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This blog is all about all the things that make me up. I am a Mother, I am a Pagan Witch, I am a Wife, I am a homemaker, I am a student, I am Spiritual, I am a Teacher, I am Liberal Hippie, I am a Voter, and I am extremely opinionated! Plan to see it all! If you don't like what you see, feel free to leave! However, chances are, if you stick around, you'll find more to love than hate!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Call For Unity In The Pagan Community

In the past I have tackled some of the more basic questions commonly asked of the Pagan Community.  Questions such as "What is Paganism" and "What is a Witch" but there is an inherit flaw in answering these questions and I feel it's time we address them - as a community.  This flaw is that the more Pagans and/or Witches you ask these questions to, the muddier the answer seems to get.  Because of this, those on the outside searching for real answers surrounding the community are never able to one.  Not only does this add to confusion for those outside our community, but it causes drama on an internal level as well - and, maybe more important, it doesn't allow for us to present a united front on nearly anything.

Some of the recent estimates I've heard place the rising US Pagan Community at nearly 12%!  That's huge! Of course without any official census a more definitive number is impossible, but even if that estimate is high and our numbers are at only 5%, that's still over 15 MILLION Pagan Americans!  Because so many of us are solitary, or members of very small covens or groups, it may be hard to imagine that there are really that many of us out there, but math doesn't lie. That's an awful lot of power if we were all to get together - or at least appear to be together.

Now you may be asking yourself, how could we all get together when there are so many differing opinions and beliefs within the community.  How could we possibly come together on a united front?  In answer to that, I would suggest you take a look at the Christian community for your answer.  Clearly the largest religious group in the country, Christians present a rather united front on a great many things. But that doesn't mean that there aren't differences among them.  In fact there are some rather large differences in many cases - some groups are extremely conservative, others are rather liberal.  At the same time though, there are some basics which remain the same among all Christians.  This means that even though you may not know the difference between Baptist and Methodist or Amish and Mennonite or Jehovah's Witness and Mormon, as soon as they are identified as Christian you can make at least a few assumptions about their beliefs.  What does this matter you ask?  When it comes to specific beliefs the "bigger group" thinking doesn't help much.  But even with all their differences it gives them a "mass" that affords them power when it comes to making changes in the world.

This "mass" power is something that our modern Pagan Community tends to lack.  In fact even with 15 Million or more American Pagans, there are some politicians who continue to see Paganism as unworthy of notice. This has prompted some Pagan groups to start campaigns meant to make Washington more aware of our numbers. A few years back I was involved in one such campaign which encouraged all Pagans to both register to vote and to send a simple post card to the White House that stated "I am Pagan and I Vote!"  Unfortunately, even though many individuals did this, it was just a small portion of us that did.  And because all modern day Pagan campaigns of this type are "grass roots" at best, and there is no "governing" organisation sustaining or even encouraging communication between the great many of us, there is little chance of making a bigger impact.

Now, here's the thing, as a rule, Pagans are private and autonomous, they don't WANT any kind of "ruling" group telling them what to do.  In fact there is a rather strong belief that those who have power will eventually succumb to it, a notion I rather strongly agree with.  But that belief leaves us wondering in small groups without any real, unified direction. It is THIS lack of direction that I fear will continue to leave us as largely unnoticed and unheard as a group.  Paganism is not going anywhere, clearly, it's never left the world even for all the trials and tribulations it's had to deal with.  But I whole heartily believe that Paganism has the power, within the community, to create real change in the world. It is the Age of Aquarius after all.  But without mass and without direction, we lack that power, the ability to make real and lasting changes.

In the past there have in fact been "authoritative groups" in the Pagan Community.  In the Spring of 1973, the American Council of American Witches convened and drafted the "Principals of Wiccan Belief."  The Council was made up of a group of 74 individuals from numerous traditions who had come together to help unify and define the many Pagan and Neo-Pagan groups as well as help to counteract some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about the community as a group.  Unfortunately they disbanded in 1974. Other groups have also come and gone, some of which have made some noteworthy advances for modern day Pagan, but most aren't much worth a mention.

I believe the Witch's Council had the right idea.  I believe, however, that their downfall was more in timing than it was in motive.  In 1974 the Pagan Community was extremely small compared to today, and due to the times, communication between them was minimal at best. Today, with the internet, we have many great advantages which they did not.  For one, today there would be little or no need for the council to ever "meet" in person, meaning that instead of 74 individuals having to join together in a single place and time to make statements or discuss issues, we could now have a broader opinion base and a higher number of individuals involved.

Please don't get me wrong, I think gatherings are wonderful. If anything I think there should be more Pagan gatherings, in more places, not less.  But I also think that setting up a centralized "Pagan Council" type of site where major issues could be discussed and tackled as a group would be of benefit to us all.

There are tons of sites out there right now that are meant to bring us, as a community, together.  Facebook alone has THOUSANDS of pages and groups.  Then there are entire Social Networks like PaganSpace, that have been set up entirely for the Pagan Community.  And while these pages and sites are wonderful, I feel for the most part, they miss the target.  Yes, the help to bring us together, and for a great many of us, they are our only real connection to others with similar beliefs. I love these sites! But they're not set up to direct or to bring us together as a social or political front.

What I believe we need is to create a new "council."  Not to govern or serve as an "authority" but to speak for us.  A council that will help to unify us and to fight against the ignorance the outside world continues to hold where Pagans are concerned.  If I had the capabilities, I would be the first one to start the process. Unfortunately, I am a mom with little ability even to build a decent website.  But I believe it's important, if we want our community to make the difference we all believe it can.

So what is it that I would propose if I had the means?  First, a new website.  But not another "social" site, or even another "teaching" site. Instead, I would propose that we create an opinion site where individuals could have their voice heard by the community.  But also a place where we could create a type of "internal democracy" that would allow us to form a "figurehead council" on a yearly basis.  This group would be made up of volunteers from all over the community and from all forms of beliefs - Wiccans, Pagans, Eclectics, Asatru, Native American... You name it. And these volunteers would work together to gather the opinions of the masses using site based polls and "gatherings" to unify the community on political and social matters.  With the force of a "unified" Pagan community we would have the ability to support Pagan Political Candidates, Social Change Movements and affect the course of a great many issues. If nothing else it would give us the ability to be heard on a greater scale than we are today.

Clearly there are issues which we will never all agree on.  As it stands today we can't even all agree on what makes one a Pagan and what doesn't.  But I believe on the major issues, there would be a clear consensus.  And that is why I believe we need to set up an opinion site, so that everyone has the ability to see their opinion heard. (If you're wondering what type of site I'm talking about, check out YouGov.com)  This would take the issue of "power" out of the picture as the people would have the power and those "figureheads" would be just that.  Paganism, unlike any other "religion" is by and for the believers.  But we've all seen how flawed "democracy" can be when we give those in "office" power to rule instead of involving people on issues. And that is a cycle we need to ensure we never fall into.

I'm not saying I have all the answers. But I really think we need something that will bring us together and allow our voices to be heard "en-mass" like those of so many other religious groups.  I feel, if anything brings down our community, if we see the return of inequality on a religious front, it will be because our voice is not unified and not as loud as it could be.  In fact, I see the largest flaw among our community to be one of our greatest assets - our ability and insistence on living without a ruling class, to believe and practice whatever we choose and however we choose.  This IS without question one of the greatest things about being Pagan, that we are each able to find our own path and follow it where ever it may take us.  But that is also our biggest flaw, because it means that we are powerless to challenge other groups on a political front, in fact handing them the power to make our choices for us.  I believe that IF the right steps are taken to bring us together from a social and political stand point, we would have the ability to change the world.  But that we must also ensure that in coming together, we do not lose our autonomy on a spiritual front. This is our challenge, and one that we MUST rise to answer if we do not wish to become little more than a sub-note in our grandchildren's history books.

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