Paganism & Witchcraft image

People have asked me repeatedly to blog about my spirituality. Part of the reason is this (some of you know, some probably don’t): I wrote eight nonfiction books on paganism, magic, tarot, sex magic, body image, and meditation. Why? Because I am Pagan. Because it was an opportunity to get my foot in the publishing door. Because I had something to say on the subject. Because I’ve been in the Craft since 1980 and felt competent to write something about it even then.

So yes, as it states on my website, I’m a shamanic Witch. I’m not Wiccan, but I am Pagan. I’m not a “New Ager.” What does this mean? It means I worship the old gods, I’m pledged as a priestess to four Finnish gods (I’m fond of saying, “The gods call you, you don’t necessarily call them.”). I started out, as I state in Embracing the Moon, in a mystical way: I was walking in the fields one night—it was Leap Year night, actually, on a full moon, back in 1980. As I walked, the Goddess reached down and touched my heart. I’d never heard of Her until then, never thought about it—I had left Christianity behind, knowing it wasn’t right for me—but hadn’t yet found my path. And out of the night sky, from the moon and the earth, I was called. I’ve never looked back. In my heart, my soul, the very core of my being, I am on the right path for me.

For a long time I worked solitary, experimenting. There weren’t many books back then to rely on—I found Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark, and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. So I had to make my own path, my own way. Not many people were talking openly about being Pagan back then, either. And so I worked silently, on my own, listening to my intuition. Rather than learn rituals and rites by memorization, I learned them by experimenting. I didn’t study what the elements correspond to—I learned by meditation and intuiting, by standing in the rain, the wind, the sun, and digging in the dirt. I created my own path that worked for me, as the years wore on.

About five years later, I had the opportunity to join a workshop Starhawk was giving at the local college. I was amazed—there were at least sixty to seventy people there. People like me, who identified as witches, as Pagans. While I didn’t make any lasting connections there, I learned…and I realized we were all following our own paths, but we could come together and meet and discuss.

Another two years and I started hanging out at a local crystal shop, where I became friends with one of the clerks. She was into Reiki, and we decided to work out a trade—I would teach her my magic and she would initiate me in Reiki. And so we started to work together and learned how to compromise so we were both getting what we needed out of ritual.

In 1990, I left my abusive ex, and at the same time, I joined the local CUUPs group at the Universalist Unitarian Church. And there, I suddenly found that all my years of experimenting had put me into a unique spot. I had a knack for working with energy that a number of others were just learning. Over the next couple of years I began working intensively with groups, leading a large number of rituals. I spent a good two years immersed in energy work—practically the only thing I did beyond my 9-5 job. I was going through a vast series of transformations, including accepting my bisexuality, accepting that my spiritual path was growing more and more focused, realizing I needed to let go and run wild in a way I’d never really before had. I spent a couple of years in a frenzy of magic, ritual, personal discovery, and at times—personal despair.

And then, in 1992…I had a dramatic shift in my path. I had been working heavily with the goddesses Cerridwen and Inanna, but one day they both vanished. I could not feel them in my space. I was very bereft but I heard Cerridwen say, “If you are to find the goddess you are to follow, then I cannot be in your space—you need clarity.” And she left. For about three-four months, I cast around, feeling alone and adrift. I’d been so used to working with Cerridwen’s energy that I felt lost without it. But one night, I went to bed, went to sleep, and dreamed about a time shortly before I met the Goddess—another mystical experience that burned itself deeply on my soul. I saw a woman standing tall, her hair seemed to alternate between black and blonde, and I heard a voice say, “Mielikki” and then “You must be pledged to a goddess who understands the true nature of unicorns.”

Well, long story short: Mielikki is a Finnish goddess and she rules over the woodland Fae/spirits in Finnish mythology, and when I invoked her and began working with her energy, everything was so right. It was hard to find a lot of information on her but what I did, matched up with everything I received on an intuitive level. So on Feb 29th, 1992—twelve years after I first met the Goddess—I pledged myself to Mielikki and her consort Tapio, god of the woodland. And my path began returning to solitary practice, the more specific I got. I have worked with others on Sabbats (Pagan holidays), but I do so by choice and handpicking the people I work with. I began to teach magic classes at that time, too, and spent a good year as an instructor.

In 2006, I also pledged myself to Ukko and Akka (Rauni), the sky father and earth mother of the Finnish religion. I am not a Finnish Pagan—I would feel wrong labeling myself that—but I work with Finnish gods, and I work on a shamanic level—again, experiential. Book learning is fine, and there are some important concepts to be familiar with, but spirituality is a personal path, and must be fine-tuned to fit the person in question.

Then in 2012 I entered a new field of study with Mielikki–into the realm of the Dark Fae, for she is one of the dark queens of the realm.

Last year, in 2015, Brighid came into my life in a big way. I’ve always admired the goddess, but she entered my life, joining the household gods and taking my pledge to be hers as well. Mielikki had no objection to her joining the group and in fact, they seem to connect on an energetic level.

So, that’s how I came to my spiritual path. It is my heart and soul…it is who I am. It is the heart of my heart. And yet—I would never, ever say it’s the right path for anybody else. I don’t believe in trying to convert others. Paganism is a hard path at times to walk, it can be isolating, and it’s highly discriminated against. But if you are called to walk the spiral path, then listen to your heart.

In 1996, I got my first book contract—for Trancing the Witch’s Wheel, and I wrote eight nonfiction books on various magical subjects. When I broke into fiction, I was ecstatic. For one thing, I said just about everything I have to say on magic and witchcraft—I truly believe you have to get in and practice to understand it, and I wasn’t writing for the academics. For another, I have always wanted to be a fantasy and science fiction author. That’s been my dream goal since I was little. Which is why I quit writing nonfiction. I have never aspired to be a guru. I’m a natural born leader, but I’m not comfortable feeling like people are relying on me to give them wisdom. To me, paganism is about questioning your beliefs, finding what works, and making the path your own. That’s the way I wrote my nonfiction. That’s the way I live my life.

To answer some common questions about my path:

Question: What is the difference between being Wiccan and a witch?

Answer: That would take too long to answer here, but Wiccans tend to follow a few basic concepts that I don’t, like the “rule of three” for one. Think of it this way: Wicca is like a denomination of paganism. I follow a different “denomination.”

Question: Do you still read tarot for others?

Answer: No, only for close friends and myself. I am a very good, accurate reader, but burnt out reading tarot on a professional level.

Question: Do you take acolytes?

Answer: No, I no longer teach magic to others. I am too busy with my career to invest that much time and energy into teaching. That’s one reason I wrote the nonfiction.

Question: Can you tell me how to become a pagan/witch/Wiccan?

Answer: No. But I will suggest that you read and read widely, that you examine your heart and ask yourself why you think you want to walk this path. If the answer is to gain power, then stop. If the answer is to annoy your parents, then stop. If the answer is that it’s what calls to you, that you truly want to learn the ways of magic, of the gods, of the Earth, then go forward. I have a recommended reading list that I’m attaching to this post.

Question: Will you come give a workshop/talk/etc. at my store/house/campus?

Answer: That depends—I don’t have the luxury to travel much and I do have to charge fees for the time invested. If it’s local, maybe—contact me via my assistant at gev.assistant AT gmail DOT com and spell out what your gathering’s going to be like. I no longer hold book signings just for the nonfiction. Local means the Seattle-Olympia-Tacoma area. And it would have to be on a weekend.

Question: Will you cast a spell for me for free/for money?

Answer: No—no exceptions. First, spells cast by yourself are far more powerful than by someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your situation. And I never cast spells for money. I’ve been offered a thousand dollars before to cast spells for people. I never accepted, even during our poorest times. If I cast a spell for a friend, it is done out of love and concern and the desire to help.

(The inevitable) Question: Aren’t you worried you’re going to hell? Do you worship Satan?

Answer: I don’t believe in Hell, not in the Christian sense, so no. Not at all. And while I do believe evil exists, no—I do not believe in Satan. Or the Christian god. I do not worship within that belief system. And be you Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim, I don’t care—it’s not my place to tell you what to believe, and it really doesn’t matter to me as long as you aren’t a fanatic who uses your religion as a sledgehammer. Fanatics from ANY religion scare me.

Question: I’m a teenager who wants to become a witch but my parents don’t like it. How can I change their minds?

Answer: You can’t. Until you are eighteen, they have the right to direct your life and I would never interfere with that. But hold tight to your dream, and when you turn eighteen, it will be your choice to make. The path will be here when you are of age, and if you are still called to it, then it is up to you to embark on the journey.

Question: Isn’t being a witch or Pagan just another excuse for an orgy?

Answer: Some of my friends are polyamorous like Camille out of my Otherworld Series. Some are monogamous. Sex, in most Pagan beliefs, is seen as sacred, as given by the gods for us to enjoy. Our bodies are to be enjoyed, to be shared with others if we make a connection. Anything sexual adults choose to do in a consenting atmosphere, where nobody gets hurt (and I’m not talking S&M—that’s a different type of ‘hurt’), is up to them and them alone. Love is the greatest gift you can offer someone—love and sex—whether it be between male/female, M/M, F/F, or a group. As long as everyone is content with the arrangement. There’s too much pain in the world to worry about who’s fucking who, and who your neighbor is sharing a bed with.

Question: Do you really believe in the gods? In magic?

Answer: Yes, with all my heart. I’m also very scientific and believe that magic and science can meet on the charts…but that not all magic can be explained away with scientific terminology, and not all science is out to destroy magic. As far as the gods—they are very real to me, but I do not see any of them as omnipotent/omniscient. Nor do I see the universe as having a ‘universal consciousness’—I see it as a vast pool of energy, but genderless, mindless, every forming and rearranging, and I think we can draw on that power. Again: these are all my personal beliefs. I’m not saying others should believe the way I do.

Question: I want to become Pagan. What do I need to know?

So You Want to Become Pagan…

First, the thing to know about paganism is we do not go out to convert. The person who wants to be pagan needs to be drawn to the spiritual path on their own, and make the decision themselves.

Reasons NOT to Become Pagan/Witch:

  • To piss off your mother, father, husband, or anybody else.
  • Because it’s trendy.
  • Because you want to learn magick to control others.
  • Because you think it’s just cool.
  • Because you’re angry at the religion you are/were a part of.

Reasons TO Become a Pagan/Witch:

  • Because you are drawn to the spiritual path.
  • Because it feels right.

A Few Things to Understand:

  1. Magick, Witchcraft, and Paganism involve a lot of work and learning. There is no handholding, no Bible here to tell you what you should believe. You can’t expect others to just blanketly agree to teach you. You’re going to have to learn, to read, to practice on your own and you need to be willing to accept that.
  2. You are not a Witch or a Priestess until you know what you’re talking about. You are, in essence, an acolyte, a seeker—and this is good. You are on a journey and for some, this journey lasts a lifetime because it becomes their true path. For others, it may last awhile until they discover they really aren’t meant for this path. But I caution against taking the term of witch until you’ve put in the time and work necessary. A priestess is called to the gods specifically—don’t just assume the term for yourself until you’ve made the commitment and dedication it takes to learn what you need to.
  3. You can be Pagan without being a Witch. You can practice magick without being a Pagan. But…and there is a lot of disagreement about this so this is my OWN opinion: being a ‘Christian witch’ is an oxymoron. Christianity disapproves of witchcraft and it says right in the Bible that it’s against the Christian god’s will. Therefore, if you call yourself Christian, I personally don’t think you can be a witch and follow both paths without some sort of repercussion.
  4. There are a number of different paths. This is about the ONE thing that most pagans agree on. Wicca is a religion, witchcraft is a practice. I am not Wiccan, but I consider myself a shamanic witch and I am fully Pagan, and a dedicated priestess, which means I have pledged myself to follow the path of several very specific gods and goddesses for life. I will never break these vows because to pagans and witches, oaths are binding. I tell people who are interested in becoming Pagan or a witch to read Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon. It’s the best gateway into understanding how varied paganism is in the modern age.
  5. Yes, I have several books on magick and witchcraft out there. I consider them among the best, of course, but they are guidebooks, not Bibles. Do NOT ask me to teach you or for personal magickal advice—I’m no longer teaching acolytes. I don’t have the time or the energy to devote to that. Read widely, practice as a solitary, and then—after you’ve discovered the basics of what you believe, you can look for a group/coven if you want to.
  6. Male witches are witches. The term warlock means ‘oath breaker’ and is an insult to anybody who really knows the history of witchcraft. The etymology is traditionally believed to be Saxon for “wǣrloga” which means “oath-breaker” and was used during attempts to convert the pagans to Christianity. Now, there are some pagans who are trying to reclaim this word and that’s fine, if that’s their path. But in my path? A witch is male or female. A warlock? Is a word I find too steeped in a bloody history of death and destruction.
  7. You should know what the Malleus Maleficarum is, and something about the history of the Church’s view against witchcraft. During the dark ages, the Malleus Maleficarum (translated to Hammer of the Witches) was the Inquisition’s manual on how to identify and torture people they believed guilty of witchcraft. The barbaric tortures that were recommended, (and make no mistake—we are talking: breaking bones and dislocating joints via the rack, feet plunged into boiling oil, red-hot pokers shoved up a woman’s vagina, the iron maiden, etc.), are truly a blot against humanity’s soul. When you realize that anybody convicted of heresy forfeited their estates and money to the Church, you begin to understand why so many people were burned, tortured to death, pressed to death, drowned, and otherwise destroyed, and why the Church grew so wealthy during the dark ages.
  8. Do know that if you choose this path, there will be those who consider you a Satanist, or evil, or just a flake. You can either argue with them (and trust me, you hardly ever change anybody’s mind if they are steeped in their belief system which sees witchcraft/paganism as evil), or you can ignore it and go about your way.