Over the years it’s the little things that have made my Paganism better. Grand gestures and life-altering oaths are great and all when they occur, but even small things can have a big impact. Here are five mostly easy ways to improve your Pagan practice.
Explore Something Outside Your Tradition
When I was starting out in the Pagan world twenty years ago it was common for many of us back then to explore traditions outside of our own. I knew I was going to end up a Wiccan-Witch but I still worked and studied with Druids, and went to readings of Crowley’s Book of the Law. I learned so much by going outside my comfort zone and practicing ritual in new (and sometimes very different) ways. It made me a better Witch, and a better Pagan.
If you are a Traditional Witch, read a (good) book about Wicca with an open mind. You’ll find a lot of the same ideas, just executed in different ways, and you’ll end up with some new tools in your Witch toolbox. (The reverse goes for Wiccans too!) The Pagan world is a big place, and there are all sorts of magickal and ritual techniques out there that you’ll never discover if you limit yourself to only one way of looking at things.
“Something outside your tradition” can mean even going outside the Pagan Umbrella. Exploring completely different faith traditions has its own rewards and can help build bridges between the Pagan World and those outside of it. I’m not suggesting that anyone start attending their local Baptist church, but reading a book on the historical Jesus can help shed light on the paganisms of the ancient world, and perhaps offer new ideas for your own practice.
Venture Out into the ‘Greater Community’
The Pagan Community is a lot bigger than we give it credit for sometimes. In almost every part of the country there’s something going on if we are willing to look for it. In large urban areas there are all sorts of Witch-shops, gatherings, open rituals, workshops and classes, and even book clubs. Away from the cities there are still things going on, it just takes a little while to find some of them. (And I know a lot of folks who live in remote places are very used to driving long distances for events, it’s just a part of their life.)
I’m not going to pretend that the Pagan Community is perfect or that there aren’t problems within it in regards to unacceptable behaviors, but for the most part we are a pretty open and accepting bunch. Bookstores have a track record that can be checked (Yelp, social media), and open rituals in places like public parks generally require a permit and a paper-trail; perfect if you are worried about meeting with a bunch of strangers for the first time.
Venturing out in the Pagan Community does not mean one has to join a coven, grove, or circle, it simply means some sort of interaction. Taking a workshop at a local bookstore counts, as does going to a concert to see some of band that’s a part of or adjacent to Paganism. One can even explore the greater community online through workshops and correspondence courses.
Why go out into the greater community? Because there is no better way to share information than by truly communicating with another person.
Unplug From Social Media
More and more I’m beginning to believe that Facebook and social media in general might be one of the worst things to happen to the Pagan Community since the Satanic Panics of the 1980’s. (Instagram, where comments are limited, has been my favorite social media site lately.) When Facebook does what it’s supposed to do (connect people with their friends) it can be pretty cool. When it turns into a tool for character assassination and unproductive bickering it becomes harmful and potentially destructive.We don’t have to ignore social media entirely as Pagans, but unplugging from it for a few hours a day, or sometimes for a whole day or a weekend, can be invigorating. Spend some time with your own Pagan thoughts instead of reading the thoughts of others, and help your blood pressure by sitting out an argument for at least for a round or two. If there’s something you absolutely need to be aware of someone will let you know, we communicated with one another before Twitter.
In the course of writing my seventh book I’ve rediscovered the joy that comes with leaving your house without a cellphone. Most mornings I head to my local park with a cup of coffee, an old fashioned book, and a notepad. There, I take notes and revisit with Margaret Murray, Greek Mythology, and the trees that surround my little corner of California. I lose all sense of time, and escape from the larger world for just a little bit.
Spend a Few Moments With the Sun or the Moon
I’m a pretty avid walker, if something is within two miles of me, I’ll generally walk there if it’s possible. Walking gets me outdoors, and puts me in touch with the turn of the Wheel and the natural world that exists away from my house. It’s not “nature” in a pure sense, but there are trees, small animals, breezes, and flowers. It’s certainly more nature than I get in front of a screen.
When time or circumstances keep me from spending more than a few minutes outside, I find that just taking a couple of moments to look up at the sky has quite the restorative effect. I like taking out the garbage at night because it gives a few quiet moments with the moon and the crickets who chirp in my neighborhood. When Winter is at its coldest I’ll retreat to a quiet window and let the sun’s rays wash over me, just to feel that energy and bring it into my life.
Paganism is often called a “nature religion” but I sometimes feel that instead of a nature religion it’s a spirituality that pays lip service to nature. We celebrate the sabbats, but we don’t celebrate the world just outside of our front door. Just a little time acknowledging the natural world goes a long way.
Pay Devotions to Whatever is Sacred to You
On top of the liquor cabinet in our living room is a small shrine to Dionysus. To most people it probably looks like an odd little box that holds a cup the size of a thimble, but to my wife and I it’s a sacred spot. There, we fill Dionysus’s cup with Scotch and wine, and not the cheap stuff either. Dionysus is important to us, and as a result he always gets the best, and usually the first drops of any especially significant bottle.
If you honor the gods, give them something to show your appreciation. That could be liquor or wine, or it might mean just reading a poem you’ve written to them. Some deities like certain incenses burnt in their honor, and others appreciate it when you hold up and honor their priestesses. (Tell a Priestess of Aphrodite how beautiful they are, the goddess will thank you for it.) Honor a goddess of justice by doing good work for vulnerable communities, or giving to a charity that puts those values into action.
Don’t believe in deity? That’s fine too. Pay thanks to the earth with words or, better yet, with your deeds. Pick up a few pieces of trash on an evening walk or make a donation to a local conservation charity. Honoring the earth can be easy, and even small acts are better than no acts at all.