Friday, September 21, 2012

Rebuilding a Pagan Community

I have been a Pagan most of my life.  In the sixties we were just coming into our own as a part of the counter-culture, what is today referred to as the hippy movement but actually was much much broader as the emerging liberation and civil rights movements, the anti-war movement and the beginnings of what would later be called the environmental movement or green revolution.  By the seventies we had a wide spread, loosely connected web of Pagan communities.  Oh, we had our differences, did we ever!  But there was a definite sense of being part of a greater Pagan Community.  Often the local communities sprung up with bookstores or occult shops, sometimes in competition with each other if there were several in an area.  There was an explosion of new traditions around this time.  It was a great time to be a Pagan but also a scary one as we had police "occult squads" all around the country looking for cults with dark motivations and far too many accusations human sacrifice etc. coming from the also emerging mega-church radical religious right.

But most of all, having come largely from the Wiccan roots of Gardner, we gathered and practiced in groups whether we called them covens or something else.  It was a community based movement overall.  There was a lot of individual fear of being outted as Pagan then but many of us were out and proud, myself included.  I taught a course for several years as part of the Ohio State Free University (loosely associated with Ohio State University) and was a consultant on Pagan and occult matters to the Psychology Dept. of OSU and as a result was one of the few "go to" Pagan speakers when the local papers or media needed someone to talk on all matters Pagan in Central Ohio.

I was personally targeted by the local mega church as a result and without going into details, they laid waste to much of my life then.  I retreated into the broom closet as a result for over a decade, mostly practicing solo, occasionally with a small group and retreating into scholarship which eventually led to my founding the Cybeline Revival.  I was not alone in this.  Hundreds of books on witchcraft and Paganism and all things occult were being published, the interest was still there, groups survived and continued but the steady march of the US towards the right made it feel unsafe to be too out especially to those interested but unable to connect with the remaining groups.  Along came Scott Cunningham with a series of books on how to be an eclectic solo practitioner which rapidly became wildly popular and over the next couple of decades the majority of our overall community largely turned away from group practice and towards solo practice, especially away from large urban centres. 

Here's the problem, Paganism, almost all traditions, at it's roots is a community powered path and we lost that and our way as a result.  We need to rebuild that sense of community to survive and thrive.  We need to join together and celebrate once again openly and unafraid.  We must put aside and reject the personal egos that solo practice promotes, build community centres open to all, acquire and share brick and mortar locations with each other and we need to SHARE with others as a community once again.  We have so much in common and we need to focus on that rather than our differences.  This is Pagan Pride season, find the nearest Pride event and join in.  If there is not one close by, get together now with friends and start planning one for next year.  Network with other Pagans, especially from other paths than your own.  If you are part of a group, encourage that group to network with other groups.  If you practice solo, look around, we are everywhere so step out of your shell and join in some group celebration somewhere.

The world is at a major crux right now and we ALL are needed and need to work together.