Thea's Inbox: Questions from Beginners
Wiccan essentials for beginning your path or getting back to basics.
Can I Be Pagan and Christian?
I’ve been studying Wicca, and it really appeals to me. But I was raised Christian. Can I practice both at the same time?
First off, you should know that this is a very loaded question, and you might receive different answers from different Wiccans, Pagans, and Christians. This is my two cents, but I don’t pretend to speak for everyone in these communities.
Can It Be Done?
I think it’s not impossible to practice Wicca or Paganism and Christianity fully at the same time, but it’s difficult, because there's a fundamental conflict over deity. Christianity asks Christians to accept Jesus as their savior, and the Bible makes it pretty clear that the Christian god is the only god for Christians. Pagans, however, usually worship gods other than or in addition to the Christian god. So it’s challenging to be a fully practicing Christian and a fully practicing Pagan at the same time, while still being true to both traditions.
That said, I have seen people have success with choosing one of the paths as their main path, and integrating elements of the other path into their practice. For example, one of the most beautiful and powerful rituals I’ve ever been in was one done by indigenous Mexicans, who called their traditional gods together with the Virgin Mary. And I’ve known some practicing Christians who add some Pagan ritual elements, like working with the elements, into their private devotional practice. Some churches, such as the Unitarian Universalist Church, are reasonably accepting of Paganism. Making this work requires being flexible.
First, Ask Yourself Why
If you are serious about practicing both paths, to be completely in integrity with your practice and yourself you need to ask yourself why you want to do both. If you’re keeping Christianity as your ace in the hole, you’re not really respecting either Christianity or Paganism.
Most often, the people who ask me whether they can be Pagan and Christian at the same time are young beginners who have discovered Wicca or Paganism at a point when they are trying to individuate from their families. They have a natural yearning to try something new, but also want to hang on to the comfort of the old. Some are afraid that becoming Pagan will make their families mad, so they keep practicing Christianity publicly to avoid conflict. Some of them have been raised to believe that Wicca and Paganism are evil, so they try to practice both paths because they feel guilty about their interest in Paganism—almost like they think that if they’re Christian, too, it somehow makes their illicit Paganism okay. Neither of these is a good reason to practice both paths together.
If, however, your reason is because you love both paths and you feel that blending them in some way will help you have a more well-rounded and fulfilling spiritual life, that’s a very legitimate reason. Be honest with yourself. What do you really, truly want? And how flexible can you be to make it happen?
Know that choosing to practice both paths together may get you some unwanted attention. Christianity and Paganism don’t exactly have a happy history together. Traditionally, Christianity has taken a pretty dim view of Wicca and Paganism. And more than a few Wiccans and Pagans have had negative experiences with Christianity and carry around anger or hurt about it. Accept the fact that everyone in both camps, everyone’s brother, and everyone’s brother’s gerbil will have an opinion about your choice, in part because you're breaking the rules, and in part because they feel your choice to do both paths somehow undermines their own choice not to. Validating their spirituality is not your problem. If practicing both is what you really feel called to do, stand firm and get a thick skin. It’s nobody else’s damn business.
Forging Your Own Path
The other big challenge is that if you practice both traditions together, you’ll likely be forging your own path. Others have done it already, but there’s still not a lot of precedent, and there isn’t an instruction manual. I haven’t read the books below, so I can’t tell you how good they are, but they might help you get started.
ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path by Joyce Higginbotham and River Higginbotham
The Path of a Christian Witch byAdelina St. Clair
Best of luck. You’re not choosing the easy road, but it might well be a very rewarding one.
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