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Pagans, Back To Basics

Author: Emeleth
Posted: September 14th. 2008
Times Viewed: 4,749

Can you still be a Witch if you can’t afford the “proper” ingredients for spell working? Can you still be Pagan if you cannot afford the gas to go to festivals or coven gatherings? Does your connection to the Earth and the divine depend upon the trappings of the practice? Or are you really “Pagan” and resourceful enough to use what the Universe presents to you?

The word “pagan” comes from the old Latin meaning “country folk.” Neopagans, and let’s face it we all are no matter how much we want to argue that our Tradition has roots in Ancient times, use the tools we do for our rituals and ceremonies because those were the common household items available to country folk throughout history. Brooms, simple knives, herbs, candles, all of these were things that were simply there in most any peasant household. Not only were they so common as not to arouse suspicion from Inquisitors, but they were cheap.

How have we come from using simply items that were just lying around the house to an entire subculture that feels obligated to spend our excess cash on trappings that are no longer so common in this age of technology? We flip a switch instead of lighting a candle in order to light our homes.

Now candles are sold as luxury items, scented to perfection to add ambiance instead of simply to bring light. In more prosperous times this might actually be advantageous to most Pagans. I found a scrumptious blue candle that smelled of suede and sandalwood for “only” ten dollars. It would have been the perfect thing to enhance my evening meditations, calming after a long day’s work.

But with the rising costs of basics like gas and food, I had to set this wonderful candle back on the store shelf after a few moments of inhaling its blissful smell. I went home that evening and meditated on the memory of that fine scent mingled with a soothing shade of denim blue.

And that is only one example. Last weekend there were a multitude of Beltane gatherings all over the region. I really felt the desire to go, to get together with others who reverence the Earth and the Goddess the way I do. But financially, there was simply no way to make it happen. And that was the story for several others whom I know. We were faced with the decision of whether to spend the money, for gas alone not to mention entrance fees, or to keep to our already stretched budgets and remain closer to home.

I had to pass on the Beltane festival scene this time, and opted instead to get together for dinner with a few friends in town. It was not the wondrous spiritual experience that a large ritual might have been, but it was fun because we were together. We talked about Pagan issues, like how the economy is affecting our community as a whole.

Another possible solution would be to carpool to gatherings. I’m sure that many people have already begun to share rides with their friends or coven mates when traveling to distant events. But what about facilitating a means for those who might not know anyone with whom they could catch a ride to find one. Most Pagan events have an informational website advertising their gathering and giving pertinent information. That would be the perfect place to list ways of networking so that rides and travel expenses might be shared.

So what is a Witch to do when the way we have been expressing our spirituality has to be altered because of economic reasons? We do what our people have always done throughout the ages—we adapt. We figure out that intent is more important in spell work than exact ingredients.

For example, a spell may call for copal but I know that I can use common cinnamon like what I have in my kitchen and do just as well with it. And I have a cheap steak knife with a white plastic handle that has been my boline for well over a decade. Trust me; the gods know the economy stinks. I really don’t think that we get a penalty for not following the exact recipe from a book written by someone who is getting a bigger royalty check than we are.

And what if you can’t afford to keep buying more books? This tragedy, more than most, is a tough one for me. I have instead been compiling my own grimoire, or magical journal if you don’t think you’re up to creating something quite so fancy. A basic notebook will suffice, or you can use that limited book fund to purchase a blank journal.

I am lucky in that I have a close friend who is a bookbinder, and he has made me a very lovely volume that I am putting to just this use. And really, this was how the knowledge that we have now about pagan practices from days of old was preserved, through personal journals and word of mouth.

Write down your own personal experiences, spell ingredient substitutions and the kind of results you had, alternative ways of using what is readily available to continue on your spiritual path. Who knows, maybe it will be something the next generation of Witches will find that helps them to learn and grow.

And what if you really feel the need to learn from what others have to say, if you’re still new and learning or experienced but just want to get more information? There is the possibility of sharing and exchanging books among fellow Pagans in your area. Not only does this share information, but also it presents an opportunity to get together with others, maybe even discuss the books you have shared. Pooling our literary resources can be a very community-building experience.

Even the cost of food has got you down these days? Is it difficult to stick to a diet that is healthy and respects the Earth because organic produce, or even rice, is becoming so expensive due to the cost to transport it to the stores? Less than a century ago our foremothers planted “Victory Gardens” during time of war and the economic hardship it brought. These were small gardens in their own backyards where they grew food for their families and neighbors.

So what about a “Gaia Garden” to grow fresh food for our own? Plant simple things like tomatoes, green beans, pumpkins or squash that will supplement your groceries and help keep costs down. We are supposed to be worshippers of Nature after all. And I personally think it is a sad day when we see Pagans who are afraid to get their hands dirty with the soil of the growing Earth.

Ah, but so many of us live in apartments or rental homes where we are either not allowed to go digging up the yard or simply have no yard to dig up. This is where friends, covens, and whole communities come together. Find the person who has the backyard that they can devote to a Gaia Garden, and then make it a group effort to plant, tend, and harvest it. I will be growing basil and dill in flowerpots on my friend’s back patio this summer.

The act of cultivating one’s own food brings us back to the roots (was that a pun?) of our faith and craft. This truly is a golden opportunity that many of us “City Witches” might otherwise miss to witness first hand the growing cycles of Nature. And what a harvest festival that will be when a community comes together to enjoy the delicious nourishment that they have tended with their own hands.

Ride a bike or walk whenever possible, it saves money and keeps you fit. But it also fends off road rage and allows time to experience the natural world. Even in a city there are trees, birds, wind, and seasonal changes that we often miss when caught in traffic. And try opening windows if the weather is not too extreme instead of cranking up an air conditioner.

You’ll not only save on your electric bill, but you’ll feel closer to the natural world because the smell of the breeze will bring it into your very lungs. We have all become spoiled by our human-created world of technological wonders, many of which in turn are killing our planet. In all practicality, can we really afford to continue doing so?

Can we call ourselves practitioners of a “nature-based religion” and still let our own lives continue to abuse our Mother Earth? The Universe has a way of giving us cues when we need them, and this economic crisis seems to be a huge cosmic wake-up call.

What about those people who have been making a living from running occult shops and “witch marts”? How does this need to cut back on our purchases of ritualistic extras affect them? Only too harshly I’m afraid. As we see the trend of a decline in our spending on these items like crystal pendants and expensive scented candles, it is more important than ever to try to keep what money we do spend on such things local and in the hands of fellow Pagans and Withes in our own area. It’s sad really.

Who of us has not flirted with the idea of quitting their job at the office and opening up a little shop where all their pagan neighbors and friends come by to purchase books and supplies while chatting or attending a seminar in a completely pagan-friendly environment?

This is just another reason for our communities to work together to make sure we all make it through these difficult times. Support local shops if you can. Or if they have to close their doors, be supportive of the shop owners and employees in helping them find other means of supporting themselves.

Maybe you can help them find another job. Maybe you can lend simply lend an extra set of hands if they decide to run their business out of their own home. Maybe you can bring them some delicious vegetables from your coven’s Gaia Garden.

This is how villages, communities, and families used to live and survive before the industrial revolution. This can be how we live our lives again now. And is it really such a hardship to work together, to get back to a personal working relationship with our planet and the living forces of Nature?

For a Pagan it shouldn’t be.

Copyright: (c) 2008 Emeleth



Location: Akron, Ohio

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