Most people who come to a Pagan belief system didn’t start out that way. Simply because of the numbers, the majority of people who are now Pagan were once Christians or some other religion. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, sometimes, people have trouble letting go. It’s not uncommon to meet folks who swear up and down that they’re Pagan, and yet they live by the dogma of their old religion - they’ve simply changed the names of the deities.
Sandra, who follows a Greek reconstructionist path, says, “I had been raised Southern Baptist, so it was hard - really hard - for me to adapt to this idea of a god and goddess that didn’t make any demands on me. I was raised to believe that there was one god only, and to find deities that not only didn’t mind sharing me with others, but who wouldn’t punish me for it — well, that was a big thing. I had trouble with it at first, and was always wondering, “Well, if I honor Aphrodite, can I still celebrate Artemis, or am I going to get caught in some kind of deity war, and cause trouble?”
A South Carolina Pagan named Thomas is now a Druid. He says, “My family is Catholic, and once I realized that the gods of the Druid path were calling me, I had no trouble walking away from Catholicism. Except for the idea of sin. I still kept finding myself feeling like I needed to go to confession every time I had sex with my girlfriend or used swear words.”
Don’t try to put Paganism - of whatever flavor - into a Christian (or other kind of) box. Just let it be what it is. You’ll be much happier in the long run.
Stop Assuming all Pagan Traditions are the Same
There are lots of Pagan traditions. They’re not all the same. In fact, some are vastly different. While there may be some common threads that bind MOST Pagan religions together, the fact is that every tradition has its own set of rules and guidelines. Are you someone who insists that all Pagans must follow the Law of Threefold Return or the Wiccan Rede? Well, not all groups have those as a mandate.
Look at it this way: if you’re not Christian, you don’t follow the Ten Commandments, right? Likewise, if someone isn’t part of your tradition, they’re not obligated to follow your tradition’s rules and laws.
Accept that each person - and group - is capable of thinking for themselves, and that they are able to create laws, guidelines, tenets, and rules that work best for them. They do not need you to tell them How To Be Pagan.
Stop Ignoring Your Instinct
Got a feeling something is going on, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Believe it or not, most people have some degree of latent psychic ability. If you’re interested in developing your gifts and skills, then stop ignoring those messages. You may find that they’re telling you some pretty important stuff. Magic happens, as does psychic phenomena. But if you keep rejecting it as “Oh, there’s no WAY that just happened,” then you may be missing out on a very valuable tool and resource.
Stop Being Silent
Many Pagan traditions follow a guideline that includes the idea of keeping silent. In that circumstance, keeping silent refers to the idea that we shouldn’t go around blabbing endlessly about our religious beliefs, our magical practice, or the people we’re standing in circle with.
That’s not what we’re talking about here.
No, instead, when we say “Stop being silent,” we’re talking about a lack of speaking out when injustice is done. There’s a common thread in our society in which no one really wants to get involved when things are going on that do not directly impact us. However, as Pagans, we’re in the minority, in the United States and in most other countries. That means that when things happen to other minority groups - even those that are not Pagan - we should still be standing up for those other groups.
Frequently, on the About Pagan/Wiccan home page, we discuss current events that relate to freedom of religion and other first amendment rights. Often, those news stories are not about Pagans at all, but about Muslims, or Jews, or even atheists. Why are they relevant?
Because if one group can face discrimination, we all can.
Remember that old saying attributed to a German pastor, who was saddened by the failure of the intellectual community to speak out during the Nazi reign? He said, First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Finally, they came for me, and there was no one left to speak.”
If we don’t speak up when other groups are treated unfairly, who’s going to speak for us when we ourselves face discrimination?
Stop Accepting Mediocrity
There are literally thousands of books and websites about modern Paganism. One of the things people typically find themselves asking is, “How do I know what books are reliable?,” followed almost immediately by “Which authors should I avoid?” As you learn and read and study, you’ll learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and you’ll eventually be able to figure out on your own what makes a book credible, or worth reading, and what makes it one that should probably only be used as a doorstop or paperweight.
But here’s the thing to remember. As long as people keep buying books that are awful, or at the very least, academically suspect, the authors of these titles will continue to repackage and publish them.
Demand more. Patronize publishers and authors whose work is credible, and not those who simply slap a cover with a pentagram and some glitter on a new version of the same garbage you’ve been reading for thirty years.
Stop Neglecting the Natural World
If you’re someone who follows a nature- or earth-based religion, it stands to reason that the natural world should be, at least to some degree, sacred. While it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all out in the forest worshiping rocks and stumps, it does mean that we should have the decency to treat our natural world with some respect.
Become environmentally conscious and aware. Even if you simply focus on the patch of earth you live on, or your immediate area, rather than on a global level, it’s a start. Take care of the land on which you live.
Stop Wasting Time
“I want to be Pagan but I just don’t have time to study!”
How many times have you caught yourself saying or thinking that? It’s an easy rut to fall into - we’ve all got jobs, families, and lives, and it’s easy to let ourselves fall into the habit of not making time for our spirituality. However, if you think about some of the ways we waste the twenty-four hours a day we DO have, it’s not so hard to re-prioritize. If you feel like you don’t have the time you need to work on your spirituality as much as you’d like to, then take a long and hard look at how you are spending your days. Are there ways you can save time, that you can then dedicate to your spiritual journey?
“Christians are all such jerks.”
“Wiccans are a bunch of fluffy weirdos.”
“Those Heathens are way too aggressive.”
Ever overhear any of those from someone in the Pagan community? Unfortunately, judgmental behavior is not limited to the non-Pagans. Remember how we talked about how each Pagan path is different, and they’re not all like you? Well, part of accepting that people are different includes not being judgey because they’re different. You’re going to meet a lot of people who are not like you. Don’t stereotype anyone based on misconceptions - instead, base your opinion of them upon their merits or flaws as individuals.
Stop Letting Others Think for You
If you’re ready to be part of a non-mainstream religious group, you’ll notice really quickly that the Pagan community is full of free thinkers. It’s full of people who question authority, and who try to make right decisions based upon their own moral codes, rather than what may be popular or fashionable. Don’t take things at face value - ask questions, and don’t accept what you’re told just because someone tells you to. Take the time to find a good teacher - and realize that the best teachers will want you to ask questions.
Sorcha is a Pagan from Maine who says she has learned not to accept dogma from other Pagans. “I met this high priestess who really wanted everyone to do things her way - not because her way was necessarily better, but because she wanted to be in charge. Everyone in the group was blindly following along, never stopping to say, “Hey, maybe we could try it this other way instead.” They were like a bunch of sheep, and I had to walk away. I didn’t become Pagan so I could have an authority figure making my spiritual decisions for me. I became Pagan because I wanted to continue thinking for myself.”
Stop Making Excuses
“I don’t have time to study.”
“I don’t have the money to buy supplies.”
“I live in a town that’s really religious.”
“My spouse doesn’t want me to be Pagan.”
Are you making excuses for all the reasons you can’t practice your Pagan faith? Aleister Crowley once said that to perform magic is to express dissatisfaction with the universe. In other words, if you’re happy with the way things are, then there’s no need for magic. While Crowley may have said a lot of things that people disagree with, he’s spot on with this one.
If you’re a Pagan who accepts that magic can happen, and that change can occur, then you have no excuse for not making things different where they need to be. Don’t have time to study? Sure you do - you have the same hours in your day as everyone else. Change how you spend those hours. Set goals to make things change for you.
Don’t have money to buy supplies? So what? Make magic with what you have on hand.
Live in a town that’s religious? No big deal. Keep your beliefs to yourself and practice in the privacy of your own home. No need to be in your neighbors’ faces about it.
Got a spouse who doesn’t want you to be Pagan? Find a way to compromise. Interfaith marriages work all the time, as long as they’re built on a foundation of mutual respect.
Stop making excuses for all the reasons you can’t, and start making changes so that you can.
Astral projection is a difficult thing to achieve. The number one bit of advice I have to share is to go into the process of projecting with no expectations.
Step 1) Relaxation
You have to completely relax the body. Sit, or lay in a comfortable position, but make sure it is one where you will be unlikely to fall asleep. It isn’t recommended to project from an ‘indian’ position, or lotus as it can be very, very painful to come back and have your entire lower body tingly and asleep.
To relax, practice some breathing exercises. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Imagine an arrow filling with breath as you inhale.
Exhale slowly through your mouth, imagine the arrow emptying. Keep your thoughts directed on the arrow an your breathing. When thought pop up, acknowledge them for a moment, and let them pass.
Step 2) Sleep State
As a beginner you must practice the state before sleep, or the Hypnagogic state. To do so, hold your forearm up, and continue relaxing. You will begin to fall asleep, and your arm will fall, waking you. Continue to do this until you no longer ‘feel’ anything when your arm falls. Another way to enter the hypnagogic state is to focus on a single object and nothing else (except your breathing) let thoughts and feels pass though and watch them passively. When other images appear in your ‘eyes’ besides the object being focused. You will have entered the hypnagogic state.
Step 3) Deepen Focus
You have to deepen the hypnagogic trance. This is the first point where most people give up, as they are distracted and wake up. You must focus on nothing as much as possible. You know the colors and light you see when you close your eyes? You must ignore those completely, and keep your eyes focused, but only lightly on the darkness. DO NOT move your eyes. Eventually you will stop seeing the lights, and you will be nearly ready to project.
Step 4) Vibration
Start entering the energetic, or vibrational state. Maintain your breathing and relaxation. Begin to focus on a point in space about a foot above your forehead. Shift your mental viewpoint to six feet above you. Looking down on yourself. Feel the vibrations of the space your ‘detached’ mind is resting in. You will know when you are channeling the vibrations.
Step 5) Channeling
Continue drawing vibrations into your body. Move them from your head, to your heart, arms, and through your legs and toes. Finally drawing the energy back to your head. Move the energy like a wave, through your body. Continue doing this until you can control these waves on command, and with little effort. This takes time, and quite a bit of practice, as not everyone can manipulate energy too well.
Step 6) Seperation
This step is a very difficult process, as it takes ALL the concentration, and visualization skill possible. This is all about thought control.
While in the vibrational state, flowing energy through your body, you can separate your astral body from your physical one. Without actually moving your limb, ‘lift’ your arm up. See your arm, with your eyes closed as you lift it. Reach out for a familiar object, like a vase, or lamp, something close by. You will ‘go through’ the object. Slightly, like a ghost. Return the limb to you, by lining it up with with your physical one. Continue doing this with all your limbs, and your head. If you can sit up with your astral body, that is fantastic.
Step 7) Disassociation
There are a few ways to detach from your body. One technique is the ‘Levitation’ technique. Imagine yourself getting lighter, and lighter. Feel your self rising up an outward. Focus only on the idea of floating, and rising. Projection will occur after a short time, naturally.
The technique I use, personally, is called the ‘Rotation’ or ‘Roll-out’ method. In this method you literally roll out of your body, like you would do in bed. It is very similar to Step 6, do not move your physical body, instead feel yourself rolling out of your body. You will find yourself place next to your body, not in it. You my friend, are astral projecting.
This ENTIRE process is very difficult for most. I would recommend doing each step, taking a break then starting again. I.e Do Step 1, stop and rest. Do step 1, and then step 2, stop and rest. So on, and so on until you reach step 7 and project.
If you reach 7, and are still unable to project take a break for a day or two. Eat right, get 8 hours sleep etc.
Good, luck, and happy travels.
So, sleep isn’t my friend most nights. Insomnia is a pretty big problem, especially during this time of the year when I actually have to be up and functioning at early hours to get work done. Going to work running on little to no sleep is no fun at all, so this is my stab at making sleep a little more accessible. Here we go~
- a jar
- sea shells
- a written spell
- lavender oil
- seawater (or salted tap water; whichever is most convenient)
Making it happen:
The first thing that needs to happen is filling your jar with sea shells. There isn’t a specific number/level the shells need to reach. They can just coat the bottom or fill up the jar as much as you’d like. So long as the jar is able to close later, the amount of shells that go in are totally up to you.
The writing of the spell should probably happen next for placement reasons. This is pretty free form as well, just because it’s really dependent on what issues you have when it comes to sleep. For example, I don’t get tired. My spell, then, would reference that issue. If your issue isn’t with actually being tired (maybe you wake up often or are restless or any other number of things), then you’d write your spell in reference to whatever issue it is you have. Make the issue clear, then state what type of sleep you’d like to have. The spell doesn’t have to be frilly or poetic. Mine never are and they work just fine. So long as your issue and desired outcome is clear, you should be fine! Once your spell is written, bury it in the shells. Make sure you can’t see any part of the paper it’s written on.
**NOTE**: If your handwriting is small and your spell isn’t long, you could write the spell on the underbelly of a shell. If you do, just make sure that the shell on which it’s written is belly down. The goal here is to have the spell buried, so as long as it can’t be seen, what it’s on doesn’t matter. I personally like the idea of writing it on the shell, which is why I mentioned it, but it depends on whoever is assembling the jar.
Once the spell is written and hidden, add five drops of lavender oil directly onto the shells. Don’t put all the drops in one area, though. Be sure to scatter them around the jar, just so the scent is evenly distributed. Lavender is a nice soothing smell and is commonly used as an aid for insomnia, which is why I’m putting it in. If you can’t get to lavender oil, however, there are plenty of things that are cheaper and easier to access. Tea is pretty helpful for sleep and is really easy to get ahold of, so you could always dump the contents of a teabag in as substitute for the oil. Chamomile is the best for sleep in my experience, but if you know of something that suits you better, use that! That goes for pretty much anything. If oil is an issue for you to get, feel free to substitute it with anything else that’s soothing for you.
Adding in the water comes last. I say seawater because it’s a really nice thing to use and goes well with the shells, but really water of any kind that you’ve salted works just as well. If you have access to seawater, go for it. But if not, no worries. It doesn’t make much of a difference. What you’ll want to do is wet your fingers and sprinkle a bit of the water in over the shells. Don’t dump the water in or anything. Just sprinkle enough over them to get them a bit wet. I say that because water is a pretty soothing agent- the sound specifically, but in general as well. While submerging the shells would be pretty, I feel like that would create the opposite problem and make you sleep way too long. So it’s best to just add a little sprinkle. However, if you’re feeling like you want to experiment then add as much as you want. You can always do it over later. My suggestion is just to sprinkle, though.
After that, close up the jar and you’re done. To make sure it works best, put it under or directly beside (I prefer under, but it’s up to you) your bed each night before you go to sleep.
And there you have it~