Where do I see Paganism in 50 years’ time? Hopefully, diverse, shifting, changing, evolving, questioning itself and not getting too comfortable. I do not see the current navel-gazing we do, as individuals and collectively, as any kind of bad thing. Doubt keeps us on our toes. The need to explain and justify ourselves stops us falling into dogma and blind faith. The habit of splitters running off to start new things keeps us fresh and lively. We undermine our own authority in so many ways, and I think this is a great strength within our traditions. In uncertainty, there is grace.
The next fifty years are going to bring climate change and crisis, in all probability. As our governments seem collectively unconcerned about the long term and unable to tackle the big issues, we are going to have problems. Flooding, extreme weather events, crop failures, famines and plagues all look likely. For anyone who is going to survive in the longer term, greater respect for and relationship with the natural world will be vital. I suspect that global crisis will take more people towards nature-based spirituality and an embracing of the Pagan values that might help us stay alive.
I see the Paganism of fifty years hence as even more rooted in lifestyle than it currently is. Re-skilling and re-learning the ways of the land are going to be vital. I think we’ll see less of the airy fairy floaty Paganism in really posh robes. There will be less of the bling and the aesthetic, and more of the engaging with the ancestors, to relearn what they knew and we have lost. I think we will become a more down to earth people, more rooted in practical necessity, as our ancestors were before us. I rather hope by then we will have acquired the wisdom not to get into pointless fights with each other over relatively petty things. But then, if we keep on the way we are going as a species, we just aren’t going to have the luxury of time to spend on Facebook arguing over what’s more authentic and who learned what from whom.
At the moment, the old gods are abstract for most of us. We do not look to the rain and sun with acute awareness that we might starve if the weather goes wrong. We do not come to Samhain and actually have to decide which of our animals to kill. We do not regularly bury our children. There is every probability that climate change will deliver us a much harsher, more demanding, and more likely to kill us way of life, something closer to ancestral experience. How will we relate to the gods of nature when they no longer seem like archetypes, viewed from the comfort and safety of a snug urban living room? How will we feel about the gods of the hunt and harvest when we have to deal personally with the realities of these things? What new gods will we find in the changing world of the future?
I wonder how many of us will find our Paganism is robust enough to survive the devastating future human stupidity is likely to create. How many of us will be able to walk our talk when our lives depend much more on our choices? Will we manage to be true to our values in crisis, or is it going to get decidedly Lord of the Flies out there? Or can we do enough, now, to avert ecological disaster?