Yesterday I got a message from a friend of mine. She had read about my prayer beads for Anubis and ended up looking into Germanic Pagan stuff on the internet. In her message, she told me that she had come across some information on the goddess Nerthus and started having these feelings and wasn’t sure what to do with them.
About a year ago, the daughter of my mother’s friend asked me if I was really Pagan. I told her yes and she told me that she’d been interested in Paganism but wasn’t sure how to get into it. I told her that if she was still interested in it a little later, to hit me up and I’d talk to her about it more. When I asked her if she was still interested in Paganism about a month ago, she said yes but she still wasn’t sure how to go about learning more. We discussed what she knew and had a brief overview of the major problems in Paganism before I agreed to gather up what I could and get back to her a little later. I’m still working on how to present information to her since she’s more or less a “blank slate” about it, the thoughts of being Pagan just beginning to gestate in her mind, from what I can tell. She doesn’t feel a strong draw to a specific pantheon yet, so that makes things even more amorphous for her.
In the past, I’ve fielded a few questions from folks about how to become Pagan. I think most people have, especially people who are especially open about it and here on the internet. And, to be frank, it is very difficult to answer that question.
The thing about Paganism is that there is no one Path. “Pagan” is an umbrella term for a large number of different Paths and there’s no real one set way to define it. If you identify as Pagan, you identify as Pagan. If not, you don’t. That’s pretty much the only thing I’ve seen people agree on when it comes to defining Paganism.
There are a number of different branches of Paganism that one can look into, but there aren’t really any questionnaires that you can fill out and have spit out an answer of “Walk this way” or “Check out this Path.” The closest one I’ve seen wasn’t very inclusive, and that’s part of the problem, too. Paganism is so far-reaching and there are so many ways to go that it’s hard to figure out where to start.
If you’re in this boat, you’ll be okay. If it seems to be too much to handle right now, that’s okay. You’ll get there if and when you’re ready.
For the rest of you, this is the advice I have for you. It’s the best I can come up with and, hopefully, it will give you a general idea of where to start looking.
- Where did you first learn about Paganism? What drew you to that information? This is something that I always try to ask people who ask me about it because it gives me an idea of what they already know and why they are interested in learning more. For example, someone who has only learned about Wicca or neoWicca is going to have different interests than someone who saw the movie Thor and wanted to learn more about working with the Norse gods.
- Do you identify as atheist or agnostic or do you believe there is a god or multiple gods? Some people argue that if you identify as an atheist, you can’t be a Pagan, that believing in multiple gods is an identifying trait of Paganism. I’m not one of those people, or at least I try not to be. But answering this question will help us figure out where you want to go from here.
- If you do believe in deities, are there any that you feel drawn to? If there is a deity from a specific pantheon you feel drawn to, that will help us flesh out your search. For example, if you’re interested in Thor, then the Northern traditions (Norse and Anglo-Saxon among them) will be a good place to start.
- Have you read any mythology that interests you? I have a strong love for mythology and always advise people to read the myths when they’re first starting out, especially in paths that have them like the Hellenic and Norse, among many many others. If you have an interest in one branch of mythology, this will also help you flesh out your search and research into Paganism.
- Do you have certain views of cosmology, spirituality, death, etc.? For example, I believe in this idea of the World Tree. The best example I’ve seen of it is actually in the closing credits of the Thor movie, with the celestial tree. Something as simple as that can help you further your beginning searches into Paganism.
- Do you believe in divinity and/or spirit found in Nature? Do you wish to incorporate a nature-based spirituality into your life? Not all Pagans do, and that’s fine. This is something else you can ask yourself when you’re first starting out to help shape your search.
- Do you want to follow a set tradition or would you rather branch out and work on developing one of your own? There are many set traditions out there that you can look into, but building your own practice is also a way you can go, and many have. If you’ve heard of one that interests you, look into how to take classes in that path.
These are just a few opening questions that I’d advise beginning Pagans to look into. Asking yourself what you already believe – or don’t believe – and what already makes sense to you is something that will help you hash out where to go from here. That’s how I looked at it when I was first looking into Paganism, analyzing how I already viewed the world and the Universe and branching out from there. There are loads of other questions you can ask yourself, though, and plenty of other questions you will ask yourself as you continue walking along your Path.