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.