Community Thoughts: The First
Posted on August 30, 2013
This is in response to someone’s blog post that I just read. I tend to see unlinked posts as passive-aggressive and one-sided. But a lot of what was written really bugged the hell out of me. I won’t link to that site as it is bad enough that I have already given it traffic. I do not want to send any more if I can help it.
Since the article itself deals with the sometimes turbulent nature of the Pagan Community, I thought I’d approach it from that angle. It seems community is the theme of 2013.
I make it a habit not to critique communities that I willingly set myself apart from. If I know the history of a community, or the actions of that community affect me as I experience it, then I shall enter into the dialogue about it. For instance, while I am not a Christian, a lot of Christian policy and dogma affects me as a Pagan. Not only that, I have some knowledge of Christian history and less knowledge of Christian theology. I cannot say the same for, say, African tribal religions.
The Pagan community is relatively diverse, as I have previously mentioned in an earlier post. It is a large term that is in the midst of an identity crisis. Paganism is growing, minorities within the community are expanding to the point where the older paradigms are no longer appropriately applied to the whole, easily. This is going to be a larger post, so I won’t get into it at as much of a length as I’d like to, here.
What are some of these paradigms?
As I see it, some of the few assumptions on and from the community that can lead to chafing (and people eventually leaving) are:
- All Pagans follow the Celtic wheel of the year (or even an agrarian calendar).
- Wiccan or Wiccan-themed rituals are the default rituals for non-denominational (non-specific) Pagan practices, or are good enough to be.
- The majority of the Pagan faiths believe that all gods and goddesses come from “one source” (pantheism/pandeism/monopolytheism/monism/whatever). Or, “all gods are one God, all goddesses are One goddess” (dualism).
- Perceived irreverence and appropriationist tendencies; eclecticism as a dirty word, coopting without academic or theological investiture, etc.
- All Pagans follow the Rede and the Three-fold law of return.
- All Pagans practice spellwork and magic.
- Lack of cohesive values; slippery theology.
And there are others. Part of the reason why I’m still here is to try to correct these mistakes and open up the idea of a more pluralistic form of Paganism. I’m here because I don’t want the community to be associated carte blanche with the above list. But these are some of the most common that I have run across.
But, here’s the thing about a community – especially if you find yourself outside of it. If, at any time, you no longer feel like you are right being there you are under no obligation to continue to partake in it. If, under some deep soul-searching, you have come to the decision that you are, in fact, not comfortable being in the Pagan community, you don’t need to be. Don’t go. It’s that simple.
If you don’t want to accept a friend’s invitation to go to a local Pagan Pride? Don’t. Don’t pretend that you’re doing it for someone else’s benefit. And if you are going to go for someone else, if you’re going to be at a place that puts you out, spiritually, for someone else’s benefit? Then grit your teeth, be honorable, and do it. I’m not comfortable even stepping inside a Christian Church. But I did last August to be part of my friend’s Catholic wedding. And you didn’t hear me complaining about it.
If you’re under invitation to go to a festival, or gathering, and it doesn’t speak to you? Don’t go. I wrote about how I felt while attending an Ostara ritual earlier this year. I feel that part of my disturbance with that experience came from the fact that I was unprepared to take a semi-central role to the religious performance. Not only was I unable to prepare myself for being in public, but it didn’t speak to me. That’s fine. It felt fake to me. That is fine, too.
What would also be fine would be turning down the next invitation for those reasons.
But what I do know is making scathing, unhelpful critiques about a community isn’t going to help anything. I’ve learned this: that I’d like to try to offer opinions on how to move forward, instead of being stuck in the issues. Work around them, work through them, work for the betterment of the situation.
Or don’t, and cut yourself completely off. You’ll be less hassled that way. Otherwise, you’re just looking for controversy.
Thanks for reading.