Taking inventory

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Before you set out on a new religious journey, it’s probably a good time to stop and check in with yourself about what your life looks like now. These questions should give you a starting point, but feel free to add any others to your own list that make sense to you.

Your history and background:

What’s your own religious background?
Were you brought up in a particular faith or practice?What other faiths or practices did you experience growing up? (Attending services with a friend, or having family members in a different faith?) Did you continue your childhood faith practice into adulthood?

How do you feel about  that faith now?
Some people look for a new religious path because their current one is just not the right fit anymore. Some leave because of a horrible problem (or more than one.) For a lot of people, there’s something in the middle: there may be some things you liked and some you didn’t.

In your previous experiences with religion what things really moved you?
This may come from your own former practices, or it could come from things you did  with friends, or even something you saw on TV or in a movie, or read about. Some people really enjoy community rituals, others are deeply moved by music or art or ritual theatre, others really want a connection with a deity or the people around them.

If you don’t have previous religious experiences that are meaningful for you, think about other times you’ve felt awe, wonder, or a desire to expand yourself.

In your previous experiences with religion or with magic, what things were unpleasant for you? Which ones simply turned you off?
When you’ve come across references to modern Paganism, what made them interesting to you? We all know that media representations of Paganism can be deeply flawed. But at the same time, a lot of us find a lot to love in the midnight margarita scene in Practical Magic (laughter and fun!) or have moments out of the Harry Potter series that feel numinous to us, even though we know they’re fiction.

Knowing the type of thing that resonates with you can help you go look for more of it. Knowing which things make you uncomfortable (in not-useful ways) can help you filter out paths, groups, or practices that aren’t a good fit for you.

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Your current interests?

Sit down and make a list – brainstorming – of all the things that you’re vaguely interested in that are related to Paganism. Maybe that’s different ritual practices or days to celebrate. Maybe that’s deity names. Maybe that’s types of divination. Maybe it’s all sorts of other things, like hoping there’s a group you can find that you’d fit with, or caring about how a path handle gender or relationships, or that they’d support a particular experience you’ve had.

Once you have a big (chaotic!) list, you can go through and sort out which ones are most important to you. Chances are, some things will be very important to you (deal-breakers) and some things will be strong preferences, and some things will be things that you’re interested in, but not a priority.

It’s worth doing this exercise every six months or so for the first couple of years you’re interested in Paganism. Do it without looking at the old one, and then compare – you may find that things shift a lot as you learn more and try things out.

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Current limitations:

All of us have limits on what we can do. Before you go out looking for options, it’s probably a good idea to think through what yours are. That way, if they become relevant, you’ll be aware of them.

Location:
It’s good to know what you might get to, so you can sort through local or regional options. If you don’t drive, you might be limited to the public transit schedule, for example.

Schedule:
Do you have a lot of external commitments? A rotating work schedule or an unpredictable one? This can make it harder to plan time for private practice. 

Are you responsible for other people?
If you have young children or are tending to elderly parents, you might have the same kinds of challenges as someone with a busy or unpredictable schedule.

Health:
If you have chronic health issues, you may need to measure out how many things you do in a day (or a week, or a month) carefully. Some kinds of practice may be harder for you (though some may be easier). You may need to avoid some things because they conflict with medications or your condition.

Technology:
You’ll have different resources if you have a home computer and a good Internet connection than if you don’t have Internet at home, or you spend most of your time using your phone or a tablet device.

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Opportunities and strengths:

Of course, you probably also have some opportunities and strengths. You might want to list those out.

  • Resources you already know you have access to.  (Books. Local stores. Community events. Trusted friends who can point you at good resources.)
  • Access to space: Is there a park near you? Do you have a garden? Do you have quiet in your home for meditation?
  • Technical or research skills (like being able to do a good Internet search or how to use your local library.)
  • Reading or speaking other languages (especially if they’re relevant for a path you’re interested in.)
  • Skills like cooking or art or music or making beautiful things (or heartfelt things) that you could use as part of your path.
  • People you know who know interesting things – for example, a friend of mine speaks fluent Latvian (she’s offered her help to people I know who are interested.)
  • Other relevant skills: some people already have a devotional practice or a meditation practice for other reasons. If so, adapting it to Pagan practices can be fairly easy.

[last edited December 23, 2016]

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