Finding our Way to the Future
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Article ID: 11198
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Patricia Telesco
Posted: October 1st. 2006
Times Viewed: 4,396
The article entitled Loosing My/Your Religion that appeared on Witchvox in July caused quite a stir. I received more email on that subject that I have ever gotten on any other. Some loved what they read, a few hated it, but nearly everyone agreed on one central question: how do we fix it?
In order to begin answering that question we need to first figure out some of the barriers standing between us and a strong, global Neo-Pagan community. The first obvious answer that comes to mind is our tenacious individuality. Neo-Paganism has been built on the concept that we each can hold a vision of the Divine, and each find a unique path to make us better humans. However, the problem with this idea is that it pushes people apart rather than bringing them together. We’ve fought so hard for that individualism that it’s created a foundation that will not make cornerstones and community building easy as it means a change in our focus – i.e. what brings us together? What commonalities do all Neo-Pagans share? Wanting to protect the earth comes immediately to mind as an excellent core theme around which to rally. These underlying points are bridging mechanisms that can help us to not only strengthen ties in our own community but continue to improve our relationship with the rest of society.
Secondarily we have jargon. High Magicians say “X” one way (always in capital letters) , kitchen witch’s cook “X” another way, Shamans chant and dance “X”, Druids just give “X” to the trees. All humor aside, we say that words have power and it’s important that when we communicate with each other it’s in common terms (which, in turn, helps avoid potential mis-reads and misunderstandings) . Similarly, as we build those bridges outside Neo-Paganism, avoid the flash and fanfare and stick to simple, core ideas (honor the earth, life is sacred, etc.) . These morsels are easily digested by anyone, and they’re ideals that nearly everyone (no matter their religion) agrees upon.
Third we have the areas to which we give time and attention. We live in a world that’s very heavily focused on negatives. How long has it been since you heard a “good” news story? Sadly, this has a domino affect on people where we, too, begin to only focus on the bad instead of uplifting the good. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve traveled to an event only to hear the story of a “falling out” between people that took place 2, 3, 4, and even 5 years ago… yet again! Why do we need to cling to these things when they’re done and over? There truly are much better ways to spend our time, and better things on which to focus. Release what we do not need, integrate the past, and as my mom would say “get over it.”
Fourth is what I call the “jump off the cliff” syndrome. When correcting our children we tell them, “well if your friend Joe jumps off a cliff are you going to do that too?” This question is posed as an example of not simply going along with the crowd or giving into peer pressure, especially when either encourages bad behavior. Now, let’s translate this to a Neo-pagan setting. We’re sensitive about being persecuted; yet often talk very nastily about people whose faith we don’t agree with. That’s certainly not a sign of tolerance on our part. Nor is it walking our talk if we truly feel all Paths lead to the same place. But, because “Joe” did this…. Joe spoke badly about our faith, or Joe didn’t come to an ecumenical information session (when you attended his) , suddenly we feel justified in being just as badly behaved. If you take nothing else from this article, please remember this: It’s not about what other people do – it’s how WE live our lives, how we walk our talk from moment to moment, day to day, that eventually builds the bridges. If we’re not walking our talk we may wake up one morning and realize that good-ole’ Joe is right sometimes (ouch!) .
Fifth is the generally big-hearted nature of pagans. We want to help. We want to jump into the fray. Sometimes, however, it’s not our place to get involved, to take sides, etc. I have spoken before about what is truly community business, and what is private so I won’t rehash that here. But let’s start pausing before we jump into those figurative pools whether or not that’s the best use of our time and energies (going back to point three) .
I would also point out that our love and kindness has sometimes been abused. People come into this community seeing it as a tidy hiding place. Others come and feel it’s ok to act badly because we espouse tolerance and perfect love/trust. Folks, our love and trust should be earned. If someone abuses that, it’s ok (and indeed, our responsibility) to clean up our own proverbial back yards. We have to draw our lines somewhere – if it’s illegal, abusive, etc. it needs to stop. By doing this we present a more unified front to the world, and a sense of sanctity to each other.
Speaking of unified, the last point for this piece is the nagging feeling that neo-Paganism is “just another fad.” While our members may not agree, there are still a lot of folk who truly expect that eventually all this “magick stuff” will just go away. Why is that? In part it’s for many of the reasons we’ve already discussed here. We have no black and white outlines for the public, so the public simply doesn’t know what to do with us. They receive 101 versions of neo-paganism, each different, and some disagreeing with each other. To a mind used to concretes, this illustrates lack of congruity and unity (even if it doesn’t seem so to us) .
Another reason for this feeling is because, for the most part, there are no Pagan Churches. Now before people jump all over me, I use the word “Church” generically here. When you go into any town in the US you can see where the Catholics “live” – where the protestants “live” – where the Jewish people “live” by their buildings. Buildings imply longevity and permanence. They also give the public a place that’s identifiable and tied to a specific group, a place where people can come for more information! So how about Pagan Information Centers, Pagan Coffee Houses, Pagan Food Pantries (this one qualifies for Federal funding) , etc.? Give society a place where they know that a representative faction of our community “lives” and worships. Offer classes and open circles. Build those bridges within and without.
Let’s find our way to the future… together.
Location: Amherst, New York
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