Delving Deeper and Moving Past 101
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Article ID: 13437
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Nikki M
Posted: July 26th. 2009
Times Viewed: 3,357
Journey to any mainstream bookstore, or occult shop for that matter, and you're sure to be barraged with titles introducing you to the wonderful world of Witchcraft or Wicca all for the low-low price of 19.95. Many, quite naturally, will go for the thickest book hoping to find that secret key to unlocking their inner potential as magical practitioners, but often are met with grave disappointment.
Books touting new and “progressive” techniques are nothing more then rehashes of old information published with newer, glossier, more magical looking covers; candle colors, an herb glossary, something on minerals, and a bit on the Sabbats. The understanding that a) you're looking for the very basic and b) you're self-initiating into Neo-Wiccan is the main assumption pumped out by the leading Pagan publisher and in the interim the community suffers, as more substantial information is not readily available.
There are two scenarios, of many, that I have seen this trend lead to:
a) Spiritual Apathy- America is a “ready made” country and “silver platter” culture. We want things handed to us, quickly and with fries if you please. Many don't have the “time” or the “energy” to go searching for extra resources, and so, come to a grinding halt in their spiritual development. This creates a huge gap in the community between the “have” and “have-nots” as far as knowledge goes and often the “haves” do not want to spoon feed someone they feel can do the leg work themselves, while the “have-nots” feel robbed of being able to “connect” with people they feel SHOULD be their teachers.
b) Spiritual Snobbery- It's not so much the belief that your religion is better then someone else's due to a perception of “age” or “ancient-ness” but feeling as if you path is better and more valid because you actually put “work” into it. It's like saying “I'm more pagan than thou, because I doth have the most books and no padawan, thou canst borrow from mine library.” Possible leaders in the community are confronted with the sweet bitterness of having to have spent hours pouring over texts, weeks waiting for packages, and years of devotion- when some upstart tart sashays up expecting “all ur family secretz” the first time they encounter you on a pagan forum.
So how can these two issues be reconciled? Aside from petitioning publishers to put out new, more advanced material- the other advice I can offer is “Get specific.” Going into intense study with something does not mean one has to stick with it forever, but it does mean you'll have a better appreciation of it once you decide to leave. It seems like many in the community (from my generation at least) are suffering from “Paganism ADD” and spend years dipping a toe in different pools of water and then wondering why every time it comes out cold.
Start With Something Simple and Build OUT- If you're interested in divination, explore the different types of divination systems there are out there, but bear in mind that for many it takes a lot of practice and work to find the system that works for them and get it to actually well...work for them. Lithomancy can open the door to the study of rocks and minerals scientifically as well as spiritually and one can never have “too much” information. Many 101 books give you snippets of wisdom, crunched together to save space and money- from a simple beginning you can begin research into more complex aspects of whatever has taken your fancy, peeling back the layers of subjects that more often then not are barely surface smudged by what is largely offered.
Network with Enthusiasts- I'm a member of more then 20 message boards and forums devoted to the various aspects of my religious faith as well as my extracurricular magical studies. This isn't to say I'm a chatty Cathy on most of them, in fact 80% are for reading only, but enthusiasts and those whom have already studied intermediate and advanced material and continue to progress will be a fountain of knowledge that is virtually everlasting and most of the time you don't even have to ask anything...you can just sit back and listen.
Some places, like The Caudron: A Pagan Forum, are organized enough where you can post questions and read content on many topics- but an enthusiast, devotee, or “professional” (For things like Tarot and Astrology) group tends to stay more focused and can help quell the desire to jump to the next thing you see on the forum roster.
Flex Those “Search” Muscles- It still amazes me how some web-savvy individuals do not know about Sacred Texts, Project Gutenberg, or Google Scholar (at the least) , three pretty nice sources that can link one with primary and secondary material that are either free, rare, or both. Try wandering to one of these sites and doing a bit of digging. Having a general idea of what you are going for (see #1) can help you narrow down your search. I'm not saying to not ask for help- but getting out of the 101 rut isn't going to be something someone else can do for the seeker.
Read Reviews and Check Out Book Lists- Some “specialist” websites contain a list of recommended reading material, browse through it and check at your local library to see if any of the more expensive titles are available. In a pinch, ask those in your network what they recommend and follow procedure from there. Most people into metaphysical and occult studies are more then happy to share their sources- they're just not always willing to give you a book report complete with diagrams. Prepare to not always find yourself in the “new-age/occult” section of the bookstore, or even an occult book store- knowledge of mysticism can be found in many places so leave these prejudices at the door.
Finally...Stick With It- I'm probably going to get hate mail for this, but I've attempted to practice with people who couldn't stick with anything long enough to really learn from their pursuits or reap the rewards. One doesn't go to the doctor ONCE in their lives and think that automatically makes them healthy forever, why would one possibly think that doing a ritual once or twice means they've mastered or even fully understand that concepts they were attempting to learn?
When in doubt, set a schedule that you know you can follow. Don't burn yourself out downloading, buying, printing, and photocopying everything you can get your hands on within a 5-day time span. These ideas took years to compile and might take just as long for the seeker to disseminate. Devote a solid three months to actually exploring what you are attempting to implement into your belief system. You may find that you can get all you need from one or two sources of spirituality instead of 15.
Don't think for a second I am leaving the adepts, masters, leaders, and organizers out of this. In a rush to force the community to “grow up” it seems some have forgotten that growing up without role models doesn't work very well outside the Pagan community and provides the same hackneyed results within. Kid gloves aren't necessary, but remembering the gap in generations, the disadvantages of living in age where misinformation can be easily spread by the click of a mouse, and how many of our leaders themselves, at one point, were just “newbies” can open the gates of sharing wisdom and help our newcomers find the right path for them.
Copyright: Copyright (2009) Pythia Theocritos (N.D. McCrae)
Location: Gaithersbubrg, Maryland
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