Individualism and Community
Article ID: 13134
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,862
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Author: Sgian Dubh
Posted: February 1st. 2009
Times Viewed: 2,120
Ancient Paganism was very much about the community, but Neo-Paganism seems to be much more about the individual. What with the innumerable solitaries and countless paths, and the disagreements and differing interpretations even within the same path, it seems like no two Pagans have the same brand of Paganism today. So what does this mean? Should we all retreat to our own corners and practice our own individual forms of Paganism?
Of course not. No man is an island. We live in the world, and we are supposed to love and revere that world, so why withdraw from it? We should be among it—that is our calling after all.
So then, what do we do about our differences? Do we call for more centralization, and forge more unity by saying that we will all believe certain things? Do we talk about our differences and exchange ideas? Do we keep silent about our beliefs since fights will always break out when people disagree about things that are very important to them?
I don’t know. Personally, I don’t like the idea of someone telling me what to believe, and while I like to talk and exchange ideas, fights DO break out, and that can often be frustrating. I’ll admit that sometimes I even verge on proselytizing without meaning to; getting caught up with my delusions of grandeur and my opinions that I’ve formed the perfect system and if they’d only understand then they’d surely jump on board. Of course that idea is ridiculous, but in the heat of the moment, I forget.
However we come to terms with our differences, it should be understood that if we are to truly follow in the footsteps of ancient Pagans, and I don’t mean just in the sense of Reconstructionists trying to recreate the ways of the ancient Greeks, Celts, or Egyptians, I mean to pay homage to the ideas we draw from. If we are to do that, then we must honor the idea of the community. The druids and shamans of old did not horde their powers for themselves, but shared it with their communities, guided their fellow villagers in their spiritual practices, presided over laws and disagreements, and saw into the future to guide their clan, tribe, or village. Here the “no man is an island” idea comes up again. If we all act only for ourselves, what will we accomplish?
When it comes right down to it, it is in our interest to benefit our community. If your town is doing well, generally you will do better than if your town were doing poorly. If you go out and benefit your community, you’re likely to make friends, and create an environment more inclined to you achieving your goals. This can apply both to one’s local community and to the Pagan community at large. And really, in some ways, benefitting one can benefit the other. If, as Pagans, we help our community, we may, in small ways, help to improve the social image of Pagans in the wider community, and those who are not uber-judgmental of alternative paths might be more receptive to the Pagan community in general, which would of course benefit the Pagan community. On the other hand, if we go out of our way to benefit the Pagan community, make friends, donate to groups trying to help our environment, and do social works, then we may, by helping the Pagan community at large, also ultimately come to benefit our local communities as well.
If, for example, you joined Pagan groups for social justice. Let’s say it’s against domestic violence, and called “Witches Against Battered Women. “Well, first of all, you’re benefitting a Pagan group, doing your own little bit to form bonds and ties, and at helping to allow all of us very different Pagans at least get along, even if we don’t agree. Secondly, you’re supporting a group with a worthy cause.
Thirdly, if—Goddess forbid—such a thing should strike an unfortunate woman of your community, this group could come to her aid, and in whatever way they could, therefore benefitting your local community in turn. Now, as a pleasant side-effect, said Pagan group with a good cause becomes known in your community, giving them, at least within your community, a good name, and thus in turn again benefitting the Pagan community, and allowing the group to continue to do good for yours and other local communities and perpetuating the cycle of mutual benefit.
Of course these are by no means the only ways to go about improving the Pagan community, or your local community. The possibilities are endless. If you are a crafty Witch—pun intended—you could make Pagan themed jewelry or little knickknacks to sell at a community street fair. The possibilities are about as varied as there are Pagans, so just get creative and think of something to do for your community.
And of course, let’s not forget what we get out of all this as individuals. From benefitting the Pagan community at large, from joining into Pagan groups and causes, you create a network of friends and associates who can help you in times of need, send energy/prayers/spells, and talk to you if you need it. By benefitting your community, you gain much the same thing: friends and associates you can turn to, talk to, and who can generally help you. The more friendly your environment, and the more inclined your universe is to work to your benefit, the more you are working to allow and magick and intent to work unimpeded. And for the Wiccans and Karmically-inclined, it can’t hurt you to help others.
Finally, if we can advance the pagan acceptance of the Pagan community by our local communities and by societies at large, think, if nothing else, how much easier life would be not having to worry who knows you believe the way you do.
Perhaps this is nothing more than another “let’s all come out of the broom closet” piece, but I think it is important that in our solitude in individualism that we not forget our communities. We mustn’t forget that we are part of something larger, and that no matter how grand our goals, or how esoteric, that we do live in the world, amongst other people, and that it is our duty to live our lives as such. Not with shame, not with fear, but with love.
Location: Yucca Valley, California
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