Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Hand, Heart, & Eye
There are many of late who have written about abuse in the Pagan community. This is not the first time that I have seen a rise in the discussion and the debate on how to deal with these serious problems. After a time, when the acute triggering incidents have faded from the collective memory and from news coverage, we drift back towards business as usual. I have seen this pattern wax and wane several times in several communities. Some people focus on the specific individuals, their transgressions and how they should be dealt with. Others respond by creating policy statements or rules that are to be adopted and enforced by organizations. Some, and we should offer a special blessing for them, choose to focus their efforts on supporting and healing those that have been injured. Like all crises, when troubled times like these arise the best and the worst comes forth.
The problem of abuse, and I'm not specifying which kind of abuse because it all needs our attention, is deeply rooted and disseminated throughout just about every layer of humanity. I think that dealing with the transgressors, having policies, offering support to those that have been injured, and all the other efforts that people have been organizing are needed. No one approach can tackle a problem that operates at so many different levels. I would like to bring attention to the need to tackle the question of our roles as members of communities to address this problem. Though in order to do that we may need to re-examine what we mean by being a member of a community.
I'm qualifying my concept of community here with the word actual, because the word community has become highly diluted. More often than not what we call communities are loose associations, or to borrow from Kurt Vonnegut, granfalloons. Simply having similar interests or affinities does not make an actual community. Sharing of political or spiritual beliefs does not make an actual community. Sharing similar pop culture interests and attending cons does not make an actual community. I could go on but I think that this is enough of a sequence to illustrate what I mean by loose communities. In the past, and in some farming communities today, there was absolutely no question that it required every member looking out for every other member to survive and to thrive. In the absence of such an imperative, we need to use our will and our choices to make actual communities.
For me, an actual community means that you are involved in the lives of the people that are part of your community. Pretty words, but what it really means is that you are willing to be involved in a messy process. It means not being a bystander. It means also being willing to listen to others, because they are members of your community. In an actual community, we are all interconnected and interdependent and act with a conscious awareness of that bond. Being in an actual community also means that you share the labor of maintaining that community. Part of that labor is also a willingness to be the eyes and the hands that help to uphold community safety and integrity.
You may or may not agree with my ideas about community, nor do I have any expectations that you will agree with my ideas, but I hope that you will consider the power and the potential that each member of the community has to bring about a healthier community. A number of my friends and I were involved in discussions that led to the creation of a pledge and an image that we've been distributing in social media as a way of encouraging personal responses to the current troubles. It is also our hope that this will help encourage an ongoing change in the ethos of the broader Pagan community.
By Hand, Heart, & Eye,
In the name of community safety and integrity:
I will notice.
I will discern.
I will act.
I will notice: is something happening? Does something seem strange, off or potentially dangerous?
I will discern: Do I think something wrong or potentially dangerous is actually happening? Am I being triggered or made uncomfortable because of my own history? Do I need to ask some questions and get clarity?
I will act: Having determined that there is trouble, I will speak up. I will intervene. I will go to others. I will notify those with knowledge or the ability to affect the situation.
— The Sheshat Alliance
You are a part of the solution to building a better community. If you feel so moved, take this pledge and share it.
This pledge and graphic were created by the Sheshat Alliance: Aeptha, T. Thorn Coyle, Ivo Dominguez Jr, Katrina Messenger, and Michael G. Smith.
This blog post represents my perspectives and not those of my friends that came together to create the image and the pledge.
I'm putting out this blog today in preparation for the upcoming full moon. I intend to do a personal ritual under the light of the next full moon about aligning my personal will and power with the common good. I also will be re-affirming this pledge, and I hope some of you will consider taking this pledge as well. Please share the words and the graphic now and again in a few weeks or months to continue to reinforce this communal change in behavior.
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