Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Place & Purpose
This is the beginning of a four part series on physical infrastructure in the Pagan community. Although there are many types of infrastructure that deserve discussion, I'll focus on three types in my next blog posts that I think have the greatest importance and greatest urgency at this fork in the road. I will be talking about:
Bookstores and related businesses
Temples, libraries, and land-based projects
Festivals, conferences, and other multi-day events
I see great value in the building of communities and connections through the internet, through e-mails and correspondence, phone calls, and the myriad of ways that we can communicate at a distance. But I do not believe that we can build lasting and meaningful communities through these means alone. There is a need to be in each other's physical presence if we are to make a lasting change in ourselves and in the world. I'm not discounting the good that comes from communication and encounters that occur on paper or through electronic media, I am just saying that true community is ultimately rooted in the physical world. Certain very important spiritual and psychological actions can only take place when we are close enough to feel each other’s energy. A part of this can take place in people's homes, rented facilities, and borrowed resources such as mainstream churches, but it is not enough. If we are to continue to thrive and to evolve, we must make use of all of these options and more.
We are in the midst of a great expansion of the use of social media, podcasts, blogs, and the like as a primary portal of entry for people that are new to Paganism and magick. Those who are already members of our community are also expanding the use of these ephemeral social networks as their meeting place and crossroads as well. I think this is wonderful, but there is also a hidden temptation and a hidden flaw that must be guarded against. It is much easier and less costly to invest of our energy into these systems than it is to build in the physical world. It is also too easy to move on to the next network when the inevitable frictions and obstacles arise that are part and parcel of working in community. Thinking and talking and posting is not the same as doing. I find it strange that earth-based religions seem to have so little presence in the physical world. If we truly believe that physical world, the manifest realm, is a sacred and spiritual place, then why don't we create more places that are under our stewardship.
Shared experience and shared labor are two of the building blocks of authentic community that foster relationships and bonds that endure. I see people differently when I have experienced them in ritual. The memory of our voices joined in chanting connects me to them. The memory of weeding a labyrinth together and of moving wood together for a bonfire builds a sense of appreciation and gratitude for what we are to each other and what we are together. Cooking for each other as we camp at a festival and sharing stories during the meal makes me feel sure of who I am in the context of others. Unexpectedly running into friends or acquaintances at the local bookstore or coffee house expands my sense of being part of the web of relationships. Seeing someone dance by the fire who I only knew before as words on a screen, transforms them an imagined personality to a real person.
Yesterday was September 11th, a day filled with memories for most of us. Eleven years ago our local pagan bookstore, Bell, Book & Candle, then owned by Helen and Diana, became a sanctuary. From when the door opened till when the door closed the store was filled with people looking for a temple, for sacred ground. Candles were lit, hands were held, anger and sorrow and fear were held at bay by the many who chose to gather in the shop. There was no official temple for Pagan folks to go to during that difficult day in Delaware, but they knew that there was a place they could gather and hold each other. There are many situations that we cannot predict nor imagine that benefit from places we can call our own.
On an unrelated note, please take some time to read my previous blog entitled “Chosen Belief”. For a variety of technical reasons it was hard to share the link so not as many people were reminded to read it. Whether or not you see a reminder, it is my plan to post a new blog every Wednesday in honor of Thoth-Hermes.
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