The feeling of being lost on this path is stressful and depressing. By not following the predetermined beliefs and laws prescribed by mainstream religion, one is left to find their own way through self-discovery and soul searching. For many, the idea of total freedom from the chains of religious tyranny is liberating and exciting, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the fear and uncertainty that I’ve experienced since I decided to denounce Christianity as my religion. This fear isn’t rooted in the idea of Satan or going to Hell, but it’s more the fear of what others think about my spirituality and the attempt to express myself without drawing attention to my “alternative” religion. And this is always followed by the statement, “stop caring what other people think!” Well I do care, and I don’t know how to change that. Maybe I’ll eventually get to that point, but I’m not there yet. Since I was a kid my religion has always been a huge part of my self-identity, and being a Christian, it was very easy to find others to accept that and those that rejected me were easier to deal with because I had a community to belong to. As an adult who has left Christianity and is seeking a path of my own, I don’t know what scares me more, what others think of me or the loss of that sense of community. I’ve been studying pagan and esoteric traditions for quite a while now, and deep in my heart I know that’s the kind of path I belong to. I wish I knew the way to eradicate these fears, otherwise I will never progress anywhere. I think it’s also important for me to realize that these fears have very deep roots that not only affect my spirituality, but every aspect of my life. As the season shifts into autumn, and the shadows are growing, I’m feeling the effects of my own shadows and it’s time to stop being afraid of them. It’s the presence of light that causes shadow, and you can never have one without the other. I can either choose to stay in the darkness and never grow, or I can continue to look up at the light and face the shadows of myself. I’m just tired of not knowing where to go next. Everyone else seems to have everything all figured out, I want to find my own self-confidence to be exactly who I want to be without worrying about what people think.
I remember as a kid we had a hanging advent calendar in the shape of Santa, and beginning on December 1st, each day I would move a little plush mouse through all the numbered pockets leading up to the one marked 25. It was something I always got excited about and wouldn’t let anyone else move the mouse except me. Most kids anticipate the gifts of Christmas above all, and I won’t deny that the presents excited me, but I would remember the feeling of Christmas more than anything, and it was that feeling that I anticipated the most. I’m the type that usually enjoys the journey as much as the destination, and I thrive on anticipation.
Christmas is a sacred holiday that is bright and joyous, but also at times mysterious and deserving of deep respect. I feel this darker tone originates from the feeling of desperation that many of our pagan ancestors felt during the shortest days of the year. The “advent” season for them was the hope of the returning sun, and I would imagine this time was spent in reverence and devotion to some form of personified deity representing the sun. In a culture that lived so closely with the land, that didn’t have the resources we have today to preserve food through the winter or cultivate food in harsh conditions, the returning sun was a literal salvation from death.
I am so grateful to be living in this age of technology, because our lives have been made so much easier. But I can’t forget the significance of what this time of year meant to my ancestors, and what it means to me today. I think of the darkest moments of my life, when it felt like all hope was lost, when I was starving for nourishment, when it felt like my heart was freezing out in the cold. It’s in those moments of darkness that hope is all we have to hold on to. Hope of that guiding light to show us the way out, and to warm our hearts after being left out in the cold. This is what advent means to me. Even if life is going great, this season is about hope and welcoming the return of love, compassion, and protection from the darkness. This is why we celebrate the divine birth and the coming of the “Sun” of God. Whether you see it as the birth of Jesus, the coming of Santa Claus, or even the birth of Horus. These are all symbols on the surface, but in our hearts it means so much more. So to anyone reading this, what are you hoping for this advent season?
Spend this time in reverence of whatever divine power you acknowledge, and appreciate the blessings that are all around. Share those blessings with others when you can, spreading joy to others who may be hoping for more. This advent season, I will prepare and welcome the returning God as he is born anew from the womb of the Goddess, and with it the returning life energy that sustains us all. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate, even if you don’t believe in anything, but hold on to hope. That is what keeps us moving forward into the new year, and paves the way for greater things to come.
I’ve thought of beginning an official ‘year and a day’, something I haven’t done since I started studying paganism and witchcraft, but as the new year approaches it just seems like a good time to start. My thoughts on it have always been that it’s basically a “trial” period of deciding whether the Wiccan path is right for you and during this trial you’ll learn all the basics before being initiated (this would be in a coven setting). As a solitary who’s been studying for a few years now, I have the basic knowledge but I have no intention of joining a formal group, so what purpose could a year and a day serve?
Well I see value dedicating myself to something, anything. I consider myself a wanderer, but if I just keep wandering in circles, I’ll end up nowhere new. Maybe it’s time to start surveying the landscape I’ve traveled and set down markers indicating where I’ve been. Before dedicating myself to a path, I feel it’s important to really be honest with myself, question the beliefs that I hold, and in the process let go of those things which I won’t have any use for. I’m really tired of feeling lost. I’m tired of carrying around useless baggage that weighs me down, causing confusion along the way. I’ve read a lot of books, most of which I respect and learned a lot from, but the many voices cloud my vision making it hard to focus. I blame myself for craving information and foolishly thinking I can cram it all into my little head, hoping somehow for it all to make sense, but one thing I’ve learned is that this isn’t something that can be rushed. Patience is key, and I’ve just gotta go with the flow.
I love witchcraft. I love all the different correspondences and symbolism, and the art of bringing things together to form a spell. I also feel deeply connected to the old pagan gods and I enjoy the idea of them being able to interact with us today. My draw towards Wicca is inspired by this, and I feel that’s why Wicca is right for me so starting a year and a day just seems like the right thing to do. But I also fear the idea of committing to just one thing. I guess I’ve always been scared of labels, and being forced to go into a box, so subconsciously I jump from one thing to the next to avoid settling in one spot for too long. Maybe it’s a fear of facing myself and actually looking at who I am as a complete and whole person. This is where I need to begin this journey of a year and a day. I need to look at who I am, and every aspect of my being that comes together to form the unique person that is me. I’m not really good at this, but I’m going to try anyways. This is the start of a new direction.
Feeling overwhelmed once again by anticipation for the Christmas season, I’ve been compelled to share a few thoughts on why I love this time of year. The concept of the year being a wheel that turns, with each cycle of the sun returning us to the same point as the year before, is a popular way of viewing the seasons. And yes, the same patterns generally occur each year, but on a personal level I’ve noticed that as the years pass I’m never in the same place I was the previous year spiritually. There’s always a change in belief, or more like an evolution that I sense within, that allows me to experience the returning cycle as something a little more deep and complex than I knew before. This has been occurring with most holidays throughout the year, but I feel it strongest at Christmas. Maybe it’s the fusion of Christian/Pagan traditions or because of my strong Christian background, or possibly both of these reasons, but Christmas has turned into something much more than words can express. The sound of jingle bells or a glimpse of a Christmas tree brings up a surge of emotion that puts the biggest smile on my face and often a tear trickling out of my eyes.
I’ve tried to understand this on an intellectual level, but I don’t think I’m meant to understand it, just feel it. Pagans celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the renewal of the year through the returning sunlight, and Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, as a promise of love and redemption from a hostile world. On the surface, it’s obvious to see the parallels, but I find too often that people get stuck on trying to debate the “meaning of Christmas” and totally miss the synchronous energy that flows through all of the traditions and stories that rise around this ancient celebration. I have found that by diving deeper into Christmas, and erasing the dividing lines set by religion there’s a great transforming power that comes forth. This, I feel, is what causes the reactions I have to the symbols and traditions of Christmas. I’ve been able to strip away the dogma and experience the raw energy that these symbols represent, and it truly is powerful. I respect everyone for their beliefs and I would never try to discount somebody’s religion by picking it apart for them, but for my personal spirituality, this is the only way I can see the world. I am a student of the occult, and this requires an open view of what lies below the surface, an exploration of symbolism and what that means for me personally.
As September has rolled into October, the darkness continues to grow leading up to Samhain. Each year as the wheel turns to this season, I’m learning to not be so afraid of the dark anymore, but to embrace the deep lessons that lie within. The green leaves change to red, yellow, and orange, a sign that winter is right around the corner. A lesson in letting go of the old, and holding on to those things that help us survive through the cold dark winter. There’s nothing to fear in the dark, except the shadows that we must face within ourselves. The darkness removes distractions, and forces me to face myself; nobody but me. This is where I thrive. I’ve always loved the darker months of the year, and the holidays that mark these special moments of transition and initiation. The excitement I feel within is evident by my need to decorate my home and to immerse myself in the spirit of the season. Samhain marks the final death; a sacrifice of the old, and an initiation into the dark womb of the Goddess. She is the great mother and the source of all life. It’s a return to the primal state, stripping away all that is rotted and dead, in preparation for a new birth. Nothing can remain but the pure essence within our core. Halloween is the witch’s holiday, instilling fear in those that do not understand, but giving joy and excitement to those who partake of this magical time of year. The carving of pumpkins, the soft glow of candles, the ghouls and skeletons we hang in our homes, all serve as reminders of the mystery and magic that is all around us. Even non-believers feel a sense of the supernatural when the cool breeze blows under the full moon. Halloween is a time when I truly feel myself, and as each passing year comes and goes, I’m left with a new understanding of who I am, and I’m reassured that magic is real.
Standing still while the world continues to spin around me. The pressure to keep moving is pinning me against a wall that seems to only hold me back. I’ve tried and tried to understand why this wall is there, but my search for answers ends up leading me back to this place of stagnation. My intuition tells me that I am not who the world says I am, and that my life is not like anyone else’s, but I continue to look at the mirrors that society holds up, watching my life through the filters of a dysfunctional world. Why do I struggle with this image of myself, not completely understanding who I am or what my place is in the world? I do my best to be grateful for the blessings in my life, but there’s a constant yearning for something deeper, more meaningful. I express disgust for the superficial culture that I live in, but is it I who am putting on the front? To hold myself back from being my true self, I’m also partaking of this false image that I witness everyday. I pray everyday for the power to be myself and grow into the person I truly, in my heart, know I want to be, and I know that this power lies within waiting for me to tap in.
I performed a reading this morning with my Anubis Oracle deck, and I pulled the card of the water elemental represented by the Nile. I then began to see this blockage in myself as if a dam was built within the sacred river, cutting me off from the precious qualities of water. Water cleanses and clears away, it provides nutrients for life to flourish, and it heals the spirit. My hurts from the past and the persistent negative feelings I feel have created this dam and if I don’t break it down I can only expect death and decay to continue. I’ve prayed that the cleansing waters of the Nile clear away the old and make way for the new season of growth that I need. It’s time for the dam to be destroyed and let the sacred waters flow freely in my life.
I’ve gone back forth over the idea of either joining a group or continuing to practice on my own, and I’m trying to look at the pros and cons of both to make the wisest decision. By nature, I’m a solitary person. I’m typically very reserved, quiet, I can often get lost in my own thoughts until an outsider notices and reels me back to solid ground, and since I was a kid I’ve always had a hard time fitting into groups. Whether it be at school, church, or even just within my neighborhood, I’ve always been the odd one out. As an adult now, I’ve got a wonderful partner who loves and supports me, and I’ve got at least one close friend who I can always count on, so I’m definitely not alone in the world, but definitely a loner in spirit.
I’m very active in my spiritual studies and my interest in the occult could be borderline obsession, so logically it would make sense to find a community of others to discuss ideas with and make some friends. I’ve attempted to join a couple of local pagan groups, but my search so far has not been the least beneficial to me in any way. Now, I realize I may sound a little selfish and I’m very aware of my naturally judgmental attitude towards strangers, but I question why I should even bother anymore.
I have attended two different groups and I have also met with two individuals from those groups outside the circle setting. The groups themselves seem to share some common characteristics between them, one of them being the way nobody seems to have a clear understanding of why they’re there. I have a pretty good idea of the general direction of my path, even if it changes over time, and it was frustrating to not have anyone that would hold an intelligent conversation on any occult subject. At the time, I was focused primarily on Wicca, which comprised the majority of the attendees, but my knowledge and experience seemed to have no relevance among them. I made a reference to ‘The Kybalion’ to someone, which in my opinion is a crucial read for any serious occult student of the western tradition (including Wicca), but my comment fell on deaf ears and nobody even seemed open to other sources aside from Scott Cunningham or Christopher Penczak. Now I’m in no way trying to elevate myself above anyone else, and I can’t judge someone for not having a knowledge of that book, but I simply use that as an example to how alienated I felt among these self-proclaimed “experienced” and “mature” pagans. I guess I held too high of expectations that couldn’t be met, at no fault of the group, but at the same time I’m not going to waste my time. One other thing I’d like to mention about these particular groups I attended, are the people I decided to meet outside the group setting. The first one claimed to be a witch for 9 years, and upon visiting his home i was shown his magick room full of trinkets and herbs galore. We became pretty good friends and I thought for the first time, I finally found someone who I connected with and who could teach me anything I wanted to know. I was so wrong. The focus began to change from spiritual to physical very fast, and I got very uncomfortable with the friendship before distancing myself from him.
I’m obviously pointing out all the negative experiences I’ve had, and I can’t say they were completely bad, but I just feel like it’s time to accept this solitary path for what it is. I’m sure that there are great communities out there consisting of knowledgable occultists; I feel like YouTube and the blogging community have some amazing people, and so maybe this is where I should focus my energies. Magic is such a deeply personal thing for me, in ways I can’t even put into words, so it truly frightens me to think of opening up that intimate part of myself to others. The irony of the internet is it’s a place where the whole world can see you, but you can also be the most discreet by only sharing what you want. In the future I hope to share more of myself through writing, and maybe someday soon create my own youtube videos (eeek!), but one step at a time to get me where I’m going.