The 12 Steps for Pagans
For Self-Knowledge, Magickal Growth and Progress in Recovery
by Khoury, sobriety date March 20, 1984
Today there are a large number of Pagans in recovery who are familiar
with the 12 Steps. What most do not realize is that the 12 Steps, when
suitably reworked to remove Judeo-Christian bias, form an almost foolproof
method of spiritual progress, self-knowledge, and attainment of True Will.
Books available on various relevant subjects are often too narrowly focused
to provide a comprehensive program of progress and growth. For example,
Starhawks Truth or Dare, while an excellent guide for overcoming
authoritarian programming, wont do a thing for laziness.
Every now and again, pagans will realize that they have a problem that
interferes with the healthy function of their lives. It does not matter
what the problem is, the issue is that life has become unmanageable and
something needs to be done. There are quite a few pagans who are wary
of therapists. Discussing your conversations with the elementals, and
claiming to be a god is a very quick way to wind up in the locked ward,
being force-fed thorizine. Yet for us, these activities are a part of
our day-to-day existence. Pagan therapists may be difficult or impossible
to find. The solution is self-help of course, but the bewildering number
of conflicting books dealing with pop-psychology, quick fixes, and magickal
panaceas is guaranteed to confuse our brother, who after all just wants
to know himself, and get over his propensity for couch surfing.
I have re-written the 12 steps to conform more closely with the ideologies
of pagans, so that the semantics will not seem to suggest reversion to
that monotheistic reality tunnel dominated by authoritarian moralistic
thinking that the poor pagan fled from all those years (months) ago. Each
step, except the fourth step, has suggestions for implementation, with
the understanding that these are suggestions only, and an individual should
use his/her own will and imagination in carrying them out. The fourth
step is dealt with in another pamphlet, as it is long and all-encompassing
and requires more room than we have here.
It should be said that the Big Book is essentially right when it states
that selfishness and self-centeredness are the roots of the disease of
alcoholism and drug addiction, but it goes a bit farther than that. These
are the prime diagnostic criteria and the root issue of all of the personality
disorders, and perhaps the source of most of what is wrong in our larger
society. We, as a part of society, spent all kinds of time stepping on
people's feelings, destroying their property, hurting them, and hating
ourselves. Now we can change that.
This method is designed to assist us in taking responsibility for our
behavior, conscious and subconscious, so that we can eliminate self-pity,
rationalization, and other forms of behavior that prevent us from realizing
our True Wills. The Program consists of working/doing the Twelve Steps,
each in his/her own way.
1. We admitted that we have given our power and wills to (alcohol,
drugs, food, anger, people, places, things, situations, the past - whatever
you are having issues with...) and that our lives had become unmanageable.
When you obsess on anything, whether it is an ex-lover, a desired future
job, your temper, a resentment, or a substance, you have given your
will to that thing or person. They now have power over you and you no
longer have that power available to accomplish your goals. If it is
making your life miserable, no matter what it is, it is a problem. If
a person is making your life miserable, it is time to realize that you
can not control others, and leave or have them leave. If your life is
fairly good, and you do not feel out of control about anything, use
this step to examine those situations where you have felt powerless
in the past.
Make a list of all the things you feel are under your control. Be honest.
If you listed your wife, children, or job, you are deluding yourself.
We neither own nor control others. It is time to let go of those things
that have nothing to do with your correct orbit as a star, in other
words, everything that is not you.
If you drink too much, or feel like you will die if your mate leaves
you, that should be listed under the First Step. If you belong to lots
of organizations, have a family, and take in strays, people or animals,
and are consistently offended at their lack of gratitude, you might
have a codependency problem and need to let go of your need to manipulate
the situation to feel worthwhile. Your feelings may be out of control,
and you feel powerless to control their expression.
The goal here is to differentiate between what is rightfully under
your lawful power, and where you are infringing on the Wills of others.
It can be an internal falling apart -depression, being "high strung,"
using alcohol, drugs (prescription or illegal), food, work, or a relationship
- to avoid feeling something unpleasant, like grief or anger, or an
external falling apart - losing a job, a lover, friends, a home, or
sweating alcohol so badly that no one can stand being around.
If a pagan can't muster up enough will to go into circle sober, or
get through the day without being stoned, it might be time to do something
drastic, like look at this step.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore
us to sanity.
Higher Power is just that. It can be the Gods, a Coven, the Oak Tree
in the yard, the coffee pot, something greater that is outside of yourself.
Before the theologians among the audience cringe, let me point out the
difference between this and Will or inherent Divinity. The Craft teaches
us that we are each a God/dess. The Book of the Law states that "Every
man and every woman is a star." This is still true, however, drowning
one's Divinity and obliterating the Higher Will through over use of
anything is not the best way of experiencing eternal oneness with the
Universe. If you don't believe me, go ask a crack addict.
Your issues do not have to be life threatening to be uncomfortable.
The number of Pagans and Thelemites who had a horrific childhood is
enormous. If your past is preventing you from living in the present
with joy and hope for the future, this will help. This expression of
belief in a Higher Power for a pagan can be much akin to asking an older
brother or sister for help, one who has been around a bit longer and
has more in the way of resources than we do.
Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting
3. Made a decision to align our Will and our lives to that of True
Will and place the care of our lives into the hands of the God/dess as
we understand Him, Her, It, or Them.
Drinking ourselves into oblivion and insulting our friends was probably
not in accordance with our True Will, or higher spiritual selves. Running
away from love because you have trouble trusting will not help you in
the "perfect love and perfect trust" of Wicca. Laying on the
sofa, unable to muster the self-discipline to meditate, will not further
your spiritual goals. All that this step is asking you to do is make
a decision. The rest of the steps implement that decision. Some of us
have to ask for the willingness to make the decision before actually
committing ourselves. Thats fine, Will arrives eventually.
4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.
This step is dealt with at length in the Fourth Step guide.
5. Admitted to the God/dess, to ourselves, and to another human being
the exact nature of our wrongs.
Read your Fourth Step to someone else. This clears away the imagined
wrongs from the real ones, and allows us to understand that no one is
terminally unique. It is usually a Sponsor in a 12-step program who
hears the 5th step, but a friend, brother, sister, stranger, or catholic
priest, for those who appreciate the value of irony, will do just as
We have to be totally honest with this person and include those episodes
that we found embarrassing or humiliating. Keep in mind that no one
is perfect, and most people have kicked a dog or thrown up in a friend's
Ming vase at one time or another.
6. We were entirely ready to have the God/desses remove these defects
Having identified the unhealthy patterns we developed along the way,
we became tired of them. We then sought out the appropriate group, counselor,
therapist, or Shaman that would assist us in replacing these defects
with healthy ways of dealing with life.
Note: A Coven is not group therapy, so if you decide that they are
the only people you trust to help you, meet with them outside of circle.
This is called getting over self-centeredness.
7. Humbly asked the God/dess to remove our shortcomings.
For most of us, this will occur in a ritual situation, but it is really
only necessary to ask the Powers that Be to accomplish what is, after
all, our True Wills. We are not alone. This step reminds us that in
recovery, the God/desses will be there to help us do what needs to be
done by introducing situations in our lives that allow us to overcome
our defects of character. Our job is to recognize these situations and
take the right action.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to
make amends to them all.
This list is drawn from the Fourth Step, and should be limited to actual
harm (mental, physical, verbal, financial). If you were the abused spouse,
you do not owe amends to your abuser! Most of us have found that once
the list is made, some time needs to be spent asking the Gods to make
us willing before we actually are.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when
to do so would cause harm to them or others.
Most of us grew up saying "I'm sorry," and thinking that
would make it all better while blithely continuing to wreck havoc. Direct
amends is not an excuse for abject groveling. Most of us are also pretty
proud, and actually saying "I was wrong," can be difficult.
I can assure you that you will get over it.
This step includes replacing the items you broke or stole, returning
the books you "borrowed" and undoing any malicious magic you
might have tried against someone that you imagined wronged you. Writing
a letter is a good way to make amends to those people who would rather
not speak to you any more.
The exception is those amends that would harm someone. "Gee John,
I'm sorry I slept with your wife, I realize that it was wrong not to
tell you about it before hand..." or "Sorry that I stole that
computer Boss, I'll bring it back now..." Just sneak it back in,
since losing your job constitutes harm to others (you are included in
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong,
promptly admitted it.
The question here is "Did I cross anyone's boundaries or interfere
with their Will today?" It's probably best to do this daily so
that it's less overwhelming. We don't say "I'm sorry," we
say "I was wrong and I'll try not to do it again." It gets
easier with practice.
11. Sought through prayer, meditation, and ritual to establish and
improve our conscious contact with the God/desses as we understand Him,
Her, It, or Them, asking only for knowledge of True Will and the power
to carry that out.
This is the practice of power-from-within, rather than power-over,
and is the action of aligning our will with our Higher Will that we
wanted to do in the Third Step. Pagans pray in different ways than do
Christians, and this step is not very far from most of the rituals we
do anyway "For the good of all so that it harms none."
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,
we tried to carry this message to (alcoholics, addicts, co-dependents,
over eaters, etc.), and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.
We are not in the habit of controlling people or telling them what
to do. If someone asks, we explain what our lives were like, what happened,
and what our lives are like now. We show them the steps and let them
work it out for themselves, without telling them to do things any certain
way. "This worked for me..."
There is a saying in AA, "what keeps one person sober will get
someone else drunk," so squelching the impulse to be bossy is a
good idea fairly early on. Work the steps your own way.
The saying "One day at a time" is as true for Pagans as it
is for anyone else. We follow the path daily, meditate daily, and have
a responsibility to fully participate in the joy that is existence daily,
not just at full moons or during Gnostic Mass.
We like to think that our Pagan community is founded on respect, and
respect begins by honoring other people's choices. Those of us on the
path, whether in recovery or not, have made a choice to live instead of
die, one day at a time.