As a Heathen pagan and witch, I know that the majority of people around me are only marginally familiar with paganism or witchcraft. Many of these people don’t even know what “Pagan” is and they think of pop-culture witches or the devil when somebody mentions witchcraft. Let’s think of this as part “About Me”, part “Things About X”. Obviously, I am only one person. I know that I can not speak for other pagans or witches. If you know how many various traditions/ religions/ spiritual paths there are within the wider Pagan and witchcraft umbrellas, you will surely understand.
1. Why I Am Pagan
Like many others, I grew up in a Christian family. We were mainly non-denominational, but it included Bible studies in my earlier childhood and going to church. Many Christians have spoken of finding their G-d, Jesus, or a church as being like finding home or like filling a hole in their life. I never found that in the church or in prayer. Praying for salvation, whether at home or at the altar, left me with a sense of something missing. It’s a bit of a shock when you see most everyone else crying tears of joy while you feel absolutely nothing. I even went through a phase as a young teenager where-in I read the Bible, prayed every night, and tried as hard as I could to be a “good Christian”. It didn’t work.
That contrasted greatly with the experiences I have had since I started learning about Paganism. It started with a friend telling me about Wicca, which led to nature-based religion, which led to finding my sense of home. Yes, my path has changed as I’ve grown older. While I once identified as Christo-Pagan, I transitioned to eclectic-Paganism, explored Celtic polytheism, and am now Heathen (Norse paganism). This sense of belonging, of feeling that I can question things and grow within my path, are really just the beginning of why I am pagan.
2. Don’t Call Me A Wiccan
You’ve heard that old saying “All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan”, yes? There are still people who assume that Witchcraft = Wicca. It doesn’t. Wicca is traditionally an initiatory religion that believes in a God and Goddess. Granted, many Wiccans are now eclectic and/or practice non-initiatory traditions of Wicca. Religions/ spiritual paths adapt with people, things change. Witchcraft, on the other hand, includes many both Wiccan and non-Wiccan traditions. Appalachian Granny Magic, Hoodoo/ Voodoo, and Seidr are only a few traditions that people who identify as witches may practice.
I am a witch, but I am not Wiccan. It’s not so much offensive to me that people confuse the two, as it is just confusing. It can open up doors to people making incorrect assumptions. Take the Wiccan Rede as an example: “An it harm none, do what you will”. I believe strongly in the right to self-defense and justice in magic, even if that means cursing. Sometimes people, even within the witchcraft and paganism communities, can forget that not everybody follows the same traditions (and therefore the same “rules”) that they do.
3. It Has Nothing To Do With Satan
You’ve read this far, you already saw the mention that I am not Christian. Satan/ Lucifer/ the Devil is a part of Christian mythology. (No disrespect meant – I call the lore that I believe in “mythology”, as well.) I do not believe in this being. Are there pagans and witches who do? You bet! Some are Christian or Christo-Pagan, others believe that ALL mythology is true, there are even Satanist/ Luciferians who believe in Satan/ Lucifer*. This is not true of most pagans or witches. As much as I loved The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it’s not representative of our various beliefs. As witches, we believe in many things. Some of us believe in gods from a specific pantheon, nature spirits, and the ancestors. Some believe in nature and the inherent power within themselves. Some believe that their power derives from the Abrahamic G-d.
*It is important to add that Satanists as a general rule tend to be atheists of a sort and don’t have anything to do with literally worshipping the devil. In addition, those who do generally have moral standards that line up well with our society’s general views of right and wrong.
4. Heathenry Is Not For White Supremacists
You hear that, Neo-Nazi scum? Our gods do not belong to you! Actually, I really am saying this for everyone who may have that misconception. By “Heathenry”, I do include Asatru as an example, which has gotten a bit of a bad rep within the pagan community. Our gods are disabled, mixed-race, queer, among many other things. I already wrote post about this topic, so I’m not going to get too deep into it now. Just felt it important to reiterate: Heathenry belongs to everyone, regardless of ancestry, sexuality, gender, political views, or physical ability. You can find some amazingly diverse Heathens if you look in the right places. If you’re interested in Heathenry, but are afraid that you won’t belong because you don’t fit the “right demographic”, please know that you do belong and many of us will welcome you with open arms.
5. Loki Is Not The Heathen Satan
Really, for gods’ sakes. Loki is not some Scandinavian Devil-figure. He is a Trickster-figure, yes. He is complicated, absolutely! But, he is not some embodiment of evil! Even among the Heathen community, there are those who have this huge misconception of him. People think that having “monstrous” children and bringing about Ragnarok is so horrible. Okay, put that way… I know how it sounds. However, I believe that many Heathens are still looking through a Christianized lense that requires a point blank bad guy. Even the Eddas were written down by Christians after years of oral storytelling – it happens. It is worthwhile to remember that the other gods have done some problematic things, as well. Not only that, but one can find a connection to humanity and purpose in what we know of the gods. This includes Loki.
Loki cut Sif’s hair, but he took responsibility and tried to make it right. This resulted in his bringing back gifts that included, not only magical-growing hair made out of gold for her, but Mjolnir! He aided in ensuring that the wall around Asgard would be quickly built. Yes, even through trickery. This is how he gets shit done. Loki may not always have the best interests of others in mind as far as we can tell, but he plays a critical part in the mythology. In addition to this, need I remind anyone of Lokka Tattur? This is the Faorese ballad in which a peasant lost a bet with a giant, and asks the gods for assistance to save his son. It is Loki that succeeds in saving the peasant’s son and defeating the giant. Loki isn’t all that bad.
6. Give Me A Break With The Positivity Nonsense
All over the web, they lurk: the “love and light” New Agers. This is often prevalent within the witchcraft and paganism communities. They’ll tell you that if you think positive thoughts, good things will happen. Bad things happen because you’re not positive enough. Blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying that the idea of positivity itself is trash, but there is a point where it becomes toxic. Without going too far into detail on the negative impacts of positivity culture, I do want to clear something up: You don’t have to believe in it to be a pagan or witch! If you do take this to extremes, many people will call you a “fluffy bunny” and not take you seriously. The opposite end of the spectrum is true, as well. You don’t have to be all dark and broody to be a pagan or witch. Just be yourself! Some people are naturally more positive, others lean more toward the dark, but most of us are somewhere within the grey. That’s perfectly okay!