Do You See What I See?
Article ID: 2108
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 8,054
Times Read: 23,323
Posted: January 4th. 1998
Times Viewed: 23,323
We in the Pagan community have much to be proud of. In the last five years, Paganism has been incorporated into multi-cultural holiday calendars, had predominately good press coverage (and at times other than Samhain!) and fostered numerous organizations on the Internet. The communities at the local level are featuring workshops and coffeehouse-type get-togethers. The public festivals grow bigger and better all the time. We are connecting in ways that were just not available in the past- and we are doing a good job.
We have reached-or will reach very soon- most of the goals that the early pioneers of the Craft set out to materialize. We have gained heightened recognition of our religion and the respect that we deserve. We have more to do, of course, but the results of these efforts have been astounding! Those who took this early vision and worked toward its fulfillment have our heartfelt thanks. The general public has a pretty good idea that we are NOT satanists, NOT weirdos and NOT out to steal their souls!
But now it may be time to re-evaluate our community "vision statement." What do we wish to accomplish in the next decade? Where are we going? Now that people know who we are NOT, maybe it is time to start thinking about who we ARE. But, who are we?
These questions about Pagan identity and its core values seem to be the fuel of many a Witch War. We just don't seem to know who we are or what we are willing to stand for- and until we do-we cannot expect anyone else to know either.
WHY BOTHER WITH CORE VALUES? A community with irreconcilable differences on important issues will be torn apart. If a community does not learn the value of 'give and take,' of intelligent compromise, eventually conflict and discord will cause a Witch War to erupt in its midst. If factions are only looking for a "win-lose" resolution, the entire community will suffer. There are still two sides left at odds. One may be the 'winner' in this case, but the 'losers' still live there too. You can be sure that they will be planning a covert move in the future.
"Power over" is not widely admitted to being a core value of the Pagan community, but its widespread use in Witch Wars denotes that when things get this bad, it is a still a tactic that some will resort to. Unfortunately, this means that someone's voice is forcibly silenced. Public discussions become focused more on personality defects than on the rational examination of ideas and issues. So democratic dialogue is now impossible and issues are buried under resentment and whispers. And surely a like response will be forthcoming from the other parties involved? Anyone else smell smoke? Yep, something is a-smoldering here...
Many in the Pagan community know of or have been involved in a Witch War. These 'fires' come in various degrees. Some burn hot and bright, then quickly die out. Some burn for years. Some go underground only to reappear again in another form. But they all are an indication that a change is needed-or already on the way.
TWO KINDS OF CHANGE: Change can seen as being of two basic types-evolutionary or revolutionary. Take a guess as to what category the Witch War falls into?
Revolutionary Change: Yep, you were right! Witch Wars are a revolt against the status quo. Something is either not working, no longer relevant or not being taken care of. Someone is unhappy-often very unhappy-and because all other known vehicles of expression have failed, the Witch War seems the only other option.
What we as Pagans sometimes forget is that the people entering the Pagan community are coming directly from somewhere else. They come from families, from other religions and from the outer general society. All the ways that people have learned of coping -or not coping- with problems come right in with them. Wouldn't it be nice to have some sort of "decontamination shower" at the entrance to the Pagan Path? Well, we don't. So the same problems from "out there" are now OUR problems "in here." Much as we would like to think of ourselves as more spiritual, enlightened, open-minded and sincere than the average guy, the fact remains that we still ARE that average guy, too.
So, if all our shortcomings come in with us, how can the Pagan community learn to deal with those issues that just will not go away? What do we say to our own who break oaths, codes of conduct or even civil law? Where can we go with our grievances? It seems sometimes as if the only thing that we DID leave at the Pagan entrance door was the "checks and balances" sheet.
Right now, we have no where to go. We have no mediators, no facilitators and no widespread core values to depend on for conflict resolution. Someone gets away with it, just goes away or ends up in a civil court of law. Surely we can come up with a better way to deal with our internal conflicts than this! But until we do-until we know what we stand for and what our core values are-the Witch Wars will wage on...
WHAT WE CAN DO NOW:
Let us try the other mode of change for a while. Evolutionary change does often result from revolutions, but the cost and casualty count of a Witch War is a high price to pay. Anticipating, directing and steering the coming changes may be a better approach than just hoping that we survive the latest round of 'friendly fire.' But this would have to be a community project to work. Everyone who wants to be involved would need to be heard. It will hardly happen overnight. But we can begin to do some things that may make a difference now. As we continue to ponder what our future may hold, we can at the same time begin to create and encourage discussion of the issues. We may want to try to:
The Pagan religions have come a long way in a short time. We have already met many of the challenges of the past. New issues face us as we move into the future. Change will come whether we are ready for it or not. What sort of a community shall we leave to our children? What skills can we hand over to them that will enable them to live meaningful lives?
- Direct Energy - to those things that have "lasting value." Build with the future in mind and with a clear objective vision. Do you have a personal 'vision' statement? Does your group or organization? How will you know if you are on the right track if you have no vision, no ideals, to steer your way?
- Be Adaptable - to changes in the Pagan community. Network with other groups and Pagans. Stay informed about what is happening, not only where you live, but where ever the Pagan community is making in-roads. Be open to other ideas and Paths. Do not resort to 'demonizing' others who are different. Rarely is something ever a case of "all or nothing". Giving an inch does not necessarily lead to losing a mile. Know just from where you will not be moved, but be willing to take a step or two where you can.
- Be Willing To Tackle the Tough Issues - They won't go away. They won't be ignored. If they are a real and recurring concern for someone in your community, hear them out. If you don't, someone else will and it will grow into an even bigger issue.
- Be Committed - to your community's well being. You live there. Others do too. Everyone should care and be involved in building up their community-not tearing it down. Rubble does make good fire wood which any spark could set ablaze...
- Formulate a Vision - Where does your community want to be in the next ten years? Squabbling over "turf?" Arguing over rituals? Or standing together to make the future better for your children and the Earth? What is your vision of the future? Write your own vision statement in your heart. Perhaps your community will get together and write one, too. Where your vision is, there your energy-and your future-will follow.
- Step Forward - No one is part of a community by default. Each person must make the decision to be in or out. If you decide to be "in", then volunteer to work hard on the issues in your area. Meet with others. Assume that they are as sincere as you are unless they actually prove themselves to be otherwise. Stick to the issues. Speak up, speak out and show that you care.
There will always be those who choose to remain outside the community for one reason or another. Some feel they are just too individualistic to fit in. Other people may be fearful about getting involved in group politics. There are some people who exhibit obvious anti-social behavior and will never mix well with others.
Fine-That's their choice! But if you are one who does decide that you are not willing to be involved and work on your local community, then you forfeit your right to criticize. No citizenship, no vote!
- Set An Example - No one is perfect or infallible. But strive to set the best example of Pagan integrity that you can. Do more, care more, look out for one another and don't be afraid to step up to the plate when necessary. Promote "traditional values" by honoring commitments, treating others of all religions with respect and being accountable for your actions. Walk your talk. People notice when you do this- and when you don't.
None of us HAS to go it alone anymore. Perhaps that is the greatest change of all. We have support systems that did not exist even 10 years ago. We can interact through new technologies. Information is more available and diverse than ever before. The physical boundaries between us grow smaller every day.
But with this new interaction comes new challenges. We are being challenged to discover just what our "core values" may be. We are being pushed into dialogue with not only different traditions, but entirely different cultures from all over the world. We are becoming an increasing number not only in our local communities, but in the greater societies in which we live and work. The future is racing towards us. Unless we just want to be swept willy-nilly along, we need to begin to think about making some real plans on where we want to go.
We have spent the past few decades saying, "Look at us! See who we really are!" This year's press and media coverage has proven that people are beginning to listen. But now that we have their attention, what do we have to say?
Can we really say that we have found a better way to live life-a more productive way, a stronger way, a more spiritual way-when we continue to be helpless to cope with our own diversity and to solve our own problems?
In the end, we cannot expect that the Pagan community-or indeed the world- will be any more ethical, open-minded, honest or spiritual than each one of us is personally willing to be...
In Her Service and Yours,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
January, 4th, 1998
click HERE for Wren's thoughts on Changes
Photo Credits The photo of Wren was taken by Fritz Jung and the Witches' Ball on Samhain 1995. Salem, Mass.
Important Note: This article is presented by the author as a starting point for discussion on the issue. Each author has submitted his/her article independently and may or may not agree with all the viewpoints in the entire series.
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