The Challenge: An Open Letter to the Pagan Movement

Dear Friends and Pagani,

I have been trying to write this piece for a while now.  Starting, and stopping, erasing and rewriting, and setting it aside as I tried to untangle my thoughts and feelings and motivations.

The year turns and we are about to embark on the second decade of the 21st Century of the Common Era.  The last several decades have brought many challenges to the Pagan Movement.  In the later 19th and early 20th Centuries the challenges were simply the rebirth and first stirrings of revival within Polytheism and Pantheism and the many “-isms” in the West that have all contributed to the gorgeous tapestry that is Contemporary Paganism.

In the 1950’s and 60’s especially, as the Pagan Revival became a much wider spread phenomenon, no longer the province of lone individuals or small groups, but widely discussed and bursting forth into the larger societies view… albeit through the very distorted lenses of the times and of the overculture.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s we was the beginnings of physical communities as Pagans began to come out to and encounter one another, we also saw some childishness and infighting ~ as one might expect in a spiritual and philosophical and cultural and religious movement leaving behind its infancy and beginning to mature due to the hard work of hundreds of passionate Druids and Witches and Heathens and, indeed, Pagans of every description.  These decades also saw the first stirrings of cross-Tradition communications, in the pages of Magazines like Green Egg; and through Magazines and Newsletters within and across our many Traditions we saw the birth of many new communities and organizations for our many paths.  The 1980’s also brought us the Festival culture, where we could go and retreat from the overculture and begin the journey of defining for ourselves what Paganism was, in part by exploring the many reflections of it from many Traditions and paths as we encountered (and yes, still fought) with one another.

There has been a lot of infighting within the last 30+ years, as we have matured in our individual and communal Pagansims.  As we learned to live with one another, as we truly began to let go of the ideas and norms of the largely Monotheistic overculture even as we struggled to figure out how to exist within it, as we as Pagans grew up.

There has been a ebb in the 1980’s and 90’s era tide of “Pagan” publishing in the last decade… Why the quotes?  Because by and large the “Pagan” publishing of the late 1980’s and 90’s represented only a narrow bandwidth of our spectrum.  We have more than enough books that seek to explain one or two of the Pagan traditions in terms so simple a child could get it, we have enough books that talk about the baby steps of ritual; where are our books of deep philosophy (from a Contemporary Pagan p.o.v.), where are the books detailing Pagan ways of dealing with hardship and tragedy and grief, where are the deep and thoughtful anjd practical and philosophical works that could take us out of the “occult” and “metaphysical” ghetto’s of the bookstores and into the Religions section?

Make no mistake we need to be writing them, in hard copy as well as online!  Even as we discuss and expound online… websites only last as long as their technological or programing platforms and as long as their service providers… we need to be creating hard copy for ourselves and for our future generations.

The 90’s and the Aught’s with their accompanying transformations of the Internet Age have seen an explosion of communication and exploration and information within our movement, and a new round of misinformation as the overculture noticed some segments of our movement again.  That misinformation, borne both of confusion and of deliberate misinforming on the parts of some groups fearful of change and eager to increase their own power at any cost, forms the basis of our challenge for the next decade.

We must find more and new ways  live our faiths and our values and ideals, and new ways to communicate of them within our community and to demonstrate them to the overculture.  We have come to the international stage in Interfaith conferences, we have seen the elections of our first openly Pagan officials in the U.S. and yet we have a lot more to do.

We need to start writing those deeper and more thoughtful books, we need to start supporting our large in faith and inter-faith Pagan organizations, and charities, and those organizations and groups seeking to build our Pagan infrastructure… like Pagan Seminaries and Colleges.

We need to set aside our fear of being picked on, or discriminated against because of our faiths.  We need to embrace our Traditions and our Movement and Communities with Pride.  Remember, there are soldiers of the many Pagan faiths who are living, and some have given or who will give, their lives in service to  our rights; Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion among them

These are the Challenges of the next decade for us my fellow Pagans.

What other Challenges can you identify?

Yours in Peace and Curiosity and Community,

Pax

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