The Pagan Community

With most of my articles, I try to make them positive, but sorry folks, this one is a big fat moan.  I’m going to complain about things that I see going on, and offer solutions or at least something to think about.

The word ‘community’ gets bandied around a lot.  The ‘Pagan Community’ is one I hear often, and use myself, but for me, it’s become an issue.  A community is a group of like individuals, people with something in common, be it nationality, physicality or beliefs.  To me, a community is meant to be supportive towards one another, to help each other when required and to a group you can go to when you are in need of some sort of support.  I realise that this is my personal definition and no one else is bound by it, but if you can’t get support from those of like-mind, where can you go?

Pagans, as a group, are all individuals.  We all have different ideas on what constitutes our own ideologies, relationships with Deity, beliefs on the afterlife, and the correct way to do, well, nearly everything.  This makes ‘like-mind’ somewhat difficult, I accept that.

What has horrified me lately, is the distinct lack of anything you could call ‘community’ within our community. 

A suggestion was made on an internet forum I frequent, that there is a need or desire for a Pagan Federation type group like those that happen overseas.  This was immediately called into question as people either interpreted it as a ruling body or a representative one.  No one seems to want a ruling body, which is fine, but few could let go of the idea that such a group would be seen as one.  A representative group raised just as many issues because many of our individuals didn’t want to have anyone think that such and such represents me and my ideals.  Then it descended into what was considered acceptable to all (very little) and where lines are drawn.  The next question was representing Pagans to whom?  The Media? And why?

How are we ever going to move ahead in this country if we can’t even agree which way is ahead?  Perhaps if we make more effort to get out and meet one another, and spend time together in social settings, it can happen.  There will always be people who disagree, and that you don’t get on with, that’s a fact of life, but if no one makes the effort – or only a few – we’re all going to be isolated little candles in the dark.

Many Witches and Pagans refer to themselves as ‘Priest’ or ‘Priestess’ – if a coven has a High Priest and High Priestess, it follows that others are Priests and Priestesses for you to have High ones leading.  So, what is a Priest or Priestess?  What does it mean to be one?  I’ve put this out there to a number of people, and got a variety of answers.  I suggested that it means ‘to serve’.  Yes, this received a good reception, right up until I followed it up with ‘serve who?’

Serve the Gods, or serve your Coven seem to be the most common answers.  But to me, they seem to be superficial catchphrases.  Serve the Gods eh? And how do you do that?  Light a candle at the right time in front of a statue and ask them for guidance?  Or get out and do the hard work?  Brighid seems to have a lot of pagans and witches ‘serving Her’, but as a Goddess of Healing I don’t see many healings going on in Her name, except perhaps in a private setting, for friends.  Serve your Coven? Great, if you’re in one, but within a Coven you have defined roles and jobs to do, how is this going out of your way to serve?

I believe that a Priest or Priestess should be serving the community.  Not just those of like mind, but society as a whole.  I personally have had immense help from the Methodist Mission.  I was straight up from the beginning that I was Pagan, and certainly not Methodist, but you know what, they don’t care.  They exist to help people in the situations I was in, and they do it for free.

I mention ‘for free’ quite deliberately by the way.  We (Luana and I) are frequently approached to do house clearings, for help from those who think they’ve been cursed, and for some guidance on magical issues.  We don’t charge for this, to the disgust of many within our ‘Pagan Community’.  I’ve even been told that many ‘can’t be bothered with that kind of crap anymore – as soon as you have your name out there, all the crazies come out of the woodwork.’   If someone chooses to pay us, that’s fine too, if that’s what they need to feel that they appreciate the work we’ve done – but we also leave the amount up to them.  Whatever they feel it’s worth.

We were asked where the profits for our PaganFest would go – which charities we were supporting.  When we said that a profit would be nice, but not expected we were then declared to be a failed business venture and not sustainable.  Admittedly, the person doing the questioning is, as far as I can see, determined to discredit everyone else in the Pagan Community who is doing anything publicly.  When we worked out the costings and pricing for the PaganFest, we wanted to keep it affordable, so we only charged what it would cost for each person.  The purpose of the Festival was to provide a Festival, not to make money.

I would like more people to think about these kinds of things. What are you contributing to the community?  Pagan and wider community.  In what ways do you ‘serve your Gods’?  Is it truly serving them, or serving yourself?  Do you ask your Gods how they’d like to be served?

Written by Debbie Dawson
Freelance Writer

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