as it appears Leileigh, a fellow pagan blogger, came across my recent articles on Beltaine and community. She contributed quite a bunch of interesting ideas I feel I cannot just write about in a comment so why don’t follow Avarra’s example and write a full blog entry about them, I thought.
Right in her first paragraph Leileigh states:
What made me consider this was a recent blog entry from Migdalit. She said that Paganism without community was not possible and I think I do not agree but more on that later.
I am afraid she got something wrong here. I did state that community was something special about Paganism, that’s true, and especially the way our communities function (or are meant to function) as opposed to Christian communities (just why does writing about Paganism always tend to turn into comparing Paganism to Christianity? May that be a normal mechanism given that having grown up as a Christian and “converted” to Paganism later on I’ll, in way, always be a child of two worlds?) however what I never intended to was to give the idea that Paganism was impossible without community. I do think that community is an important, if not vital part of basically any given religion – as Leileigh explains herself:
Imagine Jesus would have been a silent scholar. Not a preacher who talked to people and convinced them but someone who had it just thought up and maybe written it down. We wouldn’t have the Christianity we have today.
And also, imagine the people who were early Christians wouldn’t have cared that there were other Christians who believed the same thing. We also would have a very different picture (of course in the making of the picture we have today there are other important forces than just the people who felt they made up a community). Without the sense of community there is no growth, no impact. And this also holds true for other non-religious movements like the Enlightenment. […]
However of course somebody can be a Pagan without being part of a “Pagan” community! As far as I, personally, am considered it will never be “the real thing”, but of course it is possible. I too, have – regrettably – been a Pagan without a community for too many years. And I’ll rather stay one then become a part of a community that doesn’t fit with my way of living Paganism (which of course includes communities of another tradition that shares my idea of multi-traditionalism). If Paganism wouldn’t be possible, I neither would be a “real Pagan”.
So much about that, but now on the questions as asked by Leileigh – and they sure are tough ones:
I mean, what is the “use” of being Pagan? That’s in itself such a personal thing. I am Pagan because that is my path. Why can’t you celebrate our festivals alone? Most my Pagan life I have celebrated alone. And I am content with it, maybe just because that’s all I know, but still, I do not miss like-minded people at those occasions. And when I did celebrate with other people, those weren’t even Pagan. (Last year on Beltane I had my best friend and girlfriend over and we just sat and chatted about this and that and on Litha we were at an amusement park. Great things to do for these festivals I thought.)
In a way this is sad: As I just recently discussed with Avarra we’re living in a world where people don’t do things without a reward. Humans don’t do things without a reward. I’d love to claim I was different, but I know my shades: I neither do things without a reward. So when Leileigh asks about the “use” of being Pagan she’s right to ask and “That is my path!” sure would be an appealing answer, but if I answered that way the logical next question would have to be: “Why is it my path?” And actually the longer I think about what to answer to this, the more I consider this might be a question to ask to every aspiring young witch starting her education on the Pagan 101: Why do you think Paganism is your path? What do you think it will give to you?
However, I start to ask questions instead of answering them. First of all, of course, I am Pagan because it just feels right. Because I know from the depth of my heard that this is where I belong, this is what fits my life, my philosophy. So what is my reward on that one? The good feeling of being on my way, being where I belong. Maybe nearly equally important is the control and power Paganism gives to me – prove me wrong: I don’t think there’s any Pagan out there who’s not hooked on that power – Paganism gives you the tools to seize control of your own life. It teaches you from the first day you hear about it that you have to take responsibility and that taking responsibility means being responsible for both your loss and your gain. In the end the only person who can bring a change upon your life is you – and you alone. The best of all opportunities could be given to you, but if you don’t see and seize it, it won’t change a thing (Actually there’s that great tale on the Jew sitting on his rooftop during a flood rejecting ladder, boat and helicopter for god is going to rescue him. The man dies and goes straight up to god where he complains god had left him alone. God answers: “I didn’t! I sent you a ladder, then a boat, finally even a helicopter but you didn’t use them!”).
Anyhow, the community-thing is included in my first sentence above. Community is a part of “where I belong”, for I think people do just belong with people. That community doesn’t necessarily need to be a Pagan one though; I too have celebrated Pagan fests with Christians, Jews and worse. And I’ve had quite a lot of fun doing so. However the real thing, the feeling that really gets you going and nearly high on energy – as esoteric as it may sound – is sharing that special day with like-minded people. Being part of a group of people and knowing that everybody there knows exactly about the importance and specialty of the day and everybody is just enjoying himself to honor it and, more important, to honor himself. I’ve had that in the past and I can’t help it but on every single one of those occasions it just felt so “right”, so meant to be. I just knew from the depth of my heard – the very same part then the one that told me Paganism was what got along with myself – that this was what it should be like and that, as hard as this may sound for you, Leileigh, everything else, every ritual done in private, was just an excuse for not being able to honor the earth and the sky, the elements and the gods in the proper way.
As Leileigh stated Paganism is a religion – or umbrella term for many religions, or philosophical ways – of many traditions. So my point of view, my feelings about the Pagan community might not necessarily be true for others. If someone says he’s fine with being alone on Beltaine I’m alright with it – I might even envy the person, actually – however for me it is not and will never be. And, to be frank, I do have a hard time imagining that Leileigh and like-minded would stay with their lone rituals if they had the opportunity to hook up with others and be part of the real big party. I do have a hard time believing that their solitude is a real chosen-by-themselves one, not one impressed upon them by a cosmos on hidden-in-the-broom-closet Pagans – worst of all hidden not from other religions’ members but rather from our own nudnikim. It’s fine to arrange with a situation you can’t quite change anyhow, however knowing your shade can spare you a lot of troubles so don’t take it as an offense if I ask you, Leileigh: Do you know your shade?
With the Earth’s blessings