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Over the years my writing online at Therioshamanism.com and elsewhere has wrapped itself around abstract concepts and theoretical discussions, stories and anecdotes and personal experiences. Here I’d like to have a little spot where I focus more on the how-tos, a sort of casual teaching blog. I’m a naturalist pagan, so look for some ways and means of working with the denizens of nature, spiritual and otherwise! (If you like what you see here, please feel free to visit http://www.thegreenwolf.com for more info on my books, online writings, etc.)

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Lupa Gives Advice: Starter Edition

As you may have noticed, I've been a bit scarce around here since last autumn. Many changes have occurred in my life which I won't bore you with just now. However, one good thing that came out of the past several months is a better idea of how I want to use this blog. See, each of my blogs has a personality, and this one was taking a little longer to coalesce. I liked having a place to write about some more 101-focused information, since there are still plenty of folks who are just learning, but I was having trouble coming up with ideas--until now. While I have spent many years helping other pagan folk along their paths, you may consider this my first official advice column. 

You're welcome to ask me questions at lupa.greenwolf@gmail.com. You will be anonymous, though your question will be posted as quoted. The more questions I get, the more I can post!

Let's start with a couple of common questions that I've gotten frequently over the past several years from a variety of folks. 

Dear Lupa,

I am new to paganism and I want to choose a pagan name, but I don't know where to start.

Nameless in Nebraska

Dear Nameless,

Welcome! You're in good company; most of us didn't show up with super-spiffy magical names, and that's okay. It may seem like a matter of great importance if you're surrounded by a bunch of Ravens and Sages and Funky-Rainbow OwlPellets and you're still plain old Pat. But it's not the most important part of one's path, and it's something that tends to come in its own time.

Some people get their magical names given to them by the covens or other groups they're a part of as part of their initiation. Others receive them from deities or spirits they're working with. Still others self-name, inspired by things they consider to be sacred. There are even books of magical names to choose from!

There's no right way to get a magical name, and some people are perfectly content never having one. But don't sweat it either way; just keep exploring and following your paths, and if it's meant to happen, it will.

Dear Lupa,

My cat likes to sit in my circle whenever I do a spell or ritual. Does this mean she's my familiar?

Witchy Kitty?

Dear Witchy,

The animal familiar is a traditional part of the imagery of witchcraft; it seems like every old picture and story has the witch accompanied by a cat, toad or other critter. 21st century witches can have familiars too--but not every animal in our lives is a familiar. 

Most companion animals like our company, and if they see us doing something that looks interesting (and they aren't stuck in a cage or tank or the other room), then their natural curiosity will take over and they'll come see what we're up to. This goes even more during group rituals; our pets often just want to be a part of the party!

In my experience, what differentiates a familiar is whether they're an active part in the ritual or magic at hand. If you can sense the animal adding its own energy to the working, then it's a good bet they're a familiar. If you aren't sure what your pet's energy feelings like, spend some time meditating while holding it in your lap or otherwise touching it, or being near it if it doesn't like physical contact. If your pet is a familiar, you can ask them for help in future spells, rituals and the like. Just remember they have the right to say no!

And whether she's a pet or familiar, make sure to keep your kitty safe. Avoid allowing her near burning candles, and make sure she's not underfoot. Also, don't have anything there she might try to eat that could be bad for her, such as some herbs. Even familiars are still animals, and they don't always understand why something should be off-limits to their inquisitive natures!

--Lupa

Again, you can email me at lupa.greenwolf@gmail.com with questions you'd like answered.

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Lupa is a naturalist pagan (neo)shaman living in Portland, OR. She divides her work time between creating sacred artwork from hides and bones and other goodies, writing books and articles on ecospiritual topics, and working as a Masters-level mental health counselor. She may also be found hiding in the Columbia River Gorge, rolling her sleeves up for litter and invasive species removal, or getting dirty in the garden. She may be found online at http://www.thegreenwolf.com and http://therioshamanism.com and her art is featured at http://thegreenwolf.etsy.com .

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