I’m sure you’ve met one. Who knows – maybe you are one. You know, those Pagans who claim lineage.
Some claim to be descended directly from Gerald Gardner (Britsh Traditionals).
Still others claim to have been part of some hidden coven in the New Forest that taught them everything (oh wait! That’s Gardner again).
From then on, of course, they’re infinitely better and so much more Pagan than you.
Feel insecure and insufficient yet? Yep. That’s the idea.
My potted history in Paganism
You want to know my Pagan lineage? Here it is: I got interested in Paganism through various books as a teenager, and then got together with a few like-minded friends. And we made stuff up.
We flew by pulling ourselves up by our shoelaces.
We knew nothing except that we wanted to learn. So we supported each other in the learning process, did a whole stack of courses and training, some more reputable than others, and gradually started figuring things out.
Some stuff worked, other stuff really worked, and a lot of stuff didn’t work at all. We were really, really eclectic! We read everything we could get our hands on, from Campbell and Frazer and Kramer to Starhawk and Fox and Buckland – and a whole lot besides.
I was involved with two main covens through the 90s and early century – MoonSpell Coven (which I originated) and then Akasha Coven, which I created and for which I was the HPS. Many of the members of those groups are still practicing, and almost all of them remain my friends.
Akasha in particular was very active in the wider Pagan scene in Melbourne, Australia, offering classes and public gatherings that attracted large groups of people and were very sucessful. My involvement in the Pagan scene wound down when I had children and just couldn’t keep up with the hours required for regular work.
But lineage? I have none. None of my friends do either – or they didn’t when I was working with them. Maybe they do now. But I still don’t. I’ve been in the Pagan scene since I was a teenager, I’m 43 now, so that’s about 25 years of practice, and I’m still unlineaged.
I’d say I’m pretty experienced now. I’m still considered a Pagan Leader in certain circles, and quite knowledgeable, but I feel like a novice in a lot of areas. I’m learning all the time. I love learning all the time! I’d never call myself an expert, although I know quite a bit by now.
Time is, change is…
That’s just it with Paganism though. It’s such a huge field that you never stop learning. Nobody is ever really an expert – not of everything, anyway. If anyone calls themselves an “expert” or starts giving themselves titles in my presence, my Bullshit Detector starts twitching. Like a Timey Wimey Detector, it goes Ding! when there’s Stuff.
Does lineage matter?
The truth is, lineage doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The whole point of Paganism is that you do what you want, what works for you – without the need for a clergy. So you certainly don’t need someone Uber Important telling you what to do.
No practitioner is more important than the rest, simply because of who they happen to know or claim to know. Or claim to have learned from.
I’ve been fortunate in my time to have taken classes with some of the “big names” in Paganism. Did they teach me anything that was intrinsically better than what I figured out on my own? No. Maybe I’m just not someone with a “groupie” mindset, but although the experience of working with these people was generally good, it didn’t make me a better practitioner.
What has made me a better practitioner has been experience. Years and years of it. Making lots of mistakes. Learning from lots of different people from all different walks of life. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and doing the figuring out for myself.
I’ve made some big balls ups in ritual. Some of them at large public events I was running. I’ve stuffed up, screwed up, and ballsed up. It all helped me learn. I’ve had to learn humility, and I’ve had to have a healthy sense of humour.
Skills for becoming a better practitioner
I can’t reiterate it enough – a piece of paper, or a certain lineage, or a course from an education centre, no matter how reputable – none of these can make you a better practitioner.
What will make you a better practitioner is learning to listen to your own, inner self.
Learning to take in what works for you, and toss what doesn’t.
Learning to discriminate between the good and the not so good.
Learning to accept that everyone is different, and that what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you.
Having a sense of humour will make you a better practitioner, as will learning to not take yourself too seriously.
Learning that you will always, always be a novice in the world in most fields will help, while recognising that most of the people who claim to be adepts are actually novices too is also useful.
Learning to have a fully functional Bullshit Detector is a valuable asset. Learning that most people are just fumbling along in the dark is another useful asset. And being especially wary of anyone with titles or claims is a real, serious asset – hang on to that, no matter who you meet or what they claim to be!
Lineage isn’t important. The biggest fool can train, and the biggest fool can make claims. What is meaningful, in the end, is what you choose, what is purposeful and worthwhile for you.
My path continues…
Like I said, I have no lineage. It is meaningless to me. I’m self taught, and taught by many, and taught by Life, and taught by the Goddess Aphrodite. That is humbling and empowering and enough for me.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to teach many, many others, and help them find their own paths, their own journeys.
I started on this path 25 years ago, maybe more. I’m excited to see where it leads me. But one thing I do know – I don’t need titles or claims or lineage or Big Wazoo outfits to impress anybody.
This journey is for my Goddess and for me.