The Practical Pagan

The Practical Pagan

MM, Ave, 96's, hellos, and all greetings. Welcome to my blog on living your religion as a pagan.I will state frankly that I saw myself and others becoming the classic, "sabbath-go-to-meeting" that I had so despised in my parents as Christians.I realized that I had slipped into that mindless state of going to Sabbats (when it was convenient) and then allowing my religion to just lay dormant until next Sabbat when I might wax enthusiastic for a day or two.Please try to keep in mind that I am a retired High Priestess of the Wiccan faith with a bad habit of putting things in Wiccan terminology. Please feel free to translate to your own belief system.If I use a term you don't know, forgive me and ask if you can't puzzle it out.

LET'S SYNCHRONIZE OUR DEFINITIONS
Belief:
1) acceptance of the truth or actuality of anything without certain proof. In other words, FAITH. You believe a certain way without having proof that it is the absolute (or only) truth.

Religion: 1) The beliefs, attitudes, emotions, behavior, etc constituting man’s relationship with the powers and principles of the universe, especially with a deity or deities.Religion is then how you practice your faith. You may practice it alone or with others if they share your same acceptance of the same "truths".Ergo, religion is a personal belief system put into practical use.

Therefore it is neither a spectator sport nor something you can just put down when inconvenient.Some religions, mostly Western, seem to be organized in such a way as to encourage spectator sport religious practices, in direct contradiction to what the leaders of that faith may have espoused originally.It is an easy habit to fall into when faced with the distractions of secular life to make religious practice a "sometime" thing.Living a religion requires thought, and thinking for yourself is not only hard work, but is actively discouraged in some cases, not only by religious leaders who would prefer that you let them do the thinking for you, but also by Western culture.

I NEVER SAID THIS WAS GONNA BE EASY

There is a tendency in all of us to be lazy in our thought processes. It goes against the grain to question why we do/say/believe everything.Tradition is one of the biggest factors, because it allows us to fall back on the easy excuse of "well...we've always done it that waaaay...oh, stop confusing me!"

Now, I am not knocking tradition all together. I just want you to think about WHY it is so. In most cases, some folks tried it other ways and found a certain way worked best FOR THEM AT THAT TIME.

Does it work best for you? Perhaps. All I am asking for is that you never fall back on "we've always done it that way" as an excuse for not thinking. Have a reason for what you do, not an excuse.Now I am going to really mess with your world. Your own culture affects how you think and perform every minute of every day. We are bombarded every day with the subtle message of "think this way".

Don't believe me? Turn on your television or radio and listen to the commercials. Essentially, they all say, buy this product/service and it will make you a better person (ie, buy this beer and you will be sexy). Go ahead and laugh. I did. I stopped laughing very quickly when I took a look around me for one day. I was shocked and horrified to find that I was actually doing it!

What arrested me was my own calendar hanging in my kitchen. It is a typical calendar based on the Gregorian system set up by Pope Gregory in the Middle Ages. Every week starts with Sunday on it, and each week ends on a Saturday.Why?? Because Christians decreed that Sunday was the beginning of the week. I noted most of the holidays listed on it were Christian holidays or holidays set up by the powers that be of my country, ie Federal holidays in the US.But wait...I'm a Wiccan...Samhain begins my new year...Shouldn't MY calendar begin then, not in January?? Hmmm...And what about my weeks??? Shouldn't most be from moon to moon, ie, quarter to half to full to quarter to new??Do the Jews have their own calendars?? I had no idea...I realized how subtly I was being affected and allowing myself to think in that lazy way...

Now, I'm not advocating ripping down your calendar. What I am saying is look at it...how does it affect your life and your belief system??Changing your calendar to fit your belief system would be impractical if not nearly impossible. However, you can be AWARE of how it affects you and adjust.

MY CORNER OF THE WORLD

Okay, my corner of the world is pagan and the world around me is mostly Christian. I go to work by their calendar. Okay, I can deal with that now that I am aware of how it affects me.But wait...how DOES it affect me? Okay, back to subtle influences. Sundays in the US, the business world virtually shuts down. A few essential services are open, but not much can be done.The Christian calendar dictates that Sunday is a day for religious activities. Well, I can deal with that, I just don't have to get dressed up and go to a church.What religious practices could I do on that day? The list got VERY long because paganism is a practical religion that automatically includes actions done according to the changes of the moon and the seasons of the year.

In fact, I found so much to do that I had to yank that calendar off the wall and write in the margins and all over the pretty pictures. I began to paganize my calendar and my life.Now, I admit, I am an organization freak. If there is one thing I think destroys the reputation of pagans more than any other thing, it is the fact that we look like slobs to the rest of the world.

Most pagans *I* know think that being pagan gives them the right to be clutterbugs, dress "funny", and act rebellious. Not necessarily so. In actuality, the pagan life should be one of the most organized and clean in the Western world.Our pagan calendar dictates two times a year for deep cleansing of our homes, our duty to Mother Earth means paying attention to nature (yes, like raking fall leaves and even pulling weeds).

Did you know there are two or more traditional times of "sacrifice" which has been translated into cleaning out our homes of clutter and giving it all to charity?? I even found "traditions" that dictate my financial life! Shocked? I was.I found daily tasks that paganized my life in a Christian world. I'll never be late filing my taxes, paying my bills, or taking care of my home again because I now have PAGAN reasons for everything I do.

THE PRACTICAL PAGAN

I'll bet some of you are just dying right now. Don't be scared or smug. It is not hard and there is always something more that you can do.I must beg forgiveness here. I only know the Wiccan calendar and my own personal traditions. Please feel free to adjust for your religious practices and use what I type here as an example of what is possible.Also, please adjust for your area. If I suggest spring-cleaning at Eostar, and it is blizzard conditions outside, for Deities' sake, don't open the windows! Also, I will try to keep it so that the Aussies can do it in their own seasons. (Grin)

Let us start with the waxing moon, the time from new moon to full moon. This is, in my trad, the time of creation and new things. Power grows, and so should what you do.This would be the time of starting new projects that take time to complete. Why do you think there is the witch tradition of planting by the new moon? What projects have you got unstarted because you "just don't know when I'll have the time"?

The Waning Moon, the time from full to new moon, is the time of destruction. Pull those weeds, Turn your compost pile (decomposition), and dust the cobwebs down. Getting the idea??Make a list of all those things you should be doing. Many will fit these two categories out of your regular chores. Now write them down on your calendar according to their time.

The Wheel of the Year dictates your seasonal/annual tasks quite nicely. No, not just your celebrations, but your secular life too.I will give a few examples now. As the seasons' progress, each of my blogs will have more available.

A prime example is the Equinoxes and Solstices. They comprise half of the eight major Sabbats of Wiccans and many other pagan faiths include them too.Equinoxes, as we have been taught, are times of balance. Balance...as in balancing my checkbook? Well, sort of. Balancing your finances, yes. The Eostar equinox is just before tax time in the US.

The fall equinox in the US is just before the end of the fiscal year for most businesses. It is a great time to assess your career and perhaps your investments."Assess my career"??? Yes. Update your resume. Talk with your boss about your chances for advancement and how to get them. Think about taking some classes.

Solstices are traditionally times of sacrifice and giving. Yule is a prime example. At Yule, we give gifts to friends and family. What about giving to the poor and cleaning out the closets? Doesn't cost anything.If you clean up the accumulated junk in your life twice a year, you do yourself many favors as well as others. What about a teddy bear drive sponsored by your coven?How about volunteering in a soup kitchen? Or, if you are lucky enough to have a garden, how about donating all those extra zucchini and tomatoes to a food bank or a soup kitchen at summer solstice?

THE PRACTICAL PAGAN PART TWO

IMBOLG- It is first and foremost a fire festival. Fire is usually associated with light and heat. The possibilities here are endless.Many humans are subject to an illness called "seasonal depression" in the depth of winter. One known cure is to change the light bulbs in your house to 100 watt during the winter to brighten things. The new florescent bulbs make this both easy and “green.”I'm planning on going Mexican at my home next Imbolg. I associate heat with jalapenos and habaneros, and the colors of Mexico are the colors of fire. Between the decorations and the food, I think everyone will be warm. (grin) Anyone know where to get a piƱata?Finally, for the world around you, go buy a coat from the thrift store and donate the warmth of a coat to a homeless person or child. I've been there and I was saved by one person...please go save someone else.

BELTANE- Yes, the reputation of Beltane as a fertilty festival is well known. Save the seeds from your next apple and go do the Johnny Appleseed thing in a wild place near your home. (Avoid manicured parks. It won't survive there.)The same can be done with daylilies on roadsides in many areas. But don't forget your own home. Get a houseplant and clean up the air in your own environment.If you have time/money, donate yourself or money to some worthwhile charity dedicated to children like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Or closer to home, take some children off some mother's hands for a day and babysit for free.If you have kids of your own, make it a Kid's Day at your house and bake cookies or read to them. Take them to a park. It doesn't have to cost much if you get inventive.

LAMMAS- The harvest has begun in earnest now. Baking bread is an easy, cheap and rewarding way to celebrate. Everything from using a bread machine, to doing it by hand, to buying the ready-made dough in the grocery store will do.Canning and preserving all the bounty available doesn't have to be expensive in time or money. Some fruits need only be shoved in freezer bags with some sugar to preserve their sweetness. The same freezer bags can be used with many veggies.If you really want to get the canning equipment but can't afford it, go in on it with a friend. Most sets come with directions and recipes for hours of fun with a friend or family member. Grandma would love a call and a request for help or recipes.

SAMHAIN- If you can't figure out how to throw a Samhain party, just ask around! You'll get ideas like a "Come as You Were" reincarnation party just for starts.Now it is time to shut up the house for the coming winter. Go get one of those free closet organizer company estimates and learn to organize your life. (I can and will recommend a book or two.)Many pagans consider it their duty to recycle. I agree. Make it easy on yourself. Get a can crusher and use it. Take a locking garbage pail and fill it with kitchen scraps. Lock down the lid and roll it around once in a while to speed the process a bit. Your houseplants and garden will love it.Energy-saving devices like insulators for your electrical outlets and film kits for your windows are cheap and easy to install. You save yourself money and prevent the waste of fossil fuel. Add in the new florescent light bulbs and a programmable thermostat. Squeeze a tube of caulk around your windowsills.How about learning to ride the bus or starting a car pool? Now there is a real savings for you and the environment. All alone? How about getting a tune-up and researching/asking for fuel-savings for your car?

Well, I'm beginning to sound like a pagan Martha Stewart, aren't I? Hope I've given you some clues to get you started. That is what this blog is going to be about.I'm hoping that in the coming months, everyone will come up with and share ideas for paganizing your life cheaply and easily. It is a subtle art that must be thought about.Here's some references to get you started.

Martha Stewart's "Living" magazine or watch her TV show. Yes, I'm serious. If the woman isn't pagan, she sure lives that way.

In fact, any of the "Good Housekeeping" or "Ladies Home Journal" types of books have very good seasonal ideas to keep you busy.

"Wheel of the Year" by Pauline Campanelli. Good ideas for the newbie witch because it explains a lot.

"Living Wicca" and "Incences, Oils, and Brews" by Scott Cunningham. Must I justify this man to you? I love the prayers in "Living Wicca".

"The Victorian Grimoire" by Patricia Telesco. A good, old-fashioned book so chock-full of ideas and recipes I might do several classes on this book alone.

Llewellyn's Magical Almanac. Now here's a pagan calendar for your pocket or purse!! Well worth the price.

"The Sabbats" by Edain McCoy. Good ideas and good recipes. Nothing too weird or impossible to find ingredients. I'm stealing the menhir idea off the cover for my own garden.

"The Richest Man in Babylon" by George S. Clason (ISBN# 0-452-26725-0) This is one of my two financial "bibles". I swear to you, it works. Read it!

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Orgainizing Your Life" by Georgene Lockwood (ISBN# 0-02-861090-3) This one is a workbook that will take you a year to complete if you do it right. You will never regret it.

There are many more, but this is enough, I think, to get you started.

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