You’re new to the path. You crave insight and understanding. You know the Earth, nay, the Universe, speaks to you. You feel a connection to all living creatures, to all natural elements around you. You fancy gemstones and river rocks alike. You love to garden. You speak to pets like they’re human.
Where do you go from here? How do you become Pagan?
You read. You learn.
Yes, it’s that simple.
You can give yourself any title you want – Pagan, NeoPagan, Heathen, Druid… the title isn’t important. One becomes Pagan through study, belief, and practice. As with any new interest, (and I say interest because finding one’s personal spiritual path starts with a curiosity, an interest, in something different from whatever path you’ve been conditioned to believe was the only path), you start by studying. To find the path that most speaks to you, you have to study multiple paths.
For me, I started with books. Library books. Purchased books. Websites. Blogs. I read so much that I often forgot where I read what particular piece of information. I spent months reading and re-reading, and not getting anywhere because I couldn’t properly organize what I learned.
Because of that, I advocate a true study approach. Get yourself a notebook – it doesn’t matter what kind, but I recommend a three ring binder and loose-leaf paper and some dividers or a spiral notebook with different sections. The reason for the dividers is so you can better organize the information you glean from reading all the books in the world. (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes if can feel that way!)
So you’ve got your trusty binder, your pen, lots of blank paper to fill… what do you fill it with? Information.
The first book I read on Paganism was Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions, by Joyce & River Higginbotham. I also picked up Pagan Spirituality: A Guide to Personal Transformation by the same authors at the same time. These two books offer a pretty good overview of the Earth centered path.
Read as much as you can get your hands on. Good and bad. Branch out – don’t just stick to “Paganism” topics. Read books on other religious ideologies. Read mythology books. Read history books. Study different cultures. There’s a book for pretty much any interest. Mind you, I’d already delved deep into Wicca, so I kept a Book of Shadows for notes. Studying Paganism was “one more section” in that notebook. It began as an interest.
Where do I find these books?
If you have a subscription to Amazon Prime, you can download a lot of free books on different Pagan-Wiccan-New Age topics. The internet is a good source of information, but as always, check your sources. Don’t take one particular page (including mine) as the ONE true source of info.
Hit up your local library. Most libraries have at least some sort of New Age section – books may be under a “religions” section or even a “philosophy” section. You can search the internet for specific titles and ask your librarian if they can do an inter-library loan for a title they don’t typically carry.
Finally, if all else fails, go to a bookstore and find a book that sparks your interest (again, typically in a New Age or Metaphysical or Philosophy section). Park it somewhere and read it; take notes if you have your handy dandy notebook. People do this all the time; there’s no shame in sitting in a bookstore, reading a book, and not buying it. I advocate supporting authors as much as you can, but if you’re not in a place where you can buy the book at the moment, you can still enjoy it.
The internet is a vast collection of websites. You can buy books online from major retailers (Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Amazon, etc.) or specific publishers like Llewellyn Worldwide. Some authors sell their books on their own private pages, so once you do a general search and stumble upon an author you enjoy, see if they have their own site that they sell from. Don’t discount start up authors, either! They often offer an awesome perspective to study.
Thrift & Second Hand Stores are excellent options! Have you ever been in a Thrift Store or a Second-Hand store that didn’t have books? They’re usually crammed onto a shelf in some half-ass attempt to “organize” them. They’re usually divided into “popular, current titles people will buy” and “everything else that no one will want.” Yes, I loathe the way most thrift stores handle books; there… I said it. However, personal grievances aside, I love digging through books in shops like these because I never know what I might find. They’re usually super cheap, too. What may be a $25 book brand new might cost $2 at a thrift store. Most of the books are often in pretty good condition, but a word of warning: you may want to quarantine thrift store books for a bit. Toss them in a plastic freezer bag and place them into your freezer for a week. Book mites are bitches and will destroy your books quicker than you think.
Other options for thrifty purchases: yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, buy-sell groups online, and even social media group pages (I’m looking at you, Facebook!).
Yard sales, estate sales and flea markets often have really cut-rate prices on books. I’ve found books on mythology, magic, philosophy, and even one book on Hoodoo at yard and estate sales. Flea Markets often have that one cool dude who has a handful of metaphysical books, a bunch of candles, incense he tucks into a basic brown paper bag, and sage bundles along side the cabinet of expensive pewter statues, crystals, and jewelry. Sometimes, you can find really good books at decent prices from said dude. (No insult intended. I’ve met some really cool dudes selling really cool stuff like this at flea markets!)
Buy-Sell Online Groups & Social Media Group sales pages can be a great way to find stuff at a good price. I’ve bought stuff like this, and still do. I normally don’t have a huge paranoia about people, but I want to make something very clear. Some people are not cool and they use these sites to rob and possibly hurt you.
Please, please trust your gut instinct if you opt to meet a stranger for a sell or pick up. Get a specific price confirmed before you go, only carry that much cash with you, meet in a PUBLIC, WELL-LIT area where there are other people around, preferably during daytime hours. Don’t go alone. If the person starts changing stuff up – “Oh, hey, can we meet at -x- parking lot after 7 pm? I forgot I had x-y-z going on today.” – be wary. Trust that instinct. Don’t go if you don’t feel comfortable. That might just be the Universe telling you to steer clear of trouble.
I want to learn, but I don’t like to read.
I am a bibliophile and a writer, so my go-to was comfortable to me. So, what if you hate to read and don’t like to write or take notes?
Learn about the Earth in other ways.
Do you love documentaries? Watch them. Learn about animals, plants, rocks, soil, natural weather phenomenon. Watch documentaries about different places, people, religions, history. Netflix and Amazon have so many titles to offer. BBC documentaries are hands down my favorite.
Prefer a musical approach? Branch out and listen to music from all over the globe. Listen to old music, new music, folk music, music from places you’ve never heard of. Abuse Google, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify… whichever music app is your favorite.
There’s also that weird idea of talking to people or finding groups. So, even if you don’t go to the library for a book, often there will be a bulletin board full of “group meetings” posted somewhere at the library (or even City Hall? Court House? Favorite hole-in-the-wall coffee shop? Local bar?). Local group availability definitely depends on your physical location. If you live in a small town, where there is legit no way Ms. Betty who runs the Gardening Club is Pagan, you can still legit join the gardening club if you want to learn about plants, soils, rocks, etc. It’s information you can use to identify different plants to study the metaphysical properties of later. Plus, you might make new friends!
If you don’t want to be all that social, Google is your friend. Find groups online that share your interests. Paganism? Check. Gardening? Check. Rock collectors? Check. Philosophy? Check. There’s a group for all of that in the vast world of the interwebz. (Please note: I do not condone the solitude of the interwebs, but I do partake in it myself. LOL)
Wait, wait, wait! All that’s technology based! But, I want a true Pagan experience here! What about walking in the woods and collecting rocks and herbs and burning candles and sage and doing rituals under a full moon!?
You guessed my answer yet? Go for it. If you learn with a hands-on approach, take yourself out on a hike (be careful, please!). Go outside into your own garden or backyard. Study the lightning bugs. Studying the ants and the way they move. Collect that odd but awesome rock by the driveway. Plant some buttercups. Water the dandelion sprouting in your walkway. Incense from the Dollar Store and Incense from the Ritzy Metaphysical Shop three cities over burn the same. Bay Leaves bought in the spice section at the grocery store burn the same as bay leaves bought online. Do. You.
There’s really no wrong way to learn or connect with your inner Earth Girl (or Guy!).
The point is, I’ve never been one to love unbreakable rules. It’s why Paganism called me. It’s why Paganism feels like home for me. My spiritual path can go whichever way I chose to take it. Studying the world around me, the people and cultures of this world, all the science-y stuff about this planet, other planets, the universe… it helps build my understanding of the Universe in which I exist.
Copyright © 2018 Gwen Willows Modern Pagan Spirituality
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