New Practitioners and Their Partners
Dear Witchful Thinking,
I am new to the craft and my boyfriend is interested in possibly practicing with me. How should I explain the craft to him while at the same time learn about it for myself?
The strange thing about Paganism and Wicca, as opposed to other religions, is that individual practitioners are expected by others to be experts in our religion. This is almost unheard of in other religions. A big part of this is because 1) the vast majority of us start out as solitary practitioners; 2) we don’t have recognized clergy to point to; and 3) with no one to tell us what to think (not that we’d allow it!), we end up digesting it all anyway. Some of it may have to do with the fact that others who not know very many Pagans personally, so individuals come to represent the entire religion for them. That’s a lot of pressure!
In a way, your boyfriend may expect this kind of knowledge from you. It’s ok to be straightforward about it–tell him that you are still learning! The good thing about this is that you don’t have to come out of the broom closet later. In the meantime, point your partner to some informational sources that are good and accurate. Our loved ones will have a genuine need to know that you are not getting into something dangerous, and because they love you, they will naturally want to understand what you believe. That’s hard to explain when you aren’t sure yourself! Don’t sell yourself as an expert and a teacher when you are not yet.
Look to outside authorities to help you explain things to him. You can send him to websites like this one, where he can simply ask a question, or to a good FAQ site. There are some very excellent books for people that aren’t considering a change of religion, but want to know about what you are doing. I highly recommend When Someone You Love Is Wiccan because it uses a Q & A format. I also suggest The Truth About Witchcraft Today because it explains things without assuming the reader will want to do it themselves. Remember, we aren’t trying to convert our friends and family!
There is a temptation to try and get our partners to follow us into a new passion, especially when you find something as meaningful as the Craft. The idea of reading the same books and sharing new insights and journey into spellcraft and sex magick is very romantic! But our partners have their own interests and their own spiritual journeys to travel–which may not be in the same direction as yours, or at the same time. If they do take an interest to it–great! You two can study together! But rarely does one partner have the same level of interest and commitment as the other. And that’s totally ok. It may not be ideal, but that is the reality of couples in Paganism and Wicca.
Just as your partner has a right to not be interested in your new religion, you absolutely have a right to. If your partner is denying you access to your spirituality, berating you for your beliefs, destroying your sacred images and ritual items, then that is spiritual abuse. Just as you wouldn’t allow your partner to hit you, you cannot allow your partner to use this kind of mind control. Disinterest in your activities, however, is not spiritual abuse. Some partners prefer to keep their religion private, even from their lovers.
With that out of the way…there are some things you and your partner can do to explore the religion together, or ways your partner can support your learning. I haven’t seen a decent book about practicing Wicca together, so maybe someone needs to write one. At any rate, here are some activities you can do together:
- Search out and visit Pagan and occult stores. Try looking on Witchvox. The adventure of finding them is always a good time, and the two of you can giggle and wonder at the strange herbs and instruments. Perhaps the braver of you might actually talk to the store owner.
- Attend public ritual. Remember that you may be going for a spiritual experience, but your partner may only be there to support you. My partner goes to meet the interesting people, while I often am priestessing at these events. It is fun to debrief afterward and explore what you both got out of the experience.
- Do Esbat and Sabbat rituals out of books. Find a nice one for solitary practitioners, like this one, and break up the duties of the ritual. Perhaps one can cast circle while the other calls the quarters. Feed each other cake and ale. Take turns picking out which rituals to try. If you enjoy doing them together, you might end up creating a BoS for two!
- Celebrate the Sabbats. I include my partner in my seasonal celebrations outside of the ritual. For example, at Lughnasadh, we have a huge Thanksgiving-like meal that he gets to enjoy, or we’ll share a special bottle of wine. I may invite friends over to dance round a maypole in the back yard…whatever you do, don’t keep it a secret! The day may not be special to your partner, but it is meaningful to you. So go on, give him a Yule gift–and let him know before hand how appreciative you’d be of one too!
- Take classes together. I bet there are ones near you, or you can do a course out of a book. Perhaps start with this one or this one, and move on to this one when you are feeling up to the challenge. If you are in college, consider taking a Greek mythology class, or ancient religion to get a new perspective.
And remember again that your partner may not be looking to get the same thing out of the class that you are. They may give up all together, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up! Our partners can really add to our personal spiritual journeys, but it is easy to allow them to divert us from it too. I have seen couples stop practicing all together, or even convert to other religions, because of their current relationship. True partnerships will enrich the lives of both (or all) involved.
Welcome to Paganism and Wicca, Confused Scholar!