As Time Moves On
Around Beltain of this year I made a decision to go into semi-retirement, stepping back from the pagan community as such. As part of this withdrawal I lost all interest in writing any further articles even though over the years I have penned literally hundreds of poems, articles and what have you.
And yet the thoughts presented here kept swirling around in my head, leaving me little room for relaxation. And so here is yet one more view from an old gray hair.
Alas, here we are some thirty years later. And where exactly are we?
Back in the mid seventies I was living in Germany and was associated with a closed witchcraft coven. Outside of my own family clan and a few close associates of our family, I really wasn’t too aware of any other pagan groups. Though, I did peruse writings by Sybil Leeks, an English witch who will always hold a special place in my heart.
When I became associated with the German coven circa 1975, I became some what aware of the Wicca movement. But because of their lofty claims about one not being a true witch unless one were initiated as a Wicca, I tended to think of such folks as arrogant and extremely misguided.
Of the 48 years that I have walked this path, elitism is one tenet that I have given absolutely no credence to. I have always seen such attempts at such self inspired elevation as simply an exhibition of ones own insecurities, regardless of what belief system was laying claim to such nonsense.
And now here it is, 2008 and not a whole lot has changed in regards to the superfluous pagan community.
Over the long years there have been certain experiences that have stood out in my mind. One of these is that of all of the flaming and at times very personal attacks that I have endured have with one single exception, been at the hands of those of the Wicca.
I am not sure why that particular gathering has engaged in such a negative fervor towards one who is a simple Irish witch or what benefit such negative actions would contribute to the pagan community at large, but it is what it is. And so we learn and move on.
Those of you who have read my articles in the past know that this is not a slam at those of the Wicca but rather a pragmatic and honest view of what I personally see as true.
Only by being honest with ourselves will we ever see what the obstacles are and how to overcome them in a way that is of benefit to all who call themselves pagan.
Another thing that stands out is that of all of the different paths that make up paganism, it is the Wicca who consistently snatches up the crumbs that roll off of the table of the so called organized religions. One never sees a practitioner of shamanism, or a Voudon or an Asatru or what have you taking a seat as a representative of their particular style of paganism at the table of organized religions.
Nor do the Wicca representatives who eagerly await these opportunities, ever mention any other pagan path, though they commonly yet erroneously claim to represent the pagan community at large. I personally see this as a continuation of the elitism that I first encountered back in the mid 1970’s. But again, it is what it is.
Traditional witchcraft and Wicca are but two of the many different paths that represent paganism. And though we may never see eye to eye, we are members of the same umbrella of beliefs that make up paganism
And in spite of the exclusion of other pagan paths at these various orchestrated sit downs, there is inadvertently a positive side to this situation.
Of all of the paths that represent paganism, the Wicca has the most similarities to those of the Abrahamic religions. Most if not all of those who join the Wicca were at one time, a member of one of the Abrahamic belief systems and thus there is a commonality in the mindsets in regards to religion/spiritual beliefs. Also Wicca ritual outline is very, very similar to that of Catholicism and of the Masons, which serves as yet another tenet of common ground between such belief systems.
There is also a tendency for those of the Wicca to incorporate the Abrahamic holidays, in particular those of the Christian belief systems into their daily lives.
Often this is done as an appeasement to family members and friends who often do not reciprocate in regards to ones pagan beliefs, but yet there is always hope that one day there will actually be a two way street in regards to religious/spiritual beliefs. Again, this is not a judgment either way; whatever works for the individual first and/or various groups second, is what matters.
Now, as to the positive aspects of what may seem a one way approach on behalf of the Wicca. As with anything in life, folks sometimes feel unfulfilled in regards to their religious/spiritual beliefs and/or belief system that they are currently embracing. And so I see Wicca as serving as a transitional role for those moving from the Abrahamic belief systems into that of the pagan paths.
This of course does not predispose that everyone who becomes a Wicca will eventually move on to another pagan path/belief.
The Wicca does in fact serve the needs of many of its members. However with the human factor involved, there will be those folks who choose Wicca first because of its very public profile and then will become aware of and move on to other less public pagan paths.
Having said this lets move on to the premise for this article.
Another thing that has not changed since the mid 1970’s is the constant talk about creating a viable pagan community.
After all of these years, we are still talking and yet there still isn’t much headway made towards creating such an empowered community.
Why is this?
Part of the problem I have already touched upon in the preceding paragraphs.
As long as we have a particular group of pagans who want to be “it” to the exclusion of their brothers and sisters, we will continue to engage in business as usual and never get past the talking stage. So many groups over the years have set themselves up as “the” pagan group, only to fade away as their members become disheartened and disillusioned when the rest of the pagan umbrella doesn’t give them the validity that they have bestowed upon themselves.
Another possible obstacle is the issue of Elders.
So many undeserving folks want to be considered as an elder as if this implies that they are some type of master. When in fact an Elder is simply a senior student and in some cases one who is willing to teach what they have learned up to that point, for anyone who engages the path of mysticism will always be just a student of life. There, in my personal opinion are no true masters for such a discipline extends way beyond just what one lifetime can teach.
And many times in the case of those who have actually put in the years and the effort to learn and thus actually qualify as Elders (senior students) well, the rest of what comprises the pagan community sets upon them with torches. In time they withdraw from the said community thus depriving us of any real validity and removing what would otherwise be a valuable resource.
And yet another possible obstacle is having so many folks from the Abrahamic belief systems inundating the pagan umbrella.
Such folks tend to think that a viable pagan community can be created from the same outline as that of the organized religions. I personally believe that this is an oxymoron, for such belief systems are diametrically opposed to those of the pagan belief systems. Two thousand years of deliberate suppression and forced conversion away from pagan beliefs should serve as a premise for such an argument. I personally believe that at best we may be able to achieve a loose federation for pagan beliefs to thrive under.
And last but not least, who is going to determine how or what form a pagan community will take?
With so many bloated egos who are so concerned with their own self interests, will we ever find a middle ground that will serve the needs of the majority and thus present a united front of beliefs in the face of those who would like nothing better then for the concept of paganism to fade away?
At present we do not have any real substance as a belief system. Many folks around the world see Neo paganism as just a passing fad. Are they in fact right?
As a simple witch I will always practice my form of paganism, regardless of whether anyone chooses to validate such beliefs or not. For the ways of witchcraft transcends any human restrictions.
But wouldn’t it be nice if our children had true freedom of choice in regards to their religious/spiritual beliefs?
At any rate, here we are some thirty years or so later and we are still talking about the concept of a pagan community.
Will we ever move beyond the self appointed groups that come and go, and who presume to be the basis for a pagan community in general? Will we ever move beyond just the constant talking?
Will we ever establish acceptable parameters or a consensus that works for the majority rather then this isolated village group or that?
In closing I am a simple Irish witch who from a state of semi-retirement is adding yet one more voice to the chorus.