That's Our Road
Article ID: 4791
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,399
Times Read: 5,782
Posted: October 14th. 2002
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Aragorn: "We cross the lake at nightfall, hide the boats and continue on foot. We approach Mordor from the north."
Gimli: "Oh? Just a simple matter of finding our way across Emyn Muil, an impassable labyrinth of razor-sharp rocks! And then it gets even better! Festering, stinking marshlands as far as the eye can see!"
Aragorn: "That is our road." *
I'm old. I'm not nearly as old as the characters of Aragorn or Gimli in Tolkien's, 'The Fellowship of the Ring', but I have been around the block more than a few times in my fifty-plus years as a Pagan. It's been an interesting journey. And while I'd say that I have probably not yet reached the venerable Bilboesque age when one can pen one's memoirs with a fair degree of closure, the approach of Samhain annually ushers in an urge towards retrospection that I find irresistible.
I think it oddly interesting -- as no doubt do some other 'lifers' in the Pagan communities -- that the resurgence of the popularity of 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy should come forth at this particular time. The last such instance of the Hobbit-mania that so held my friends and myself in Tolkien-quoting thralls occurred in the late sixties and early seventies. (I still have the 'Frodo Lives' button that I bought in Greenwich Village in 1968 kicking around here somewhere.) And it was during that same time frame that the American version of Paganism began to really garner some momentum as well.
Now, I am not saying that the one thing necessarily had anything to do with the other, but these two rather phenomenal cultural developments are forever linked together in my own reflections. There was a certain mood shared amongst my associates that I would be hard pressed to define with any sort of pinpoint precision. The best summation that I have ever been able to bring forth concerning the flavor of those times is this: The world was in a state of transition. The fortunes and tides were changing. And we who were there faced an uncertain future.
Governmental policies seemed often enough much like Emyn Muil's 'impassable labyrinths' as some of us protested the war in Vietnam. Kent State haunted us like a Wraith and the civil rights movement was still trickling through the fog that had cloaked the American psyche for decades. And we were being watched. There was no doubt about that. (I know that I was photographed by the F.B.I. more than once.) The 'eye' of the government had its hidden allies everywhere that we went. A healthy parcel of justifiable paranoia was something we all carried in our traveling gear. It was a poignant and pivotal time.
But lest we idealize those years a bit too much, it is essential to point out that we who lived it had no one grand vision for the future. Not really. It all could have gone either way. But we were at a crossroads and we knew it.
Some of us were peaceniks. Some of us were ROTC cadets. Some of us just 'tuned in and dropped out' altogether. Most of the young men were either desperately trying to maintain their student deferments or couldn't wait to be accepted into West Point. We almost all knew someone who was in Vietnam. Many of us knew someone who died there. The arguments were heated. The battle lines were marked by hair length and music as much as they were by peace signs and guns. One generation on the brink of change --divided even amongst itself -- was about to write a new chapter in the history books.
And we didn't have a clue as to what that might be.
At this same time, the American Witchcraft/Pagan communities also began to grow and to emerge into public view. Those who had traveled to England -- in order to be taught and initiated by the Traditions there -- returned with some 'old' lore and some new ideas. It was astonishing really how quickly these 'Mysteries' traveled and took hold. Groups with names still recognizable today sprang up across the country.
Not that it all was sweetness and light. The Witch Wars of those days would make any 'festering, sticking marshlands' smell like a rose garden by comparison. And there were, of course, still 'orcs' in the woods.
There were Religious fundamentalist orcs and the very worst kind of 'orcs' as Tolkien himself might agree. And so, because the woods were full of these orcs, we did manage to work together --this small, but growing company of diverse Pagans -- despite our many spiritual and philosophical differences.
We needn't -- and probably shouldn't -- idealize the early days of American Paganism. While certainly they gave rise to what most people now recognize as a viable spiritual alternative, back then we didn't have any one grand vision for the Pagan future. Not really. It all could have gone either way. But we were at a crossroads and we knew it.
Returning to the Company of the Ring, we find Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas standing upon the shore at Parth Galen and contemplating the future. Frodo and Sam are on their way to Mordor alone. Gandalf, the Wizard has 'fallen into darkness'. Boromir has 'departed' the company and the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, have been taken captive by orcs and worse things. To all outward appearances, The Fellowship has been broken and the mission has failed.
Yet still, each member of the company must decide what to do next. For the times remain perilous and the fate of the world is still uncertain. They each stand -- Or have stood. Or will stand -- at a crossroads. And each one knows it. The group severed, each hero now faces an individual choice and a decision that he must make alone.
There is today no one unified 'Pagan' movement. We come, much like Tolkien's Company, from diverse and very different religions and paths and cultures. We don't always agree. We still have a 'festering, stinking' marsh or two that could use some cleaning up. But we do stand at a crossroads in history and I think that most of us know it.
The world is once again in a state of transition. The tides and fortunes are changing. And we who are here face an uncertain future. What will we do? What will you do?
"...All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us..." **
And that is our road.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, October 7th., 2002
* The Fellowship of the Ring (Movie Script); Book Two, Chapter X-The Breaking of the Fellowship; Scene 1.
** 'Gandalf' in the Mines of Moria; FOTR (Movie Script); Book Two, Chapter IV-A Journey in the Dark; Scene 2 - Into the Mines.
Quotes above gratefully acknowledged as being from: The Quintessential Lord of the Rings Website.
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