A Witch's Beginnings, part three

Part One.
Part Two.

Wicca has a “harm none” edict which felt stifling to me in my late teens and early twenties. Not that “harm none” isn’t a solid principle to adhere to, but so many of the resources I found at the time promoted a sort of spiritual altruism that I just couldn’t get on board with. I was young and angry and oh-so tired of being told that was wrong.

By this time, I’d moved beyond the few books in my local Barnes and Noble and found a couple witches through blogging (literally; I found two). One of whom didn’t really have the time of day for me, but one I became friends with (we’re still friends, actually; I’ll be using her stage-name, Dani, here). I still remember clearly a LiveJournal icon she had (this was about 2006; don’t judge) which said, “I am not a harm none Wiccan. I am a witch and I will curse your ass!”

It was in meeting Dani that I realized Wicca wasn’t my only choice for witchcraft.

Dani was a Pagan, a witch, and studied holistic healing and Reiki. She had animal skulls on her altar. She was a feminist—an angry feminist, at that—and bisexual, and an adult model, and a goth, and a year older than myself. I fell in love with her a little bit. I saw so much of myself reflected in her—if she could do it, why couldn’t I?

I realized that I could embrace the matriarchal themes of Wicca, could cast spells and celebrate Sabbats, without having to adhere to the “harm none” mentality which left me feeling so guilty and inadequate. I didn’t have to walk through the world completely at peace and in harmony with everything around me. I could get pissed off, could dislike people, could express my frustration—I could be human in a way that previously felt like failure.

Of course, I still don’t recommend casting hexes or curses. I don’t necessarily believe in the Threefold Law, but I do believe in Karma and that the energy we send out comes back to us. Also, it’s just a dick move. All the same, I don’t think that making the choice to do so makes someone a bad witch—I probably don’t want to hang out with them, but it’s not my place to judge.

Moving away from Wicca wasn’t just about acknowledging, or even embracing, my anger. It also meant stepping back from the pageantry which made me uncomfortable. I always felt silly doing things like casting circles and drawing down the moon, to the point that I was never able to actually complete a Wiccan ritual. All I could think was, “What is the point of all this?”

Couldn’t I just cleanse and dedicate my immediate space? Did I really have to clear out the entire center of my bedroom, so I could drag my altar out and have enough space to walk around it? My altar was heavy and my bedroom was small; I barely had the space under the best circumstances—when it was messy, you could forget about it (and it was usually messy).

The gods of other religions don’t care if their adherents pray to them in a church or temple or mosque; adherents of other religions had the freedom to pray and speak to their deities and ask for assistance anytime, anywhere. Why would the Goddess only listen to me if I was in the proper space?

Learning that I didn’t have to be beholden to such rules was freeing.

I’m a simple person and my spell work reflects that. I rarely did spell work (I didn’t see the need; most things I’d need a spell for were minor things that could usually be solved with a little personal effort), but when I did my spells involved sitting at my altar, cleansing and dedicating the space through a quick smudge, lighting a candle, burning some incense, and maybe displaying a few stones or trinkets to really connect to the god or goddess I was working with. Then I’d make my request, say thanks, and that would be it. That was enough for me.

Unfortunately, I still struggled to find a pantheon which worked for me. I didn’t connect with any of the more commonly written about pantheons (Greek, Roman) and finding information on others was very difficult.

I’ve found that I’m comfortable with the idea of worshiping the Celtic deities (which makes sense, because I feel very connected to my Irish heritage), but finding information on them can be tedious. The Celtic pantheon is huge and the mythology around them a vast and varied web. Again, I just don’t have the time to study it and find that real connection I want in addition to everything else I’m trying to balance.

Without feeling that connection to the deities I was trying to worship, that aspect of my practice fell away, entirely.

I couldn’t tell you for sure when the shift happened, aside from it being a gradual thing over the last few years. I can tell you how it happened, though.

All religion is similar. There are common themes and stories across all religions. I’ve always known that.

What I didn’t realize until I decided to undertake finding the pantheon I connected with was how similar the deities in those religions are. While there isn’t a clear-cut correspondence chart between the Greek pantheon and the Celtic pantheon (or others) like with the Greek and Roman, if you look, you do find gods and goddesses which line up pretty evenly. Deities of the home, or healing, or love, or lust… Ultimately, they all serve the same functions.

So, I thought, maybe they serve the same functions because they’re the same deities, just given different names in different areas. Especially in the Greek/Roman juxtaposition, where you can actually find charts stating this Greek goddess is that Roman goddess.

I then took it a step further.

Spell work is putting my energy out into the Universe. So, what if those deities were the personifications of that Universal energy? Humans like to organize and categorize. We like to label and identify. We need to relate things back to ourselves.

But, how do you identify the infinite? How do you classify the intangible? How do you organize God? It would make sense that we, as humans who want things to be familiar and relatable, would simply slice that energy up for different needs and name it.

That’s the idea that made sense to me, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) say that’s how it truly is. I couldn’t know for certain. How could I when God[dess]/Universal Energy/The Infinite/The Almighty/etc… is intangible, immeasurable? One could make the argument that the gurus who have attained enlightenment and can perform godly acts are proof of what it all is, but I still don’t know. Those are still men. Perhaps lying men; though I’d like to believe they are legitimate, until I have also reached that enlightenment I cannot possibly know.

I do believe there is something—some energy or force greater than myself—but I couldn’t tell you what I think it is. It’s convenient to call it God[dess] (it’s a force; it has no gender). I debated referring to it as “the Force,” (because Star Wars) but that seemed disrespectful and also I don’t want to get sued by Disney. I’ll often refer to it as the Universe, or the Universal Energy. I may be right; I may be wrong.

Which was how I dropped the label Pagan and picked up the label agnostic—meaning “a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable” (Merriam Webster). Because that is what I believe; it is unknown and (to the average person) unknowable.

Despite moving away from deity worshiping, I do still practice witchcraft. Like I said, I do believe there is something there to work with. I’m still researching pantheons, when I have the time (I do not currently have much time). Like I said, it is convenient to personify and name the energy around us. I would like to find something I connect to.

This shift in my magical thinking is still fairly recent, as well, so try to take it with a grain of salt and please don’t jump down my throat if you disagree. It’s still rough around the edges and needs to be polished, but it’s what I’m poking at with my Spiritual Stick, for now.

Spirituality, religion, belief systems of any kind are always changing. What I believe today may not be what I believe tomorrow.

It’s a journey.

Thank you for taking it with me.

I love you all.

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8 Comments on “A Witch's Beginnings, part three

  1. For a while, before Bast came to me and my spiritual life ramped up, I used to refer to that force/presence/whatever as Providence. It’s a phrase taken, at least by me, from Christianity, but it felt very gender and pantheon neutral, and was nice for someone like me who was basically agnostic with a hope that there really was something.

    Sometimes I think we (meaning all religions, but in this case pagans) put too much emphasis on you needing to Know For Sure what you believe and how it works. And we really don’t. Do I believe in an afterlife? Yes. Do I know how it works, or how I think it works? Not at all. But that doesn’t really bother me, because what would change if I did know? I can’t control the afterlife, so it seems silly to worry about something that’s always in the future.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble. Thank you for sharing your journey, it’s given me some really interesting and helpful insight into the non-wicca side of witchcraft. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Providence. I like that.

      I agree, all religions have an emphasis on wanting to know. I’ve seen this more from monotheistic religions, but possibly because a lot of the Pagans I’ve met and know tend to have the same fluid idea of the gods/goddesses; that they’re the same gods/goddesses, but with different names depending on the culture.

      In recent years, I’ve come to be more scientifically-minded, so I definitely struggle with that desire to know for sure and to root my belief in fact. It can be difficult to reconcile that with the knowledge that I’ll probably never know for certain.

      I’m really glad it helped give you some insight. =) I’m in the process of a spiritual shift, and writing it helped me clarify my own thoughts a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to a lot of what you wrote, having tried out different religions/philosophies over the years, I pretty much got to where you are in terms of believing/not believing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely love the history of how the Greek Gods were taken in and modified to become the Roman Gods. SSDD*.


    *Same Sh*t, Different Deity

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: My Atheist Paganism – My Hippy Life

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