Respecting the Deceased’s Religion

I wasn’t sure how to title this, so I’m hoping that subject line is enough!

Anyway, this question was spurred on by a dream I had last night, and it brought me to wondering how certain deceased people may feel about others trying to honor them with a religion they were outright against or iffy about. Bear with me, this is a little bit longwinded, but I feel like I need to explain how I started thinking about this, since it’s not normally something I would worry about.

A few nights ago my uncle died. I’m not broken up about it, since I wasn’t close to him or my aunt (who is still living) at all. They’re technically my step-aunt and step-uncle via my grandfather re-marrying very late in life. I only saw them occasionally at church growing up and sometimes they’d be invited to family gatherings, but I hadn’t seen my uncle in several years due to his Alzheimer’s. Last time I saw him, he introduced himself to me with his full name, so there was no point.

Despite my relative detachment from the whole situation, I had a dream last night where I was trying to do a little memorial offering of my own design for my uncle. I had a large ceramic planter filled with soil, and dumped a bunch of runes in it- not just rune stones, but the runes themselves. Mixed in with those was something else but I can’t remember what exactly, since it wasn’t as important.

I was going to present this at his wake, believing that his spirit would come into the planter and cause something to grow. Slowly, and with a few odd looks from people around me, I realized that this might not be the greatest idea. My uncle, like his wife, was steadfastly Christian, and if he was anything like my aunt (who I know a little better) he’d have had trouble accepting other Abrahamic religions besides Judaism and Christianity, let alone pagan religion. He spirit would be offended, I thought, and would reject my little ritual. I scrambled to try to pull the runes out, but felt as though that would be ruining the spell in my offering. Yet I had nothing to give from a Christian standpoint, since I wasn’t one.

In the waking world, I hadn’t really stressed much about this kind of thing except in that I don’t normally call upon my Christian ancestors (especially the Puritans) since I feel they’d be offended or disappointed in me. After having this dream, I feel like it would be a bit different with someone I know personally. Their spirit could be upset with me specifically, and their feelings about me could change even after death, and even if they’re gone from this world, that would upset me.

So, what do you all think about that kind of thing? Would it be more respectful just not to use a pagan ritual to honor a deceased person who holds strong views against it? Even if the intent is what counts, what about the wishes of the deceased? And you can replace paganism with any religion you like, the question would still be the same.

Are there any good non-Wiccan podcasts?

I’m new to paganism so I don’t have a label, but I know that Wicca isn’t a good fit for me. Does anyone know of any good podcasts out there for non-Wiccan or eclectic paganism? I’d be open to hearing about other paths too, such as Druidry, Chaos Magick, reconstructionist paganism, etc.

I prefer podcasts that are content-heavy and straightforward, and that aren’t “gabfests” (as someone else on the forum so eloquently put it). I’m basically looking for as much information as possible, since I’m running into blocks finding info on YouTube and in my library. Thank you!

Conceptions of Deity

I was thinking over my practices and also my posts here. I think sometimes I use the term “gods” differently in part due to my pantheism. When I relate to an entity through offerings and prayers, especially when I get dreams or visions back, my mind thinks “god” or perhaps “angel” ( in the sense of any message bearing entity, not necessarily sent by someone else) or even “friend” and I do not make a hard distinction between those terms or between ancestors, spirits, and gods because as a pantheist I simply see a continuum of divinity, and my devotions do not look much different between them. I cannot think of any beings that are THE gods to me as opposed to some others I also honor.

How do you draw the line between say, ancestors and other spirits and gods? Or maybe you do not.

Wicca vs. Shaminism Belief Questions

I’m a Wiccan. I know a lot of pagans and witches don’t consider themselves Wiccan (or at least that’s what it seems like in my experience- it seems like I’m always hearing pagans explain why they’re not Wiccan) but I do. I used to know a lot when I was Wiccan when I was younger but it’s been a while, so I signed up for a class through a local Meetup group. The teacher said she considers her religion more shamanism then Wicca or witchcraft (the class is mostly but not exclusively focused on Wicca, at least that’s what the description said) but after quite a few classes I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I’m screwed up on what it is, because no one else seems really troubled by any of this but me. I’ve heard Wicca described before as “Western European shamanism” so the teacher’s profession didn’t bother me, but now I’m wondering if differences between Wicca and shamanism are the reason for some of these differences.

Some of the things that I’ve heard that trouble me:

The idea that the Goddess and God, however you see them, will just possess you without you knowing or without you remembering and then they’ll speak through you and you won’t know about it (I’m not talking about a lack of memory during a purposefully entered and agreed upon trance/invocation, like Drawing Down the Moon, but the idea that you’re just going throughout your day and bam!)
That the gods are often tactless, crude and use foul language “just like us”
The idea that the dead can attach themselves to you despite years of attempts to get rid of them
The idea that people can psychically attack or curse you using evil spirits
That worship/respect and affection/closeness/comfort are incompatible
The idea that your soul can fragment and go off into directions and need to be retrieved

I know we all believe differently and this shouldn’t bother me, but this is my first experience with real-life pagans and I’m wondering if maybe I’m just the one who has a messed up idea of what the religion is. I know I don’t have to believe anything that bothers me, but the things I listed above clash so much with my beliefs that it’s troubling me.

Oh, and I’m only taking the class 2 more weeks and I’m not going to sign up for the next installment. I realize I could quit earlier but I’ve made some friendships with a couple of women in the class that I’m already scared I’ll lose once class is over, so I don’t want to quit early. I’ve learned some things certainly and it’s been worth my time, I am just troubled.

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Do you doubt your Powers?

I’m a born skeptic. I spent over three decades of my life yearning to believe in gods and magic but not allowing myself to do so, because I hadn’t seen sufficient proof.

Early last year I began courting the gods, laying down groundwork for spirituality, even though I was still deeply agnostic. Finally, late in spring of this year, I experienced things that made me finally Believe with a capital B.

But I can already feel doubt creeping back in, which makes me wonder if it’s just a part of my personality. I believe that there is a great spiritual dimension to reality now, but I find myself doubting my own personal connection to my Powers on a regular basis. Does anyone else have similar experiences? How do you deal with doubt in your practice?

Your Pagan Strength

Strong photoWe’re already talking here about the downside of your religious experience (’s-the-downside-of-your-religious-experience/). A not-quite-opposite question: If you had to pick ONE thing that’s your strongest suit in your pagan practice (only one…because we know we’re all awesome at so many pagan things 😉 ), what would it be? Divination? Meditation? Research? Contacting deities or spirits? Designing or leading rituals? The possibilities are endless. Toot your own horn!

For me: Writing myths. (Which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been around the Cauldron for a while.) I think I wrote my first one when I was about 10 years old, and the storytelling in various forms has continued, with interruptions, ever since. So mythopoeia is where I excel.

What’s your pagan forte?

What’s the Downside of Your Religious Experience?

The religions and spiritual approaches here at the Cauldron are varied and, by mainstream standards, unusual; presumably we each get something important from them, or we wouldn’t be doing this.

But as important as these religious paths/spiritual experiences are to us, what’s the downside? What’s the part of the experience that presents the greatest difficulty in life, perhaps in comparison to more mainstream religions?

For me, it’s feeling disconnected from others: having a lack of religious community. Which is ironic, because my nature-based paganism stems from and strengthens a deep and fulfilling connection to the natural world. But unlike, say, my Christian family members, there’s no weekly gathering of like-minded folks to bond with…and while my finding my own gods and writing their myths remains perhaps my most personally important and fulfilling undertaking, it remains exactly that–personal–and only intensifies the gap I feel with others, who have no understanding of the gods as I do. How could they?

I think, along with my fondness for a good debate, it’s the need to try to forge a connection on religious matters with others that keeps me coming back to the Cauldron.

Working with wilderness in cities and suburbs

wilderness photoThe current circumstances of my life have me wondering about the place of “the wilderness”–as physical locations and also as a set of ideas conceived by humans–in modern neopagan practice.

Over the past year and a half, while living on my own in the suburbs of Seattle, I’ve developed an eclectic personal practice. One of the cornerstones of this practice is my “hidden shrine”–a small outpost between my apartment complex and an overgrown lot that I use as a shrine to Hekate and other Powers. I go into more detail in the post linked about the meaning of that specific shrine, but one of its key features is that it marks a boundary between orderly areas inhabited by human beings and the ignored, unexamined wilderness. In my practice, that wilderness symbolizes a liminal space between here and the underworld/otherworld, which is very important as a symbol.

In less than two months, I’m hoping to move into the city of Seattle itself. I’ve been to the new apartment and had a look at its location–right on the waterfront, in the middle of downtown. This is wonderful to me–I’ve always wanted to live in the middle of a thriving city. But now that I’m working with this concept of “wilderness” as a meaningful liminal space, it poses a problem for me. There are no overgrown lots or lonely backroads here on the edge of multiple tourist traps in the heart of a major city of the Pacific Northwest.

So how do I adapt my practice to my new circumstances? I have a few ideas, but I’d like to see what others on the board have to say. More generally, how does working with wilderness, in whatever way you conceptualize it, figure into your practice, if it does? How have you had to adapt because of that?

Cautions and Precautions?

cautions photoI’ve been working to get back into my spirituality and practice, and in doing so have finally stumbled across something that I think, through causing me anxiety, has been restricting my progress. When I first started my path a year or more ago, I did a lot of varied research and looked for advice from a lot of different places on starting out in Paganism and the occult. One big piece of advice that I now realise impacted me quite heavily was that there are dangerous spiritual entities to be cautious of (I think the author referred to them as shadows or demons). My family has a history with the occult, and there have been some horror stories past down that aren’t exactly soothing to hear when starting out without much tangible guidance. Ultimately, I think this scared me off a bit from every practicing, or really enjoying the witchcraft that I was learning about, despite feeling naturally drawn to it.

So, I suppose what I really want to ask here, is what should I be cautious of when (re)starting my Pagan and occult path? I’m looking more for general advice and opinions. Should I be scared witless, or just extremely cautious? I know there are always risks involved, but the thought of any of those horror stories being true kind of puts a damper of the excitement of learning new skills and finding peace in my path. I want to hear from those with reason and experience (hence why I come to this forum specifically) what I should be cautious of, how to protect myself if necessary and what I need to know in consideration to the dangers and “darkness”.

I’m sorry for any ignorance on my own part. I’m going off of family stories, random internet information and that one freaky thread that scared me witless that one time, but unfortunately as a solitary practitioner and a student I have limited time and resources – reaching out to the community seems to be the most logical and direct resolution, even if only temporarily until I can gather more resources.