Every prophecy starts off as a con.

You have an idea, a belief, or a practice that you would like to see spread. (In the beginning, one such idea was that there were other pagans out there.) It may be something that you and your group do. It may even be something that you've never done, but that you think would be good to do.

So you write a book—or an article, or a post—about it. You say: “This is what pagans think/believe/do.” You write about it as if it already existed.

People read your book/article/post. They think: That sounds cool; I'll do it too.

And pretty soon your idea/belief/practice is being held or done by people all over.

What is particularly interesting about the con is that we've been doing it since the very beginning of modern paganism. Gerald Gardner's a prime example. In his books, he was writing—at best—about the practices of one coven. Yet he writes as if this is what witches do everywhere.

Where does con end, and prophecy begin?

From the beginning, the con has been covert. No one confesses to it, yet writer after writer figures out that this is how it's done, and proceeds to do the same. This in itself is a rather remarkable fact.

Now, one could view the con as dishonesty. (A friend of mine once described Wicca as “a religion founded by liars.”) One wonders what was going on in Uncle Gerald's head. He knew that modern Wicca was something that he and Dafo had formulated themselves, yet he kept telling the stories of ongoing tradition. Was he consciously confabulating? Did he believe that there actually was a continuous tradition out there somewhere, even though he knew it wasn't him? Did he take a Machiavellian view of ends and means?

It's a curious function of the human brain that the existence of one implies the existence of others. One hymn to Thunder implies other hymns to Thunder out there. Those hymns may or may not exist—yet—but, of course, in time that very belief will, in and of itself, generate more.

And that's how culture grows.

What one can't deny is that the con works. A hundred years ago, there were no (or, at very least, damn few) pagans in the West. Now there are millions of us.

So personally, I'll regard the con as storytelling, and I won't deny that I do my share of it here in this blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I generally try to make it clear when what I'm telling is historic history, and when it's mythic history. For the sake of intellectual honesty, it seems to me that that's the very least that I owe my readers—and myself. How the con worked in Uncle Gerald's head, I don't know, but that's how it works in mine.

But in the end, my chiefest concern is this emergent People that together we constitute, and the well-being thereof; and every People lives by its stories.

And that, dear reader, is no con, but the gods' own truth.

 

For KLS