I’m starting to see quite a bit of pagan community politics and complaints be referenced today, and I have to say there seems to be more of it this time of year than there is around Yuletide. As some of you might know, I have discussed the concept of community and what it means for me in the pagan context. I have also mentioned that community is a difficult topic to deal with because pretty much all my life I kept to myself and existed on the outskirts of whatever groups I tried to be a part of. It’s just how it was, and still is.
So naturally I started mulling over the topic again after reading a bunch of other posts (and the usual complaints that go along with it) and I realized something.
I do have a community, or at least something like it. It’s my friends, the ones who have been with me for years, the ones where I don’t have to fit within any particular label or discuss only certain topics with to be with them. It’s a virtual community, rather than a physical one with a traditional village and all that, but it’s there all the same. We may have different beliefs and practices, and we don’t always agree with each other. But I do know that if I were to enter in a circle with them in ritual and in life I would feel right at home.
I think that is what’s missing from today’s pagan community debates. There’s a lot of focus on maintaining a community by having every member conform to a labeled concept (i.e. Kemetic, Heathen, Hellenic, Wiccan) but you can find the same thing with sports fans and hobby groups. A real community, in my opinion, goes beyond the shared beliefs into something deeper. Sometimes a group can be a community after starting out as a shared-faith/interest group, but that’s probably because the relationships were maintained and deepened to the point where lives are shared, not just the particular beliefs and interests. It’s probably not something that intentionally occurred either, but rather developed organically with a mixture of effort, time, and simple good luck.
That’s not something that is easily obtained, especially over the internet, and especially when you’re involving a large, diverse group of people such as pagans. The hand-wringing over pagan community politics is likely not going to cease, but I’ll say this anyway: we don’t need to organize ourselves into a community in order to fight the social and political battles we face. That’s what an organization is for. Striving for community across a spectrum of people, most of whom don’t even know each other or that they even exist, is not a worthwhile effort.
Let the communities form themselves. Humans have done that just fine throughout our existence, and pagans are no exception.