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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 79 - 9/29/2002
Have You Switched Pagan Paths?
Did you perhaps start out as a Wiccan and now follow a different Pagan or Heathen path/religion? Have you changed from self-identifying as a 'Witch' to something else? If you have changed how you self-identify under the Pagan/Heathen umbrella, why did you change? Did your beliefs change? Did the Pagan/Heathen community change? What do you think of folks who have switched? Is there currently a real shift into more diverse or selective Paths/Religions within the communities? Will Wicca remain the dominant Pagan religion that it now is? Why or why not?
| Reponses: There are 110 responses posted to this question.
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| WHAT A LONG, STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN... ||Sep 30th. at 9:34:33 am EDT|
|Ciarrai (Piscataway, NJ) ||Age: 35 - Email |
My oh my -- I remember this all too well! I decided to get a divorce & my family practically disowned me! We were all raised Roman Catholic -- not at all fire & brimstone -- but RC still the same. The majority of my family converted to some non-demonination demonination of Christianity which really didn't phase me much just as long as they didn't try to convert me too! Things were cool until I announced that I was getting a divorce. It was just awful; who can you count on when you can't count on your family -- even a little "I understand why you're doing this even though I don't agree w/ it" would have been fine. I never felt so alone in the world. Witchcraft as "a science" (a la Laurie Cabot almost!) was something that I had been interested in & researched since the earliest days of my adolescence. However, when I separated, I started to search different Christian paths. Nothing felt right -- I was still a Catholic at heart -- everything else just got stranger & stranger for me. Then I got involved in a full force study of Witchcraft -- history, theory, paths, etc. So much of what I read told me that I didn't need to throw the faith I was raised in completely out the window. For like minded people, I'm a Christo Pagan. For the ignorant, I'm a Cafeteria Catholic. The practice of Paganism is my strongest influence but there is so much history in the Church of Rome that I still appreciate. Appreciating and agreeing are two different things. That's why I practice alone. But I don't feel alone. Warmly embracing Paganism as a part of my life not only helped me to get through my divorce but actually started me on the path of getting my life back together.
May have been a long strange trip -- but at least now I'm enjoying the ride!
| Path ||Sep 30th. at 11:20:41 am EDT|
|Allison (Florida) ||Age: 40 - Email |
Rather than follow any one particular path, my eclectic path has evolved over 24 years. I spent 6 years purely studying every religion I could find (what else is a 10 year old child to do when there's no Pagan people to teach her)and adopted bits and pieces from each that suited me. I started with an encyclopaedia and looked up "religion" and just went from there. My parents tried to raise me as a catholic but by age 10 I knew that I was not going to get along in that belief system. Anyway, at age 17 I found a teacher and practised as a student for the next 5 years. Then I moved to Europe for 9 years and practised on my own ever since. I have always, and continue to, learn from people and cultures everywhere I go. So I have as a result, a very broad path that I walk. I think patience has paid off though. I do feel very balanced for it. Even now I continue to study avidly on a daily basis, learning all the time. In this religion I believe one is an eternal student. There's nobody who knows it ALL. I can't really change paths because I wouldn't know what that means.
| Diversity Is Good! ||Sep 30th. at 11:46:03 am EDT|
|Hearthstone (Michigan) ||Age: 40 - Email |
Like many people who choose a pagan spiritual path, I started out with the one with the most information available at the time--Wicca (or, more precisely, a paganism based in great part on Wicca). My first book was Starhawk's _Spiral Dance_. Even at that time, however, I did not feel comfortable with the term "Wiccan," preferring to think of myself as "pagan." Wiccan-based paganism fit in some ways, but not in others--my interest in magic was and is quite low, the central male-female polarity did not appeal to me, and the basic theology didn't really touch my heart. Still, it was what was there, and since most of my fellow pagans embraced some branch of this system it was easier to find a group to worship with in this system. And I think it's a good religion, one through which many people find great joy and transform their lives--it simply was not a good religion for me.
The big change for me, from a religion I was only fairly comfortable with to one that was a much closer fit, came when I became a polytheist--when I started to think of the gods as separate individuals rather than aspects of the God and Goddess. I'm not saying that one or the other way of thinking is right or wrong, since I certainly have no way of knowing! But I find it much easier to approach the gods as individuals rather than aspects--it's how I most naturally perceive them. From there it made sense to drop the other aspects of the Wiccan religion. I know polytheistic Wiccans and it works well for them, but it didn't for me--and, quite honestly, I am happier with a less intentionally magical religion.
This was made much easier, of course, by the growing number of non-Wiccan-based pagans--in part because it meant that dropping Wicca didn't mean dropping the pagan community. If I had become pagan today instead of eleven years ago, I doubt I would have tried so long to make Wicca work, and I think it's a wonderful thing that new pagans have such a wide range of religions to explore. I think there is, as you state above, a real shift into different non-Wiccan pagan religions, and I suspect that the main reason for this is because these different paths are much easier to find than they used to be, and people are moving toward those paths and religions that best suit them rather than staying with a well-known and popular path that may not be a perfect fit.
As to whether Wicca will remain the dominant pagan religion, as it is now, I can't say. Certainly as more pagan religions develop, more people who would have chosen Wicca otherwise will choose these paths instead. However, there is a lot of information available on the Wiccan-based paths, making it a very user-friendly religion, and that in itself will draw many new seekers--so I think it's likely that for the foreseeable future, Wicca and its variants will remain a "starter religion" for many people who later move off into other forms of paganism (and, of course, remain a home for others who do not). Until the other pagan religions grow and become more well-known, it will be hard to find information on them unless one is already a part of the pagan community.
As for me, specifically, I'm a semi-reconstructionist polytheist and have been for some time. :)
| The Spiral Path ||Sep 30th. at 12:07:31 pm EDT|
|Sunfell (Arkansas) ||Age: 42 - Email |
I, like many others here, started out in the late 70s/early 80s with the paltry selection of metaphysical books that were current or usable. Many have mentioned Starhawk, but I was also influenced by the 'hippie witches' who preceeded me- those mentioned in "Drawing Down the Moon", as well as Buckland, Valiente, the Farrars, and Z. Budapest. I also joined the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC).
I started out Wiccan, but as I have advanced down my Path, I outgrew it. Live is a series of endeavours, leading to revelation, insight, and growth. I learned, grew, and kept learning. I kept climbing the Spiral. I kept what was usable, and discarded what was irrelevent. This is the Path of the Eclectic, one which has been very rewarding.
I cannot really call myself Wiccan any more- and even the more generic Pagan is starting to fade back a bit. I left the costumes, theatric rituals, hardware and pantheons behind several years ago, and my practice has been honed to an incredible sharpness. It is also more powerful and immediate than ever, like it has been distilled. It is a wonderful feeling.
Today, I am a TechMage. It is a do-it-yourself Path. All books are its books. It incorporates elements of Ceremonial and Chaos Magick, Urban Shamanism, intuitive channeling, state of the art technology, old-school Hermetic mysticism, and good old fashioned Geek curiosity about how things tick. It isn't for everyone, has no clergy, and probably won't have a printed book because the data is always evolving.
Change is good, if you grow.
| In The Process ||Sep 30th. at 12:49:17 pm EDT|
|Myrdin Ravenheart (Marlboro) ||Age: 39 - Email |
After having been Wiccan foe a number of years, i have just started down the path of Druidry. I am currently studying the Druids of Ireland in the hopes of following their path.
| The Turns In The Path ||Sep 30th. at 12:56:26 pm EDT|
|Floering Desert (Reno, Nevada) ||Age: 36 - Email |
I view my walk through my spirituality the same way as I view a walk through my gardens. The path turns, vistas unflod, the the traveler discovers something new and delightful around earch turn. There are aspects and elements of such great diversity within neo-pagan traditions, that to not learn and incorporate elements of the things you discover is akin to turning aside from a gift freely give out of love from the gods themselves. You court stagnation and entrophy.
You could possibly feel as through changing paths is a sort of betrayal, I suppose. While I haven't actually changed my persception of myself or my practices, I have learned, and grown, a great deal. For me, paganism will always be my glowing light as far as my interpretation of spirituality goes. Whether or not it will be dominated by the teachings of Wicca, Shamanism or some other facet of the jewel of neo-paganism, only the gods know for certain. I can tell you, though, that neo-paganism delights in growth, learning, tolerance and the lack of stagnation. In this respect it will endure simply because it will not stand still in it's growth as so many other philosophies around the world have.
Walk the Path in light and love!
| Yes... Not Really... Um... Sort Of ;) ||Sep 30th. at 1:26:14 pm EDT|
|Accuracy (Dollar Bay, MI) ||Age: 21 - Email |
My beliefs have developed and changed over the years a lot, but recently I found that they have always fit a certain path. I didn't choose this path from reading anything, and in fact had no idea that it was my path... this path was Chaos Magic. I have been following it as long as I've been thinking for myself, and yet have changed my path within the bounds of it many times... hence my above answer ^^.
| Religion Divides,spirituality Unites. ||Sep 30th. at 3:00:19 pm EDT|
|Carlos (Tampa,Flordia) ||Age: 20 - Email |
I am going to make this simple.I'm not here to offend anyone,just making my voice heard.I have been studying shamanism for alittle while now.For those who know of shamanism,know that shamanism is not a "religion" but is a spiritual form.Since Shamanism does not define itself by religion,Shamanism can blend in with any religion,regardless of tradition.I once heard someone say,"religion divides,Spiriulaity unites."Shamanism also be the oldest form of any spirituality period of humanity,that says quite alot.The way I view witchcraft is like this.I see all these different traditions under the "wicca" path.Wicca is supposely the "religion of Witchcraft".Witchcraft itself is a spiritual practice.Witchcraft is Mother Natures gift to humanity.I just simply refer Wiccans as Witches for that is what they truly are.Regardless of what path or tradition we all may follow in life,remember,all the roads lead to the same destintation.Dont look for the differences bewteen different paths,looks for the simliarity.9 times out of 10,you will find that most earth based/pagan traditions have more in common than they do differently.Bless Be to all.
| Personal Growth ||Sep 30th. at 3:16:09 pm EDT|
|watrfae (Maryland) ||Age: 24 - Email - Web|
Personally my sense of religion, worship and deity has evovled through my reading, personal experiences and personal relationships. Studying the craft as a pre-teen and learning astrology/divination from my mother I labeled myself as a 'wiccan.' Then as I did more reading and worked with several covens I regarded myself as a celtic-pagan. Now that I work at women's spirituality workshops and am rediscovering my own wise-women lineage I might call myself a kitchen witch and pagan.
But these are all words that can barely describe the whole.
| I'd Call It Evolving More Than Switching. ||Sep 30th. at 5:07:15 pm EDT|
|Nightcloud (Minneapolis, MN USA) ||Age: 48 - Email |
Way back in 1972, when I started on this, most of the pagans I knew called themselves Witchs, the word Wicca hadn't been used to the extent it has come to be known today. There weren't any books on Wicca per se. There were books on Witchcraft, Astrology, Magic, theTarot, Metaphysics and a host of Eastern practices. I, like most folks, was in the searching phase, looking for that "something" that would make me say, "Oh, yeah! that's how it is," a light bulb moment if you will. I was looking for a way to open up new worlds of mind and spirit, to go beyond the place humans were at back then, for me, doing this without drugs was important. For a few years I was in order; a witch, a metaphysist, a catholic, (with occultist leanings) and an occultist. None of these things fit right though, they all lacked the personal relationship with deity. Finally, I became a witch that worshipped first Anubis, and then Apollon, about 1981-82 I added Dionysus as well.
By the time Wicca had become a much talked about religion, I'd already been dedicated and worshipping for many years. As more and more Wiccans came out of the broom closet, I started calling myself a Pagan, (yeah I did it to differentiate myself from Wiccans). Still I studied and read many of the books on Wicca, Drawing Down the Moon, Spiral Dance, almost everything written by Scott Cunningham, a couple by Raymond Buckland, as well as any thing else that seemed to be interesting. Those things that struck a chord somewhere in my heart and/or mind became incorporated into my personal system. A system which is based first on integrity with honor being of the highest value.
I've recently discovered a group of Hellenic Reconstructionists, many of their beliefs and thoughts seem to be much like my own. I've joined this group, however this does not mean that I will abandon those things I've come to enjoy in my religous life, not in the least, I will find more new things which is what I want and I'll add them to my personal system. Always growing, always evolving; this is the basis I think for our time in this life. I think this is the reason many people turn to any form of Paganism in the first place because there isn't one answer for everyone, religion and religous practice to me is like love or even like hate. I firmly think that there is something inside humans that drives them to seek that 'something' outside of themselves, outside of each other, fill some as yet un-named emotional niche. And like our ideas and acceptance of love and hate, religion also evolves, changes with the times, with circumstances, with social evolution and growth.
I think there is a very real increase in the number of paths/religions within the pagan community. I think the pagan community is changing, I believe this is a good thing. I think there will be growth pains, there always are. I'm hoping that as Pagans we will not fall into the traps that have plagued the Abrahamistic religions for so long. I think Wicca will continue to be an important part of the pagan community, if for no other reason than it's been here longer, it's been in the news and part of the collective conciousness of the US and other countries for quite a while. However, I think there is a definite growth in non-Wiccan paganism, and I see this as being a wonderful new decade of learning and further enlightenment among pagans.
Looking toward an ever brighting future,
| So Many Choices! ||Sep 30th. at 7:52:11 pm EDT|
|Storm's Feather (Russellville, Arkansas) ||Age: 16 - Email |
When i first started studying Wicca and Paganism, it was because i was unsure that what i knew what right. Magick wasn't my intent, but understanding was. I think that is where i turned to Reconstructuralism: Ásatrú, Celtic, Druidism, Hellenismos, and Kemetism Gods and Goddesses are my main focuses.
When i talk about Paganism, i usually refer to myself as a Witch, probably because it's an easier term for people to understand than Reconstructuralism.
I've changed since i've studied Paganism; now i understand why i've always felt Christians were wrong.
A few of my friends and colleagues are Wiccans, and more have open minds now that they understand a little more about it, but Christianity will remain dominate in my community, but not in my heart.
| No, I've Switch From Using The Term *Pagan* Tho ||Sep 30th. at 7:56:38 pm EDT|
|Mave (Oklahoma,USA) ||Age: 54 - Email |
I hid it for a long while. The only other occult practice was when my mother tried to make me a Catholic. Does that count?
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