The Power of Community

The Power of Community August 24, 2015

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAMy colleague here at Patheos John Halstead recently wrote a post called Why Internet Paganism is not Paganism. When I first read it, I had some mixed feelings, and I wasn’t sure whether I should comment on this phenomena or not. But this past weekend has given me a lot of food for thought.

I am one of the coordinators for Pagan Pride Day Omaha, which this year was able to attract over 200 attendees – which may not sound like much to those out on the coasts in more Pagan-friendly areas, but that number is a big deal here in Nebraska. I am proud of what I’ve been able to do. And I am so, so thankful that internet Heathenry isn’t Heathenry.

I started exploring a more public expression of my tradition in 2012; I began pursuing it because while I was perfectly satisfied with my own practice, I wanted my children to see a larger group that would hopefully show them I wasn’t just some lone crazy person.

It was a massive success, not only for my children but for myself as well. I have never been a very social or outgoing person, but being in a community of people who are open-minded and generally quite friendly has helped me to grow and blossom in that area. As a blogger, I sometimes get caught up in the flame wars and comment section arguments that are so common in online Heathenry – and to be honest, it is sometimes very discouraging.

But when I walk into a sumbel for Nebraska Heathens United, or ring the bell to begin a ritual for Prairie Shadow Grove, I don’t come in expecting arguments or with hackles up, knowing I’ll have to defend myself. Of course, we question each other and work to find the truth of things that can be academically verified; but together, we aren’t afraid to discuss the things that can never be verified historically (short of a time machine).

I know I am among friends, among people who have my back and support me in both my spiritual life and my life in general, people who will of course call me out if I am wrong about something but will not be jerks about it. And I support and help them, and try my best to be constructive in my own criticisms. This is what community means to me.

That community is so relieving, like returning home after being in a strange bed for a long time. I’m pretty good at arguing, and sometimes I pursue it much farther than I should, but going back and forth with faceless words doesn’t hold a candle to bringing together a community like the one I experienced this weekend.

Nebraska Heathens United even held a workshop at Pagan Pride, had a table for information and put on a “lite” sumbel. I have a recap of the day from one of my fellow Stewards in the group (who did most of the work since I was busy running around like a chicken with my head cut off!) which I hope to post sometime in the next week or so. It s amazing, but sometimes Heathens and Pagans can drink together without either side bursting into flames or hating the other!

I know a lot of Heathens harp on the idea that all Heathens have to have community, that being solitary is unacceptable or somehow lesser. I don’t believe that is true. But with the culture of current internet Heathenry, I will say that having a local group has been amazing for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that community.

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