Lately, my social media seems awash with people being offended.
They’re offended by politicians, they’re offended by organizations, they’re offended by coffee cups, and they’re especially offended by the way people say goodbye to them during the winter months.
“Merry Christmas? Don’t people realize that I’m not Christian?”
“Happy Holidays? Don’t people recognize the religious aspect of holidays anymore?”
When it comes to greetings and goodbyes, it seems like a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t kind of situation.
When the hell did we all get so touchy?
Here’s the thing, unless you’re walking around wearing a tshirt that says “Hello, I am [insert religion or belief system or lack thereof] so please recognize my holiday [insert holiday name or lack thereof]” you have no right to be offended. And even then, it’s iffy.
If you’re offended by a stranger’s holiday greeting, then you, my friend, are a turd.
That person doesn’t know you from Adam, and yet they were thoughtful enough to wish you a good day in the best way they knew how.
Maybe you would prefer that they recognize your individual religious belief or holiday celebratory style. But guess what -they have no idea what you celebrate or what you believe. And, honestly, they’ll probably never see you again in their damn life. So when the cashier at your grocery store says “Happy Holidays” please, please, don’t be the guy who responds with “Actually I’m a [religion], so I say [greeting]”.
It just makes you look like a buttmunch.
Some people take it a step further and become offended, not only by the greetings of strangers, but by the way their friends address them in the winter months.
Oh, so your friend said “Merry Christmas” the other day, even though they know that you don’t celebrate Christmas? And this has filled you with righteous indignation and offense?
Okay. Step back.
First of all, you seem like such a turd that you should be grateful that anyone is offering you any kind of holiday greeting at all. I mean, jeeze.
Second of all, you aren’t the center of everyone’s friggin’ universe.
Everyone is so different and has such different belief systems that sometimes it can honestly be hard to keep track of everyone’s everything every second of every day. Can you really blame a person if they just throw out a blanket greeting from time to time? Perhaps the greeting that they would enjoy hearing?
Look, the bottom line is this : if anyone offers you any kind of seasonal greeting, they’re doing it out of kindness. Why in the world would you take offense to that?
And to that end, Blessed Yule, friends!
Go out and be un-offended.
Let me preface this post by saying: today I do not look pretty.
I don’t mean that my mascara is smeared or that my outfit is unflattering. I mean that I look like something that crawled out of a swamp in a Jim Henson movie.
For one thing, I’ve been working furiously to prepare for this weekend’s craft fair. My hands have cuts from wire ends, my fingernails are broken and jagged, and the tail end of a ball of twine is dangling from my sweatshirt pocket.
For another, I spent a sleepless night on the couch, binge watching reruns of Hell’s Kitchen. My stomach and I often have disagreements over my meal choices, and last night was a rough one.
Because of my evening’s activities, my hair is loose and wild, my eyes are packing heavy bags, and my leggings-and-torn-sweatshirt ensemble is less than flattering.
So when the doorbell rang this morning, I was inclined to ignore it.
I hunkered down on the sofa, hoping that the people outside would decide I wasn’t home and wander away.
Assassin, of course, had other plans. She chose that moment to poke a paw through the curtains, creating the illusion that a person was peeking out.
I heard someone outside say “hello!” and the doorbell rang again.
There was no escaping now. So I zipped up my tattered sweater and tentatively pulled the door open.
Outside were two friendly ladies holding a collection of pamphlets.
“Oh,” they both said, taking in my appearance. Though, to be fair, it may have been more than my Fraggle Rock hair that threw them off. “We thought you spoke Spanish,” one of the gals explained.
I blinked. “I do not.”
“Do any of your neighbors speak Spanish?”
“I have no idea,” I admitted. I haven’t lived in the new house for very long, and I’ve hardly taken a poll of the neighborhood.
And with that, the first lady was done with me. She stepped off the porch and the second gal stepped up to the doorway.
She gave me a smile and brandished her pamphlets.
“We’re coming around your neighborhood today to talk about our religion,” she told me.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, I’m not actually…” I trailed off. I didn’t want to outright offend these smiley women who had braved the Oregon rain to come to my door. But I wasn’t sure how to say “I’m not interested in hearing about your religion and your god, so please get off my porch” in a gentle way.
“That’s okay,” she quickly said, opening one of the pamphlets. “We’ve listed several passages from the standard bible that we feel will help you understand what we stand for. Because we all believe in one creator, right? And we all believe in good, right?”
“Sure,” I agreed. “But I don’t actually use a bible.”
“No, I’m a wiccan.”
“Oh.” The ladies exchanged a quick look. “I don’t actually know a whole lot about your religion,” the gal at my door admitted.
To be honest, at this point I was anticipating the worst. I was expecting to be lectured about the dangers of hell, or least to hear about the virtues of jesus.
But I was surprised.
“Wiccans are very close to nature, right?” She asked.
“We aren’t so different,” she decided. “Nature, to us, is a representation of the creator.”
I nodded, surprised by her answer and the change in her tone. She no longer seemed to be reading from a script. Instead, she seemed genuinely thoughtful.
She wished me a good day with a smile, keeping her pamphlets to herself. Then she and her companion carried on down the road.
And so, my slightly rambling point is this: none of us are so different from each other.
We all have our own path, we all see goodness in our own way. But we all see it. We are all just trying to live in the best way we know how. We’re all just trying to do right.
I’ve had people come to my door with fliers for religion in the past. I’ve had people hand me pamphlets, ignoring the fact that their god and mine are not the same.
But this was the first time that someone has come to my door with the intention of teaching me about their beliefs, only to realize that we already share values.
And it was a much more pleasant experience. Definitely for me, and probably for the ladies at my door.
Wouldn’t it be easier if, instead of standing alone and screaming about our differences, we took a step back and realized our similarities?
I often get questions about Wiccans’ beliefs in heaven and the afterlife. Some people think that if we don’t believe in hell, we couldn’t possibly believe in heaven. And, I suppose, that that’s a fair assumption to make.
However, many (but not ALL, because remember that Wicca is a very individualized religion) Wiccans believe that when we pass, our souls go to a place called The Summerland.
For some, this is a place where our souls find peace and rest for all of eternity. For others, The Summerland is merely a comfortable waiting room that our souls pass through on their way to beginning life again.
We do not believe that a person can get “kicked out” or barred from The Summerland because of bad behavior or decisions made in life. Nor do we believe that only those who followed a certain faith may find peace after death.
Occasionally, you may hear someone saying that someone has been “reborn in The Summerland” when they speak of a person passing. This is because many Wiccans believe that as our physical bodies die, our souls shed any hurt or negativity that we may have collected in this life and arrive “new” in The Summerland.
Some Wiccans and Pagans also believe that after several lives (or reincarnations, depending on who you ask), our souls may be elevated. Some believe that angels and spirit guides are simply elevated souls who watch over the living.
Whatever you believe, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. When it comes right down to it, none of us have definitive proof of what happens after we die. If someone needs to think that there is a peaceful place for their soul to rest, let them. If someone needs to believe that we are rewarded for our good deeds in this life, let them. As long as no one is harming or damning you with their beliefs, there’s no sense in arguing. Understand that death (whether it’s our own or that of a loved one) can be a terrifying subject for some people.
Be compassionate. Always.
“When the moon rides at her peak, then your heart’s desire seek”
May’s full moon is often called the Flower Moon. It the moon of creativity, beauty, and commitment.
All around us, Nature is erupting in colors and sounds as the warm weather begins in earnest. The Flower Moon reminds us that this is a time of renewal for us, as well as for Nature.
Tonight is a great time to charge crystals associated with creativity and determination (like amethyst) by laying them out in the full moon’s light. It’s also a great time to do spell work related to beauty and grace.
However you celebrate, be sure that you get outside to play in the moonlight!
I mention grounding and meditation a lot on this little blog. That’s because, for many Wiccans, these practices are an everyday thing.
Now, personally, I usually only meditate once a week or so (mostly because I just can’t sit still that long), but I do ground myself on the daily. Grounding is one of those things that is easy to personalize and simplify. So it’s possible to ground yourself in a matter of minutes, verses the hour or so I feel I need for a good mediation.
So what’s the difference between grounding and meditation? Grounding is basically finding your spiritual center – that calm state of mind where you feel peaceful. Meditation is when you use that calm state of mind to think over your issues.
Most people combine the two, but really they’re separate – since you can ground without meditating.
There are hundreds and hundreds of different ways to ground yourself and meditate (seriously, Google it sometime). Luckily, there’s really no wrong way to do either – so try a few out and see what works best for you.
Basically, the goal of grounding is to feel calm, peaceful, centered.
The goal of meditation is a little different. Generally when people meditate, they’re seeking wisdom on a specific topic. People often meditate on an idea, a feeling, or a problem.
Stones and incenses are great for meditation because they can help keep you focused on the issue at hand. For example, if your problem is of an emotional nature, you may meditate while holding Rose Quartz. If you’re meditating to find wisdom, burning sage incense can help direct your thoughts.
Don’t worry if you struggle with grounding and meditation at first – it can take time to find a method that works for you.
Imbolc marks the first days of springtime – the weather is finally starting to warm, the days are slowly getting longer, and the trees are just barely growing their buds. It’s the perfect time for new beginnings.
Think back on the past year, and what hardships you’ve overcome. Think about what goals you’d like to set for yourself in the coming months. Write your intentions on the paper. Try not to list too many, or any that are contradictory – try to keep to a theme.
For example, if you’d like to be more financially successful, try to keep your list of intentions along the same vein. Write things like working harder, saving more money, spending less frivolously, etc.
Once your list is written, fold it up and bury it among the roots of your plant (or with the seeds you plant).
As your plant grows, so will your resolve, and your goals will be more easily attainable.
February 1st or 2nd, when the trees are just beginning to grow buds, is when we celebrate Imbolc.
Imbolc is a promise of warmer days ahead, new ideas, and growth. The sun god is seen as a very young child, full of potential and energy.
There are tons of ways to celebrate Imbolc, depending on your personal beliefs and style.
The most common traditions involve new beginnings. Cleaning and cleansing your house to make room for growth, getting garden spaces ready for planting, and starting new projects are often done around Imbolc.
Traditional covens often welcome new members at this time of the year, and usually celebrate Imbolc from sunset on Feb 1st until sunset Feb 2nd. Some people think that this nighttime ceremony may have been adapted by early Christians into Candlemas.
Let’s be honest, everyone (whether Pagan or not) enjoys a little spring cleaning. It’s always nice to be able to throw open the windows, sweep away the winter dust, and brighten things up a little.
However you choose to celebrate, have a happy and blessed Imbolc!
A pentacle is a pentagram (a five pointed star) set inside a circle. They are an ancient symbol of protection and good energy, used by modern Wiccans as a symbol of their faith.
Pentacles represent the five elements : Spirit, Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. Each point on the star represents one of the elements, which is why it’s not uncommon to see pentacles with differently colored points. The star is drawn with a single line, representing the connection between all things.
Occasionally, you might find a branch of Wicca who switches around which points represent which elements. That’s cool – everyone does Wicca a little differently. But the top point, representing Spirit, never changes.
At this point, some of you might be thinking to yourselves “what is Spirit?” That’s a great question! But I can’t really give you an answer.
Spirit kind of the catchall word used to describe each individual’s perception of a higher power, and their relationship with that power.
Some people see Spirit as the all encompassing energy which flows through every living thing, including deities. The idea of something that huge freaks some people right out, so they choose to see Spirit as the relationship they have with the God and Goddess. Other people view Spirit as nature and their connection to it.
No two people are going to view Spirit exactly the same, and that’s awesome.
Now, if you ever see someone wearing an inverted pentagram, it means one of two things : 1. They’re twelve years old and enjoy trying to freak out their parents or 2. They’re involved with the less-than-warm-and-cuddly side of witchcraft.
Notice I said witchcraft not Wicca. Not all witches are Wiccan, and some of them are kind of creepy.
These groups often use an inverted pentacle to suggest the insignificance of Spirit in their lives. Their pentacle points down because, to them, everything physical is more important than their relationship to Spirit.
Pentacles are the ultimate Wiccan fashion accessory – they can be worn as earrings, necklaces, bracelets, or belly button rings. They decorate incense burners, alter cloths, and brooms.
Sometimes, it seems like overkill.
In reality, pentacles are used to bless and protect, well, everything. Wiccans are really into blessing stuff, so I guess it makes sense that everything we own would have a star drawn on it.
These days, anyone can pick up a piece of inexpensive pentacle jewelry almost anywhere. And that’s awesome! Just remember that this is a sacred religious symbol, and don’t just wear it because it matches your shoes. No good Wiccan will scold you for wearing a pentacle if you’re not Wiccan, but it’s generally considered good manners to wait until you commit to the religion (usually via ceremony) before openly wearing a pentacle.
Over the past couple of weeks, a few people have contacted me, asking for a more introductory post about Wicca.
I’m happy to share what I know, but Wicca is one of those things that you never really stop learning. Your experiences shape your understanding, so you’re always discovering more.
It’s important to remember that no two Wiccans are exactly the same. Practicing Wicca is kind of like making Mac&Cheese – everyone does it a little differently, there’s a slight learning curve, but it’s pretty hard to completely mess up.
So don’t worry! Even if you’re just starting out on your Wiccan path, you’re in good company. And even if you fumble, you’ll still end up with Mac&Cheese, so there’s always that…
What is Wicca?
Wicca is a religion which stems from Pagan roots.
Wiccans generally believe in a Goddess (who is represented by the moon) and a God (who is represented by the sun), and we usually call them the Lord and Lady.
Okay, so what’s a Pagan?
The best definition I can give is that a Pagan is someone whose beliefs are less like Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and more like the “Venus of Willendorf”. Basically, Pagans believe that the ancient peoples had it right – that nature should be our main focus.
(This is an extremely overly simplified definition, of course, since Paganism is a deep and rich tradition with hundreds of religious off-shoots. But it’s the best I can do until I get some coffee in me…)
So then, how is Wicca different?
Every branch of Paganism is a different. They each have their own rules and customs. They often focus on different deities (or different forms of the same deities), and honor them in different styles.
It’s important to remember that every Wiccan is a Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan.
Wicca is basically a modernized branch of Paganism. We follow a set of rules (called the Rede) which are specific to Wicca, which often means our practices are a little different.
Now, here’s where it gets more complicated…
Within Wicca, there are tons of different traditions. There’s Faerie, Gardnerian, Dianic, Reclaiming, and lots more. Each of these sects have slightly different rules and practices. In some traditions, you can only be a “true” practitioner if you’ve been initiated by a coven. In others, the only time coven members see each other is on holidays.
Probably the most popular branch of Wicca is Eclectic. Eclectic Wiccans follow the basic Wiccan Rede and cherry-pick practices from other traditions. Eclectic Wiccans are often solitary (since it’s hard to find groups of people who all pick cherries the same way).
“Coven” is a word that gets a bad rep, these days. If there’s a witch in a movie, nine times out of ten there’s a scene where she’s chillin’ with her coven, plotting evil deeds.
Really, being in a coven just means that you have like-minded friends. On holidays you all get together for cake and wine. If one of you needs a little encouragement, you all get together and do a ritual… and then have cake and wine – Wiccans love wine.
If you’re a solitary Wiccan, it just means that you prefer to buy your own wine. You might get together with some friends occasionally, but you usually do ritual on your own.
Depending on what tradition of Wicca you follow, your coven might be structured differently. Some traditions like to have a specific number of Wiccans in a coven, while others are less picky. Some sects have a structured hierarchy within the coven, while others vote or change leaders (sometimes called High Priest/Priestess) regularly.
What are the Wiccan holidays?
The Wiccan year is laid out a little differently than the standard calendar year. For starters, Samhain (aka Halloween) is our new year. The Wheel of the Year is the cycle of seasons which lead us from Samhain to Samhain. Our holidays (which we call Sabbats) are times when we celebrate the Lord.
In Wicca, the Lady is our main deity. Every month, when the moon waxes and wanes, we celebrate her. On the eight Sabbats of the year, we focus on the Lord and his life.
Okay, this is where it’s easy to get confused. In Wicca, the Lord and the Lady are two parts of a whole. They are created in and of each other. A Wiccan may reference the “father” or the “mother” but really they’re only referring to characteristics of spirit.
Now, as the Wheel of the Year turns, the Lord dies. That seems like a really bad thing, right? But since the Lord and Lady are part of one another, the Lord is reborn through the Lady and we just keep rolling along.
Here’s a brief explanation of the Sabbats:
Samhain – Oct 31st. Wiccan new year, the day when the Lord dies
Yule – Dec 21st or 22nd. The winter solstice and the longest night of the year, when the Lord is reborn
Imbolc – Feb 1st or 2nd. When the Lord is a small child, and the world grows
Ostara – March 21st. The spring equinox, when the Lord and Lady marry
Beltane – May 1st. The celebration of fertility, when the Lady is pregnant
Litha – June 21st. The longest day of the year, when everything in nature is at its peak and the Lord and Lady are in their prime
Lughnassad – Aug 1st. The harvest time, when the Lord begins to grow old
Mabon – Sept 21st. The fall equinox, when the days get shorter and the Lord weakens
One last thing – what about witches?
Alright, I’m going to end this post with a question I get a lot : What’s the difference between a Wiccan and a witch?
Depending on who you ask, you’re going to get a very different answer.
Some people consider themselves Wiccan – a member of a legitimate religion. To them, “witch” is a dirty word, used to describe a stereotype.
Some people call themselves witches, but are in no way associated with Paganism. These people are sometimes called “practicing Wiccans” (which I think is a total misnomer). They may perform the ritual an spellwork of a Wiccan, but have no regard for the Rede, or the spiritual aspect of the act.
Some Wiccans recognize that the term “witch” has become synonymous with their religion and see it as an innocent word. Some Wiccans even enjoy the title, and deck their house in witchy things.
If you’re not sure what to call someone, just ask. If you’re polite about it and they get offended anyway, then that’s their problem and not yours.
Phew! Sorry that this post was such a long one. I hope those of you looking for it got some good info.
If you have more questions, just let me know! I’d love to write another intro (for things like rituals, spells, blessings, etc), but since they take up an awful lot of the page, I’ll only do it if you guys are interested.
Let me know what you want to hear about, and I’ll talk your ear off!
Ps – here’s a few of my favorite resources. They’re great for when you’re first starting out!
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wiccan and Witchcraft (by Denise Zimmermnn and Katherine A. Gleason) – This is the single best introductory text I’ve found. It’s not a super exciting read (300 pages of how-to) but it’s so useful. The best part about this book is that it’s very general. You get to really formulate your own opinion on lots of aspects of Wicca, before you go out and get bombarded by the views of the world.
Wicca.com – This is the best site for holiday meanings and rituals. They have a lot of good info, forums, and even a store. Just go in prepared, especially in the forums. Everyone has their own opinion, and if you aren’t fully aware of your own opinions, theirs might freak you out.
Tumblr.com – Just kidding. Never, never, try to use tumblr as a resource. There’s a few legit Wiccan blogs there, but most are just confused people who think Satanism = Wicca. (It does not, by the way. There’s no devil in Wicca.)