As a Pagan, How Do I Represent My Path?
Article ID: 15728
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Nicky Woodsprite LeBlanc
Posted: August 10th. 2014
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As a Pagan, I really want to represent my religious community in a positive way when I go out into the bigger world we call “mainstream America.” My family and I do not live in the Bible Belt; in fact, we have one very long-lived metaphysical shop (and several newer ones in our area) along with a very active Wiccan tradition, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, plus some smaller groups and a good number of practicing solitaries. Even so, the majority of our neighbors and co-workers are Christian. Some are active Christians who attend church, and others are people who will say they’re Christian if asked, because that’s what they know about. Of all these Christians, some are really good practicing Christians who try very hard to honor the lessons Jesus gave about loving and helping other people, and not passing judgment. Some, of course, are not. These are often very closed-minded and vocal in their judgments of others, including US.
As a Wiccan, I believe I should abide by The Wiccan Rede, which tells me that I can do as I will, so long as I do not harm other people. This sounds simple, just as the Judeo-Christians’ Ten Commandments sound simple. “Harm other people”…what does that mean, after all? It means that I shouldn’t do them physical harm! I also shouldn’t steal from them, or lie about them, or defame them in any way. I shouldn’t take actions that attempt to keep things that they need for their sustenance from them. Those are all things that are easy for most of us to avoid doing. We Pagans tend to be very actively involved in our own lives and in building our own dreams. Generally speaking, we do not think we have any reason to interfere with other people’s well-being. And that is good for us! It is a step up! But could we do even better?
I once attended a very liberal, progressive Christian church whose pastor gave a series of sermons on the extended meanings of the Ten Commandments. For example, she explained that “Thou shalt not kill” should be extended to mean “And I won’t kill anyone else’s hope, joy, dreams, or self-esteem either.” These extended interpretations impressed me so much! If we want to do all we can to work toward a kinder, gentler world, some meanings must be extended. We Pagans need to do it too.
Not doing others physical harm is important. Of course we shouldn’t go around hitting people, shoving them, or mindlessly putting them in situations where they’re very likely to get sick or hurt. Most of us are good-hearted and would never think of doing any of that! But could we do better still?
How often are we too busy or preoccupied to not notice that another person (someone with a handicap of some kind, either temporary or permanent) is struggling and needs help? When we take part in group meditations or rituals that involve people lying or sitting, do we look around, after we’ve hopped back up, to see if anyone needs a hand? People who are struggling to do something like get up shouldn’t always have to ask for help! Granted, we should not feel embarrassed to ask for help, but some of us are. Let us limber folk glance around us and hurry over quietly to extend a hand!
The same goes when we are at events where it could be rather hard to get around for someone who has to use a walker or a cane. Are we harming them if we just rush past them, ignoring them? Well, a certain amount of this treatment can certainly make them feel they are insignificant within their own communities, and result in them feeling reluctant to go to events. Why can’t we stop and offer to carry some of their things? Why not go over, during a social event, and ask if we can bring them a drink or something to eat?
We once attended a Pagan Pride Festival in a city where there was no particularly easy access to the park where the festivities were being held. We had an older friend, a woman who uses a walker, with us. The only way we could find to get down to the festival, which was situated in a kind of “bowl, ” with hills on all sides, was a very long and steep stone stairway built into the hill on one side! It was very hard work for our poor friend, and if she had been alone she might have just sadly given up and gone home. But we went slowly with her, carrying her stuff and helping as much as we could.
When we got all the way down, she wondered where the toilet facilities were! Well, of course she did. There has to be toilet facilities at any function that people will be staying at for hours and hours! We couldn’t see any, so I left our friend resting on a bench while I ran on ahead to find out. What I found out was that the porta-pots were clear on the other side of the park, at the top of another hill! Does the kind of planning that resulted in all this do physical harm to some of the people? YES! Our community includes aging and physically handicapped members. When we are out-and-about, we need to be aware of them, and help when we can, and those of us who plan events have to plan for all of the people who might attend.
Of course, all of us realize that there are ways other than the physical, of doing people harm. Just like the Christians, some of us are very good at not doing emotional, psychological or intellectual harm to others, and some of us are not. We do have need of good leadership within our communities, but good leadership should never feel domineering to the people being led. Good leadership has to grow from a heartfelt desire to help the community thrive, so a good leader has to be open to listening (with ears, mind, and heart) to what members of the community have to say. We all have a need to feel connected and cared about! Mind you, not a single one of us ever knows everything, and our leaders do not have to do what WE want every single time. It’s about more than just us, and every individual, from the leaders right down to the newest member, has to understand that. Each person deserves to feel that s/he has been heard, and acknowledged.
When we email, snail mail, or voicemail our leadership, we deserve to get a response, if not today, than at least before so much time has passed that we’ve forgotten what the message we sent was about! But by the same token, we must remember that people who try to contact US deserve a timely response, too! Again, being made to feel insignificant is harmful to a person. Whether we’re leaders or not, we all should make a big effort to show the members of our communities that we genuinely care. We need to remember that our leaders are people, too, and not expect them to be any more exemplary than we expect ourselves to be!
It’s been said that broad-minded people talk about ideas, and narrow-minded people talk about other people…in the sense of gossip, especially. I’ve come to value this in my Pagan community! My Pagan friends and I get together, and we talk about our own lives, not other people’s lives. We talk about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we’re planning on doing…not on what some other person is doing that we happen to consider peculiar or off-putting in some way. We don’t spend time gossiping about other people’s lifestyles! But of course we are not always perfect.
I’ve heard unkind words said, even within my Pagan community. Being much less common there, they really ring out loudly when they do get said. Comments we think we are making in fun about another person’s singing, or dancing, or what-have-you, sometimes hurt feelings even though the person we said them to might not show it. Some of us like for certain things to be “just so.” If we are musically talented, for example, we might wish that our covenmates could sing well like us, rather than sound the way that they actually do sound! We might be so intent on achieving perfection that we assign only certain people to do things like drum or dance, because the others won’t do it well enough, in our estimation. But again, we have to realize that this is hurtful to people! Singing, drumming, dancing…these are all wonderful creative and emotional outlets! Everyone needs to be able to do these things! We certainly don’t all have equal talent, but we all have equal need! And we all, if we work hard and are dedicated to our group, deserve to feel that we are good enough to take part.
Comments about other people’s bodies, or attire, or almost anything, really, just plain shouldn’t be said unless they’re positive and approving. Jokes that make people feel embarrassed rather than amused are not funny! One time, years ago, when my husband first began attending rituals, he had no robe to wear to Ostara, so I made him one. I can only make caftans, so I made him a caftan. Thinking about Springtime, I made him a light blue caftan. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice of color, but I meant well! And my husband was happy wearing it until a friend sidled up to him and said, “Is there a doctor in the house?”
“What does he mean?” I asked my husband.
“He meant that it looks like I’m wearing scrubs, ” he explained. And he no longer looked as happy to be wearing it, either. And I felt very embarrassed! Just as I felt another time, when I brought a beautiful new chalice, one I was very proud of, to ritual and someone gave me a very pointed look and showed me that I had forgotten to take the price sticker off the bottom! Why do we do things like this to people? I am sure I’ve probably done it a few times, too. We must take care in the things we say. People’s feelings are not secondary! We all have feelings, and everyone’s feelings are just as important as our own.
This is how we should be, not only within our Pagan community, but also in the greater world. I look upon it this way: if I am the ONLY Pagan person my co-workers, for example, ever get to know, then what impression do I want to make upon them? In my case, I want them to see me, if I am going to be their one token Pagan, as a kind, caring, sensible, hard-working, helpful person. I do not want them to see the only Pagan they know as being unkind, unreliable, self-centered, domineering, complaining, or any other negative thing. The truth is, I am not perfect, but I am a whole lot better than I used to be! We all are!
We follow the God/dess, and They change everything They touch! No one else can show the world this; it is up to us. Let us lead our Pagan community and our greater world into a new era of compassionate interaction.
Nicky Woodsprite LeBlanc
Location: Greenwood, Delaware
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