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Sometimes I Think We Talk Too Much

and sometimes I think we don't talk enough. 


When I was coming up in these spiritual systems, it was all about connecting with some Divines, usually a cobbled together "pantheon" of cultures and attributes that we liked.  We set that up within the elegant framework of the Wheel of the Year. I love the Wheel because it is a sweet crucible for connecting, as well as celebrating and honoring. Simple and very user-friendly.  There are two Solstices and two Equinoxes (and don't bother to correct me--I know those aren't the accurate plurals)--placeholders that mark the visible change in seasons in those places that still have four of those.  They actually happen--they are not based on lore or myth.  You can look them up--they happen for everyone at the same time.

In between are the perfect markers for the four things that rule our lives, or should.  In between the Quarters are the crux of the agricultural year--a time to plant, a time to tend, a time to harvest and a time to rest.

Simple, elegant. You can layer whatever cultural overlay you like and then get on with the business of your spirituality. We celebrated holidays and honored the Divines. Sometimes we gathered together to do these things and sometimes we went out in the woods behind the house and did our thing.

That was decades ago in times that now seem so much simpler than today.  We were all called "Pagans" and many were called "Witches"--both carefully capped. We usually got  training in some tradition or other and we often got degrees that showed either how far we'd advanced in training or how useful we were to the group.

Yep, there were now-legendary "Witch Wars"--territorial more than dogmatic--that shattered vulnerable communities and fractured existing groups. We began to behave like every little Independent Baptist church in the South--when the leadership no longer worked, we left to form our own.  

And we continued to meet in groups and follow the Wheel, deepening our knowledge of the Mysteries, figuring out what we believed (if anything) and working out ways to express that through ritual, ceremony and the written and sung word.

We shared new rituals with each other and tried them out, seeing what worked for us and what didn't.  And though I am using the past tense--we still do that. The sharing and the experimenting are part of what makes these spiritual systems so vital, so attractive to Americans who feel that the churches of their upbringing no longer serve their spiritual needs.

And here we are--connected globally with all sorts of interesting people doing all sorts of interesting things.  I have a friend in South Africa and a friend in Australia with whom I natter and compare, trying always to remember that while I prep for Beltane, they are getting ready for Samhain. And vice versa.  

Now, I spend time reading through conversations on Facebook and here and over at Wild Hunt (amongst other resources) and I simply stop reading part-way through. Tit for tat, strawman arguments, assertions of correctness and authority. These discussion go on and on, seemingly never finding a place to land. No compromise and no retreat.

It's exhausting to read them--I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to continue them, day after day. And the thought that floats--unbidden--into my head is--don't you folks have a holy day to celebrate? A dark or full Moon?  Aren't there Divines to honor (and sometimes appease and entertain)?  Isn't there a garden that could be started and a community to see to?

And before you start in on me, go revisit the first line of this post.

For some people, there is still so much to say, so much to explore and understand, so many points to get across.  We are all learning how to find solid ground in this shifting spiritual world and one of the first things we need to do is to find out where we already stand in relation to our kindred.

I do get that.  Tit for tat. Marking territory like spraying cats. Who are the Divines? Who am I? Who are "we?" I personally love the information-gathering and sharing. What I object to is the sense of judgment about what others do or don't do.  What does it matter if you think the Divines are singular or plural? "Real" or archetypes? 

It only matters to you and those who celebrate with you. Haven't we learned from other proselytizing religions that we don't change other people by arguing that we are right and they are wrong?

So, if you need to fight on a public forum and point out the error of someone else's practice or belief, you have every right to do that. I may even choose to do it myself on occasion. But isn't there a garden to grow? A community to tend?

Isn't there a holy day to relish and share?

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Trine
    Trine Wednesday, 06 March 2013

    Well said. When I first started on my path almost a decade ago, I remember that eclecticism was the Big Thing. In the forums I frequented, you were either Wiccan, or you were Eclectic of some kind. And people bickered over whether you really were Wiccan if you were also using rituals or pantheons from other religions, or whether you could really treat religion like a smorgasbord and help yourself to your favorites (maybe they still do; I don't move in those circles anymore), but I was member of a few, lively forums that enjoyed a good debate on pretty much everything.

    Now the focus seems to have changed to a much more black/white view on religion and spirituality, especially where reconstructionism is involved. Reconstructionism seems to be the Big Thing now, and I see some people write "I was Wiccan, but then I moved on", as if Wicca only acts as a take-off strip for most Pagans. The lively forums have died down - they have moved to Facebook or other social networking sites, or they have turned their attention away from the Internet to focus on real-life discussion instead (which I think is great, but not so much for solitaries like me who no longer know any Pagans nearby). And I honestly think some forums went quiet because no one could agree on the "right" thing to do anymore.

    So much has changed since I started out - some for the better, some for the worse.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Wednesday, 06 March 2013

    It's a tribute to the health of these spiritual systems that we can change and move--I only wish we didn't leave so much behind. Thanks for reading this. I appreciate it.

  • Trine
    Trine Wednesday, 06 March 2013

    I should perhaps also note that I'm writing from a Scandinavian perspective. I think the movements have changed in their own ways in different countries/settings, but I see some of the same changes in American circles as I do in those of my home country. I wonder if they influence each other, or if it's a "natural" evolution.

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