Where to Start?
I have been pondering this question for a while now. Where do we start when we are new to a path? Do we dive into worshiping the Gods? Should we?
I start at the Beginning. A very good place to start. Now that I’ve gotten my obligatory homage to Sound of Music out of my head…
I start with the Creation Story. I start with where everything began, how it came to be, and I let the listener make up their mind how they wish to interpret it. The point is, is that the Story is told. We, eventually, are placed within the Story. Without the cosmological understanding of how and why the Universe came to be, and where we fit in, what point is there in going on to the Gods? If you do not understand how you relate to the Gods it is hard to begin to understand Them, much less worship Them, in anything like a proper context, or understanding.
Even if we do not understand the stories of creating the Worlds, the plants, animals, insects, etc., as literally true as-written, we can understand it on a level that transcends literalism, being true in its own way. In the Norse Creation Story the first two Elements are Fire and Ice, Surt the Black being the First Being followed by Ymir. Without going exhaustively through the text I can already tell some basic things: Fire and Ice are the Prime motivators of all life that follow, and all things began in the Void, the Ginnungagap. They come into being naturally, needing no external force, or at least, no external force(s) that are remarked upon in the Story. That, in and of itself, is important. The Gods are not above or beyond the bounds of ‘what must be’ or ‘what is’ or ‘what is to come’ (Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld). They are, as much as They might be representatives, controllers, and/or arbiters of ‘what must be’, ‘what is’, and ‘what is to come’, in various fashion, part of Creation. Nearly every Creation Story I can think of starts in darkness of some kind, some kind of nothingness. So we come from what was not, becoming what is, and following into what is to come. All things are bound in Wyrd in this way.
I start with teaching the belief that the Gods and spirits are real, that our Ancestors live on in Death in a spiritual form even if They reincarnate, and that there are spirits all around us in many forms.
When new to a path I encourage people to ask questions, and then again, I encourage questions when one is well-seasoned on a path. There can never be enough questions. Even at ten years of being a Pagan I still have questions. So ask, and do research. Explore. Keep researching. I have been a Pagan 10 years and I am still, and I pray, will always, be learning new things.
I asked if we should dive into worshiping the Gods. I think that if you can you should. The same with praying to the Ancestors and spirits, especially the land spirits of where you live. If you can stand before an altar, a tree, a rock, and/or an image and offer words, a cup of water, a small candle, or a ‘hello’ just to start, do it. Do it even if you’re not 100% sure that the Gods, Ancestors, or spirits are real.
Sometimes the best prayers are simple. The purpose of prayer is to thank, ask questions, and/or make a request of a God/dess, Ancestors, and/or spirit, Sometimes learning a prayer, such as Sigdrifa’s Prayer, is both an offering unto itself in addition to being a beautiful prayer. Images on on your computer work well for visualizing the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and lighting a digital candle is fine as an offering in my book. I used to live in a dorm room, and when I started I had 8 salt crystals in a small glass bottle and prayed on my dorm room floor. I started worshiping the Gods after doing a little bit of research and a single lesson. My relationships have changed fairly dramatically, but I learned how to worship the Gods, by-and-large, by worshiping Them. I learned how to worship the Gods by refusing to not ask questions. To explore, and to screw up.
However you can, start. However you can, keep it up. Do the best you can wherever you can. Learn as much as you can, read all the stories of your Gods that you can get your hands on. Learn all you can about your Ancestors, if you are able. Learn about the spirits from your tradition(s), and especially from the locals if you know any. Network, if you are able to and it is safe to do so. Cultivate the relationships between yourself, the Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and communities around you however you can. Know that you might not get clear answers from Them, that many who have worshiped the Gods their whole lives don’t always receive clear answers if they do get one. Sometimes, maybe every time, you get silence in response to your prayers, and that is okay. There are going to be down days, up days, days where your faith in your path, Gods, Ancestors, spirits, life itself, etc. is going to be challenged, and shaken; there may be days where your faith is blown clear out of the water, or raised up so high you’ll wonder how it was ever down. However you can just keep walking. Ultimately the relationship is between you, the Gods, the Ancestors, and the spirits.
This is just the start.