Choosing the right path for you

Taken from the Gylden Fellowship's November 2019 newsletter

Choosing the right path for you

By Nick the Witch of the Glyden Foundation
For more ionformation click here..

A perennial question that arises for people considering paganism as a life choice (regardless of their ages) is that of what do I understand by the word, pagan, and how will it change my life?

Google is quite clear on this one:a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. So, a pagan is anyone who doesn’t follow one of the major religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam etc –that’s a lot of pagans!

The BBCis a little clearer:“Paganism encompasses a diverse community with some groups concentrating on specific traditions, practices or elements such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods.Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community.”

In fact, there are many other branches to this tree, including pagans that follow First Nation teaching, ancient Egypt or Hellenic philosophy, yogic witchcraft and even those who prefer not to have labels at all. But there aresome common principlesthat run through many pagan paths.

  • 1.A love or respect for nature and the cycle of birth, death and re-birth.
  • 2.A moral recognition of individual freedom and personal responsibility, so that we choose to work towards peace rather than harm.
  • 3.Recognition of non-gender divinity that covers both female and male deities, often on a polytheistic basis.

Also, there are differing approaches to pagan pathways:

  • Eclectic -a personal or university-of-life pathway. I call this one, pick-and-mix witchcraft, but it’s not wrong as a person ends up with a belief that is unique to them –this was addressed in the October 2019 issue of GYLDEN MAGICK.
  • Occult -seeking forbidden or hidden knowledge.
  • Syncretism -a fusion of pagan and non-pagan beliefs.
  • Folklore -paganism that draws on myths, music, oral history, proverbs, populist beliefs, fairy tales and customs.
  • Historic -paganism that is based on past beliefs using literature, archæology, music, etc of a particular people using a single pantheon.

Common pathways

At the last count, there’s about 10 or more different orders of druids in the Druid Network and about 15 identified mainstream witch paths –here’s a list.

  • i.Witchcraftitself falls into 4 main types: solitary hedgewitch (Rae Beth), solitary DIY witchcraftwith occasional moots (Doreen Valiente), coven/ circle (Starhawk) and coven initiatory.
  • ii.The coven initiatory path is the Wiccan one, sort-of started by Gerald Gardner in the 1940s-1950s, but many people started their mainstream paths, after splitting away from Gardner. Examples include Algard, Alexandrian, Dianic, Greencraft, Seax-Wica, Celtsun, Cochranian, etc. However, a lot of Wicca is identified by rituals, ceremonies and sabbat worship. A major source here might be the Children of Artemis (CoA).
  • iii.The Druid Networkcovers many types of druidry with slightly differing ceremonies, but tries to emulate Iron Age Celts –sources include OBOD, the British Druid Order, CoBDO or ADF in the UK.iv.Heathenryis covered now by Ásatrú UK and there are several types here too, eg Vanatru, Odinism and the Northern Tradition. Ásatrú includes ancestor worship, feasts and moots.v.Shamanismdates back some 30,000 years to Neolithic times, but it’s less of a faith and more of a personal choice by certain pagans to walk between the worlds and live with spirits.
  • vi.Hellenismlooks back to the beliefs of Ancient Greece.vii.Kemetismlooks back to the beliefs of Ancient Egypt.viii.Some pagans are influenced by First Nationbeliefs.ix.And then we enter the wide range of pagans who follow New Agepaths centred on yoga, reiki, meditation techniques, astrology, etc. Actually, New Age is a bit of a misnomer, because some of these practices are very ancient and duplicate beliefs from other faiths or cultures.

If you do feel confused by all the differing paths and proliferation of online training courses, my advice is always to go along to a few pagan eventsor MBS (mind, body & spirit) fairs and listen to some of the free workshops. Within the Gylden area, it’snot so hard to check the dates of regular events, egViolet Flame, the Wandering Witches’ Fayres, Pagan Pride South and, not to be missed, the Enchanted Market –biggest pagan event in southern England in February.Just to summarise, here are some useful UK sources to find out more.

  • The Pagan Federation
  • Children of Artemis
  • The Druid Network
  • Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD)
  • British Druid Order
  • Ásatrú UK
  • The UK Pagan Council
  • And, of course, The Gylden Foundation

Editors Notes:

You might also find more information about other pagan patha such as Goddess beliefs from the following:

Gylden Fellowship

Nick O’Connor was the Regional Co-ordinator for Surrey & N. Hampshire for the Pagan Federation for two years. He’s been a witch for almost 20 years and is a member of the British Druid Order. He’s an admin for Pagan Connections, Discover Druidry and a member of the Society for Storytelling. Nick’s had many articles published on folklore, history of witchcraft & magick in several pagan publications.