Have you played the game I never? It goes like this: one person says “I never___”. They fill in the blank with something they have never done.
Lets play. I’ll start.
I’ve never been to a Pagan conference.
Let me go again. I’ve never been to a Pagan festival.
I’ve never been to these kind of Pagan events for one simple reason: I lack the funds. However, I have been to rituals. Attendance has been inconsistent because money is uber tight in this, the Great Depression 2.0.
Lots has been said about Pagans and money. There’s the on going debate as to whether Pagan leaders should charge for services, rituals, classes, events, and conferences. I see it like this: no one should be turned away for lack of funds. This language is prevalent on Pagan websites regarding events and rituals. But what is the reality behind this statement?
Depression 2.0 has hit me particularly hard. I have not been able to find a job for many years now. It’s not from a lack of looking, that’s something I do every day. I apply for jobs, get interviews, but for reasons known only to deities, I remain unemployed. During the worst period of this, I slipped into one of the darkest depressions I have ever endured. I needed community, needed it like you need oxygen. It was at this time I was losing my house, rehoming my dog, and choosing which healthcare service to skip so you can imagine the depths of my despair.
I was super isolated trapped within depression and the Depression. I needed connection so I did what I could to try and interact with humans by seeking out to my spiritual coreligionists. I found a group over an hour away from my home. The first ritual I attended, I was pleased with the size of the group. Previously, I had never been in a ritual with more than a dozen people. I loved the energy. Cost of ritual was on a sliding scale ($15/pp was the lowest amount on the sliding scale). Since it took over an hour to get there, I spent, generally, $40 on gas and tolls and another $20 on food to share. So $15+15+40+20=$90. Ninety dollars. For one night. (That math includes my husband’s attendance.) I squirreled away every dollar, quarter, and dime I could find to come up with the funds to attend the sabbats. I wanted to attend full and new moon rituals but that was out of the question. The finances just weren’t there. There were classes I wanted to take that were financially unfeasible. It was on my bucket list to become a High Priestess but that too was cost prohibitive so it remained (and still remains) unchecked on my list.
I’m persistent if nothing else so I volunteered as this was one of the recommended ways to make connections and build friendships. I went early to set up and stayed late to break down. At one point while my husband was working two jobs, I was able to attend one group. It was a regular group of women who went. Soon we self segregated: the two co-facilitators would end group then go into the office, close the door, and talk. Two other women talked mom-stuff, and the last two women talked young woman stuff. I sat alone. Because of the time it took to commute home, I started to leave as soon as group was over since no one talked to me anyway. One time I forgot something and went back in to get it. When I did they were all sitting together, laughing and having a great time. They silenced themselves as soon as I was in the room. Then, as I was leaving one said “Lets to get something to eat now that Michelle is gone.” Later, when I confronted one of the facilitators she said “oh, we go out to eat after group but we know you have no money and besides, it’s food you don’t eat.” I was extremely hurt to be deliberately excluded.
When it came to the sabbats, I suppose I could’ve paid nothing or less than the “suggested” $15 but the infrastructure was not amenable to doing so. The way the room was set up, a line would form behind the woman who took your money, thus a physical barrier was set up. So, one is standing in line waiting to get up to the woman. The social stigma of paying the lowest amount was already there. She cocked an eyebrow but didn’t say a word, her disapproval was in her body language. As time went on and she saw I always paid the lowest amount, her chit chat ceased. She no longer welcomed me, asked me how I was, or acknowledged me unless I initiated conversation to which she would reply politely yet in a manner which made it obvious she did not wish to converse with me. On more than one occasion she talked to the person behind me, all full of joy to see that person only to take my money while never making eye contact. I can’t imagine telling her I was paying nothing or less than the suggestion though that would’ve gotten her attention. It’s like when you put a quarter in the basket sent around at Catholic Mass instead of a bill. No one will say anything to your face but certainly they will let their disapproval be known nonverbally.
I was never turned away for lack of funds, I was ignored away. This was done so in a subtly overt manner which reminds me of junior high girlhood. I gave it about a year before I finally accepted I was unwanted. I believe that rejection came from a lack of greenbacks and my vocalization of such. I was never told why I was snubbed nor have I been contacted by a member of the group since leaving. Sticking to their tried and true manner, they have pretended like I don’t exist.
Last Samhain I thought I’d give the group another try but it was more of the same. Not a single person talked to me or my husband. In a room with over 100 people, I felt an intense loneliness. I have not been back since nor do I plan to go. Ever.
Something good did come out of that rejection: Pagan Activist.
I am a Pagan and I am an Activist. They are symbiotic. They cannot be separated or disconnected. The deeper my Paganism becomes the deeper my activism becomes and vice versa. Pagan Activist fermented because of the deep isolation and loneliness during this period of time. I saw a wrong and I tried to right it. Goddess, was I mistaken thinking I could enact positive change. Thus, I took to the internet and created this blog as a way to connect to like minded Pagans so that isolation and loneliness would abate. I want no one to feel how I felt (and still do) because they are rejected for a lack of “little green tickets”. I want no one to be excluded by leaders or laypeople, I want no one to be snubbed. The pain I’ve carried these years has been intense enough that it’s kept me from attending ritual with any new group. I crave community and human interaction yet I’ve become a solitary practitioner even though I don’t want to be out of sheer necessity to protect my emotional health and my wallet.