One of the many observations I’ve made while walking this path of Wicca and Paganism is that, even if you’re a solitary practitioner, we all have the desire to meet, know and talk with others who are of like mind. I think I can say, without fear of too much disagreement, that humans in general want to know the comfort of there being others who share their beliefs and viewpoints. For some this means being part of a group (name to be determined by your beliefs) or, at the very least, occasionally attending gatherings of like-minded people to satisfy that craving.
I’ve already spoken of my fears surrounding my first Pagan gathering and how my eyes were opened as to the doubts I had concerning my own “self-training“. What I haven’t revealed is an incident that happened during a third such venture. Obviously, I was still very new at all this, but I had begun to observe that these Pagans and Wiccans weren’t that different that people in the mundane world when it came to social skills and prejudices. Although there is always the pronouncement that we are all Brothers and Sisters, cliques did then, and still do, run rampant in the Pagan/Wiccan/Magickal community.
It seems I wasn’t the only one who was noticing this. What’s really puzzling is that most of this elitism was coming from the groups putting on the event. People were being treated as if they were unwelcome or, at the very least, an annoyance. Similar incidences were cropping up daily and some of us got to talking about it.
Those of us who gathered to discuss these puzzling incidents wondered why anyone claiming to be Pagan/Wiccan/Magickal would treat another of the similar beliefs and philosophies so poorly. We talked about how hosting an event such as this should mean welcoming people and making them feel “at home”. We talked about how what we were seeing was so much a part of the mundane world that we were trying to leave behind when we came to one of these events that we felt terribly disappointed. These conversations continued for a couple days.
It was either the Friday or Saturday night of the event when lots of rain set in. We were camping in a 7’ x 9’ canvas tent that had been waterproofed so we were drier than most. People kept showing up to get out of the rain and talk some more about their feelings. Before we knew it, there were nine people crammed into this small tent all with one thing on their mind – Was it time for an alternative to this gathering – one where people were made to feel welcome and truly part of the Pagan/Wiccan/Magickal community? The consensus of these nine people was that the answer was “Yes.”
I want to stop the story here, for a moment, because this is not so much about the beginning of a new gathering for Pagans, Wiccans and other Magickal folk as it is about the underlying reasons that promoted some of us to go in this direction.
What had led most of us to the spiritual beliefs and paths we were following was a discontent with the more predominate religions and even society’s attitudes of separation and elitism. For many of us, the practices of our spiritual paths even called our attention to the fact that the worries of mundane concerns needed to be left at the door – so to speak – when you entered sacred space for worship. Taking ritual baths to wash away the day’s “mundania”, changing from everyday clothing to spiritual robes, and consciously entering that sacred space with the idea that we’re leaving our egos at the “door” as we enter this special place are part of our spiritual practices.
To us, going to a gathering of like-minded people was the same as attending our personal, or group, spiritual rituals. To be faced with being treated as if we were still in the mundane world was baffling and sad. We felt we deserved better and were willing to offer better to others.
The years have rolled by and that new, different gathering that began with the discussion during the rain is no more. Why? I wouldn’t even attribute it to the fact that it’s been almost 30 years since it all began in that tent. What I will say is that I watched the crowds change at the “new” gathering over the years. As that change began to occur, the same things that caused the discontent and birth of a new, different gathering happened more and more frequently. While saying that they were discontent with the outside world, they brought it with them when they came. No egos were left at the gate. Many had their own agenda and made no bones about it. Cliques began to form and few reached out to those who were new to make them feel welcome. Many had “great” ideas to change how things were, but few were willing to do the work it would take to make these things happen. So it collapsed and died.
I know that there are those out there who feel I am leaving out vast amounts of information in order to “make my case” during this discourse. From my perspective, it matters not whether you are renting land for your gathering or become the owner of your own land for the event (which means accepting the responsibility for the upkeep of that land) nor does it matter if you are an “open” gathering or a membership that invites friends and others and take responsibility for those people as attendees (just as you would when bringing someone to your spiritual group for the first time). What does matter is that if you profess to want a life that is more balanced, more spiritual than what’s happening in the outside world, you should walk your talk. You should be a steward of the Earth and all the living things upon it – whether two legged or many legged animal, plant or mineral. You should leave your ego at the “door”. You should treat each man and woman as your Brother and your Sister – in perfect love and in perfect trust.
My observation over all these years is that when we forget to be the spiritual beings we really are and ally ourselves with our egos, life becomes dark, depressing and isolated. Only being true to the unconditional love, joy and passion that resides in our True Selves will promote the life we truly seek to live and make our gathering together filled with true Brotherhood and Sisterhood.
May the bright light of unconditional love illuminate your path, guiding you to unite with those who share what lies in your heart.