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Article ID: 12426
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: July 13th. 2008
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I've been a solitary Pagan now for a little over eight years. A little over two years ago (possibly more, time does slip away) I found a local community of Pagans and began to branch out. Around this time I also discovered online communities.
At first I was excited. "Wow, other Pagans just like me from around the world, " I thought. Lots of time alone can make a solitary a very excitable creature.
After a very short time, my exhilaration turned to disgust as I realized more often than not online 'communities' were really just virtual proving grounds for what I like to call "invalidation bullies" (people who get kicks from making others unsure of themselves) or as they often refer to themselves, "real Pagans."
I was shocked to find that in a group that professes to be the epitome of tolerance people could be so little and mean-spirited.
I found myself at first apologizing and excusing myself for being a solitary Wiccan (Wicca isn't a real religion anyway, it's too new; you can't be solitary, it just means you're too lazy to be initiated, so I was told).
Then I began openly defending my beliefs.
Finally, I put my foot down. Enough was enough.
I read the Vox regularly. Although I've given up the defense game for the most part (depending on my hormone levels), I feel called to put in one last stab as I realize for some this is still a large hurdle.
I was unfortunate enough to have been raised in a small backwoods church made up of "real Christians." Everyone else but its fifty-some members was doomed to spend eternity in hell. There were and still are feuds of this nature on a larger scale within the more mainstream religions.
Unfortunately this has carried over into the Pagan world. Maybe some Pagans brought it over as baggage from their childhood religious teachings. Still others perhaps weren't familiar enough with it to be properly conditioned against it early on. I grew sick of it during my first religious go around, as did many others.
Like I said earlier, I'm tired of this argument. It's old, stale. As my grandmother would say, ‘it has begun to hair over’, but this is written for those who may draw strength from it, whoever they may be. In this essay I will address two types of "invalidation bullies."
Firstly, I don't disagree that pagans need to study in order to know the facts from fiction. There is a lot of bad scholarship, or no scholarship, going around. We should make an effort to learn and become familiar with our cultural heritage. Tradition and continuity is, after all, a part of being Pagan.
I, however, do not feel it is possible to know every detail of a culture or past practice that we draw from. The more we read anthropological and architectural works the more we realize how very little we truly know. This is especially true from cultures that were based mainly on oral tradition.
Many scholars have been derided, disavowed, and counted as incredible if they attempted to do more than record physical descriptions and dates of their findings. Paralleling and concluding are not tolerated in the world of academia.
This being the case, I have always felt that reconstructionists were a little off base to suppose they are more accurate or "right" than anyone else (what breeds this kind of attitude, anyway?). As far as religious ceremony, a reconstructionist can only practice in a documented fashion. Anything past what has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt is mere speculation.
When I first discovered online communities I was living on a mountain thirty minutes outside the nearest city. I was a ruralite. At that point I was living fairly close to nature. In winter I hiked up the hill to my house. In the spring I worried about rutting stags coming through my back sliding doors.
When I began learning about Wicca years ago I lived in an even more rural area where people like me were social outcasts. The city where I live now has some open pagans but they are few and far between, mainly solitary, and very distrusting but with good reason.
This type of setting is not exactly conducive to coven work. Besides, there is something gratifying about knowing I had the will to learn on my own and keep up with my studies outside of a coven support system.
I'm not trying to pick on reconstructionists or coven members. To each his own, I say. These are just the two most prevalent types of attackers I've had to deal with. I'm sure there are just as many, if not more, who are indifferent to others' decisions.
In bouts with these bullies the issue that never came up was spirituality. People tend to argue about the physical trappings: how you cast a circle, what pantheon you use, what you wear, or how or to what degree you were initiated.
At first the physicality is very important. It is the key to that inner landscape which is our spiritual self. Once we have access to our spiritual self the rest becomes less and less important. The spiritual self can also be viewed as a destination with many roads leading to it. It doesn't matter which one we choose. They all lead to the same point.
People who like to judge others based on the physical trappings don't understand that these are just the keys (or roads). To these bullies the trappings *are* spirituality. There is no differentiation.
So the measure of spirituality is reduced to how much you know about 3rd century Britain, whether you know the difference between Hellenic and Hellenistic Greece, or whether you use 'thee' and 'thou' instead of 'you' when calling the Quarters.
To those who have reached the inner landscape things like pantheons and degrees are moot points, rendered totally irrelevant.
So when you are faced with put-downs and put-ons from pretentious Pagans, let that knowledge be your shield.
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