Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
Article ID: 15328
Age Group: Adult
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Author: The Redneck Pagan
Posted: February 24th. 2013
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Let’s jump right into the stupidity… shall we?
7. Staying in my first group: This one I really cringe over because this happened less than a year ago. I include it as part of my new pagan list since it was the first group I had joined, a new experience for me. A little over a year ago I decided that I wanted to get more involved in the Pagan community, to be part of it and help build it. So a friend of mine and I set up a Pagan Coffee meet-up. It went well and I met some people who were working at forming a coven as part of an offshoot to a group initially founded in British Columbia.
They seemed nice enough, a little young and green, but who was I to judge that? I had never been in a Pagan group before and did not know the first thing about forming one. The one who was trying to form the Coven had just finished her First Degree training in Wicca and was about to start her Second Degree with an online training program. It seemed a little odd to me that one could get their Degrees via an online training program, but being in Central Alberta established covens are rather rare, especially away from the larger urban centers of Calgary and Edmonton.
At first things seemed to be okay; the young lady running the coven was rather inexperienced with leadership, but leadership is not something they teach in school. (And before I say anything else I want to emphasize that leadership is a SKILL; it is something you must learn. I have been learning the art of leadership for the past 17 years and I still have a ton of work to do. It is something you have to work at, to continue to learn and adapt. I think another 20 years and I might consider myself proficient at it. But a rant for another day…) Anyway, the young lady in question was only 23 (younger than myself) , had finished her high school degree, and was married with a child. We had similar ideas about community and practices so I figured it was a good fit for me. And at first it was, the group was off to a nice start and she and I started becoming good friends.
Unfortunately, I did not bank on a few things. For starters, she had never been in a leadership role, had worked jobs that did not hold much responsibility and as a stay-at-home mom she did not have much outside of the home for her self-identity. Being the high priestess became her entire identity. After three months, I was no longer talking to my friend any of the time; I was talking to the high priestess non-stop. Any time I tried to have a conversation with her it immediately became a conversation about the coven and the temple. When my work life, personal life and youth organization commitments became a bit heavy and I needed to back down from the coven a bit she tried to task me with more and more things to do. I was getting burned out and fast. I had lost a friend and was starting to feel hurt.
Her lack of leadership experience also meant that when the group started to expand she did not tolerate any form of competition, real or perceived. When a few people came to public rituals who were not Wiccan (as she was) she would tell them not to talk about their own beliefs (which were still Pagan) . Anytime something different than her vision of the group came up she became very resistant and dismissive. Small incidents became blown well out of proportion and problems within the Coven were not handled in a timely matter.
By the time I left I was drained, emotionally and spiritually. I personally felt that the time and commitment I had put in had been swept aside. It felt as if none of my ideas or input mattered anymore, it felt that it was all about the High Priestess. I had tried to approach her on this topic a few times but she would rapidly change the topic. Now obviously this is only my side of the story, and I am sure I made mistakes in communication and in expressing myself. I am sure that there were other mistakes that I made, but am still a little too close to the situation to objectively see them at this time.
At the end of the day, the group was no longer healthy for me and I should have left earlier. My own spiritual, mental and physical health had been compromised and at the end of the journey my resentfulness made me a difficult person to be around and did not help the group. I was also mourning the loss of a friendship and was very angry with the person that my former friend had become. Since then a mutual friend has told me that the group has grown and I wish them the very best in the future.
6. Not putting the Athame down: this one is one I am very embarrassed about. This one happened about two or three years into my practice. It was Beltaine and I had reached a point in my life when I desired to share my life with a partner, to have somebody to spend the ups and downs with. I wanted to gaze into his eyes, to tell him how much he meant, and have him say the same to me. In short, I wanted to find somebody to fall in love with (my husband just leaned over, read the last line and said, “blah… mush”, Love You Honey!) .
Having decided this about a month prior to Beltaine I felt that would be the perfect time for me to perform a spell, to petition the universe to help me find love. I made a list of the attributes I wanted in a mate (minds out of the gutter, please. I was looking for someone with a similar sense of humor as me, who loved to camp, would accept my work with the Youth group, had a spirituality similar to, etc.) , I planned it out well, tracked the weather to make sure I would not get caught in a storm outside, make sure that it was on a good day, that I had all my herbs and candles at the ready. The night of the spell, it started to rain a little, then it rained some more, and then it poured! So I set up my altar and cast indoors.
The ritual and spell went well! No mishaps, no fires, no plumes of smoke wafting through the house. I had empowered a red and a pink candle as part of my spell and left them to burn down on my altar when I had wrapped the spell up. In the morning I cleaned up the altar and noticed that some red wax had gotten stuck to my Athame. I put all my other supplies away, placed the wax remnants in a bag to burry later, put the altar cloth in the washing machine, and finally tackled the waxy Athame.
The wax did not want to come off. I had to scrape like crazy at it. My one dog was at the groomers for the day and the other was snoozing on my bed when the doorbell went off. Scared the tar out of the dog, and out of me! He went crazy and began barking like a lunatic! In frustration I grabbed the dog to hush him and ran up the stairs. I threw the door open to greet a middle-aged woman dressed very nicely (like suit jacket and skirt nice) and holding a Watchtower publication (for those unfamiliar with it that is the Jehovah’s Witness publication) . I felt a little out of place at that moment since I was wearing a pair of old shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top.
“Hi, can I help you”
“Ummm…. I am sorry… I… think I have… the wrong house. Yes the wrong house. Pardon me”, she stammered and then almost ran down the walkway.
“Crazy lady at my door; awesome” I said, and shut the door.
I turned around to go downstairs when it hit me… I opened the door in a rather revealing tank top, while I was still wearing my Pentacle necklace. I was holding a small animal in my one hand… and a knife with a red substance in my other hand... sh*t. I had just scared the crap out of the Jehovah’s Witness lady. Actually scared is the wrong word. After that day, we had lots of Jehovah’s Witnesses coming down the street and they would actually get off the sidewalk in front of our house to get to the next house. Some even crossed the street, walked past our house and then came back to the next-door neighbor’s house. I had certainly made an impression.
On the surface it was very funny… and very wrong. This poor woman might have annoyed me, but she was out there, doing what she was doing because she truly believed she was helping, that what she was doing the right thing, and while I may not agree with her, I respect that, and her right to believe in what she will. Had I not had the Athame and the dog in my hands I could have easily said, “No thank you”, and shut the door. She could have gone on her way, with no harm to her. My lack of thinking and planning in this case caused harm and unnecessary fear, and would not have helped the case that Pagans are normal people.
5. Arguing with Christians: I think this one we all do at some point or another. As I said in a prior post, Christians seem to get a really bad rap in the pagan community and I am guilty of this. Some of the earlier books I read, and some of the online forums I was a part of, were really bad about this. There were the stories of the ‘burning times’, that the Catholic Church stomped out the pagan religion, persecuted the midwives, etc. Christians in a new pagan’s world are basically evil!
I think some of this is part of the process of separating oneself from your previous faith. Many Pagans I have talked to, and myself, tried really hard to believe in the faith of their childhood (and all I have talked to were Christians or raised in a Christian family) . So when we first come to Paganism we feel this overwhelming need to totally separate ourselves from the former belief system.
We also seem to get this desire to show the world that our newfound faith is just as valid and perhaps even better than the one we left behind. To that end some of us, and I cringe to admit that I am included in this, will engage in long conversations over which path is better. Now we don’t phrase it as such, of course not, that would be rude! But we do have that attitude.
I remember one person in particular; we had known each other when we were younger and part of the same youth group. He “aged out” of the program and moved on and I finished my time. Years later, when I came to volunteer with the youth program again, he was already working there. Being on somewhat friendly terms we talked and discovered that while I had embraced the Pagan path, he had devoted himself to a very Biblical Christian Path.
Our superior officers knew that we had worked together in the past and we were on friendly terms. The level this person was working with had 50 kids in it, so he needed help and I needed hands on training. They placed us working together so we ended up spending lots of time outside of the youth group, working on planning and coordinating activities for the youth group. We were rather effective as a team, having worked together in the past, however after our work was done we would have long discussions.
Actually “discussions” is not quite the right word for the conversations we had. They were very civilized and polite arguments. We spent umpteen hours talking about how our chosen spiritual path had made us a better person, why the path was so great, what historical facts supported our faith, different sciences that proved our path was correct. While we were both talking, I don’t think either of us was listening to the other very well. He was rather determined to “save me”, and I was determined to prove to him that my path was a good and valid one. And in the end neither of us proved anything.
You see, I knew I was not going to change his mind, so why was I bothering? What a waste of time. When arguing over who is superior, nobody wins. And arguing over whom is a more spiritual person with the better path… well, think about how that last line made you feel. I know when I re-read it I got a sense of dread and revulsion and was actually rather ashamed.
His path has brought him inner peace, happiness and has helped him create a better life for himself. That is awesome and all that matters. My path has brought me the same thing, which is also awesome. And at the end of the day that is all that matters. That is what a spiritual path is supposed to do and it is a very personal thing. My path is not identical to my husband’s path and if we ever have children they will have their own path. No two people are the same and their paths will be their own. It took me a long time to learn and be at peace with that.
(Stay tuned for Part 3!)
The Redneck Pagan
Location: Alberta, Alberta
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