I want to start a podcast about paganism, so I have been doing “research” (i.e.: listening to other pagan podcasts). I have listened to about three so far, among with various more professional podcasts not pagan related, and I have to say…It is super hard to take the pagan podcasts seriously.
I started onto the pagan path when I was 19. At that time, there was a huge new age/pagan resurgence, as it was the late 80’s – early 90’s. While not on par with the historic neopagan revival in the 60’s, and the unrivaled movement in the early 1900’s, it was still significant. Many of the prominent “leaders” were coming back around, their books being reissued, Wicca was gaining in popularity, Llewellyn books was a brand new publisher, catering to bring Wicca to the masses and the solitary witch, which was a huge number of people. Books that had long been out of print were coming back and becoming accessible. Information was readily available, even as the internet was just a bunch of connected community message boards across the US.
Back then, it was easier to claim you were schooled in “the old ways” because, there didn’t seem to be any source of origin for anything. At least, not until Margot Ader put out her tome, “Drawing Down the Moon”, a book I still refer to often. Nothing has a more detailed an accurate history of the NeoPagan movement, all the sects at the time, the ideology behind the different movements and their origins story. Now, there is history that was obscured, like the origins of Gardnerian Order, but, if you are looking for what each one follows, how they operate, and what you can expect, this is your go to. It sites an enormous list of essential reading, and I spent a long time trying to gather as many of them as possible. This was before Amazon, so to find obscure books, you had to do a lot of searching.
My bookshelf filled with books by Scott Cunningham, Doreen Valiente, Isaac Bonewits, and others. I was unable to get some of the really old classics, some from The Order of the Golden Dawn and other groups and organizations, but from what I got, I devoured and ingested their contents.
From all these books, I formed my current understanding of what paganism/witchcraft is. Needless to say, what I hear in these podcasts is completely contradictory, having swung hard into Wicca, which, from my studies, seemed to be “Christian light”, providing a softer transition from those who wanted to leave the confines of Christianity, but still hold onto the existence of deities, prayers, and various other things that form Christian religions. And that’s okay! People need to feel comfortable with change. If Wicca provides them with that comfort, excellent.
My issue with the podcasts I’ve listened to so far, is that they are all the Wiccan ideology and do not match mine. For one, I’m a huge skeptic, as I feel all people should be when entering the spiritual path. If the 60’s taught us one thing, it’s that people, particularly Christians, are susceptible to cults. So it’s good to be skeptical, I think, when it comes to beliefs and what you follow. You should always question the hows and whys and look at who is leading and how they are operating. Being a solitary pagan, I was able to circumvent a lot of that, thankfully, but I still took my walk seriously.
Second, Wicca teaches that deities are “real”. The paganism I learned says that the deities are attributes or characteristics we want to imbue ourselves with or inspire ourselves to be. We are all gods and goddesses who have the ability to reach our aspirations and intentions without relying on an outside deity. The god and goddesses provide a source of focus for us to place our intentions on and create the spellwork, or rituals, or whatever it is you feel most comfortable with. They don’t lend their powers, because…they simply don’t exist to do so. That power is within us to access.
Third, Wicca decided spells need to have words, they need to rhyme, they need to follow some weird structure. While Wicca doesn’t go so far as to say you need an altar, tools, etc., it strongly encourages capitalism to create spellwork. The paganism I learned says, you use what you have. Your intention is the actual magic. Your emotions, focus, visualization is the magic”. The tools help you focus. The altar gives you a space where you are mentally inclined to focus. But you can use your bed, your yard, a park bench, a seat on the bus if you think you can focus there. I used to use my train ride into DC to meditate and focus. You can do magic anywhere with anything.
Fourth, the only rule I ever knew was: “And if ye harm ye none, do as ye will”. Wicca seems to have added some weird Christian/Karmic belief of something about the “Rule of 3”, which is…well..silly. When I first heard the “Pagan Golden Rule” of harming none, I took that to heart. My “spell work” only affects me. If I ask for something, I do it with the intention that I take nothing from someone else. If that something must be taken, it is replaced with something positive. To do my best to prevent harm to others through my work, and to potentially benefit others. Given that a lot of neopagamism sects were based in ecology and environmental preservation, that sat well with me. Karma happens, sure, but that is a force, and much like physics, forces can’t be easily manipulated, therefore, the “Rule of 3” seems weird to me. If you follow the “Pagan Golden Rule”, you don’t have to worry about the Rule of 3.
So when I hear these podcasts where they warn you to be *very careful* working with deities, the fae, karma, etc, it makes me roll my eyes and sometimes giggle. These things aren’t real (Except the cause and effect of karma, which is simply causation), so…to me, to worry about how I approach them is…well…as I said before, silly. Do as you will. You won’t be harming a deity, a fae, the karmic balance of life. You will be furthering your goals. That’s all. To hear the seriousness in which these people express their concern about working with these things makes me often wonder what their world looks like. I’d love to believe in those things, but…I believe in what is here, what I know I am capable of, and what I can accomplish through the use of focus that paganism gives me.
That being said, I do have an altar, I do have the tools, I don’t use spells, but I do things with intention. If I’m using herbs, it is a tool to secure my focus. If I use my altar, which I do every morning, it is to ground myself in the day, in my objectives and discerning what I want to attract that day. On my altar, I have a statue of Quan Yin standing on a dragon to represent strength and compassion. I also have a statue of Tara, for dreams, imagining the impossible and seeing the path to the future. (She also is a vengeful goddess, so I keep that in mind that for all things purposefully done to me, the return is out of my hands and I don’t need to seek retribution. The Universe is balanced to make sure that malice is returned without my having to dirty my hands.)
So, I’m not sure my podcast will be popular, since I’m not Wiccan, but I plan to do it anyways. I feel like, with the wealth of Wiccan info out there, there needs to be a voice out there for those of us who don’t follow that sect. We deserve to have our space.