The Pagan Community – A Survivors Guide

The Pagan Community – A Survivors Guide

So you’ve found this wonderful thing called Paganism.

You might be called to explore a particular path, be that Wicca, Witchcraft, Asatru, Druidry or Shamanism, or you might just want to go with the flow of the eclectic and take stuff from all over. There are magazines, courses, physical groups, online groups, moots, festivals, open rituals, Covens, Groves, so much stuff. It’s a dream.

There are others just like you.

So you go online and start interacting with other people.

Sometimes this doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes the peace and spirituality you thought was there is not reflected back at you by everyone you meet. I’ve seen this happen quite a few times. Even people who have been involved for years suddenly throw in the towel and become Atheists. I guess every spiritual community is the same.

Here are a few things to bear in mind as you explore the various avenues of the Pagan community.

Freedom is important – many of us became disillusioned with organised religion. We were looking for something more earthy, less dominated by a clergy, more open to ideas and personal connection, something more magical maybe. Paganism can certainly offer this. But within this vast tent there are traditions that are also quite strict. Coven Wicca can make a number of demands on its practitioners. For instance you may be asked not to work with any other group, at least for a while. You will probably be asked to take an oath of secrecy. The methods you are taught may have been handed down since at least the 1950s in one of the Books of Shadows, and you may well be asked to copy one out in full for yourself. It’s good to know this beforehand.

People say there is no dogma in Paganism, but in reality that varies from tradition to tradition. If you are attracted by the eclecticism of Paganism and are new, one thing it’s good to know is that not all paths are that eclectic, and some demand a good amount of effort, focus, and dedication.

It’s all in the detail – Some groups use the 4 Elements of the Western Mystery Tradition aligning them to the four directions, others don’t. Some Druid groups cast circles, others don’t. Some Wiccan traditions allow men, others don’t. It’s good to spend some time exploring the map before you head out without a compass.

It’s not all in the detail – that being said there are huge areas of common ground that are shared by the many different groups and traditions. A love of the earth, the moon, the stars, inner working and chant, oh, and mead, lots of mead, to name just a few.

Not all Pagans are left-wing liberals. I know. It’s shocking, but it’s true. There are lots that are, but don’t expect everyone you meet to agree with your political choices. This is also true about what you choose to eat. If you are a vegan who rejoices in finding Paganism you might be surprised when you discover that being a vegan or vegetarian is not something everyone signed up for when they first stepped onto the path. Freedom is important. Some of the most destructive online encounters I’ve seen over the years have been about this. Also not everyone holds binary views on delicate topics. Recently I’ve seen this in conversations, and I use that term lightly, about Donald Trump, Race, Vegetarianism, Immigration, so many things. There can seem to be a group mind about this. For instance if you come onto a Pagan Facebook group and express your concern over immigration, you may well be instantly labelled a racist. There can appear to be a Pagan binary worldview. You either are, or you aren’t. Sadly this has the effect of instantly closing down any further constructive dialogue, and the person asking the question usually retreats, bruised, and wondering where the freedom they first encountered disappeared to.

So I guess what I’m saying is that there are a lot of people who hold very similar political views in Paganism, but again, that’s not often what people signed up for. Tread your path gently. Expect that people will agree with you, and also disagree, and that’s ok. Try not to expect people to be perfect (at least what you deem as perfect), just because they call themselves Pagans.

I’ve been blessed to have travelled around the world with my music, going to Pagan festivals and camps from Australia to the USA, from Italy to the Czech Republic, from Greece to Canada, and I can tell you that, although we have a vast amount of colour within the Pagan community, it is real, alive and vibrant all across the world. From standing in ritual with 1000 people at the Pagan Spirit Gathering, to being invited to share intimate ritual and sacred space with smaller groups, the connection is there, and it is wonderful.

Final thoughts?

Some come to Paganism for companionship and community. If that’s you, you will find it, but it might not match up 100% with what you want or need. It’s a slightly perilous direction to walk. Better to have the drive be a personal connection with the land, with the stories, for an ecstatic union with ancient Gods, to use that connection to really help to know who you are. As it said above the Temple of Delphi Know Thyself. If that is your primary reason for your Pagan path you should be fine. Do the work, and the community you join will know you as one who walks their talk. The community is a natural progression of your own personal path, something as well as. From there you have a far more solid foundation from which to step forward into the worldwide Pagan community.

Travel safe and well.

21 responses to “The Pagan Community – A Survivors Guide”

  1. A key piece of advice I offer concerns attending your first moot. If possible call before hand and ask “Can I bring my pet snake?”
    If they say yes – don’t go 😉

  2. ‘If it harms none, do as you will’- I am not a Wiccan but I believe this is a good general rule for all people.

  3. That was very well said, and true. I know as I am used to being the odd man out. It sometimes seems that I am meant to be the odd man forever. I spent my youth fighting for my country yet had to hide my faith. You see being a Pagan in the The Marine Corps in the eighties and Nineties wasn’t cool. In fact only recently the VA has authorized the Awen be allowed on ones tombstone. Now in my middle years I walk free and proud of my religion and my brothers scorn me because of my politics. Yet they do not know the things that I know nor have they seen the things that I have seen. We are a part of this world. We must take a part in it and pay attention to what is going on around us. Yes peace is preferred but not at all cost.

  4. Great post and good advice for those who are starting their journey and a bit of a reminder for us who have travelled far)O( x

  5. Great article thank you. I think ‘tread your path gently’ sums it up really well. I really like that and hope you don’t mind if I quote it in the future, as it strikes a chord with me.

  6. Covers some important points, good to read. But I would comment that Wicca (in its Gardnerian / Alexandrian form) is open to both men and women equally. Groups which restrict to only men or women are rare, and unlikely to call themselves Wiccan.

    • Thanks for the comment Weaver. Absolutely. Gardnerian and Alexandrian Covens are open equally to both men and women. I was mainly referring to this Wiccan tradition, and then it’s actually the one founded by Z. Budapest that is women only. These trads are out there, and when the majority of modern Pagan literature talks of equality, it’s good to be informed that it’s not a view held by all.

  7. “. If you are a vegan who rejoices in finding Paganism do understand that being a vegan or vegetarian is not something everyone signed up for when they first stepped onto the path”

    I stopped reading there dave. Pretty offensive to immediately call out Veggies and vegans and make a point that ‘not every pagan’ will be like that. In fact, I’ve found fewer vegetarians and vegans (only 1 other vegan in fact) in the pagan circles I move in (and I move in a lot! ) than among any other people I know. I would say there is actually a predominant ‘meat head’ culture among paganism. That can be quite hard to stomach, when you recognise that other people who in most other respects share your reverence for the earth, but do not extend the courtesy to other beings. In fact it’s heartbreaking! But I wouldn’t put that up front and centre on a blog post read by 100’s of people, because I’d understand it wasn’t necessary, and that it could actually hurt someone. I say this not to pick a fight, but to let you know that it did actually feel like a slap on the face, and one I really wasn’t expecting 🙁

    • Hi Sam. Thanks for the comment. I wish you hadn’t have stopped reading there, I think the rest of the post helps put that specific comment in perspective. I’m not sure that it’s ‘up front and centre’ either. It’s one sentence among a whole list of other things.

      I know how deeply many vegetarians and vegans feel about their chosen way of life. I’ve seen some very lovely people, who choose a vegetarian/vegan diet, dragged into flame wars online in Facebook groups and messages boards simply because it’s hard for them to understand how people who follow an Earth-centred spiritual path can still eat meat. Your words above “That can be quite hard to stomach, when you recognise that other people who in most other respects share your reverence for the earth, but do not extend the courtesy to other beings.” Can sometimes be enough for people online to get quite defensive and thus it all begins… When I said “Tread your Path gently”, that’s all I meant. Our own personal choices are exactly that, our own personal choices.

      I do apologise if that sentence offended you. I pawed over this post for hours pondering whether to post it at all. When writing about some of the issues people may face in the Pagan community I realised it would be impossible to speak with any depth without the possibility of offending anyone. In the end I hoped people would see the overall message behind the post and not take offence at any single point raised.

    • Hi Sam. I used to be a vegetarian, although never vegan. I objected to killing unnecessarily to eat, but never wanted to give up my cheeses and yogurt. I think you may be mistaken in thinking about “other people who in most other respects share your reverence for the earth, but do not extend the courtesy to other beings.” I invite you to explore another viewpoint.

      As I progressed in Wicca, I began to find that Animals are not the only other Beings we share our lives and the Earth with. Wandering between Traditions for decades, I finally became a member of one which has roots both in european traditional witchcraft and in a Native American shamanic tradition, and which teaches and incorporates this Animism I found, and could articulate it. The Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars, Lakes, Clouds, Rivers, Storms, Winds, Mountains, Valleys , Hills, Buildings, Rocks, especially Crystals, Forests, Fields, and most certainly Plants are Beings too. We believe that everything that exists has a soul and is alive; is a Being of some sort. Certainly most things live on a more primitive level than humans, and some exist on higher levels, which most of us are less aware of. Modern science is beginning to show that plants, at least, are Beings too. They communicate, and react to the sound or even thought of another plant being burned or eaten by bugs!

      Being willing to eat, even enjoying, Animals as foods, as well as plants, does not always mean lack of reverence for them. Obviously if Plants, as well as Animals have consciousness, we run out of things to eat fairly quickly if we make consuming Beings with consciousness unacceptable. Rather, as some of us learned to revere Plants and other Beings equally, we found the only way to survive is to embrace the fact that we must all use and consume other Beings, not only for food but for companionship, warmth, clothing, housing…everything. Refusing to do so is suicide,and self-harm is equally as abhorrent as harming anything else without sufficient reason and need. Moreover, self-harm is a slap in the face of GOD/DESS who created us, equally with all other things.

      We feel we should strive to be conscious of, and grateful TO the spirits of all the things, Beings, that we must use, as well as grateful to our DEITY(s) FOR them. Give thanks not only to and for the Thanksgiving Turkey, but also the Cotton, Linen, Wool, and Oil based Synthetic fibers that make up our clothing, the Wood and Brick and Rock and other substances that make up our buildings, the Metals that are made into our stove to cook our meals, the Metals, Fibers, Plastics, and Glass that compose our vehicles, the Metals and other substances that make up our computers, phones, and other communications devices, the Clothing, Buildings, Cars, Stove, and Computers themselves, and OF COURSE the Potatoes, Yams, Green Beans, Cranberries, Pumpkin, and other plants we eat with that Turkey, and every part of every other meal we eat and thing we interact with.

      I do not ask you to share this perspective, but to realize that this may be how many non-vegetarian Pagans feel. Consider that perhaps their consumption of meat may not be a result of lack of reverence for Animals, but a natural result of the expansion of their consciousness of and reverence for Plants and other types of Beings besides Animals. I hope this was helpful and not offensive.

  8. Expectations are what often can become Premeditated Expectations. For me, If hold to what I think a thing is before I approach it. I am rather wrecking my experience of it, as instead of exploring I am comparing. Do I judge and discern, you bet your sweet boopie I do! I go with what I like and I dont’ with what I don’t. I try to stick round long enough to reach a decision. After. Not before. I carry a resentment still, I’m working on it, about those who look to paganism as an excuse to be fringe, to take psychiatric diagnoses and try to rationalize them. I resent being viewed as fringe, when this is actually my spiritual practice and manner of being that existed before I realized there was a word for it. So far I have noted that when I have a resentment, the only thing I can do is to keep growing and changing until it passes. Thanks for the article. Why does paganism see to attract the woo eee eee ooooo type? sigh of frustration 😀

  9. LOL! Very well put Elisa! My wife and I have run across far too many of the “woo eee eee ooo oo” types ourselves. We have heard the coined term “playgans”. Yes, they can be quite frustrating and very off-putting. We run a circle ourselves in the US and boy do we get ’em! Everyone, however, is entitled to follow their path in their own way. Glennie Kindred (fabulous author!) stated very clearly that’ “…there is no wrong way to do ritual. If it is right for you and the intent is correct, so bet it!” Or something to that effect. According to the UK definition we would be what is considered Druids. We also follow some Wicca and Norse traditions. This is a prime example of that “eclectic” thing Damh mentioned. We do refer to ourselves as Druids, though.
    We have also run into a number of pagans that are Veggies and Vegans. Fine for them. But as I like to say, “we’re Pagans and we eat meat!” Oh and Damh, you are sooooo right about the mead! We LOVE mead over here. Nectar of the Gods!
    So yes, my advice to all, as is Damh’s, tread lightly and carry a big wand. We all follow in our own ways. Be patient, you will find your group eventually. If not, start your own. We did. If they like you, they will come back. If not, probably just as well. Wish them well on their path and move on. Don’t stress about it, not worth it.
    Peace, Love and Mead!
    Blessed Be.

  10. Good points Damh. I’m a liberal who voted for Obama twice and after recent events became a Right wing Republican Trump supporter, recently left ADF as it became clear if you are right of Bernie you are not welcomed. A memory of mine was my Lebanese/Purto Rican friend being called a white supremacist by a member for disagreeing on a political point (Not sure he realized she was non-white).

    I’ve had a friend banned from the OBOD friends community for being “racist” when her family (that she loves) is more racial diverse then OBOD friends is. Why racist? She had a Pepe meme as her avatar and she’d win arguments with other members and all they could do is scream racist at her when they couldn’t refute her.

    I’ve had OBOD memebers tell me that I have no right to be a Druid as I prefer living in urban areas, am not really an environmentalist and of course Republican (would probably be a Tory over in the UK). I’m about ready to agree with them and leave, of course this is why you see a movement calling themselves Polytheist instead of Pagan.

  11. I’d love to find a community to belong to at all!
    Alas, there is no longer a wheelchair-accessible moot here, I am housebound other than with the help of my lovely husband, and I am too scared to join the data-mining machine called Facebook.
    I must therefore continue as a Solitary, I guess.

  12. I really liked this post and I’ve come to pretty the same conclusions recently. It seems like political views have really polarised in the last couple of years and also the vegan thing has gained momentum.

    I have found pagans to be people like everyone else, with a variety of backgrounds and opinions, but really only having one thing in common.

    I have found friends in the pagan community, such as it is in Australia, but they have been only a fraction of all the ones I’ve met.You are not going to be best mates with someone, just because they are pagan.

    As for social media groups, I pretty much gave up 7 years ago, after I wasw attacked in a newly formed group simply over voicing the belief that I didn’t really like participating in single-sex covens because the attacker wanted to misunderstand everything I said. Communication between people isn’t just words, it’s also tone of voice, body language and on Facebook, with posts being so short, it can easily lead to misunderstandings. You can really only say very non-controversial stuff and so you cannot ever have a real conversation in one of those groups. I reckon that has led to things getting so polarised across the board.

    In real life I have pagan and non-pagan friends across the politcal spectrum and v.egans, meat eaters, gluten free eaters, lactose free eaters, paleo devotees. I refuse to allow myself to get sucked in by political idealism, whatever side. It can be done,

    Great stuff, Dave, I hope people take it on board.

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