Why We Need Pagan Community
Having spent a lot of time active in the pagan community in the Midwest I can say there are plenty of pagans here. That being said, they rarely come out of the woodwork to actually get together. For years I've watched pagan group after group and networking community die from lack of participation, especially at the leadership level. The same people doing the same jobs year after year, eventually burn out and leave. Part of the burnout ends up being because not enough people are actually attending group meetings, holiday/sabbats. If more people come and the leaders see there is a point to all their work, they are willing to work longer and harder.
It would be easy to say that there simply aren't enough of us to get the job done. I know for a fact though, that's not true.
In years of running a pagan group we would get maybe 6 people to show max, with several of those people being those in charge (and thus, having to attend). However, when bringing in a guest speaker on Hoodoo in one of those years, I suddenly had over 20 individuals. Hoodoo isn't seen much here, people came because they were interested in something new. I can only assume they were not interested in attending other meetings because they didn't want to be a part of a community, they wanted to be entertained. They cleared their schedules and made efforts to attend the Hoodoo workshop in a way they did not to create community.
If you read my last post you may already understand why I think this is a problem. We have a unique situation today in which we could form organized groups to help us connect, to help us form real communities to be there for each other. Pagans are beginning to do this all over as opportunity exists, if not, they are certainly talking about it, from one coast to the other!
Why is community important? Can't we get lasting friendships and help outside of our faith? I encourage you to watch the original Wicker Man just for fun. It will give a little food for thought as to how a real pagan community might function. Please omit in your imaginings the creepy parts of the movie, oh yeah, and the very end too...but I digress a little, back to friendships etc.
People in a good religious community back each other up on their faith. They allow each other to explore their faith by offering a listening ear and their own veiw points, and help them to raise their kids according to their values. Pagan values can be a little different than mainstream beliefs. For instance, if we were to grow our children up in a number of Christian churches, they would be taught that being gay is wrong. In every pagan creed I've seen, diversity is celebrated and encouraged. If you want your children to grow up with your beliefs, you can't just tell them about your values, throw them out into the world in Kindergarten, and expect them to fully understand. They have literally thousands of other beliefs directly contrary to what you're teaching them. With no community to help you, well, back to raising a barn by yourself. Doesn't work well.
When you've been delving into your faith, meditating, doing workings on your own and suddenly, you begin to see strange things, or hear things that aren't there, you could think you are becoming schizophrenic. Maybe you are, or maybe you are just moving along the pagan path and have acquired the ability to see spirits or hear them. If you go to a doctor, you will probably end up on some heavy-duty medications with health risks involved. Without someone else pagan to talk to, lots of someones actually, you are unable to properly assess whether you are going crazy or not. With help, these same people could help you to use your new abilities to help others, to help yourself, and make sure, they didn't drive you insane.
Perhaps you're not interested in any of that meditation crap. Maybe you just like wildcrafting and learning about the healing abilities of herbs. How much more quickly and effectively could you learn from others who have already walked the same path 30 years before?
How about getting together and pooling money for small business loans, childcare, scholarships, outside meeting places? Christian churches do all of these things and more. Why shouldn't we? Why should we, because we are pagan and not church attendees, be left out of all of these really important things? Guess what? They have those because they are willing to make a commitment to their community. Maybe they're not very interested in the sermons each week, but they make an effort to go to church when they can, they pool money when they can, and they make connections with each other there.
A friend of mine has told me his thoughts on the pagan lack of community. He feels that pagans have had to ostracize themselves from society in order to be pagan in the first place. They are not Christian, and not mainstream, so they have steeled themselves against friendships and connectedness with others. That is what they have had to do. But you know what? Paganism is growing up, and the United States more religiously diverse. We don't have to exist alone anymore. We do take risks by being openly pagan. But isolating ourselves isn't helping. Perhaps it is time for the pagans, heathens and witches to go mainstream. Attend Pagan Pride, seek out your local pagan groups or create one. Take risks, live dangerously, so that we can all truly live.
Thanks for listening,