Brynn's early life was magical, but her love of adventure and the unknown soon took her down darker paths. Destination: Enlightenment.
There are many alternative religions out there waiting for you to discover them. However, alternative religions are not "one size fits all;" each spiritual path has a unique belief system and culture, and each attracts different personality types.
Surprisingly, I have seen people get unhappily mired in alternative religions, much like people get stuck in traditional religions. I have also seen people prematurely give up on their new spiritual path because they can't stand their fellow worshippers. I believe that both issues can be resolved by not only thoroughly researching each religion's spiritual beliefs (and RULES) long before joining a group, but also recognizing that each religion attracts different personality types; those people may have created distinct mini-cultures filled with exactly the kind of people you hate. This is an issue rarely discussed in new age communities, but it can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks on your new spiritual path.
Wicca is the most widely-known of the alternative religions; therefore, people tend to stumble into it thinking it will meet all their spiritual needs. They mistakenly view it as a sort of antithesis of Christianity and its limitations on personal freedom. Unfortunately, this misconception can leave new followers feeling spiritually unsatisfied.
Thankfully, the outdated stereotypical image of green, wart-nosed "witches" dressed in all black and pointy hats has been all but banished thanks to the Wiccans. It was their hard work and sacrifice that created a safer and more accepting atmosphere for all alternative faiths to practice their religions more freely and with far less judgement.
Contrary to popular knowledge, Wicca isn't just about performing spells or collecting crystals; there are two defined deities (Lord and Lady) which Wiccans must honor. There is also a heavy emphasis on Nature and many rituals are to be performed in accordance with the lunar and solar cycles. Surprisingly, Wicca requires a great deal of discipline, because spells and ritual must be performed on certain dates and times and in certain ways. Don't join Wicca thinking it is a free-for-all and you get to do whatever you want; occasionally chanting a few spells and putting a pentagram on the back of your car doesn't mean you're Wiccan. There are different rituals for different holidays and you are expected to follow the ritual for each holiday because obviously Ostara (fertility rite) is not the same as Samhain (honoring ancestors).
Part of the misunderstanding comes from the Wiccan creed: "An it harm no one." It seems quite liberal, and when it comes to imposing rules on individual behavior, it is. Generally, it means following the law of the land and acting like a decent human being. However, when attending "open" Wiccan gatherings, you quickly realize that Wicca tends to attract a lot of weirdos who use the Wiccan creed as an excuse to act like jerks.
Wicca also tends to attract people who believe personal hygiene and a clean home are against the laws of nature and if you join an open circle, you will notice the drawbacks of this attitude pretty quickly.
Wicca frowns upon the use of "dark" magic, although the temptation is there and spells using black magic abound. Obviously this goes against its creed and adherents believe that karma will most definitely punish you for harming others. So don't be Wiccan because you want to destroy your enemies. There are other religions that let you do that.
Pronounced "assah-true," Asatru is an ancient religion with a surprisingly complicated mythology. Modern Asatru is based on the Poetic Edda and the history of the Vikings and the Norse people of Scandinavia. Through archeological finds, we know that the Northern Europeans worshipped Norse gods such as Odin (Alfather on his eight-legged horse), Thor and Tyr, but most ancient customs and ritual are lost to the ages. The only certainties are the runes (which were used both secularly and spiritually), how they disposed of the dead, and what is noted in the Poetic Edda.
Norse mythology is exceptionally complicated and can be difficult to grasp for newcomers. Many Asatruar, therefore, have only a superficial knowledge of their own myths, but no matter. As in Christianity, it is more important to understand the sprit of Asatru than to be able to recite from the Edda.
Odin is considered the primary God in Norse mythology, but Thor is truly the God of the people; it is his hammer, Mjolnir, that Asatruar wear around their necks to show reverence to their Gods and kinship with other followers. There is a very strong sense of kinship and loyalty in the Asatru community; there is also a strong sense of honor and much emphasis is placed on the "warrior spirit." The expectation that you will be unwaveringly loyal to your kindred exists, so choose wisely. I also find that Asatru inspires people to hone a handicraft such as leather or metal work, or sewing and campfire cooking. Asatruar love to dress up and play Viking!
There is a set of rules - the Nine Noble Virtues - but some of them, like "Truth," are on a case-by-case basis. Odin, for example, lies to get what he wants; the end, therefore, justifies the means, regardless of any noble virtue. There are many different Norse Gods to choose from, and although you cannot forget the hierarchy - Odin is still in charge - you are free to choose which God you want to worship, and when, and can give offering to other Gods without fear of inciting jealousy. Thor gets the lion's share of all offerings, but that is because he is so accessible. There are also few set holidays which you must celebrate; the two major holidays are the Winter and Summer Solstices.
Both Asatru and Voodoo have a strong connection to race, so know that if you are a different race than those who traditionally follow these faiths, you may not be allowed to join closed communities.
Men and women are considered equals in Asatru; strong and independent women are much celebrated in this faith. Scandinavia has a long history of being at the forefront of the women's rights movement, and Asatru is very much a product of that Northern culture.
Mead (honey wine) is considered sacred in Asatru, and it is a staple in most ritual offerings. Making your own mead and ale earns extra points in any kindred; sharing a horn of mead is common practice in both ritual and celebrations. I note this because if you are searching for a spiritual path and you are a recovering alcoholic, it would be wise to speak with your chosen kindred before joining; you will feel temptation to drink in most kindreds.
- The Asatru Alliance Homepage
The Asatru Alliance is a US Asatru group, succeeding Stephen McNallens Asatru Free Assembly in 1987, founded by Michael J. Murray a.k.a. Valgard Murray of Arizona, who is a former vice president of Else Christensens Odinist Fellowship. The Asatru All
La Santa Muerte (La Santisima Muerte)
Also known as The Most Holy Death, La Santa Muerte is one of the many syncretic religions of Mexico that is based on Catholicism but incorporates pagan ritual in worship.
If you have an aversion to Christianity, or more specifically, Catholicism, then La Santa Muerte is not right for you. Although it has been banned by the Catholic church for being a cult, its rituals and prayers are very similar to Catholic rituals and it uses much of the same imagery on its altars.
Make no mistake: although La Santa Muerte is based on Catholicism, it does not seek the same results. In Catholicism, you are seeking eternal salvation. When you pray to La Santisima Muerte, you are asking her to perform an earthly favor on your behalf, and she expects a favor back from you. If you fail to return her kindness, she will take away the favor she gave you. You may ask her to perform any favor. Just killed someone? Ask her to protect you. Need help smuggling drugs? Ask her to protect you. The only catch is that you must give Santisimo Muerte what you promised her after she has granted your wish.
La Santa Muerte is also a jealous Goddess; she does not tolerate the worship of any other female Goddess. She is fine with you worshipping other gods, but stay far away from any other female deity. Remember, she sees and hears all from the darkness. So if you routinely worship another Goddess (think: Wicca), La Santisima Muerte is not right for you.
Voodoo imagery implies that it is rooted in Christianity, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Haitian slaves disguised their pagan gods in Catholic imagery so they could continue to worship without hassles from the religious hierarchy of the time. But make no mistake, this is a pagan religion rooted in African tribal spirituality, and is still practiced in many countries in West Africa.
Voodoo's fantastic imagery has been a horror genre darling for decades. Although the clothing is beautiful, the altars fanciful and the rituals delightfully mysterious, it is easy to become enchanted with the superficial aspects of this religion and forget there are Gods that expect the same reverence as Mary in the Catholic church. People often think that it is a bunch of voodoo dolls and killing chickens, but it is an ancient religion that deserves as much respect as Christianity or Buddhism.
Animal sacrifice can be a key component of Voodoo ritual. I know of one ritual in particular that requires a dove to be impaled in a sort of horseshoe-shaped object. There are many rituals that demand animal sacrifice; if you are against performing this kind of ritual, then Voodoo is not for you.
I have read on several sites that this is a religion reserved for blacks and there is a movement to "take it back" from white people. I think that attitude stems from the media's sometimes melodramatic and disrespectful portrayal of this established spiritual faith. However, I disagree with this premise and believe that, just as in Asatru, if this is your spiritual calling, then you must follow this path, even if you are forced to practice it alone.
Santeria incorporates ritual that is similar to Voodoo, but unlike Voodoo, it is based on Catholicism and not African spirituality. It is considered a "syncretic" religion, i.e., a religion based on Christianity that encompasses other belief systems and ritual.
Santeria uses a lot of animal sacrifice and blood in its rituals.
Also unlike Voodoo, you must join a community and be initiated before you are truly considered a Santeria. Followers gather in each others' homes to worship. There is nothing to stop you from becoming a solitary practitioner of Santeria, but unlike most other alternative faiths, you will need to know and gain the trust of someone in the Santeria community and be initiated before you are allowed to participate in rituals with other practitioners.
Please note that this community is not for sale, either; while you can buy pretty much anything online, brick and mortar stores might ask you to "prove" your connection to Santeria. If you are new to the faith and are not connected to the community, expect to walk away empty handed.
I don't have any personal experience with these groups, but want to make a quick mention of the spiritual paths that believe we are descended from alien races and that they live among us. Ancient Aliens is a good start, but you can't even imagine all the information on the internet about Nibiru, Negative Rh factor, and the Pleiadians. I recently discovered the Serer (Seereer) religion of Senegambia (Senegal/Gambia). While many Afican religions are based on the worship of animals spirits, the Serer people worship several Supreme Deities, but also have strong ties to their ancestors.
"It is common to refer to African religious beliefs as Animism. In many cases, especially in scholarly works, the term "Animism" is used as a short hand to refer to African religious beliefs. Seereer religion is not "Animism" and the SRC does not use the term to refer to Seereer religion. Many of those who practice the faith, Seereer theologians and scholars of Seereer religion and culture regard it as an offensive or improper word to describe Seereer religion and African religious beliefs in general. In the Seereer context, the word has its roots during the colonial days, used by the colonialists to refer to the original religious beliefs of the Seereer people in a negative way."
One of their primary religious symbols is the pentagram, which represents Sirius, the star.
I am taking a much closer look at this path, it feels like it may be calling to me.
If the traditional gods and goddesses just don't appeal to you, you should check out some of the following sites and research your extraterrestrial roots!
- Serer religion
We have a huge number of resources relating to Serer religion, including religious artefacts found in the Serer home.
Hoodoo Spells and Rune Magic
Hoodoo is not technically a religion. Hoodoo incorporates Voodoo spells, imagery and deity worship in order to perform spell-work. Practitioners may call upon Voodoo Gods or Goddesses to help them, but they often call upon whichever deity will grant their wish, including the Wiccan Lord and Lady or a Norse Goddess like Freya.
Runes were divinely obtained by Odin (Alfather) and are the ancient alphabet of the Norse people, but they are a very useful tool to use in divination. Runes do not require strict adherence to Asatru for use.
You don't have to be a member of any religion to use either hoodoo spells or runes, as both are universally recognized as powerful magic.
Your Background Is Important: Here Is My Story
I have never identified as a Christian, but I believe Jesus is divine and is the Savior for many people.
I do, however, love all the trappings of Christianity. When I was little, the anticipation of going to Bible School every Sunday sent me into a tizzy. It wasn't because I was excited to learn about Jesus, but because of my obsession with felt boards. I loved watching our teacher gently grasp each fuzzy figure between a thumb and forefinger, lovingly pick up the blob of felt and gingerly place it somewhere else on the board as she told stories from the Bible. Some Sundays, the small box of felt never appeared, and I would sulk home afterwards, utterly crestfallen.
My family didn't attend church every Sunday, or even once a month; my grandmother was active in church groups, but her alcoholism was understandably embarrassing to our family, so most Sundays, they insisted she stay home. But she read the Bible often, and found great comfort in it. In the late 1950s, she created a life-sized Nativity Scene on the family's rural Iowa farm which served not only as a local attraction, but many people drove to the farm to pray in front of the Scene. To this day, people write me and tell me that the Scene greatly contributed to their faith and visiting at least one time during the Christmas season had long been a part of their family's Christmas season.
I'm not really sure, then, what my mother thought of the witchcraft books I always borrowed from the library. There were a few books that talked specifically about devil worship; I had no interest in that old goat, though. What I loved were the intricate, mysterious drawings and incantations. At that time, I didn't know witchcraft could even be considered a religion.
My parents divorced in 1979 and both of them remarried. My father contributed to my early spiritual awakening by marrying an avowed atheist. Religion was, therefore, a strangely oft-visited topic, although it generally devolved into my stepmother condescendingly ranting on the evils of Christianity and little else.
I have attended many Wiccan and Asatru gatherings, but find that my calling is towards La Santisima Muerte, because, as many pagans, I do see divinity in Christianity. I like the fusion of Catholicism and dark pagan beliefs; the imagery and ritual is quite satisfying.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2016 Carrie Peterson
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on September 04, 2018:
I also feel concerned about the movement on the Conservative Right, where most are Evangelicals and have very odd beliefs. If I begin one more conversation with a new person and they say, "I'm a Christian", like that explains everything, or anything about them, I'll scream. It normally means the person wants Guns, God, and to kill or brainwash Gays.
JC on September 04, 2018:
What I find missing in this piece is the explanation of all the weirdos that Christianity attracts...
Mpfbuh001 on July 01, 2018:
Let me just say this,
Christianity is not a religion, but a life changing lifestyle. In John 14 vs 6 it is written "Jesus saith unto him I am the way, the truth and the life no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
I don't know any other God/ "religion" other than Jesus Christ Son of God that was willing to die for my sins on the cross and love me unconditionally.
Let me just say this:
In John 5 vs 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life
Jean Bakula from New Jersey on August 22, 2016:
I have always been a fence sitter about religion. My Mom was raised in a repressed Dutch Reform religion, and my Dad was a devout Catholic. Until his Mom died, and his Father had another woman in the house very shortly after! Dad left home, met Mom, and when it came time for learning religion, I went to the Catholic Church with cousins a few times, but got scared hearing I would go to hell for practically anything.
Dad pulled me out of there, and I revisited my quest for religion and almost became a Baptist when I was about 19. At the last minute I felt I was being brainwashed. I began studying Astrology from the time I was 10, and was used to different ideas. Reincarnation is part of astrology if you learn it right, it's a lot more than most people who knock it believe. I've been attending metaphysical classes the rest of my life and have come to decide I'm a Pagan. I do believe Jesus lived, and had some great ideas, but I can't believe in Virgin births or get past the first page of Genesis and believe all those fairy tales. There are some who would say how could I not believe that and believe Astrology. But that's not a belief system per se; it's a way to understand yourself and the people around you. I think a lot of people like me are lapsed Catholics who simply can't believe the nonsensical stories anymore. But they feel guilty and bring a lot of Saints and Angels into any metaphysical discussion.
Carrie Peterson (author) from Colorado Springs, CO on April 21, 2016:
I was a devoted Asatruar for several years. This is not meant to be a comprehensive examination of any of these faiths but rather a guidepost for pagan newbies. I was lucky to study under Edred Thorsson but found that, like Wicca, Asatru attracts some real weirdos and yes, it does attract white supremacists. To say otherwise is naive.
Seth Chagi on April 20, 2016:
The section on Asatru, I feel was poorly researched, and not reflective of the Actual Heathen community. Much greater effort could have been placed into correct imformation. There are many misconceptions on what #Asatru is, partly due to mass ignorance when it comes to media. Learn about #Asatru, from #Heathens.
It's not a discriminate faith, nor is it typically racially based.
Asatru is one of the many expressions of the pre Christian belief of Europe. It's not hate. It's about life, community, honor, and doing what's right.
Michaela from USA on April 19, 2016:
I'm really sorry to say, but Voodoo IS considered a closed religion to a majority of its practitioners and you can't just start practicing. Most agree that the Loa do not approve of this, that you have to be trained in by a current practitioner. In other words, it's really not a 'go it alone' path.
Wicca definitely attracts more than a few weirdos, but that's most likely because a lot of it's "green" practices line up with the nature loving aspect of being a hippie and a free-spirit. You also get the flighty 'earth goddess' type who loves having a womb. And orgies...early Wiccans were into the orgies.
With regards to reconstructionist or revisionist paganism, Asatru is just one of many. You've also got Hellenic pagans, Kemetic pagans, Celtic pagans, etc. Some of them are really gung-ho about trying to center their practice around how it would have been thousands of years ago, but most just take what mythology has given us and updated their religion for a modern world.
Ralph Schwartz from Idaho Falls, Idaho on April 19, 2016:
Terrific piece, very interesting and informative. What was lost will now be found again.