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Author Topic: Question about deities and other Pagan related questions from a confused newbie  (Read 3490 times)
stephaniexelizabeth
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« Topic Start: August 03, 2010, 02:51:56 am »

I believe that deities of any sort are in our heads. Now, I am not saying they are fake because they're in our heads, but I am saying that we make them real. That being said, I have always been interested in Egyptian and Roman/Greek gods. Can I still worship them with my philosophy stated above? Now, I know what many will say, do what feels right for you. But, my main point in asking is because I am sure I am not alone in my philosophy.

So, can I worship the gods/goddesses that I envision in my own head? I wouldn't believe they were listening from above somewhere, I would just believe they were inside me but I would still be worshiping the thought of them, not myself or an actual physical god. I know, it is a confusing question, but surely someone must understand me and agree.

Now, onto more questions:
I am extremely confused about altars. I am not sure how I feel about Wicca yet. I was raised Christian, as many other Pagans were, but I am having some trouble completely letting go and going against everything that was forced upon me, as dumb as that may sound. Anyways, can someone explain altars to me. I know Wiccans use them for 'rituals' but what rituals do they do? I know not all Wiccans worship a god, so what rituals are they performing? Can someone point me in the direction of a site explaining Wiccan rituals. Every time I Google it, I come up to sites with love potions and spells.

If one did worship a god/goddess and they made sacrifices, what do they do with the sacrifices? Do they burn them? Do they offer them up and then throw them out (if food)? Do they offer them and then eat them for the god/goddess?

**Please, keep in mind, I am 16 and my parents would be strongly against what I am doing, especially if I choose Wicca. Thankfully, I have two very supportive friends who have dabbled in Wicca and would love to learn alongside me. I am not able to buy anything, no crystals, Tarot cards, Pentacles, etc. I wish I could, but I cannot. If I decide to follow Wicca, or just decide to have an altar, it will be inside a box so I can put it away on my shelf. I cannot really buy candles or statues or anything. I have some white tea candles, green tea candles and red tea candles though.

Oh, and one last thing. I am a big believer in Aromatherapy. I love mixing and matching scents. If anyone has any good "recipes" for that, I would be grateful. I have many cooking spices such as Rosemary, Oregano, etc.

Thanks Smiley
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« Reply #1: August 03, 2010, 03:20:17 am »

I believe that deities of any sort are in our heads. Now, I am not saying they are fake because they're in our heads, but I am saying that we make them real. That being said, I have always been interested in Egyptian and Roman/Greek gods. Can I still worship them with my philosophy stated above? Now, I know what many will say, do what feels right for you. But, my main point in asking is because I am sure I am not alone in my philosophy.

So, can I worship the gods/goddesses that I envision in my own head? I wouldn't believe they were listening from above somewhere, I would just believe they were inside me but I would still be worshiping the thought of them, not myself or an actual physical god. I know, it is a confusing question, but surely someone must understand me and agree.

Now, onto more questions:
I am extremely confused about altars. I am not sure how I feel about Wicca yet. I was raised Christian, as many other Pagans were, but I am having some trouble completely letting go and going against everything that was forced upon me, as dumb as that may sound. Anyways, can someone explain altars to me. I know Wiccans use them for 'rituals' but what rituals do they do? I know not all Wiccans worship a god, so what rituals are they performing? Can someone point me in the direction of a site explaining Wiccan rituals. Every time I Google it, I come up to sites with love potions and spells.

If one did worship a god/goddess and they made sacrifices, what do they do with the sacrifices? Do they burn them? Do they offer them up and then throw them out (if food)? Do they offer them and then eat them for the god/goddess?

**Please, keep in mind, I am 16 and my parents would be strongly against what I am doing, especially if I choose Wicca. Thankfully, I have two very supportive friends who have dabbled in Wicca and would love to learn alongside me. I am not able to buy anything, no crystals, Tarot cards, Pentacles, etc. I wish I could, but I cannot. If I decide to follow Wicca, or just decide to have an altar, it will be inside a box so I can put it away on my shelf. I cannot really buy candles or statues or anything. I have some white tea candles, green tea candles and red tea candles though.

Oh, and one last thing. I am a big believer in Aromatherapy. I love mixing and matching scents. If anyone has any good "recipes" for that, I would be grateful. I have many cooking spices such as Rosemary, Oregano, etc.

Thanks Smiley

I don't see why you can't worship them with that belief system (others may disagree with me), but do not be surprised if your perception of deity changes once you work with them more.

Altars are basically two things: a shrine and a work space.  In all honesty, you can do without it; I myself did not have an altar for the first two years of my practice because I was in a similar living situation as yours.  Whenever I needed to do a spell or ritual I would just bring out my tools and make an impromptu space on the dining room table, or my bedroom floor, or wherever was convenient.

There are many types of rituals.  Some honor deities, some commemorate the holidays, others mark life changes, some are for a need like purification, healing, or courage, etc, my list could go on.

What people do with their sacrifices or offerings varies according to the person and the type of offering made, and the deity they work with.  Some deities only accept offering placed into a river, some are very insistent that it be left at a crossroads, others really could not care less as long as the offering is made respectfully.  What seems to be most common is that the offering is made, usually left on the altar for a period of time, and is then deposited outside. 

Just keep in mind that deities are very understanding if you cannot do certain things because of your age and lack of parental approval.  You would be surprised with what you can accomplish with items just regularly found in the kitchen.  Tea candles and aromatherapy are actually a pretty good start, and there is a lot that you can do with just these two.
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« Reply #2: August 03, 2010, 09:16:25 am »

So, can I worship the gods/goddesses that I envision in my own head? I wouldn't believe they were listening from above somewhere, I would just believe they were inside me but I would still be worshiping the thought of them, not myself or an actual physical god. I know, it is a confusing question, but surely someone must understand me and agree.

Considering I spent many years as an atheist Pagan and have only recently started to consider myself an agnostic Pagan... you can worship the gods however you like. You don't need our permission or validation.

Also, remember that there are tons of paths out there besides Wicca. If you don't feel that it clicks for you, start researching another path. Smiley Also, most Wiccans are duotheistic - worshiping a manifestation of the Source of the One that divides itself (or is something humanity divides) into a God and a Goddess. Now, some Wiccans may be pantheists or believe the gods are archetypes, but it is a religion built around gods.

I use my altar like a cross between a work space and a bird feeder. A work space because that's where I "do" ritual (with candles, incense, offerings, the whole shebang) and a bird feeder because when I work at my altar, or even if I just light a candle, I feel like I'm tossing out astral bird seed and attracting gods and spirits. XD An altar can also be a shrine, which means it's dedicated to a particular person or purpose. I have a shrine to Aphrodite on top of my bookcase that's in sad neglect, so I should probably fix that.

Most altars can be dressed up in ways that aren't suspicious. Candles, stones, feathers, etc. are pretty room decorations. A giant freakin' pentacle plaque may be slightly more obvious. Also, you can take your altar down when you're not working with it.
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« Reply #3: August 03, 2010, 09:45:21 am »

I believe that deities of any sort are in our heads. Now, I am not saying they are fake because they're in our heads, but I am saying that we make them real. That being said, I have always been interested in Egyptian and Roman/Greek gods. Can I still worship them with my philosophy stated above? Now, I know what many will say, do what feels right for you. But, my main point in asking is because I am sure I am not alone in my philosophy.

Let me back up two steps, as it might help with your other questions. Traditional Wiccan practice works with two very specific deities, who are referred to as "Lord" and "Lady" outside of circle, and whose names (and other identifying details) are oathbound.

Traditional Wicca is one form of religious witchcraft: a combination of magical practice (that's the witchcraft part) combined with some kind of practice honoring/working with/worshipping deity. There are lots of other variants of religious witchcraft out there (including a lot of what is popularly identified as Wicca) There's a link on my blog/website that might be helpful to you in figuring out more of those differences in definition here: http://gleewood.org/threshold/about/background/religiouswitchcraft/

Now, that said, most of these are religions of shared practice, not religions of shared belief. It's quite possible to have two people standing next to each other in a coven or other small close group who have very different ideas about the nature of deity and what it means in the world - what draws us together is that we're doing the same things.

In the case of Wicca and Wiccan-influenced paths, that'd generally that we celebrate on both a solar cycle and a lunar one (Sabbats and Esbats), in which ritual takes place within a sacred space created for each ritual (the circle), that the circle is also used to direct and focus energy for particular workings (magic, meditation, etc.) and so on. There are, however, varying ways to do these things.

The other part is that some specific practices make a lot more sense if you've got a particular view of the nature of the Gods than others. For example, if someone believes that the Gods are entirely internal (images we create ourselves), then particular methods of honoring/worshipping/working with them may not make a lot of sense.

Quote
So, can I worship the gods/goddesses that I envision in my own head? I wouldn't believe they were listening from above somewhere, I would just believe they were inside me but I would still be worshiping the thought of them, not myself or an actual physical god.[/b] I know, it is a confusing question, but surely someone must understand me and agree.

Well, yes. But as above, how to usefully define/describe what you're doing may depend a lot more on how you do that than what you believe. (Being able to usefully define/describe it is handy for being able to find other people doing similar things, so you can compare notes, get ideas, etc. if nothing else.)

Quote
I am extremely confused about altars. I am not sure how I feel about Wicca yet. I was raised Christian, as many other Pagans were, but I am having some trouble completely letting go and going against everything that was forced upon me, as dumb as that may sound. Anyways, can someone explain altars to me. I know Wiccans use them for 'rituals' but what rituals do they do? I know not all Wiccans worship a god, so what rituals are they performing? Can someone point me in the direction of a site explaining Wiccan rituals. Every time I Google it, I come up to sites with love potions and spells.

In my own opinion, if there aren't Gods (and Goddesses) involved, it's not Wicca - it's something else. (Doesn't mean it's not worth doing - just that it deserves its own label.) My own tradition is something I tend to label as 'Wiccan-influenced religious witchcraft', but it's because I'm very precise about labelling (that link above, part 3 explains in more detail why.) But our rituals look something like this....

1: Prepare the space. Set everything up - for us, that includes a main altar and four quarter altars (smaller). This can be very elaborate, or it can be quite simple. My own preference is for the simple. Back to this one in a moment.

2: Prepare the people. This might be a ritual bath before ritual starts, it might be a ritual washing of the hands, it might be some other energetic cleansing method. Generally, the right before ritual part involves people taking a few deep breaths to center themselves and set aside any worries, concerns, etc. that are not helpful to the ritual.

3: Create the circle. This part has several steps.
- Banishing (removing unwanted energies from the space: this doesn't mean 'evil', just 'stuff we don't want for this working' - sort of like cleaning up your desk before you start an art project, so you have space to work and fewer distractions.)
- Blessing (adding the types of energy we want for that space: for example, if the circle is being done for healing, you might especially call in healing energies.)
- Scribing the circle: creating the boundary of the circle via direction of energy. (A well-cast circle has a definite presence to people who can sense energy, even if they didn't know it was there.)

4: Inviting other entitities
- Calling the guardians of the quarters and/or the elements and/or the elementals: Which one (or which combination) varies by tradition of practice, but basically, you're inviting in the basic Platonic building blocks of the universe (air, fire, water, earth) and in some traditions also guardians of the directions who help guide and protect the ritual work.

- In my tradition, we invite the ancestors to every ritual (which ancestors depends a bit on what we're doing: a healing ritual might invite healers, a teaching ritual might invite teachers and students, etc. etc.)

- And then we invite the Gods we're working with and honoring for that ritual: Wiccan practice means a male deity and a female deity who have a particular energetic interaction with each other to form the spark of creation. (This is part of why I argue we're not Wiccan, as a tradition, as our framing here is a bit different.)

5: The actual working. This might be a seasonal celebration (a Sabbat). It might be a working for healing, for inspiration, for understanding (like a meditation), for a particular need (prosperity, job-seeking, clear communication, etc.) The form it takes depends a lot on what you're doing. Generally, one asks the deities you're working with for their assistance and guidance.

(Some people may call on specific deities for specific needs. Other people may develop strong relationships with particular deities and call on them for their help for a wide range of things. The latter is closer to traditional Wiccan practice, though trad Wiccans do often also develop relationships with other deities as well.)

6: The Great Rite (generally in symbol, which is the joining of the blade and chalice as a symbol and energetic method of creating the spark of life.) and generally sharing of food and drink with the people there and with the Gods. A chance to pause and reflect.

7: Working from the last step out, thanking and asking all of the entities to go, taking down the sacred space, etc. so that you end up with the same basic energies you started out with (except a bit tidier.) This is because Wicca (and its offshoots) don't generally have permanent ritual spaces: there are potential problems with permanent circles for a variety of reasons.

Back to the altar:
My tradition's practices involve:
- 4 candles (Lady, Lord, Ancients, and one tradition-specific one)
- a small bottle of water, salt, a dish to mix them, a stick of incense (and one of the existing candles) - for the blessing
- a tool for the banishing if we're using one. (Chimes, for example, are a fairly common use, but so is a broom.)
- the four basic witchcraft ritual tools: athame (blade), cup, pentacle, wand.
- food and drink for sharing in ritual (I've got a strong preference for foods transformed by living entities, so I default to alcohol and bread, but there are other options - juice, a small cookie. I have yet to meet a deity who turns down decent chocolate.)
- any items needed for the ritual itself. (so, if you're doing candle magic, your candle and whatever you're going to use to carve it would start out there.)

In other words, the stuff needed to do the ritual steps. (There are alternatives to a number of these, but there are also reasons for using the tools when they're available: they make a number of things simpler, giving you more energy and focus for later parts of the ritual, for example.)

And then one can add decorative elements, or things to honor the deities, or whatever else makes sense. (statues, flowers, greenery, images, etc. etc. etc.)

My quarter altars are very simple - a candle and an appropriate colored altar cloth - but again, you can add a lot of other items. (So, for example, for air, you might add a feather, a small flute, ribbons in pale yellows, pinks, and blues (colors associated with air), and so on.)

Quote
If one did worship a god/goddess and they made sacrifices, what do they do with the sacrifices? Do they burn them? Do they offer them up and then throw them out (if food)? Do they offer them and then eat them for the god/goddess?

Depends on the tradition, but the most common in Wiccan-influenced practice is to place them somewhere outside. (It's usually a very token amount - a small splash of the liquid and a pinch of bread, for example.) There are times when a particular item might need to be destroyed as part of ritual work - in that case, it depends on what you're destroying. (A cord uses for magical use might be cut into tiny pieces and scattered to the wind, or it might be burned, depending on the material used, for example.)

Quote
Please, keep in mind, I am 16 and my parents would be strongly against what I am doing, especially if I choose Wicca. Thankfully, I have two very supportive friends who have dabbled in Wicca and would love to learn alongside me. I am not able to buy anything, no crystals, Tarot cards, Pentacles, etc. I wish I could, but I cannot. If I decide to follow Wicca, or just decide to have an altar, it will be inside a box so I can put it away on my shelf. I cannot really buy candles or statues or anything. I have some white tea candles, green tea candles and red tea candles though.

One thing to consider is waiting to become more involved in a particular practice (whatever it is) until you're living independently, and until then, focusing on learning things that will support that eventual goal, but not focusing on a particular path or practices yet. That said, there are lot of simple things you can use that would not generally attract a lot of attention. For example, one common practice for many Wiccans is to have something related to each element up on a shrine or daily-practice altar.

These don't need to be obvious ritual tools - they might be a number of totally normal objects that are meaningful to you.
Air: a pen, a feather, some appropriate ribbons. Woodwind instruments in particular.
Fire: a candle - but I also like using glass or volcanic rock when a candle doesn't work for whatever reason.
Water: a cup or small bowl of water is pretty simple, but you could also include an image that includes water.
Earth: a small plant is ideal, but a bowl of potpourri from garden herbs, or a small pile of rocks.

You can also do lovely things with a collection of similar objects - for example, you might have four rocks: a rock with a hole worn in it for air, a piece of obsidian for fire, a river-worn stone for water, and a piece of sandstone or limestone for earth. Or you might decide to have little carved stone animals - a bird for air, a dragon or lion or salamander for fire, a dolphin or whale or fish or frog for water, and a horse, boar, or something else of the kind for earth.
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« Reply #4: August 03, 2010, 09:53:00 am »

Considering I spent many years as an atheist Pagan and have only recently started to consider myself an agnostic Pagan... you can worship the gods however you like. You don't need our permission or validation.

Also, remember that there are tons of paths out there besides Wicca. If you don't feel that it clicks for you, start researching another path. Smiley Also, most Wiccans are duotheistic - worshiping a manifestation of the Source of the One that divides itself (or is something humanity divides) into a God and a Goddess. Now, some Wiccans may be pantheists or believe the gods are archetypes, but it is a religion built around gods.

I use my altar like a cross between a work space and a bird feeder. A work space because that's where I "do" ritual (with candles, incense, offerings, the whole shebang) and a bird feeder because when I work at my altar, or even if I just light a candle, I feel like I'm tossing out astral bird seed and attracting gods and spirits. XD An altar can also be a shrine, which means it's dedicated to a particular person or purpose. I have a shrine to Aphrodite on top of my bookcase that's in sad neglect, so I should probably fix that.

Most altars can be dressed up in ways that aren't suspicious. Candles, stones, feathers, etc. are pretty room decorations. A giant freakin' pentacle plaque may be slightly more obvious. Also, you can take your altar down when you're not working with it.

I noticed that many stones are associated with the gods. Not always, but sometimes.
I don't have stones, but I have a huge basket of seashells. Could those work just as well? I mean, I'm sure they would work with Poseidon just fine, but what about other gods if I chose Artemis (Diana)[I've always had a strong attraction to her. The moon is the only object in the world that I could sit and stare at for hours. The Planetarium in my town always makes me shiver when they have a star show. I never knew why.]?

Thank you.
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« Reply #5: August 03, 2010, 10:10:13 am »

I noticed that many stones are associated with the gods. Not always, but sometimes.
I don't have stones, but I have a huge basket of seashells. Could those work just as well? I mean, I'm sure they would work with Poseidon just fine, but what about other gods if I chose Artemis (Diana)[I've always had a strong attraction to her. The moon is the only object in the world that I could sit and stare at for hours. The Planetarium in my town always makes me shiver when they have a star show. I never knew why.]?

Thank you.

The associations are your own. If the seashells work for you, go for it.

Also remember that while Artemis and Diana were and have been closely linked, they are different deities (unless you're going with the "all goddesses are one goddess" philosophy). Different cultures, different personalities, and not as interchangeable as soon posit.
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« Reply #6: August 03, 2010, 10:14:21 am »

My quarter altars are very simple - a candle and an appropriate colored altar cloth - but again, you can add a lot of other items. (So, for example, for air, you might add a feather, a small flute, ribbons in pale yellows, pinks, and blues (colors associated with air), and so on.)
Quote
Air: a pen, a feather, some appropriate ribbons. Woodwind instruments in particular.
Fire: a candle - but I also like using glass or volcanic rock when a candle doesn't work for whatever reason.
Water: a cup or small bowl of water is pretty simple, but you could also include an image that includes water.
Earth: a small plant is ideal, but a bowl of potpourri from garden herbs, or a small pile of rocks.

You can also do lovely things with a collection of similar objects - for example, you might have four rocks: a rock with a hole worn in it for air, a piece of obsidian for fire, a river-worn stone for water, and a piece of sandstone or limestone for earth. Or you might decide to have little carved stone animals - a bird for air, a dragon or lion or salamander for fire, a dolphin or whale or fish or frog for water, and a horse, boar, or something else of the kind for earth.

Thank you for all the information you have given me. And thank you for all the element suggestions.
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« Reply #7: August 03, 2010, 10:15:22 am »

The associations are your own. If the seashells work for you, go for it.

Also remember that while Artemis and Diana were and have been closely linked, they are different deities (unless you're going with the "all goddesses are one goddess" philosophy). Different cultures, different personalities, and not as interchangeable as soon posit.

Thank you for clarifying.
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« Reply #8: August 05, 2010, 12:17:57 am »

I believe that deities of any sort are in our heads. Now, I am not saying they are fake because they're in our heads, but I am saying that we make them real. That being said, I have always been interested in Egyptian and Roman/Greek gods. Can I still worship them with my philosophy stated above? Now, I know what many will say, do what feels right for you. But, my main point in asking is because I am sure I am not alone in my philosophy.

So, can I worship the gods/goddesses that I envision in my own head? I wouldn't believe they were listening from above somewhere, I would just believe they were inside me but I would still be worshiping the thought of them, not myself or an actual physical god. I know, it is a confusing question, but surely someone must understand me and agree.

Now, onto more questions:
I am extremely confused about altars. I am not sure how I feel about Wicca yet. I was raised Christian, as many other Pagans were, but I am having some trouble completely letting go and going against everything that was forced upon me, as dumb as that may sound. Anyways, can someone explain altars to me. I know Wiccans use them for 'rituals' but what rituals do they do? I know not all Wiccans worship a god, so what rituals are they performing? Can someone point me in the direction of a site explaining Wiccan rituals. Every time I Google it, I come up to sites with love potions and spells.

If one did worship a god/goddess and they made sacrifices, what do they do with the sacrifices? Do they burn them? Do they offer them up and then throw them out (if food)? Do they offer them and then eat them for the god/goddess?

**Please, keep in mind, I am 16 and my parents would be strongly against what I am doing, especially if I choose Wicca. Thankfully, I have two very supportive friends who have dabbled in Wicca and would love to learn alongside me. I am not able to buy anything, no crystals, Tarot cards, Pentacles, etc. I wish I could, but I cannot. If I decide to follow Wicca, or just decide to have an altar, it will be inside a box so I can put it away on my shelf. I cannot really buy candles or statues or anything. I have some white tea candles, green tea candles and red tea candles though.

Oh, and one last thing. I am a big believer in Aromatherapy. I love mixing and matching scents. If anyone has any good "recipes" for that, I would be grateful. I have many cooking spices such as Rosemary, Oregano, etc.

Thanks Smiley

I would say that yes, absolutely you can worship any deities that you feel are only in your own head, not externally located. 

I think it is difficult to figure out about rituals without any books to refer to or people to help you...I see that Jenett gave some extensive info to you so I hope that helps.  I would suggest that if you're interested in altars or ritual, really try to explore what "rituals" want to come out of you, what "rituals" or altars naturally emerge from you, rather than just copying something that someone else says to do, that may not feel right to you.   If you like aromatherapy and candles, reflect more on what those mean to you.  HOw would you relate those to a deity?  Does any one fragrance seem to correlate to a deity?  WOuld you like to give an offering of some of your time, or a candle burning, to any deity?  Rituals are most powerful when they relate to what is important inside you. 

Spend some time learning what's important to you, and what you like about your deities, and see what ideas you come up with about how you could use rituals or your altar to "relate" to your deities, have conversations with them there, or celebrate your day or anything important that happens to you, or wishes that you have, at your altar or through ritual. 
Logged

If you live according to an example, you live the life of that example.  There is only one way and that is your way.  You seek the path? I warn you away from my own.  May each go his own way....  ---Carl Jung

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