Samhain is close, October is hectic, my extended family experienced tragedy and I just got over being sick. At this moment I feel caught in a maelstrom: swept up, ground down and a little helpless.
I’ve spoken before about the concentric rings of community I belong to. Right now with all the stress at this moment and all the various perspectives, personalities and dreams crashing about in the pan-Pagan communities it’s tempting to lose hope. It’s tempting to say “I do not wish to deal with difficult issues or difficult people and will retire to my own safe haven of Paganism.” It’s tempting to abdicate your advocacy for others when you feel your own voice being drowned under the sea of sometimes violent inclusivity.
I was a solitary for ten years, mainly because I lived in a rural area, but also because being involved with Pagan community, particularly pan-Pagan community, can be a draining, difficult experience, especially online. We all know that people behave online in ways they would never behave face-to-face, or even voice-to-voice. The internet at it’s most basic encourages distraction, tangent and bloodless war. For years the internet was my only interaction with the Pagan community and my preconceptions of other Pagans was based on flame-wars, trolls, spam, tangents and nonsense, as well as love and deep insight. Imagine my shock upon finding functioning Pagan communities based on love, trust and respect without these stressful, draining and negative energies.
I found my local faith community when I was not only disillusioned and despairing of the Pagan community but of my life’s direction. My Gods kept telling me I had to unbind myself to move forward and I was in no mood to submit myself to a teacher. I didn’t want the hassle of Pagan community. I just wanted to work on my own soul, my own life with none but my own Gods to keep me company. That was not what the Gods had in store for me because it was not what I needed.
I’ve gained two communities over the past year: my local coven and the Pagan Spirit Gathering Tribe. The PSG tribe daily reminds me that I have kindred spirits across the country: kind, loving joyful Pagans who believe in the power of community. It’s an inclusive, diverse network of Pagans from different paths. It teaches me that pan-Pagan community can work in love, trust and unity.Some days I really need that.
My local coven gives me something very different. Although my local tradition is comprised of very diverse individuals, we are all of the same tradition, of the same region and engaged in the same work. The outside Pagan world drops away and I am engaged in what it means to be Wiccan, and more importantly, in being rather than saying. It’s a refreshing thing to not have to worry about Asatru or Yoruba or whether what I say or practice will be acceptable to a Reclaiming Witch.It is a reassuring thing to know that even though there is urgency and deadlines and projects and consensus and a million things to be sorted out in pan-Pagan projects, that my coven is a constant refuge, our work is a constant practice of mindfulness and being, and that my Gods are waiting there to teach and guide me. It is refreshing and vitalizing to put away all my Pagan hats and simply be a Wiccan, united in the joyful fellowship of my local community. No endless definitions, labeling or working out compromises, but just being. Just Being.
Yesterday evening I helped my priestess and priest with something and afterwards got to spend some time with my covenmates. Afterwards I came home to find my e-mail flooded with pan-Pagan project discussions and it felt like putting on a mail coat, the weight of all that unread e-mail falling on me. Once I got my e-mail sorted out and reached a place of less confusion I thought about how difficult pan-Pagan and interfaith work is and how discouraging it can be sometimes, especially when you already have a full plate of work, home, family and faith community.
Then I thought about my coven, and how we will spend Samhain together drama-free. Everything is planned. Everyone knows what to bring and what to do and where to be. The food sounds amazing, the ritual will be food for the soul and the people will be simply awesome. It will fill my soul up and do me so much good to pitch in and join in and BE with them.
Then I thought about all the amazing people I met at PSG, who despite their differences not only manage to create a loving, safe and drama-free Pagan village for a full week each year, they also inspire, encourage and give joy to each other the year ’round.
For every aspect of community that is difficult, stressful, hard work there is hope, joy and encouragement to refresh and vitalize you if you reach out to engage in it. If you seek it out, engage it positively and embrace a being/doing approach to community, you will find all the hope, refuge and love necessary to make it through the rough spots. I hope you have some form of community that supports you, inspires you and refreshes your connection to hope and possibility.