Beliefs, Practices, & Services
From a theological standpoint, we are not dogmatic, and we put our focus into working within a framework that most Pagans would be able to find a place within. As a tradition, Wild Thorn Hollow embraces what could be described as a panentheistic view, in the concept that there is an energy or a presence at work in the universe that surrounds, permeates, and binds all things. It is a part of all of us, and we are a part of it. It is creator and creation, sacred and divine, but beyond personification. It is bigger than the Gods, though they are a part of it, just as we are. It is bigger than the Earth itself, though its presence in nature and in all things is recognized and respected. This presence, or something like it, has been known by many names in many cultures…such as Logos, the Great Spirit, the Force, the Absolute, the Creator, the Maker, the Infinite Spirit, the Aether, the Cosmos, the Divine, the Universal Life Force, and so on. In the Hollow, for the sake of giving us a universal term to work with, we call it the Breath. It is the Breath of Gaia, the Breath of the Universe, and the breath that sustains us, connects us, and moves us forward.
We operate from a polytheistic standpoint, and believe that all Gods are valid, as all Gods are a part of the Breath and a potential way to connect to it. Therefore, it is not important to us which Gods our members connect with and work with. We believe that any connection with deity is deeply personal and should always be genuine and never forced. Sometimes we seek these connections out, and sometimes they come to us without being sought. Sometimes we may find a solid home within one particular pantheon, sometimes we may fashion our own pantheons or even our own deities through the connections we form, and sometimes we may find that deity just isn’t how we connect. The deities that we connect with may evolve and change as our paths do, and in the Hollow we embrace this as a part of a spiritual journey that is ongoing.
The culture in Wild Thorn Hollow is generally down to earth and practical. We operate like a large, spiritual family, and we try to support one another in both our spiritual and our personal lives. We try to foster intimacy and connection between our members, to be real with one another, and to be there for one another even beyond the sabbats and moons. The majority of our members tend to be open about their Paganism, and to have it fully incorporated into their daily lives. For the most part, our members do not do things like utilize a magical/Craft name or develop a spiritual identity that they keep separate from the rest of their lives. However, we do have some members who utilize aliases to protect their identity for personal and professional reasons, and some members who are not fully open about their spirituality in all parts of their lives. The way that our members deal with their spirituality in their personal lives is up to them, and as long as it does not require any of our other members to put themselves into an ethically compromising situation, we are happy to support whatever the individual member is comfortable with. We simply ask that when you come together with us, you come with your whole and real self, prepared to genuinely welcome us in, and not to place us in a box that you keep disconnected from what is going on in your real world.
Our ethical stance applies to all areas of our lives…spiritual, magical, mundane, and just generally how we live day to day. Our ethical standards are more about an overall philosophy, and less about a set of rules or a system of reciprocity. We do not adhere to things like the Wiccan Rede or Threefold Law, and even the belief in things like karma may vary from member to member. What we do live by is our own set of values, which you can view on the Values of the Hollow page.
Wild Thorn Hollow identifies as a Pagan community. Some of our members identify as Witches, but not all do, nor are they expected to. It is an interesting time we live in, when Witchcraft can be about a trend and an aesthetic…and we believe this has caused the term to be over-applied and over-utilized…stripping it somewhat of its meaning and magic. To us, a Witch is someone who works to cultivate their Craft in their unique style, and who uses that Craft to affect change and impact in their life and in their community. We have a great deal of respect for Witchcraft, and for those members who walk this path and contribute to our community in this way. However, we do not push the expectation that all members should or need to be magical practitioners. We would rather remove that expectation and leave the magic to those who are passionate about it. This prevents us from alienating awesome members who do not feel a pull to the Craft, and from continuing to over-utilize a term where it doesn’t apply, contributing to its watering down.
teaching & learning
Teaching and learning is approached in a very organic manner in the Hollow. We start from the standpoint that not all newcomers to our tradition will have the same sets of skills and knowledge, and not all will have the same things to learn. Furthermore, not all of them will have the desire to learn and master the same things. Therefore, structured teaching of a specific curriculum is not really something we do.
We do want our members to be knowledgeable and have a solid foundation upon which to build. For this reason, we are in the process of developing a program of self-study that will be provided to all Wild Thorn Hollow members. This program will take the shape of a textbook/workbook that all members can work through in a self-directed way. It will serve to cover basics of Paganism and the Craft, as well as some specifics about Wild Thorn Hollow, and will be a jumping off point for further individual learning.
More in-depth learning can take shape in a variety of ways. We always encourage our members to be pursuing their own learning based on their own interests, and we believe it to be each person’s responsibility to further develop their own path. We also try to foster an environment of communal learning, where all members contribute to the collective pool of wisdom by writing and sharing info and ideas, holding workshops and lectures, etc. More direct one-on-one learning can take place via mentorship. Mentoring within the Hollow is not something that follows a specific structure, or something that is forced, but in a general sense we do encourage those who are more established in the tradition and in their own paths to serve our community through sharing their knowledge and experience with those who feel that would benefit from more direct guidance. Any member who meets an established member in the tradition and feels that they have something to learn from them is free to request a mentorship from that member.
As things stand in Wild Thorn Hollow at this moment in time, the primary services that we offer are spiritual community and involvement, as well as community outreach and charitable work at the level that we are able. Our focus is inward first, seeking to build and stabilize a strong foundation, with the intention of turning more outward as we grow. We do what we can with the resources we have in terms of contributing to our local community and doing good and charitable work. In the future, we hope to build upon the types of events and resources we can offer the community, and well as the charitable work we are able to do.
Our not-too-long term plans include establishing a couple of reoccurring community and charity events that we will host each year, as well as developing our own ordination program for those who feel a deep enough commitment to the Hollow and to the service of others in the Pagan community that they wish to venture down that path. Ordained members of our tradition will be sanctioned to preside over a number of rites of passage and community services, such as legally binding wedding ceremonies, funeral ceremonies, birth blessings, coming of age, passage of life, house cleansings and blessings, chaplaincy, etc.