Editorial: Wagging the Dog

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 12, 2014 — 220 Comments

Depending on how you want to crunch the numbers there are around one million modern Pagans in the United States. Some have argued it’s a bit less than that, some have argued that the figure doesn’t even scratch the surface of our true numbers, but for now, I’m going to use “one million” as a reasonable middle ground for the purposes of this essay. It’s an impressive number, it means we are no longer confined to “thousands” or even “hundreds of thousands,” we’re in the religious big leagues. Using estimated affiliation numbers has long been a tool of minority groups to emphasize their strategic importance in reaching consensus on political and cultural matters in our society. For example, when you’re the head of a religious group that boasts over a billion members worldwide, newspapers create whole sections just to cover you.

Terence Spencer—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Terence Spencer—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

So it’s little wonder that Pagans are collectively proud to be in the million+ club, but there’s a hitch. These numbers mean very little in terms of ability to organize, fund projects, or influence legislation. It hasn’t even translated into the religious infrastructure (buildings and money) that many Pagans say they want. There are loads of theories as to why this is, but the simple truth is that “Paganism” (however you want to define that) is an umbrella term for a phenomenon, a movement, a religious impulse, that is deeply individualistic, eclectic, decentralized, and hugely diverse. It is like classifying bike-riders as a religious group. Sure, they all ride bikes, but the reasons for doing it, the kinds of bikes they ride, how much they ride, and how much money they’re willing to devote to that pastime varies.

There’s been a lot of public soul-searching recently as to what our religious community is, what its future should be, and what is expected of “big-name” individuals within our community. To give just a quick overview: Ivo Dominguez Jr. wrote about the importance of alliances within modern Paganism, David Oliver Kling wrote about paid clergy, T. Thorn Coyle pulled back the curtain on how much the “big” Pagan authors actually make, and Jason Mankey pondered if the current crop of high-profile writers on the Internet are even reaching anyone aside from a small but dedicated assortment of invested readers.

“How many Pagans really care? This is a trick question because it means thinking outside of the blogosphere for a second, remember there are perhaps two million Pagans in the United States and only a fraction of those people are regular readers of the Pagan Blogosphere. So is monism something the average Pagan wants to spend hours debating? Is a continued debate over monism really essential to their belief structure? Are extended, and often far too personal, debates really accomplishing anything or are they online pissing contests?” 

Mankey gets at something important: How many Pagans really care about what prominent writers, organizers, and activists really do in the name of the community? I’ve heard the old joke about how organizing Pagans is like “herding cats,” but I think a better analogy for the state of our movement is the tail wagging the dog.

“A minor or secondary part of something controlling the whole.”

Think about the biggest explicitly Pagan festivals and gatherings out there right now, your Pagan Spirit Gatherings, or your PantheaCons, you’re talking around 1000 people at one, and pushing 3000 people at the other. While there may have been outdoor Pagan festivals that were once bigger, the median attendance now seems to hover in the middle hundreds, topping out around 1000. Smaller indoor conferences often see registrations in the low hundreds. The point being: these are not huge events, drawing multiple thousands of people. They draw from what one might call the “engaged” class of our movement. The people who want ongoing in-person lessons, who can afford regular interaction with Pagan adherents outside an immediate circle of friends and family, and who may be seeking to become a “name” (or earn a living) within this class.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary leading a Lammas bonfire ritual.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary leading a Lammas bonfire ritual.

This engaged class, and I want to note that “engaged” doesn’t mean “better” or “more religious,” it simply denotes a level of participation in what one might call “meta” or “interfaith” Pagan movement events, is the small tail of a “dog” that consists of a conceptual class of people who many expect to start helping the engaged class realize various dreams of establishment.  You already know how this pitch goes: If only a mere fraction of our million gave x number of dollars we would be able to fund our temple/clergy program/school/event. The answer, it seems, is that if we only reached out to these Pagans and fellow travelers we could wag our dog towards whatever our ambitious goal is. However, I fear that the “dog” isn’t all that interested in being “wagged,” and has even less interest in propping up the ambitions of their would-be thought leaders.

Why do I think this? Because I live in a region (the Pacific Northwest) where modern Pagan theologies and rituals are seen largely as a resource for building a highly personalized belief system, and I have worked for a music and arts festival (Faerieworlds) that draws a number of Pagan and Pagan-friendly people into a space that while not explicitly Pagan, provides bands, workshops, and activities that many Pagans in the engaged class would recognize. I’ve talked to friends of my step-daughter (who is in her mid-20s) who go to politically anarchic Witch-camps led by Reclaiming-trained teachers but would likely never attend a larger pan-Pagan gathering. They have no interest in our debates, or our ambitions, they are only interested in the spiritual technologies that they can learn that will fit into the lives they are leading.

I could go on, and list other examples, like the people who once bought books by Cunningham or Starhawk 20, or 30 years ago (when the Pagan/New Age book market was a lot stronger), and nominally consider themselves Pagan, but have little interest in more books, or engaging with a broader Pagan movement. The travelers who attend “transformational festivals” as a lifestyle, and find their needs entirely met with that context of practice. Our collective movement is full to the brim of people and groups of people who are entirely satisfied with their current level of engagement in however you want to define “Pagan community.” If you talked to them about your temple, or paid clergy, they may nod their head approvingly, they might even donate a few dollars if they had the extra cash to donate, but we must stop pretending they share our priorities.

That leaves us with a largely undetermined population of Pagans who number anywhere from the tens to the (low) hundreds of thousands who are connected at some level to the engaged class. They might read Pagan media and Pagan blogs, they might regularly attend larger events, they may be dedicated book-buyers or academics.  They are not, short of dedicated income tithing from a large percentage of them, going to fiscally support a new more robust Pagan infrastructure. The stuff we have now? The thriving events, the magazines, the websites, the 100% funded crowdfunding campaigns, that’s them. We are, I predict, nearing the limits of how much this group is willing to shell out for in the name of community. There are only so many times you can pass a hat per year before the discretionary income for Pagan stuff is spent.

The Dragon Ritual Drummers, live at Wic-Can Fest 2014 [Photo Credit: D. Graham McKay]

The Dragon Ritual Drummers, live at Wic-Can Fest 2014 [Photo Credit: D. Graham McKay]

Is there a remedy to this problem? Well, some would argue there is no problem. That grass-roots, decentralized, and impossible to pin down is how we thrive, but let’s entertain the notion. I was asked recently at a talk I gave on how “the tail” can appeal to “the dog” to make bigger infrastructure projects happen. How do we engage more of the million? I realize this is a porcupine telling people we should stick them with quills, but my answer was more, and better, Pagan media. Journalism gives people a sense of connectedness to a world outside of themselves. I don’t mean endless editorializing, I mean information. I mean narratives about what is happening the next state, or the next country, over. Actual journalism within the Pagan media sphere is still a tiny percentage of what you find, and without actual journalism, the editorial writers are forced into a cycle of reviving the same 10 or so debates every year.

If we want to engage more people, then the tip of the tail, the big-name movers and shakers should, were I giving advice, robustly fund media that works to reach out to communities, groups, and demographics they have not bothered to reach before. That means local reporting, that means real festival reporting, that means real engagement with the lives of people who really don’t care about the dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussions we sometimes get wrapped up in. We keep spending money on building stuff, when we should be spending money on speech to reach. You raise money by reaching people. That’s fundraising 101 stuff, yet I see a number of very smart people hoping that if they build the fundraising site, the money will simply come. Yes, we can raise five or ten thousand dollars here or there, if the people running the campaign are sufficiently engaged, but we will never get to the big leagues with those kind of budgets.

I believe that The Wild Hunt has a loyal audience because we have never strayed too far from our simple purpose: give Pagans news. Now, some people don’t like our site, or think we don’t do enough in various areas, but I believe our relative success points to a larger blueprint. Think about if there was an ecosystem of Pagan media that was more dedicated to writing about what’s happening, instead of writing about what they think should be happening. Yes, there’s a place for editorial, and for theological musings, but there must be a balance with authentic engagement outwards. Short of Pagan itinerant preachers hitting the road, shifting to journalism is the best way, in my opinion, to get that dog actually interested in what the tail is doing.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

    As one of the “engaged” Pagans, I think your analysis is spot-on. I love infrastructure and I think our movement needs more of it, but I’m convinced the “if we could just get more Pagans to give” concept has failed so many times it’s time to try something else. When we finally see permanent temples and paid clergy and the like, they won’t come from the wider Pagan community but from a more narrowly focused group who practices and promotes their particular flavor of Paganism so well they reach critical mass.

    I respect those who just want the “spiritual tech”, but they have to learn that tech somewhere, and the tech has to be continually expanded and refined or it will grow stale (i.e. – mainline Protestantism).

    I also agree we need more Pagan journalism. That’s not my calling, but I’m happy to support The Wild Hunt, and I’ll support other efforts that show a similar commitment to informing our wider community.

  • Franklin_Evans

    John beat me to the main questions, so here is the follow-up I find important: if the prevailing support concept has failed — and I agree that it has, from personal immersion in it — what are the alternatives?

    I have a suggested one, because it already exists, and some are not going to like it: individuals who are otherwise financially solvent investing the majority of their time in spiritual community. Paid clergy, or even a cottage industry of sorts, is just not going to go beyond where it is now (or so I take Jason’s argument), so finding a way to separate the spiritual service from the economic realities is a (perhaps the only?) viable alternative.

    I’m not of the spiritual service type. I know this about myself very clearly. But I also know what I want to do with my time when I retire and it is all about service to a community.

    Note: I don’t believe this will be a widely accepted attitude. It assumes a level of self-sacrifice, it implies other assumptions… and to be honest, a prevalent attribute of modern Paganism is self-absorption. It is a bulwark of the individual path; it’s also a serious obstacle to the community path. Before too many find insult in that, I fully resemble my own remark. YMMV.

    This may appeal to many on several levels. It comes from an individual’s choice (motivated, I’d add, from some sort of calling), it doesn’t require having or building a community infrastructure before it can be effective, and it could be an example of the slow and subtle path where the faster and more in their faces path of non-profit organizations constantly badgering their intended constituency for money clearly is not working or going to work, not beyond isolated success stories.

  • Fritz Muntean

    How many Pagans are there in Canada? A few thousand, I’d guess. Of course I’m defining a Pagan in a more restrictive manner than most — as a person who regularly performs some kind of devotional activities of a ritual nature, together with others, in a more-or-less formal setting.

    True, if you include those who are self-trained and/or self-initiated, or who only practice solitary, then the numbers would surely be larger; if you include the Shamanic and Ceremonial practitioners the numbers would be larger still; but only if you also counted those who self-identify as Pagan (or equivalent) as a simple fashion statement, but who do nothing in the way of further practice or participation, would you generate the kind of figures that are commonly spoken of.

    To put those figures into perspective, consider the Unitarians. The 44 Unitarian Churches in Canada report about 5000 members nation-wide, and 15,000 people described themselves as Unitarians on the last Census. Here in Vancouver, about 200 people come out for Sunday morning services at the largest of the 3 Unitarian Churches in the Lower Mainland.

    By way of contrast, there are half a dozen local (Pacific NW) Pagan festivals every year which draw from a catchment area extending from Vancouver to Eugene and as far East as Spokane, and are regularly attended by from 80 to 300 people. Even so, a recent survey conducted at one of the larger of these festivals revealed that slightly less than half of those attending considered participation in this event to be all they did in the way of Pagan practice.

    • PhaedraHPS

      In the US, there are less than 170,000 official members of the UUA, but I’ve heard numbers as high as a million for those who identify as UU. It does sound terribly familiar.

  • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

    Speaking for myself, I have no interest in “engaging” the dog.

    I do stuff. I get passionate about ideas; I get leadings. I write, and I debate, and I teach, and I reach out to others who do the same. We connect, sometimes in passing, and sometimes over and over again, over the course of decades.

    If another person’s idea of being Pagan is to buy some tee shirts and a little jewelry and call it a day, great. Meanwhile, I’m over here, being in community if anybody wants some.

    Is this a generational thing, this feeling of mine? Is it because
    when I started my Pagan life in small-town Vermont, there was no Pagan community if we didn’t build it ourselves? There were no Pagan Pride Days or online classes we could just show up for: there were no passengers on the ship, because there was no ship, just a raft we cobbled together from what we could find.

    To this day, I am interested in religious people who are interested in doing the work of community. Customers and consumers can go to the back of the line–and no, I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to support infrastructure. We have as much structure as we can build from the materials we have on hand… and if we build it well and it is what is needed, more folks tend to show up, with more materials in hand.

    With the exception of children, who are still learning how to be humans, never mind Pagans, I find that I don’t give a damn about the dog. If you’re interested in being that tail, getting to work, then I can learn from you and I want to work alongside you.

    If you’re here for the tee shirts? Whatever.

    • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

      Damn this touch screen! I didn’t mean to “like” my own post, but now I can’t get rid of it. *sigh*

      • Lupa

        It’s okay. Eighteen of us agreed with you so you’re in good company.

        • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

          *laughing* Well, that’s all right then.

  • Brendan Myers

    If you will excuse the hucksterism for a moment: in my book, “A History of Pagan Philosophy”, I presented strong historically-based evidence for why the pagan movement needs some kind of organized institutional support. The evidence shows that without such support, the movement stagnates; and with such support, the movement progresses and flourishes.

    An organized team of professional journalists, such as that which is assembled here at TWH, could be an example of that.

  • Donald Engstrom-Reese

    This is an excellent article. I have been noticing these same tendencies over tha last few years. Thank you for so clearly opening this hopefully on going exploration, Jason Pitzl-Waters.

  • Alyxander M Folmer

    I tend to agree with Franklin Evans. Further infrastructure is going to require the kind of devoted people who will work a full time job, AND invest in building the kind of institutions that might some day be able to hire workers.( I think part of the issue is that everybody wants to be a paid priest, and nobody wants be be the guy who pays the priest. I’m working to become the latter.)
    However, I also agree that Pagan journalism is something that needs to grow.
    To that end: Jason, how do you recommend somebody should break into that business? Keeping in mind that many of us lack the funding to travel, how would you advise a hopeful new Pagan Journalist to begin?

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I would advise them to begin in their own “backyard.” Good journalism doesn’t require a lot of travel. In fact, there may be a lot happening in your community that people outside of it would be interested in.

      • Alyxander M Folmer

        Nice! Do you advise more of a “local event” kind of reporting? (Showing up and writing about what happens) Or something more like a news letter, with people sending in their events and stories to be shared with the world?

      • kenofken

        I’m in pharmacy and research these days, but my first career as a journalist spanned about 15 years and I’d love to get a hand back in the game. It might help if you offered some leads or a potential story list or just a more detailed description of what you’d like to publish that isn’t getting covered as much as you’d like to see – specific people, trends, geographic areas etc.

        To Alyxander’s question – is journalism expensive? Yes and no. To do it the way it truly needs to be done, it’s expensive because you need to put boots on the ground where you want to report, and keep them there as long as is needed. You can do great things without full time paid journalist, but you have to be able to dedicate enough time to build relationships with the people and cultures you’re writing about.

        I agree more coverage is better. I’m not so sure more reporting will get at the core issue of engaging the rest of the dog. I don’t think those folks are primarily disinterested out of ignorance of what’s happening in the movement. I think they know, at least in broad-brush fashion, in no small part to resources like the Wild Hunt. They know what we’re doing in the tail. They just aren’t interested in it. They’re not interested in PSG (many are not outdoorsy at all), they’re not interested in COG or pan-pagan regional this or that.

        We are not, anymore, a nation of joiners. This phenomenon is affecting even the most historically stable institutionalized religions. Our movement was born about the time the atomization/”Bowling alone” phenomenon took off.

        We have not engaged the rest of the dog because we have yet to articulate a vision for what we are as a “pagan movement”? We have zero cohesion on theological matters. We don’t at all value proselytizing/conversion (and I agree with that). We don’t have some over-arching mandate from a prophet/messiah/founding text. We have no agreement at all on what “pagan” even is or who wants to own the label. We have some nice institutions/traditions which arise out of what we in the tail end want.

        If we want to engage the rest, we need to be able to offer them something – one thing preferably, that makes their engagement worthwhile. What is the pagan movement about, what is it we DO or can do to make the world better? I think we have some core values around sustainability and honor and balance and tolerance and conscious living and re-enchanting the world which could really help this nation and the world.

        I would prevail upon Dr. Myers to help us on this count. What vision of personal and societal excellence can we offer, and manifest, in contrast to the shitty and predatory society, economy and civic life which has evolved in the past few decades? We need to articulate and offer something radical, and revolutionary, in the most positive sense of those words.

        What is it about being a modern pagan that is worth dying for? Much more importantly, what is it we have that is worth living for?

        • Ieshea

          a sense of community,”old world values,and the idea that common sense and common courtesy still survive and have not been swallowed up by the bigger survive at all costs society?

    • powdermonkey

      I am a member of an established coven, so I am more for the traditional side of things. Solitaries also have a lot to offer, but sometimes are ignored by established groups. I grew up in the 60′s and learned not to trust authority and have had to struggled with my affiliations quite frequently. Because of my studies in Paganism over the last 20 years, I find that pagan leaders are sometimes “out of touch”. Remember that this movement sort of started with people who were “hippies” rejecting the establishment of religion and status quo. A sharing of ideas and authority is the best way to go for the masses.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      Alyxander

      You don’t to need to travel though it is nice if you can. I have been doing ACTION sine 2004 first as an in house newsletter for Alternative Religions Educational Network and then as a E-zine with interview format. I don’t travel at all, lack of money age and health issues.

      I work through the internet. I belong to a number of national and international groups and I regularly ask them for suggestions and then do interview by e-mail.

      I as for background information either on line of just have a short one sent to me so I can base my questions on those things that I now about the person. the biggest fault of most reporters is doing no research at all. The information they give me tells me what they think is important and what they like to talk about and what they have a passion for.

      Everybody has a story to tell my job is to come up with logical questions that help they tell the story in some sort of order.

      I even interview other Pagan media I did Jason and several others over the year. I am willing to publish stories that other groups would like to get out. I repost stories after getting permission that I feel are important but my speciality is interviews. Jason has a variety of different things that he does well and better than me.

      It teas a while to become known even years. But if Pagan groups find you useful they are more likely to contact you. If you have written up a story about them they are likely to let their members now about you.

      Bit by bit I, have slowly worked up to three thousand are ore readers and though mostly in the United States I have readers in a number of other countries. I do stories on individuals famous and unknown and large groups ad newly starting groups people new to paganism ad long time leaders ad elders. I recommend other Pagan media such as The Wild Hunt, Witches Voice.

      Meanwhile there are a great many Pagan publications a they are loping for more writers learn writing by doing it. By the way the Wild Hunt supports few paid writers. Nothing big money but the only one that I know of that does pay something.

    • Deborah Bender

      I never wanted to be a paid priest.

      At least not in this life. Being head of a city temple, that was an absolute gas. :-)

  • Michael Dolan

    One thing that strikes me is the possible parallel to the dominant religions.

    Take your average Christian church- What percentage of their people are seriously engaged (ministry/seminary, study group leaders, board members, etc.), versus people who show up most Sundays, versus those who only make it on Christmas and Easter? What does their participation “spectrum” look like?

    Now, how do their percentages compare to ours? Which groups provide the bulk of their funding? Do they have any successes, failures, or strategies based on this that we could learn from?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      The rule of thumb for non-profits is that 80% of contributions come from 20% of members. That was true of my UU church when I was on the Board and privy to the pledging details, and it matches my intuitive experience in other religious groups.

      The high givers are people who are highly engaged and who have money. The very young don’t give much because they don’t have much. Young families with children are the target market for most churches, but even young two-income families don’t give much, because they spend so much on houses and kids. Older people on fixed incomes don’t give much, but they may leave a substantial donation in their wills… or they may not have anything left to donate.

      High givers tend to be middle aged professionals – people in their peak earning years who’ve been in the religion long enough for it to be meaningful to them, and long enough that they see their giving as supporting something larger than themselves, not as paying membership dues.

      Obviously, these are gross generalizations and there are plenty of individual exceptions. But if you want more money given to Pagan institutions and causes, recruit more middle aged professionals and other high earners.

      Or become one yourself.

      • Roi de Guerre

        Spot on! My Christian minister friends often say that “20% give 80%, 2% do 98%, and 100% fight about it”.

        Maybe we should be careful what we ask for? I agree with the need for more Pagan journalism and many of the other suggestions. Maybe we should think about a model for infrastructure that’s as different as we are?

        • PhaedraHPS

          We’re not *that* different. The percentages you quote sound just like every Pagan group I’ve every seen. We might be different because we identify as Pagan, but that doesn’t mean we’re not as human as any other organized group.

          • Roi de Guerre

            Touche! But I’d hate to think we can’t learn from so very many examples of how not to do a thing.

    • Kay

      Look at it beyond participation, what percentage actually agree with what their church hierarchy puts forth the majority of the time? Those numbers may be a little more conciliatory in a UU, but your standard Catholic or Presbyterian? People attend and/or claim affiliation for a variety of reasons, many of them come down to habit and appearances.

      I think there may be a parallel, but not in the direction you were thinking. Most of the major denoms fail to share the same values as their congregants, at least on a national, organized level. Some of them are slowly having to change their tenants to meet the expectations, others stubbornly refuse, and people are leaving in larger numbers, but the commonality is none of them are able to reflect everyone’s views. They serve to dictate them, not reflect them.

      Could an organization which must, by design, dictate to such a disparate group as all of pagandom ever succeed? Or would it simply be an echo chamber for the select few financing it?

      • PhaedraHPS

        At the same time, many congregants just keep on keepin’ on, without paying that much attention to the bits with which they disagree. My elderly mother considers herself devout, but told me 40-50 years ago that she believes in the parts she believes in, and ignores the rest.

        Much of what draws people to congregations (or clubs or organizations of all kinds) is the experience of community that they get from the group. It needs to fill some sort of need for them. Groups where people feel welcome and included, as where newcomers don’t feel excluded by cliques or inner circles, do better. That’s why people might continue to attend a church that they really don’t believe in all that much, just to maintain connection with a community that is filling a need or needs for them.

        Part of the loss of congregants in mainstream religions is thus less about theology than it is about people not getting enough for their efforts.

        • Kay

          But that makes it even less likely for an organization to work for paganism – it already tries to categorize everything into the mainstream clique and the minor groups which are not given equal voice or importance. I have yet to see one of these things proposed which wasn’t inherently exclusive to someone, or operating under an untrue commonality assumption.

          • Deborah Bender

            Jason’s post links to a blog entry by Ivo Dominguez that makes the point that people don’t have to come to total agreement in order to work together. All organizations have factions and cliques, but these groups can be shifted over time. In many organizations, personal relationships make a big difference.

            You might expect that it would be hopeless for any Pagans to participate in interfaith organizations, because their voices would be drowned out. It turns out that by showing up, persisting, being polite and volunteering for jobs all the time, several Wiccans I know and the rather small organizations they represent have gained respect and influence within large interfaith organizations where none of the members had ever met a Witch before. These Witches have been elected and appointed to positions of authority and responsibility in organizations whose membership is mostly Abrahamic, because they were devoted enough to volunteer their time alongside Christians who were being paid for their work.

            Not everyone has the time or inclination to be active in organizations, but those among us who do, deserve some appreciation for having the sitzfleisch to sit through endless meetings, the patience to answer naive questions, and the follow through to do the tasks they volunteer for. Sometimes I see resentment, envy and suspicion directed toward them, as if by being involved in an organization with a broad membership, they have gone over to the enemy.

            One other thing. Anyone who is thinking of getting involved with an organization, read the bylaws. If things are set up in a way that allows paid staff or donors or a self-perpetuating board to overrule the people who are doing the actual work, it may not be worth your time.

      • Deborah Bender

        I see parallels between the formal tenets of belief of Christian denominations and the election platforms of American political parties. The platform planks may be dictated top down, engineered by an activist minority or reflect broad support among the members. Some planks may be in the platform for historical reasons even if they aren’t helpful to the party’s goals under current conditions. People may become active in the party because of its platform or in spite of it or have very little idea of what’s in the platform.

  • Guest

    I stopped being a Pagan author when I realized I was making about 46 cents an hour.

    • Ieshea

      And?

    • PhaedraHPS

      You were doing well.

  • JK Cole

    For a long time, many gays and lesbians of my generation railed against the idea of marriage (or monogamy, for that matter) because it parroted heterosexual relationships. Many felt that we should eschew that in favor of defining new relationships, new institutions.

    While my radical phase was short-lived as far as LGBT relationships go, I do sometimes think that neopagans today should stop trying to parrot the structure of world religions to the point that we feel as though we need things like paid clergy, neopagan nursing homes, church buildings, etc. For a lot of us, those concepts are foreign, antithetical, and even destructive to our spiritual lives and goals.

    For me it’s not that the tail is trying to wag the dog necessarily. I think it’s that the tail actually belongs to some other dog entirely.

    • PhaedraHPS

      Yet some of these institutional models are longed for not because other groups have them but because people feel a need for them. A Neopagan nursing home might feel frivolous to you, but if you’re facing age or illness (or both), the idea of being able to go to a place that supports your spiritual views is very attractive. Yes, there are secular institutions, but again, they are secular, not supportive of your religious views.

      • Raksha38

        Yes, exactly! A lot of those institutions exist because there is a need for them. If you want to make another parallel to the LGBT community, just look at all the recent articles about LGBT elders being forced back into the closet because of the hostile climates of their nursing homes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the exact same thing was happening to older Pagans as well, but we just aren’t hearing about it.

        And besides, it’s not like Christians invented stuff like paid clergy and church buildings. Those things existed millennia before they arrived on the scene. And the reason for that is that a large number of people really do feel they need or enjoy such things.

      • JK Cole

        Frivolous? No. Impractical? Yes, definitely. The difference here is that I think it’s important to work toward educating /all/ institutions about the various NP faiths, making sure they respect and support us rather than create our own. Chances are very good that any given Neopagan entering a facility for health reasons will do so locally – wouldn’t it make more sense to make sure that facility treats his/her faith with the same care it would a Christian or Hindu?

        Twenty years ago most institutions had not clue one about how to address the needs of transgender people. Today, after years of struggling to bring their needs to the attention of hospitals, medical centers and workplaces, many of these places are at least aware, and many are even making great strides in treating transgender people with care and respect.

        That’s where I’d like us to be with Neopagan issues by the time I’m in need of a nursing home. If I’m going to spend my time working for the NP cause, I’d like it to do the most good for the most people.

        • PhaedraHPS

          Well, with my chronic illness I might be in need of a nursing home in as little as five years, so I hope your efforts show fruit in the near future.

          • JK Cole

            No need to wait on me – you can advocate for yourself. Best of luck!

          • PhaedraHPS

            Gee, thanks. Good use of community right there.

          • JK Cole

            Well, some of us don’t like to “use” community, nor do we like being “used”. We prefer to take some personal responsibility, and maybe contribute to it where/when we can.

          • Northern_Light_27

            No, though, he’s right. It gets harder and harder the further levels of remove you have when you’re advocating for someone in a nursing home. My mom telling staff “look, I need this” backed up by me, with my POA, saying “look, my mom needs this” is always going to work better than just me saying it, which works better than just my aunt saying it (because she’s not legal next-of-kin and isn’t the one paying the bills and making the decision whether to move Mom), both of which work better than clergy from an unfamiliar religion who none of the staff have met coming in and saying “Mrs. N needs this because she’s Pagan, and here’s what that means”.

            A patient who has their faculties self-advocating *with* their local clergy is going to be heard a lot faster than just the clergy– especially *nonlocal* clergy from an unfamiliar religion. “You’re who, now? From where? And you’re calling me about Mrs. Phaedra B. why?”

        • Northern_Light_27

          Honestly the idea of a Pagan nursing home, with the idea that it’s a place that would attract Pagan elders from around the country– and elders who aren’t independently wealthy, because that’s important to my point– makes me think whoever is advocating for that doesn’t quite understand the Medicaid process very well, nor what people at that level of care need. (Unless they do understand the Medicaid process and have some kind of workaround in their mind.) My mom is in a nursing home in another state. I wanted to bring her here, to be closer to me. I was told by multiple people, including an elder law attorney, that I’d need to establish residence for 6 mo first she could apply for Medicaid in my state– Medicaid is run state by state, you can’t qualify in state A and expect to port your benefits to state B, you have to go through the whole onerous process all over again. If it’s a well-run nursing home, it’s going to attract local people coming out of hospital for rehab who aren’t Pagan– does it let those in, even if it means no beds available for Pagans? It has to keep its beds as close to full as possible to make enough to keep going.

          The bigger thing for me is that people going into skilled nursing tend to respond best to the familiar. Yes, religion is familiar, but locality even more so. I’m in many ways glad I wasn’t able to move my mom (actually, we’re going to move to be closer to her) because she has never been to my state and its local quirks are quite different than hers. Her humor would confuse people where I was going to move her, and if she asked her new staff friends where they lived, it wouldn’t mean anything to her– while in her city she knows and has a memory for just about anywhere they’d name. She gets the newspaper and follows the local issues because she’s lived there all her life. In my city, it would be a sea of strange, except for my visits. So if nonlocal Pagan elders come to the Pagan nursing home, would it feel like a sea of strange except for religion to them? And remember, it’s usually loved ones making the decision on which nursing home. A Pagan nursing home might sound great to a Pagan who is entering their senior years, but will it sound as good to their kid who then has to travel 600 miles to see mom or dad?

          IDK, I’d think Pagan senior housing might be more viable than Pagan skilled nursing. That way you’re catering to people who are still able to manage all their own decisions and their own money, who would be as happy to move to a Pagan senior living center as they might be to move to Florida. It also wouldn’t take the same initial investment– skilled nursing is extremely expensive not least because of the kind of facilities and personnel demanded.

          JK Cole has a pretty good point IMO about awareness in existing skilled nursing facilities. There are a whole bunch of rituals and customs among Pagan religions that, stripped of the explicitly religious element, would be engaging and fun for seniors, Pagan and non-Pagan alike. If a group got permission to do a maypole dance in the courtyard of a nursing home and give flower headwreaths to the seniors, they wouldn’t care that it’s a Pagan thing, they’d think it was awesome fun (“look at all the colors!”) and the Pagan elders in the room would be happy at the thing that was familiar. When I move up there I’m tempted to bring a stripped-down form of symbel to the more aware patients at my mom’s home– there probably wouldn’t be a dry eye in the room, but I think they’d enjoy the memories the toasts brought forth because seniors love to reminisce. That’s a thing that’s likely to benefit a lot more people than a Pagan nursing home.

    • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

      That these institutions feel foreign is, to me, part of the problem. There is such a lack of structure that anything that promises solidity, refuge in life’s storms, etc.

      It reminds me of what a friend said in reflection of similar attitudes in regards to priesthood: Everyone wants to be their own priest until they need one. I think the questions of infrastructure and buildings, organization and hierarchy are similar.

      • JK Cole

        I have the opposite problem – the fact that some feel a need for our own institutions is, in my eyes, a sign that Neopagans haven’t come very far in our thinking. It feels like a child’s answer to a very adult concern (“Fine! I’ll make my OWN jump rope, and YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH IT!”)

        As for “needing” a priest, I’ve yet (30+ years) to /need/ a priest. For me (and others, I venture), clergy are “nice to haves” rather than “need to haves”.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          And that is a significant area of disagreement. What is good for a Wiccan may well be irrelevant for a Kemetic adherent, for example.

          One thing to rule them all just does not work.

          • JK Cole

            That struck me, too – that we keep saying “Pagan”, but it’s just a handy collective noun, not an easily-defined belief system. It tends to gloss over some very important differences among us.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Especially when some of us rail at being included in the umbrella.

          • Kay

            It also glosses over some of these systems already being in place for some of the individual faiths under that word, even if they don’t extend to all of them. There are already Heathen chaplain programs, specifically designed to work with institutionalized populations. From a Heathen pov, it would make more sense to work to expand that existing infrastructure into a nursing home or library (or both). There are two large national organizations which, while they disagree on fine points, still work to have national conventions, iron out large scale doctrinal issues, and even provide educational/clerical programs for those interested in pursuing it.

            That interferes, however, with lumping all of Heathenry into the pagan crock pot.

          • Deborah Bender

            I don’t see how it interferes. Witches and Wiccans have our own organizations while also participating in pan-pagan organizations. We understand and expect that the Northern Traditions are going to have organizations of their own. Often but not always those organizations will have common interests and reasons to cooperate.

            Sometimes we are invited to each others’ rituals too.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It interferes because Heathenry isn’t Paganism, any more than it is Hinduism.

          • Kay

            When you have a limited supply of resources, are you better off building on a working structure or attempting to create one with little direction and a vague set of parameters? That’s my main point.

          • Deborah Bender

            I’m not sure I understand your question.

            So I’ll just speak for myself. When I want something to happen and it appears that others are not doing anything effective to make it happen, I think through what my vision is, take steps toward it using the time and material resources I control, and hope that when it begins to manifest, other people will join in.

            Alternatively, if an existing organization seems to have space for new ventures, I might try doing it under their umbrella.

            I usually start with a clear idea of the goal. However, it can also work to do something small with a few other people just because you like doing it, and see how it develops.

          • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

            Absolutely. I think the various communities will need to figure out their own ways and solutions. That said, if people want to, for instance become married legally married in their religion, receive trained spiritual counselors, or be ministered to in prison, at least in the US, there will need to be infrastructure for them of some kind. Hell, competent ritualists require some decent amount of training, like any other skill.

            I get that these aren’t priorities for everyone. Yet the railing against any kind of structure does shoot a lot of people in the foot who could use these services, especially those who have neither the resources or ability to help themselves.

            It need not all look or function like Wiccan, Kemetic or Norse religious services; I would imagine it will not. While you may never need or want for clergy, even on your deathbed, there’s people who could. I hope that if anyone does need or want these services someone competent is able to step forward.

            There’s already been some good work done in various communities to set up effective infrastructure, I.e. Heathen prison ministries, Wiccan prison ministries, and other kinds of services like hospital visitation from those communities.

            I suppose that is a real dividing line in these debates, too. Different people, let alone different communities simply have different priorities.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I am a big advocate of increased infrastructure. I just think that a Wiccan infrastructure and a Heathen infrastructure are not the same thing, any more than a Hindu infrastructure and a Christian infrastructure are.

      • PhaedraHPS

        Indeed. I’ve often said it’s fine to say that everyone is their own priest but you can’t visit yourself in the hospital. Can’t marry or bury yourself, either.

    • Marybeth Pythia Witt

      Do you have any idea what it’s like to be recovering from fusion of most of your neck in a rehab hospital where each nurse who timidly comes in tells me that everyone wonders what the Witch is like…and how nice I really seem to be and then I spend the 5 weeks I should be recuperating doing PIO work everyday, including to chaplains, nuns, you name it…while also interfacing with the families of the dementia patient in the next bed who had me up all night, every night, til dawn and end up too exhausted to go to Phys Therapy.
      So the next time I went home instead….
      At least they were prepared for the next Witch and Priestess of the Goddess who came in!
      That has been just one example of the kind of things that happen in hospitals, and doesn’t even begin to touch on what being a {woman-oriented as well} Witch who’s had Home Health Aides for 20 years is like! (there’s no room in the care plan for “cleaning cauldrons, candlestick holders and changing altar cloths for Samhain”, lol; as well, one has to be careful at times just for being bi or lgbt; it was great during a 4 year period where one of my Downline HPS’s was my HHA for 25-30 hrs a week.).
      Those of us who are in these situations are doing the best we can, but I cannot even imagine living even in an assisted care hospital! No Incense, candles, who knows about chanting, and Aphrodites, Gaias or ithyphallic Cernunnos explanations are difficult enough at home…can any of you imagine explaining your Pentagram ring to the every curious charge nurse while your’re waiting for meds? I’ve been doing that off and on for 30 years. I’ve done as much PIO work as a patient precisely because I am and have been Clergy for almost 40 years and I grew up naively closet-phobic.
      Know I’ve rambled, but the swaths of society with which we interface as patients are different from those into which we walked as more able-bodied Clergy, and not enough Witches are doing that work at hospitals, unless as patients (and as much as I always answer patiently, it can wear one down.)
      If I ever have to be hospitalized again, I’m taking some handouts with me instead! And I wish I’d thought about that before, for I could have used the CoG and other handouts I distributed when I lectured about the Craft at universities and high schools! I do love having my Facebook page being a site for Wild Hunt, Patheos, Anthropological, Pagan and Witch resources as how I am mainly able to contribute from my Sanctuary, and the Lady has assured my continued care and assistance.
      Written with both reverence and mirth, but invested in the issue as a Pagan Polytheist non-straight Witch and HPS Elder of 6 decades.
      Blessed Be, Ever In Her Service
      Lady Pythia

      • Obsidia

        Thanks, Lady Pythia. I think your perspective is very important and informative. I’m getting ready to go to the hospital for surgery in a couple weeks. I have to take off my Pentagram ring. I want to write a Pentagram on my body somewhere, and I am trying to think of a place to put it where the surgeon won’t see it! Last time I was in the hospital for a few days, I explained I was a Pagan, and had to explain it to many people, too. Luckily, the Christian Minister had a friend who was a Witch who helped him bring me some spiritual materials. Also, the Native American Spiritual Practitioner also came to see me. That was pretty cool. The Goddess is definitely there, even in the Hospital. I’d love to see more public spiritual places that are NOT connected with Abrahamic religions.

        • PhaedraHPS

          I have a pentagram tattoo. I asked the surgeon if she would try not to mess it up. She was happy to oblige.

          • Obsidia

            Cool!

      • JK Cole

        No, I’ve been blessedly healthy for 50 years, but I’m sure that will change at some point in my life. My similar experience was when my partner John was dying of AIDS in ’94, and dealing with his hospital staff at a Catholic hospital (he was a sign language interpreter for a local MCC). His mother, sister and I had to spend a LOT of time educating staff members (and especially clergy) on LGBT issues as well as respecting non-Catholic beliefs.

        Like your experience, the education paid off. I got a call a few months after John’s passing from one of the nurses who let me know that the nursing staff had put together an in-service presentation about caring for LGBT families, and another on interfaith issues.

        That kind of ongoing educating benefits us all, and /all/ of us can and should be doing it, not just clergy. A well-educated, informed, and connected “lay body” of Neopagans shouldn’t rely on a few clergy and elders to do the work we all should be doing.

      • PhaedraHPS

        A couple of years ago when I went in for a biopsy, nurse asked me if my pentagram pinky ring “meant something.” She may have been trying to distract me from the procedure, but right at that moment, they were poking pointy things into my body so I was distraught and in pain. Not my idea of a “teachable moment.” I think I told her “It’s my religion,” then went back to trying to control my anxiety attack.

      • Northern_Light_27

        TY Lady Pythia, good comment! And good point about the patient POV vs. the able-bodied clergy POV. I’ve had those conversations as a patient too, and there are times you really Do Not Want to have a “teach this person about my religion” conversation, and when you’re already scared about a medical procedure is pretty high on my own list.

  • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

    You may also want to (more closely) address the very serious issue of the myth of the Pagan Umbrella.

    Let us look at Abrahamism, in an overly simplistic way, by means of a comparison.

    Within the Abrahamic Umbrella, we see three main arms (there others, but they are so minor as to be functionally irrelevant for this point): Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    They operate very distinct from one another and, when we investigate them, we find they are umbrella terms, themselves.

    Christianity has, reportedly, approximately 41,000 denominations from Catholicism and Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy and Nontrinitarian groups.

    Each of these denominations also operate independently of the other and often describe communication between them as interfaith not intrafaith.

    Now, to return to the “Pagan Umbrella”.

    What we see is a myriad disparate religions, with their own denominations, all being placed within a single “Paganism”.

    They are then being asked to fund each other’s projects for no other reason than that they are all “Pagan” (which, as far as I can tell, just means “not Abrahamic”…apart from those that are).

    There may well be a million “Pagans” in the US, but how many of them are actually of any single religion within that category? How many Wiccans are there, for example? And, of those, how many are specifically Gardnerian?

    Compound that with geographical location, and how many of any one denomination are actually in any given area?

    Many projects are very much location specific – look at the New Alexandria Library. Once finished, will that be a mail library, or will people have to go visit it? If the latter, how many people, really, are going to benefit from it?

    Also, what of the cult of the individual? A major problem within many of the various contemporary pagan religions is the idea that the individual is prime with community not just secondary but often not even desired. If you have a thousand individuals self identifying as Pagan, but each with their own definition as what that means, are they likely to identify with each other enough to actually collaborate on anything meaningful?

    One other thing comes to mind, what of those who identify as being of a religion typically included within the “Pagan Umbrella”, but not as Pagan? (Heathenry being the obvious example here.)

    • Kay

      This is what I’ve always wondered when the discussions come up. I know quite a few pagans who have nothing to do with the blogosphere or the organized meet ups. They happily debate religious issues on a large scale, but when I bring up things specific to the blogs – the whole Wiccanate privilege issue, for example, they have no clue wth I’m talking about.

      Within this circle of friends, nobody would ever consider organizing under a single banner, even just for private practice. We are a Heathen (me), a Deist, a Dianic, several ecclectics of no specific identity, 2 pantheists, and a very outspoken atheist witch. None of us are married to someone with the exact same belief. The witch would never tolerate for a second, any practice which required her to call upon a deity. The deist spends most of her time trying to talk to the Dianic and the I without offending either (we tell her not to worry about it, but she still does). The Dianic and I have known each other the longest, and openly argue frequently about things, not viciously, but never with agreement. There is no possible umbrella where just the two of us would agree, let alone adding in all the rest.

      But we all get crammed under that umbrella, whether we want to be there or not. We have other friends who are Christian or atheist, and while they understand how each of us individually practice, their default definition of pagan is “not Abrahamic” because they see absolutely no common thread between any of us beyond our friendship.

      I think it’s great if different sub-sets of paganism want to become more organized within themselves. The error is in suggesting they speak for everyone who falls under that pagan umbrella, especially considering most of the people in it may not even want to be in the group.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        It begs the question of why your Christian and atheist friends are not included in afore-mentioned circle of friends…

        • Kay

          They are, but they are not forced under the umbrella like the portion of the circle I was discussing are. It’s a group, and within that group, some are under the umbrella, whether they want to be or not. Others are excluded from it, also whether they want to be or not.

    • TadhgMor

      The community thing is a big point, and probably the largest schism (bigger than the monist thing though I find that irritating in the extreme). Many people who self-identify as pagan are incapable of understanding charges of appropriation or worries about how their behavior affects others because they don’t think of themselves as part of a community at all. There are community oriented groups from all the various paths, but even among community oriented ones the way many Recons approach the community is vastly different than how many eclectics do (in my experience there is very little overlap). How the rabidly individualistic and self-centered (in a neutral sense) paths can be put under same term as ones that are the opposite is hard to fathom.

      Then again, what is the alternative? If I identify as a Gaelic Polytheist I’m more accurate, and people are less likely to mistake me for what I’m not (though not entirely given the appropriation and redefinition of “Celtic” things by both eclectics and various non-religious New Age groups), but I also remove any chance at using that collective bargaining power. We become a very small fractured community once again and risk the hostility of not just Christians but of people who identify with the term pagan as well.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I won’t argue with your assessment of the state of Pagan community, but disagreement with you over what constitutes serious appropriation does not indicate a lack of community spirit. It indicates a difference of opinion.

        • TadhgMor

          Yes, it does. You completely disregard the idea that a community has the right to define their terms without outsiders redefining them. That is a rejection of a certain concept of community. You place your opinions and concerns and desire to use appropriated terminology over the concerns of the community, which you freely admit you do not belong to, from which those terms originate.

          The vast majority of people using Celtic terminology or Gaelic holidays don’t know the first thing about Gaelic or any Celtic culture. Most of them barely even know any of the Romanticist nonsense, let alone accurate things. Yet they feel entitled to use those terms because “it speaks to me”. That is definitively placing yourself above the community.

          We can’t even have a conversation because your frame of reference is inherently focused on the self, and mine is not. Something that “feels good” that is harmful to the community is something I would do my best not to do. Which is half the bloody reason I keep trying to have this conversation, because I think my community will suffer if we cut off from the greater pagan sphere. But many others have already gotten fed up dealing with New Age misuse and people refusing to respect that Celtic cultures still exist and can’t be plundered to look “cool” or “mystical”.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “It speaks to me” is a basic mode of spiritual discovery, and those to whom this happens are by definition a community. Your attitude rejects that concept of community.As I said, a difference of opinion, and we are about to embark on repeating ourselves to re-launch one of the 10 or so basic debates Jason referenced that get ground out over and over in the Pagan blogosphere.

          • TadhgMor

            No it is YOUR basic mode of spiritual discovery. When you try and pretend it is universal and natural you are proving my point about the self-centered (in a neutral sense) focus of your spirituality. It is about YOU. Not the community, not the balance of the world, not about tradition. It is about what makes YOU feel good. A fundamentally modern and individualistic mindset foreign to the pagan cultures some of us try to revive and live in.

            They get ground out over and over because they are important. At least to my community. I don’t know if it matters to the larger body of New Age eclectics. Frankly, I couldn’t care less, since those people are as alien to me as Christians are. But I can guarantee to you the appropriation and redefinition of traditional terms is a long standing issue among some of the smaller Recon communities, and part of why some no longer choose to be involved in this particular subset of “pagan” media.

            The most frustrating thing is people like you are so caught up in yourselves and your “discovery” that you neglect to realize others have an entirely different paradigm, and neglect to think about or care about the harm you do to those groups that respect tradition rather than defining it to suit whatever their whims are. When you redefine something to suit yourself, and that definition overtakes the real one, you are harming others. The very fact that I spent 90% of my time correcting inaccurate beliefs about history and Gaelic practice is proof of the harm that has been done, both by eclectics and (some) Wiccans and by general New Age philosophy of a non-religious type.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If it’s just my path, why does it have a community-wide name, “eclectic?” And if you don’t care about the people who use that label, why do you consider the argument important?

          • TadhgMor

            Eclectic isn’t a community. It’s a vague descriptor used by others to try and define something that doesn’t fit any other descriptors. That term is even more ill-defined than “pagan” is. To talk about an “eclectic community” is a hilarious contradiction. There might be various little eclectic communities, but there is no “community wide name”.

            Because you’re redefining and misusing things that are extremely important to me. I refuse to let Gaelic culture be overshadowed by some New Age distortion of it. Most eclectics I’ve met are very nice, vaguely “fluffy”, people. But the fact that I think most are just harmless and poorly informed doesn’t change the damage their actions do.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Thank you, you couldn’t have validated any better my contention that you are guilty of exactly that of which you accuse others: rejecting a concept of community.

          • Kay

            It’s only a community in the sense of people who know each other. See my previous circle of friends example below. In reality, it’s a collection of individuals, each with individual beliefs. This has centered around Beltaine, but I’ll bring up another big one – Yule. None of my friends were aware that Yule was anything but a Wiccan holiday on the solstice. They had no idea it actually had nothing to do with Wicca, and originally, nothing to do with the solistice. It was lunar based, and could occur anywhere between modern November and January as a result. They had no idea the original customs of Yule – only that it was Christmas 3 days early without Jesus.

            After I began to explain to them the sources and origins of Yule, some began to alter their practice for it. Others treated it as no big deal, because “it’s just a word.” Obviously, it’s not. It’s an entire celebration that’s been bastardized and redefined because some people don’t want to let go of Christmas, but still want presents.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            It’s only a community in the sense of people who know each other.This is exactly the same tone and logic that Palestinians and Israelis have used to describe one another’s communities. It’s not very persuasive to those who’ve heard it before.You are much more polite than TadghMor and support your point better with real-people examples — and I’m always glad to hear of someone deepening someone else’s understanding of these topics — but otherwise you’re repeating his points in his tone; how could you expect to be more persuasive?

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            You don’t make a community out of solitaries.

            At best, you make a demographic.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You, too, are using the odious “Your community doesn’t exist as such” argument redolent of ethnic wars.

          • Kay

            Comparing an issue of semantics to “ethnic wars” is reactionary and simply backs up that you cannot support your position. Define this community using examples of ways they are unique in and of themselves, without having to clarify or make conditions for every descriptor.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Imposing assignments now, are we? I’ve already answered this question for TadghMor, whose rudeness you come close to equaling.

          • TadhgMor

            Comparing this to ethnic wars is so ridiculous I must assume you are now being intentionally dishonest to derail the debate with such nonsense.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Tadgh, old man, you are the one who keeps bringing up English oppression of the Irish to denigrate Gerald Gardner’s work on Wicca. I just report what I see.

          • TadhgMor

            Old man? Do not get familiar with me. We are not friends.

            Nor is that point even an accurate reading of what transpired here. You are continually distorting now to suit your points. I brought up English colonialism to remind people that just because it is a European culture does not mean they did not face similar issues to Native cultures across the world which are also appropriated from, but which people like you seem to take more seriously for no apparent reason.

            You see poorly. Try glasses.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Now you’ve insulted my glasses. This conversation is at an end.

          • TadhgMor

            Ah yes, because stealing and redefining Gaelic custom is fine, but insulting your glasses is beyond the pale.

            I would laugh, if it was funny rather than awful.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            It’s far to late to derail the debate with sense or nonsense. Your fallback onto fiat redefinitions of reality did that a long time ago.

          • TadhgMor

            Where the f*** do you get off accusing others of redefining reality when you justify appropriation by claiming “common human heritage” means you have claim to everything to misuse to suit your whims?

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Not at all. I am using simple logic. How, exactly, do you have a functioning religious community of solitary practitioners, each with their own, personalised form of religion?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            How did you come to equate solitary with eclectic? In any event, solitaries are not hermits.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It is a trend I have noticed. Solitaries tend towards eclecticism and appear to make up the largest demographic within the current “Pagan Umbrella”.

            I admit, it was something of a leap on my part.

          • TadhgMor

            I didn’t validate it at all.

            If this “eclectic community” exists surely you can provide some evidence for it? I reject that “eclectic” is a term that describes a cohesive group unit. I explicitly acknowledged that there are eclectic communities, in the plural.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Thank you again.

          • TadhgMor

            That is a dodge. Are you going to provide evidence of this unified “eclectic” community?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Nothing you could see if you can’t see it already.

          • TadhgMor

            Which is another dodge. Offer the evidence and if you’re so certain I “won’t see it” you can brag when proven right.

            But this “I’m so much more enlightened than you” shtick is just bullshit.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I never said I was more enlightened than you. That would be reckless even for the Internet. I said we have difference of opinion. Again, are you sure you are talking to me?

          • TadhgMor

            No, you simply heavily imply it in a way that is unmistakable in your comments.

            We don’t have a difference of opinion. That is a false equivalence. I am not reciprocating harmful actions on you and yours.

            Yes, I am talking to you. This is about you, no matter how much you can’t reconcile you mental image of yourself with your behavior and words.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I implied absolutely no such thing. Either you are grasping at straws, or your self-image of enlightenment rests heavily on your position on appropriation. That’s your problem. I’d say that your appearing on TWH from time to time and ranting that, among other things, my community doesn’t exist, qualifies as harmful action.

          • TadhgMor

            Are you really such a dishonest man that you’re going to claim me DARING to call out your appropriation is harming your community? That assertion is so ridiculous I cannot believe any self-respecting individual would make it. You get deeper and deeper into using tactics generally associated with privileged individuals trying to deny their privilege.

            Who represents the eclectic community? What makes you a community? What are you common beliefs? I never said no community exists, I said there is not A community, but many communities. Do not distort my words.

            If I am the worst harm you face you live an easy life indeed.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You are showing a primary reflex of the privileged, flailing and blustering when hoist by your own petard. Most of what I’ve said here points out how you exemplify what you condemn in others, which drives you further and further into fiat redefinitions of reality.

          • TadhgMor

            Point to a single instance of me appropriating from another culture then ignoring the harm I did. Otherwise you’re full of it.

            You have not shown a bloody thing except how poisonous the New Age ideology has become in old age.

          • Kay

            That’s like saying “diabetic” or “blonde” is a community. Worse, it’s often extrapolated to include people who aren’t even eclectic, but merely associate with those who are, because people need a convenient word to describe a group of people with nothing in common.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Still on the old “your community doesn’t exist because I say it doesn’t” kick, are we? Are you remotely aware of the sordid history of that meme?

          • Kay

            I am aware of what a strawman is. Yours is quite large.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I am also aware of what a straw man is, and the difference between that and an allegory, which you evidently are not.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            But, Tadhg, you are not a member of the community of pre-Cristian Celts. You are perhaps a modern Celt. But you cannot speak for a people long dead, even if you feel really, really deeply connected to them.

            You could share the personal experience of how you are affected by New Agers (who also feel really, really deeply connected to pre-Christian Celts, albeit with lower quality research to inform those feelings) and their misunderstandings of what we know of the ancient past. You could attempt to sway modern Pagan minds through reason or through assisting us to experience empathy for you.

            You are happier, though, to talk about “people like us” and accuse us of selfishness for not interpreting history through the same lens you have.

            Provided you’re doing that for the exercise, and not actually to convince others of your point of view, I suppose that’s a good strategy.

          • TadhgMor

            No, I’m part of a community that resurrects the culture of the ancient Gaels based on significant scholarship and effort. So yes, I’m a member of that community. Also yes, I can pretty accurately, based on considerable research, speak on many issues following the perspective of ancient Gaels. That’s the whole point of Reconstructionism. I will never be identical to them, but neither am I a completely modern invention like the numerous pseudo-Celtic groups.

            No, they feel deeply connected to modern distortions and bullshit that has no connection to ancient cultures they know nothing about.

            What you are doing is not “interpreting history”. You are inventing it. You do not get to hide behind an attempt to make a false equivalence. There is no Wiccan history. There was NEVER any ancient Gael worshiping the
            “Goddess and God” on Lughnasadh.

            I tried convincing people like you, and I got the same sort of response you’ve provided. You are self-centered and try and project your worldview onto others, diminishing the effort me and others have made by suggesting it is equivalent with the lack of effort of appropriators. You try and suggest I’m too hostile while bloody well condescending to me! Perhaps, that is why I speak of “people like you”. Because the ability to calmly condescend and ignore this issue only exists for the people currently on top, who are the appropriators. For those of us trying to stem the slow death of tradition we must push up against not only hostility and ignorance, but against apathy.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            I may be self-centered, but actually, what you’ve failed to do is to convince me that historic peoples are the property of historians. Cultural appropriation, as I understand the term, refers to taking bits and pieces of the culture of a living, marginalized culture and decontextualizing them to indulge in a fantasized version of that religion that disregards the very real losses and persecution of that marginalized people.

            Hence, however much it might offend a mainstream Catholic that Santerians have for generations appproached the Orishas partially through the iconography of Catholic saints, Santeria is not appropriative of Catholicism.

            And historians, whether armchair or academic, who are upset about the ahistorical nature of Wiccan and other modern borrowings from cultures not their own–and pre-Christian Celtic culture is not your own–whether marginalized or not–have not suffered appropriation, either. Even if they’re really, really angry about it and feel hurt.

            I suspect you are better at empathizing with and understanding pre-Christian Celtic peoples than you are your living critics, but for the record, I am not inventing the history you ascribe to me. I would not defend modern Wiccan “Celticisms” as historical any more than you would. I just don’t define them as cultural appropriation. It’s not because I’m hostile, and it’s not because I’m apathetic (if I were apathetic about issues of cultural appropriation, I wouldn’t be commenting here).

            It’s because you have not convinced me of your case, in the light of my previous understanding of the issue.

            Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to clarify that misunderstanding on that part.

          • TadhgMor

            Which is EXACTLY what people do to Celtic cultures.

            I don’t understand how anyone, when all the facts are laid out, can continue this “oh it’s fine” bullshit. I expect nothing would be enough to convince you and others like you that what you do is appropriation, because you have a vested interest in not seeing yourself that way.

            Also, the suggestion that Recons don’t have a culture that we belong to is a bit offensive and a bit stupid. There is the living Gaelic Christian culture of the Gaeltacht and there is the reconstructed pagan Gaelic culture of polytheists. Both of which have far better claim than a bunch of New Age ex-hippies with a modern ideology and no knowledge of the past.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away.

          Terms and concepts have been appropriated, and this is a very real issue for those within the communities/religions/cultures appropriated from.

          That others don’t see this as important/serious is why the conversation keeps coming around and why acrimony still exists.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            Baruch wasn’t denying the importance of appropriation. He was disagreeing that Tadhgh defines appropriation appropriately for his definition to be the yardstick used to judge others.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It’s a double standard, though.

            Why is taking the concepts and terms of a First Nations tribal culture (for example) any more valid to be described as appropriation than taking concepts and terms from a European culture?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I have a single standard for this. Using names and objects (like “Samhain” or sage) is dipping into the common human heritage of spiritual technology. Pretending to be Lakota or Celtic when one is not is reprehensible. Taking money under those auspices is a species of fraud.

          • TadhgMor

            Yes, you’ve stated your completely self-serving standard before. Amazing how easy it is to justify bad behavior and then ignore those who call you out on it.

            So stealing and redefining those things is fine, but pretending you know anything about them is not. That is logically unsound nonsense. You destroy the tradition either way.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I do not mean it in the menacing sense, but are you talking to me? I think you’re arguing with someone else whom you know much better.

          • TadhgMor

            Perhaps you are being conflated with others, but your behavior is only marginally different than theirs. But it is possible, in the interest of honesty, you are serving a partially symbolic role here as well.

            Nonetheless I stand by what I say based on your comments and words. You have committed the same errors, and continue to defend them.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            See, this is how you get conflated with bad religious actors we’ve all met, calling someone else’s opinion “error” and charging the defense of same as a related offense.

          • TadhgMor

            No, your actions are error. The harm you do to others are error. You can think whatever selfish childish ideology you want, but only when it hurts others does it become an error.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Again, thank you for nailing down the manner in which I characterized your arguments. BTW we’re starting to repeat ourselves, always a sign that the best of the debate is over.

          • TadhgMor

            Gods you’re such a ****. I can’t tell if you do it on purpose or not anymore. I begin to expect it is intentional on your part, since you always do so when fleeing a point. You surely are capable of seeing how these comments come off to someone on the other side? Outright hostility is more honorable than condescension and arrogance.

            You want the debate to be over, because then selfish people like you get to go back to doing bad things.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            At the risk of repeating myself, your intemperate language does worse than anything I might say to the reputation of the “other side.”I deny the charge of condescension and arrogance, unless it’s arrogant to defend one’s opinions — in which case you fall under the same rubric.

          • TadhgMor

            Forget it. You’ve descended into privileged “hold the line, change the subject” behavior.

            If anyone is like Christian fundamentalists it is you, who uses such tactics to defend unearned privilege and harmful behavior by asserting your individual importance and harmed feelings.

            Your attempts to paint me as a “bad individual” for standing up against appropriation by a bunch of New Age fools is hilarious considering many that I know have simply decided any contact with people like you is not worth it because you are too selfish and self-centered to care about others if it infringes on yourself. I am moderate in the sense that I hope people like you would have the honor to at least listen.

            You have proven I was wrong. Honor seems to mean nothing to people who hold your position.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Oh, I’ve been listening avidly, and describing what I see, with comment. If that’s dishonorable then we have quite different definitions of the term.

          • TadhgMor

            You’ve been distorting what you see or hear because of your own prejudice or bias.

            I have no doubt you don’t define honor in any way that makes sense. You stole from many cultures, but not tough concepts like honor.

            But you’re right, this conversation is at an end. I should remember that I can never trust people like you think of others rather than do what suits your fancy. You cannot teach honor to men that will not listen.

            You have done more than any other individual to convince me that the term “pagan” has no future, because people like you will inevitably harm others because of your self-focused ideology.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            “Common human heritage” is, quite frankly, bullshit.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Your opinion on that does not answer my refutation of your claim of a double standard.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I may have lacked eloquence, but what I expressed was fact, not opinion.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You may have encountered people with different standards for appropriation from First Nation and European sources. I gave you the contrary example of my single standard. Logic 101: A single counter-example invalidates a sweeping generalization.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            It has to do with histories of oppression. And yes, I do realize that there is historic oppression by Celtic peoples in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales by the English. But those were post-Pagan Celtic peoples, and when modern Pagans borrow from pre-Christian Celtic sources, they are not disregarding ongoing persecution and marginalization of those peoples in doing so. They may well be disregarding history, linguistics, and archeology in doing so, but even then, they’re not engaging in cultural appropriation in doing so. Making themselves look silly, perhaps. But I maintain there’s a distinction between acting like a fool and appropriating from a living and marginalized culture, and that the distinction is important.

            I am aware that Tadhgh has rationales for why the oppressed peoples idea applies to modern day practitioners of pre-Christian Celtic religion as well as it does to Native Americans and other marginalized indigenous peoples. I happen to find those rationales to be unconvincing. I suspect Baruch does, too.

            No double standard–just a difference of opinion, of the weight of the arguments and of how we define our terminology.

          • TadhgMor

            Post-pagan peoples who are the living remains of those cultures. I don’t know about you, but I still work with modern Gaelic culture as well as in the Recon community. It’s considered very important, actually.

            You’ve created a very convenient but arbitrary separation because it suits your purposes. The stories of the Tuatha De Danaan or of the Ulster Cycle or of Fionn MacCumhaill were present during the Christian periods. Seathrun Ceitinn wrote about pagan history even though he was a Christian. To separate them is completely arbitrary.

            It is a double standard. It is one that I find more and more disconcerting. The entitlement of mainstream paganism is one of the worst qualities that has developed, and I have no idea how it got there.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It has to do with histories of oppression? So appropriation only counts when someone has been oppressed?

            That is mightily convenient.

            I am, perhaps, using the term “appropriated” in a less stigmatised way. I use it to mean “taken from its original context”.

            The difference between reconstructionism and syncretism and eclecticism is that reconstuctionism attempts to retain that sense of context (or, at the very least, as much as is practicably possibly).

            However, when you have people attempting to reconstruct a cultural practice that was wiped out due to oppression, having other people looting the bones of that culture for any shiny baubles that catch their eye is extremely frustrating, as it leads to a lot of misunderstanding an a constant need to (re) educate people.

            A classic example is trying to point out to people that the stone circles of the British Isles don’t actually have any (provable) link to the historical Celts/Druids, and all connections we have are a product of relatively recent romanticism.

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            “So appropriation only counts when someone has been oppressed?” Correct, if we are discussing cultural appropriation. (If we’re talking about appropriating my candy bar or my automobile, we’re using a different meaning of the word, one that does not rise from the same discussion of privileged and marginalized communities.)

            As I mentioned above, that is why Santerians who make use of Catholic iconography in their worship of the Orishas are not practicing cultural appropriation.

            One thing that makes discussions of cultural appropriation very difficult with many men and women of European descent is an unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of the key concept of privilege; this tends to hamstring the discussions from the start.

            “That is mightily convenient.” It is useful, yes. In its original context, the term helped people see the ways differences in power and privilege take what might be a neutral act, like being inspired by another human culture, and make it into an action that deserves questioning.

            Incidentally, I’m fully willing to concede that people look more than a little ridiculous when they practice the kind of uninformed syncretism that’s typified by (and as we all know, this really happened!) teaching people to worship the “ancient Irish potato goddess” on August 2. It sure looks silly to me!

            What it does not look like is cultural appropriation.

            Also, for the record: when Lady Charlotte Guest pulled together a poorly translated version of the Mabinogion and presented it to the world as a romanticized vision of “the Twilight of the Celts” in the context of a Britain that was at that time systematically stripping the Welsh of their language–that was cultural appropriation.

            However, for a modern Recon to file claim of ownership against modern Wiccans, for title to pre-Christian Celtic religion, by reason of superior research and purity of intent, does not demonstrate cultural appropriation on the part of the Wiccans.

            It demonstrates turfiness on the part of the Recon.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I guess we are using the word differently, then. I’d use it in the same way that I would say Europeans appropriated Egyptian artefacts. I’ve been to the British Museum. Fascinating place, but everything lacks context.

            Privilege is not required for appropriation to take place, the way I see it. All that is required is for something to be taken.

            I haven’t even suggested that what has been taken be given back, merely that the source is acknowledged.

            Example: Yule is an Ænglisc (Heathen) celebration around the time of the winter solstice. It is also the name of a “quarter festival” in Wicca.

            (As opposed to simply saying that it is a Wiccan festival dating back to pre-Christian times.)

            I would not describe myself as “of European descent”. “European”, perhaps (but not primarily).

          • TadhgMor

            Yet Romanticized and modern versions of Gaelic holidays stripped from their language and cultural context are not appropriation?

            You continue to contradict yourself.

            Also “modern” Recons don’t think in “modern” terms, which is one of the biggest differences. My theology is not based around concepts invented in the 1960s. I think that is moderately relevant to my cultural closeness.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I agree in part with you, but I’d mention a couple of caveats. One, an oft-neglected but incredibly important privilege shared by most of the people who read this blog is American privilege. There are a lot of things that Americans do that come off as offensive, appropriative, or obnoxious to people in the countries from which we’re borrowing customs (depending on the situation), particularly when we say we’re celebrating a custom, holiday, or religion in a way that’s completely made up or syncretic– particularly when Americans actually go to that country and get annoyed that the great sacred whatever they’re doing doesn’t exist there. (Or when they tell Irish people “I’m Irish!” in Ireland. Our way of talking about ancestry weirds a lot of Europeans, but they don’t mind as much when it’s clearly in an American context as when people really do think their great-grandparent’s emigration makes them “Irish” when they know nothing and care nothing about actual Ireland.) And while I’m not going to say that, say, English people are an oppressed people, American privilege is the elephant in the living room for a lot of countries whose people have been actively damaged by American policies and American actions, for whom Americans then finding their traditions fascinating to borrow and embellish feels pretty similar to how marginalized indigenous Americans feel about it.

            The other caveat is that, abrasive as he is, TadhgMor isn’t wrong that eclectic practices can be damaging. Our ancestors didn’t separate culture/worldview from religion, but most Neo-Pagans do. The more an invented version of a historic practice becomes well-known, the harder it is for those trying to adopt the worldview and make sure the practice aligns with it to explain this to people. It’s easier for people to learn something if they don’t have to *un*learn a bunch of other stuff first, and that’s assuming they’re even willing and they don’t go off on those trying to be authentic with “you know nothing, you don’t even do (insert invented practice here)”. If that’s discouraging to American reconstructionists, think what it looks like to people from that place for whom, while $practice is no longer explicitly religious, it still has massive cultural significance. “I can’t stand American Neo-Pagans, they rip off all our cultural practices and then make up a bunch of crap about them” is something I’ve seen quite a few non-Americans say when Paganism has come up in discussion, and idk about you but it makes me really squirm. I do think we think that pre-Christian Pagan religions are, apart from us, no longer in any way “living” (further evidence for modern American worldview because it thinks if the religion isn’t practiced the cultural ties with it don’t matter), so appropriation doesn’t matter, and I think we dismiss the concerns of those overseas too blithely. (I’d also note that we used to dismiss the concerns of First Nations people pretty blithely in the ’80s and early ’90s too, until a number of them became very, very vocal about Plastic Shamans. I wonder if we think there’s no similarity between that and how Europeans feel because we generally don’t encounter non-Americans irritated about American Paganism?)

          • TadhgMor

            How do I not define it appropriately?

            You take a term, say Beltaine, that has a history and meaning in Gaelic culture. You completely remove it from that culture, and redefine it to suit visions of 1960s “free love” and to fit New Age Romanticist notions of “Celtic” history. You continue doing so even when people point it out as a harmful behavior and part of the long running English colonialism of Ireland and English obsession with the foreign “Celtic” things.

            So I’d really like you to tell me how that is not appropriation. Because it is nearly identical to what happens to many Native Americans and people have little issue calling that appropriation. Is it different because the Irish are white? Because they are in Europe?

          • PhaedraHPS

            Because it’s generally European or Euro-American people ripping off their own heritage. Sort of like a native person resurrecting something from their own past but romanticizing it. Or sort of like Gerald Gardner, who intended to revive/recreate what he believed was a religion rooted in British spiritual history. Since he was British, it’s hard to call that appropriation.

          • TadhgMor

            They aren’t part of the cultures they are ripping off. Saying “well I got Irish blood in there somewhere” doesn’t justify it. I’ve got Native American blood; I’d still be wrong if I started doing that nonsense many New Age types do. I’ve got the blood, but I didn’t grow up Cherokee or in a Cherokee community.

            Gardener was English, and everything pseudo-Celtic he did was appropriation, though my understanding is most of the worst theft in Wicca was post-Gardener by others.

            This isn’t about bloodlines (which is an oddly folkish assumption from people I know aren’t folkish). It’s about culture.

          • PhaedraHPS

            Just had the thought that for some people appropriation might integral to their culture. “Me, me, me! Everything is all about me! Everything belongs to me!”

            I remember maybe 30 years ago reading an article by a Native American telling white folks to stop mining her culture and go mine their own past instead. Well, that’s exactly what we’re discussing right now.

            I note much of your ire is aimed at New Age appropriation, which I can respect. But I am curious, who do you think has the “right” to Celtic culture? I see you’re using an Irish name yourself.

          • TadhgMor

            No, it’s not what we’re discussing. Because rather than an accurate past, we have a distorted one. These cultures still exist, they have living descendents. They aren’t dead monuments to be picked over and taken. Even the ones that are mostly dead are being taken and distorted to suit modern assumptions, modern ideologies, and modern pathologies (radical atomism in particular). People are not spending the requisite time to learn. They’re just taking and creating their own definitions. It’s an abuse of history.

            I don’t have an issue if some eclectic types want to celebrate Beltaine in the accurate way. Even if they do not do everything else. If that one holiday really speaks to them and they come to us and say “teach me how to do this” it’s fine. My problem is when they say “I like that name, now I’m going to invent a completely new and modern holiday that has nothing to do with that name or the culture I took it from”. That is what has happened in many cases.

            People who work to live and study in Celtic culture, whether born to it or who chose to go to it later. The same as with Native Americans I’ve known; if you enter and engage respectfully and work to learn rather than redefine you are behaving well and are usually welcomed.

            Most Recons I know, including myself and those I am close to, fully believe in culture as one of the most fundamental parts of our practice. I doubt that is news to you. But I think many people who belong to other paths don’t understand exactly how much work is involved in that. I study Irish. I have a small library of books on Old Irish law and society. I engage not only in the reconstruction of a (mostly) old Gaelic culture, but with modern surviving Gaelic culture as well. There was an issue some years back with people calling themselves “Gaelic Traditionalists”, a practice which most people stopped (sadly, not all) because it offended some people in the Gaeltachtai who use that term to refer to their practice of Christianity. So most polytheists stopped using the term, because we don’t have the right to take that term from living people in the culture to suit ourselves.

            As for appropriation being part of someone’s culture, I truly hope not. That would be a sad statement on human nature. But I do not think you are too far off based on some of the New Age behavior I have encountered, which to some degree is interconnected with the general “pagan” community.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Imperialism is generally seen as a bad thing. Yet it seems that the same mentality is ignored when pointed at certain (notably European) cultures.

            To answer the question you asked MadhgMor, I think that anyone has the right to any culture, so long as they approach it respectfully. It is the destruction of context that is problematic.

            Culture is not something to be mined, it is something to be lived.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Gardner did just as much appropriation of Ænglisc customs, too. Even the term “Wicca”…

            He may have been English, but he certainly was not a part of Ænglisc culture, nor was he interested in reconstructing it. He just took the cool bits from any source he liked. And his successors continued the habit.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Apart from the fact that he appropriated various things from various sources, and cobbled it all together.

            Just look at the wheel of the year – it has Celtic and Ænglisc “spokes”. If you are going to celebrate both Samhain and Yule, why not just add in Diwali, too?

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            I have clarified my understanding of the definition above. It has nothing to do with race, per se.

          • TadhgMor

            Your clarification is extremely unconvincing. It seems to set arbitrary limits on the term that support your position without any logical backing.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            That may be how it appears from one side. Try looking from the other side: People like TadghMor are the hellfire and damnation fundamentalists of Paganism.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            That is how it is from one side.

            By refusing to address it at anything other than an individual level (this is not something just for your or TadhgMor can or even should be taking personally), nothing is resolved.

            Only when proper discourse and a larger group/organisational level will we see any real resolution. This is, of course, problematic when we are talking about a bunch of individuals eschewing any kind of overarching organisation.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Proper discourse on a larger level would be a brave start, but if you expect the hard-core to do any better than shouting past the other participants you’re a bigger optimist than I thought.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            My optimism knows no bounds. But my pragmatism says that people are always going to be disgruntled, as such, it is best to find a compromise that no-one is happy with.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What kind of compromise is possible on this point, given the strength of opinion on both sides?IIRC one Reconstructionist complaint about “Wiccanate privilege” is that festival rituals are solidly Wiccan. Perhaps approaching the festival sponsors with a request to have a Recon moment on the schedule? BTW if your answer is you’ve tried that and been rebuffed, the treatment handed out on TWH leads me to ask if the request was made by your best spokesperson.

          • TadhgMor

            You really have no idea what goes on outside your own experience do you? You’re dangerously close to patronizing here.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You’re dangerously close to hysterically funny here.

          • TadhgMor

            You’re such a f***ing a**.

            When the term “pagan” finally splits, it will be condescending eclectics like you that are the proximate cause.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Well, how about starting with appropriation of terms?

            You know, simple things such as the festivals. Point out that, whilst certain names are used (in a Wiccan context), they are in no way representative of how these festivals were practised either historically, or currently by those within within the (reconstructed) cultural paradigm?

            Festivals are unimportant, to me. Religion is something that is lived every day, not just at campsites.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Festivals are not unimportant to those who organize and attend them. Your “compromise” consists of the other side giving up a little bit at a time. It’s going nowhere.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I am not about to say that a Wiccan festival should have a non-Wiccan ritual in it. That would be foolish and arrogant.

            I don’t see how my compromise is one sided. After all, I am not suggesting that the terms cease to be used.

          • TadhgMor

            No, we aren’t. That is the distortion people like you use to ignore us and continue your harmful behavior. By turning us into that in the perceptions of the eclectic/etc community, you make it safe to disregard our points without actually addressing them.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You’re telling them to change how they conduct their religion on the deeply symbolic level. That’s the same intrusion and arrogance as the hellfire and damnation fundamentalists.

          • TadhgMor

            If your religion is based on theft, then your are a bad person. Period. If your “religion” is to steal from others and then redefine the terms, destroying tradition and history to suit your whims, you are a toxic individual.

            I reject that you and others are such bad people with such a shallow religious system. I think you are good people doing bad things, who don’t understand the harm you cause and why it bothers others. Please do not force me to change my mind.

            Also, again, comparing me to those people? That’s pathetic. Your habit of condescending to anyone you consider “radical” seems to be a personal flaw.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “Those people.” Wow…

          • TadhgMor

            I’m not allowed to refer to Christian fundamentalists as “those people” now?

            Really? You find that too offensive to your sensibilities? Dear Gods.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Ah, I thought you were referencing my parallel to the clashes of Israelis and Palestinians. I’m glad you weren’t. (BTW I don’t think I ever said “Christian” fundamentalists in this thread. Moslem fundamentalists can get pretty excited too.)As to the kind of people who would “steal” religiously from others, traditions mine one another’s contents all the time. It’s just going on at a blindingly fast pace today, with first the printed and now the digital word offering access.

          • TadhgMor

            Borrowing and stealing and redefining are two very different things, as I’m sure you know.

            But your use of the term “mining” is proof that you see no issue in the unequal plundering. You don’t even couch it in language of “sharing”.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I didn’t say “borrow,” I said “mine” (the verb, not the adjective). Once again, whom are you actually arguing with and can we get them in here so you can do it directly?

          • TadhgMor

            When you continue to resort to dodging and condescension it makes you, and the position you are representing, look very bad.

            Yes, I’m aware of the word you used, and it is a telling window into your thought processes. Not a good one, either.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            My position? That an eclectic community exists? Wicca is, by your standards, an eclectic mash-up, but it seems organized enough to make “Wiccanate privilege” a Recon complaint. Not so easy a feat for a non-existent community.

          • TadhgMor

            You damn well know that’s not what I was referring to. Why do you continue to distort my words?

            Now you’re just being purposefully dishonest. I never suggested no Wiccan community existed. Nor have I made any significant point about Wiccanate privilege. You are dodging so you do not need to defend your own position. That is dishonest and dishonorable.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I fail to see how that is either a good thing or a justification.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What it is, is a fact about human spiritual behavior. Trying to make it stop is akin to King Canute trying to order the tide not to come in by royal decree.I’ve given you three answers now that directly and respectfully respond to flaws in your thinking or perception. That’s all you get for now.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Not appreciating the ad hominem, there.

            How is it a flaw in my perception to dislike the perpetuation of misinformation and ignorance?

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            “People like you.”

            *sigh*

          • TadhgMor

            Given the attempts by you and Baruch to defend and minimize the action in question, I find it odd that you’re surprised by the fact that I consider you an “other”.

            You are not part of my community. Your position disrespects my community, and harms us. So why would I not say “people like you”?

          • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

            I’m not harming you, Tadgh. I’m disagreeing with you. That is actually a different thing.

            As to why not Other human beings? I find it makes it harder to be fully human myself. Your mileage may vary.

          • TadhgMor

            No, you are harming me. And you’re so bloody blessed you don’t even know it.

            Because the position you hold is slowly erasing Gaelic traditions outside of academia and replacing it with some shallow, ignorant, modern New Age bullshit. Worse, Wiccans and eclectics cheap bookstore knowledge then go further and attack those who try and tell them the actual history of the holiday. It has happened to me on numerous occasions, in person as well as online.

            There is nothing better than a bunch of Wiccans trying to tell me Beltaine is a “sex festival” honoring “the Goddess” and that maypoles go back to “ancient Celtic lands”.

            That is the slow destruction of a tradition, whether you personally feel culpable or not, I will not watch it happen while people like you continue sitting on high horses claiming “the common heritage of humanity” or some such nonsense to justify appropriation.

          • Merlyn7

            When you say: “Because the position you hold is slowly erasing Gaelic traditions outside of academia and replacing it with some shallow, ignorant, modern New Age bullshit.” are you trying to tell us you think there are FEWER people practicing reconstructionist Gaelic religion than there were BEFORE modern pagans started “appropriating” Celtic holidays? Are there reconstructionist groups that have been operating longer than the Wiccans and Druids of the modern pagan movement?

          • Merlyn7

            And yet, those people celebrating their modern understanding of Beltane don’t actually harm your tradition. People with a Society for Creative Anachronism approach to religion are still able to mine historical documents and studies to piece together their rituals. Most of them get their start with eclectic forms of paganism before deciding that what they are really looking for is something closer to an original form of worship.

          • TadhgMor

            Yes, they do. Because they continue to spread false definitions and then, eventually, some of them actually attck people celebrating the traditional way.

            I’ve been screamed at by Wiccans for daring to say “Beltaine is NOT a fertility festival” after they start talking about “traditional maypoles” (a modern English custom) and other modern inventions.

            Yes they mine them. They destroy the past to create something that has no relation to the names they’ve taken. Why steal the name of a Gaelic holiday for your new holiday? Why not create your own name?

            I see very little crossover from eclectics into my community. Some, yes, but very little. The worst offenders continue their behavior without ever even realizing what they are doing is a completely modern construction with no relationship to Gaelic culture. The Wiccan version of any Gaelic holiday might have 5% of a relationship to a Gaelic custom at best. So why use the name?

            Appropriation is taking something out of its original context and redefining it to suit your purposes. If I was talking about a Native American festival no one argue it except for some fringe New Age groups that respect nothing. But since it’s Irish, suddenly it’s fair game.

          • Merlyn7

            One point of clarification: When I said: “People
            with a Society for Creative Anachronism approach to religion are still able to mine historical documents and studies to piece together their rituals.” I was referring to Reconstructionists. And yes they can mine the past for their rituals as well as they ever have.

            I see frustration but not harm; no one is taking away your ability to celebrate in your own way. Again, those interested in Reconstructionism often spring from eclectic practices. To a Wiccan in 2014, a Maypole is a Beltane tradition. It dates back a few decades rather than thousands of years but is as traditional in the same way that trick-or-treating is a traditional Halloween pastime that has only been going on for a little while in the grand scheme of things.

            The fluidity of the eclectics is what allows them to come together in larger numbers and put on the conventions and gatherings referred to in the article.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        The alternative is that the individual religions be individual, but work with each other on shared interests, as well as working with any other religion that has a shared interest (I hear that some branches of Hinduism are just waiting for the various “European” non-Christian religions to “grow up” so that they can work with them on interfaith activities).

        When a religion is small and its communities are fractured, there are really only three things that can be done to improve the situation:

        1 – Evangelism. It’s not a fashionable concept in the wider “pagan” sphere, but if you want more people of your religion, expecting people to just “find you” is not a great method. As such, conversion is required which can mean various methods of evangelism (without ever resorting to coercive proselytism).

        2 – Breeding. Another contentious issue, here. If you have children, raise them in your faith, and numbers increase. This does lend itself to more “folkish” ideals, since it becomes the religion of family. But, if you want an increase in numbers, it does work (in the UK, people are discussing the idea that Muslims will outnumber Christians in the next fifty years, simply by out-breeding them).

        3 – Relocation. If a community is fractured, bringing the community members together makes sense, doesn’t it? Whilst not increasing the overall numbers of a religion, it does mean that the constituent members are no longer isolated. It makes even more sense if your religion has holy sites or a sense of geographical theism.

        The alternative is to accept the situation as it is.

        • TadhgMor

          I’d love to have the ability to build a small Gaelic Polytheist village somewhere, where we could have communal celebrations and really build our modern version of old Gaelic culture. But there are too many hurdles, the primary of which is simple money. No one that I know in the extended Gaelic Polytheist community is particularly wealthy to the point that it could facilitate such an effort, let alone the issues of jobs and other things tying people down. Plus we’re split between Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and the US.

          I don’t think there is any realistic route other than engagement with the “pagan” community for now.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            If you want that village, plan for it. See who has the skills required, and what can be done to achieve the aims.

            In a real community, just how many “priests” are really needed, compared to carpenters, plumbers, smiths, doctors, farmers…?

            If you want to make something this major happen, expect to make sacrifices. In fact, plan to make sacrifices and give offerings to the relevant gods so that they are not in vain.

            Obviously, it starts with small steps and engagement is the first one. Not necessarily with “pagans”, though. What about just speaking to people who may be of like mind in your local area? Religion is more than just beliefs in non-physical beings, after all. It is an entire world view based on a cultural understanding of your immediate environment.

          • TadhgMor

            My local area is rabidly right wing and heavily Christian. So not so much.

            The biggest problem is money more than people with real skills (even the scholarly types like me have some practical skills). If I could afford to buy say 30 acres and start building piecemeal the core of something like this I would.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            A – How much is 30 acres, in an area that would be suitable?

            B – How many people would you look to get involved?

            Divide the cost of A by the sum of B.

            Find ways to make it profitable (a village full of skilled people should be easy to market, after all), raise funds, take your time.

          • TadhgMor

            That assumes people have discretionary income to spend on land purchases, which usually isn’t the case. I can barely afford the books I use for research.

            Easy to market is tough. That means you need proximity to a larger population center, which raises costs, not to mention probably in this day and age requiring good internet, without worrying about other utilities, construction costs, access roads, etc. I did not go to college for civic engineering.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I assume that people can find discretionary income, if they make sacrifices.

            It is going to be different for you than for me, you are US based, whereas I have the advantage of being in the British Isles. But, as they say, where there is a will, there is a way.

          • Deborah Bender

            The co-housing movement has relevant experience on ways of finding people who are ready to live in an interdependent but not totally communal housing situation, and working out issues and agreements among those people before they make the move. It takes time, as Mr. Steren says.

            Co-housing can involve buying land together or just an apartment building.

        • Deborah Bender

          I think this is practical advice.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I should hope so. It’s what I’m doing.

          • Deborah Bender

            One advantage of relocation that you don’t mention is that it
            facilitates doing business with other members of the community by preference, and that keeps wealth circulating in the community.

            All four of your suggested strategies, alliances of limited scope, evangelism, breeding (combined with endogamy), and relocation, have been used with success by the Jews. The mix varies with local conditions. Without those strategies, Jews would not outnumber the Samaritans.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I didn’t think of that as an advantage, as I saw it as a reason for relocation.

    • Ivo Dominguez Jr.

      FYI. The New Alexandrian Library will be the library of record for Cherry Hill, Seminary (and are open to other interested schools), will engage in inter-library loan with other Pagan or Pagan friendly Libraries, in addition to making many materials available online that are not currently available there will be materials that can be checked out. Some rare materials, art, or ephemera will not circulate except in digital form. The NAL is not intended as a local resource but rather as a national resource. We are not just collected books. We are also collecting newsletters, ritual outlines, program books of events, old photos, art works, music, magazines, and more. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/842341/fblk

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        So, in essence, a “mail library”. That’s fair enough.

  • Ieshea

    Loved the Article but……As a Solitary Pagan with family and friends that we celebrate “holidays” with….I’m sorry I tend to like the “herding cats”analogy,the only thing I can think we need paid clergy for is making Handfastings legal,I can’t afford to go to Pagan gatherings nor do I really think I would want to(too many have,have nots,can and can nots there) and truthfully if I wanted to be part of an organized “religion” I would be a catholic.Yes I love learning and talking to individuals about our different paths but big groups no and truthfully we do not belong in big groups or organized at that level,I like the idea of wider spread newsletters,I like reading the articles,and once in a while I get a yen to meet someone like me I have read something by but I live in an area where pagans have a widespread group and truthfully I have very little in common with what they want to do and do not want any part of their rules and regulations.I believe Paganism to be a Faith based system not a religion and any large organizing on the behalf of Pagans will change that,no thanks.

  • Dscarron

    I believe that the concept you are looking for is Inspiration.

  • Peter Dybing

    “There are only so many times you can pass a hat per year before the discretionary income for Pagan stuff is spent” — Hm, sounds like something someone said in the past, LOL

  • Macha NightMare

    Cat asked for my comments, and I will accommodate her later, but right now I’m off to the Wiccan circle at San Quentin State Prison. In the meantime, here’s something I wrote that’s on point: http://witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Studies-Blogs/institutions.html

    • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

      Thanks, Macha. :-)

  • VG Lovecraft

    I have no desire to be associated with an organized infrastructure, and I am not a fan of classifying Paganism as a “movement”, either. I call myself Pagan because I recognize that all god/desses exist, and are manifestations of “the Divine”, as everything that exists is connected to divinity.

    That said, I recognize that those who wish to be a member of any Pagan temple, grove, circle, or other form of “organization” are free to do so. I personally have never been a person who needs to join a group of any sort. Knowledge of the “spiritual” should come largely (but not exclusively) through personal experience, not from what others say, write, or do.

    I wish to point out that I do feel that journalism is an important method for informing Pagans and non-Pagans alike, as to what is happening in the Pagan community. Ignorance breeds fear and contempt, which should be dispelled whenever possible.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Interesting article, Jason. I wonder, on a percentage basis, what percentage of, say, Catholics read Catholic blogs or go to Catholic conferences. Ditto for, say, Evangelicals or Hindus. My completely-data free guess is that, percentage-wise, those “organized” religions don’t have a much larger percent of their members “involved” than do we. But I’d be interested to know if there are any facts and figures out there.

    • TadhgMor

      Maybe a bit more, simply due to ease of access. Of course they also generally have physical gatherings on a more frequent basis than most pagans do, so they might have less need of the media.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      Don’t forget that there are also actual newspapers for some of these, such as The Tablet:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tablet

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      It’s always important to make sure that we are not imposing criteria on ourselves that we do not impose on others – especially Christians. When it comes to counting Christians, the bar is actually extremely low. In many societies (especially the Americas and Europe) we simply assume that people are Christian by default, unless they are demonstrably something else. This is how Christians arrive at the often repeated figure of 2 billion. For example, Pew estimates that 80% of the U.S. population was Christian in 2010. That’s almost 250 million. What churches do these Christians attend, and, more generally, what is their actual level of involvement in their chosen sub-sect of Christianity? In fact, the only level of involvement that is usually counted is whether or not people check off the Christian box in a census form or other type of survey, which is actually fairly meaningless.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Many people count themselves as Christian, by default.

        “Baptised as a child?”
        -Check

        “Celebrate Christmas?”
        -Check

        “Ticks ‘Christian’ on census religion box?”
        -Check

        The vast majority of people are actually apatheists. Religion is simply not a topic at all for them.

  • PhaedraHPS

    I agree with so much of what you said.

    I’ve been commenting on the lack of actual journalism in Pagan print magazines for, well, for a very long time. About the best that you find other personal stories or history and lore might be interviews. And a good amount of the journalism is self-serving, as in, “this bad thing happened to a Pagan and here’s how we’re helping!”

    I do think that a very high percentage of blog readers are bloggers. I don’t read them all that regularly myself, and very often when I’ve brought up the Hot Topic of the Day (blogosphere flare-ups often have a half-life of less than 36 hours) to other Pagans, even people who identify pretty strongly as Pagan, all I get are blank looks.

    Yes, Thorn Coyle did pull back the curtain on the economics of being an author or other form of BNP, but really, it’s not like other people haven’t done so a zillion times already. Isaac certainly did. And you still have people thinking that authors and presenters are rakin’ in the big bucks. Maybe it’s because most people don’t read the blogs? ;-)

  • http://creativecontentcoaching.com/ Anne Hill
  • Deborah Bender

    The Pagan Gift Economy, part one

    Community of any kind requires two activities: communication and reciprocity. When a community gets large enough and spread out enough that direct person to person communication and gossip are not sufficient channels for peer-to-peer communication, independent journalism becomes valuable. Journalism is usually more accurate than gossip, it has the potential to reach more people, and it provides a lasting record of events.

    However, most of the problems brought up in this article seem to me to stem more from lack of reciprocity than from inadequate communication. So I’m going to write about reciprocity. I’ll break this comment into three parts because it’s long.

    When the North American pagan community was small (late 1950s to late 1970s), it operated almost entirely as a gift economy, with a limited amount of goods and information (but no services to speak of) exchanged as straight commercial transactions. E. g., you could go to a bookstore and buy some books, but the meaty and up-to-date information was to be found in amateur newsletters with tiny circulations, sold at cost or in exchange for other similar periodicals.

    As the community got larger, more diverse, and more geographically spread out, several things undermined the gift economy. First, many people heard about paganism through channels that did not socialize them to the mores of the gift economy. They received the gifts without understanding that they were gifts and that some direct or indirect reciprocity was expected. Gift economies are not familiar to most people growing up in late twentieth and early twenty-first century America, although they were more a part of daily life when most people lived in rural areas and didn’t have a lot of money.

  • Deborah Bender

    The Pagan gift economy, part two of three

    Second, as the size of the community increased, it allowed for specialization and made it possible for more people to charge fees for services and information, such as leading rituals and teaching classes. People who are donating their labor have an incentive to limit the number of people they serve and to train volunteer assistants to share the workload as quickly as possible. People who receive payment have opposite incentives to increase their customer base and make themselves the brand; therefore they promote themselves. People who have only a casual connection to the community don’t know about all the learned and helpful people in it. Their first encounters are with the ones who promote themselves (who may be equally learned and helpful, but they charge for their goods and services). Consequently the newcomers and those with a casual interest assume that commercial transactions are the normal form of interaction with people in the community whom you don’t already know. Often they never get close to the gift economy unless they happen to replicate it on a small scale with their friends.

    Finally, for some decades, some members of the community have been wanting services that are complex to organize and maintain, and simply cannot be reliably provided through a gift economy.

    At least among the older generations of pagans, the more engaged, the more likely they are to be deeply involved with the gift economy. Even relatively well known authors who won’t give a presentation at a festival unless their expenses are comped and they can sell books often have students or an organization that they do pro bono work for and with.

    • PhaedraHPS

      Also not that those “relatively well known authors who won’t give a presentation at a
      festival unless their expenses are comped and they can sell books” ask for those things because otherwise they can’t afford to go, and by selling books or services they might be able to break even on the trip. There’s always some expenses that don’t get comped.

      And we all know that writing a book doesn’t make you rich, right?

      • Deborah Bender

        Right. I probably should have edited that more to remove the snarky undertone.

  • Deborah Bender

    The Pagan gift economy, part three and last

    The remarks in this paragraph are generalizations which have exceptions. Individuals who don’t join groups do engage in a degree of reciprocity. They are sometimes willing to pay admission to an event. They aren’t very willing to volunteer their own time to make the event happen. They want an immediate return on whatever resource they exchange. If the return isn’t fair value in their judgement, they don’t come back. Since they aren’t aware that much of what they are enjoying was built upon the labor of past volunteers, they feel no sense of obligation to give anything back to the community as a whole. And since they paid money for some of what they received, and the market economy is still doing well, it doesn’t occur to them to pay it forward either.

    This pattern of behavior sometimes prompts old timers who were socialized to the gift economy as central to community life to regard more casual participants as freeloaders. I think there is a more positive way to look at it. It’s a mark of success in at least one of our important goals.

    I got deeply involved in the Craft for personal reasons. I stayed deeply involved because I thought that the mainstream values and way of thinking of late twentieth century industrial civilization were marching humanity off an ecological cliff and taking a lot of other species with us (I still think that). I wanted to halt that march by helping to inject different ideas and images into that culture, ones that would motivate people to slow down and change direction. To change the values and worldview of an entire civilization _before_ utter catastrophe arrives requires influencing both elites and ordinary people. Religion is a powerful and (at that time) underdeveloped means of changing hearts-and-minds profoundly. To do that requires getting into popular culture. If the cultural products of our community are being consumed by people who don’t self-identify with our community, that means we are starting to have an influence.

    • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

      This is interesting. I’m going to have to sit with this and keep thinking about it… hmmm.

  • Deborah Bender

    The Pagan gift economy, part four and last

    The neopagan movement in the U.S. got underway shortly after WWII, during a long period of economic expansion. During the first few decades of the movement, the American middle class was large and financially secure, higher education was relatively cheap and available, and social mores were relaxing. Rising birth rates produced a huge cohort of young adults. Suddenly, people who in an earlier time would have had to focus on physical survival had time and money for intellectual pursuits and new experiences. It’s no wonder that in those circumstances an egalitarian religious movement that emphasized direct experience, pleasure and individual dignity would become popular.

    We are now three decades into an economic contraction with no end in sight. Some social mores have loosened up even more, but most of the other resources we took for granted are getting harder to come by. This is not a favorable environment or trajectory for individualistic pursuits.

    We might get the gift economy back when the open market can’t provide people what they want or need at a price they can afford. We’ll get stronger communities when people have to join together for protection. If that “we” is a pagan “we”, it will be a different community from we used to have, or what we have now.

    • http://quakerpagan.org Cat C-B

      You are making me think new thoughts! Thank you.

    • Kathy L

      Deborah, thank you for so much to think about!

    • Franklin_Evans

      Brilliant analysis, Deborah. If nothing else, it gives me some consolation for the obstacles to organizational financial solvency I and others have found to be insurmountable.

  • http://leithincluan.wordpress.com/ Leithin Cluan

    I’m interested in how you get the one million figure. The census data seems to show Wiccans + Pagans at about 650,000. The Pew study doesn’t seem to have Pagans as a category at all. It’s certainly interesting to see the sharp increase in numbers, but it’s too easy to over-estimate hose numbers.

    In the UK we’re looking at maybe 100,000 Pagans if we trust Hutton’s number-crunching, but I suspect that’s actually on the high side.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      I don’t think that Hutton’s numbers are that far off, if we look at the census statistics of 2011:

      Description England Wales
      Pagan 53,172 3,448
      Wicca 11,026 740
      Druid 3,946 243
      Pantheism 2,105 111
      Heathen 1,867 91
      Witchcraft 1,193 83
      Shamanism 612 38
      Animism 487 54
      Occult 474 28
      Reconstructionist 223 28
      Thelemite 176 8
      Total 75,281 4,872

      This gives a total for England and Wales of 80,153 (out of a total population of 56,075,912) which will give an estimated 90,310 for the whole of the UK, presuming an average demographic rate across Scotland and Northern Ireland consistent with England and Wales.

      This gives a conservative number since not everyone answered the question.

      Of course, not everyone would want to be counted in a single demographic, after all.

  • Jenya T. Beachy

    Hear, hear!

    I was just thinking about this recently in considering how TWH and Patheos Pagan are related. What you are creating here is nutritious, it’s food for thought, inspired by actual events, how things really happen in the world, things that might require action. PP is largely editorial; it’s extra courses that many folks enjoy and are fed by, but there really is a more limited appeal because it’s not rooted in experiences everyone can see and understand. It’s often “academic”. Not that this is a bad thing!

    I have a primary interest in where our beliefs turn into practices. “Faith without works…” and all that. For me, it feels more important that whatever growth occurs comes from the center of each of the many and varied practitioners. We’ve seen what happens when growth is the primary goal of any movement. We either end up with a flimsy structure, or one that is so rigid that it no longer has much to do with the spiritual values of the ‘founders’. When we are strong enough in our own core, we are less threatened by the differences between us and more able to make flexible and responsive connections.

  • Anna H.

    I used to be an “engaged” Pagan – a Wiccan priestess. I used to be a “community” leader, a teacher, a coven leader. I went to regional festivals occasionally, supported the PPDs, taught at the local metaphysical stores and in my home, co-ran an open circle, brought speakers in to my local area and organized local festivals. I gave a lot time and energy to growing community and supporting others’ efforts as well. I did this for 12 years.

    For various reasons I have come to understand over the past two years that all these things are largely irrelevant. By the time you subtract the (1) majority of contemporary Pagans who think Wicca is bullshit and the (2) rest of the contemporary Pagans who just want to get laid and/or engage in Paganism as a style choice, there’s no one left with whom I can share spiritual community. So I practice with my husband and pretend that’s adequate. It’s not, of course. But I have little choice in the matter. The blogs don’t address my spiritual or social needs, and in fact, have made my sense of isolation much worse. The infighting erodes my joy; and what I have to offer is neither needed nor appreciated. I love my religion, but if I’d known I’d end up doing it almost alone, I would not have gotten involved. ~(formerly) Anna Greenflame

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      I don’t think the majority of contemporary Pagans think that Wicca is bullshit. In fact, I think the majority of contemporary Pagans are Wiccan.

      I just think that there is a vocal minority.

  • Esher RavenFire

    This article is bang on. The problem with “Pagan events” and the like for me at least is simple: I don’t share your beliefs.

    “Pagan” is an umbrella term on par with “Christian”. But is a Christian of one particular brand likely to support a church from a branch of Christianity that they do not agree with? Likely not.

    Same goes for me. I’m a follower of the Tuatha Dé Danann, I do not believe in the Wiccan rede nor karma, and am quite happy to practice either by myself or with close friends. And while I very occasionally do ritual and spellwork with Gods of other pantheons, I have absolutely zero interest in what the Heathens are doing, or events that largerly focus on Wiccan beliefs and rites. So no, I won’t be donating to these events because they’re simply put, just not right for me. And therein lies the problem with these attempts to “wag the dog”. You won’t sway me to assist in something I simply have no belief or interest in. Common threads are hard to find in a community who’s beliefs vary wildly from person to person, even within the same religions (ie: Wicca).

    Now that being said, I completely agree with the author. If I saw or read more about events happening out in the world, I may very well become far more interested in what others are doing, because perhaps I’ll see something that will appeal to my particular beliefs. I’m sure I’m not singular in my particular beliefs, but finding another amongst a million (or whatever the true number is) who shares a compatible view of the world with me is a daunting task. Am I going to spend hundreds of dollars going to Pan-Pagan events on the off chance that I’ll actually find one single person who agrees with me, out of dozens who don’t? Hell no. Not unless I KNOW there’s a good chance that will happen.

    And that is where the media comes into play. It’s whole purpose in fact. I couldn’t agree more.