(C) Closed-Cultures/Religions

The eclectic nature of many Pagan paths is one of the major draws for a lot of people who come here from other more structured religions. There are plenty of books and resources out there which tell us all about the wonderful eclectic nature of Paganism, and that it is perfectly acceptable for us to draw our practices and beliefs from whatever sources we want to, as long as it calls to us. However something very important that is often overlooked, is the fact that not all cultures or religions are actually open to be taken from.

The concept of a closed-culture or religion, is something that many people are simply unfamiliar with. There is a sense of entitlement that seems pervasive in many Pagan communities, and we often feel that simply because a practice or belief resonates with us, or seems interesting to us, that it’s ok for us to take it and make it our own. We mix and match cultures and religions, irregardless of traditions that might be involved, or cultures that might be clashing, or the fact that such practices or beliefs may not just be available for the taking, by those who are not actual practicing members of said culture/religion.

Two major examples of closed cultures/religions – which both unfortunately tend to be those which are most often taken from, are Native American cultures and Traditional Wicca. When it comes to the culture and spiritual practices of the various Native American tribes, in most cases if you are not a member of the tribe, or have been adopted into one, then any misappropriation of their practices and beliefs is considered highly offensive, and – as noted below, could be considered an actual act of war against the tribe.  Wicca on the other hand, is an initiatory “mystery” religion at it’s very core, yet has somehow it has been grossly misrepresented over the years as an eclectic “whatever you want it to be” religion. Those that continue to represent it as such have changed the very heart of the religion, and truly what they do is no longer Wicca (and should not be called by that name).

There is also some debate as to if some parts of “Celtic” culture and their spiritual practices are closed as well. In particular, that certain Gods are said to be oathed only to the Gael, which means that if one is not a member of that culture, then at best one would be wasting one’s time attempting to worship them.  There are others, particularly indigenous cultures and practices, and some that consider Shintoism to be rather more closed to outsiders, than most people think it is as well.

It’s painful sometimes, when there is something that we want, that we can’t have access to immediately. Yet if something is that important to us, then we should be willing to do the work necessary to attain it properly, rather than just taking what we want, without regard for the traditions that are probably what drew us to that culture/practice in the first place. If we are truly called to a particular path, then if we work hard and make sacrifices, then it will happen, otherwise we need to respect that in this life it’s just not meant to be – to do otherwise diminishes that which we claim to love.

For more information you can check the following…

War Against Eploiters of Lakota Spirituality



(B) Balance

I’ve noticed that many Neo-Pagan books focus on the “love and light” aspects of witchcraft or Pagan practices, grossly misrepresenting the Rede (which not everyone follows anyways), and going on and on about healing and “white” magic, and making everything all sparkly and cute. However what many don’t mention, or if they do – do so only briefly, is that you can’t have the “light” without the “dark”, and that both sides are equally necessary if one is to maintain this “balance” thing, that seems to be so important to many paths.

Balance, which is not the normal state of things anyways, is something that is more or less in constant flux. We are usually either on one side or the other, pushing, pulling and adjusting to get to those brief moments of “aahhh” – then we start the process all over again. It’s important to remember however that “balance” includes all things – the good/bad, ugly/beautiful, light/dark, etc… and that each is necessary in it’s own way. Too much, or too little of one or the other, throws off that “balance”. We have to have death and destruction, in order for there to be life and new growth. Without it everything would stagnate, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

(A) Awareness

When we think about “awareness” the first thing Pagans usually think about, is awareness outside of the Pagan community -of bringing the practices and beliefs of the various Pagan religions more to the mainstream. We think about ways we can break down negative stereotypes to achieve acceptance, or at the very least tolerance from those of other faiths who, traditionally, have often seen us through a lens of fear and/or hatred. What many don’t realize however, is that many of those same issues exist within the Pagan community as well. So the question becomes, how can we teach others, when we often show the same ignorance and intolerance towards each other.

The answer it seems, comes to us through “awareness” as well, though of a slightly different kind. In this sense it’s a matter of being aware that not everything we hear and see is truth – even if we see it in print, or hear it from a major news network. It’s an awareness that just because someone claims something to be “the way it is”, or claims that they speak for a particular tradition/path, that it doesn’t make it so. It’s about being aware of how to make sure that your sources of information are valid, and that when you are passing on knowledge that you’ve learned, or that interesting bit of news that you might have heard, that it’s actually true.

This is especially important these days when in-person teaching of traditions seems to be falling to the wayside. So many Pagans rely on books or websites to learn about their paths, and especially when one is just starting out – they often have no way of discerning a good resource from a bad one. How to tell if someone actually has the experience, knowledge or even the proper authority (particularly in traditions or religions that require initiations, or are based on closed-cultures) to even be speaking – much less attempting to teach, on any particular subject.

While many of us came to Paganism because we were looking for less rules and less structure, etc… , there still needs to be accountability. We need to be more aware of what sort of misinformation is being spread (even if it’s being done unintentionally), and how that misinformation is creating the misconceptions that are helping to divide us from within. From this new found awareness, it is a matter of consciously making an effort to stop the spread of misinformation, which will in turn make it easier for us to change the misconceptions that continue to plague us. Which in turn, brings us full circle to “awareness” outside of the Pagan Community, and how much easier that will be, when we all are working together, rather than at cross-purposes.