Last week I posted about a few things that made me ‘falsely nostalgic’ for my Christian past. In spite of a few rude, hilarious, and insistent comments that I must actually be seeking Jesus, I don’t miss being a Christian. My post talked about some of the things I didn’t miss and a few things that were quite positive for me. I am highly critical of Christianity, but I certainly don’t hate it.
The conclusion at the end of my piece was that I miss community. This seemed to resonate the most with readers. I hear a longing for community from a lot from people, both online and in person. Community is a sticky topic; it’s complex. And many of us seem to wish we had more of it.
Pagans tend to be solitaries, not joiners. By nature or nurture, we end up on the fringes, either never fitting in or not really wanting to. Many of us seem to go through periods where we practice alone – and a lot of us continue to do the bulk of our spiritual work as solitaries. We might be part of a group or coven, but rarely is a person part of something that withstands decades (or fosters multiple generations). Some people are, but they seem the exception, rather than the norm.
What is community to Pagans anyway? Whenever I talk with friends about herding cats – I mean, trying to create or sustain anything involving Pagans, we inevitably come back to the question of just what do we mean by community?
I have no idea what ‘we’ mean by that word, so allow me to meander around what that word looks like for me.
Immediately there is my family. My hearth and home is a community. My husband Adam and kids are my first priorities. Yes, even before the gods. Especially my kids, as they need my support and guidance for even basic functioning in this world. Eventually they will need me less and less. But I have a commitment to them that is eternal.
There are also broad communities made up of friends, people we work with or share other spaces with (for me, choir and my kids’ schools), and the towns we live in. These communities are important and fulfilling, too. These sorts of communities take time to develop and nurture. They require an odd mix of intentionality and serendipity; you can’t just make intimacy, longevity, and friendship happen.
Beyond these very typical types of community, what exactly would I like? What would I like my Pagan community to consist of?
I would like to have a group that met for Sabbats and other workings, made up of people who share my tradition. Faery/Feri folk tend to skew toward the solitary side, gathering only on an as needed basis. I would love for something like that closer to me, rather than a 1-2 hour drive away. My teachers have in the past hosted Sabbats, but rarely can I get up to Seattle for them.
While nothing compares to in-person workings, I gain much from my fellow Faery/Feri folk thanks to the internet. There are a handful of people who consistently inspire and assist me, not replacing my teachers, but acting as mentors and support for me along my journey. This support gains more and more meaning for me the deeper I go in my Work.
But support, learning, and magic making aren’t dependent only on people who share the same tradition as me. When Adam and I lived in Berkeley we were inspired by some friends in L.A. and we started an arts salon, Feast Bay we called it. It was a gathering of artists that met every so many weeks (I think we settled on every 3 weeks) for discussion and sharing our works in progress. “Art” was also a wide open term: we had musicians (singers, ukelele, guitar, digital), dancers, visual artists of all stripes, writers and poets, embroidery, and more. We supported one another, offered feedback (if desired), talked about themes and struggles and creative block. Feast Bay lasted seven years, several of those years occurring after Adam and I moved to Wales.
I would love something like this again for my artistic self, but also for my spiritual self. I would love to have a group of like-minded folk gather regularly for an evening, share support and talk about what we’re working on, maybe share non-oath bound bits of lore or practice. Magic workers, occultists, witches, Pagans, polytheists, and others sharing some food and conversation all while strengthening relationships…. sounds great, no?
Whenever the discussion of community comes up and some one expresses dissatisfaction, inevitably a dude says something along the lines of “Well, why don’t you make your own community?” I understand that sentiment: if you’re unhappy, do something about it. But creating community isn’t the same as making better spaghetti at home. Clearly I’ve been a vigorous and effective builder of community, but it takes a lot of time and effort! It takes skills. Not every one has the ability, know-how, or time to be the instigator.
At some point in the future, when the needs of my kids aren’t so pressing, I plan to forge a salon like Feast Bay. Maybe more than one.