Recently, I have seen a great deal of discussion in the on-line Pagan community with recurring themes: Who can call themselves a “Wiccan”; what constitutes “Wicca”; How can you become “Wiccan”; It is impossible to embrace a Christian belief and be a Witch simultaneously; Is a Wiccan a Witch; Is Witchcraft a religion, and the list of apparent controversies becomes less about what we should be doing and more about what we wish to label ourselves.
I am not a Wiccan, so I can never really enter into any meaningful dialogue about what following Wicca entails nor who may appropriately use the title of Wiccan. I can say, however, that the tone of the discussions in the on-line community have, more often than not, turned to heated debates, if not down right arguments. All of the animosity that seems to be festering in the on-line Pagan community defeats the very purpose of having an outlet for communing with kindred spirits. We are a diverse community, widely disbursed around the world. We do not yet have a town center to gather in, or consistent populations that have formed communities what with Pagans living in such remote areas, often times the internet is the only place to reach out to other Pagans for a sense of belonging and community.
I have come to notice a shift in the perception of many Pagans recently when it comes to the subject of Paganism and the infighting seems to be more prevalent in a great many on-line communities. There seems to be a growing divisive faction among the ranks of the Pagan community lately. Before lines are actually drawn in the sand, it is my sincere hope that this community will heal some of the rifts that are opening and deliver itself to a place of understanding and accepting that we are all on different paths and must find our own way, yet somehow form a cohesive community on which to rely for information,
support, and a sense of belonging.
For me, it does not matter what we call our Path or what title we give to ourselves or into what tradition we are initiated, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is that we recognize the Divine Force and we strive to reach it, whatever Path we travel, it doesn’t matter how we get there, so long as we do. There is a gross lack of respect in the Pagan community among those factions who refuse to embrace the true Spirit of one another and would rather argue semantics instead of accepting that we are all traveling different roads to reach the same destination. I chalk this up to ego. No one knows everything and the greater good would be better served if we could all come together as a community of individuals in one cohesive place of understanding while bringing kindness, tolerance, and acceptance along with us.
As Pagans, we should realize that the political arena is not where we will find acceptance for one another. Rather, we must come to a place of higher understanding of one another’s differing Paths with compassion and acceptance. Instead, we seem to be
bogging down in the quagmire of political rhetoric that we, as a Pagan Society, have claimed to have struggled against for years.
Being disillusioned by the online forums, I meditated on the concept of community. A little over a year ago, my meditation, journeying, and journaling brought about a change in my perception. If I am dissatisfied with something and I am a contributing factor to my dis-ease, then it is incumbent upon me to be the change that I wish to see or, at the very least, to make every attempt to be involved in that change. I formulated a small Facebook group and invited my closest friends. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I decided to try to open the group up to a larger audience and build an online community where Pagans of all walks could come together and share a mutual love and respect for making their own working Books of Shadows.
The community has become a home of sorts and quickly grew from my closest real time friends to a community of over 1,700 members from all over the world. This home has morphed from a strictly planner-oriented group to a place of sharing information, asking questions, problem solving, laughing, building friendships, weekly Tarot card readings, and genuinely becoming a cohesive place to kick up our feet and feel the warmth of new bonds being forged. This community shows me that it is possible to keep negativity out of an eclectic group of people, we can place ego aside and, in our turn, be teachers and students at any given moment. No one has missed a learning opportunity and everyone has been amazingly community oriented, kind, and respectful. I know that this is but an infinitesimal number in the grand scheme of the Pagan community, but there is real growth in my life as a result of these few 1,700 people. I am humbled by the outpouring of comradery, and I do not know of anyone who conveyed my feelings as well as the author, Margaret Weis, when she wrote:
“We each have within ourselves the ability to shape our own
destinies. That much we understand. But, more important,
each of us has an equal ability to shape the destiny of the
universe. Ah, that you find more difficult to believe. But I tell
you it is so. You do not have to be the leader of the Council.
You do not have to be king or monarch or the head of a clan to
have a significant impact on the world around you. In the
vastness of the ocean, is any drop of water greater than
another? No, you answer, and neither has a single drop the
ability to cause a tidal wave. But, I argue, if a single drop falls
into the ocean, it creates ripples. And these ripples spread.
And perhaps – who knows – these ripples may grow and swell
and eventually break foaming upon the shore. Like a drop in
the vast ocean, each of us causes ripples as we move through
our lives. The effects of whatever we do – insignificant as it
may seem – spread out beyond us. We may never know what
far-reaching impact even the simplest action might have on
our fellow mortals. Thus we need to be conscious, all of the
time, of our place in the ocean, of our place in the world,
of our place among our fellow creatures. For if enough of us join
forces, we can swell the tide of events – for good or for evil.”
And so, I have set my ego aside, opened my mind and my heart, closed my mouth, and tossed my pebble into cyberland to cause a ripple for the greater good and I have been so much better for that choice. This exercise over the last year and a half has given me strength, has uplifted me, and has renewed my faith in my walk. We will always have new people being introduced to Paganism, we will always have elders in our community who share their knowledge, and we will always be a community striving to achieve our spiritual evolution. My calling is to make the road on the journey toward achieving a feeling of community more scenic, more kind, and more accepting. It is my hope that those who have joined me in the group will toss their own pebble into the Pagan Pond and cause a ripple of their own and that together we will cause a tidal wave of acceptance, tolerance, and kindness so that we can be the best Pagans that we can be.
Shirley’s Facebook group “Pagan Plannertarium”