Building on the basics

Icon - Building - blue and teal watercolor spiral

Once you’ve built some starting practices, you may want to do more things. So how do you go about doing that? Here are five ways to deepen the areas I suggested in the starting practices.

1) Be aware of yourself.

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can work on building different skills. Some options you might explore include:

  • Build in more structured daily rituals (some people use a short physical meditation, others do a structured prayer, some sit in meditation for 10 minutes, some make a meditation out of making tea.)
  • Be more deliberate about your grounding, centering, psychic cleansing, breathing, or other practices. (Try out different techniques, continue to refine the ones that work best.)
  • Learning about other culture’s approaches to internal energy – this might be learning the basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or the principles of Western Eclectic Herbalism, or about chakras (which come from Hindu and Buddhist practice: a lot of Western approaches to them are very watered down.).
  • Trying different exercises to adjust your energy, and testing them over an extended period of time.
  • Making conscious changes in the food you eat, how you get exercise, or other daily habits (like sleep!) and seeing how they affect your magical and ritual experiences.
  • As things come up in your life (you get sick, you’re very busy, you’re travelling) pay attention to how that affects your spiritual and ritual life. Are there some practices that easily adapt to other demands? What can you do to adjust the ones that don’t adapt easily?

2) Be aware of the world around you.

  • Start building seasonal practices that are meaningful to you. This doesn’t have to mean the classic 8 Sabbats. Maybe you build different days, linked to where you live.
  • Are there particular days which are sacred to deities you’re interested in or honouring?
  • Are there particular activities or tasks that are related to deities or spirits of place that are relevant to you? For example, some people donate to a local food shelf on a particular day (the 15th of the month) to honour Hecate, or volunteer with a cleanup crew for a local river or park.
  • What are the current issues facing the place where you live? Are any of them things where your skills could help? Or where you could learn skills that would help?

3) Build on your current practice.

Take a look at the basic skills you’ve learned
Decide which ones you’d like to develop further. This might be exploring different methods of doing the same thing, or exploring different ways of doing the same thing. For example, try three to five methods of energetic cleansing, and keep notes about which work best (or for which kinds of situations.)

You may be working with a ritual structure that can be adapted.
Try different approaches within the structure you’re using.  If you’ve been using scripted text, try using improvised text in some places. Explore using improvised text in different places in your ritual work – some common ones include deity invitations/invocations, what you say when making an offering, or the words you say when banishing unwanted energy or calling in wanted energies.

(You can think about what you want to say in advance, of course – just try speaking from the heart in the moment rather than limiting yourself to what you’ve written in advance.)

Try different kinds of ritual tasks .
Making an offering is different from meditation, is different from something that involves making art or music. (Which you pick will depend on your path, but religious witchcraft can include all of these and more.)

If you are not settled on deities you wish to honour or work with, explore. 
Seasonal celebrations can be a good time to try connecting with particular different deities associated with the focus of your ritual. It might be a good time to explore a more structured approach to investigating different pantheons, deities, and approaches.

Seasonal rituals are cyclical.
Now is a good time to start thinking about larger arcs for your rituals, how they connect from one season to another.

You might also want to start building in other habits that take place outside of ritual – such as a seasonal meal or decorations staying up all night for the winter solstice, getting up at dawn on May 1st, or incorporating folk traditions into your daily life at those times. (You don’t need to do all of these things, or all at once – pick one or two things to try each celebration and see which things you like.)

Start developing some practices more thoroughly.
Alernately try out a wider range of possible practices. Exactly what these look like will depend on your particular path, goals, interests, skills, and available time and energy, of course. If you want ideas, you can browse through this website, or look at books that talk about a range of different practices.

Titles I might suggest looking at include:

  • Twelve Wild Swans by Starhawk and Hilary Valentine (also an excellent example of deepening personal practice using the same story/structure over time.)
  • Thorn Coyle’s books Kissing the Limitless and Make Magic of Your Life
  • Diana Paxson’s book Trance-Portation (about trance and meditation.)

4) Build your brain.

Seek out people who go deeper or have expertise.
If you’re not already reading places where you can learn more (blogs or an active forum), now is a good time to go look for a place or two that will help with that. Some options include short workshops, events like Pagan Pride or a Pagan conference, or an online forum with a variety of participants.

Read (and learn) more widely. 
You should include books and materials about non-Pagan topics, or areas where you’re not directly interested in practice. One option can be to pick a theme and read books related to that. Some possible topics include:

  • Food – where it comes from, food and cooking traditions, ways we can think about our food and food production.
  • Folklore and traditions – pick a place that’s meaningful to you, whether that’s where you’re living now, your family background, or a place that’s related to deities you’re honouring.
  • Books related to the four elements – you might seek out books that talk about earth-related things, or air-related things. (You can apply this basic concept to other methods of looking at the world, like land-sea-sky, too.)
  • Books featuring people of a particular profession or interest as a main character. (There are tons of mystery series out there where the main character does something with fiber arts, or some other craft, for example. Even light fiction can give you insights about the world or that craft.)

You can also apply this to what you watch.
There are some amazing documentaries and other related programs out there if you have a  streaming video account. Podcasts can be a great option if you like listening to things rather than watching them, or audio books.

Pick up a new skill that supports or deepens part of your path.
Think outside the Pagan box. For example, if you honour a deity who has an association with the fiber arts, you might decide to learn how to spin, weave, or knit. You might experiment with recipes from a particular region, or traditional crafts.

5) Feed your connections.

Feed your connections.
Try something new and different for you. Learn from others about their paths in more depth, not with the intention of doing those things, but of learning different ways people do things and why they matter.

Start developing some contacts who can be resources.
Take some time to seek out resources that might talk about topics of particular interest. If you’re a parent, you might look for blogs or authors (or just people on a similar path) who talk about parenting and their Pagan practice. If you have chronic health issues, you might seek out some places to talk about that. If you’d like to deepen your practice, find some people who are a couple of steps ahead of you on a similar enough path. Again, a good active forum or discussion space may do this for you in one place.

The goal here is not to find ‘a teacher’ (though that might be a suitable choice for you) but to spend a little bit of time building and maintaining connections with other people so that when you have a particular question or hit a particular challenge, you have some idea where to turn.

[last edited December 23, 2016]

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