I have reached a stage in my life where I am incredibly interested and concerned in/with building community. I’m getting married in a few months (terrifying); we’ll be having kids in a few years (even scarier); we’re settling down (whaaaat).
What keeps coming to mind is the phrase “It takes a village” in reference to raising kids. I want to raise my kids pagan. I want them to know the multiple, myriad gods and goddesses out there; I want them to understand about different pagan faiths; I want them to see their grandfather in the sea and the rain; I want them to participate in a family religious life that is not cloying, or oppressive. I want to raise them pagan and I want that to be freeing for them.
I also want them to see a pagan community work, on some level, even if it’s not totally pagan.
When I was growing up, my mom had a great friend who became my Auntie M. Auntie M. was pagan, and introduced me to oracle readings, cleansing with sage, and taught me how to use my empathic abilities to heal people’s auras. She took me to gatherings of people, mostly women, who worshipped the goddess and celebrated my girlhood.
I had started out my childhood celebrating the winter solstice in a giant fire ceremony held on Granville Island by the community there, and honouring the dead on November 2nd with my mother. When Auntie M. came into our lives, my paganism was broadly expanded. I often say I was raised Buddhist, but the truth is I was raised pagan.
I want the same sort of thing for my kids. I want them to be able to go to “Aunties” and “Uncles” to learn tarot, or how to harness their psychic abilities, or the spiral dance, or the folk songs that get passed around at pagan circles. I want them to be able to celebrate Samhain and Beltaine and Yule with more than just their mom and some candles at the family altar — I want a community.
I want to hold Litha and Lammas BBQs in my backyard with a group of people who might not align specifically in the religious department, but have enough commonalities that we can get together to have a non-denominational celebration at the solstices, equinoxes, or fire festivals.
And I want more than that. I want to have weekly get togethers of some sort. I want a polytheist community centre in my town. I want visibility, and legitimacy, and a community that supports each other.
And I want it local.
I love the online communities I’m part of and I have learned so much from pagan friends online. I find more kindred spirits online than I do in meatspace.
But there’s only so much that serves my needs with regards to having a community if it’s completely online. I need to be able to go to local events where I won’t be misgendered and assaulted. I need something non-Wiccan; something eclectically pagan. I need something open to other pagan paths. I want a pagan community where people feel comfortable getting together and embracing our wonderful diversity. I need something that can support me raising pagan kids.
I need something where we’re not completely mired in bickering and infighting all the time; where we can accept it when people say “I don’t feel included here” and then work for ways to include those people.
There is room for clubs that are more exclusive, but I don’t want all of the pagan community to be like that. I don’t want it to be one big Wiccish circle-jerk where us non-Wiccans never feel comfortable because everything is so catered to that cosmology. (Which I personally find pretty heteronormative and cissexist. YMMV.)
I can’t help but feel…discouraged in this quest of mine. The pagans here are so scattered all over the GVRD, so if you want to have any sort of event, someone’s doing a shit ton of driving. It’s not friendly/accessible to those of us with disabilities — I couldn’t attend Pagan Pride last year because I was in a wheelchair, and the venue doesn’t accommodate that, for example. But it’s not just physical disabilities that are ignored; no one seems to realize how much mental illness can affect someone’s ability to get somewhere. If the event is far away, I’m 70% less likely to make it because the effort of travelling so far wreaks havoc on my anxiety.
What I really want to see is more localized pagan communities coming together, and for it to be inclusive of onion-hoers, too. The folks who maybe don’t do any reading or studying on their own but hey, they’ll show up to the Lammas BBQ because it’s a good time and they enjoy what’s said during the mini-ritual that only lasts a few minutes so as not to bore the kids. The folks who show up to the weekly meetings but don’t think about it the rest of their life. The onion-hoers — the laymen, the non-clergy, the folks who don’t want to focus on religion or spirituality so much.
There needs to be room for those folks. There needs to be inclusion of them, and less derision, if we ever want our pagan communities to really grow.
I know I do. I want a local pagan community. I want to be able to have events in my little town that people will show up to; I want to have a good balance of laymen and “clergy” (wrong word, but best I can come up with right now). I want there to be people who really just show up for the events, and people who help plan the events.
And I think it could be more open to laymen if we make it more inclusive to pagan diversity; if we focus on more than just Wiccish principles; if we work on putting together a general, eclectic pagan framework that can handle that.
I don’t know how to make this happen. I just know that I really want it, and every time there’s a pagan event that’s a 45 minute drive away I feel saddened and disheartened, because I know I can’t make it; I can’t be part of it. Add to that the anxiety I feel about it possibly just being more Wiccish stuff that I can’t handle, and, well, no. I don’t go. I don’t even try to go.
Community matters, and I want to build it — I want it to be more than neighbours I barely tolerate for the sake of keeping the peace. I want to really like the people I’m surrounded with, but I don’t see a way to make that happen.
Bottom line, all my friends should just move to my town and we’ll create our own little spot in the world.
I don’t know. Do you have any ideas on how I could try to build community where-ever Ogre and I end up settling down? Everything would have to wait until we own our own house, or at least rent a different place, because being overtly pagan right now could be dangerous, but I want to start thinking about this stuff at least.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.