We spend a lot of time questioning each other’s Paganism, arguing about who and what is most authentic, and fretting about who is not a ‘proper’ Pagan. I offer this list as an attempt at sanity around the subject, and with tongue just a little bit in cheek.
You’re getting Paganism wrong if…
1) You get upset or angry about other people who undertake or believe different things to you. People who are secure in their path and practice really don’t tend to feel that threatened by diversity and difference, while sane people do not view it as their job to make everyone see things their way.
2) In order to do anything Pagan, you need to be wearing your special Pagan clothes and carrying your special Pagan tools. Paganism is not hobby-theatre, re-enactment or role-play. It is something you are, not something you do. If you’re fretting over who has the biggest wand and whether you have enough silver jewellery, you’ve missed the point.
3) You can’t explain your beliefs, values, or ethics. If you’re claiming you are your own priest, you really have no excuse here, and if you’ve not actually thought about your beliefs, values, or ethics, you’re missing a lot of important things.
4) You avoid nature because it is wet/cold/dirty/unpredictable/outside. It’s one thing if you’re ill, but otherwise, a nature-based religion with no nature in it doesn’t actually work very well. And no, looking at pictures of cats on Facebook doesn’t count.
5) You do things as religious observance but do not know what those things are for or about. Reading it in a book, seeing someone else do it – these are not sufficient reasons. If you have no idea what you’re doing, then you aren’t actually doing anything.
6) You do not ever feel inspired, uplifted, awed or otherwise moved in response to your spiritual experiences. Nothing works all the time, but if it never works, you’re off the mark. You’re probably doing some of the other things on this list, and you probably need to get out more.
7) You spend more time worrying about the status and actions of other people than you spend doing anything discernibly Pagan. You can rank every Pagan you know in order of importance, but can’t tell an oak tree from a badger. It’s not about who has the biggest wand, really it isn’t.
8) You are expecting Paganism to make you rich/famous/attractive/important/enlightened without having to actually do anything to get there. Yes, many of us do believe in magic. No, it really doesn’t work like *that*.
9) You think everyone is hexing you. Every mistake you make, every setback, is down to your enemies working magic against you. That you believe you have enemies who have nothing better to do than try to mess up minor features of your life isn’t a good sign either.
10) You think you know everything. Consequently you do not think you need to read, experiment, practice, or listen to anyone else. You may have some very colourful explanations for how you know everything – perhaps you are a God incarnate, or the reincarnation of Dumbledore.
If that doesn’t sound like you, then the odds are you’re doing it perfectly well. If you’re reading that list and thinking of someone else, have a chuckle, but then remind yourself of points one and seven, because this really isn’t your problem and there’s no point wasting time on it.
Everyone starts somewhere. Some people start with roleplay games, computer games, silly films, and outandish expectations, and if that’s your gateway, so be it. It’s not where you start, it’s what you do with it. Everyone has the right to be young and foolish at least once, and you can still invoke that clause in your forties if needs be! (Just the once, though.)