Slow Down

If I was in a position to give advice to any newbie Pagan (of any sort), my advice would be this: slow down.

This is good advice for many areas of life, especially when you’re trying something new. There’s a desire to do and see it all, and do it yesterday, but I’d argue that it’s especially relevant to Paganisms.

It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed as a newbie Pagan. From the start of your journey, you’re being bombarded with recommended reading lists (of both popular and academic materials), lists of ritual tools, lists of ritual correspondences, lists of deities to honour and the best days to honour Them. Even if you aren’t invested in a specific path, the sheer number of Pagan traditions (whether long-standing or currently being created) can be daunting in itself.

So, here’s a little advice:

Slow down.

You don’t need to gather all your ritual tools all at once. Some people take years before they find the right ones.

Slow down.

I know Pagans who honour more than twenty deities (or however many deities are in their pantheon), I know Pagans who only honour two or three, or Pagans who focus on one deity among many.

Slow down.

No one’s going to think you’re a bad Pagan if you only really feel connected to a couple deities. You don’t need to have thirty altars around your house (unless you want to). At the time of this writing, I don’t have ANY ritual space (permanent or otherwise) dedicated to my deities. Well, I always say my body is a temple, but that doesn’t count. 🙂

Slow down.

No one’s going to think you’re a bad Pagan if you have an armory’s worth of ritual tools. Unless you like the idea of having a different chalice for each sabbat (which is kind of a cool idea) or you’ve broken it, don’t worry about only having one of each tool. I don’t have a drinking horn, I don’t see the need to have one when I have some nice cups, and drinking horns are only really good for groups, or so I’ve heard.

Slow down.

No, you don’t need a patron deity. Even though I feel particularly close to certain deities, I haven’t formally dedicated myself to any of them. Some Pagans simply don’t have patrons. I can’t stress this enough. Dedicating oneself to a deity is not something that should be done without a tremendous amount of thought and soul-searching.

Slow down.

You als0 don’t need to have a particular relationship with a deity to be close to that deity. I know the *in* thing right now is to claim that you’re a godspouse, or (if you want to come across as uber legit) a godslave, but, TBH, both of these relationships are exceedingly rare. The reason they get so much “publicity” is due mainly to the internet. Seriously, if anyone remembers Google directory (I loved that directory) do you remember how many “personal pages” there were for Wiccans? There were a lot, and even though Wicca is the largest Pagan tradition (to the point where we have to keep saying “Wiccan does not equal Pagan”) it’s still relatively small compared to many other faiths in North America.

There are many, many, MANY, ways to relate to deities, you might relate to a deity as a parent, a lover, a friend, a teacher. Actually, just look at this list:

God as parent
God as lover
God as exemplar of virtue
God as role model
God as Mafia don
God as buddy with resources
God as disinterested origin point
God as benevolent slavemaster
God as deified ancestor / embodiment of family line
God as ground of being (Spong, hard to translate, argh)
God as animate embodiment of the universe
God as that which Is
God as love
God as ultimate reality
God as setter-forth of the Law
God as patron
God as confidant
God as confessor
God as arbiter
God as eventual judge
God as rescuer
God as dispenser of mercy
God as foil
God as boss
God as author
God as creative force
God as tech support
God as someone to blame
God as worthy opponent
God as jailer
God as commanding officer
God as self
God as intoxicant
God as essence of visible forces
God as spiritual goal
God as perfected state
God as enforcer
God as the collective
God as bouncer
God as that which corrects or compensates for what’s wrong in the material world
God as you’re-not-really-there-but-I-talk-to-you-when-there’s-nobody-else
God as spackle (hee hee hee) (This would be God of the Gaps)
God as inspiration
God as logical out, emergency exit, or pie-in-the-sky
God as Cracker Jack Prize at the bottom of Creation
God as reason to take it out on others
God as social group’s totem
God as collective effervescence
God as egregore
God as father
God as mother
God as rallying point
God as spiritual kin
God as expression of essential nature
God as invisible hand
God as Tallest/biggest kid on the block
God as guide
God as synchronisity
God as tester
God as tormentor
God as conundrum
God as riddle
God as Gordian Knot
God as mindfuck
God as archivist
God as beyond mortal understanding
God as mirror
God as a lens/filter for viewing the world
God as weapon
God as indivisible particle
God as justification
God as expression of order
God as taboo
God as centering
God as center
God as Gaia
God as illusion
God as symbol
God as misunderstanding
God as misapprehension
God as shepherd
God as vast natural thingness
God as impersonal mathematics
God as advisor
God as meaning
God as the manipulator of quantum chance
God as the ineffable
God as the force of history
God as life-force
God as intelligence itself
God as master of the house
God as bridegroom
God as sacrifice
God as eventuality
God as protector
God as blankie
God as court jester (speaking the truth in joke)
God as practical joker
God as raw magical force
God as luck
God as hander-out of rewards
God as passive-aggressive wacko

(This list is from the Cauldron, btw, I don’t have an original source for it, post is by Darkhawk, you’ll recognize that name from one of my earliest posts.)

Okay, so some of these aren’t necessarily ways that followers relate to deities and more how followers see deities, but look at this list, LOOK AT IT! It’s also left some out, as “deity-as-child” is also present historically (with the devotee like a loving parent spoiling their child, and the deity being the child who is spoiled).

SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT THE LIST!

I’d be interested to hear from someone whose deity is like their Mafia Don, that sounds….interesting….

Slow down.

By the way, if anyone ever tells you that you NEED to be X, Y, or Z to a have a deep relationship with a deity, they are full of shit, with a few exceptions (such as deities who are very closely tied to particular professions) you don’t need to have a particular relationship to a deity in order to serve them effectively. Otherwise I totally want in on that harem of godspouses that Loki supposedly has. Seriously, soon there will be no Pagan women left who have time for a mortal and a divine spouse. I really need to start looking!

In all seriousness, deities need servants, lovers, children, and students as much (if not more) as they need spouses. Sometimes they want people to fill multiple roles, other times, they need someone with a particular skill.

And, you know, does it matter? Does it matter if your co-religionist has twenty altars all dedicated to a different aspect of their patron deity and you only have one? Does it matter if so-and-so likes to dress in historically-accurate clothing (that they made themselves) for ritual, when you wear jeans and a t-shirt because they’re comfortable? Does it matter if someone has a huge library of books, and you have three or four that you love to death?

No.

I talk to people who do way more than I do in service to their deities. They don’t have the kind of space or privacy constraints than I do, and they probably don’t have my commitment issues, either. That is their path, I have mine, and if it takes you years to decide that you want to dedicate yourself to a deity, then TAKE THEM! You are doing no one a favour if you rush into things and royally screw yourself over.

So slow down, okay?

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4 thoughts on “Slow Down

  1. Omgoddess, yes.

    Things take time. Especially with anything deity. Deity does what it damn well wants, when it wants, how it wants. This especially-especially-ESPECIALLY goes for anything godspousery or godslavery related. I imagine there are a rare few out there who fall into that kind of relationship almost right away. The majority of the newbies won’t.

    Learning ritual work, magic, divination, and all the other trappings takes time, too. Unless you can learn a fairly complex activity in a finger snap.

    I think part of the problem is 101 materials hand out lists, instructions, and what not, but never say exactly where or how to start, or how to build up from 101 status. So you have poor Newbie Pagan wondering just how much of this stuff is really needed right now at the very beginning of the journey. Unless Newbie can find some guidance, the only option is to acquire and hoard. But then that leaves Newbie Pagan confused, because, okay, here’s all that stuff, now what to do with it? (IE: It doesn’t really solve the problem that first presented itself before all the stuff was acquired.)

    I always tell people to start incrementally. Take what is absolutely needed at that moment, run with it for awhile, then get more stuff when you’re comfortable. On top of that, read voraciously. Academic sources are best, but get popular “how-to” books as well, if available.

    There’s also, possibly, the “stigma” of being the new guy on the block. Nobody likes that uncomfortable transitional feeling. Nobody likes having no idea what they’re doing. Paganism is bewildering in its size and variety, and the urge to grasp some part of it, to become an “expert” in that part ASAP, is veeeeery tempting.

  2. Loki’s my husband…but He’s also my boss, my critic, my interloper, my protector, my partner-in-crime, my playmate, and my adversary, depending on the situation. So I’d heartily agree with your advice. Slow down — all of the many ways in which one learns to understand one god (not to mention twenty) take time to discover and explore.

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