49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives
Canadian Paganism has a style all its own. Have a look at events, issues, celebrations, people, trends and events north of the border from the eyes of a Canadian Witch.
Twenty years ago, there was no Pagan community to speak of in the Okanagan Valley. My sister in spirit Rowean met a girl named Unruhe, and they started talking about forming a Yahoogroup for Pagans in the Okanagan. Rowean had come from Prince George, where a couple who had been trained by the Wiccan Church of Canada in Ontario had opened a shop and formed a community years ago; and Unruhe had moved up from the Coast, where there was a very large and established Pagan community; and they missed it. I was a solitary from the time I was 14 years old and the idea of connecting with other Pagans appealed to me. I knew a few others from the Society for Creative Anachronism and so I encouraged Rowean to call Unruhe up. We met in a coffee shop - I think a Tim Horton's, but don't quote me on that - and discussed the idea. Unruhe and her friend Perchta formed the Yahoogroup, I was the third person on it and Rowean was the fourth. We decided to meet for Sabbats and the first ritual was at my place, led by a Celtic Witch named Havoc.
Over time, the group split over the typical ideological differences that split Pagan communities, compounded by the fact that most of us went through the stuff that I would now, as a Witch, refer to as "Second Degree ego issues," all at the same time. There were hard feelings and bad blood. Some people bowed out of the community for a long time. Some spread rumours about other groups. Some bowed out entirely and disappeared.
Most of us who were the "core" organizers of the original "Okanagan Pagans," however, continued to trudge along doing our own thing. My husband and I organized a couple of covens. From a Women's Mysteries' group that Rowean and I had begun, a Women's Ritual Group sprang. A group of Druids coalesced and began doing their own thing. Ritual magicians started doing their own thing. And eventually, what we ended up with was a lot of small groups doing very compartmentalized sorts of activities.
I tried to reach out, and one of the things I did to reach out was to try to organize Pagan Pride celebrations in the Valley. People would *usually* come out if they were specifically asked to, but they left it to me and whoever I could round up to do the work and set it up, rather than doing things in the way I would have preferred, which would have been to organize a committee and a task force to take on individual jobs. I guess it's likely because they were afraid of stepping on my toes. But I wouldn't have minded.
Others tried to reach out too. Some of the local people from the Women's Ritual Group and the Druids combined efforts to create the Western Gate Samhain Festival, and they invited me to come and present, even though there had been some tension between me and some of the other people involved. I was happy to take them up on it and I went and I had a great time. The work they did was spectacular and the festival was a big success. But because some of the other people they'd been relying on bowed out at the last minute, leaving them with a big bag to hold, they retreated from the community and focused on their own thing again for a time.
One of the things that I did was to join a group (the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of BC) that had legal accreditation for clergy with marrying credentials in our province (a whole different ball of wax in Canada than in the US, requiring a lot more work). I joined it because I wanted to be able to perform legal Pagan weddings. My own wedding was solemnized by a member of that group because it was important for me to have that right and to provide that right for others.
I performed about twenty weddings over the years. The "peripheral" members of the community were, more often than not, the ones who took advantage of my available services. They were solitaries, Witches, Wiccans, Neo-Pagans and Druids. They came from all over the province. I got to travel a great deal to places in the province I'd never been and eat some great food and meet some great people.
But over time, my temple waxed and waned and eventually it began to fail, because I was left to do the jobs of several people by myself, and with my writing taking off and my other responsibilities, I simply did not have time.
At last when faced with a crisis point - namely, the Temple being put on provisionary status until I got my reports and paperwork organized - I finally figured out that if I wanted to serve the community, I could not do it alone. And so when a local heathen who'd been involved in supporting the community over the years named Graeme came to me with an offer of help - and a practical solution for how he could contribute and what could be done - I took him up on it.
We decided to expand our work to be more inclusive to the community as a whole. We came up with a name that we thought reflected that inclusiveness. We started a blog and a conversation on Facebook that included everyone we knew as an organizer in the community, and invited everyone to come together to a public meeting. We offered the existing accredited organization branch as an aspect of the community's needs as a whole. We offered to support the ADF in its bid for accreditation when the local organizer of the Druids (Solaren) mentioned that this was a need. Graeme laid out his plan for a way to reorganize everyone as part of an "interfaith council" that would try to serve the needs of all the Pagans in the community. I told them if they wanted to use the existing organizations to serve our needs I was happy to do that, and if they wanted to start a new organization and hold on to the other ones until they were no longer needed, I was happy to do that too. I was even happy to contribute to the eventual reorganizing of the existing organizations to serve a more Pan-Pagan need; whatever the community thought was in its best interest. A meeting was also set in the South Okanagan and one was planned for in the Kootenays.
I expressed my desire to be a *community,* to work together towards common goals. I expressed my desire to advance one of us in order to advance all of us. I expressed a need to have *one* community Sabbat instead of sixteen separate ones. I apologized for my ego issues and my garbage. Above all, I asked earnestly for help and support, and offered my own, and forgave any sense of having been wronged from the past and asked for the forgiveness of all I had wronged in the community as well.
The response was overwhelming. When the community learned that we needed five CWABC members to maintain our accredited clergy but that we couldn't afford it, two new people signed up for membership and donations flooded in to cover the clergy's membership fees in entirety. When people learned I needed help to do reports, three people volunteered to do reports for me. When we heard the ADF needed three members to be an accredited group, three people volunteered to at least hold the places. We discussed ideas for how the council should work and how to best be as inclusive as possible. People who hadn't been involved for years got involved, and lots of new talent came to stand up and shoulder the burdens. Everyone decided that instead of doing their own Sabbats they would go to the one in Winfield that was being organized by one of the Women's Ritual Group organizers (soon to be CWA registered clergy as well). I offered to carpool and so many people took me up on it that I have to bring a second vehicle.
Tomorrow is the community Samhain in Winfield and I am really looking forward to seeing old friends and new friends and being part of such a group. It seems a great time, at the end and the beginning of the year, to be building bridges. The next meeting is on the third of November. I can't wait to see what the future might hold! I have hope again and I am delighted to see my community once more come together because so many good people are willing to put their differences and their egos! Happy New Year indeed!
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