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Foinah
04-07-2014, 08:14 PM
I was having a discussion the other day with a friend of mine and the subject of religion came up in our conversation.

I don't hide the fact that I'm a witch, but I don't shout it from the rooftops, either.
My friend was interested in all of the different pagan paths out there. She wanted to know where she should start and if there was a "set" way to do things.

My answer was YES and NO. :roll:

Let me explain ~ there are certain rituals and processes that go hand-in-hand with paganism. Each path might have a designated way of doing something based in the tradition of that pathway.
But there is no "ONE WAY IS THE ONLY WAY" when it comes to your belief system structure.

You need to find what calls to you, what sings in your blood, what combination embodies your beliefs.

This has actually come up frequently in discussions and on other forums.

The beauty of being a pagan is that you walk the seeking path. It's a journey of enlightenment and knowledge.
The pagan faith is rather like a fabulous buffet that features cuisine from around the world. There are many paths: traditional, new age, fusion, old school, new school,old world, new world, and combinations of all of the above.

Even the traditional pathways have been reconstructed from oral history, written history, trial and error.
For the fledgling seeker or even the solitary practitioner this can be daunting. You are afraid to make mistakes, look like a fool.

Here's my advice that translates well even for daily living:
Don't be afraid to explore. If someone makes you feel bad for asking questions, questioning why it is "done" only that way, criticizes your choices....that's toxic. Walk away.
Keep looking until you get answers.
Just because someone identifies as a pagan, that doesn't mean they aren't an arse as well! :Lecture: hahaha.

There are amazing resources available for newbie and established pagans. Hopefully this particular forum is one of those!

I never want any participant here to feel embarrassed to ask questions, share experiences, join in discussions, or feel any form of ick. This forum is an ecclectic melting pot of awesome!
:hooray:

Everyone is welcome here. :Hug2:
And my friend? She's happily exploring her roots and the traditions that seem to call to her the most!

So there it is then.
I really look forward to meeting new pagans and joining in the discussions here!

Merry Meet.

Kylabelle
04-08-2014, 01:19 AM
Foinah, what a beautiful statement.

I wonder, do you think (or does anyone, not just Foinah) that one of the reasons pagans tend to feel unsure of expressing ourselves about our spiritual ways has to do with the fact that there *is* no established institution?

Not that I want one, to be clear, but for instance, someone raised as a Presbyterian, say, who has no particular interest in the specific practices of that Christian denomination, or even in Christianity in any depth and detail, will not usually feel like they're putting themselves on the spot by saying "I'm Presbyterian."

It's like, the church is responsible for all the details of how you do it right; the church members just show up on Sundays when they feel like it.

Funnily enough, from what I was told by an ordained Taoist priest, Taoism is the similar. He said, if someone is called a Taoist, that means they are a priest and they are responsible for practices and for taking care of the "parish" -- which was how he translated the Chinese word for a group of people shepherded by a priest, all living nearby each other.

He said the people themselves know more or less of what the practices involve, rarely know their deeper levels, and are simply served by the work of the priests. (I am paraphrasing a conversation from many years ago and probably doing it badly.) Those people, those "parishoners" are probably more correctly described as pagans, come to think of it. (Very much of Taoism is directly related to the patterns of energy flow through the land and environment, and relating to those in beneficial ways, so, paganism in that sense is a strong part of it.)

If one is a Buddhist, one has "taken the precepts" -- I investigated this because I thought perhaps Buddhism was an institution I might feel okay about joining. So I wanted to know what would be involved in "calling myself a Buddhist." Taking the precepts is basically taking a vow to follow some basic moral guidelines (as I recall.)

Anyway, I never felt right doing that either.

I really liked that you said one who is a pagan is walking the seeking path. For me, it's all about direct experience, finding ways to know for myself, and finding ways to interact with the numinous and the divine which do not require a mediator.

Disa
05-24-2016, 03:13 AM
I've been away for quite some time and just stumbled upon this thread. Foinah, I also loved the way you phrased it, pagans walk the "seeking path". I fully agree with your sentiment of everyone doing what calls to them. I know there are some pagans who think their way is the only way, but I have not run across many like that.

Kylabelle, you asked:
"I wonder, do you think (or does anyone, not just Foinah) that one of the reasons pagans tend to feel unsure of expressing ourselves about our spiritual ways has to do with the fact that there *is* no established institution?"

I don't personally feel it has to do with there not being an established institution. Do you mean express our spiritual ways to other pagans, or to christians?

Most people I know(who aren't pagan) don't seem to know enough about paganism to ask those types of questions. In their opinion, we are all "of the devil", no matter that the devil is their issue not ours.

The pagans I know are accepting of most of the belief systems of others, and want to learn more about them. (Occasionally red flags do go up among pagans when something seems waaay off, but still that an individual thing).

I'm hesitant to discuss my spirituality or beliefs with most people until it comes up in some context or another because I do live in the bible belt. So it's more to do with not wanting to have to hear a bunch of crap from people who will want to argue- you can't really argue with someone who bases their entire premise on the bible, if you don't follow the bible. There's nothing to argue about from my standpoint, and they can't grasp the basic fact that not everyone follow the bible. They can quote quotes all day long to me and it doesn't really change anything.

Anyway, I wasn't trying to get off track with that.

I' m glad this space is here. I hope others will chime in.

kuwisdelu
05-24-2016, 03:58 AM
I wonder, do you think (or does anyone, not just Foinah) that one of the reasons pagans tend to feel unsure of expressing ourselves about our spiritual ways has to do with the fact that there *is* no established institution?

It certainly made research far more difficult when I wanted to write a pagan character.

That project is on the back burner for now.

regdog
05-24-2016, 09:12 PM
There are so many different paths to walk it does make it tough. I have also met a few who believe their path is the only one, but many more who are open and receptive to others' ways. Our ways are less about dogma, doctrine and religious control and more about spirituality.



I also think one reason why so many are hesitant to discuss it is the overwhelming prejudice and misinformation out there regarding paganism. We are still seen and portrayed in popular media as evil, power hungry, conniving or "airy fairy" dingbats.

One of my close family members saw my pentagram, looked me straight in the eye and said "You're going to hell." I was stunned.


Kuwi-I always wondered what happened to to your story. A look at some of the responses in Kuwi's thread show examples of the wrong and misleading stereotype pagans are painted with.

kuwisdelu
05-24-2016, 09:24 PM
Kuwi-I always wondered what happened to to your story. A look at some of the responses in Kuwi's thread show examples of the wrong and misleading stereotype pagans are painted with.

I've really struggled to find enough time to make progress on a novel in grad school.

Full disclosure: That story had a male protagonist, and I want to keep it that way, but since transitioning, I need some time away from it before I can revisit writing from a male POV without feeling incredibly dysphoric. I think I will write the sequel first and turn the original story into a prequel. However transitioning did give me a great idea for the pagan character, who I was struggling with due to his being a boy but also a pagan witch, while also trying to figure out how he and his sister eventually become estranged from their mother: I figured out he's ftm! He was raised female, but his mom flipped out when he told her he was a boy, hence his sister raising him. Of course that will just give me a whole new headache trying to figure out how a trans man would navigate paganism...

regdog
05-24-2016, 10:56 PM
Interesting.

I have found the pagans I know to be very accepting of LGBT. There is no religious stigma attached as there is with other faiths. One of the core aspects across all forms of paganism is respect. We respect ourselves, Gods, Goddesses, Mother Earth, animals, other religions and people.

Disa
05-25-2016, 12:29 AM
Interesting.

I have found the pagans I know to be very accepting of LGBT. There is no religious stigma attached as there is with other faiths. One of the core aspects across all forms of paganism is respect. We respect ourselves, Gods, Goddesses, Mother Earth, animals, other religious and people.
This.

A trans man would navigate Paganism just like anyone else would. The pagans and witches I know have no issue with it. We love your spirit, no matter which body it's inhabiting this go round :)

kuwisdelu
05-25-2016, 05:24 AM
Interesting.

I have found the pagans I know to be very accepting of LGBT.

Feminists, too, yet TERFs still exist for some reason. :Shrug:

While researching trans stuff, I came across some articles about gender essentialism in paganism by trans pagans, which was interesting to me since it reminded me of this character. It did sound like much of the community is moving away from the gender essentialist stuff so they can be more welcoming to trans people, which is great, but it sounded like some people had some trouble with it too.


A trans man would navigate Paganism just like anyone else would. The pagans and witches I know have no issue with it. We love your spirit, no matter which body it's inhabiting this go round :)

I'm sure the character would be at this place by the time the story begins, but it could take some time for him to get there, to reconcile his relationship with femininity and masculinity and their role in divinity with his own anatomy.

Disa
05-25-2016, 01:40 PM
Feminists, too, yet TERFs still exist for some reason. :Shrug:

While researching trans stuff, I came across some articles about gender essentialism in paganism by trans pagans, which was interesting to me since it reminded me of this character. It did sound like much of the community is moving away from the gender essentialist stuff so they can be more welcoming to trans people, which is great, but it sounded like some people had some trouble with it too.



I'm sure the character would be at this place by the time the story begins, but it could take some time for him to get there, to reconcile his relationship with femininity and masculinity and their role in divinity with his own anatomy.

Yes, the internal reconciliation within the character would be something I'm pretty clueless about and would be interested in reading. I hadn't considered "their role in divinity with his own anatomy". I'm not sure I fully understand what you mean by that. I guess I've never really thought about it, myself- my own role in regards to my anatomy.(Do you mean specifically in Wicca? I'm not Wiccan, but I can see what you mean if you are referring to Wicca).

The more you comment about your character, the more I want to read your story. (I have to admit, I don't know what "TERF's" are.) Hopefully your character will find enough loving and compassionate pagans to walk with him down this path. I guess one or two dissenters would make for interesting conflict in a story, though in real life I don't find them(the dissenters) interesting at all.

regdog
05-25-2016, 05:15 PM
I had to Google TERF (http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/TERF) myself.

The thing that is important to remember. Paganism, Witchcraft, Wicca do not teach or advocate prejudice against anyone for any reason. They are inclusive faiths. Sadly, within the faith there will always be individuals who advocate prejudice and exclusion for their own reasons, be it their own prejudice, fear, quest for power, control etc. They are not true to the faith though. They can't be.

In Witchcraft there is but one defining edict- And it harm none, do as ye will.

Disa
05-26-2016, 01:21 AM
RE: TERF definition- all I can say is "WOW" I had NO idea. yikes. I just don't get it, why people can't just "Live and let live".

I agree with and it harm none do as ye will-the witches I know follow this to the best of their ability, but there are many, many who don't. You're right about individuals in any group doing their own thing.

kuwisdelu
05-26-2016, 02:44 AM
The thing that is important to remember. Paganism, Witchcraft, Wicca do not teach or advocate prejudice against anyone for any reason. They are inclusive faiths. Sadly, within the faith there will always be individuals who advocate prejudice and exclusion for their own reasons, be it their own prejudice, fear, quest for power, control etc. They are not true to the faith though. They can't be.

Oh don't worry, I'm not one to judge a group of people or their beliefs based on some intolerant people who happen to share them.


Yes, the internal reconciliation within the character would be something I'm pretty clueless about and would be interested in reading. I hadn't considered "their role in divinity with his own anatomy". I'm not sure I fully understand what you mean by that. I guess I've never really thought about it, myself- my own role in regards to my anatomy.(Do you mean specifically in Wicca? I'm not Wiccan, but I can see what you mean if you are referring to Wicca).

Well, just to speak from personal experience for a moment.

Like, for example, when I first came out, it was just before our New Year, and my brother didn't know what kind of prayer sticks to make for me anymore. Besides the ones for ancestors and other non-gendered things, men plant a prayer stick for the sun, and women plant one for the moon. Because the moon is feminine, its cycles being associated with the menstrual cycle.

Boys' and girls' rites of passage are different, with boys being initiated into the religion and a dancing society like I was, and girls having other rites (which aren't really practiced anymore, I think) after their first menses, which I'll never have.

Traditionally, there would be a path forward for someone like me, but much of that has been lost now. Under the influence of Christianity, a lot of it has been replaced with homophobia and transphobia.

Even if that weren't the case, though, there are still all these little things, symbols and ideas representing womanhood and female spirituality based on things that are difficult to reconcile with my anatomy, since I don't have a uterus, and I can never get pregnant.

These are fairly common themes in many world religions, so I'm sure you can relate them back to symbols of female spirituality in Wicca and many other pagan systems.

So kind of like that, except, y'know, opposite for an ftm character.


The more you comment about your character, the more I want to read your story. Hopefully your character will find enough loving and compassionate pagans to walk with him down this path.

Ahhh stop me!! The path to writers' block is paved by talking too much about a story before it's written. >_<

But I guess there's no real way to avoid that when doing research, is there?

(Which I'm already doing with my current idea too, as I'm trying to research wheelchair users and disabilities.)

And don't worry. He finds them on the internet. :tongue


I guess one or two dissenters would make for interesting conflict in a story, though in real life I don't find them(the dissenters) interesting at all.

I'm the kind of masochist who reads the comments when I know I shouldn't.

regdog
05-26-2016, 03:45 AM
Even if that weren't the case, though, there are still all these little things, symbols and ideas representing womanhood and female spirituality based on things that are difficult to reconcile with my anatomy, since I don't have a uterus, and I can never get pregnant.

These are fairly common themes in many world religions, so I'm sure you can relate them back to symbols of female spirituality in Wicca and many other pagan systems.


Just because they are theme to a religion does not mean they need to be block for you.


There are many women who do not have a uterus or can never get pregnant. Women who do not have breasts. If those issues and symbolism don't stand in their way, there is no reason for it to stand in yours. If when you look in the mirror you see a woman looking back at you. When you think about who you are, and you think of yourself as a woman, regardless of where you are in your stage of transition, that is who you are, anatomy be damned.


One of the truly wonderful things about the Pagan paths is they are so flexible and adaptive. Our prayer, rituals, symbols are all adaptable. They are not carved in stone as absolute. Fertility is not always related to reproduction. You can be fertile in ideas, creativity, finances, etc. Family can be made adoption, surrogacy, by making an emotional bond that will tie you to a person forever.


It is a tragedy that religious and societal prejudices are chipping away at traditional paths of your culture.

kuwisdelu
05-26-2016, 03:53 AM
Just because they are theme to a religion does not mean they need to be block for you.


There are many women who do not have a uterus or can never get pregnant. Women who do not have breasts. If those issues and symbolism don't stand in their way, there is no reason for it to stand in yours. If when you look in the mirror you see a woman looking back at you. When you think about who you are, and you think of yourself as a woman, regardless of where you are in your stage of transition, that is who you are, anatomy be damned.


One of the truly wonderful things about the Pagan paths is they are so flexible and adaptive. Our prayer, rituals, symbols are all adaptable. They are not carved in stone as absolute. Fertility is not always related to reproduction. You can be fertile in ideas, creativity, finances, etc. Family can be made adoption, surrogacy, by making an emotional bond that will tie you to a person forever.

Of course, I know you're right.

But when this is what looking in a mirror is like (https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/143553/Anime/man-in-the-mirror.jpg), it's still something to struggle with.

(Again, just trying to convey where my character is coming from. Except, y'know, the opposite for him. Just all my image memes are mtf. :tongue)

As for me, I'm pretty good at seeing the good in all religions, and finding interpretations that feel right and comforting to me.

Of course, that doesn't always make intrusive thoughts automagically go away...

I'd normally apologize for the derail at this point, but I feel it's kinda-sorta still on topic, considering the thread title is "welcoming pagan pathways". :tongue

If I weren't Zuni, I'd probably be totally into Wicca or something like it.


It is a tragedy that religious and societal prejudices are chipping away at traditional paths of your culture.

I'm still terrified of how my extended family will react, but in my heart it's been a major source of inspiration and validation for me, because it was there once, and for the same reasons you list above.

regdog
05-26-2016, 04:04 AM
I hope I didn't come across as preachy. That wasn't my intent. I just don't want you to feel that somethings aren't for you because of anatomy.

That cartoon is powerful and painful. I'm not even going to pretend that I understand what it must be like. I hope your extended family will be accepting of who you are and that you can see yourself as the woman you are.

Disa
05-26-2016, 04:47 AM
I hope you didn't come across as preachy, either regdog because I was about to type very much the same things you did. Though you said them all much better than I could have.

kuwisdelu (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?17616-kuwisdelu) I appreciate your explanation of everything. I see where you are coming from now with the rites of passage, etc. Since you are Zuni, this brings up another question for me, and you don't have to answer it if you don't want to. Were the Zuni one of the tribes who respected and revered the "Two Spirit" or "Berdache"? If so. wouldn't your family be more accepting of your transition? Or are they the ones Christianity has infiltrated and replaced with homophobia and transphobia? One of the main issues I have with Christianity is that it has spread across the globe messing with indigenous cultures all along the way. I have tried so hard to research different indigenous cultures and there really aren't a lot of credible resources available. If there are, I've obviously been looking in all he wrong places.

I'm not the moderator, of course, but I do see this discussion as on topic since we are welcoming pagan pathways:)

Oh, and I get what you mean about not talking about your story too much. I will wait until it's finished and see how it turns out.

Oh, and since I can't prove my Cherokee heritage, I'm totally into paganism- or something like it- it's a blend, really :)

kuwisdelu
05-26-2016, 05:13 AM
I hope you didn't come across as preachy, either regdog because I was about to type very much the same things you did. Though you said them all much better than I could have.

No, not preachy. :)


kuwisdelu (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?17616-kuwisdelu) I appreciate your explanation of everything. I see where you are coming from now with the rites of passage, etc. Since you are Zuni, this brings up another question for me, and you don't have to answer it if you don't want to. Were the Zuni one of the tribes who respected and revered the "Two Spirit" or "Berdache"?

Two Spirit is the preferred Pan-Indian term. Lots of outdated anthropological texts will use "berdache", but please don't use it. It's not our term, and its etymology is troublesome.

(Don't worry about having used it just now. Now you know. :))

As I'm sure you know, Two Spirit is a catch-all term, and traditionally different tribes had different roles and terms for Two Spirits. In Zuni, the term is łamana (often spelled lhamana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lhamana) — that Wiki page describes all łamana as being AMAB, but that is probably not accurate... just as trans men are invisible today, most anthropologists didn't care about gender non-conforming AFAB back then either.). One of the most famous Two Spirit in history was a Zuni łamana named We'wha (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We%27wha). She and I are the same clan, actually.

I have a short story in SYW that draws on Zuni mythology and our łamana kachina, which I wrote just before coming out and deciding to transition, if you're interested. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?313203-The-Sixth-World-(5-000-words)&p=9779095&viewfull=1#post9779095)


If so. wouldn't your family be more accepting of your transition?

Unfortunately, no. My mom is pretty conservative and sadly she's been by far the least accepting of everyone I've told so far.

My brother and sister-in-law have been great and supportive though.


Or are they the ones Christianity has infiltrated and replaced with homophobia and transphobia?

It's really just Americanized Western culture at this point, but yes, it was originally Christianity's influence that changed things. So yes, unfortunately, there's a lot of homophobia and transphobia today. In most tribes, really.


One of the main issues I have with Christianity is that it has spread across the globe messing with indigenous cultures all along the way.

My issue is with colonialism and imperialism and with the people who bent and twisted Christianity to their purpose. I won't hate Christianity because some people used it to spread intolerance. I can find beauty in all religions.

I understand why many people have a problem with it though.


I have tried so hard to research different indigenous cultures and there really aren't a lot of credible resources available. If there are, I've obviously been looking in all he wrong places.

There aren't. There are very few, and most of them have questionable credibility considering they tend to be filtered through the lens of white cis male ethnologists from a century ago.

Disa
05-27-2016, 02:07 AM
No, not preachy. :)
Oh good :)



Two Spirit is the preferred Pan-Indian term. Lots of outdated anthropological texts will use "berdache", but please don't use it. It's not our term, and its etymology is troublesome.

(Don't worry about having used it just now. Now you know. :))

As I'm sure you know, Two Spirit is a catch-all term, and traditionally different tribes had different roles and terms for Two Spirits. In Zuni, the term is łamana (often spelled lhamana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lhamana) — that Wiki page describes all łamana as being AMAB, but that is probably not accurate... just as trans men are invisible today, most anthropologists didn't care about gender non-conforming AFAB back then either.). One of the most famous Two Spirit in history was a Zuni łamana named We'wha (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We%27wha). She and I are the same clan, actually.

Thank you for seeing my inquiry as a teachable moment, you must know I meant no disrespect, at all and I sincerely mean it when I say I appreciate all of this information you have been providing. I had read the "term I will no longer use" in an old fiction novel written by archaeologists and did some further research on it years ago. Only recently did I come across something that mentioned it was not a good term to use, but who ever knows what's good or not when the resources are so limited. So now I REALLY DO know. Thank you:)


I have a short story in SYW that draws on Zuni mythology and our łamana kachina, which I wrote just before coming out and deciding to transition, if you're interested.

I definietely AM interested in reading this and I will do so very soon-



(http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?313203-The-Sixth-World-(5-000-words)&p=9779095&viewfull=1#post9779095)




Unfortunately, no. My mom is pretty conservative and sadly she's been by far the least accepting of everyone I've told so far.

My brother and sister-in-law have been great and supportive though.

I'm so sorry to hear that your mom is not accepting this. I find it's the case with many gay and transgendered people I know. Hopefully she will come around, for her sake and yours. I'm very glad your brother and sister in law have been great and supportive. I'm sure that really helps a lot. I hope you have a loving support network of people near you.




It's really just Americanized Western culture at this point, but yes, it was originally Christianity's influence that changed things. So yes, unfortunately, there's a lot of homophobia and transphobia today. In most tribes, really. This makes me very sad. I wish it wasn't true.




My issue is with colonialism and imperialism and with the people who bent and twisted Christianity to their purpose. I won't hate Christianity because some people used it to spread intolerance. I can find beauty in all religions.

I understand why many people have a problem with it though.

Oh I don't hate Christianity, either or any religion. I'm rather fascinated with religions of all kinds. I do have several "issues" with it though, meaning the issues keep it from resonating with me and keeping me from being able to be a Christian. I greatly admire people who can firmly say they are the religion they are and have no doubts about following it whatsoever- cause I certainly cannot say that. I will graciously admit I do not have all the answers, but I will always listen to what people have to say, as long as they say it respectfully.


There aren't. There are very few, and most of them have questionable credibility considering they tend to be filtered through the lens of white cis male ethnologists from a century ago. Yep. :)

Thanks again for the convo and information. I've learned quite a bit from you.