However, sometimes it can be confusing, especially when you feel like you're starting over alone. If you live in an area with little to no Pagan Community or if your friends and family are non-supportive, it can feel like a rather uphill battle. But I want you to know, you're not alone! In fact, depending on the source estimates and polls show the ever growing number of Pagans in the US at somewhere around 1.2 Million, which is right around 5% of the population. Similar numbers are showing up through the UK, Canada and Australia. Which is WAY up from the less than 1% which was estimated just 35 years ago. And thanks to the internet, finding them is easier than ever. If you haven't yet, wonder on over to WitchVox and run a search for people or groups in your area. You may be surprised to find someone closer to you than you think.
The internet has become one of the biggest assets to the Pagan Community, allowing information to reach the hands of millions of individuals who may not otherwise have access. Unfortunately though, not all of the information on the internet is factual. In fact, not all of the information held within some of the most popular Pagan books is completely factual. It is for this reason that I implore you NOT to simply accept things as they are written. Instead, take ALL things you read with a grain of salt. Remember that because there is no overseeing governing body or official texts ruling over Paganism as a while, there are many things which are left up to opinion, and many others which are simply put down to personal choice. And of course, that is the blessing of being able to fulfill one's own spirituality, isn't it. We get to pick and choose to some degree what does or doesn't fit for us.
There are a few sites, blogs, pages and "channels" I would like to recommend however. These are NOT the end all be all of Pagan sites and you will no doubt explore and discover a great number more as you move ahead. These are, simply, the sites which I feel have the ability to give you sound (for the most part) and well written information and advice.
- One Witch's Wonderland is MY Facebook Page. We have a lot of information in our "Albums" and always welcome questions!
- Pagan's Path has a great wealth of information on numerous topics. Her articles are written in a way that is highly informational while being understandable even to the newest of beginners.
- About.com's Pagan/Wicca area has a HUGE amount of information all written in blog form. Patti covers just about any subject you may be interested in. She also has some great email "classes" available. However, I do feel she is slightly more conservative than I wish she were, especially when it comes to young people.
- Youtube Channels by: TipToe Chick, The Shoe Whisperer, and CharmingPixieFlora are no longer posting new videos, BUT their old videos are invaluable. I have downloaded most of them to my PC so that I don't risk losing them if they ever decide to remove the channels altogether.
- Active Youtube Channels to "subscribe to" include: Pagyptsian, LadyGraveDancer, The Pagan Perspective and Laura Daligan all of whom post on a regular basis and cover a wide amount of topics.
Remember that occasionally you will come across an opinion or information that doesn't quit mesh with what you believe (or know) to be true, but it's not because they are attempting to put mis-information out there. Instead, they are speaking from the perspective of their own path. Some are more conservative, ritualistic and historically anal than others. On the flip side, some are more willy-nilly, hippie-dippie, and free spirited than others. Whatever speaks to you is up to you and perfectly acceptable, just remember that whatever speaks to them is perfectly acceptable as well. You will find however, that there are those in the Pagan Community who are less than open minded when it comes to what they do and don't see as acceptable or "correct." Remember this though, there is NO such thing as "right" or "wrong" ways to explore or express your spirituality and/or faith. And just because everyone else is doing something, doesn't mean you have to.
Over all the years that I've studied and practiced, I have been told everything from the widely accepted (ex. "You can not be Christian and a Witch") to the rather odd (ex. "Pagans HAVE to be vegan.") and have happily (and loudly) argued them all. Here are some truths that you need to know:
- Race, Culture, Gender, Sexuality, Political Alignment and/or Religious Background do NOT limit anyone from being Pagan. There ARE however, sects, groups and covens/groves which limit official membership based on these things.
- You do NOT have to be a Witch in order to be Pagan, although a great deal of Pagans are witches. And You do NOT have to be Pagan to be a Witch. Witches exist in EVERY religious group on the planet in one form or another, and by many names & titles.
- You CAN be a Solitary Pagan/Witch. Some individuals believe you "must" be a part of a coven, grove or other group in order to be a "real Pagan." This simply isn't true! But again, some sects within Paganism do require group membership.
- What you eat, wear and fashion your home with have NO bearing on whether or not you are Pagan. Although as you grow in your spirituality you may discover that your attitudes towards things like animal testing, wearing fur or leather and possibly eating meat may change. This is okay, so long as your reasons are your own and you aren't making these changes simply to "fit in" with what others say you should be doing.
Remember too, that once you openly take the title of "Pagan" or "Witch" or whatever title you choose for yourself, you are representing us all! Due to the fact that most people do not know (or don't know that they know) a great many Pagans, the few that they do encounter through their lives will shape the view they hold for all of us. Not just on a faith or spiritual level either. If you are generally a good person, that will come to be how they believe all Pagans to be. Conversely, if you are not, they will also equate that with what they believe all Pagans to be as well. We see this phenomenon working full on in the public view of Islam today. After it became public knowledge that those who were involved in 9/11 were Muslims, ALL Muslims became targets of hate and anger. Why? Because those are targeting them don't know anything about Muslims besides their involvement in 9/11. I often wonder, if those men had known how their actions would affect their own people and their own faith, if they would have altered their plans... But hind sight is 20/20. So rather than setting a poor example, as these men did, and later wishing you hadn't, it's generally a good idea to at least attempt to set the positive example in the first place.
Speaking of examples, please do us all a favor and look further than Hollywood when it comes to getting your own. While movies like The Craft and Practical Magic have done a good bit at helping bring Paganism and Wiccan in to the mainstream, they are fictional and general exaggerations. You will not be bringing people back to life, walking in and out of mirrors or calling lightening out of the sky. There ARE some minor aspects of these films which are based in reality. Some Witches/Pagans DO choose to dance nude at Sabbat & Esbat celebrations. Chanting IS a common practice. And gardening tends to be a hugely popular past time for many Pagans & Witches. Beyond that (and possibly a few other small points here & there) it's pure fiction. The films (books & shows too) are very inspiring to many of us. I LOVE Practical Magic, and watch Charmed at least a few times a week. But they are NOT a good example of who we are or what we do. **There is ONE general exception to this rule, in MY opinion. That is Hallmark's Good Witch series. If is the ONLY movie series which presents Witches as we are - and you will see absolutely no fantastic "magick" or "witchcraft" in these movies, which is what makes them so wonderful.
Also, there is this idea that you can't be Pagan or a Witch if you aren't "Goth" or a "Hippie." While I have moments where I fit in to both of those style categories, the fact is you can dress and appear any way you choose. I know bleach blonde, name brand "mall rat" Pagans and I know "Goths" with purple hair, gauged ears and 75 tats that are Pagans too... And I know everything between - teachers, lawyers, doctors, activists, stay home soccer moms and anything else you can think of. So don't feel like you're "less" Pagan because you don't have the cash to get all your clothes from The Pyramid Collection or Hot Topic. You're just as Pagan in a pair of jeans as you are in a wrap dress as you are in full on Ren. Fest wear... Just be who you are and don't worry about things as silly as appearance.
I am certain you have many questions, and you may even be very unsure of whether or not this is the path you are meant to be on. If you are coming from a strict religious order, you may even have fear that you are making a good choice. Many who come to Paganism from a background in Christianity most of all have a great deal of fear that their new faith or practice is going to land them in Hell upon their death. I would ask you however, if that is what you truly believe, why are you attempting to convert in the first place. As much as I love my faith and love the Pagan community, if it's not right for you, nothing can make it so.
Pagans do not preach or attempt to convert others. However, you will find that just about all Pagans are happy to share their faith and/or answer questions when asked. You won't be pressured or pushed to join a coven, instead, with few exceptions your questions will be answered earnestly and honestly. You should remember though, that because Paganism encourages individual spirituality and growth, someone else's answers might not fit your needs or ideals. So don't be afraid to ask, but also don't feel obligated to completely agree with the answer you get.
This path, however you define it, is a long one. No matter if you've been on it for 2 days, 2 years or 2 decades, there is much to learn. Take your time, work at your own pace and DO NOT allow anyone else's path to dictate your own. If you keep an open mind, keep moving forward and dedicate yourself to growth and spiritual fulfillment, you'll be just fine.
At the end of the day, Paganism is about fulfilling yourself and your path. Not following others, not fitting in to a group and certainly not living in a way that will make others happy while falling short of your own goals. Paganism is about finding harmony in the world and in yourself. And so long as you're doing that, there's nothing else to worry about.
If you take just ONE piece of advice from me, make it this -
Keep your mind OPEN & NEVER lock an idea out simply because of what others may think. Explore EVERYTHING! Learn the truth and use it to grow. Be diligent and honest to yourself, and if you do this, everything else will fall in to place!