This is the first entry in the Book of Shadows that I am currently re-vamping. I am posting it here to preserve it and then erasing it from the book and start again. It was written over 10 years ago and I have changed some of my ideas since then. I know more, it is easier to find information online. Heck, the OBDO now has a youtube channel where you can learn about druidry before you commit to it. I am also aware of some of the problems created by certain Asatru groups (which I am glad that I am not a part of...) and there are online courses that you can take to introduce you to the Norse Eddas and Sagas, and even the Open University has an introductionary course for those interested in Wicca. I find it important that there are academic places where you can learn things, rather than relying purely on New Age books, etc... I am also aware of Art Magic, and that appeals to me because I like crafting and creating art - it's not much of a strech to create art with pagan meaning.Anything that is in italics, is things I have added while typing this entry up, and to comment on things which are more clear to me now than back then.
I came to know about Paganism because one of my main interests, though I hope this doesn't appear to be shallow or plastic, is reading fantasy novels (and Stargate SG-1, Buffy the Vampre Slayer, Hercules and Xena were among my first introduction to it.). I suppose that even though I never realised it at the time, that these stories had a profound impact on me.
One of the fantasy novels that is based very much on paganism, particuarly the branch known as Asatru, or heathenry, is The Lord of the Rings. Having said that, when I first read Lord of the Rings, I was very much unaware of its connections to paganism (and mention of Yule in the book, I thought refered to Christmas, rather than the Winter Solstice!)
Another source that introduced me to paganism is the histroy/archeaology book, Heaven's Mirror, by Graham Hancock, and the Eygptian, Roman and Greek Pantheons were the first I was introduced to, followed by the Mayan/Aztec Pantheon and then finally, the Hindu one. (I know that this book is now considered problematic, but it sparked an interest, and that is what is important!)
It might come as a surprise, but other than King Arthur and Robin Hood mythologies, and the Green Man, I know very little about the Celtic Pantheon (At the time of writing, of course!) I have to wonder why that is. Is it because hardly any writings or lore have survived, or is it because we have been deliberately kept in the dark over them? (I have got a copy of The Mabinogion which I need to read, now and I've come to realise that many of the local folk tales are old, and from that time. There are many!)
Three things that I don't understand about Paganism are:
Basically, the 'magical' aspects.
There are many other things, but the obession with these things puzzled me, espeaically Divination, since it's associated with astrology - I still don't understand why it seems to be an obession in paganism, or why people think they need to do it, or why people want to pay others for readings.
The reason why I chose these is because of my sense of logic i.e. what my knowledge of science tells me is that these things aren't possible. As a result, I have to ask the question of why do pagans believe them, and is it possible for me to be a pagan if I do not? Also, this is one aspect of paganism which makes me reluctant to meet other pagans (There are many reasons, which I'll discuss elsewhere.) as I don't want to stop on anyone's toes over it.
Acceptance of gay/lesbian and bisexuals into paganism. The reason I raise this is question is because I often wonder if people become pagan to justify certain ways of behaving because other religions, such as Christianity, won't accept them. (The same principle applies to hetrosexuals who "sleep around"). It may be a throwback from my previous religion, but I have to wonder about this. Relationships are about commitment, which will hopefully result in a stable environment for the upbringing of a child, or children, and this is universal in all religions. I just hope that people become pagan for the right reasons and don't use it as an excuse to act amorally. (Or think that they can act amorally because there is no 'sin' in paganism, and this doesn't just apply to sexual behaviour, but other things too. Of course, there are awful people in organised religions, too.)
My final concern are heirachical groupings. I have no problem with an experienced pagan teaching beginners (how else would they learn?) but groups which are simliar to freemasonry or a cult, I have to question because one of the main aspects of paganism is that it is self-determined. As paganism is very individualistic, I hope that I don't encounter that.(I am concerened with people using their positions to be abusive or manuipulative. Organisations can sometimes be a good place for Narcissism and controling behaviour to thrive.
Three things about Paganism I would be interested to study further are:
(The Wheel of the Year in Norse paganism is quite different to the Wiccan/druid one, and more complex. There seems to be different versions of it, and in some cases, the Wheel is not observed at all. I suppose is it because is it a religion of the North - the arctic and sub-arctic areas have a different yearly cycle to what we have in the UK. There is also a tendency for Asatru organisations, particuarly the ones that are more 'Folkish' to distance themselves from other pagan paths. I find myself naturally drawn to it - the Soltices and Equinoxes were one of the first things I was introduced to in paganism. I am atuned to the cycle of the seasons regardless of the views of other heathens so it is something I will follow. I would like to incorporate animal lore into my practice, but I want to do so in a way which doesn't 'take' or borrow from the indigneous people's of North America. Animals have always been important to me and one of the reasons why I left Christainity was because of its failure to respect animals and consider them. Animals are abused and exploited too much.)
My religion before I was pagan was the Church of England (Protestant). (I actually considered myself to be an athesit long before I acknowledged that I am pagan - it was a lack of knowledge that paganism existed, at least in a modern form that caused this and also because I thought atheism was better than being religous. Paganism is also more of a spirtuality for me than a religon.). I do not consider myself to be a Christopagan, which is where you blend Christian beliefs with pagan practices.
Five Things I appreicate about my previous religion are: the morals instilled in me, the importnace of family, helping others, the sense of community and a love of nature. Three things I wish I could change about my previous religion: the discrimination based on gender (biological sex), and/or race, the explotive attitude towards nature and the belief that just believing in Jesus Christ, but without actually following any of his teachings to be tolerant, kind, charitable and compassionate to be the road to salvation. One of the main things that turned me away from Christianity was the intolerance of other cultures and the "me" attitude of a lot of its members. I still have the up most respect and high regard for those who truely follow the teachings of Jesus, but not for thoese who use the religion for hateful or selfish purposes. It's unfortunate that is has been corrupted so.
I am attracted to paganism because it incorporates these important elements: people become pagan by deciding that paganism reflected what they already beleived, i.e. it wasn't chosen for them, or imposed on them by someone else. That people are naturally orientated towards their own greatest growth or development, a freedom unfortunately denied many people through discrimination or capitalism. Interconnectedness - I have always felt or beleived in this and it is a concept supported in the science of ecology. All parts of the universe are sacred and endowned with a form of conscioussness or spark. Pagans take personal responsibility for ones beliefs.
The pagan traditions I am most interested in right now are: Asatru and Druidism. (I am more confident that these paths can co-exist together. When I first started looking at Asatru, I was frustrated because many of the organisations that I looked into gave the impression that to be Asatru, or follow 'Odinism' that other paths couldn't be blended in with it... I now know that the reason why they said this was because the groups themselves were racist, if not borderline facist. I want to honour /all/ the cultures that make up my country and the place where I live - if I adhered to their 'exculsivity' I would not have been able to do this, if that makes sense, and it would always feel like something was missing, and similarly if I ignored the Asatru interest and only did druidry. Druidry, or at least neo-druidry is open to /all/ belief systems.)
The reasons why I am interested in Asatru are: with the Prose and Poetic Edda there is much information about Norse Mythology and the Pantheon, it has a set of virtures or goals to live by and I seem to have more of an affinity with the Norse Pantheon than I do with other Pantheons.
I am interested in Druidism because I am a writer and and environmentalist. Druidry seems to fit in with my interests, both artisically and scientifically. Having said that, I don't have interest in some aspects of Celtic tradionalism, such as Morris Dancing.
The reaction of my friends and family (at least those whom matter), has been very supportive.
It is worth noting that the spark of consciousness or intelligence, I have always considered present in all living things whereas Christianity and science, in some cases, have considered this to only be present in humans. (Science has gotten better since writing this.) I consider this division to be artificial and it is another reason why I have taken the pagan path.