My previous blog on leaving Paganism received comments, questions, and some points that stirred my thoughts. A couple of comments and several of the questions were around the roadblocks that I personally experienced. These were and are items that I am often at odds with while practicing Witchcraft. Examples I gave were spells, astrology, and my lack of any supernatural experiences. Some of the readers asked if I could expand on my barriers and where I currently stand on some of these subjects (absolutely chuffed it isn’t just my husband and friends reading these posts).
That is what brings me here today, I want to go over a few of the barriers I had (or still have) and where I currently stand on these subjects. Now, this is not my subtle way of trying to knock people for their personal beliefs. These thoughts, musings, and stances are my own. I hope that you read this with a critical eye and take away new information that you find useful. I’d like to go over my experiences with the concepts of the supernatural, astrology, divination, and with spells. I will not talk about my beliefs in a deity (Ultimate Truth, Gods, etc. …). That would take up more time and maybe another blog. Let’s go ahead and dive into the first area: supernatural.
When referring to the supernatural I want to make sure we are on the same page. I am referring to ghosts, spirits, and demonic-type forces. This, for the sake of an article, will not dive into deeper definitions of beings that fall within the realm of supernatural. Remember, this is a blog and not a full novel or documentary.
I am going to be focusing on ghosts and the barriers I have faced with this topic. First, I have never experienced, witnessed, or had a sensation from ghosts. This has been a massive disappointment for me. Who wouldn’t want to have one last conversation with grandma or chat with a spirit from 1687? I know this comes off a bit jokey but the truth is, I have always wanted to have a ghost experience.
Naturally, since personal experiences were out the window; I began to question plausibility. My gut reaction tells me they can’t exist. We are estimating that 108-118 billion people have lived and died on this planet, so far. Out of that sheer number there would have to be some scientific documentation of supernatural existence by now. This is when my mind went to step two and began to seek guidance outside of myself. By this I mean with professors and a Wiccan Priestess (keeping it equal with science and religion).
My professors placed the belief in the supernatural under three camps. First, those who manipulate the conservation of energy argument in a pseudo-science way. Second, those who accept human limitations (sounds simple but this is science, it isn’t simple). Third, those who have not accepted human limitations. Each of these stances are way too extensive for this blog but I can try to give a short version.
Conservation of energy is a law that states, ‘energy cannot be created or destroyed; rather it can only be transformed or transferred’. Plenty of people use this argument as notable when proving the existence of ghosts. However, this would be a false understanding of the law. The law is referring to energy as in the action. This doesn’t bode well as a valid argument in the context of ghosts. The second group are those who accept a majority statement as fact. This can be with personal belief or with some skepticism. The final group refers to those who, for the majority, accept ghosts as real. This is usually done in a way that will not accept human anatomical or genetic limitations. This includes our limited senses (Ex. Can’t see infrared lights) and our limited ability to track genetic continuation after death.
Speaking with a Wiccan Priestess was extremely apathetic. This is because she felt that each person’s view of the Universe is worthy of respect. It is easy to get down with this philosophy but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. That was tough for me, because that was all I was getting. This isn’t to say other Pagans don’t have an opinion. Ask one of us and we will give you 40 opinions (chain reaction in its finest). I think this was simply the best that could be given by this particular person in this particular situation.
So where do I stand? I don’t believe in ghosts, per se. I believe that part of us continues in some form or another. My best guess is that the energy that does make up our body is absorbed back into the Earth. Our consciousness is still under question with science and science itself has several paradoxical views on this topic. This is why I think that consciousness continues after death in one way or another, though perhaps not as a friendly ghost, demon, or other spirit. My personal conclusion is agnostic when it comes to consciousness’ continuation after death. This agnostic view plays a heavy hand in my belief that what matters most is our time here and now. Continuation is something I deeply hope for though!
I’m going to jump from headline right into the fact. I stand in an area with mixed signals when it comes to astrology. First, I think it is fun, I think it can be useful in people’s relation to the world, and I even believe it helped us progress as humans. I also see the universe and everything in it as interconnected. To what degree that connection impacts our lives is beyond my current comprehension. However, I have some pretty heavy doses of skepticism with astrology as we know it today. The reasons behind this isn’t just because science can’t prove a link, which is a flimsy argument anyway. It actually has to do with the way our planet’s axis has shifted since the creation of our current zodiac system. Not to mention that we observe twelve signs but the argument for a thirteenth sign is still out there.
Astrology is thought to have originated in Babylon some 2,400 years ago. Our current system of astrology was fine-tuned during the Hellenistic period (around 323 BCE). Since that time our planet has shifted points on its axis. Take my sign, Cancer, it should actually be in the realm of Gemini by today’s astro-alignment. If we put the thirteenth sign into consideration I suddenly become a cusp between Taurus and Gemini. Do you see why this is difficult for me to believe?
Bottom line, what do I believe? I am skeptical and require more evidence in order to believe astrology plays a direct part in my personality. I enjoy reading about my sign and my natal chart. I especially enjoy reading about my Chinese sign because it is a great deal more complimentary. I also believe that without a history of astrology we would be delayed in our modern sciences. Sciences such as physics, astronomy, and even modern medicine would likely have been delayed without astrology. Observing the stars and their impact has played a tremendous part in our development as a species.
I currently use divination on a nearly daily basis. Sometimes my use of divinatory tools wanes but usually you can guarantee that I have shuffled some cards or swung a pendulum within the past week. These tools are one of my favorite ways to work through psychology. Pump the brakes! Did I say psychology? Yes, yes I did and I am guessing this isn’t the first time you’ve heard someone use divination therapeutically. After all, having a tarot reading can very much feel like a therapy session.
Divination feels like the best tool a psychologically untrained person can use for introspection. I don’t necessarily think divination is going to help predict my future. For me, using divination to guess my future places divination on level with fate or destiny and I am not comfortable with that (Remember, this is purely about my own views. Each person is different and entirely appreciated for their individual views). Instead, I use tarot cards to reflect a possible action I could consider in a current situation or to affirm feelings I might have about a situation.
Let’s say I am having a hard time with my husband. He who forgot to purchase my healthy yogurts (not letting it down so easy, cupcake!). In my frustration I pull a tarot card to help me assess my current situation and I pull the five of swords. This card usually symbolizes conflict of some manner (some manner is so vague). This can be verbal, personal, physical, legal or any number of conflict possibilities. Of course, we know that the situation is an inner tension caused by a situation that was purely an accident or slip of mind. No harm or ill-will was intended (it’s just yogurt, Tyson). The card allows me to think about why I am tense and then let it go.
So where do I stand with divination? I am a believer but only in the way that I have always believed. I believe that divination is only capable of helping us consider current situations or observations. We will always be able to find meaning behind symbols. I believe we want to feel affirmed by our situations in life and most of the time we want improvement. I do not believe divination is capable of showing us the future. It only shows us what we want to know or need to know through an abstract symbol that we try to relate with in the here and now.
Have you heard of the term open label placebo? If not, let me fill you in on what this means. It is a term used to describe a placebo that is given to or used by a person all while they have full knowledge that they are using a placebo. Research has shown time and time again that open label placebos are still greatly effective and suggest that repetitive ritual is what trains our mind to observe the world differently. Think along the lines of Pavlov and his dogs. You are creating a Pavlovian effect on yourself. Whether that is to begin eating healthier, finding ways to love better, or finding peace in the world around you.
Open label placebos were my gateway into Witchcraft. I find that creating a sacred space, doing a ritual, and casting a spell are great steps to realigning my mind. Science cannot confirm that magick is creating a wrinkle in the universe because of my spell. Science can prove that ritual, plus intent, equals action. This means we can align ourselves with goals that we have in life. Do you want to be loved? You can realign your thoughts to feel love and be open to more. Do you want a better job? You can realign your thoughts to help achieve this goal as well.
The sensation I get is deeper than the Law of Attraction. These realignments have really created an impact in my life that I can track, measure, and determine effectiveness. A great example is a witch’s bottle. We use this urine- and pin-filled jar to help protect our homes or spaces, right? If you believe that this action is adding another layer of protection, you’re likely going to feel less tense in your own space. My own spell for success at work was a complete…….success (damn it…). My thoughts were very in-line with how to create a charm offensive, magnify my accomplishments, and have an image of someone who deserves an increase. I got that raise and it feels so good.
Was there magick involved in any of this? Some of you will say yes. I say yes as well but fully know it was a placebo all along. That is where I stand with spells. I think they work and are amazing. I don’t believe we should limit magick by saying it exists outside of the spaces science cannot prove. That relegates magick to a place that is shrinking quickly because of science. Instead, I believe we should entrust magick and science to live in the same space. We can measure it when we call it a placebo. We can track it when we call it psychoanalytical. Obviously, there will be exceptions to the rule but overall we should find ways to connect these worlds versus segregating them. We can appreciate the word magick as an umbrella term with several forms of science underneath it. Quantum physics, biology, and thanatology just to name a few!
This Is What I am Left With
To practice Witchcraft, Druidism, Heathenry, Wicca, or any other Pagan path does not require conformity to a set of beliefs. I have sung this tune on repeat amongst the choir of people singing the same thing. You might find that the choir significantly shrinks when it comes to skepticism and that is okay. There are a healthy handful of Pagans who maintain a good amount of skepticism. Being a skeptical Pagan can still mean you have a sincere and meaningful practice.
I find that what matters most is a great deal simpler than any of these topics. The core to my beliefs are one’s ability to be kind to others, grow in knowledge, and sincerity in all of our practices. We owe it to be honest with ourselves as we practice Paganism. Even if that is learning our beliefs do not align with science. Once you find honesty, you will find the knowledge. Knowledge is powerful and sometimes heavy. Yet, from knowledge you will know that kindness toward yourself and others is the best policy. I know this sounds extremely yogic and transcendent but it isn’t. It takes courage to be honest with ourselves and to wear our labels with knowledge and kindness.
There are plenty of resources for those of us who lean heavily into the sciences. I’d like to share some of these with you here. These links are to YouTubers that have impacted the way I see the world and have helped keep my feet on this path.
- Sedna Woo: Do you want a no BS approach with science meeting Witchcraft? This is the gal for you! She is approachable, pleasant, and has done her research. I appreciate this channel very much and come here for humor and education.
- The Witches’ Cookery: We have a German Witch who has no room for including deities, fluff, and creates amazing content (don’t worry, the content is in English). The enthusiasm found on this channel energizes my desire to jump into a new spell. Her content keeps me balanced and interested in my craft (If she reads this I will be absolutely elated!).
- Aine Orga: Well-spoken and educated person. Her worldview is pantheistic and it has been extraordinary to follow her journey. I’ve been exposed to new ways of thinking and terminology that benefits the way I navigate my own path.