Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Building a Pagan Community

Recently we attended a Pagan festival in Kansas, and we attended a workshop on what we believed was going to be a discussion on building up a sense of community in Paganism. It turned out to be a discussion on intentional communities, living off remote acreages and communal living with fellow Pagans. Nothing about building community with other Pagans right here where we live now. I have no desire to remove myself to a distant communal farm and be subject to all the rules and drama inherent in a closed society. Self sufficiency is an admirable goal, but what does it accomplish for the larger Pagan culture?

Astarte recently moved so she could be closer to a Pagan community, but it was the larger community offered by a larger town. We do not desire to remove ourselves from mainstream society. Why should any of us have to do so? We can live and work and socialize with anyone, Pagan or not. It is only the select few, the fundamentalist extreme, that can't abide our freedom of religion.

Pagan minded individuals generally don't preach against anyone's right to choose their own religion. We may not agree with that choice, but if we also want our right to choose, we have to accept it for everyone.  There are quite a few that would talk about their own past experiences and why a particular religion isn't for them. But to quote a friend, "Part of respecting each other is recognizing that “not right for me” isn't the same as “not right”.

You will likely never see a group of Pagans protesting a Catholic mass, or a Baptist bible camp. But if there was a secretive Pagan commune, with guarded gates and "members only" signs, it would attract way more attention and persecution than just living among the fundamentalist Christians and letting them discover on their own that the nice neighbor across the street with the fabulous herb garden is not Christian like they are.

This falls under the whole "Morality comes from Christianity" argument, and it's one that I would like to refute by being a moral and ethical person out where they can all see me, not closed off in a commune where only my fellow Pagan people can acknowledge it. So, how can we go about building a Pagan community with the people who are close by, but not actually living in the same neighborhood, or even the same city? The answers are vast, and simple. Internet. Festivals. Small group activities. Sabbat observances with any and all Pagan minded peoples, regardless of tradition. Take a leadership role and teach others. Share insight, opinion and your abilities. Work together on community projects. Network. Let others approach you when you wear your pentacle, and invite them to come to your meetings and introduce them to the people you know. Diversity is our greatest strength.

The key to becoming a wholly accepted part of society is not to withdraw from it, but to embrace it. Live your tradition within the world, and show that Paganism is not something to fear.