There are many misconceptions, assumptions and misunderstandings about Pagans, Wiccans and Heathens. Some are rooted in age old myth and others are rooted in ignorance and fear. Whatever the case may be, there are several things that I would like to address. Here are some of the questions we are often asked:
No actually, we don’t. The “devil” is a Christian construct and not something/someone that Pagans, Wiccans or witches believe exists, much less worships. The Pagan Gods and Goddesses are in no way related to the devil or Satan although many depictions of the devil and/or Satan closely resemble the God Pan, who is guardian of the forest, the wild parts of nature and known for playing a wooden flute.
“Aren’t you afraid of going to Hell?”
Again, no. Like the “devil” is a Christian construct so is “Hell”. I personally am not concerned about damnation or Hell and neither are any of the other Pagans I know because it’s not a place that exists in our beliefs. I do believe in an Underworld, but it’s not somewhere that fire and brimstone, gnashing of teeth or torture and torment exists. It’s simply the land of the dead. A place that isn’t feared by most Pagans because we see death simply as part of the cycle of life, not something to be feared.
“Isn’t Paganism like a cult?”
No, it’s not. Not any more than any other religion, anyhow. Paganism is an umbrella term that includes many different recognized religious groups including Wicca, Santeria, Voodoo, Asatru, Druidism and many other earth-based and re-constructionist focused belief systems. The definition can seem a bit vague though. If you look it up in Merriam-Webster it defines a cult as: 1.”a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous”. 2.”a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much”. and 3.”a small group of very devoted supporters or fans”. Many Christians may argue that many of the rituals, practices and beliefs shared by Pagans seem “extreme and dangerous” to them, but that doesn’t make it true. There are rituals in every religion, some are unique to that faith and others are shared. For instance, lighting of candles and incense… Christians and Pagans share this ritual. Chants and spoken prayers… Buddhists, Christians and Pagans all share this ritual. Sacrament/Cakes and Ale/ Eucharist/Communion… shared ritual that Christians and Pagans both share.
I believe that the more common understanding of a cult is where a small group of people become isolated from the general public and are brainwashed into believing a certain set of extreme or fringe beliefs perpetuated by a single charismatic leader who uses his/her influence to control, manipulate and monitor their followers every move with fear/intimidation, guilt, seizing their money, relationships and time. Often times the leader claims to either be God or have a direct line to God where they insinuate their instructions, beliefs and requirements are inspired by God and failure to comply will result in damnation.
This is not something that Pagan groups do. Most operate transparently and although some covens or circles are secretive and limit those involved, they do not try to consume someones entire life or impose restrictions on who they can interact with, how they spend their money or where they can go.
“Do Pagans perform human or animal sacrifices?”
The short answer is no. I don’t know of any Pagans who believe in human sacrifices or of any tradition that promotes or condones human sacrifice. In ancient times, many cultures are believed to have participated in human sacrifice. This sacrifice of life was considered to be the ultimate offering to appease the Gods. The most well known culture to engage in human sacrifice are the Mayans. However, human sacrifice is not a practice that is accepted among civilized cultures in 2016. With the establishment of law and order, human sacrifice would be considered murder. So no, Pagans don’t sacrifice humans.
What about animals? Well, not as a universal belief or practice. However, there are many Pagans that are involved in animal husbandry and farming. Some of those Pagans may consider the slaughtering of their animals as a ritual sacrifice and offer some of the meat rendered as a gift to the Gods. As a universal practice though? No. Most Pagans do not practice animal sacrifice.
“Why don’t Pagans believe in God?”
Well, we do actually, just not in the Abrahamic God worshiped by Christians, Jews and Muslims. In fact, most Pagans are polytheistic, meaning that we believe in the existence of many Gods, but typically honor the Gods of our individual traditions. Others who identify as eclectic, like me, honor the Gods of many traditions depending on which Gods we are working with at the time.
“Do you guys have orgies in your rituals?”
Nope. While many Pagans do prefer to participate in ritual skyclad (naked), ritual orgies aren’t typically something that happens at public or private rituals. However, there is a sacred ritual called The Great Rite that is observed both symbolically (through the use of an athame and chalice) and literally (through the joining of two individuals in sexual union) by some Pagans. It’s not observed by everyone and those who do observe it generally do not consider it casual sex or an orgy, as it’s carried out with either their spouse/mate or close coven/circle mates, not usually strangers and is considered sacred in nature. This particular ritual is often carried out around Beltane, during the Spring Equinox, as a fertility ritual in honor of the God and Goddess and their sacred union.
“Do Pagans, Wiccans and/or witches cast spells or hex people?”
Yes. Many Pagans, Wiccans and witches use spell casting the same as others use prayer. Magic is considered part of the natural world. Many Pagans, Wiccans and witches believe that they are able to tap into the energy around them and through spellcasting, using their will and intent bring something they desire to fruition. Spellwork is often part of ritual and devotionals used for healing, prosperity, protection, clarity, fertility, luck and other intent. Spellcrafting can be charged and cast alone or as a group.
As for hexing, Wiccans follow the Wiccan Rede and the Rule of Three which essentially says “An ye harm none, do as ye will.” and “Whatever you put out will come back to you threefold.” So Wiccans do not hex. As for other witches and Pagans, I believe that there are some who do. Many will say “A witch who cannot hex, cannot heal.” and I believe in that adage. The way that I personally use hex spells and symbols is to ward off negative energy, not send it to someone else. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, I’ve found that using the hex symbols used by the Pennsylvania Dutch work well for my purposes. I suppose whether one chooses to use magic with the intent to hex or harm is up to the individual. So to answer the question, yes, some do hex. Those who do, understand the risk of using this kind of magic and generally do so very judiciously.
“What kind of people believe in witchcraft and the occult? Should we be afraid of them?”
All kinds of people from all walks of life. We’re every day normal people, with normal jobs and families who happen to believe in something outside of the mainstream religious ideologies of Christianity, Judaism or Islam. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, clerks, writers, police officers, accountants, nurses and in all other fields of work. We’re parents and grandparents. We’re sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. We’re business owners. We’re land owners. We’re straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. We’re Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, African-American, Native American, Pacific Islanders and every other race, color and creed. We’re your neighbors. We’re your friends. We’re people you see and speak to on a daily basis. Some are quite overt about their beliefs and some are discreet. Not all remain hidden or afraid anymore. We aren’t looking to recruit your children or convert you. We just want to live, work, raise our families and practice our constitutionally protected right to believe in the God or Gods of our choosing. You shouldn’t be afraid of us, but you should be mindful of us. We’re everyday people and we’re everywhere.
“The Goddess is Maiden and Mother and Crone; Her children surround Her; She is never alone.
She lives in the moment, knows no grief or uproar, ‘til Harvest rolls ‘round and brings death to Her door.
Then Her bright colors fade and Her glitter grows dim, For Her son lives no longer; She’s mourning for Him.
He’s fallen upon Her body of Earth- Oh, how can it be deadly, which once gave Him birth?
She buries Him gently, and follows Him down, And She casts off in grief all Her robes, jewels and crown.
There is no need of finery where now She sets foot, Down in the darkness of loam and of root.
Her heart is bound tightly, no peace stills Her mind.
She is cold and bereft; She is angry and blind.
She stumbles and staggers; ever weaker She grows, But then hears a voice She is certain She knows!
“My Mother, My Lady, why have you come here?” ‘Tis the voice of Her lover, Her Son, in Her ear.
“Why have you left me?” She cries out in grief. “Why must I bear you to be my joy’s thief?”
He has come here before but She does not recall, And He touches Her hand, to explain again, all:
“It’s age and fate, Lady. There’s naught I can do, Save promise by rebirth I shall rejoin you. You are ever my Lady, my Mother, my Dear, And I swear that in death there is nothing to fear.”
Now She remembers: the grave’s but a womb And a promise of rebirth brings light to the gloom.
There’s peace and reunion to follow each death, As a moment of stillness will follow each breath.
And the Goddess emerges each time She withdraws, And the Wheel turns to freedom, and rolls without pause.”
This past weekend we gathered to celebrate Samhain and to honor those who have gone before us in a quiet & reflective way. We initially intended to do so outside, but with the fickle SE Texas weather were relegated to the indoor sanctuary once we realized the wind and rain wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. It was as it should be. The atmosphere was serene, peaceful and calming.
I went into this ritual with an open mind willing to honor whoever came to me. I thought that I knew who would be most prominent in my mind, but it turns out who I expected isn’t who weighed heaviest on my heart. It was my Grandpa Turkey (Dad’s dad) and I wasn’t expecting him to move me to tears, but grief has a funny way of revealing itself long after you think you are past it. Maybe having him suddenly taken from my life is what made his return rush over me like it did. Whatever the case, I was happy to revisit memories of him and think about him after so long. I spent many summers and holidays visiting him growing up so once we sat down to try our hand at divination I sat with Rowan’s prayer beads in my lap and let my mind wander through the many thoughts of my childhood spent at his home. Playing billiards. Swimming in the pool and having him chase my cousins and I with the water hose. BBQ’s on the back patio. Early morning wake ups with him reading the paper and handing me the funnies to read. Butter pecan ice cream. Many hours of Legend of Zelda together. Cocktail hour where I’d get my virgin drink with extra cherries. My mind had no shortage of cherished memories.
This was the first time I attempted meditation with prayer beads. At first I was a bit clueless as to how to begin or what to do to use them. This is probably something that a former Catholic would be fantastic at because of experience with rosaries, but I had none of that. So I asked Rowan what she had in mind when she made them. She quickly showed me that they were Maiden-Mother-Crone prayer beads and counted them out with me once to show me how she used them. That’s all it took and I was off.
Counting… 1… 2… 3… fingers sliding over the beads one by one with subtle pauses to reflect, breath and allow the memories and any message to come to me. I gave each message some space and time to really sink in before moving on. Once I was satisfied with the messages I received and was sure it was time to move on I decided to attempt to use the prayer beads as a pendulum and they worked beautifully. I was a bit surprised at how quickly the responses came to my questions, but thankful. By the time I was set the prayer beads in Rowan’s lap I was feeling quite pleased that I had accidentally forgotten my intended divination tools for ritual. Turns out that the divination tools I needed that night weren’t my own.
My last divination was with a 3 card tarot spread. It told me that my hearts desire was fully acknowledged and would come to fruition when the time was right. Ugh… you mean I have to wait?!? Patience is something I have been working hard at getting better at. Sometimes I can be extremely impatient and get very grouchy when what I want and what I get don’t match. It’s a struggle at times to know that something good is on it’s way, but not know when it’ll arrive. This is also why I am terrible at surprises. I don’t dislike surprises, but I dislike knowing one is on it’s way. So if you plan on surprising me with something don’t tell me “I have a surprise for you!” That’ll drive me crazy! Hopefully the subject matter I was inquiring about prior to this card spread will manifest sooner rather than later… I’m ready universe!
Samhain seems to always bring out emotions in those who could otherwise usually conceal them. If you thought being moved by a spiritual entity was something you’d take in stride, you soon realize you were mistaken. Even though I know what to expect now after so many years of celebrating Samhain in ritual, the profound truth of sharing space with someone who has crossed the veil always brings out emotions in me. It’s a jolt to your system, not only to sense a presence, but to literally feel it. I am never really prepared, no matter how much I think I will be. Reaching through the veil to greet loved ones is taxing both physically and emotionally. This is why I can only handle ancestor work at this level very infrequently. While it is greatly rewarding, it is equally draining. Still, it’s hard to say goodbye when the time comes.
As we crossed back through the veil with a candle to light our way into the dark half of the year we closed the portal behind us. Once we had all reached the other side we watched as each candle was snuffed out one after another… it was as if someone had gone down the line and blown them out with heaving breath. It was startling, but not scary and we all looked at each other with dazed expressions having shared the experience together. There in the dark we shared soul cakes, listened to the Lyke-Wake Dirge and honored our loved ones and each other with great big hugs and heavy hearts. No matter the time that has passed since the loss of a loved one, when grief is released into the universe in shared ritual space, we all feel it… we all share it… we all carry it a little while. It’s that short distance of carrying the grief for someone else, that gives us each the space to breathe and let go.
May your burden of grief be light through the dark half of the year.
After spending the last year immersed in the world of academics and very little rest, I decided that when I graduated, Jay and I needed to get away. Far away from the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives here in southeast Texas. We needed a break, some fresh air, a little perspective and an opportunity to reconnect with our families and the divine in nature. So we planned to make our way back to the west coast for a 2 week vacation that consisted of spending time with family, friends and the great outdoors. It proved to be exactly what we needed.
We flew into Orange County California and on the flight we were giddy to see the peaks of mountains reaching into the sky. Silly, right? It felt like seeing an old friend after a long time and it was a welcomed sight. Jay seemed to be as excited about it as I was, so that was funny and secretly made me happy to see him feeling the same things I was. We were like little kids flying over the mountains with giant Cheshire cat smiles on our faces. It was hovering over these first peaks that I started to really feel the presence of the divine greeting me and welcoming back home to California. I’m not sure what it is about the Pacific Northwest… if it’s just the familiarity, the history I have there or simply the beauty of the landscape, but being there always makes me feel a concentrated surge of spiritual nourishment. Like water on a hot summer day it quenches my thirst in a way unlike any other place.
Once we arrived in Orange County we picked up our luggage, rented our car and drove to my Dad’s place in Corona. The traffic on the way there was ridiculous and quickly we remembered that the good always comes with a little bad. Even though the majority of the drive isn’t particularly lovely headed from Santa Ana to Corona, the climb over the grapevine was an opportunity for us to soak in the fact that we were really there! When we arrived at Dad’s place in Corona we were greeted with enthusiasm, hugs and an invitation to Indian cuisine! Yum! We spent a few days spending some quality time together. I got to visit with my Grandma and talked about art, family history and just enjoyed her comforting subtle presence and her dry sense of humor. She didn’t disappoint!
After our visit with Dad we headed up north to San Francisco. The place where we met… the place where we grew up. It was another welcomed change of pace. Despite dealing with some potentially disconcerting news regarding his moms cancer prognosis, we managed to find a few moments to enjoy our time in San Francisco. One afternoon we spent time in Crissy Field with a friend from high school and had lunch together. Watching the fog roll in across the Golden Gate bridge brought on a sensation of being wrapped up by the divine. I think I may have been looking for a sign that things were going to be okay with Jay’s mom, but the divine did not disappoint in revealing them just when I needed them. We enjoyed the sunshine, the company, the cool ocean breeze and the best deli sandwiches in the Marina district from Lucca Deli. Walking familiar streets, shopping at old haunts and seeing the faces of cherished loved ones filled me with a sense of wholeness and rejuvenation in a big way. It was a good visit and we both left there feeling like we had achieved the sense of connection to our family, our friends and the divine in the place we both hold so close to our hearts.
From San Francisco we made our way up to Southern Oregon. The drive up is so beautiful. Even though I’ve driven it probably a thousand times I never tire of the bounty that nature provides in that area. It’s so green and lush with the fullness of evergreen forests and groves. The entire way up I found myself drinking in the vision of the treetops, mountain sides and valleys. I held them in my thoughts and made space for contemplation. I reached out to the divine the whole way up and offered up prayers of thanks and gratitude. From the sunlight peeking through the trees to the hawks flying beside our car to reaching that first point where Mount Shasta was visible I felt the presence of the Goddess. Usually with a long drive your thoughts are focused on just finally arriving, but much like life truly is… this trip wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey. I made every effort to savor the drive, our conversations and every part of reconnection and rejuvenation we started our vacation seeking. We sang songs out loud, joked as we usually do and enjoyed the space. Jay couldn’t help, but tease me about acting like a complete tourist… I took a lot of photos. I guess I just wanted to make sure that I was able to document the time we spent together on this little adventure.
We took turns driving and when it was his turn to ride shotgun he spent a lot of time looking out of the window and resting. I know that he had a lot on his mind with his concerns regarding his mom so I just kept quiet and let him have some peace and time to relax. As much as the time we spent “doing” something helped deepen our connection to each other, our families, our friends and the divine… the time when we weren’t doing anything, but driving seemed to satiate our spirits in a different, but equally vital way. Many times I looked over to see his smiling face and knew with a deep sense of certainty that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In those moments my connection to the divine felt even more palpable and alive. When you are immersed in routine, daily tasks and the ritual hum drum of daily life it’s not nearly as easy to find, feel or see that clarity. So I was thankful for that.
We stayed with my Aunt & Uncle in southern Oregon, which was a smart move. They live out in the country on a mountainside. Talk about quiet serenity. The creek running through the back part of the property, the redheaded woodpecker visitors and the explosion of stars in the night sky away from the city lights met and exceeded our expectation of a calm, drama-free and quiet place to just be. Our second day there Uncle Paul, Jay and I headed to a favorite swimming hole and he was pretty amazed at how beautiful it was right there in town. We took advantage of the alligator-free, crystal clear water and took a dip despite how cold the water was. A few minutes to adjust and it was fantastic! We stayed a few hours enjoying the quiet cove, the cool water and the quiet buzz of nature. Unfortunately the skies weren’t clear due to the fires in Glendale, Oregon just north of my Aunt & Uncles home … but even with the haze-filled sky Jay couldn’t stop gushing about how much he loved the area, the scenery, the sense he got about the community and the overall vibe of where we were. The more we talked about our future, the more we realized that we belong out there among the trees, the clear rivers and star filled skies of southern Oregon. As the days went by we started to think that maybe we had some reevaluating to do about what we need to be happy. Sure, you can be happy where you are, but shouldn’t you seek out where you want to be? We think so.
My Aunt & Uncle provided a comfortable and non-intrusive space for us to call home base during our stay and reflect on all of the things you need to reflect on when you’re taking a break from “the real world”. Their company, my Aunt Tina’s delicious home-cooked meals and the free reign of their property was amazing. It was the first time Jay had met my Aunt Tina & Uncle Paul and my first time seeing them in nearly 8 years. There are certain kindred spirits in this life that no matter the time, the distance or the changes life throws at you… when you are back together in the same space, life carries on like you were never apart. That was my experience with my Aunt Tina & Uncle Paul. We caught up on our lives, talked about our plans for the future, hung around playing games and did a bit of adventure seeking together. It was the perfect balance of rest and activity.
During our adventures we went to the Redwood Forest in Klamath Falls. We hiked for probably close to an hour and stopped several times to listen to the audio tour. There were some bizarre trees growing in all different manners. Redwoods are so resilient, they can grow sideways and uprooted and on the side of cliffs. Those great big trees teach an important lesson about staying power, resilience and silence. They stand guardian watching on the coast in all their majesty. Standing among them is a humbling experience… it makes you realize just how little the space is that you personally take up on this planet. Even more humbling was the opportunity to see what they see from the tops of their canopy. I didn’t anticipate facing my fear of heights during my vacation, but my desire to see the top of the trees outweighed my fear. So, I went for it. I’m one of those people who gets the racing thoughts when fear creeps in… and being hundreds of feet in the air is a sure-fire way to feel vulnerable when you are petrified of heights. I kept trying to tell myself to “JUST LOOK AT THE VIEW”… “LOOK AT THE TREES”… “LOOK AT THE BEAUTY” and of course “Don’t think about crashing to your death. This lift is safe. You’re okay. It’ll be worth it when we get to the top.” All this internal dialogue going on was doing very little for me. The racing thoughts kept racing. Finally I had the presence of mind to just close my eyes, take a deep breath, say a little prayer and LET GO. A feeling of complete calm washed over me almost immediately.
The rest of the ride I spent taking photos, watching the squirrels play high in the trees and taking in how awesome what I was doing was. I was so high up in the sky dangling from a little lift and life was pretty good. I wasn’t willing to let fear ruin the experience and I’m glad I didn’t. When we got to the top of the tree lift my reward was a bird’s eye view. Despite the fog, we were able to see the ocean on one side and massive osprey nest on the other side. I stood there just taking in the panoramic view. It was pretty awesome. I couldn’t believe how sweet the air was that high up. My lungs filled and I imagined blowing out every bit of anxiety and shred of fear that I had been feeling. Getting up was one thing… but now I had to ride the lift again to get back down. My only other option was a 1.5 mile hike recommended for advanced hikers that included extremely steep inclines to navigate. Call me crazy, but I was more willing to risk safety in the lift again than I was to try my hand at advanced hiking down a steep cliff.
Just before heading back down Aunt Tina and I decided to make a pit stop at the ladies room. On my way back towards the lift I was giving myself the pep talk and out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention…
Who needs pep talks when the Goddess puts a symbol of feminine energy, patience and the weaver of destiny right in their path. Not this girl. I took this beautiful web as a sign to take comfort in her presence and to rely on my own internal strength as a woman and a daughter of the Goddess. No more fear and the ride down I was cool as a cucumber. For some reason I have never feared spiders. Even as a child I can remember allowing wolf spiders to take up residence in my room from time to time. I never squished them. Something about them seems sacred and worthy of respect, so I give them that.
Our trip to California & Oregon brought Jay and I closer together. It also gave me the peace of mind and serenity I was hoping for when we left on our adventure. It was the perfect escape from the sweltering humidity of southeast Texas and a great transition from my life as a student towards my new life as a registered nurse. Even doing simple things I felt like I had the time to see the magick in all that was around me. I took the time to be present and grounded in my surroundings. It was a welcomed change of pace and something I hope to do more often in my every day life. Life gets busy and you forget to do the little things that make all the difference. I’m going to try to stop what I’m doing and take that time. It really is it’s own reward. In the coming months I hope to seek out mini-adventures for Jay and I to fill our cups with spiritual nourishment and rejuvenate from the mundane world. We don’t need to “get away” for that though… we just need to shift our focus. Work on the core instead of seeking out fulfillment somewhere else. We are all we need. This trip made me realize that in a big way. Life is truly what you make of it… no matter where you are. My challenge to you is to not wait to take a 2 week vacation… take 10 minutes in the morning or an hour in the evening… take an afternoon or a weekend for yourself or for you and your partner to reconnect to what is sacred. Find some place where you can be alone with the divine in nature. You will thank yourself for taking the time and your every day life focus will shift from seeking the divine outside of the mundane to seeking the divine within. Do it! You’ll be grateful you did. I know I am.
Comfortable in the embrace of Mother Nature…
A witch will find solace in the electric energy of a storm,
Falling rain and the glow of the full moon evokes raw magick.
By the Light of the Moon
The moon is bright and full.
Her light washes over the earth in soft silvery shards.
We are recharged with positive energy.
Everything her rays touch are alive with the knowing intuition of a trusted crone.
Like an old friend… the moon whispers the secrets of the night urging us to sit in silence and listen.
Be still and listen she says… and we do.
We are the children of the earth. The children of the moon. The children of Old Ways.
We are maidens and mothers and crones. We are youth and warriors and sages.
We may often be hidden, but are no longer hiding.
We dance barefoot in the dewy grass.
We speak our intent into the wind and make offerings of sage.
We sing and chant and drum.
We jump balefires and burn parchments of spells into fruition.
We bathe in herb scented water to cleanse and purify our bodies and prepare them to stand in the presence of the divine.
We are alive with the power of the moonlit skies.
We are witches and we are everywhere.
© Bridey Lassair 2013
May this full moon find you feeling energized and full of the blessed light of Luna.
In an effort to liven things up and inspire my expression in more than one way, I’ve decided to give Pagan Insights Project some attention and try to post in ways that are appealing on more than just a standard blogging level. Hopefully working with different mediums will inspire me to write more now that I finally have some free time to do so.
This is something that I heard about from Rowan, but haven’t taken the opportunity to try yet. Since I generally function on a multimedia sort of way, this type of expression makes complete sense to me & really appeals to me. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll go about incorporating my Pagan Insights Project inspired posts into my blog, but I’ll try it a few different ways and see what I like best. I think when Rowan has used Pagan Insights Project to inspire her posts that she’s posts all 5 prompts in one blog post. She’s an ambitious one after all.
This is what Pagan Insights Project has to say about how to use their prompts:
“It’s a mixed media project – one that is designed to give a bit of insight into one’s own path, as well as general information on Paganism, and the Pagan “lifestyle” (whatever that means XD). There are 5 different prompts to work through, which include writing, images, music and more, and the really great thing about this project, is that you can work at your own pace. You can do all 5 every week, every other week, once a month, or you can work at a more leisurely rate and simply choose one prompt each week so that you have always have something to post. Or you can go all out, and post them all in one blog post, as often as you like. For some it can be a daily or weekly journal for keeping track of progress on one’s path, and for others it might simply be a touchstone to return to once every holiday, or every full moon to see where you are in that moment. Which ever you choose, how you use the Pagan Insights project is entirely up to you!”
* In Your Own Words – your thoughts and feelings – maybe a full blog post on a topic of your choice related to your path (or Paganism in general) or just a few sentences on where you are right now. What are you studying? What are you thinking? Who are you, and where are you going on your Pagan path? What’s right and what’s wrong in Paganism at the moment?
* Post A Pic – post an image related to your path, or one that invokes a feeling/emotion related to your spirituality (or craft… if one is a non-religious Witch), along with a sentence or two describing the image.
* Musical Musings – post a song, chant or poem related to your path, or one that invokes a feeling/emotion related to your spirituality (or craft). Can be in word form, but videos would definitely be awesome as well. On a spiritual level, what is your music of the moment? Is this a song stuck in your head, or one you played before your last ritual?
*Action, Action – post about a ritual, working or other experiential moment related to your path that has occurred recently, or that you are planning to do.
* Eureka! – post about something new that you have learned, or discovered recently, that is related to your path or Paganism in general.
Stay tuned for some fun new blogging styles.
The thought of superstition brings to mind all sorts of things. Black cats. The number 13. Mirror safety. Finding pennies. Sidewalk cracks. Fingers crossed. Walking around, not under ladders. Knocking on wood. The list really goes on and on.
Superstition is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition as:
1 a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation
- excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural:he dismissed the ghost stories as mere superstition
- a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief:she touched her locket for luck, a superstition she’d had since childhood
Well that seems less harsh, but still definitely defined for those who are not magically minded. I don’t think that I’m particularly irrational, but I suppose there are many who would.
As a child I knew several little jingles that went with the superstitions, but have no idea how or where I learned them. “Find a penny, pick it up… all day long you’ll have good luck!” and “Don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mother’s back!” come to mind for me. I don’t really know that I even knew they were superstitions, but as a child I jumped every crack I saw in the sidewalk and collected every face up penny I encountered. Even as an adult now I catch myself intentionally stepping over the cracks more often than not. Funny how those things stay with you like that. Just the other day the youngest of Jay’s boys, Huckleberry, found a penny on the ground and sang the little jingle I know. I had to ask him “Where’d you learn that?” and he replied “I don’t know. Do you know it too?” When I told him that I did he thought it was cool and went about his business. So I decided to research that particular superstition, along with a few others, because I am genuinely curious where they all came from.
According to wikipedia, “Finding a penny is sometimes considered lucky and gives rise to the saying, “Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.” This may be a corruption of “See a pin and pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck” and similar verses, as quoted in The Frank C. Brown collection of North Carolina folklore and other places.”
Well who in the world is Frank C. Brown and how would I have learned a saying from North Carolina folklore living in California & Tennessee as a little girl? Who knows… what I do know is that the Frank C. Brown collection of North Carolina folklore has 7 volumes that I could find and that they go back as far as 1912. They’re packed full of games, rhymes, beliefs, customs, riddles,proverbs, speech, tales, legends, folk ballads from North Carolina, folk songs from North Carolina, the music of the ballads, the music of the folk songs, popular beliefs and superstitions from North Carolina. Interesting. One superstition solved… now on to the next.
Stepping on cracks has long been subject to superstition. In addition to the danger of breaking your mother’s back, a 1905 book, Superstition and Education, lists several other grim superstitions: that if you step on a crack, you will have bad luck, or that you will not get a surprise at home that you otherwise would.
Many claim that the original rhyme was “step on a crack and your mother will turn black,” and that the superstition went that stepping on a crack meant that you’d have a black baby. Indeed, Iona Opie noted that one was fairly common in parts of the UK in the 1950s, but there’s no real reason to think it’s the original, not just another variation that came and went. At the same time, kids were saying that if you stepped on a crack, you’d be chased by bears. This idea was invented by A.A. Milne in his poem “Lines and Squares,” but, from Opie’s description, was a more widespread superstition than the racial one. So I guess that one has various versions.
Fortunately, stepping on a crack has never resulted in a broken back for my mom or anyone else’s mom that I know of. What a strange superstition!
As for the rest of them… black cats crossing your path being bad luck, I should never have a day of good luck because I had a black cat for 8 years and the number of times she crossed my path… I have no idea. I personally LOVE black cats. They’re pretty. I don’t like when my mom has one because she always seems to pick the most insane paranoid black cat of the bunch, but generally my personal experience with black cats has been good.
The number 13… well I noticed this most in the hospital. There was never a room 13 and I wondered why… people never had an answer except that “they never had it”. Some buildings don’t have a 13th floor. Well they HAVE a 13th floor, but they number them from 12th to 14th skipping the 13th floor entirely. To eliminate an entire floor based on a superstition seems silly to me, but some people take their superstitions seriously. I wondered if maybe it’s associated with the scary movies Friday the 13th, but the fear predates the movies. The fear of Friday the 13th (as an actual day) has it’s very own phobia name: friggatriskaidekaphobia.
The fear of Friday the 13th as a phobia seems fairly new since it only dates back to the late 1800s. Friday has long been considered an unlucky day (according to Christian tradition, Jesus died on a Friday), and 13 has a long history as an unlucky number. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina, about 17 million people fear Friday the 13th. Many may fall prey to the human mind’s desire to associate thoughts and symbols with events. Crazy, huh? I think it’s safe to say I don’t fear Friday the 13th since I was handfasted in 2000 on Friday, October 13, 2000 on the full moon. I will be sure that I don’t repeat that same mistake, but it had nothing to do with the day… it was the guy.
I’ll admit it, breaking mirrors freaks me out a little. I don’t like it. It probably has a lot to do with the superstition, but I also hate to hear the sound of glass breaking. Besides, if the superstition is accurate… 7 years is a long time to be unlucky! Interestingly enough, this superstition comes from something I consider kind of silly. People used to believe that mirrors didn’t just capture your physical image, but also captured a piece of your soul. This is why many people in the south would cover all of the mirrors in their home when a loved one passed on… to prevent them from getting trapped in the mirrors of the house. I just make it a point to be careful around mirrors and I cannot remember having ever broken one. Which leads me to… I better “knock on wood” to make sure it stays that way.
Well, I’ve always heard it was supposed to ward off bad luck or evil spirits that mean to cause mischief or strife. It’s just one of those things that I have seen my parents do and other people I trust or respect do… so I just automatically adopted the custom myself. Whether or not I think it’s accurate… well I don’t know, but I’m okay with knocking just to stay on the safe side. From Romania to Italy to Spain to England and right here in the United States, knocking on wood has been used to ward off evil spirits, keep bad luck and the Grim Reaper at bay and keep positive/favorable or good things in the path of the one knocking. I think here in the US we use a little bit of all meanings when knocking on wood. You know, because we don’t want to jinx anything. This is one that I often see others do too. I haven’t ever asked them why they do it, but I can almost guarantee that the majority of them do it because that’s what their parents did and it seems better to be safe than sorry.
One thing that really strikes me as odd is that so many Christians are superstitious. If most Christians see the occult, the spirit world and the supernatural as dangerous and scary, why do some of them take part in so many superstitious customs? It makes sense that Pagans might be superstitious because we acknowledge the existence of a supernatural world out there and accept it for what it is. In my opinion it is neither good nor bad, it just is. Maybe that’s why so many people believed in these customs to fend off evil, bad luck and the like. Believing in the ability to do simple gestures like knocking on wood or jumping cracks in the sidewalk shifted the power from the unknown to yourself.
Superstition is not anything I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, however… I trust that my instincts and experiences have been accurate in proving to me that the supernatural is a very real entity. It is not “out there” somewhere, it is right here sharing the same space and time. For the most part I believe that spirit entities leave us to our living and rarely have the ability or the inclination to reveal themselves in even the smallest ways. On the rare occasion that they do, I don’t see any harm in keeping in their good graces. So does superstition affect me? Not particularly or on a regular basis, but occasionally it does. It is usually in such a small way that I don’t even realize when I carry on with the traditional custom and go about my day. Being a magically minded person I don’t see the spirit world as scary or daunting. On the contrary, it’s quite fascinating and interesting to me. I don’t mind mingling with the spirit world on occasion so long as they are playing nice. So far, my superstitious customs seem to have kept any interactions pleasant. For that I am thankful.
So tell me, are you superstitious? If so, how does superstition affect your life?