Home > Spirituality, Standards and Terms in Paganism > Standards and Terms in Paganism -Dabbler

Standards and Terms in Paganism -Dabbler

I am thinking I may start a new line of blogging here and offer my own take on a lot of commonly tossed-around words and turns of phrase, and offer my own insight into them.  I will start with the word dabbler.  The definition according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is this: “one not deeply engaged in or concerned with something”.

A dabbler in painting might try the art for a few weeks, maybe even make a few pictures, but does not carry it as a hobby or interest for long.  A dabbler in religion, to me, is quite similar.  A dabbler might fervently embrace something, maybe even for up to a year, but make no contribution to their growth in the art, field, etc. of value to themselves or others, and ultimately, dispirited or bored with it, will drop it.  Do I look down on such people?

Qualitatively, no.  It really depends on the kind of dabbling the person is doing.  If they are, say, getting into Paganism for kicks or because the pentacle looks good with their clothes (I’ve never actually met a person like this) then I’d look down on them.  They’re turning a viable spiritual path into a shock-value oriented gig.  If they dabble, say, trying to do a circle and maybe a spell and find it’s not for them, I do not begrudge them at all.  I have met some Christians who have dabbled in magic and sometimes Paganism.  Oftentimes they dabble and stop going forward, not because the spells don’t work, or the Gods don’t talk to them, but because they do. They have their reasons for not picking up Paganism or a healthy dose of spellcasting, and that is their right as a person to choose.  I don’t begrudge them that at all.

If the person is dabbling at being a priest/ess, then yes, I do look down on them.  Dabbling at being any kind of spiritual leader fills me with a kind of disgust.  I don’t quite know how to define it, but it is a definite loathing.  The reason is, in my way, being a priest/ess is being a mouthpiece, or as needed, an intermediary at times when people don’t ‘hear’ the message from the Gods.  Does this automatically place you above other people when you receive this calling?  No.  I’ve known people who fulfill my definition who can be jerks.  What being a priest, as opposed to being a priest-dabbler, is that this work does not stop at the end of ritual, but extends into your life.  This doesn’t mean that the whole of your life is forgotten because you’re a priest/ess, nor does it mean all things become about God/dess ‘x’ or spirits ‘y’.  This means that you serve a purpose, and not at your whim, and not for your ego.  You do it for your God(s)/Goddess(es), and/or spirits, and your community.

Being a dabbler at being a priest means that you say you serve a God/dess or spirits when you do not.  It means that you take on the role of priest/ess during rituals but extend none of the spiritual work that such a role can entail.  What is part of your work as a priest/ess is entirely dependent on your relationship with a God/dess of course; if they only ask you to be a mouthpiece/ritualist at times They designate then you are being Their priest/ess after Their requirements for you.  However, as I see the words priest and priestess, the ego of the person doing the work is usually the last thing considered, and you serve your God(s), and/or spirits, then your community as the Gods/spirits require.  If you’re not in some way serving the Gods and/or spirits and community, then you are not doing the work of a priest.

So in essence my standard for a dabbler that I see positively is this: 1) You are honestly trying at what you’re pursuing.  2)  You may not be fully committed, but you are open to working with the art, religion, etc.  3)  If and/or when you drop off from the artwork or the religious work, you’re not virulently anti-painting or anti-Pagan; you understand you learned some things but it wasn’t for you.  The negatives I see for dabbling are the opposite of these.  If you are not going to honestly pursue the object of your work, if you can’t commit to it, and if you can’t help but be completely negative if things don’t pan out, don’t even bother dipping your toes in the pond.  It will be a waste of your and others’ time and energy.  One might say ‘your positive definition of a dabbler is what I would call a seeker’.  So you may.  I call them dabbler because the lessons of the path are usually only partially integrated into their journey at best, or looks at as fond memories of something they engaged in for fun or growth.

Note: I don’t feel being a dabbler makes you a bad person.  It doesn’t even make you suspect; it just means that you have not committed to studying this art or that path with the same fervor and determination that those dedicated to the path do.  Some who call themselves Pagan may dabble on and off in their faith as times and needs take them.  This does not make them better or worse than I.  They’re at different stages in their journey than I, and I recognize that journey may not take them anywhere near what I have experienced as a Pagan.  Perhaps that is better for them.   My journey is, ultimately, right for me.

That said, my journey as a Pagan has lead me to reevaluate the meanings of things, especially standards and terms used in Paganism.  I want the word ‘dabbler’ to mean something, just as I want the word ‘priest’ to mean something as well.  I may not arrive at anything concrete during these posts, but I at least hope to generate discussion and perhaps some ideas of what people see these words to mean.  Maybe through these writings, and hopefully dialogue, I may even have myself or another reconsider and redefine how a word is used in the Pagan community.

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