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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 9,437,140  

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Question of the Week: 105 - 4/5/2003

Are Pagans TOO Individualistic?

We hear it said all of the time: Pagans are individualistic. We hold our own personal freedoms and acts of self-determination (and perhaps, our own self-worth and esteem) to be of the utmost importance and often view events, ethical and moral issues and Pagan-related teachings through this lens.

Does the good of the one always outweigh the good of the many? Should it? Are there times and/or circumstances in which such an individualistic mindset is detrimental to a bigger picture?

Have there been times when you have put aside your personal feelings in order to support a group or project even if you were somewhat ambivalent about ‘going along’? Or have you left a group or situation because you would not -- or could not –- go along with the crowd or leadership position?

How do you reconcile your individuality with the goals or teachings or codes of your group? With other Pagans? How do you decide?

 Reponses:   There are 56 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Wouldn´t Say That Individualism Is The Problem... Apr 6th. at 1:18:19 pm UTC

Freya (Lisbon, Portugal) Age: 22 - Email

Individualism is what makes us who we are. We can all work together and still be individuals. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, ego is our biggest downfall. We´re still at the stage where we are competing with each other.

´Hey guys listen to me, I´ve got the 99th degree of the Coven of the blah blah blah, I´ve been doing this for longer than you have so listen to me´

´No no no, don´t listen to her, listen to me! 99th degree? I´ve got the 1000th degree and as for the coven of the blah blah blah, well my coven is better than hers!!! She says she´s been doing this longer than me, well I was doing this in all 5 of my previous lives´

A little story about ego messing up a Pagan group.
Last year, I tried to start a Pagan society at my University. Well, not just me, but two other Witches that I lived with because on arriving at the university, we all lamented the lack of a Pagan society and so we made our posters and saw the union officer for permission to put them up. It was granted and we put them up. A few were graffittied with rubbish like ´Goths´ and ´satanists´ but we began to get members and eventually the university newspaper wanted to speak to us. We did the interview and it was very positive on behalf of the pagan community. Good job they didn´t see the infighting. From the beginning, we had made it clear that everything would be voted on and that I was not a ´president´ as such. However, there was one young Witch, you know the kind, fresh from a book, with a new shiny pentacle and wearing stereotypical ´Hollywood Witch´ clothes. I´ve never been that kind of girl. Skater clothes are my thing and I haven´t worn a pentacle in years. I guess I wasn´t the kind of person she thought a Witch could be and I think she was very insecure. However, more and more she began disrupting the meetings, to the point where we couldn´t get a quiet drink in the union organised, let alone a trip to the Edinburgh Beltaine festival. Several times, I asked her in private if she had a problem and she´d just turn bright red and deny it. From the beginning, I´d made it clear that someone else would have to ´chair´the meetings and do the organisation in the following year as I would be studying abroad. When the time came, despite my best efforts to organise a vote, nobody voted, instead complaining about me deserting them.
Ok, so it´s not only ego that plays a part here, I think laziness and a certain unwillingness to stand up for your beliefs comes into it too.

In the past few weeks here on Witchvox, I have been extremely interested in the essays on tribalism and they got me thinking, but not only on the angle of encouraging neighbourhood friendship and helping others. If the whole of the Pagan community was to see each other as part of the same tribe or family, instead of potential competition, we´d get more done. Maybe if the general Pagan community was to look more to the Heathens for pointers on living as a community, there wouldn´t be as much squabbling. There´s something to be said for community loyalty and goodwill.

Mind you, I suspect all this will come with time. Paganism is still relatively recent reborn. If you look through early and middle Christian history, much blood was shed because one man´s Christianity was different to another´s. Let´s just be thankful that we live in societies where religious murder is not acceptable (well....) .

F, F, F, F


Learning To Be Part And Apart Apr 6th. at 5:27:22 am UTC

Gunshythirdeye (Anchorage, Alaska) Age: 49 - Email

Having to agree with the general concensus against your will then you are giving in. And for me when I give in I feel like I'm not being truthful, and like one man's art is another man's trash what is good for the greater population can be a matter of opinion. I don't do the blind obedient thing very well. I find when I am pushed into that then I feel drained and unsatisfied, I have to make my own choices, or I am not happy. And one of the things that I believe that we're all here for is to learn how to have fun and be happy, and of course to learn how to love. And for me if I choose to do something that I don't enjoy or feel comfortable doing that I feel that I have let myself down. I don't like going along with what the popular way of thinking or what ever. I know that that makes some people just frustrated but sorry to thy own self be true. I don't expect others to go along with what every I think is right and I loose patience with those who try to manipulate me, and I especially get anoid when if two of my friends or family members get into a disagreement and if one demands that I choose their side and I am trying to stay out of it then often they made my choice for me. Manipulation is very harmful.

There Certainly Needs To Be A Change Apr 6th. at 1:21:51 am UTC

Scott Burnside (New York) Age: 26 - Email - Web

Before I took serious the teachings of the Buddha I would have answered this question with a resounding NO! Now that I have studied his teachings and incorporated it's wisdoms into my own practices I believe there may be some truth to it.

The problem with being extremely individualistic is it supposes that we arise of an independent origination. It's a spiritual hissy fit... "I'm my own person which means I can do whatever I want, and I don't need anyone else"

This could not be more incorrect. Not a one of us can exist without others. I will not get into this in depth, but just think of how many people are involved in your daily life and making simple things possible (people who make your clothes, prepare your food, etc.) . The next step is to realize that there is a link between you and them and all people that belies your feelings of deep individualism.

Feelings of self worth and esteem are great when applied in this framework as it promotes positive feelings about others as well. I think this embodies what is lacking most in the Pagan community today.

We need to concentrate less on the individual, but still respecting the individual as an intricate and essential part of the whole. Efforts then naturally focus on promoting peace, compassion, and justice. This will ultimately lead to being taken more seriously by those outside the Pagan tradition.

............. Apr 5th. at 11:31:16 pm UTC

dhk (Ontario) Age: 16 - Email

If you do not follow your own path atleast some part of your life than whose path are you following? someone elses? that doesnt sound right. If you dont follow your own path than how can anything change. There are too many cases where people get lost doing this and end up forgeting why they started. Unless you make an effort to be overly individualistic, I dont think there is such a thing as being too individual

Striking A Balance Apr 5th. at 9:41:21 pm UTC

Stormwind (Canada) Age: 25 - Email

I often take part in a group that is more "open circle" than "coven." Our group members range from eclectic Wiccans, traditional Wiccans, Celtic Pagans/reconstructionists, people learning Wicca, people curious about Paganism, and one who isn't even Pagan himself but goes with his Wiccan partner and takes part. Although our manners of conducting ritual differ depending on the tradition/faith of the leader, the system works well, and no one needs compromise their beliefs for anyone else. Those who do not wish to take part in a specific aspect of the ritual are still and respect the others who do.

I admit that this approach would not work for a coven, but for me, it's a nice balance between following my individual beliefs and also taking part in a group format on occasion.

I'm a great proponent of individualism, but I do not think that should extend to selfishness. Just like personal freedoms, the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin, so no one need impinge on another's freedom to act.

I've often left groups that were going in a direction I didn't believe in. I could not in good conscience follow along when something violated or exceeded my own thoughts of correct action on a matter. For example, I will attend protests for various causes, but I leave if/when there are confrontations with police or damage of property. I do not believe that fighting police or acts of vandalism help in getting a message across; usually they are only used by the media in helping the wrong message gets across.

Woops Forgot Something Apr 5th. at 8:51:03 pm UTC

Juniper Jupiter (OPKS) Age: 28 - Email

These holier than thou Christians I run into tend to act like Reps to their church. I run into a couple of members of said church members and they tend to think otherwise. Forgot to add that in.

It All Depends On The Situation Apr 5th. at 8:48:45 pm UTC

Juniper Jupiter (Overland Park KS) Age: 28 - Email

As a solitary pagan, I believe that individuality is important for thriving spirituality. I only run into fellow pagans (or Wiccans or Witches) online, or during festivals and benefit charities, and most of those I run into believe the same. However, "Paganism" can end up like "Christianity" (I'm using quotemarks here for a reason, hear me out:) !) . There are ones that call themselves Pagan, but they tend to become "holier than thou" at times. There are the immature "Pagans" that claim they are stronger or more powerful because they are more devoted to their religion (huh?) . It's the same for Christianity. Unfortunately, I run into MANY of these poor folks that call themselves "Christian" that really get me going. They tell me I'm going to hell without so much as "heidilly ho neighbor" but they "love me anyway"...ugh!!

So in conclusion it just depends!!

My nickel, keep the change!!;)

Blessed be!!

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