevent most issues.

Discrimination is something else that can be encountered at a university, especially if that school is small or has a decided religious affiliation. Religious affiliation does not mean that the University is discriminatory, but that it can attract a more religiously homogeneous group of people, some of whom may discriminate against someone with a less-mainstream belief system. All colleges have policies regarding discrimination based of religion and it is also valuable to be familiar with these policies so that if discrimination occurs it can be dealt with in an official capacity.

These are just some of the issues that can come up when you're a witch attending and living at college. College Wicca is a great website with tons of information about all sorts of other topics pertaining to practicing Wicca (or other types of Pagan traditions and witchcraft) at college. The site hasn't been updated in a while but it's still a good tool for current and prospective college Pagans and I think it has a somewhat active forum.

Living in college housing isn't too restrictive when it comes to practicing witchcraft. I attended a small state college in Southern Ohio my freshman year and there was a very active community of college pagans, and it's fairly easy to make do without candles and some ritual tools in a dorm (or dorm-ish) environment. Even if there isn't an official university-backed pagan group, there tend to be some fairly open people (who aren't necessarily pagan) everywhere who can form a useful support system in college life.

Bottom line, it's not totally hopeless to be a witch at college, and many people will attest to that. And I should be back with an update on Iolair's situation fairly soon, with some concrete info and a summary of his University's response.

Until then,


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Samhain events and the whirlwhind that was my Halloween!

I love Halloween. It's as simple as that; black cats, witches, and the feeling of magic all around make Halloween by absolute favorite holiday. Naturally then, Samhain would be my favorite Sabat and this year it was fantastic! The actual day itself was uber-busy (yes, uber). My best friend all through high school who I recently re-connected with drove to our home town for the weekend. Then I drove there to pick him up and carted him back to my college town. (By the way, big college towns are fantastic on Halloween and we saw some amazing costumes when we walked around downtown...) Had the ritual at my off-campus apartment and it was phenominal.

The ritual itself was fairly basic, and since I'm way too lazy to type out a step by step description of the actual ritual, you can read about it on Iolair's new blog With My Lantern Held Aloft. The link for his Samhain entry is here. I'd like to point out with pride that the whole concept for the title of his new blog came from our Samahin experience this year. We both love walking around at night in cloaks with lanterns as light sources....

/shameless promotion of a friends new blog

Anywho, I had a really fantastic Samhain, which marks a shift in my life back to the person I should be. I've begun to disassociate myself from the people who made my life agonizingly stressful and have started to reconnect with people I care deeply for who have welcomed me back with open arms. And isn't that just a great way to mark the new year?