The starting point of the new calendar year may be a completely arbitrary human invention, but there’s still something special about it. The liminal period of the holidays helps the old year fade away (especially the bad things we’d like to forget) and we feel like we’re starting over with a clean slate. It’s a new year and we can do anything we want… and many of us would like to make this year better than last year.
Perhaps we want to work on our health or our finances. Maybe we want to strengthen our romantic or family relationships… or maybe we want to form some new ones. Maybe this is the year we go back to school, or find a new job.
For some of us, what we most want to work on is our religious and spiritual life. What we’ve done in the past has been meaningful – we want more. We want to take it farther and deeper. This means different things to different people, but there are some practices that will be helpful no matter which path we take.
Here are nine ways you can improve your Paganism, your witchcraft, your magic, your spirituality – however you describe those beliefs and practices that are most important to you.
1. Review your daily spiritual practice
Daily spiritual practice is the foundation of any religion or spirituality. It’s how we reinforce our spiritual relationships and how we continuously reaffirm our commitment to our highest principles.
You’re probably already doing something, if not daily then weekly, if not weekly then irregularly. Prayer, meditation, offerings, spending time in Nature, sacred readings, study – the list isn’t endless, but it is pretty long.
Make a list of what you’re already doing and how often you’re doing it. What’s working well? Keep doing it. What works well – when you do it? Commit to doing it regularly. What doesn’t work well for you? Drop it and find something else.
Don’t have any regular practices? Read Beginning a Devotional Practice from 2016.
You may need or want to add something to your regular practice, but concentrate on doing a few things regularly before you try to pick up something new.
2. Clean and cleanse your house
The phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” was first written by John Wesley, but the idea is ancient – and it did not originate with Christianity. In many traditions, cleanliness is a requirement for approaching the Gods. In any case, the best way to get off to a clean start is with a clean house.
Do a good ordinary house cleaning. If it’s been a while, you may need to break the work up into smaller bites over several days. Some people prefer to start with bedrooms, because that’s where you sleep. I prefer to start with the kitchen, because it’s usually the worst and I like to get it over with first. I’m not sure the order matters so much as starting somewhere and continuing until you’re done.
After you finish the mundane cleaning, do a magical cleansing. I wrote a detailed post on this last year. It’s good to have help, but it’s unlikely you need a professional witch or priest. This is magic anyone can do.
3. Recharge your wards
Once your house is clean, you want to keep it clean. Put down good floor mats at the doors and remind people to take off dirty shoes. You also want to keep it spiritually and magically clean. This is best done with wards.
There are many ways to create and charge wards. Using a wand, I draw a pentagram over each door and window, and then charge it to keep out all harmful and discordant spirits and energies. I conclude with a prayer to the deities I serve, asking Them to guard the house and keep it safe.
Wards don’t stay charged forever. Monitor them – if they’re not strong and glowing, it’s time to recharge them. If you don’t remember the last time you recharged your wards, it’s probably time to do it again.
4. Make weekly offerings
Offerings are how we demonstrate hospitality and reciprocity with our Gods, ancestors, and other spiritual allies. Different persons prefer or expect different offerings, but in general sharing your food and drink is a good thing – just don’t offer the cheap stuff and keep the good stuff for yourself. If all you have to offer is clean water, that is almost always acceptable.
Some people make daily offerings, others monthly or on some other schedule. My practice is to make them weekly. Sunday’s offerings are for the Morrigan, Monday is for my ancestors, Wednesday is for Cernunnos, and Tuesday is for someone I don’t discuss in public. You must find your own schedule.
5. Read a new book in your tradition
Continuing education isn’t just for teachers. New scholarship is being developed all the time, as are non-scholarly practice-oriented books like the ones I write. Even if you’re a 3rd Degree initiate or a full member of the Druid Grove, there is always something you can learn.
This is the Golden Age of Pagan, polytheist, and magical publishing. Llewellyn and Weiser turn out dozens of new books each year. Specialty houses like Scarlet Imprint publish the kind of magical books that don’t interest the masses but are of tremendous value to the few. Print-on-demand makes it possible for authors to get their work out there even if it’s too specialized to be profitable for traditional publishers.
Don’t know what to read? Type “books” in the search box on the right and read the reviews I’ve written. Don’t see anything you want? Do the same thing on Mat Auryn’s blog – I think he reviews more Pagan and magical books than anyone.
One way or another, find something new in your tradition and read it.
6. Read a new book outside your tradition
Our different Pagan and polytheist traditions are in different places in their development and growth, but none are so fully formed they can’t benefit from new thinking. Even if nothing you read in another tradition can be used in yours, at least now you know a bit more about them.
Don’t ignore books from the mainstream. Biology, psychology, and archaeology all inform our religions. So does history, including the more recent history of the lands where our Gods were first known.
Read broadly. Even if it doesn’t help your Paganism, it will make you a better, more informed person.
7. Attend a Pagan gathering
Particularly if you’re solitary, there is nothing quite like being in the same place with dozens or even hundreds of people who see the world in a way similar to you. Pagan conferences, conventions, and retreats are a chance to see and hear how other people are doing things, and there is no better place to have deep one-on-one conversations about your Gods and your magic.
2020 is the final year for Pantheacon – if you’ve always wanted to go, this is your last chance. There are many others – Jason Mankey has a series of reviews and previews on Raise the Horns. Want to hear me speak? I’ll be at the Florida Pagan Gathering and Mystic South. And maybe others – we’ll see if other invitations come in, and how my vacation time holds up.
Even if all you can afford is your local Pagan Pride Day, make this the year you get out and meet your fellow Pagans in person.
8. Work magic every full moon
Full disclosure: I’m putting this one here for my own benefit. Magic is a part of my religion, but my religious practice focuses far more on devotion than on operative magic. I tend to work spells on an as-needed basis. Which is fine, except that I don’t get enough practice.
This year I’m committing to doing something at every full moon. That probably means sigil magic or something that would be considered traditional witchcraft, but there may be an occasion for something more elaborate. We’ll see.
The first full moon of 2020 is January 10 at 1:21 PM CST. Traditionally the moon is considered full for three nights – pick the one that works for you. Or the one that matches your need for waxing or waning energies. And some magic is best worked at the dark moon…
If you have a magical worldview, at some point magic becomes a regular part of your life. But if you find yourself going weeks or months without working deliberate magic for a deliberate goal, join me in doing spellwork at the full moons.
9. Sign up for my new class
Promoting my own class? You bet I am.
Registration is open now for “Building a New Myth: Scientific, Animist, and Polytheist Foundations For the Future.” The first class is January 23.
We all have stories we live by. The only problem is that we’re unaware of most of them. And many of the stories we unconsciously live by reinforce Christian or materialist assumptions. That makes it hard for us fully integrate our Paganism into our lives. In this class, we’re going to build a new myth from the ground up. We’re going to walk through the same process I used to change my own myths when I finally got serious about my Paganism.
Change your story and you change your life. That’s hard to do, but it can be done.
May 2020 be the year when you make your Paganism everything you need it to be.