So Darkly Fey, from Live from the Red Leather Couch and I had some fabulous back and forth conversations recently via e-mail about Paganism and Pagan community. We decided to share with the Pagan Community Builder’s Yahoo. This stirred up a little bit of discussion, and some really cool questions… This encouraged me to engage in some of the following ranting about Pagan community…
I don’t know if movement’s neccesarilly mature into institutions, but I would definitely agree with the idea that they can mature into communities. As I have said here and elsewhere that is where I think Paganism is right now…
Paganism is a spiritual, religious, and cultural movement made up of different interwoven and overlapping religious and regional communities.
It is my hope that Paganism as a movement will move and grow and develop into a family of interwoven and overlapping religious communities. I just don’t think we are quite there yet. (in my ever so humble and correct opinion!) ~ ;-)
Moving on, if I may quote you…
“What would a mature Pagan community look like? More importantly, what would it do?”
I think that we as individual faiths and communities are in a process of hammering that question out… I also think it is related to another of your questions…
“But Pagans– do we have a goal? Is it individual enlightenment, collective enlightenment, improving the world with the idea that with an immanent divine, one serves the gods by serving others?”
I would say that the goal of a Pagan depends on the particular religion or philosophy of the individual Pagan. ( I know, obviously, but I am moving towards a point here so please bear with me…)
I would observe that for the different Pagan faiths and paths there seems to be an overall theme of development into being a better person (personal growth and perhaps enlightenment, although it is not neccesarilly phrased as such) by practicing certain rites, and developing our relationships with the Divine (or the All That Is) and with the Spirits of the World Around Us (Elements and Land Spirits), and living certain (intertwining and overlapping) virtues and values, and by building our relationships with others in our groups and faiths and societies through those virtues and values and practices…
I think that his theme of growth and development leads us quite naturally into engagement with other branches of Paganism, and from there into engagement with the rest of Society. I also think that fear of discrimination, and a lack of outside pressure in the form of legal or social restrictions on religious practice, has helped to hamper that process of engagement. Of course the fact that Paganism, with its Pantheism and Polytheism (among other Theisms present under the Pagan umbrella) whose essential concept of “our way AND your way” is having to re-emerge culturally from an immersion in Monotheism’s predominantly “Our way or the highway” mindset has also hampered our development as a community…
I think that both of your above questions are being hammered out by different Faith and Regional communities within the Pagan movement.
My instinct is (or, admittedly, perhaps it is merely my deep hope) that we as a movement are reaching a threshold point of in-group and inter-group communication and networking and growth and expansion that we are ready to go towards the next stage in our development from a movement into being a community.
Of course, I have been accused of being somewhat of an optimist and idealist…
“In my thoughts, I’d figured finding other Pagans would be the hard part. After all that navel-gazing and contemplation, the theological musings and soul-searching, we’ve figured out what we believe. We’ve found each other!….
I, SO, hear you! I share some of your frustration and experiences at local Pagan groups and rituals. Socializing, in and of itself, is not enough. Rituals on the Moons and/or on the Seasonal Holy Days are not enough!
That is part of why I created this discussion group. To start and encourage discussions of “what now?”
“What now?” is why I have written Invoking the Power of the Pagan Dollar 2.0
Because I believe we need to start supporting our own community members (by supporting them as business people, and not just the occult tsotchke shoppes either!) and institutions (religious, community, and charitable).
“What now?” is why I support the Pagan Pride Project and Pagan Pride events of all sorts… despite my occasional misgivings about some of the modes of dress and behavior!
We need, as religious and regional communities within the Pagan movement, to start engaging and reaching out to our wider local, regional, and national communities; not to proselytize, but to show clearly and honestly who and what we really are and are about!
We need to start looking at celebrating open and public rituals and observances at CIVIC holidays, not only to show our lager communities who and what Pagans are and are about; but to also deepen and expand ourselves as Pagans and our relationships with the spirits of our ancestors and of our Nations, and of the World around us; and to further build and strengthen our communities!
That, at the very least, is “what now?”!
Beyond that, well let’s keep talking!
PS- if you are interested in taking part in this discussion, or ones like it, you can post here, or even better yet sign up for the Pagan Community Builder’s Yahoogroup !!!