Is/has what people want from their Paganism changing?
If I look back to when I first began to explore my spiritual path it was magic I was looking for. I guess it came from my love of the paranormal and the occult as a teenager. So when I discovered the works of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (no relation to the far right political party by the way) I was smitten. It served me well for many years, until I began to yearn for something a little more earthy, and it was this that led me to Druidry.
I’m older now. Magic, at least the magic presented by the Golden Dawn, is not my path or world view anymore, and hasn’t been for many years. My eyes turned towards animism, towards a more spiritual connection with the land and its stories. Magic is still a part of my life but now it is the magic of folklore, of bud and tree and leaf. That’s what I want my Paganism to be for me. I am less interested in manipulating the Universe to do my will through solemn scripted spells and rituals, and more interested in building a relationship with it, with my Paganism helping me to find my place within the web of life.
I was listening to Gordon White’s Rune Soup podcast the other day. It was a ‘state of the magical world’ address with Peter and Alkistis of Scarlet Imprint, and something that came up was Ronald Hutton’s new book Witches. Let’s just say that they were quite scathing about it. In their opinion Ronald had an agenda and wanted to paint a very bland picture of what the Witch was and should be. I’ve not read the book so cannot comment personally, I’m just relaying what was said. They went on to say that the Millennial no longer wants the Wicca of Gardner or Sanders (I have met a number of Millennial Witches who have no idea who Gerald Gardner was), but rather wants the older Witchcraft (again, not ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ – this they also said was a creation simply to counteract the Wicca being presented by Gardner). This older Witchcraft was not the Wicca that would sit down happily with the local vicar for tea. They said that Wicca was on the way down, and this ‘other’ Witchcraft was on the way up.
I’m assuming they mean the types of Witchcraft presented by people like Gemma Gary in her books published by Troy Books – The Devil’s Dozen Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One and Traditional Witchcraft a Cornish Book of Ways. I’ve read them both and really enjoyed them. Gemma is a speaker at next year’s AnderidaFest. I’ve seen her speak before at the Pagan Federation Devon and Cornwall conference and she was amazing. Is Wicca on its way down? I’m not sure about that, but there is an edginess to Gemma’s approach to the Craft, and maybe that is what some people want now. There was a time when Pagans had to fight every Samhain against the they are all Satanists media circus. Any suggestion that Witchcraft had any darker traits had to be stamped out. Now it appears that some modern Witches are out to reclaim things like the ‘Devil’, not the Christian Satan, but rather something else. I had to deeply consider whether I wrote those words. I know how sensitive this topic can be, but I don’t think it’s something we should avoid talking about. It’s there. And as the people on the Rune Soup podcast said, it’s a growing path.
In the podcast they said that the old model of a magical group having a secret, where a person needed to join the group via initiation to have access to that secret, is also an old, outdated path. They suggested that, in this modern day of the internet there simply were no secrets left. That all of those groups based themselves on masonic rituals and methods of initiation, and quite frankly, its day was done. I get that the ‘secrets’ are all out, but I’m not sure I totally agree that it’s done. I remember searching for a path. There was so much information, even back then, it was impossible to make sense of it all. It must be even more complicated now, being new to the path and trying to find the gems in such a vast network. And all of those voices on Facebook groups, all saying different things, and arguing over the minutest detail. I still think there is a place for groups. The secrets may all be out, but the mystery still takes effort and sometimes guidance from those who have walked the path before.
So tell me. What do you want from your Paganism? I’m not talking about the Pagan community here, I’m talking about your personal quest. Is group work/initiation important anymore? What do you want your path to help you feel/see? Does it achieve that? What turns you on spiritually? Ecstatic dance? Drums? Or quiet contemplation? Has Paganism lost its teeth over the past couple of decades in an effort to become acceptable to the mainstream? Does that bother you?