What are Pagans?
The word pagan is from the Latin word paganus meaning villager or rustic dweller.
It was used by the Roman military as an insult. They used it to describe anyone who was a civilian or incompetent soldier. It was adopted by the Christians to insult anyone who did not follow their religion. It is still used in this way.
Pagans are polytheistic, meaning they have more than one god or goddess. Christians are monotheistic. It does not mean we are any better or any worse than Christians. We are just different.
What is a Witch?
A Witch follows the cycles of the seasons. Wiccan holidays follow what is called the Wheel of the Year. A witch feels a direct connection to nature and divinity because he/she recognizes we are connected to all of Nature and the divine is all of nature and ourselves. A Witch knows the power in all things and is able to use this power to his/her advantage, but never to do harm.
Do I need to find a coven?
It is not necessary. Some people work well in a group, some are better solitary. It is up to you. Do not feel that in order to be a "real" witch you need to be part of a coven. Some find the political power struggles that go on in most covens to be too much of a distraction from the purpose of a coven, to work together. A person new to the group might be intimitated by the leaders and not follow his/her own feelings as to what is best. Feelings are important, you must do what you feel is the right thing for a particular situation. Trust yourself and your abilities.
What about initiation?
An initiation is used to mark one as a recognized part of a group. It means that the person has the intention of following the path chosen. Each Wiccan tradition has its own ceremony. In these traditions, you are only recognized as Wiccan if you have undergone such a ceremony. These rites are usually secret.
It is not necessary to have been initiated to be Wiccan. The ceremonies performed by the different traditions are important in the traditions themselves, but real initiation comes from inside, it is not just ceremonial. When you see beauty in clouds drifting by, when you feel excitement and wonder in seeing a flock of birds wheeling overhead, when you feel the magic in the air when trees fill out in spring, you are truly Wiccan. Wicca is a way of life, living in harmony with nature, feeling the change of seasons and celebrating nature. The ceremony is just that, unless you feel it inside. An initiation is an experience that is felt deep. It is not necessary for a high priestess or priest to stand over you. Each one of us is our own priest or priestess.
If you feel the need to express yourself in ceremony, you can perform a self-initiation. Even though it is not performed in a coven, it is still important to take this seriously. This is not a game. This is a serious comment on the part of the initiate to learn all he/she can about the chosen path. Wiccans may use magick, but that is not all there is to Wicca. It is learning all you can about this earth we live on. Respect it for what is. Learn the cycles of life, and celebrate the magick all around us.
What is dedication?
The dedication of a witch is when you accept the Craft as the path to follow. You promise to learn all things necessary. You will stick to your vow even if the going gets tough. The traditional time period is a year and a day. You will then have seen the progression of a complete circle of seasons, called the Wheel of the Year. In a coven they will teach and have a reading list. Solitary is what it is, sometimes it can be very rough and confusing, but stick to it. That is why it is called dedication. There are many good books out there. Some will say that you can't learn everything from books. That may be true in some cases. You learn by doing. Take spells, for instance. Just because a spell is passed down, does not mean it will work for you. If you put your time and energy to building your own spell, it is more likely to work because it is your own. Your energy is running through it, not someone elses.
What is a Book of Shadows?
It is a place to keep information learned. It can be anything from a spiral notebook, to a fancy leather bound book. In it is placed everything the person feels should be there, answers to questions, candle and/or moon magick, Witchcraft history, herbal information, spells, whatever. This web site can be considered a Book of Shadows. I think a better title would be Book of Enlightenment. It is thought to have more power if it is hand written. These days, it is hard to find the time. Some Wiccans now have a "Disc of Shadows". It is easier to read and some type faster than they write.