A group of people dance the spiral around a roaring bonfire, their song rising into the night sky. A solitary Wiccan casts a circle in her living room, calling out to the Lord and Lady so that she may work her magic. Several Heathens raise their horns to honor the Norse gods and goddesses.
When I think of Paganism, I think of ritual. Personally, I find the pageantry alluring and, when effective, a wonderfully fulfilling way to honor the spirits who inspire and sustain me. Ritual can be daunting, however, especially to someone new to modern Paganism. Perhaps there are space considerations in the home, or there are certain tools that still need to be created or acquired.
One need not perform elaborate ritual to practice Paganism, though. In fact, there are five things you can do right now to take your first steps on the path.
1. Greet the sun
Sun gods and goddesses are abundant in ancient Pagan religions, and with good reason: the sun is life. Nothing could survive without the sun’s light and warmth. Step outside and give gratitude to the sun, using any words you’d like. Feel its warmth on your skin, its energy, and power.
2. Know a tree
To ancient pagans across Europe, trees were an important part of religious practice. Sometimes worship was held in groves of trees, or sacred spaces were centered on a particular tree. In Scandinavia, the ash tree Yggdrasil was considered the very structure of the cosmos.
Do you have a favorite tree you like to visit, or perhaps have a tree near your home that you don’t know very well? Now is the perfect time to forge a relationship with that tree. If you are able, try to identify the tree. Is its bark different from other trees? How are its leaves shaped? Is the wood of the tree used for any kind of product?
How does the tree feel on a spiritual level? When you meditate at its base, how does the tree make you feel? Does it impart wisdom to you? If so, what is that wisdom? It may take some time to cultivate a relationship with the spirit of a tree. Try to spend some time with the tree to grow that relationship. Give the tree gifts in the form of offerings. Something as simple as a cup of clean water will do.
3. Dispose of litter
Paganism honors the holy within nature. Many of the spirits of the ancient world had a natural component, not to mention the plethora of earth gods and goddesses found in each culture. Modern paganism recognizes these connections, and naturally grew in tandem with the environmental movement of the 60s and 70s.
Any environmentally conscious act can be an act of devotion to the spirits. If you ever find yourself hiking, dispose of the litter you may find on the trails. This can be another way to forge relationships with the spirits, and you may eventually find yourself with powerful allies.
4. Search for inspiration
The Poetic Edda, Mabinogion, the Táin, and the Theogony are examples of sacred texts that are rich in the legends of ancient pagan Europe. They are also teeming with inspiration to guide you on the pagan path. Perhaps you’ll come across a certain deity or spirit with whom you wish to connect with. While some copies of these works can get quite expensive, there are free translations available on-line at the Internet Sacred Text Archive.
In my own personal experience, whenever I am feeling disconnected from the gods and spirits, I reach out to the lore. This often helps me reconnect to the spirits, setting me right on the path once more.
5. Live well
People throughout the ages have always tried to live up to their potential as good human beings, sometimes modeling their actions after those they consider the pinnacle of virtue: the gods. Indeed, the old sagas are full of stories about heroes in pursuit of a virtuous life, with examples of success and the consequences of failure found throughout these tales. Virtuous living did not remain confined to the old stories, however, as people, both ancient and modern, strive to “live well” according to their own personal values and codes.
Some reflection is in order for this kind of question. What does it mean to you to “live well?” Do you follow a set of virtues? If so, what are they? What do you consider your values? Making a list of virtues and values can be helpful. How does it feel to succeed in living your virtues? On the other side of the coin, what do you do when you fail? What things can you do to make sure you remain on the right path in regards to your virtues?
If you’re unsure what virtues are important to you, there are many examples that can be found on-line or in literature. Exploring these concepts can be a highly rewarding endeavor as you seek to guide your own personal development.
While this list is not meant to be comprehensive, it is meant to be accessible to folks who are taking their first steps on the pagan path, without the need to purchase or acquire anything. Feel free to modify or expand these ideas as you see fit. For example, if you are reading this article at night, perhaps you can greet the moon instead. You can start being pagan today, and hopefully some of these ideas will help you with those first steps.