Pagan Dinner Time

Now with more angst!

I had my last Pagan Tea Time date on Sunday evening: Rhyd Wildermuth, blogger and punk, came to dinner at my house. We were supposed to gather for afternoon tea, but as he was catching a ride from Seattle to Portland, it worked out that he got dinner at my house instead.

There were pleasantries, getting-to-know-you questions, and interruptions galore from my kids. My husband had just finished doing the taxes, and suffice it to say that he was not his usual sociable self. I felt anxious, as dinner was an off the cuff, clean out the larder meal: hamhock soup with mashed potatoes. It was odd to have some one I’ve never seen before come to my house for dinner. And yet, I felt like I was offering a meal to a wandering monk (which he is in a way); a respite for the pilgrim. I believe very much in hospitality. Sharing my home meant a lot to me.

I needn’t have been so self-conscious; the conversation was great! We meandered a great deal. I don’t think we actually finished a single topic we started! He and I could talk for ages – as I could with all of my colleagues here at Patheos.

I wish I could say that we solved all the riddles. We were barely able to list the riddles! There is so much more I want to know about this gentleman: I want to pick his brain about Occupy, his experiences with his gods, his practice, and how punk and capitalism plays into the wider Pagan movement. He is as thoughtful in person as he is online.

So Sunday night I went to bed happy. I woke in the night high on new friendships, not just from meeting Rhyd, but also from the weekend before at PCon. While I’d respected and enjoyed the online conversations and blog posts from my colleagues here at Patheos, meeting them in person was better than I expected. Not only do I have incredible ‘co-workers,’ people who are every bit as interesting in person as they are online, but I feel like I made friends. I would circle with any of them, and we don’t even share the same gods or traditions. I would gladly share my table with them. I could see my colleagues celebrating a solstice in my backyard or helping dedicate an outdoor shrine. I get a lot of moral support and incredible encouragement for my writing and spiritual practices from my colleagues – and I am deeply grateful for it. But I could see building actual community with these people.

Lying in bed, reveling in this realization, I felt amazed at what an incredible community Christine Kraemer, our editor here at Patheos Pagan, has built (and continues to build).

And then I rolled over and felt gutted, sad to the point of near tears (I’m not a crier, so me almost crying is about as good as the real thing). Where are the Pagans in Olympia? I don’t know. How can I build these sorts of relationships in the town I actually live in? My teachers are 70 miles to the north. Most of my closest friends live in other towns or states. My trusted Feri/Faery are spread out all over the country. My ‘co-workers’ are all virtual. While this often suits my hermit self and fits nicely with a stay-at-home parent lifestyle, I cannot live on virtual friendships alone.

I woke up and attempted to use my google-fu. Seems like most Pagan groups in my area haven’t been active for years. The only one I can find is a women’s tarot circle that meets weekly. The organizer in me knows there’s a void to fill and that I’m perfectly capable of doing it. But with a new baby on the way, it’s unlikely that I will have the space to do it for the next few years.

Thankfully Feri has taught me well how to hold conflicting ideas or feelings simultaneously. I am currently doing so: I hold the joy of new friends and the growth of my personal community alongside the realization of my own loneliness and isolation from the wider community. Olympia is full of ‘Pagan values’ but I cannot figure out where the practicing Pagans (of any stripe) are. Maybe I’ll just have to check out that Satanist/”dark arts” reading group at one of the local bookshops after all…


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  • If you’re still noodling around looking for local-to-you groups, check out Meetup is pretty good about removing groups that aren’t active (mostly because there’s a fee to use the service so it’s easy for them to find the inactive meetups). There’s usually some groups in the area but sometimes it’s still hard to find what you’re looking for.

    • I did use meetup as well. That’s how I found the tarot group. There was one other ‘pagans go hiking’ group but it hasn’t been active in several years.

  • I hear you! I’m glad being a Pagan channel writer helps, at least a bit.

    • It does! Not just socially, but intellectually too. It’s nice to be a SAHM and still get to use my brain!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Being in a similar position to you, I know what you mean–my nearest community members are in Seattle, for the most part, even though we’ve started to get a group together here at the college (though several of them don’t seem to want to do any sort of ritual at all with anyone including by themselves, despite identifying as Pagan…!?!).

    I’m also envious that you got to meet Rhyd–I had hoped to do so on Saturday, but because of the snow here and the unavailability of a reliable ride, it didn’t happen. Drat. He’ll be around again soon, I know, but still…

    • Community is haaaaaard. /whine

      I would like to see more gatherings in the PNW. Adam and I have talked about starting something in Olympia in the next few years. If we build it, maybe you will come? πŸ˜‰

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        It’s tougher for me to get there than it is to Seattle…but, I’ll see what can be done.
        If you’d like to come to something that is happening in Redmond on March 8th (from 6:30 to 8:30, if I am not mistaken), let me know…a Wicca discussion group is having me come, talk about the Ekklesia Antinoou, and do a short ritual!

    • We really MUST all have tea together. Eugene’s not far!

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Well, it depends on how much “far” is a notion dependent on transportation’s easy availability and/or the same situation with finances.
        That having been said, though: perhaps a middle-ground can be reached? We all meet in Vancouver, WA? (I’d suggest Centralia, since it is quite literally “central”–but, it’s also Centralia, and if you know anything about that area, eew…)
        In any case, there are options we can entertain and see what might be possible! I look forward to it!

        • Or we could meet in Olympia, because there’s a really cool person there who could use more of us sorts of folk in her neighborhood occasionally, I’ve heard… : )

          • Anne Newkirk Niven

            Or you could all meet at my house in the westernmost suburb of Portland, Oregon!

          • You know? A traveling network of us all up and down the northwest coast sounds like maybe the coolest idea EVER. : )

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            That’s also an idea…! Do you live in Forest Grove? It’s been a while since I’ve been there…

          • Anne Newkirk Niven

            Yup, that’s where I live!

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            Very nice! I was at a conference there at Pacific U. several years back; and, I just was thinking about Forest Grove earlier today, because that’s where Sake One is, and they provide the sake for the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America (where I was earlier this afternoon!).

            That could be a very interesting suggestion for a gathering indeed…!

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            Perhaps…! πŸ˜‰

  • Roi de Guerre

    The local-to-you (and local-to-me as well) point is very important in my opinion. To draw from an example (disclaimer: half of my family is Pagan, the other half Christian, literally 50/50) there are no end to the local-to-person “small group” activities available in the Christian community. My family members don’t go a week without being invited to a study, book club, knitting circle (I enjoy the irony of that name; there’s probably a fun short story to be had there) etc.

    Surely a lot of this is due to the math of population density. You’re more likely to know a Christian who knows someone who knows someone who is hosting a meeting.

    I wonder if we could ovecome that population density disadvantage with a more concerted effort on networking? Pagan Tea Time seems like an excellent start. Perhaps others have ideas about how to ovecome the disparity?

  • dunesen

    Guess I missed the window for this. Ah well…

    • Not necessarily! Although with a concert in 5 weeks and a birth anywhere from 7-10 weeks away, my schedule is getting tight!

  • I’m pretty certain that was my favorite meeting on this trip (even surpassing hanging out with the gnostic priest, Feri-witch, and welsh druid at a leather bar while Anomalous Thracian egged us on from afar!) We must do it again. : )

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      I have yet to be given all of the details on that particular occasion, but I’ve heard bits from at least two of the three above-named parties at this stage…!?! πŸ˜‰

    • You are welcome for a meal anytime!

  • Oh, man, did I ever feel guilty reading this post. As I recall, I completely spaced replying to your e-mail about meeting up last May…and then it got too awkward to reply, so I dissolved into a mess of social anxiety and inaction.

    But this Olympian witch is still really interested in meeting up, discussing the local community, and finding ways to bring us all together. I do know a lot of the local stuff is currently networked out of Tacoma, where the interdenominational group Puget Sound Pagans is being very, very busy coming up with community networking opportunities. One of my covenmates is an officer of that group and has worked very hard to revive the Pagan Hiking Group. The very first scheduled hike is actually soon: Saturday, March 8th at 10 am at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge just north of Oly. (It’s supposed to be an easy, flat hike.) The idea is that eventually the group will develop more wild-crafting focused activities, too…which I’m certainly looking forward to. Google “Meetup, Northwest Pagan Hiking Group” and you’ll find its meetup page pretty quickly.

    My own coven is also discussing doing more open circles and non-ritual community work. We’ve been doing a pizza, beer, and divination night for a couple months now. I’m sure you’d be welcome to attend!

    A new pagan store, Druid’s Nook, also just opened up in downtown Oly a few months ago. So far they’ve been a little hesitant on community networking…but I think they would be open to becoming the local hub.

    (Also, I laughed when I read your closer about checking out the local Satanist reading group. I’ve definitely had that thought on more than one occasion–they’re the only decently organized group in the whole city!)

    • HI!! I thought about you! I tried looking through my email to find your contact but I must have deleted it….? Anyway, not awkward at to meet up now!

      I’m glad that some one is trying to get groups started in the area. Adam and I learned at PCon that Tacoma has a lot going on. Tacoma feels so far away what with the traffic nonsense from the bases (I know, I know, whine whine). I did see the hiking group on meet up, but it didn’t look active. I’m starting to get heavily pregnant, but a gentle walk at Nisqually could work.

      So…. let’s meet up! Weekends work best for me, but a Monday or Friday morning can also work, as far as being kid-free for uninterrupted chatting.