Is there a “disconnect” between Pagan blogosphere the Pagan community?

Is there a “disconnect” between Pagan blogosphere the Pagan community? January 5, 2013

About a month ago, Jason Mankey wondered whether the controversies in the Pagan blogosphere have anything to do with Paganism “closer to home” in a post entitled, “Outside Looking In (or Is Anybody Really Listening?)”.  Due to the holidays and family crises, I haven’t gotten around to discussing it.  But since it hits close to home, I wanted to comment.  The two examples Jason gave were the “embarrassment in/of the Greater Pagan Community” issue, which started with a post by Teo Bishop and I discussed in multiple posts here, and the cis-gendered women issue which arose at Panetheacon last year.  In the former case, Jason concluded that the “conversation seemed to exist only in the blogosphere”.

First of all, I honestly don’t know how anyone could make that statement.  While I do not doubt that Jason is more involved in the “flesh and blood” Pagan community than your average Pagan blogger, he simply could not know what real effects that online conversation was spawning beyond his own circle.

Second, while I agree that controversy on the Internet can sometimes have little reference to real life, I don’t think that the two examples Jason gave really proved his point.  The “embarrassment issue” started with Teo’s experience at a Pagan Pride event (and my own response arose out of my own experiences at Pagan Pride), and the cis-gendered issue arose at a ritual at Pantheacon, where Jason himself was attending.  I don’t know how much more real Pagan community gets that Pagan Pride and Pantheacon.  Just because Jason did not attend the women-only ritual where the cis-gender protest occurred does not mean that it was not happening for real in the Pagan community.  And just because the ritual which Teo attended happened at a different Pagan Pride event than wherever Jason happened to be attending does not mean that the issues that ritual raised were not reflected in “Greater Pagandom”.

If you want to argue that “real” Pagan community occurs only in small covens, groves, etc., I think that case can be made, but the fact that your small circle (or somewhat larger circle, in Jason’s case) is unaware of issues being discussed by the online community is not indicative of anything but the disconnectedness of your own group.  And you may argue that “real” Paganism cannot happen on the Internet, and can only happen in the “flesh and blood”, and I would probably agree with you.  But that does not mean that the issues which are discussed on the Internet did not arise out of a flesh and blood experiences.

The number of responses that both of these issues generated (not to mention the emotion expressed in many of the responses) suggests that they are real issues in the broader Pagan community.  While some of us bloggers are more “armchair Pagans”, for whom the online community is our primary community, does that make our community somehow unreal?  Unless you live in the Bay Area in California (as Jason does — I’m jealous), chances are that your opportunities for live-Pagan contact will only occur between 8 and 13 times year, plus Pagan Pride Day (if you live near a major metropolitan area) and any festivals or conventions that you can afford to travel to.  I love Jason’s writing and speaking, but I think this one post was maybe reflective of a certain Bay-Area-centrism.  There are other hubs of Paganism, and the Pagan community is spread all over the U.S. and the world, for that matter.

My point?  While the Pagan blogosphere is not the entire Pagan community by any stretch, it is part of the Pagan community.  And while there are “controversies” online that really boil down to nothing more than PC-phrasing, in general the issues discussed online are as real and significant to the future of Paganism as those in any small coven — and arguably more so, because the online community is larger and more connected.

I was glad to see “dashifen” respond to Jason’s post:

“[…] the online Pagan community IS my community and I embrace it, foibles and all, as an intricate and important part of my life and I suspect there are others out there who feel the same.”

I am one of those who does feel the same.

To be fair, Jason went on to clarify, in response to “dashifen” that he was not questioning whether online Pagan communities were real communities, but rather how broad of a cross-section of the Pagan community the online community represents.  Are we influencing the “Greater Pagandom”, or just talking to ourselves?  Those are valid and important questions.  But behind Jason’s question seems to be the assumption that issues discussed online arise online and then have to “trickle down” to the “flesh and blood” community.  And that just is not the case, generally.  The two examples Jason gave prove this point.  Pagan bloggers, including Jason, are writing about their (offline) experience of Paganism.  The discussion themselves may or may not “trickle down” to those less connected Pagans, but that does not mean that those Pagans are not having the same or similar experiences which gave rise to the online discussion on the first place.  And from where I am sitting (my armchair), those who do not participate in some form of broader connectedness (whether it be the Internet, Pagan publications, or pan-Pagan events like Pagan Pride) are missing out on the opportunity to shape the course of the future of Paganism.

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  • Thanks for the shout out 😀

  • Priscilla Lane

    This post makes several assumptions/generalizations that are totally contrary to my experience as a pagan. I do not live in the Bay Area and never have, yet I have many more than “8-13” opportunities for “live-Pagan contact” in one year.

    I know maybe 3 pagans, and I mean in my entire worldwide circle of friends, who care about what is happening in “the pagan blogosphere.” One of them has to care, it’s her job.

    I also think it is unnecessarily snarky, and immature, to say that if one’s pagan community isn’t interested in the discussions and drama happening in the pagan blogosphere, it means that this entire community is “disconnected.” It might just mean they have other things to care about.

    • 1. Do you live in Paganistan? Because, unless you live near a Pagan hub like the Bay Area or Twin Cities, your chance of having regular in-person contact with other Pagans outside the sabbats/esbats is pretty low. I live near Chicago, and even here the Pagan community is not huge.

      2. I’m not suggesting that most Pagans even know there is a Pagan blogosphere. But that does not diminish its importance. The average Christian in the 4th century CE probably did not even know the Council of Nicaea was going on, but it had a profound effect on the course of Christianity. While the internet is no ecumenical council, the point holds true I think. The voices of those taking advantage of this new medium will have a greater impact than those not using it. The ideas being discussed here will eventually make their way into books and seminars and will be passed along to the people you circle with, without them ever realizing where it originated.

      3. I think if your Pagan community does not care what is going on in the Pagan blogosphere, then that is the definition of “disconnected”. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But certainly there is a trade off. It gives you more time and energy to focus on really living your Paganism. But it diminishes the your ability to contribute to and draw from this vast pool of experience and wisdom (albeit a pool heavily diluted with trivialities and worse).

      • Priscilla Lane

        1) I live in Houston, Texas. Yet I see other pagans at least once per week, sometimes more often. I spend a lot of time in Arizona, as well, where I see other pagans only slightly less often.

        2) ” The voices of those taking advantage of this new medium will have a greater impact than those not using it.” What “new medium” is that? Do you mean blogging? Because I was blogging as a pagan in 2000, and so were a lot of other people. Pagan blogs at that time were a big deal. Today, not so much. Blogging is not new, and there are millions of pagan blogs now. And, what do you mean by “greater impact”? If you mean, on other blogs, then sure. If you mean on the lives of pagans in general, then no. Unless “impact” to you means “page counts”.

        (Honestly, this kind of overestimation of one’s own impact is very common in blogging in general. As someone who has been a pro blogger in the past, I’ve seen that most people don’t actually achieve the kind of profile and impact that they expect they will with blogging.)

        3) Your definition of “disconnected” is ridiculous, and it is also sad. If the only way you can see for a pagan community to be connected is to care deeply about pagan blogs, wow. That’s just really sad. I can’t even imagine what your “live-pagan” experiences have been like, to leave you with that belief.

        Really, this entire comment from you is steeped in condescension, arrogance, and ignorance.

        • 1) You are fortunate, but not representative, I think.

          2) A medium that is 10-15 years old is new, unless you’re a teenager, in which case last year was a long time ago. I think “millions” of Pagan blogs may be an overestimation. But in any case, the number of Pagan bloggers is a fraction of the Pagan population as a whole. But the influence of the discussions which start on the Internet does not end on the Internet. Of course it’s rare that any single blogger will have much influence, but the blogging community as a whole does have an impact on the non-blogging community whether they realize it or not (as explained above).

          3) I’m talking about breadth of connection, not depth. Through the Internet, you can connect with thousands of other Pagans. If you don’t use the Internet, you’re limited to a relatively small number of people.

          BTW, slingling insults is not conducive to healthy discussion, as I am sure you know, since you are so well connected.

        • I am curious! When were you a pro blogger? Did I miss it?

          • Priscilla Lane

            Maybe so! It was years ago, I definitely started before we met IRL, but I don’t know if we were online acquaintances yet. I think the last time I did any “pro blogging” was 2008 or 09.

    • I have to agree, there are a lot of places one can live where there are active Pagan communities with more opportunities than 8-13 a year. They are not all well-advertised — many of them require making a personal contact first. I’ve lived in central Texas and Boston, and one can have weekly contact in both places — especially if one doesn’t need the group to be an absolutely perfect fit.

      That being said, in the last Pagan census that Helen Berger did, 79% of respondents identified as solitaries. I think there are a great many isolated Pagans (some isolated by choice, some by circumstances) for whom online information is very important.

      John, there’s actually a lot going on in Chicago — they have a strong occult scene, and there’s also relatively easy access to Earth Traditions events, where one could definitely meet people who are also participating in ongoing groves, covens, etc. What are you looking for that you’re not finding there?

      • You’re right. I mean, I go to my UU church nearly every Sunday with a few Pagans. Chicago does have Pagan venues. There is a a decent sized Pagan Pride Day event. There are several Meetups. There’s Ringing Anvil, the Occult Bookstore, and Terra Mysterium in Chicago. There’s Inner Harmony in Oswego. And there’s an ADF group that I know of. I’m sure there’s more.