Pagan Pipe Dreams (What Do We Hope to Build?)

As Pagans, What Do We Hope to Build?

Much of the current dialogue in the Pagan blogosphere is about carving out ways to explain and justify our personal experiences and beliefs in relation to other traditions, but without a clear vision of the place our own traditions and experiences might have in an ideal world. Will the Pagan movement become one tradition-heavy set of religions with several “fringes”? Will it split apart into competing factions? Or will we find a way to unite using some shared cultural language? What institutions will we build, or will we build institutions at all? What rights or recognition will we have in the larger society?
What does your Paganism look like in 50 years?
~ Christine Hoff Kraemer

What do we hope to build is a topic currently winding its way through Patheos Pagan, so be sure to check out the other responses from Yvonne Aburrow and Sterling (yup just Sterling, one name says it all like Cher, Madonna, or Prince). I feel like I’ve already played along with this idea back in September of last year, but I’ll bite again. Most of my thoughts last Fall were rather negative, so instead of going that route a second time I thought I’d offer some wishful thinking. I don’t think anything on this list is impossible, just difficult.

Pagan land for Pagans owned by a lot of different Pagans. I’ve been dreaming of this for nearly twenty years now. Just imagine a beautiful meadow ringed by a few acres of trees. Within that grove of trees there’s a little spot hollowed out for we humans, a spot to sit in our very own cathedral of the pines. Back in the meadow there’s a building with some running (hot) water and a place to cook a meal or two (along with a coffee maker), but there’s more than just a bit of infrastructure.

Off to the left there’s a gorgeous hedge-maze, perfect for reflection and meditation. It’s a labyrinth walk with a bit more privacy than just a few candles on the ground. To the right there’s a series of standing stones, a perfect spot for ritual. Nearby there’s a circle carved into the ground with a spot for torches at each of the compass’s cardinal points. Near the spot where the meadow reaches the woods there are shrines to various gods: Odin, Dionysus, Athena, Cerridwen, Aradia and more! Off in the distance you can make out a large bonfire and the silhouettes of dancers moving around the fire, their steps all in time to the beats of a large drum circle . . . . .

That’s what I’d love perhaps more than anything, a bunch of large Pagan parcels of land, home to various shrines, altars, circles, monuments, and the diverse amount of Pagans who make such things possible. Ideally this type of land wouldn’t be owned by just one person, but by several, a true collective open to anyone who wants to contribute. Those unable to contribute on a monthly basis would have to pay a small entrance fee for upkeep and the like during visits, we want to make sure everyone can be a part of things.

This type of thing falls under pipe-dream because it would require a large degree of cooperation. Various Pagan groups would have to talk to one another civilly, large amounts of money would have to be raised, and a property such as the one described here would require a dedicated caretaker or three. The initial cost would be enormous, the benefits even bigger. We could find ourselves with legitimate outdoor holy places infused with not just the energy of the Earth, but our own experiences as well. As a non-profit our focus would always be on taking care of the land and those who celebrate upon it. In my craziest dreams I’m 92 years old and I’m cutting the ribbon to celebrate the opening of our own Greek Temple at Pagan Acres.

A Legitimate Full-time Clergy. I know this is a scary one for a lot of people, but just hear me out for a second. We don’t need a full-time clergy in the way that some other religions do. We don’t need anyone to preach to us every week, and your High Priestess will always be a greater authority than any “full-time clergy” person, but there’s more to it than that. We need people to facilitate things, and we need people who are properly prepared to facilitate them.

When I did my first memorial service I realized just how important this is. I can write ritual with the best of them, and cook up a spell in a matter of minutes, but what does one say in the middle of a terrible tragedy? How can it possibly be put into words? There are just some things most of us are not ready to handle, and I’m including some Pagan figures here that I hold in very high regard.

In addition there are always folks who don’t feel comfortable stepping out of the broom closet for any reason what so ever. What happens when your High Priest doesn’t want to publicly proclaim himself a Witch at a service in honor of your deceased wife? That’s where full-time clergy comes in. It’s also necessary in times of conflict. I’m pretty good at talking to people about Paganism but I’d much (much much) rather have Peter Dybing do it, and he’s great at it. In some states Pagans still have trouble finding other Pagans to tie the hand-fasting knot for them in a legal way. A full-time clergy could help with that.

We need folks who can perform moving services, legalize our weddings, and communicate with those outside of our bubble in an effective way. In other words we need at least part-time clergy. Doing all of these things takes time and money, and when services are provided for in a professional way the person providing those services should be treated as a professional . . . in other words they should be paid.

Does PBN work? I’m all about a Pagan Broadcasting Network. Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it, but have you seen how many networks are run strictly by Evangelical churches? If you’ve got cable or satellite visit those nether-regions your TV remote rarely travels to and count them all up. They are numerous, and they mostly stink (though I will cop to watching some of them late at night as a weird sort of amusement). Maybe we should have our own channel?

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Kicking off our morning cartoons . . . . .

Money is most likely an issue here, but have you seen the quality on most of those “networks?” I could do better with my iPhone. In addition to showing re-runs of Vikings and The Roman Holidays we could educate people about what we do, and do little interview shows with various Pagan-folk. I’m not in ADF, but I think it would be cool to watch the video of them installing a new Arch-Druid. How about a few workshops from festivals like PantheaCon, especially since only a fraction of a fraction of Pagandom can actually go to such things?

In a world of online television such a thing wouldn’t have to be on cable or satellite systems. It could be an app like Netflix or simply a browser based enterprise. The sky’s the limit.

Will any of this stuff ever happen? Maybe, to some degree. Certain organizations are inching closer towards legal paid clergy, but will those folks want to help out all of Pagandom? Will all of Pagandom want them to help? We’ll eventually have some shows online, but will they all hook up and thrive together? There are Pagan parcels of land, but they remain few and far between and generally in the hands of only a few folks. Time will tell.

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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