Wade Mueller speaks on the need for Pagan homelands

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“We’re not really Pagans. We have a Pagan veneer over the top of a Christian and secular life. Until we have permanent lands that we live on, are born on, and die on, we won’t be Pagans.” Wade Mueller

Those words by presenter Wade Mueller caused a noticeable change in the room during his presentation on Building an Expanding the Pagan Homeland at Paganicon. Attendees shuffled in their seats, some leaning forward as if to agree, while others leaned back, distancing themselves from that statement.

Wade Mueller [Courtesy Photo]

Wade Mueller [Courtesy Photo]

Mr. Mueller is part Deeply Rooted, a 160-acre Pagan sanctuary and intentional community in north-central Wisconsin. It was started in 1999 as a place where Pagans could openly practice and live their religion, and where Pagans can live onsite as a member of a Pagan community. Currently there are two stone circles for worship activities, and there are four adults and one child living there.

His presentation focused on how Pagans can create new homelands and why it is vitally important that we do so.

The importance of a homeland

At the beginning of his presentation, Mueller noted the paradox in members of earth-based religions meeting in a hotel to discuss creating a Pagan homeland. He then noted that while Paganism is growing, the numbers of permanent Pagan places are, in his opinion, dwindling.

“We are now a religion of nomads yet all of our traditions are based on place. If we want Paganism to to move past where we are now, a social gathering, we need to do something different,” stated Mueller. That something different is to buy land to create Pagan communities, businesses, and worship centers.

Attendee Steven Posch appeared to agree, “Paganism is tribal, it’s not what you do in your own room. We need the social skills to become a tribe. If we are still going to be here in 100 years we need to do this.”

In Mueller’s view, modern Pagans aren’t truly Pagans because we haven’t yet connected to our Gods as deeply as our ancestors, “Right now it’s chaos. The Gods don’t respect us. We turned our backs on them. The onus isn’t on them to reach out to us, we need to reach out to them.”

He says the only way to regain that connection is to live as Pagans on the land where you were born, where you grow your food, raise your children, honor the Gods, and rest your bones when you die. He believes those activities change the land itself, making it more sacred over the generations and encouraging the Gods to be more present and repairing the broken relationship between humanity and the Gods.

Why Pagan infrastructure projects fail

Mueller outlined how modern Pagans in the USA have typically tried to create lasting infrastructure and why those efforts so often fail. He said a few people come up with an idea to buy land or make a community center. They then appeal to the larger Pagan community to become involved and try to build consensus. That, in Mueller’s opinion, is where the problem starts.

“The problem is when you take into account the opinions of people who will not help do the work or contribute to it,” he explains. “That’s where we go wrong. The decisions need to be made by those who are contributing.”

His advice is to get a small group of very dedicated people who share the same clearly defined vision. He suggests no more than 2 to 5 people. “If you have a group of 5 people who are all on the same page, getting together $10,000 to buy a few acres of land is easy,” says Mueller.

It may take some time to raise the funds, but he says people who know each other and are committed will put $50 in the pot rather than buy an amber necklace for themselves.

He advises keeping all decision making confined to your core group and not asking the community what they want. He warns this may cause hurt feelings in the wider community as they hear about your project and want to become involved, but to not give in out of fear of hurting feelings.

“Feelings don’t help. Feelings don’t put nails in walls.”

He added that leaders willing to undertake such an important task must stay true to their vision and not let it get diluted or hanged by those outside their core group, “You have to be willing to say this is who we are, this is what we’re doing and not back down.”

He adds that you don’t ask the community what they want built, you build it and the community will come and enjoy it later.

A second reason why many Pagan infrastructure projects fail, according to Mueller, is because the founders and the community are looking to benefit now themselves, rather than making sacrifices for the benefit of the next generation.

Mueller says Pagans need to come to terms that what they build is not theirs to enjoy, but for their descendants, “Separate yourself from the now. We are building for the next generation so they can be Pagans. That’s our sacrifice.”


Mueller is no stranger to sacrifice. When he was 23 he says he realized he could either devote his energy to raising a family or creating a Pagan intentional community, but not both. So he opted for a vasectomy and his legacy is the land he is shaping.

He encouraged attendees to be practical, understand that they will lose money for at least ten years, and to focus on what they are building for the next generation and be willing to make that sacrifice.

Mueller is looking to compile a list of other Pagan groups who are active, own land, and are open to the public or forming an intentional community. He hopes the groups can share tips and encourage other groups to take the plunge.

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90 thoughts on “Wade Mueller speaks on the need for Pagan homelands

  1. “In Mueller’s view, modern Pagans aren’t truly Pagans because we haven’t yet connected to our Gods as deeply as our ancestors, “Right now it’s chaos. The Gods don’t respect us. We turned our backs on them. The onus isn’t on them to reach out to us, we need to reach out to them.””

    Ah yes, the Gods so truly care about property ownership that will surely reveal themselves to those privileged few who can afford such things. Perhaps Mr. Mueller would be so kind to enlighten us on the proper ritual forms and demarcation of sacred space which will “teach the gods to respect us”, whatever that means.

    I pray that his unilateral knowledge can be disseminated to every facet of the Pagan spectrum across all of society, so that we may all taken in his true understanding of the will of the gods.

    Tell me, please, how I should maintain my hearth cult. The rest of us must not be trying hard enough, indeed.

    • I don’t think it’s about “property ownership”. Very far from that. It’s about being able to connect to the land you live in, grow your food, having a relationship with it, knowing your descendents will treat it the same way. We now live in disconnection with the land, which is on the hands of corporations and governments; our food is grown and farmed without any respect or sacrality. The culture around us, even though we can “privately” have pagan beliefs and practices and try to be true to that in every possible aspect of our lives, is not pagan, is indeed the opposite of that: a culture of deep disconnection with nature, the land, life, gods. And he is suggesting a way to fix that. I don’t see him claiming to be showing “how to teach the gods to respect us” or that we’re not “trying hard enough”, or even that we’re doing anything wrong. He’s saying we should try and move forward in the matter of bonding with the land. It’s indeed something that not all of us can afford and is sometimes a neglected aspect – I myself live in an apartment, in a city, and for now have no perspective of being able to live closer to the earth, unfortunately. But I recognize the importance if it, and I like that he’s pointing it out and suggesting a direction to action. It doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

      • Agreed that it is not the only way, however, the author does imply such, that this is the only way to authentically live paganism. Such connections can be made in a variety of ways though, from buying plots together in community gardens, to sharing private garden space on a family’s suburban or small acreage plot, to patronizing together small local farms, to visiting together and caretaking local sites such as rivers, mountains, forests, etc. I do think the author is stating that those not choosing to pursue what he is are effectively not doing paganism right, per his statements about chaos and the gods not having respect for us. This is unfortunate, as the idea of a pagan intentional community really doesn’t have to be laden with all this judgement about how other pagans choose to live, or are able to. I think he is indicting modern western civilization in the end, more than paganism itself, as the latter is a product of the former, and so has its worldview and values largely baked in, but I am not sure if he is aware of that indictment, or what he would say about it.

      • If we all just “went back to the land” subsistence style, 8 or 9 out of 10 people would be dead within a few years.

        • Yes.

          I’m only a generation and a half removed from farmer stock and I am not sure I could do it. I’ve seen cattle and pigs slaughtered and butchered, I don’t think I could do it. I’ve plucked chickens, it’s not fun and the feathers get everywhere especially in every body crevice you have. I’ve seen a horse drawn plow and it is much harder than it looks.

          Farming is hard work, harder still without modern machinery and methods.

        • I certainly would be. Modern medicine made it possible for my sister and I to make it to term, and then the next month–lots of blood transfusions for each of us.

          It made it possible for me to have a healthy child, in spite of age, weight, and GDM. It has made it possible for the two of us to keep from suicide, to combat migraines, for me to walk without pain, to correct my cataracts and glaucoma.

          It made it possible for my belle-mère to survive polio.

        • Modern medicine helps me control my diabetes. It kept my diabetic father alive for many years. It is preserving the life of my diabetic former so.

      • Mueller claims that we “need a homeland” in order to connect to our gods.

        “We’re not really Pagans. We have a Pagan veneer over the top of a Christian and secular life. Until we have permanent lands that we live on, are born on, and die on, we won’t be Pagans.” – Wade Mueller

        My homeland is the Northeast of the United States. I’m an American citizen. My family has been here since 1674.

        He claims I am not Pagan because I apparently “don’t have a homeland” that meets his arbitrary distinction of land-ownership. That we’re all secret Christians underneath our attempts to claim otherwise. “He says the only way to regain that connection is to live as Pagans on the land where you were born, where you grow your food, raise your children, honor the Gods, and rest your bones when you die.”

        How does he suggest that connection?

        “His advice is to get a small group of very dedicated people who share the same clearly defined vision. He suggests no more than 2 to 5 people. “If you have a group of 5 people who are all on the same page, getting together $10,000 to buy a few acres of land is easy,” says Mueller.”

        I reside in New York State, where property values are exorbitant, especially once you have to actually start paying property tax on them (permanent structures). A “group of 5 people who are all on the same page, getting together $10,000 to buy a few acres of land”. would amount to either less than an acre, or a plot of land that is out of the way and legally prohibited from being built on (ie: recreation only).

        He is speaking from an excessively privileged and narrow-minded position. It absolutely is about land ownership and possessing of space. The idea of a total “rewiliding” is untenable. There’d be even less natural land left. And not everyone has the means or the inclination to afford such things. That doesn’t mean they’re vagrants with no home. That doesn’t mean that they’re “not Pagans” and that their gods don’t bother with them.

        I don’t characterize my Paganism as a “nature-based religion” any more than you could claim that Roman society was “nature based” in the painfully Victorian way that seems to continue to permeate contemporary discourse. So I guess I must be the odd man out?

        • I don’t characterize my Paganism as a “nature-based religion” any more than you could claim that Roman society was “nature based” in the painfully Victorian way that seems to continue to permeate contemporary discourse. So I guess I must be the odd man out?

          Nope. Not even close. 🙂

  2. Has Mueller ever encountered a deity? Apparently not. Those of us who have would beg to differ.

    Many who have, myself included, would argue that tribalism is not the way forward. That kind of völkisch perspective was tried by German Pagans for a while, and while there was a great deal that was wonderful about what they accomplished, their insularity and tribalism helped contribute (NOT cause – contribute) to some unpleasant events.

    • Please cite your examples of this “Germanic Volkisch Paganism” and the associated “unpleasant events”.

      • In the post WWI era in particular the German NeoPagan movement, which included people I find in many other ways attractive and interesting figures, like Ludwig Klages, were also intensely anti-Semitic and so contributed to legitimizing and strengthening of both a tribal identity for Germans and the anti-Semitism that made the rise of Nazism easier. For example, there was a debate as to whether Jews could ever become ‘real’ Germans. Some said yes, some said no.

        I am NOT saying they were Nazis and the Nazis ultimately suppressed them – I am saying those two currents in their thinking helped make Nazism more mainstream than it otherwise would have been. “Unpleasant events’ should now be obvious.

        There were three kinds of anti-Semitism in Germany during this period: the traditional “Christ killer” variety, the cultural kind that identified Jews with both Bolshevism and capitalism, and in both senses aliens to the rural close to the land German Volk, and then the racial crap of the Nazis. But if someone is culturally alien it is a short step to tolerating or even accepting the racial form.

        • One can find anti-semitism in many places back then. George Bernard Shaw was greatly enamoured of that arch-anti-semite Houston Stewart Chamberlain – but that does not in any way mean that Fabianism qua Fabianism “contributed” to subsequent “unpleasant events” carried out by other admirers of Chamberlain (Adolf Hitler made a point of personally attending Chamberlain’s funeral, and the the official Nazi press declared that the book that George Bernard so highly praised, “Foundations of the Nineteenth Century”, was “the gospel of National Socialism”).

          • True enough but irrelevant to my point.

            The major point I was making was how a tribal link on völkisch identity and the NeoPganism of those like Klages who supported it unintentionally contributed to the environment making Nazism’s emphasis on Blut und Boden a prop to their position, and that their emphasis on a culturally rooted völkisch anti-Semitism fed into the Nazis far more poisonous variety.

            I see no upside on any serious attempt to re-establiah tribal identities in this time of nutso-nationalism, which, to me, is simply tribalism writ big.

          • I think we have to be careful about a verbal slippery slope here. There are those who nowadays insist that any reference to “tradition”, “ancestors”, even “lineage” are automatically suspect. I always cringe at references to “blood”, but not so much to “land”, and not at all to “tradition”, “ancestors”, or “lineage”.

          • Antisemitism in England should surprise no one.The English are essentially transplanted Germans.For centuries they were indoctrinated with the same antisemitic Catholic and later Protestant diatribes the continental Germans had forced down their throats.

      • Really? Our parents fought that one. I’m to refer you to just about any book on the subject.

        • I don’t understand your heat on this matter. It’s a commonplace among Pagans that the connection Gus cited is still being used to denigrate modern Pagans as somehow subtly Nazi. To the lasting damage of its reputation, the Southern Poverty Law Center hitched a ride on this wagon about ten years ago and got scorched from all Pagan sides.”Just about any book on this subject” is not much of a reference. A specific, credible book purporting to debunk this connection would add to the conversation. And I’m sure, if you ask nicely, Gus can provide you with references to his POV.

    • Sure, and any group of people can come together and work to manifest a shared vision. There could be several pagan intentional communities, each with its own focus and vision, built by small invested groups, which are then available and opened to the wider pagan community, to other interested parties who resonate with those visions. They likely would not all look the same or meet the same needs; nor need they. As paganism is not monolithic, nor would any pagan intentional communities be. There are lots of ways to be pagan, and create a pagan intentional community, not just one, as the author strongly implies. Nor does the wider community need only one kind, as he alludes. The variety which will manifest will be interesting to observe.

      • The author, which is me, implied no such thing. The presenter, whom I quoted, also did not imply “only one kind.” He said each small group should manifest their own vision.

        • But he assumes that this is a “true pagan” lifestyle. Sorry, he doesn’t speak for all pagans.

        • Excuse me, Cara, I mistakenly conflated you, the author of the article, with the subject, Wade. My apologies. Wade did imply this, though, with his opening quote–

          “We’re not really Pagans. We have a Pagan veneer over the top of a
          Christian and secular life. Until we have permanent lands that we live
          on, are born on, and die on, we won’t be Pagans.” Wade Mueller

          He here portends to determine who is or is not a true pagan, and define what true paganism is and looks like, universally, for all pagans (at least in the US). He insists that his view of paganism is correct and monolithic and ought to be conformed to in belief by all other american pagans by making such a sweeping statement. In so doing, he clearly belies the ready existence of the multitude of pagans evident, who have every right to exist as pagans as he has, in their various chosen lifestyles. Or does he mean that he needs to establish these homelands for the validation of the entire american pagan community? Either way, he does not seem to be recognizing or honoring the small groups of groves, covens, circles, etc. manifesting their own vision which does not include their own or his pagan homelands..

      • There are- currently – and have been – historically – many intentional communities created by Pagans in both urban and rural environments. There is no reason to flog this dead horse. Those who want that do it. The best of the lot don’t make a huge fuss about it, but get on with the business of living.

        • Leslie, yes, intentional communities of all stripes have been, and are, a thing, and have every right to be so. I am not certain if you are agreeing with my previous comment, or presenting a counterpoint.

  3. We don’t even need land and buildings. If we live in a big city we can form a Pagan neighborhood by moving next to each other. This fits both of Mueller’s criteria: Being an individual decision, nobody not involved is consulted; and it would entail sacrifice now for the future benefits of a Pagan-majority school board, a Pagan police precinct, a Pagan branch librarian, a Pagan shopping strip, maybe even someday a Pagan on the zoning board.This of course does not answer Mueller’s complaint that we are a social gathering rather than a religion. Alas, my ability to take that seriously was rather undermined by this: “Right now it’s chaos. The Gods don’t respect us. We turned our backs on them. The onus isn’t on them to reach out to us, we need to reach out to them.” I remain unpersuaded by the inventor of Pagan Calvinism whether I am doing my religion properly.

    • Gotta say – ! This Calvinism rears it’s ugly head about every 5 or so years. Makes me shudder. My Pagan heart says, “No! Honey, that’s precisely why I am a Pagan: to throw that stuff out onto the trash heap of old,tired ideas where it belongs!” And: come on out & join the party, the company’s great, the music beyond compare, and the weather is fine!

    • “Pagan Calvinism.” I like that. I hereby inform you that I am stealing that phrase.

    • I left Christianity partially because I couldn’t stand the True Christian b.s. that was always being spewed. That way of thinking is rife with judgment, self righteousness and too easily given to authoritarianism. I certainly wouldn’t want that shit in my Pagan life. I really don’t where anyone gets off saying their way is the only way.

  4. The more I think about Mueller’s comment about ‘chaos’ the more I think he is importing monotheistic confusions into Paganism.

    Yes, there is enormous variety within our broader community, from those of us focused on deities attached to practices more than places ( the God and Goddess of Wicca, for example) to those focused more on place, (as say Asatru in Iceland). And all sorts of different variations in between, such as Norse or Celtic deities honored here in North America or perhaps Wiccans in Iceland, if there are any. We certainly are not confined to the UK.

    But is this not as we might expect given the implications of polytheism? In my experience at least some of these deities show up when they choose in rituals devoted to them. I include in my experience Celtic deities in North America. This profusion might seem like chaos to someone who is a monotheist at heart, or who thinks that only one pantheon works or at least that at every place there is only one pantheon that matters. But where do they get such a silly notion? Certainly not from the history of Western Pagan religions.

    • I don’t believe that’s what he meant. But the fault is mine for not putting it into context better. The Chaos isn’t a mix of religions and Gods in the US…the Chaos is because individual humans aren’t able (yet) to live a fully Pagan life. It is the Chaos in your personal relationship.

      • Thanks for the clarification Cara, but I suspect people have ALWAYS had a bit of ‘chaos’ in living in harmony with their spiritual traditions and even their encounters with deities. The Gods show us a larger context than our personal and community lives, and we always strive, the most sincere of us anyway, to harmonize these different contexts, but I suspect no one pulls it off perfectly.

      • RE: “individual humans aren’t able (yet) to live a fully Pagan life”

        I live in Orlando, Florida. I know a lot of Indian (as in from India) people who are doing a great job of it. They certainly aren’t Christian. They go to their temple, they make puja, they marry in their traditional ceremonies, they do their thing.

        “But that’s not pagan!” Depends on how you define the word. First of all, If by “pagan” you mean “not Jewish, Christian or Muslim” then yes, they’re pagan – and I have yet to find a more effective way to define that word. Define it by what it’s NOT, not by what it IS. Second, they are polytheists.

        If he’s referring to Western paganism, that form of paganism did quite well in cities – places like Athens, and Alexandria, and Rome, and Cairo, and Petra, and Thebes….on and on. If he thinks cities and city life is “not a real pagan life” then he needs to go back to history class.

        • Thank you…I may have to repost this here…

          RE: “individual humans aren’t able (yet) to live a fully Pagan life”

          I live in Orlando, Florida. I know a lot of Indian (as in from India) people who are doing a great job of it. They certainly aren’t Christian. They go to their temple, they make puja, they marry in their traditional ceremonies, they shop in Indian markets for Indian ingredients for Indian food, there are many Indian restaurants & businesses here that they support, they do their thing.

          “But that’s not pagan!” Depends on how you define the word. First of all, If by “pagan” you mean “not Jewish, Christian or Muslim” then yes, they’re pagan – and I have yet to find a more effective way to define that word. Define it by what it’s NOT, not by what it IS. Second, they are polytheists.

          If he’s referring to Western paganism, that form of paganism did quite well in cities – places like Athens, and Alexandria, and Rome, and Cairo, and Petra, and Thebes….on and on. If he thinks cities and city life is “not a real pagan life” then he needs to go back to history class. If you want to respect your ancestors, study their history. Learn from them and their deeds.

          Architecture, roads, astronomy, engineering, mathematics, medicine, the roots of the scientific method, philosophy, poetry, warfare, all of this civilized stuff – pagans did it first.

          Hello – Archimedes? He wasn’t a Christian!

          Ugh. Why pagans seem to hate civilization – yet this guy has solar panels behind his house, AND he posts on Facebook and Twitter – I have no idea.

          The problem as *I* see it, is that too many pagans treat their religion as fandom. I used to call it “Mists of Avalon Syndrome” – a tendency to glamorize medieval western Europe, at a time which was very pagan-hostile. I don’t know why this is the case – dressing in medieval gear and whatnot…

          And by the way…even if one owns property, it can be lost. This reminds me of Mayim Bialik’s video about “don’t call women girls” and she made a comment that owning a home was part of “womanhood.” Um, again – privilege speaks, AND property can be lost. So does that mean that someone who owned property but somehow lost it, is no longer a: a real woman b: a real pagan?

          • I would advise against calling Hindus “Pagan”. It’s generally not a word most Hindus would use to describe themselves.

            Other than puja and temples, what you said can apply to pretty much all Indian immigrants (who are certainly not all Hindus) and, by extension, most immigrant communities regardless of nationality or religion.

            Also, though “Hinduism” is a diverse bunch of different religions whose theologies differ, many Hindus consider themselves monotheists.

  5. Pagans were not nomads. Gee, I seem to recall that mankind started as nomads, and was constantly curious what was beyond the next him.

    Staying put was dangerous to hunter gathers, especially as you population grew. First a little matter of sanitation and disease, then the fact of wiping out the plants and animals you needed to survive, and the changing seasons.

    When mankind became herdsmen, still regular travel with the seasons was necessary for both grazing lands to maintain your flocks.

    Farming changed all of that when you could raise the feed for your animals as well as yourselves. It was also when the idea of landownership became necessary.

    You might be part of the land that you traveled through, but you did not feel that you owned the land. The land belonged to the gods, or land spirits, and you asked their permission to make use of it . You might claim hunting rights with their permission, or harvesting rights to the plants, with their permission. You might also share those rights, or not share those rights with other tribes with their permission.

    Farming and creation of fairly permanent villages, then towns and cities created excess wealth, which led to regular trade and make wars much more profitable, at least as long as you were on the winning side. The losers often lost everything, sometimes their lives, or they lived as slaves of the victors until they could revolt and escape.

    Before farming you were limited to what you could carry with you, so battle was to protect the little that you had, or to gain what you needed, such as wives and cattle. But you could only handle so much.

    Land ownership, if you can afford to buy it, has it’s advantages and it’s costs, with the constant threat of losing it.

    But I lived for several years with a partner, a cat, as an agate miner with mining claims on public land, carrying my rock, mining tools, rock cutting, grinding, cutting, through polishing equipment. I sold on the side of the road, at flee markets, or rock and gem shows, sometimes camping on friend’s land briefly, but mostly either on the road and in public lands.

    That was where I became Pagan, that is how I found and got my official training. I doubt that I am more of a Pagan now, by owning several acres of land now out in the desert , than I was on the road constantly roaming, much like very early Pagans did.

    • Many good points here. I would observe that ‘mankind’ did not so much ‘become’ herdsmen, as many indigenous peoples continued hunter-gatherer-fisher lifestyles, and some do today. As no one change is really universal, nor is there any linear path of development from one mode to another, there are just a variety of different choices in different places made by different peoples at different times for different reasons. Sometimes our society gets caught up in the concept of linear progress and assumes we are advanced and took a given path of advancement to get here (not saying you are assuming! this just reminded me), and conversely that others are therefore inferior and primitive and did not have access to this path of advancement, when really, some declined in favor of their own traditions and what those traditions mean to them in terms of values, virtues, and living well. I agree with you that clearly there are many lifestyles which are suitable to practicing a pagan religion, if by pagan we mean non-abrahamic, as through time and space, this is indeed what has been done.

  6. I think it makes sense to launch a project with a few invested partners willing to build it, to define what it is and what it is for, to then invite others to participate when it is ready for that level of participation. I think living in intentional community with members who share lifestyles can be quite satisfying, and have fantasized about being part of something like this. I may even get to try it one day. That said, I do not think living tribally is the only way to be pagan, as there are viable solitary paths of druidry, traditional witchcraft, and monastic paganism which require neither land ownership nor company. Further, viable communities can be gathered through means available to us such as groves and covens and circles, and can be more concretely grounded in sharing family rites of passage events, moving into neighborhoods with one another, maybe even sharing apartment buildings, and creating vacations for such groups to take together for bonding and community-building. Groups might even buy cemetery plots or similar together should they choose. Tribalism can be practiced by pagans in different ways which match their different needs and means, and paganism can be practiced similarly. While this is one way paganism can manifest in a satisfying way for those for whom it resonates, it is definitely not the only way, and this enthusiastic person is not an expert on the needs of every pagan.

    I am concerned about his disregard for feelings, and really, if he and his cohorts are following their own vision to which others who resonate with it might be welcome, then I fail to see how hurt feelings would even come up. This is a blueprint any small group could use, so if there are means, several such groups with their own visions and purposes could spring up, for interested and able parties to join. There isn’t really any one monolithic pagan community with one set of needs and wants, so no single community to potentially consult and accommodate. Just lots of pagan groups and individuals of many pagan paths with lots of their own interests, needs, and proclivities.

    I am skeptical that any such project built today is actually *for* future, rather than present generations, as none of us can guarantee that our next generations will have any interest themselves, collectively or individually, in participating in, contributing to, or furthering these projects we choose to invest ourselves in. I know my sons would not be interested for themselves. We can think we are making this available for them, but we cannot choose for them. We will have to accept that while we consider them, this project may die with us, and be ok with that.

    Lastly, the idea that these would be ‘pagan homelands’ is a problematic statement in a number of ways. Homelands tends to imply ancestral ties, and those, for the majority of us, would not be on this continent here in the US. Such a statement seems to ignore the many indigenous tribes fighting to be recognized, or not disenfranchised, or have access to their ancestral lands and resources eliminated or controlled by outside forces. We could only create such ‘homelands’ by infringing on theirs, which makes me uncomfortable, if we are calling them such. Perhaps if our tribes in these endeavors reached out to them to seek permission and cooperation of some kind this issue could be rectified. However, I don’t feel like I need to own acres for where I live to feel like my homeland of my birth. I as born and have lived most of my life in western WA state, and especially when traveling around the country, I feel that this landscape, climate, and its powers of rivers, mountains, trees, bays, and coastlines define my sense of being home, and I am able to commune with them and draw peace from them no matter my particular living situation.

    I feel it is dangerous ultimately to put *all* of these ideas together into one single project, as it seeks to define not only its own specific experience, but the experiences of others in a way which presumes to judge itself superior to the inferior rest. This sort of judgement will not likely endear many to its goals, which is lamentable, as an intentional pagan community for its own sake per its own internal vision could be a really great thing, and a useful model for others interested in experimenting with, and replicating it to serve their own visions.

    • “The Benedict Option” by Rod Dreher hit the NYT best-seller list its first week out. It seemed odd, but is deserved.

      I write for myself, not Charles (with whom I have a strong acquaintance on Rod’s blog): my discussions with Rod and the reams of discussion on his blog confirm for me that there is very little difference between his Benedict Option and Mueller’s assertions beyond the fact that the religious contexts are at opposite ends of the field.

      I plan to read Rod’s book as a Pagan, and to respond to it (and him) from that point of view. I’ve experienced the “failure” that Mueller describes. There is much to ponder in both angles.

      • I haven’t read his book yet, but I have read probably a solid majority of the reviews and discussions he has posted. I see some parallels and I see some value in the idea of intentional living and in not letting your values drift away in the least common denominator of popular culture. Of course where I part company with Rod is in his premise that LGBT rights and plural democracy are existential threats. In his worldview. Christians either must a cultural and political theocracy or else pack a bag lunch for the train ride to the gulag.

  7. Says Mueller:
    “Right now it’s chaos. The Gods don’t respect us. We turned our backs on them. The onus isn’t on them to reach out to us, we need to reach out to them.”

    I don’t necessarily agree with that as stated. The idea of a Deity respecting me feels very wrong. Willing to interact, willing to see my devotion as such, that I can agree with. I don’t know if that was the underlying meaning of that statement, but the sentence as spoken isn’t likely to garner much acceptance.

    • The Gods may or may not respect HIM. But I don’t know that he can speak for everyone.

  8. Until we have permanent lands that we live on, are born on, and die on, we won’t be Pagans.” Wade Mueller

    Well, at this point, being born on a permanent Pagan settlement is right out for us military brats. Where I was born, Shinto and Buddhism are dominant, and I don’t think I’ll die there.

    As far as honoring and respecting the land I live on, in a rented urban house where the previous tenants destroyed the yard in back, and the demolition of at least one room, leaving unhealthy detritus where I would like to grow food (needs more repair than I can afford right now), I do what I can, but none of us will be inheriting it. The owners show no respect for it, except their precious, water guzzling lawn (installed in a severe years long drought!) which has already, five years later, completely depreciated. The owners won’t bring wiring or insulation up to code, and there were several things in the first year that the city planning department insisted on bringing those items up to code, due to the remodling that had to be done after the last tenants, of whom much of the neighbourhood was afraid.

    Because clean, abundant, affordable & easily acceptable water is one of my prime concerns, three years ago I wrote the property management to state my intention to cut the outside water by half, and why (higher rates, fines, and neighbors informing the water co. as to our wasteful usage).

    I bless my shower water every day, and other water (new habit) when I remember. I gave lots of little conservation measures, in addition to the big ones, that add up to more than a gallon of water a day.

    That’s most of what I do to honor the land we rent.

  9. I’m glad we’re talking about infrastructure as I think it’s one of the most interesting and critical issues facing us in this new century. I see a couple of points of merit in what Mueller is saying, but not in his conclusion that the only path to “real” Pagan living is through radical utopian separatism. It offers an incredibly constricted view of what it means to be Pagan. It is not supported by history and it is not a mode of living which is practical or sustainable for the vast majority of us.

    Making sweeping statements about the ancients is the first stumble into the swamp of revisionism. “Ancient Pagan” spans countless cultures and a dozen millennia for which we have decent records. It doubtless goes back many hundreds of thousands of years to when the first ape with an overgrown forebrain started to fuss about rudimentary theological questions. I’m certain we would find the full range of religious observance and dedication as we have today, everything from fanatic piousness to “In name only” nominal identity. The assertion that the gods abandoned us in a fit of pique for our own falling away does not ring true with the history of neopaganism nor the West itself. They kept speaking to us throughout the many centuries through art and many other channels, including the Christian religion which thought it had banished them for good. If they had truly written us off, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    The idea that all Pagans, or at least good Pagans, were tribes who lived on one parcel of land for time immemorial is bunk. People were migrating all over the place driven by wars, famines, colonization and trade and changing agricultural conditions. Some of the ancient Pagan cultures which were the most durable and successful were highly mobile and “un-rooted” as you can get. The Phoenecian “homeland” was the deck of a ship and anywhere in the Mediterranean, Southern Europe and the Atlantic Coast of Africa where they could make a buck. Rome was tied to its land, but also everyone else’s land from England to Persia. They built temples in all of these places, so presumably they were still getting a signal from their deities…Rome was also an urban empire, with the highest levels of city living prior to 19th Century Europe. Roman Pagans were as often as not apartment renters who commuted to day jobs in city traffic and whose connection to “The Land” was through street pavement. If that displeased the gods, they took a good thousand years to register their discontent.

    Why do Pagan infrastructure plans fail? From what I have seen, they fail because they are usually not organically grown from any real need that the local Pagan community buys into. They don’t fail from too much concern about consensus. They fail because they invariably do not have any solid business plan or sustainable funding mechanism and no real constituency. They were typically launched by a tiny core group – about 2-5, who overextended themselves financially and personally on the theory that if you build it, they will come. It has never worked. There is wisdom in not trying to pander to people with no commitment to a project, but if your new intentional community wants or needs more than you and your four friends to remain viable, you better learn to care about other’s feelings. Nobody is going to come and invest money and labor in your commune if they don’t get a real voice in how its run.

    Finally, people should be aware that homesteading is damn hard work and is not well suited to everyone. The areas in which you can buy lots of land cheap are almost always in places where there is are few, if any living wage jobs and minimal health, transportation and social infrastructure. Buying a plot of land is easy. Developing it will take serious money and effort. If you’re called to that, great. If not, I’m real sure the gods will still talk to you.

  10. I am not agreeing with either the basic premise or the intention of this posting. I find it just a bit overweening and – well – insulting, really. My “homeland” is here: on the West Coast of the No. American Continent where the land knows my name and there is little that would say that the Gods have left me alone. We are not a nationality, an ethnicity, or a social club: we are a loosely associated collection of spiritual paths that have some things in common. There are many “intentional communities” and many that have lived out their lives and come to a natural end. Not a few of us live in >familiesand< that is our homeland.

    • Thank you! I too believe that the entire planet is our sacred space and since this is the only planet we have (for now at least) we better do a better job of taking care of it.

      • As the meme says: a Muslim, a Jew, a Catholic and an Atheist sat down to coffee with a Wiccan and that happen when you are not an…

    • And I’m a child of the Nation’s Capital, and I grew up seeing the things we pay good tax dollars for, to celebrate, to remember our national ancestors and how they laid the foundations for this country to grow. Has it been perfect? Nope. Were the people involved perfect. Nope, but who is perfect?

      We’re in it too deep to just give it up, methinks…

  11. A lot of what he seems to be talking about reminds me of the 1960s and 1970s “back to the land” movement which worked for a time, but once folks starting having children, they suddenly realized exactly how much work goes into being “self-sufficient”. Yes, there are still a few communities around, but they are far and few between. Most failed because the amount of work needed to sustain a community like what Mueller envisions is so much more than what people are willing to do, especially nowadays with internet and smart phones and all those other gadgets that no one seems willing to give up.
    I spent 11 years saving up for my relocating to my little 2-acre property which I bought in 1998. It cost me $20,000 for the land and another $55,000 to put the trailer in. Yes, you can build your own home but again the amount of work needed is incredible. I have also spent the last 18 years working on my garden, getting my chickens and trying to keep up with the necessary repairs and improvements I want to make. I’m doing this all by myself, but then I’m very motivated.
    Maybe there are some out there who are similarly motivated, but if most people can’t even keep a marriage together, I wonder if they’d be able to keep a community together.
    Just my two cents worth.

    • I lived through that – the good, the bad and the really, really ugly. There are still “back to the land” communities in extent. Many reached their natural ends and people moved on. The very best had a “live & let live” way of doing things and managed to get over their idealism long enough to make some sound financial decisions. The worst had rigid ideologies and “great man” syndrome. The ugly slid into that insidious form of fascism and became mini-dictatorships – or worse – cultish and insular. Not a few broke up over really, really messy divorces. I moved away from the land a decade ago when I got really tired of chopping wood. I enjoyed my years in that community, but, when it was over, it was really over.

    • A bit more: the work load is huge. And: you have t take your economy with you. Even in 1970, we knew that. The longest lasting communities found ways to achieve financial stability and designed that in from the get-go. Leaving technology completely behind was only for a >tiny< minority: Even our the most deeply embedded communes embraced the tech revolution: solar voltaics, wind generated power, and, yes,t he internet from the very start. And- LOL! – there was no way the rock and roll generation was going to unplug that guitar!

    • once folks starting having children, they suddenly realized exactly how much work goes into being “self-sufficient”, and how were they going to take care of the kids, get them educated, etc….

      My husband has brought this up to other pagans before, pagans who seem to glamorize the “back to the land” thing without real understanding of how difficult it is. Where does this glamorization come from?

      • “My husband has brought this up to other pagans before, pagans who seem to glamorize the “back to the land” thing without real understanding of how difficult it is. Where does this glamorization come from?”

        It seems to come from the Romantic era, and their idealization of Nature and preference for it over urbanization and rationalism.

        • I agree that it comes from the Romantics.

          I suspect it has to do with what I call the second sin of monotheism, the separation of humanity from nature.

      • More immediately, it comes from the Sixties, which in turn built on the heritage of intentional rural communities of the Nineteenth Century. A recent book, “Daughters of Aquarius: Women in the Sixties Counterculture,” offers some perspectives on the realities of this trend.

    • This. People have been building intentional communities for hundreds of years in the USA. There is a whole literature on the subject, from the Shakers to the hippies. And it usually ends with abandonment.

  12. If this works for Wade, great. But it’s not going to work for everyone in the 21st century. Does he not know that pagans have long lived in cities and basically invented civilization? You don’t have to be a “country bumpkin” to be a real pagan. Where does he get off telling other pagans how to pagan? Why does he think he’s the pagan Pope? I thought many of us were pagans to get away from wannabe Popes and people who would endeavor to control our spiritual walks.

  13. Many of the polytheist religions were quite urban and don’t fit well with back-to-the-land romantic notions.
    I can imagine just how horrified priests and scribes would have been if you told them they should go out and hoe crops all day.

    Education and understanding about how various pagan religions operate is needed far more than owning a weedy lot somewhere.

  14. How does this guy define the word “pagan?”

    And why does he think his definition is the only correct one?

  15. Having lived that “be self sufficient” lifestyle as a child…I have no desire to do it again, and have made it my life’s goal to never need to again. That doesn’t make me a bad Pagan….well, it might, but if it does, I’ve got a looong list of those things, and my Gods don’t seem to care.

    That said…I totally agree on not asking people who have no skin in the game for their input. It’s a quick way to fail, and a really frustrating way to work. Intentional community and infrastructure come up every few years on a cycle, it seems.

    As others have said, though, choosing to band together in an area is the way to gain power – I look at Jewish and Muslim and Hindu neighborhoods here in the Detroit area, and see the power of living close together and keeping money in a community. Why can’t we do more of that?

    • I had a friend who wanted to do that here in Orlando – he wanted to create a directory of pagan-owned or pagan-friendly businesses and services, but there wasn’t a whole lot to go on.

    • I think it is a matter of too few numbers, too big a variety of practices, and the lack of a symbolic institution connecting the community like a synagogue, a mosque, or perhaps a Hindu temple. Plus for these religions there is some overarching hierarchy of some sort for managing and staffing the building. And given how fractious Pagans are as a large group, I wonder how long a central Pagan ritual space would last before internal divisions dissolved it? I will never forget the “Wiccanate privilege” BS we had to endure a few years back.

      I’m of the view we should let any institutions intrinsic to us unfold as the need arises and not worry about this issue too much. I am certainly friendly to Pagan intentional communities- I looked into organizing one myself a few years ago- but I think one of our strengths is that we are light on traditional religious institutions, and instead have our festivals, and organizations like COG, for those interested. I wish we had more covens and the like, and fewer solitaries, but being a solitary myself at the moment, I am aware wanting such groups and creating them are different orders of magnitude.

  16. The earth is my homeland, and it’s pretty permanent. I don’t need to separate myself from the rest of the world and live in a commune to be Pagan. If it works for him, great. But don’t tell other Pagans that “the gods don’t respect us” or that our Paganism is a “veneer on top of a Christian and secular life”.

  17. Most of the comments here seem to be VERY defensive.

    I call myself a “Practical Pagan”- and I define it as a Pagan that LIVES a pagan lifestyle, not just reads and pontificates abut it. I raise animals for meat, I built a “green” house, try to live out my ethics as a member of the living world.

    I see so many “pagans” think that if they buy the jewelry, wear the right robe, and ‘call to the watchtowers!’ then they are somehow doing enough. For me, at least, if you conceive of the Earth as sacred, then you should actually try to live a life that reflects that. That if you hold Nature as divine, you would be concious of the way you walk in it.

    I understand that it is impossible for everyone to live in the country, trying to be in harmony with Nature, but y’all should not up on your high horses and think that you could not be living a life more in tune with your purported faith. As much as I do, I still humbly recognize how often my actions dishonor the Earth. At least all you techno-resin pagans could do the same.

    As an end note- I generally find hippies, environmentalists, permaculturists and homesteaders much more Pagan than most of ‘pagan movement’. Living your ethics means something.

    • There is so much wrong with this comment I don’t know where to begin. From the top: “Dissenting” is not the same as “defensive,” and the latter is a fallacious attempt to substitute armchair psychoanalysis for actual engagement with the issue.I’m glad you try to live a Pagan life style, but your approach is not the only one.think…that they are doing enough Who died and left you the Pagan Pope to decide who is doing enough?in tune with your purported faith Same question.Living your ethics means something Again the same question. Nobody appointed you procurator of others’ praxis.I share your respect for the folks you mentioned in your last paragraph, but don’t use it to denigrate other Pagans.

    • I certainly wouldn’t take the position that I’m doing everything I could to live my Pagan values every day. As often as not, I fall short of the mark. Some days I don’t even make the effort, and some days I’m running the ball toward the wrong end zone.

      That said, I simply don’t buy into Mueller’s and your contention that going “back to the land” is the apex of Pagan virtue or the only true measure of living Pagan values. On the personal level, it’s a very admirable undertaking for those called to it. It is not only not possible for all of us to do that, I’m not even sure it’s desirable from an environmental perspective. Subsistence farming, when done on the scale of whole populations, is one of the biggest drivers of environmental devastation in the developing world today. It has lead to massive deforestation, soil erosion and depletion, extinctions and loss of biodiversity and the rise of epidemic diseases like malaria.

      Traditional agriculture is only sustainable agriculture when populations are low and at or below the carrying capacity of the land. By low, I mean population densities 10% or less of what we have now. That happens really only in the setting of huge infant mortality rates, no life-prolonging interventions for the chronically ill or disabled, and life expectancy of just over half of what we’re used to. That’s the unglamorous reality of hardcore “living in nature.” Environmentalism is an important Pagan value, and I would hope, human value, but there are a lot of pieces to that, and some which are counterintuitive to the hippie instinct to return to agrarianism.

      There’s a school of thought, and a fairly persuasive one, which holds that the best overall solution to dialing back environmental harm lies in increased urban density facilitated by much smarter urban planning. Under that model, we’d have much less suburban sprawl and planning and zoning practices which would put most of life’s daily necessities within walking distance of our homes or along highly efficient public transit. All of that would be coupled with renewable energy sources like wind and solar. I would argue that Pagans who work to make these sorts of improvements in their own lives and on a macro scale are living Pagan values as much as any hippie or homestead yeoman farmer.

      My Pagan values demand of me, or at least call me toward, something much broader than just my relationship with the Earth itself. Living Pagan values to me touches every aspect of life and my relationships with my deities, my ancestors, my family and those I love, my various tribes, the wider world and everyone/thing within it.

      Those who raise their own chickens and vegetables organically are living Pagan values. So are those who work for justice in the broadest sense, and those who advance science, and the arts. So are caregivers and parents and priestesses and counselors. So are those who who toil to earn their living and who share their good fortune and hospitality with those in need. Everyone whose Pagan values move them to strive for a life that models excellence and nobility and living for others as well as oneself are living their Pagan values and doing so as authentically as anyone else.

  18. It’s very funny to imagine a pagan Dane or Icelander circa 900 CE reading this. Yes, we need to be worthy of the gods… yes, we need to take more land… and PAY for it? WTF? And obviously it’s not going to be the land I was born on, that land belongs to my older brother and he’ll kill me if I go back there.

    • Now Vikings knew how to “get back to the land”. They did it twice each year for planting and harvesting and once in the summers on everyone else’s land. With Brexit and relations with Europe in a shambles, it might be high time to resume the annual collection of the Dangeld! 🙂 It would re-establish some time honored Pagan values, and today’s Nordics would spend most of the gains on progressive causes like land mine victims and refugee resettlement. It’s win-win! (Except for the British taxpayer and coastal towns).

  19. Gee, some nutter wants to create a ‘real world’ Panem from The Hunger Games. Well, isn’t that special.

    Thanks but no thanks. I’m kind of attached to having food, clean water and central heating.

  20. What I get from Wades talk on the whole Pagans need land and infrastructure issue is that you get a special closeness with Deity by having dedicated worship land or access to it. I know from personal experience, your relationship with your chosen Deity/s will change in ways indescribable in language when a proper Temple is built, dedicated, and put to use. You simply have to experience it. I also have to completely agree with Wade about only a few people having say in decisions related to the land and what gets built and the whole financial issue deals. I thought I had the perfect partner for the whole “lets build a homestead and Temple” thing back in the 1980’s, that is until it came down to shelling out cash for the land. Things fell apart real fast, and I realized if I wanted the Temple to happen, I would have to “go my own way”.
    Which God/Goddess the temple/shrines are dedicated to is also a decision best made by those most closely involved also. You can have generic ritual space set aside for use as sacred to whatever Deities may be called upon at the time of ritual, and that will work just great. However, a Temple or shrine is best dedicated to a specific God/dess or culture group of Deities be they Celtic, Norse, Egyptian, etc. And everyone, please be aware that a proper built temple is not a church in the Abrahamic religious sense of the word. A proper built Temple is a DEVICE designed to amplify the energies in the Earth to reawaken dormant parts of your brain that open you up to what we call the Divine forces. All of the remnants of stone circles, pyramids, obelisks and the ancient temple ruins with their massive pillar construction, these are all interactive devices designed to enhance your perceptive abilities. Should you build or have access to use a properly built, complete Temple, you will find out real quick how real the God/desses really are.
    The whole Pagan infrastructure issue shouldn’t be about creating buildings. Rather it should be about rebuilding the devices that enable us to commune with our Deities on an intimate basis beyond mere words be they stone circles, or Shrines ,or as in my case, I built an open air Temple to Goddess Hathor that is in its 11th year of construction. If anyone wants to put the effort into a Pagan infrastructure project, you have my best regards. It’s a lot of work, but so very much worth it. To look at what I built, google search ‘”Wisconsin Hathor Temple.” Best of luck Wade.

    • Yeah, this makes a lot of sense.
      I think a dedicated shrine or temple that could be a pilgrimage site makes more sense than trying to build a whole pagan city.

  21. Unfortunately i was hosting the Sweetwood Temenos hospitality suite when Wade gave his talk…I’ll have to give a closer read to his opinion on how to do a neo-pagan and community…. it is like a marriage there are some basics but there is variation on successful marriage landed communities. We did not follow his model and we have succeeded… i’l have to read it more closer. before more comment.

  22. I wasn’t going to mention this, but the more I think about it the more I think I should.

    The gods gave us technology and science. Or at least pointed us along the way and kicked us up the backside until we figured it out. Pick a pantheon and look at the old stories.

    • And not all the Gods were happy about it. Look what they did to Prometheus. A single-story-line “they don’t respect us any more” is creeping monotheism.

      • Well, that line.

        Truthfully, I flashed on a bit of an old Coyote story with that bit.

        Wolf: “Who said we ever respected you?”

        Coyote: “We should keep them around anyway. They’re good for a few laughs.”

  23. I don’t agree with Mr Mueller. Pagan isn’t where you live, it’s how you live and how you believe.Our world today is worlds different from our ancestors. I have been a Pagan for most of my life, even living in a city surrounded by different cultures. I’ve been a “wise woman” an herbal healer for almost 50 years. I also feel that I walk with one foot in this secular world and one in the spirit world. I have not had the opportunity to be able to live within a pagan community. To survive and be able to raise my children I had to work. To say that in order to claim we are really pagan, we must live as pagans within a pagan community is not available to many in today’s societies.

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