Ten Things to Stop Doing if You're Pagan
By Patti Wigington
"Most people who are Pagans didn't start out that way - and sometimes, it's easy to fall into the trap of negative habits. Here are ten bad habits you may be engaging in and why you should drop them if you want to have a positive experience with Pagan spirituality."
1. Stop Trying to Fit Your New Religion Into Your Old One
Most people who come to a Pagan belief system didn’t start out that way. Simply because of the numbers, the majority of people who are now Pagan were once Christians or some other religion. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, sometimes, people have trouble letting go. It’s not uncommon to meet folks who swear up and down that they’re Pagan, and yet they live by the dogma of their old religion - they’ve simply changed the names of the deities. Don’t try to put Paganism - of whatever flavor - into a Christian (or other kind of) box. Just let it be what it is. You’ll be much happier in the long run.
2. Stop Assuming All Pagans are the Same
There are lots of Pagan traditions. They’re not all the same. In fact, some are vastly different. While there may be some common threads that bind MOST Pagan religions together, the fact is that every tradition has its own set of rules and guidelines. Are you someone who insists that all Pagans must follow the Law of Threefold Return or the Wiccan Rede? Well, not all groups have those as a mandate. Accept that each person - and group - is capable of thinking for themselves, and that they are able to create laws, guidelines, tenets and rules that work best for them.
3. Stop Ignoring Your Instinct
Got a feeling something is going on, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Believe it or not, most people have some degree of latent psychic ability. If you’re interested in developing your gifts and skills, then stop ignoring those messages. You may find that they’re telling you some pretty important stuff. Magic happens, as does psychic phenomena. But if you keep rejecting it as “Oh, there’s no WAY that just happened,” then you may be missing out on a very valuable tool and resource.
4. Stop Being Silent
Many Pagan traditions follow a guideline that includes the idea of keeping silent. In that circumstance, keeping silent refers to the idea that we shouldn’t go around blabbing endlessly about our religious beliefs, our magical practice or the people we’re standing in circle with.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. No, instead, when we say “Stop being silent,” we’re talking about a lack of speaking out when injustice is done. There’s a common thread in our society in which no one really wants to get involved when things are going on that do not directly impact us. However, as Pagans, we’re in the minority, in the United States and in most other countries. That means that when things happen to other minority groups - even those that are not Pagan - we should still be standing up for those other groups. If we don’t speak up when other groups are treated unfairly, who’s going to speak for us when we ourselves face discrimination?
5. Stop Accepting Mediocrity
There are literally thousands of books and websites about modern Paganism. One of the things people typically find themselves asking is, "How do I know what books are reliable?," followed almost immediately by "Which authors should I avoid?" As you learn and read and study, you'll learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and you'll eventually be able to figure out on your own what makes a book credible, or worth reading, and what makes it one that should probably only be used as a doorstop or paperweight. Demand more. Patronize publishers and authors whose work is credible, and not those who simply slap a cover with a pentagram and some glitter on a new version of the same garbage you’ve been reading for thirty years.
6. Stop Neglecting the Natural World
If you’re someone who follows a nature or earth-based religion, it stands to reason that the natural world should be, at least to some degree, sacred. While it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all out in the forest worshiping rocks and stumps, it does mean that we should have the decency to treat our natural world with some respect. Become environmentally conscious and aware. Even if you simply focus on the patch of earth you live on, or your immediate area, rather than on a global level, it’s a start. Take care of the land on which you live.
7. Stop Wasting Time
“I want to be Pagan but I just don’t have time to study!” How many times have you caught yourself saying or thinking that? It’s an easy rut to fall into - we’ve all got jobs, families, and lives, and it’s easy to let ourselves fall into the habit of not making time for our spirituality. However, if you think about some of the ways we waste the twenty-four hours a day we DO have, it’s not so hard to re-prioritize. If you feel like you don’t have the time you need to work on your spirituality as much as you’d like to, then take a long and hard look at how you are spending your days. Are there ways you can save time, that you can then dedicate to your spiritual journey?
8. Stop Judging
“Christians are all such jerks.” “Wiccans are a bunch of fluffy weirdos.” “Those Heathens are way too aggressive.” Ever overhear any of those from someone in the Pagan community? Unfortunately, judgmental behavior is not limited to the non-Pagans. Remember how we talked about how each Pagan path is different, and they’re not all like you? Well, part of accepting that people are different includes not being judgey because they’re different. You're going to meet a lot of people who are not like you. Don’t stereotype anyone based on misconceptions - instead, base your opinion of them upon their merits or flaws as individuals.
9. Stop Letting Others Think For You
If you’re ready to be part of a non-mainstream religious group, you’ll notice really quickly that the Pagan community is full of free thinkers. It’s full of people who question authority, and who try to make right decisions based upon their own moral codes, rather than what may be popular or fashionable. Don’t take things at face value - ask questions, and don’t accept what you’re told just because someone tells you to. Take the time to find a good teacher - and realize that the best teachers will want you to ask questions.
10. Stop Making Excuses
“I don’t have time to study.” “I don’t have the money to buy supplies.” “I live in a town that’s really religious.” “My spouse doesn’t want me to be Pagan.” Are you making excuses for all the reasons you can’t practice your Pagan faith? Aleister Crowley once said that to perform magic is to express dissatisfaction with the universe. In other words, if you’re happy with the way things are, then there’s no need for magic. While Crowley may have said a lot of things that people disagree with, he’s spot on with this one. You have the same hours in your day as everyone else. Change how you spend those hours. Set goals to make things change for you.