Why Pagan Unity is Such a Struggle

I was reading a post over at Peter Dybing’s Pagan in Paradise blog, in which he sharply criticized elders in the Pagan community for not being more willing to build bridges and make peace among groups that have traditionally not gotten along. I took issue with a comment he made: “As a community we honor Maiden, Mother, and Crone, as it should be,” and see part of the problem he’s addressing within his own words. The maiden-mother-crone model is only applicable to certain Wicca-derived paths, and is not a part of the ritual experience to most pagan religions.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think that all the infighting that takes place in Pagan circles is about the MMC mythos. I do, however, think that a lot of it could be averted if there were more respect and recognition for our differences.  To say or even to imply, “This is what we as a community believe,” marginalizes those who believe differently. Rather than uniting, it divides. Instead of trying to speak for the community as a whole, the interests of dialogue would be better served by saying, “This is what my tradition teaches.”

When I pointed this out to Mr. Dybing, he called my issue “off subject” and told me that he spoke for “the majority.” This seems like a very dangerous attitude for a member of a minority religion to take, especially one seeking to unite us and make peace within the Pagan community and with other religions. This is the issue. I welcome Mr. Dybing’s point of view as a Wiccan; I have been informed by it, as the Wiccan faith is outside my experience. However, to be told that the pagan community believes something, when really it’s a primarily Wiccan concept, implies that somehow this one religion owns the umbrella under which all our faiths are sheltered. Divisive remarks and talk of what the “majority” believes do nothing to unite us. Looking for common ground is important; assuming common ground leads to issues of identity erasure, which can foster the same resentment with which Mr. Dybing takes issue. I think that before “indicting” anyone for carrying old wounds around, it is important to ask why those wounds exist in the first place. Before criticizing people, it may help to ask oneself, Am I part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Part of the problem may be that we have forgotten that the Pagan community is an interfaith group, in and of itself. We are not one religion; we are hundreds. Here in the Virgin Islands, it’s common to see upscale condo complexes right across the street from public housing projects; however, that doesn’t mean that the upper-middle-class bachelor in the penthouse is going to see the world the same way as the single mom in the government apartment, just because they live nearby. Similarly, our different faiths give us different perspectives, and we will never be able to speak with one voice until we recognize and celebrate our differences, rather than deciding arbitrarily that we’re all the same.

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5 thoughts on “Why Pagan Unity is Such a Struggle

  1. Interesting that you state and I agree “is not a part of the ritual experience to most pagan religions.” It is however common to most Pagans as the majority of Pagans are Wiccan. Surly Pagan authors can not be expected to insert disclaimers in everything they write to satisfy for example, Heathens and Re-cons who as a community do not even have full agreement as to weather they want to be identified as Pagan. We have a very open community that respects all paths. It does seem that you are seeing insult where non is intended which can be seen as bringing division to the community.

    We can all look to see what we do not agree with in posts and debate adnauseum, for example not capitalizing Pagan is seen as disrespecting Pagans by many, do you want people to address such issues or read your post and consider the point you are attempting to make?

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    1. I think that whether it applies to the majority of individuals or not, the statement of “we as a community” does more to divide than to unite. To speak for a supposed majority, particularly in blanket statements such as you’ve made, runs the risk of cutting out everyone else. It may be that I have a very different perspective from yours, since Wiccans actually make up a fairly small number among the pagans/Pagans I know.

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  2. While I apologize if you take exception to my paraphrase, when you said, “We as a community honor Mother, Maiden, and Crone,” you did phrase it in such a way that you were speaking to what “we as a community” believe.

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  3. Irregardless of religious affiliation, dogma in all it’s forms is to be fought against since it always tries to maintain the status quo which stifles any religion into a backwards “old fashioned” way of being. Any religion that stifles free thought because it is against the dogma that is currently in fashion is not worth the effort to propagate. I see it all the time in my christian family and friends. They live one way, then speak as if they are following the dogma while they are all smart enough to know the dogma is nothing but a way for the leaders of the religion to maintain the status quo and not a way to engage with the current way of being or even the future way of being.

    I would remove any attributes from someone who is obviously not interested in disturbing the status quo irregardless of the comments that were made. Some people *identify* with how they fit into the religious hierarchy as *who they are*. They don’t see a religion as a way of being, it’s a definition of who they are and any indication that they might be going against the dogma is too much for their “religion”. For their mental health, it’s best to let those people go on their way with as little interference as possible. In the end, only kindness matters.

    FWIW, this is why I don’t do organized religion. It becomes all about ego in the end. I think that the Force, the chi, God, Y-weh, whatever you want to call *her* :), is bigger than some bits of paper and a brick building anyway. Our connection with the divine is always personal, never public even tho lots of people spout dogma and tradition like it’s the second coming, their connection is personal as well, they just don’t have the balls to admit it because their ego is wrapped up in how well they “dogma”.

    I don’t look forward and see a pagan unity simply because of this “dogma” tradition that most pagans come from. They come from the Christian tradition that has multiple dogmas that spend more time infighting than following Jesus’ teachings. Again, that dogma is how they feed their ego. “I’m better than so and so because I only eat fish on Friday”.

    Stephy, as you’ve seen here in this thread, there is no sense of unity in any pagan dogmatized “leader” because they only find that their “dogma” “makes any sense and has continuity”.

    IMO, the unity needs to be that we are all Human in a Human world with Human needs and wants and cares and worries. When I’m on my death bed, what will people remember? What will be my legacy? In the end, they will only remember the kindness and if there is none, then I will go unmourned to the Cosmos. Unity needs to be about our own humanity and that *we are all just like everyone else*.

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