Community, Festivals, and Service
Article ID: 8596
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,441
Times Read: 4,689
Author: Taylor Ellwood
Posted: July 12th. 2004
Times Viewed: 4,689
Probably the most enjoyable aspect of the Pagan lifestyle is the festivals that a person can go to. Some of these festivals are large, well-know events such as Starwood or the Real Witches Ball. Some are small events such as Pagan Pride Days and some festivals are really just community gatherings, celebrating the family and spiritual bond between the people that attend the event.
All of these festivals, large and small, bring together communities, give people a chance to laugh, dance, and enjoy each other. But sometimes one factor is ignored by many people that attend such gatherings and that factor is service. Service is ignored because people don't feel they should have to put time in to help others, because they are too busy with their own lives, or because they simply don't care enough to help out. Whatever the case, often service is ignored in favor of just having fun, without awareness of the hard work people put into making the fun actually happen.
Service is work willingly done for the betterment of the community. To give you a personal example, recently I went to a small community gathering in Southern Ohio. Before the festivities actually began I spent a good amount of the day helping to prepare the place for the festivities. We had tents to set up, port-a-potties to clean, and a large grill to move, so that food-makers could begin prepping the food. Without that work many people who came later could not have enjoyed the festivities and fun. And later, after the festivities were over, the tents had to be taken down and the site had to be cleaned up. This is what service is.
One feature I like about Starwood is that everyone is required to put in two hours of service. No matter who you are or why you are there, two hours of service to the community is required. This forces people to acknowledge the importance of service to the community by actually putting time into the community. I think such activities keep the spiritual energies and interests of the people focused on the betterment of the community.
In such communities where there is no mandatory requirement of service it seems that few people volunteer their services. As my one friend pointed out, at such events a small select group of people arrive early to help set up the site and stay late to tear down the site. Everyone else comes late to avoid working and leaves early for the same reason, partying in between, but not really living up to the spirit of community. Obviously this disparity can create problems. If only a few people are willing to donate their time again and again, and everyone else takes advantage of that, it can cause resentment or other problems.
The best approach to community events is to put some time into making the event happen. Not only will you get the thanks of other people (a highly valuable gift), but you'll also get respect and you'll find that you feel worthwhile, because you are contributing to the community. Further service to the community will allow you to appreciate how much you value the community. It's easy to take for granted a community event if you don't help with the set up or clean up. But if you do help with either or both functions you tend to appreciate what you've helped establish. What matters most is that by putting in time with a community you are improving the energy you bring to the community.
Another aspect of service that I think is equally important is building bridges or networking at festivals and community events. Networking means establishing connections between yourself and other people or, if you will, between yourself and other communities. Four Quarters Farm is an excellent example where multiple communities come together at one site. Every year Four Quarters Farm features a diverse variety of Pagan communities that form into one community whilst there and continue contact when not there.
It's very important for the Pagan communities as a whole to develop a stronger sense of connection to each other. All too often there are Witch Wars over silly matters, such as the name of a magazine, or equally foolish concerns, when in fact the real focus should be on bringing people together instead of infighting. Such people who promote infighting between communities are not leaders, but instead are dividers. Granted there will be disagreements between people, but such disagreements should not cost the entire community, and should stay as private and as civil as possible, though that may not always be easy.
By building bridges between communities we can present a united front to the world, showing people that Paganism in all of its forms and beliefs nonetheless has unity and a universal community that bridges nations, ideas, and Witch Wars. For us to grow as a community we need to put our differences aside and learn to work together, coming in time to embrace the differences that we all have. When we can establish a strong foundation, a strong bridge that allows us to network and create more opportunities for the overall community of Paganism throughout the world, we will then be doing service not merely to each other, but to the beliefs we have that connect us to each other. And the festivals we have will be made that much richer by the connections we establish, nurture, and maintain. Again this is a form of service just as valuable to the community as the service we do on the land.
In the end it's important to remember that the festivals we have, the communities we belong to, are created through the hard work of people willing to put time in. These people do this not just for themselves or other members of the community, but also for the idea behind the community, that it can be a place where people have family, safety, and joy in each other's company. We can only insure that this continues if we make the time to do service for the community for the betterment of all.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Author's Profile: To learn more about Taylor Ellwood - Click HERE
Bio: Taylor Ellwood is currently pursuing his PhD in Literacy, Rhetoric, and Social Practice at Kent State University. He is the author of Pop Culture Magick, and the co-author of Creating Magickal Entities. Taylor is currently writing his third book Space/Time Magick as well as more articles. He also maintains an occult author resource page on his website. Check out Taylor's webpage or his livejournal. Taylor can also be contacted at the email address above.
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