Building the Magic of the Future

Star Foster over on the Pantheon blog got me thinking with her two recent articles on  the feasibility of Pagan temples in the modern age.  ( first article : second article ).  Doing something like this would be a considerable undertaking by any group of Pagans in the community. It would also take a transformation of the financial mentality of  Pagan community as  eloquently pointed out by John Beckett over at Under the Oaks. The idea behind building a temple in the Southeast region is one I am a enthusiastic supporter of. That is not the point of the article though.

The idea of a Pagan temple (whether built or converted) makes me wonder about the accomplishments of modern Paganism and its relationship to the future.  Pagans around the world are blessed with a wealth of sacred sites and objects, the legacy of people’s mystical traditions left behind. There are such things as the Mayan Calendar, Stone Henge, the Great pyramids and the Sphinx, or the Bighorn Medicine Wheel.But what kind of legacy are we leaving for the generations of Pagans to come? I can think of a great many things we have gained such as religious freedoms, a level of social acceptance, knowledge/lore, and legal standing (all things that I am extremely grateful for).  There are also currently projects that I am aware of such as the New Alexandrian Library that are attempting to build a lasting heritage for the Pagan community. But what have we as modern Pagans built? Nothing comes to mind (or google search).  This makes me think – Why haven’t we? Do we need to? The comments on Star’s article might be a good indication as to why.  They make several good points such as:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Effort
  • Diversity

I think that these are all excellent reasons why. However, deep in my heart and mind I feel that a different reason is the answer.  I think the answer is very simple. I think it might have to do with the Self and by extension selfishness . Modern Paganism is a religion that teaches and strives to guide us towards enlightenment. We spend a great deal of time looking at ourselves in relation to our personal journey along the path and the many trials and tribulations we encounter upon it.  It takes a great amount of effort for us to detach ourselves from our personal wants and to focus on the needs of the community.  I will be the first to admit that I can be guilty of this. I think that humanity as a whole does it on a subconscious level (Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs). I also think that Pagans may do it more than most (We are a minority religion and as such have faced a lot of hardships). Since we focus on the self I think we might also be limiting ourselves in our long-term prospects from a magical perspective.

As a Pagan who practices the Wheel of the Year and the cyclical nature of the Craft, I think I might have unintentionally limited myself.  I tend to focus on the current Wheel as I walk it – the path that is before me and those I share it with. Because of that focus have I limited myself and the magic I work to fit within the confines of the Wheel of the Year? I think so, and I think that is a pretty huge epiphany. So I thought to myself “What is the longest active magic I have done and how do I define that?” For me three distinct answers came to mind.

  1. A Year: I wrote and performed a set of Sabbats that encompassed all 8 sabbats.
  2. A Month: I spent time each day preparing for my initiations, but due to modern life this wasn’t a month uninterrupted.
  3. A week:  When my mother and father passed I spent a week of constant effort to maintain an altar going magically. I devoted most of these days to tending the altar and even sleeping nearby. This is the longest I have spent in my focus on nothing but magical practices (aside from basic needs).

This weekend at Ostara I will be undertaking something magical that has the potential to last for 80 years if not longer. That kind of thinking amazes me. This is the effort of around 10 people. I wonder what we could do if we focused less on the Self and more on its polarity of the Community. I believe that the Pagan religion will begin to experience this as it continues to mature. I can’t help but to wonder what the people who did the Mayan Calendar or Stone Henge thought about when they set out to bring about their creations.  I am reminded of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Maybe we as Pagans should start dreaming big like Star Foster suggests, maybe even monolithic and generational  in nature.

About Adrian Monogue

(Ash) is a second generation and second degree witch who was raised in a coven who grew up in the Atlanta area of Georgia. He practices a form of syncretic Paganism that draws on practices are based on Alchemy, Astrology, Eastern Philosophy, Jungian Psychology, Kabbalah, Science, Shamanism, and Wicca.

  • Henry

    The examples you cite all have a few things in place which modern paganism doesn’t have. One should remember these structures you mention were all built by fairly homogeneous cultures, so they possesssed the logistics, organisation, and infrastructure to build.
    Religion and the ‘state’ were emeshed such that these  projects were also civil projects that served the community in its entirety.

    • http://www.elementforge.com/ Adrian Hawkins

      That is a good point, and one I had not considered. in modern times many people have built temples without the aid of government support (such as the Hindu families star mentioned). I think your point certainly proves having such an environment is conducive to such an experiment. However, seeing that America is so powerfully for separation of church and state I do not see how we could recreate such conditions ourselves. 

      • Henry

         many of these structures lasted til modern times, much of them were decades or more in the making, yes to the establishment clause,yet that is really only a minor thing and so not insurmountable .Even the Hindu families had what amounts to at least the homogenity and organisation. That project was a little different than it was characterised. here’s the history:
        http://www.hindumandirmn.org/AboutTemple/TempleHistory.aspx
        The ‘five families’ were actually ten families, which first bought an old church, which served as equity for the present temple. All told the project took a little more than 2 decades. The project also had support from around the country and from their homeland.
        Modern Pagans don’t really have that type of density or homogenity or organisation. It very well could have, and I can think of a dozen or so ‘sanctuaries’ that have been created in just such a way.

        • http://www.elementforge.com/ Adrian Hawkins

          I understand that as well. Coming from a Pagan family, I know well   how much money we spent on Paganism growing up. We have an excellent library that is now going to the service of the community. On the other hand, if the same amount of money was spent on a temple, we could have easily built a temple an sustained a temple on our own ( for a while at least). 

  • Tara “Masery” Miller

    My husband and I would love the opportunity to participate with a temple. We are in a very small Ozark town with no other magical folk. Such opportunities will have to begin in major cities with a larger need and more participants and then overtime there can be temples in rural area. I see this as a long term goal, too.

    The Pagan Hindu panel at Pantheacon was Podcast. Listening to it reinforced that because we are a new religion participants are fearful and often don’t know how to speak about their religion. We’ll need to find the strength to overcome fear and selfishness so we’ll have the benefit of temples and a thriving community.

    Thank you for this post and your well thought out and very important words.

    • http://www.elementforge.com/ Adrian Hawkins

      Your welcome Tara, I do try. I understand what it means to be both a City and Rural pagan. The coven I belong too is just over 250 miles away, and certainly desire to have something closer to home. 

      I think that the shift from the community consciousness needs to evolve itself as Paganism ages so that we can adapt to the events of our time and those of the future. 

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