The Witch’s Familiar

This week’s question from the Pagan Perspective YouTube channel is a “Choose Your Adventure” practice, which means going back through the topics and picking one that you haven’t covered before.  As I’m new to this channel (and responding to it) this was very easy for me as there were many, many topics to choose from.

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My Chosen Topic for the Week of 8/12: Do you have a familiar? What does that mean? How do you know if an animal companion is a familiar or is familiar material?” including “The roll of pets, if any, in your practice?

The definition of a familiar is when a spirit possesses or takes the form of an animal in order to provide spiritual/magickal assistance and guidance. To me, I feel that the primary role of a familiar is to be a guide within the liminal space, astral plane, and spirit world.

Because I feel this way about the role of a familiar, I do not believe that a living being is suited for this task, and so I do not view pets as familiars. They are companions and a deep bond can be created between a person and their pet that transcends the “keeper/pet” dynamic. Pets can even be a part of one’s practice. But, I do not think that the primary role of what a familiar is can be filled by a living animal 99.9% of the time.

That said, I do think that spirits and energy can possess or embody a physical form. So, I suppose it could be possible.  I also, though, think it is extremely rare and that most who call their pets “familiars” are misusing the term.

I do have a cat.

Miss Luna has no interest in my spellcrafting, nor in the tarot. She also has no interest in my altar or hanging out in (or on) any of my sacred spaces. In fact, she is very careful to give me space and observe from a distance during any tarot time, spellcraft time, and ritual time I have.   She often sits right in front of the entrance to the room I am in during these times, and from there she will watch everything very closely.   Then, when I am done, she will return to be closer to me and following me around (which is her usual modus operandi).

Meanie, my previous cat, was much the same in this behavior.

 

 

New Age vs. Neo-Paganism

This week’s question from the Pagan Perspective YouTube channel is about the differences between “New Age” and “Neo-Paganism”.

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Topic for the Week of 8/5: I’d love to hear your thoughts on the New Age community! I know that Neopagans get lumped in with that community a lot, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes you different and where you think the line is drawn between the two communities, but also what you share in common.

I want to precursor my response to this one with a bit of a disclaimer. You’re going to find that there’s avast array of different opinions on this particular topic. These are my personal opinions.

Ok, so here we go…

To me, the term “New Age” is an umbrella term that deals with what is very popularly called “Woo“. New Age is essentially ALL the Woo.

That is to say it deals with crystals, tarot, sacred geometry, astrology, light work, energy work, etc. Pretty much a massive conglomeration of “alternative” thought.

I sort of see this in the perspective of a library or a bookstore. When you walk into a library or a bookstore, all the “Woo” is gathered together in a section called “New Age”.

Neo-Paganism is an umbrella term as well, but deals specifically with religion. It doesn’t have to include a deity to be a religion, but it does involve faith, belief, and often also worship.

In the library or bookstore analogy, Neo-Paganism would be a shelf included within the New Age section.

Many New Age things are incorporated INTO Neo-Paganism beliefs and practices, and so understandably there is a hint of blurring between the two. I think that creates a bit of confusion, but I don’t think that blurring is necessarily a bad thing, as it creates an interest and understanding within the larger community of a religious choice that would otherwise be far more of a mysterious secret.

And we all know how uncomfortable society is with what they don’t and/or can’t understand.

 

Broaching Paganism With Others

This week’s question from the Pagan Perspective YouTube channel is about discussing your practice with others, or to be exact, how to approach others with the topic of one’s pagan practice.

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Topic for the Week of 7/29:  How do I approach the topic of my practice with someone new, while dating, or with children?

I don’t normally broach the subject, as I don’t really feel the need to shout from the rooftops what my belief system is.  But, I am happy to honestly answer questions in a relaxed demeanor when they arise.  While answering questions, though, I usually will try to avoid “trigger words” such as witch, pagan, spell casting, magick, etc.   These words will often close down a conversation with someone that is not familiar with these faiths and practices.

This is not so much to force acceptance from them, but rather because I would like to teach them that perhaps any negative preconceived notions they might have about these labels could be wrong.

Instead, I usually explain that I follow an earth-based religion where I connect to the earth, the elements, and the energy that makes up us and all that is around us.  I may explain some of my practices from this angle as well, if they have more questions.  But, I usually will refrain from using the “labels” until -they- bring up these labels, either by naming some to seek the right one or by asking what the correct terms would be.

This approach will, of course, also depend on if I feel my personal safety would be at risk or not, as there are people out there that… will reject non-mainstream beliefs with violence.  Fortunately, I live in an area of the country (and the world) where that is not so common place.

For children, it is much the same.  I feel it is more important to communicate a connection and respect for the earth than to put a label upon myself.  I’ve found that when it comes to this discussion, children are often less likely to need labels on a whole and more interested in the “meat” of a topic instead.

As for dating.  It never really mattered until meeting you. With those that I was with before, it was just about sex.  Those partners didn’t need to know about that part of my life, or really any part of my life.  I wasn’t looking to connect on any substantial level back then.

I am pretty sure when the topic eventually came up with you, though, that I explained it to you much as I outlined it above.  We have been together for over eleven years now, and just this year I have finally begun sharing more of my path with you beyond the basics I’d explained so long ago, and I have found this sharing to be a wonderful experience.

Paganism and Practice

I discovered a new channel on Youtube (new to me, not new on YouTube) called Pagan Perspective the other day, and I really liked some of their weekly discussion topics.  I’m a bit inspired to follow along here on the blog, and so here is my first post.

Spiritual development is a progress, so sometimes thoughts and opinions change along the way, and sometimes we don’t even realize this has happened.  I think this is a nice way to share a bit more of my path with you, but also a way of looking a little more in depth at different aspects of my own faith and getting in touch with where I am at this moment on that journey.

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Topic for the Week of 7/22:  How often do people practice? What do you think about NeoPagans who believe without practice? Is it still a spiritual path?

I think that I have a hard time with the word “practice” in this question.  To me, “practice” usually refers to spellcraft, where as Paganism is a spirituality/belief system.

So, with that in mind, I would say that you can absolutely be a Pagan without “practicing” anything.  Just because you’re not lighting candles or what not does not change your beliefs and as long as you have your beliefs, you are still walking the path.

That said… perhaps there are “belief system” practices, right?  Because there’s things like daily devotionals, or meditation on deities, etc.  Still, I stand by what I’ve said above.  If you have a belief system, then you are on a spiritual path, regardless of the amount of “practice”  you are instilling within it.    As long as you have that belief and are following its tenants, then you’re there.

For example (and lets beat this horse to death, shall we?) we’ll look at Christians. A Christian is a Christian because they believe in the Almighty God and the tenants outlined in the Holy Bible.  If they do not go to church or say their nightly prayers does that mean they aren’t a Christian anymore?  Of course not.  They still have their belief system and thus, are still on their spiritual path.

On to my personal practices…

For me, it’s hard to separate spellcraft from my pagan practices, because in my case they are very interwoven together in how I connect with the energies of the elements, balance, and creation.

Over about mid-2016 through the beginning of this year, I had taken a bit of a hiatus from a physical practice.  I still did my ‘forest bathing’ and I still had my faith, but other than on Samhain, I wasn’t really doing any sort of a physical, tangible practice.

Even in those times, though, I was connected to my beliefs.  I was aware and comfortable with my connection with the earth in all the things I did that brought me in contact with it, I was instilling intention in my time in the kitchen and in my time working on jewelry that was to be sent out to others.   It was simply not being structured or physically expressed in ritual.

Prior to that (and again since the spring) I have returned to doing a daily devotional when I get up in the morning, which includes a short meditation each day, and I have returned to ritual and spellcraft on holidays, new moons, and full moons.  Not that these are the only times I do so, but they are the structured times that are planned for.

Therefore… back to the question at hand because I’m rambling all over the place.  How often do I practice?  Every day.   And I suppose that was always the case, even when I stepped away from a more structured practice for a time.

And I suppose that in the end, “practice” can be anything that instills your beliefs in your life, even if that is just in the way of one being consciously aware of their beliefs rather than abandoning them entirely.   Which, in a way, ties right back into what I said at the beginning of this post.