Over the years I have always advocated for a genuine pagan community, but as the years pass my hopes for such a community is beginning to falter.
Many Elders have left the community at large and have retired to their own private covens and such. They no longer have any desire to be associated with what is now passing for the pagan community, preferring instead to practice their art as either a solitaire or in closed gatherings with those who still follow the old ways as it was once followed. They are choosing to shun what passes for the current pagan community and thus avoid being drawn into all of the inane and worthless drama that seems to be so prevalent these days.
With the intervention of the Internet, being rude and obnoxious to those who may have something to share based upon years of genuine experience has become commonplace. And why not one may ask, with the Internet one can remain comfortably anonymous without taking responsibility for ones actions. The level of arrogance that is so common in today’s society was simply not an accepted feature of their generation.
And in this day and age, taking responsibility for ones actions is almost a thing of the past, a past that many qualified elders hail from.
Many of these wise and experienced folks were raised at a time when young folks respected their Elders. A time when patience and a desire to learn was far more important then exhibiting one’s inflated ego or claiming to be a “master” of this or that discipline at the ripe age of 30 something.
It seems as if the 20 and 30 something’s who have no desire to learn from those who went before them are overwhelming the pagan path. The term that society is applying to such self-absorbed folks is “millennium kids”.
Such folks are re-inventing the tenets of paganism to fit their own perception of how things should be. Which in and of itself would be a good thing, except that these young folks were raised in a generation of instant gratification and with a severe lack of interpersonal relationships. Being weaned via the Internet and video games simply does not take the place of years of tutelage under an Adept. And yet the craft is bloated with such pseudo masters who sneer at folks who are many years their senior and who have vastly more genuine experience.
The younger generation of pagans is also floating a number of flawed concepts that until addressed, will continue to keep any semblance of a pagan society from forming. One of these ill thought out concepts is that members of the community choose Elders at will. This is simply not true.
First of all the pagan community is at best an acronym for a wide variety of divergent beliefs that use the description “pagan community” as a way of identifying those folks who engage in the mystical arts. There is actually no real such community at the state or national or international level with the authority and/or endorsement of said divergent groups, who can realistically choose such Elders per se.
Another obvious yet oft overlooked fact is that Elders are actually chosen by their respective paths and within these various paths by the independent gatherings such as a coven, blot or what have you.
No respective members of such a gathering would ever allow someone/s from outside their individual disciplines to choose “their” Elders. To simplify this further, the Druid would not let a Wicca to choose their Elders. A shaman would not let a Voudon to choose their Elders and so on and so forth.
The idea that the “community” chooses every ones Elders is simply a fallacy being proffered by the young and in all reality, inexperienced folks who are not seasoned enough to understand that this is a misconception. Another proffering that is ill thought out is that a pagan community can be patterned off of the same mold as the so-called organized religions.
As long as this fallacy is prevalent in our thoughts there will never be a true pagan community. With each coven and/or gathering being independent of each other, at best, all we can hope for is a loose federation. Anything else is unrealistic.
One argument in favor of this is that organized religions for the most part follow the same God, even if the approach and translations are different, they have one Deity. They also have basically one book, again with various interpretations, that forms an accepted pattern for their beliefs.
Paganism has a huge influx of Deities and interpretations for each of them. We engage in practices of a magical nature that is not a part of the doctrine of organized religion. Our books (BOS’s for those of witchcraft and Wicca) vary from one person to the next. And in fact many pagans of various paths do not keep even these books as part of their practices, relying instead on other doctrines and means of employing their beliefs.
In short, we are diametrically different from the folks who form the various organized religions. I personally believe that the fallacy that the pagan community can be fashioned in like manner comes from the massive influx of former members of these said religions.
There is a great deal to be said for the adage “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. The reasoning behind this is that if one chooses to engage in a culture of beliefs different from ones former culture then you don’t try to change the adopted culture to your former experience but rather you learn to assimilate yourself to the chosen culture you are currently engaging in.
We may live in a global society, but in all reality, pagan groups still follow the concept of small and independent villages where there is no central government. Every group has its own leaders and it is unrealistic to think that all of these independent leaders could and for that matter should be grouped into one entity. Thus there is the adage pertaining to pagans of “herding a bunch of cats together”. We are in all reality, individuals.
And if we are ever to obtain some semblance of a pagan society then we should consider actually living up to the tenets of diversity and acceptance. Just mouthing the words and then attacking those who try to walk the walk will simply keep us in the static state of affairs that we are currently in as far as a belief system.
In all reality, how can we expect other belief systems to view paganism as a serious and thus acceptable community of religious/spiritual beliefs when we don’t present ourselves as a mature gathering capable of acceptance and understanding?
And until we find the maturity to comprehend and address the fallacies that we are inflicting upon ourselves, we will continue to fumble about in search of that elusive concept known as community.
At the end of the day we may want to ask ourselves, do we want to continue to assist society in its downward spiral or do we truly want to be a part of an enlightened society within the world society?
We lead by example. What will that example be?