It is all fine and good to address the hot-button issues as a community, but do we even connect over the basics? Do we even take advantage of what we have access to?
In my quarter century on my Pagan path I have seen and heard many stories and events that have made me stop and think, really take a look at what is going in my life and the lives of those around me. Everything from the “Witch wars” of the 1990s in the Midwest to the subtle and not-so-subtle racism expressed in the current community (as well as the battle against that racism). I’ve also seen a lot of “minor” things in the community that have made me take pause.
I could go on and on about the larger incidents, but they have been well covered by others both on this site and elsewhere. I’m not directly involved in any of those conversations. My little pocket of the community is somewhat isolated from the rest of the larger Pagan community. (I’ve not witnessed any racism with the local Pagan community, though there have been incidents of homophobia.) I have my finger on the pulse of many of these battles and struggles, but have no direct experience. Interviewing people who are involved is not the same as being involved.
What I can talk to is the events that I have been involved in. On the surface they may seem rather minor when compared to the grander scheme of things.
As is often the case when I am preparing to write I had a conversation with a friend and the chorus to a Beatles song popped into my head. Nothing unusual there. I have a personal soundtrack playing in my head most of the time. “Come Together” by the Beatles has little to do with Paganism, if anything. The lyrics seem nonsensical. What caught in my mind while talking with my friend was the line of “Come together right now.”
Made me wonder, how much do we as Pagans “come together”? Other than festivals, Sabbats, and other events that attract us together as a community, how often and how much do we really come together? Come together over a common cause, a common theme, a common table? How often we come to that table with peace, loving, and understanding in our hearts?
About twenty years ago I found out just how seldom such a thing happened in Lincoln, NE. At least then. My friend Sarah and I got this wild idea to try to get the local Pagan community to band together over a common cause. Our idea was simple. Adopt a park. Lincoln has many parks and at that time they were somewhat neglected. We went about proposing to the local community that we meet at a local Village Inn over coffee and discuss the idea of coming together for such a project. The invitation was announced over local community radio with date, time, and such particulars. When the day arrived we floored at the number of people who came to the table. Over twenty local community leaders were at the table with us. What was even more shocking was learning that many of them had never met before.
Lincoln is not that big of a city. Learning that there were at least ten active Pagan groups (Covens, circles, etc) was impressive. Learning that many of them had never even met, let alone heard of each other, was disappointing. I think the only thing more disappointing was that other than seeming to agree that they were put off, yet intrigued, by the idea of two 18 or 19 year olds working to get them to work together, many of those same community leaders were resistant to working together over anything for several years to come. That’s not to say that some cooperation didn’t exist.
I use this as an example, because I feel that even today, nearly twenty years later, that Pagans, not just in Lincoln, are failing to come together, to work together. We see Pagans banding together in support of big causes, in support of artistic causes (Kickstarter/IndieGoGo campaigns to produce CDs and other artistic projects), to stand against racism. (Nothing wrong with any of that.) Be honest with yourself, though. It is easy to stand together on the Internet; to pledge your support to fight something without ever having to leave your computer. It is not easy to come out from behind that screen and stand up for what you believe in with a picket sign in hand.
Big issues aside, it is few and far between that we as Pagans do come together over the little things. Sure, there are thousands of Pagans who have joined Facebook groups, follow blogs (like this one), faithfully listen to radio and podcast programs, and even go to indoor and outdoor festivals. But is that really coming together? I don’t think so.
Let me give you another example. My mother Coven has been around for 23 years. We get together regularly for Sabbats, social dinners, and celebrations of life’s milestones. Even those of us who have been around since the beginning sometimes fail to come to the table, to come together. Oh sure, we’re all there (or mostly there) in the Circle, but not always on the same page. There are those rare occasions when we do all show up, but even with a close net coven that can be few and far between.
Two major things have happened in the last three years for our coven. The death of our founding high priest and the investiture of our new patriarch. At the memorial service for our founder everyone who could be there was there. We gathered in the sacred space of the covenstead and poured our hearts out about him. At the investiture many of the same faces were there. We gathered in the same space and honored the new patriarch. In both cases we had a 90% turn out for the ceremony. Of those who came to the memorial all were present in the moment and properly attuned to what was going on. Of those who came to the investiture not quite everyone was attuned to the event. I mean no offense to anyone involved. But it is true.
You are probably wondering what’s my point. We can band together all we want for the big things. I think that is great. But if we don’t come together for the little things and really show up for them, we are missing the big picture. To use a phrase, we can’t see the trees for the forest.
I’m all for #BlackLivesMatter, for #MarriageEquality, and any number of other movements in the United States that are of importance to Pagans and to me. I’m also for the little movements, the seemingly less “important” movements. As an activist I have to pick and choose just where I put my energy. On the national level I would like to put as much of my energy as possible into the aforementioned movements. However I have to be realistic. If I pour all my energy into these large movements I have nothing left over for what is going on in my own neighborhood, my own community. LGBTQ civil liberties in Nebraska, pushing for more affordable and accessible recycling programs, raising awareness of the importance of community programming.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to know Pagans who have the energy, the devotion, and the ability to channel their energies into movements like the fight against racism, standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the anti-war movement. They have earned a place of honor in my prayers.
I’ve written about this before and I will write about it again. Pick and choose your battles, your causes, what you spend your energy on. I’d love to be able to invest my energy and time in the major movements, as well as taking time for the local and “smaller” movements that effect me personally. I know I can’t spread myself that thin. So I send my energy to where it can do the most good. I send a small amount, what I can afford to spare, to the major movements while sending the bulk of my energies to the movements and causes that are in my own backyard.
What you choose to do with your energy as an activist is up to you.