Sunday, August 28, 2011

Simple Prayers

I find little to like in most published Pagan prayers. Either they are conversational prayers anyone with half a brain could have come up with on their own - something listed as "a prayer for strength" essentially just saying "Oh deity, please give me strength" - or, perhaps as a backlash to this drivel, and desiring poetry over content, they are blatant rip-offs of Christian prayers; the Lord's Prayer and "Now I lay me down to sleep" being the most popular. Of course there are some really good prayers out there, but they're not easy to find.

I've mentioned repeated prayer before, and I think repeated prayer does have to be poetic. A lot of the stuff you find online or even in published books is not a bit poetic, and therefore to me not appropriate for repeated prayer. In fact much of it is the sort of thing anyone would simply state plainly when speaking from the heart. This can be interesting to read, but do people really need that sort of hand-holding when it comes to talking to gods? You can't say "Lady, please grant me a child" or "Lord, please strengthen my spirit" or whatever without it written down in front of you?

I have realised that much of what I simply say to my gods when I kneel before the altar, speaking plainly, is the sort of thing you get in these books. (Heh, maybe I could publish them and make a bundle.) There's nothing wrong with this sort of prayer, I just find it annoying when going out on the internet or in book previews looking for a prayer that is beautiful and poignant, and I find very basic things of a few lines with no substance. Straightforward, sure. Nice enough, too, but not something you'd bother posting in the expectation that anyone would actually recite it. Read it, appreciate it, maybe. But recite it? Can't they form their own prayers?

I do like the simple prayers for interest's sake. I like reading them when others share them for the sake simply of sharing them. I like saying my own, I like tweaking them and writing them down in my book - I may not ever use them again (in fact it would be a bit odd if I did), but because they came to me when speaking to my Gods, they are valuable, with their own insights, however tiny, that I would not want lost. I like most of all that they are rarely if ever just words... so often, they are responses to imagery and imagery returned.

Here is an example. Out of my head and on the page it holds so little of what I felt at the time, but it has its own charms. Or perhaps those charms are noticeable only to me.

Hail Lady of the Green,
Of moss on trees,
Please help lift the worries from my shoulders.
Hail Lord of the Wide Sky,
Of the brown bark,
Please walk with me, and keep me company.
Hail, Green and Brown.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

So You Wanna Be a Pagan

New Pagans - or people just getting interested in Paganism - can easily get a bit lost with all the new information flooding at them. But when a new Pagan comes to a Pagan thread or a website looking for information, advice, a guiding hand, it can be hard to know what to say - not least because Paganism is so big, and unless you already have some idea of what you're looking for, it can be hard to give a person any guidance. A few of my Pagan friends and acquaintances helped me compile a list of important things to understand when starting out, as well as a couple of how-tos and some tips and tricks for navigating the Pagan world.

The first thing to understand is that Paganism is a big religious umbrella. It encompasses a huge number of religious views, not all of which are polytheistic or even theistic at all. You aren't going to agree with every view or hold every belief in common with any other Pagan you meet. One of the reasons Paganism as a whole appears to be so accepting is that there are so few things grouping us all together. Thus if someone tells you something that begins with "All Pagans....", there's a fairly good chance they're wrong. The two things to take away from this are 1) not everyone is going to agree with you, and 2) you will not like every Pagan religion you come across. Oh, and 3) assuming someone's religion is like yours because you are both Pagan may offend them.

The second thing to understand is that you will be doing a lot of reading. Because Paganism is so large an umbrella, and there are so many different religions beneath that umbrella, it may take you quite some time to come across the religion or religions that you want to practise. You may never find one that meets your needs absolutely; you're allowed to be an eclectic Pagan, and piece together your own religion. But either way, you will need to read a lot of different books about different forms of Paganism to work it out. Even if you find the religion for you straight away, the more you read and are exposed to, the more your views may change and evolve. Regardless, you should be fairly well educated about different forms of Paganism, so that you don't inadvertently offend. You will never stop reading. Particularly if you are a member of a reconstructionist religion, but even if you're not, you will be reading lore, and reading over it again in a different translation... you'll be reading books by others of your religion, books by historians and archaeologists.... you'll be reading books by religious anthropologists, books about comparative mythology and comparative religion... maybe even learning the language in which the lore was originally written so that you can read it for yourself. Do not stop reading. Err. But don't feel overwhelmed.

The third thing to understand is that not all gods are alike. Even if you believe that all gods are different faces of the same god or goddess (and this is by no means the most common view across Pagan religions), it's important to understand that an offering that is happily accepted by one god might be taboo according to another. If you're wondering whether an offering is appropriate, ask a reconstructionist of that pantheon for advice (they tend to have good ideas) and look to the lore and culture of that deity. Keep in mind too that if you're worshipping deities from multiple pantheons, these deities will not necessarily get along. It's good practise to keep your worship separate: don't hold a ritual and invite deities from multiple pantheons. Even within a pantheon, it's wise to be aware which deities don't really get along.

The fourth thing to understand is that not all authors and publishers are ethical people. This is one of the hardest lessons, so it's good to understand it right off the bat. There are authors who will mangle cultures to their own ends, who will outright lie, who will treat deities like ingredients in spells. It's important to know first off that just because someone appears to be admired or to have written a lot of books doesn't mean that they're an ethical person and that you should follow their lead. And secondly, it doesn't mean that anything they say has any resemblance to the truth. If you're unsure about an author, ask around. Flick through their work on Amazon or Google books and compare what they've said to objective history. As a new Pagan or an interested Seeker, even a bad author might inspire you or give you some decent information, so it's fine if you read their work... just be aware that there are some awful books out there, and don't become too attached to one book or one person's work, in case it turns out their advice is very poor.

The fifth thing to understand is that not all Pagan religions use witchcraft. There are so many books on various forms of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft that it can seem like every Pagan religion is involved in the craft somehow. This isn't true. While practising witchcraft is essential for some religions like Wicca, in others it is entirely optional, even if that particular religion has its own form of magic. In still others it might be considered impious by some practitioners and so practised by very few. If magic isn't your thing, don't think this excludes you from Paganism. Witchcraft might be common in Paganism but it's not mandatory - and nor do you need to be a Pagan to be a witch. If you do choose to study magic, don't jump straight into spellwork. Make sure you can write a spell before you perform one, start small, and put in some serious study before you start practising.

The sixth thing to understand is that context is important. You might be an eclectic Pagan - most people start out that way, before they nail down what it is they believe and which direction they want to go in. Eclectic Pagans can find things they like in other religions and adopt them for their own practise. But, it's very important to remember that not everything can be taken out of that original religious context. It's essential to understanding what this thing is by looking at it in its wider context of the religion and culture, and even once you've done that, you may not ethically be able to take it out of that context and adapt it for your own use. Runes, for example, can be used by anyone, but you will never understand them without a good knowledge of Nordic cultures and religion, and on top of that, the runes are very sacred Mysteries. If you use them, be aware of this, respect them, respect Norse polytheists, and don't misuse them. There are things from other cultures that can't be respectfully taken and used in this way, so be culturally aware, and be sensitive, wise and respectful of others. This can even extend to the worship of particular gods, as some deities won't accept worship from you if you're not a practitioner of a particular culture. Be aware of this also, and don't take personal offense.

The seventh thing to understand is that gods are gods. They aren't abstract ideas that you can work into a spell or prayer every time you want something. For example, if you would like help in love but you have no previous relationship with Aphrodite, it would be rude to ask for her help out of the blue. If you had friends who only called you when they wanted something, but never gave anything back to you or called you up just to talk, you would grow irritated with those friends. Gods can be the same way; if you only call when you want help, they may lose patience with you. Even if you believe the gods are just archetypes, at least show these archetypes respect. 

The eighth thing to understand is that not everyone shares your enthusiasm. You are new to Paganism. Quite probably, your discovery of this big new world full of information you were previously unaware of is exciting. You may be very enthusiastic. Cherish this enthusiasm: after a while it will wear off, and it's rare to recapture it in quite the same way again. Use it to inspire you in your studies, to inspire you in writing prayers and poetry, to keep you motivated. But keep in mind that, while you have found something grand in suchandsuch a religion or suchandsuch a god, not everyone is open to hearing about it. Think about the way some people speak about, for example, Jesus, and whether it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable or it comes off as obnoxious. You may want to shout your new-found faith to the world, but the world isn't that keen on hearing it most of the time, even if they share your belief, so keep it to journals, to blogs and to appropriate threads in forums, where others can come and share in your enthusiasm if they like, and can avoid it if it makes them uncomfortable.

The ninth thing to understand is that the person correcting you is not trying to insult you. Don't be offended if someone tells you, for example, that you're not Wiccan, or that your sources for your rune work are fatally flawed. They're not telling you that your practices are 100% invalid, just that you've made some mistakes, or perhaps you've been misled. It happens, and as mentioned, it happens a lot in Paganism. (See above.) We all make mistakes - they probably have done, too, and they may have been sucked in by the same bad sources as you have. It's not something you should take so personally. More often than not, this person is trying to help you, as well as trying to preserve something they consider sacred. Really try not to be offended.

The last thing to understand is yourself. Work out what you want out of a religion. Work out what it is you believe. If you don't know, read around on websites, forums, in books, to get more of an idea of what types of beliefs are out there. Try journalling or typing things out online or in a word processor to see what you come up with. What beliefs or values is it important that are reflected in whichever religion/s you choose? What beliefs or values are you willing to modify or change? Which beliefs can you hold separately from whichever religion you choose? Of course, knowing yourself is quite an ongoing task, so just having an idea of what you want and what sort of practise you enjoy, what you're looking for, can help you.

HOW TO....

Form a relationship with a deity:
First, read up on lore about that deity. Don't leave it to websites written by other Pagans, do actually go back to the lore. Even Wikipedia can have some good links and sources. But there are Pagans who accept whatever they read, and what they read might have been made up. So check the lore. Some, like many of the Greek gods, will have a tonne of lore including pre-written prayers and hymns. Others, like Cernunnos, will have next to nothing. So first, read up on what there is to know about that god, to start with. Make sure the god you're being drawn towards is the god you think they are.
Next, make an offering. Make it appropriate; what is appropriate will differ from god to god and from pantheon to pantheon. Express your desire to get to know the deity, perhaps ask for their guidance in doing so and in finding the path for you.
Relationships with deities take time to form, as in any relationship. Be patient and willing to dedicate the time. Be aware also that not every deity will be interested in you, regardless of how fascinating you find them.

Perform a ritual:
Most rituals follow a basic set-up of:
Opening statements,
Inviting the gods/entities/etc. to the ritual, if applicable (you can also ask them to observe without asking them into your ritual space, so to speak)
Stating purpose of ritual
Making offerings (light incense, pour libation, etc)
Meditation, communion with deity, personal prayer etc
Thank guests (gods, powers, entities, whatever) if applicable
Close ritual.
Add to this very basic system whatever you like. Re-arrange it if you prefer. This is a very basic overview followed by many religious systems, and some will place greater emphasis on this or that. You may want to start the ritual by preparing the ritual space; some religions do this by casting a magic circle, others sweep the floor, still others feel that all space is sacred and needs no preparation. You may want to take a ritual bath beforehand; for some religions this is essential. (For example, in Greek Paganism cleansing before ritual is very important, and you should wash your hands if you can't bathe.) Don't worry if your first rituals aren't particularly fulfilling: you're still working things out and you may feel awkward or self-conscious to begin with.


Ask questions. Even if they're stupid questions. It's much more important to get the right information and risk someone getting annoyed with you or laughing at you than to save face and remain ignorant. Buck up, be polite when you ask questions, and most people are happy to help you.

Don't take it personally if someone gets annoyed with you. Most of the time when this happens it's because they have faced the same misunderstanding with a hundred different people and are getting a bit tired of it. Be patient and be polite and they'll probably apologise for it; it's not you, it's just frustration. I'm sure you know if you've made it this far that Pagans don't worship Satan, and how annoyed you might have become at facing that assumption from others when explaining your new-found interest. Empathise. One day you may be in their position.

Don't rush. You don't need to buy an altar's full of stuff and complete your Book of Shadows right now. (In fact, most Pagans don't have a book of shadows.) If you want to start actively practising right away, you're fine with a small candle on a windowsill or on top of a bookshelf. Even if you start writing out a Book of Shadows now, chances are you will change your beliefs or practices as you go anyway, so it will be a waste of money to buy a nice book for it at this point. Instead, keep a folder on your computer or a ring binder with handwritten notes and print-outs so that you can move things around and scrap what you no longer need. On top of that, don't think you need to find the gods you want to worship right away. You will grow and change. The gods will call you in their time; impatience won't speed things up.

Think critically. There's this horrible tendency in some circles of modern Paganism to accept things without question, and to accuse anyone who does not do this of being "closed-minded". Ironically it is often these people who are closed-minded, as they tend to accept any answer at first but then close themselves off to any other possibilities. As noted above, some authors are full of shit. As you go along and learn more, these people will be easier and easier to spot. You don't need to accept what others tell you, you're allowed to ask them where they got their information, and you're allowed to question things. Do, absolutely. Just because someone has 20 years of being a Pagan under their belt doesn't mean they know much more than you: unfortunately, some people stop learning.

It's OK to be new. The vast majority of us came to Paganism ourselves, rather than being raised in Pagan families. It's perfectly normal to be new and unsure. There's no reason to assume you should have a Pagan heredity in order to be a real or valid Pagan, and the word "lineage" within Paganism tends to refer to initiatory lineage for those religions that involve initiation. Remember, too, that we all started out not knowing much at all. It's fine to not know stuff. We've been there, and we remember. Problems only arise when people share information with you, and you don't consider it. (You don't have to believe it - the important thing is that you weigh it up.)

Keep your feet on the ground. There's a tendency in some groups to get over-excited and people start declaring they are the Grand High Priestess daughter of Aphrodite or something. Avoid groups where people seem to make things up, or where there doesn't seem to be a line between make-believe and reality. There are Pagans out there who think of Paganism as a game, or a LARP - play-gans, we call them. They aren't serious about things, they aren't honest. Even among more serious Pagans, there are people who name themselves High Priest because they have a study group, or something, as if the title in its own right gave them any sort of legitimacy. Avoid inflating yourself, as well. Be honest with yourself, be honest with the universe, and keep your feet on the ground. Playing with your imagination and fantasy is fun and lots of Pagans are into it, they LARP or play D&D or MMORPGs... but don't let it cross over into your genuine practice. No one is going to swallow that you are the Lord High Chosen One, sacred King of Elphame, so don't even bother trying.

Some people are private. Religion is a personal thing, and not everyone is going to be open to sharing things with you. Be aware that people sometimes have sworn oaths of secrecy, and may be taken aback by some questions. Others are just not interested in sharing details of something that is personal to them. Respect their boundaries.

Don't be a bigot. Some new Pagans are coming out of bad experiences with other religions, most often Christianity. In doing so, it's natural to feel some bitterness towards the religion you are leaving. Try not to lash out at Christianity as a whole. Regardless of your experiences, remember that painting all Christians with the same brush is not reasonable. It is inappropriate to imply Christians today are the same as Christians who in the past committed acts of atrocity against Pagans (and other Christians). Some Pagans have painted Christians as unthinking slaves or hateful, violent people, and that sort of thing is rude and unnecessary. Aside from anything else, poor behaviour towards Christians is construed as immature.

That's all for now, though more advice may turn up here (or if there's enough of it, in a separate post) in the future. For now, good luck, new Pagans, and don't be afraid to email in questions or post them here in the comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day Six: Prayer and Reciprocity

Heathenry is a religion in which there is a long and complex tradition of gift-giving and receiving. This is clear from the Havamal, and from the study of runes such as Gebo. (Gebo is one of the reasons I recommend all Heathens spend some time looking at the runes, even if they never plan to use them. They have many lessons for us.) We give, and in turn we receive. If we receive, we offer thanks. We offer gifts to the gods, be they the food from our table, the mead from our horn, time, etc. These offerings, by the nature of the gods, are not and cannot be equal. But they are appreciated. The gods are friends, and are kin, as much as we serve them. Offerings take the form of sacrifice, and as sacrifices, they should be a sacrifice. You give what you have, in the sense that they won't ask something of you that's beyond your means. But don't offer water when you have ale - the gods are your guests if you invite them to your hof or hearth. Treat them with the best of hospitality.

Offerings, in the form of sharing one's own bounty and one's own meal or drink, are not simply offerings of thanks. They are a way in which we share of ourselves with the gods. When we pour to the gods we aren't usually giving something that we aren't partaking in ourselves. Taking a drink and offering the same to a deity strengthens bonds with that deity. It is a form of communing with them - a communion, I suppose - and a holy thing. When an offering is gladly accepted, that is a wonderful thing to feel - a marvellous, moving and sacred thing. Additionally, in a sense, sharing an offering with the gods is a renewing of contracts. Contracts in which we have declared to honour them, and they to aid us, or contracts in which we have made an oath, and so on.

If I'm contacting a god I don't know well, I'll usually feel obliged to give an offering as a thanks for listening to me. With gods I know well I'll pray to them without feeling that need, because we've already formed that relationship. Gods with whom I don't have as strong a bond, or one's I'm meeting for the first time or am barely acquainted with, I'll feel I should make an offering because in a sense I feel I am intruding upon their existence, and should make an offering like a guest bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner, or something.

I very much like the concept prayer, particularly repeated prayer. I have trouble finding ones I like that are easily repeated but I have written a few nice ones of my own. Most published prayers for Pagans are very... dull, something the worshipper should have been able to come up with himself. What I look for out of a repeated prayer is a good lilt and meter (The Lord's Prayer in English has a good meter to it, as an example), and meaning, but an ease and flow to it that means once the words are internalised the prayer can be repeated whilst the mind concentrates on communion with the divine. I enjoy reading beads, and the feeling of them in my hands. In practice, though, I'm more likely to speak from the heart. I consider all verbal, and some nonverbal, interactions with deity as a form of prayer, and much of my prayers consist of conversations of a sort even if they start out with something more formal. I'm also a fan of wordless prayer, wherein communication takes place via images, sensations, feelings, emotions.

I consider prayer to be an important aspect of deepening one's relationship with deities. I know a lot of people are rather stand-offish with deities, even within Paganism which has a tendency towards wanting, or claiming to want, that personal communion with deities. I wonder sometimes whether it's a sort of internal difference between lay-people and semi-priesthood... whether striving towards deepening that bond with individual deities is some sort of consequence or symptom of that sort of mindset or desire.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Hearth

I'm starting a new book, "Way of the Hedge Witch" by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. It's about hearthcraft and home-based spirituality rather than hedgecraft as such, but as that's an aspect of a hedgewitch's craft, I'm nonetheless quite interested to read it. It's been on my "reading pile" for a while, and it's good to dig into a practical witchcraft book after the mental anguish that was "The Spiral Dance".

There are elements in A.M.-H.'s spiritual witchcraft that reflect mine. I do disagree with her in parts (more on that later in the review) but there are parts of it which are a part of my craft, too. This doesn't happen often, and it's exciting to find. For example, in her spiritual craft, the hearth is a sacred space according to tradition, rather than because sacred space is created around it or within it; it's simply sacred in and of itself. (And of course this may apply to other places as well, such as sacred groves, which many of us recognise as being sacred in their own right.) I feel very much along these lines myself, having always felt a... kinship of sorts, a spiritual link to the hearth, even as a child. I have lived the vast bulk of my life in houses with hearths and fire-places and how I should cope without one I do not know.

In coming to - and over the last decade, gradually forming - my personal religious witchcraft (and in more recent years my Heathenry), the hearth has played a growing part as an element of my craft and my spirituality. To begin with, not so much: I started out with rather fluffy, very modern ceremonial-influenced witchcraft, as many do, because it was the most accessible. In time, however, I came back to the witchcraft that had interested me as a child, the traditional, the vaguely-spiritual, folk-religion craft of the village wise woman. My craft is Pagan and therefore differs from that of most witches over the past thousand years, but there are some spiritual elements and folk beliefs that I think have very much been "passed down", so to speak (and not just by the cunning folk).

Respect for sacred places such as standing stones and barrow mounds is one such thing. Sometimes one wonders why more of these things were not toppled, or smashed, but I suppose there have always been people in the places where these things stand who would not have allowed that sort of thing, for whatever belief or reason. Belief in nature spirits such as Jack-in-the-Green is another; what place would these entities have in the context of orthodox Christian beliefs?

The hearth as a focus for witchcraft and spiritual work is one of these things. Part of that will of course be cultural, as the hearth will have remained the place where the family gathered to cook, to warm themselves, to tell stories and play games or do their work by the firelight. It would have been honoured in a sense for centuries without any particular beliefs connected to it, regarding its sacredness or anything else. But I think a part of it too is linked to witchcraft, the hearth as a shrine or a monument, an altar, a place to work magic, a sacred place in its own right, and that this has been retained through the centuries.

I think you can feel that continuum, that connection. There's no end of books that say this is ancient or that is ancient, and often you can tell just by the feel of it that it isn't so. In a way, you can still smell the brand new polish. There's no sense of a continuum there, no sense of age. Compare to recon religions, for example, where there is a sense of age but no continuum; we are groping in the dark and grabbing on to what we can, piecing things together, re-constructing in the purest sense but without any solid idea of what the whole will look like. (Unless we're particularly lucky and have a religion with a shit-tonne of primary texts, I'm looking at you, Hellenism. I've seen your, you bastards.)

Of course, the way I work with my hearth may be totally different to the way a woman five hundred years ago - or yesterday - does it, but there is still the sense of something continuing on. Something that has been done thousands of times, being done again. Things with this flavour to them are what I love to find, the type of things I hunt down in my search for the missing bits and pieces I will need for my own tradition of religious witchcraft. I suspect this is in some ways akin to the sensation of "repeated ritual" - particular, specific ritual repeated by many people across a number of decades - experienced in religions such as Wicca and, hell, Catholicism. (Neither of which I have experienced, by the way.)

But, the hearth. It is still sacred, though now people tend to sit behind computers rather than around the fire. Still sacred, despite not being necessary and essential; we have other ways of cooking food, lighting our homes, keeping ourselves warm. The fireplace could be done away with altogether. But "there's nothing quite like an open fire", and for many people it's one of the things they look for in a new home. The only thing really to compare in the home is the kitchen and the altar or shrine, if one has one. The kitchen might even be said by some to be an extension of the hearth, as it's the place a "fire" of sorts is kept, a place where the food is cooked and people will gravitate to in family gatherings.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I feel like spring has come too soon.

Tomorrow is Candlemas proper. I celebrate on the astronomical dates (I find them here), which tend to fall later than the "traditional" dates on which many others celebrate. So my winter has been up to a week later in ending than it has been for some. And yet, I'm not ready for it to be spring.

I always enjoy winter. It must be my favourite season (though I also enjoy late autumn). By the time August arrives, I know there will still be a bite in the air for a few weeks yet, but I am ready for the coming signs of spring: daffodils, lambs, the first spring buds. These tend to arrive before "calendar" spring, so I have no problems with the beginning of spring being cold... the signs of the changing season have arrived nonetheless. This year, though, I feel no great joy at the coming bulbs. I am regretful. I want to push them back, to say, no, it is not yet time.

Winter, this year, has not been long enough. Late autumn was unseasonably warm. Snow came very late to the southern mountains. And though this winter has had its share of windy and wet weeks, it has been mild of late. I have not spent the amount of time in "winter" mode this year that I do usually, and it saddens me that we are turning once more towards the unpleasant three-month heat stroke that is summer without a proper good old freeze first.

But tomorrow, despite these things, I will welcome spring in ritual the way I always do. And to mark the occasion, I'll change this blog's theme to reflect the changing seasons. I'll wait until I can smell spring on the wind before holding my Heathen blót, as is my wont... I don't garden and the ground doesn't get too cold up here in the sub-tropics, so I tend to refer to it as Idis-thing rather than Charming of the Plough. My nose has been a bit blocked lately, so perhaps spring has arrived on the wind already and I don't know it!

Regardless I hope, dear Reader, if you have celebrated a holiday around this time that your celebrations were good. A happy spring to those of us down south, and a bountiful autumn to those above the equator.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day Five: Magic, Spellcraft, Mysticism

Magic is intrinsic to every element of my path. Within Heathenry, there's the option to explore magic or leave it. Personally, despite having magic in the other half of my practice to indulge in, I'm nevertheless really interested in Nordic magic. Galdr - singing magic - and rune work in particular fascinate me. I've always loved singing and do it pretty much every day, whether I realise I'm doing it or not. That magic can itself be worked just with the voice is wonderful - though, there aren't a great deal of sources on it that I'm aware of, and most people restrict themselves to singing the names of runes. I don't know whether any galdr songs actually survive. The runes are massive, beautiful powers in themselves and, sort of more importantly, Mysteries - for this reason I think they're pretty important for any Heathen to study, even if s/he doesn't plan on using them. What they are and what they have to teach is more important to me than what I can do with them, but I can't deny that they might be incredibly useful.

The other half of my practice is a form of religious witchcraft. The energies around me, and connecting to and using these energies, is an essential part of what I do and, for that matter, who I am. I've been doing some form of that since I was a child and I genuinely can't imagine a life not being aware of my own energies and energies around me. Spellcraft specifically isn't something I bother doing all that often, but in some ways the way in which we prefer to cast spells tells us a lot about our craft. Me, I'm most happy with a piece of string or a pen and paper. Little, basic objects I have around me often. Folk and sympathetic magic, mostly. I don't actually know any witch who casts a spell more than once in a while, but they've all researched spellwork enough to feel comfortable doing it, and are able to write their own spell in a way that's best for them and in a sense a reflection of their craft. So in that sense, spellcraft is important as an element of any form of witchcraft.

Then we have ecstasy and other-world travelling. The Nordic form of this practice is seidhr, but I feel on less solid ground here... I don't know whether I could, or should, call anything I do "seidhr". So I leave the term alone, and refer to my practice as "Walking the Hedge" for the most part. Whether it's magic or whether it's mysticism or whether it's both at once, it's a very large part of who I am and what I do. I don't even go a-Walking all that often, and yet it still plays a large part in my practice. The fact that I can do it when I need to or want to is a solid reassurance, and I've gone on Walks with gods that were massively illuminating and very personal. I've "fixed" myself, or rather, sought the aid of spirits to fix myself, when I was not so much "broken" as no longer functioning.

Mysticism isn't a word I personally use all that often. I think it's a hangover from my looking into occultism as a child - I've always associated it with men with long beards and with the armchair magician: reading a lot, but never doing or feeling. But that's a prejudice I should get over. Mysticism is a word derived from the Greek, referring to an adherent of a mystery religion. Whether my religion is a mystery religion I don't know - mysteries are a primary means of learning, but the means of obtaining those mysteries isn't standardised. But, that sense of driving forward seeking wisdom, knowledge, gnosis and the gods is very much a part of my Hedgecraft. It's a way of connecting with the gods, or that connection itself, and of snatching at bits of wisdom in the shadows. Gnosis, learning of Mysteries, those moments of epiphany, these are things I work towards.