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.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.