Outside Looking In (or Is Anybody Really Listening?)

I strangely find myself on the outside looking in when it comes to aspects of the Modern Pagan Community. It’s a very odd feeling to have as I blog/write for a pretty high-profile website, and some of my stuff has been linked to hundreds (if not thousands of times) on social media. I also go to a lot of Pagan Festivals, and I’m active in my local community. I feel like I’m super-involved in Modern Paganism, but at the same time there’s all kinds of stuff that gets past me, and sometimes I just can’t keep up with the current conversation.

You might remember the fallout from Z. Budapest’s “genetic women only” ritual at this year’s (February 2012) PantheaCon in San Jose California. I have friends and acquaintances who are very close to that situation, but to be completely honest, I heard more about it once I got home than I ever did at PantheaCon. I knew that there were issues at the event (and that I had very definite feelings on those issues) but I didn’t witness the candle-light vigil or feel any of the fall out. Literally a few hundred yards from my hotel room there’s history being made and I’m completely oblivious to it. It’s now nine months later and I’m still trying to catch up to everything that arose out of those few hours.

In the wake of February’s events there’s been new language added to the Pagan lexicon and I don’t know what any of it means. I’m not trying to offend anyone but I’m still not sure what “cisgendered” means or if it’s a word that I’m suppossed to use in everyday conversation when describing someone. I am happy to call someone whatever they want to be called, but I usually stick to first names. Living in the Bay Area I’m probably closer to many of these things than the average Pagan (or maybe not, the world is rapidly shrinking), but that doesn’t mean I’m any closer to figuring them all out. When talking about my sexual identity do I have to use the term “cis man” in certain circles? Do these issues loom large in greater Pagandom or are they only talking points in the Pagan Blogosphere and in a few Pagan traditions?

I’ll admit to not being a big reader of Pagan Blogs, and at this point there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of them. I just can’t keep up with everything. Periodically an idea will catch fire in the blogosphere and will get blogged about probably dozens of times. It’s easy to read someone’s opinion on something and then get inspired, but I’m not sure if anyone outside of the blog community (and its readers, many folks leave comments that are superior to the initial writings) is actively paying attention to these things. Teo Bishop’s I Felt Ashamed at Pagan Pride sparked a great deal of thought and debate, but I found all of that debate impossible to keep up with. I shared some links to parts of it last week, but the conversation seemed to exist only in the blogosphere.

I talk to at least a few dozen Pagans a week and interact with hundreds more on-line daily, and yet there was hardly a peep on the subject from any of them. I have friends who literally eat, sleep, and breathe Paganism in a way that I’ll never be able to, and they were completely unaware of the tens of thousands of words being spent on this subject. There’s often a complete disconnect from what’s happening on-line and what’s going on closer to home. I find this comforting in a lot of ways (community begins in your backyard, not so much on Facebook) but also bewildering. Are these impassioned voices simply having an intelligent conversation among themselves or are these conversations being shared with all of us?

When it comes to discussion of February’s events in San Jose or the levels of embarrassment people sometimes feel towards our Community, I know that the conversations are going on but I don’t know how to participate in them. There’s nothing I can say that T. Thorn Coyle can’t and she’ll say it with far more eloquence*. I like writing about history, cider, and Led Zeppelin; I’m very much on the outside looking in when it comes to wrestling with some of these bigger issues. I don’t know how to participate in some of these dialogues, and as I’ve mentioned earlier I’m not sure that I want to. I know how long it takes to write 1200 words on any given topic, I can’t imagine doing that on the various topics du jour that pop up from week to week, and then keeping up with the various replies. If something tickles my fancy I will write about it, but I’m usually stumbling into the conversation by chance rather than actually being aware of it.

All of this leads me to the question “is anyone really listening?” Are the “controversies” that engulf “Pagandom” and inspire the Pagan Blogosphere actually the issues that we as a community are wrestling with on a day to day basis? Or is there just a small group of Pagans shouting at each other in some small corner of the internet while everyone else is at circle singing whatever chant we are all still allowed to sing together? Perhaps I’m not as disconnected as I think, and social media just makes me feel that way because I’m checking ProFootballTalk more often than Pagan sites? Maybe I’m pain-stakingly average, and the flood of information out there has made everyone feel like I do from time to time? Instead of feeling like I’m missing out on the conversation, maybe I should just start my own?

*For the record, I feel very strongly that if someone identifies as a woman they are a woman and shouldn’t be excluded from a woman’s only circle at a public event, but I also take a long-view of such issues. I’m not going to change the situation over night with an impassioned blog post, all I can do is register my opinion with whoever is in charge, and then live my life in accordance with my beliefs on the subject. But despite being asked about the subject once on a Wigglian Way Podcast the issue has never really come up in casual conversation outside of evenings with friends in the Reclaiming Tradition.

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About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.


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