So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

17 September, 2009

Where Everybody Knows Your Alias

Dianne Sylvan wrote recently at her Dancing Down the Moon about feeling alienated, isolated, or separated from the overall pagan community, and I sort of want to write about that (to the best of my current somewhat frazzled ability).

I feel, more often than not, very complicated about 'pagan community'. In ways that often remind me of my nasty breakup with science fiction fandom, more than anything else: the sense of "This is a space built for people like you, so long as 'people like you' is appropriately edited for content", the sense of "Let's bond over all this stuff we have in common (without noticing when we don't actually have any of this stuff in common)."

Like the person who commented recently that sexual domination has no place in paganism, because that shit is evil, yo. (And the people who followed up on that with, more or less, 'How can you be so nasty to people who are into BDSM? It's not like it's rape fantasies!' didn't exactly help with that, even though that's not one of my things.) Or, more benignly, all of the people talking about the autumn equinox, what are you doing, tell me about your plans, introduce me to this festival, and it's not my fucking festival and even though I accept the genero-pagan wheelyear as really damn popular and that people aren't asking me specifically what I'm doing for Someone Else's Bloody Holiday, I am, for one reason or another, just tired and touchy about it. Or a recent "How can we update the triple goddess concept to suit more people?" Or whatever.

So when I look at public-sphere paganism I see, well, I see:

Mother goddess and Her horned heterocentric consort, in a circle, on the sabbats or by moonphases, spellcasting, Greek-derived ceremonial magic elements, eco-religion as dogma, sexuality is sacred but not any of that pain blood domination stuff, an it harm none, not a Satanist you know, everyone is a priest, and so on. Let us meditate on nothing whatever substantial and then do a spiral dance.

None of this connects to me, seeing as I'm a full-up polytheist who hasn't gotten the work done to sort out her goddamn liturgical calendar aside from the 'hey, someone's got a holiday, I can handle an excuse for a party' level, not much for the magical foo as commonly done and overall over my attempt to categorise everything by classical element, too genderqueer and kinky for a nice sex ritual, not overly hung up on being nice, possibly technically a Satanist in some interestingly askew ways, cranky about being shoved into a priestly role inappropriately by idiots, and so on.

Which means that, in the overwhelming majority of public pagan spaces, I feel like an idiot.

Feeling like an idiot is not conducive to meaningful religious experience.

I'm entirely capable of going to Someone Else's Religious Ritual and having a meaningful experience, mind. I did it all through my going-to-church childhood; I have decent odds of pulling it off when I attend PantheaCon; in a lot of ways, my own religious practice group is built around making meaningful Someone Else's Religious Ritual for all parties present, not pushing anyone notably further out of their comfort zone than anyone else. But this sense of specifically-for-someone-else-that-they-assume-is-me feeling is a bloody mess. PCon is deliberately a kind of religious smorgasboard anyway, and I approach it as such.

I'm left with this sense of "What the hell do I do here?", mostly, in it all. Because the public stuff is so unsatisfying - and it was unsatisfying even before I settled into my current religious orientations. But there's no space for people like me to do our thing (even if people-like-me, by which I mean me, as I'm the only one doing my particular thing really, had our shit together to be able to pull off a public thang if we wanted to), because the cast-your-circle, invite-your-pair-of-sex-differentiated-deities, do-your-spell, be-happy-and-have-cake stuff is so fucking normative that one can get screamed at for a, "Sorry, I can't help you, it's not my holiday" let alone actually showing some reality.

So people like me stop showing up.

And apparently people like Dianne Sylvan, who's actually published books about Wicca and thus presumably had some greater personal stake in Wicca-like religion than I do, stop showing up too.

Who the hell shows up anymore?

It's a real problem.


Tony said...

I've got the same basic "I'm not a generi-pagan" problem. I'd love to have a "community" to do group celebrations with, but even when I've found a group willing to let me show them "my way", they're polite but only semi-interested. And the "an it harm none" neo-wiccans are everywhere and assume everyone believes the same, and it's tiring to have to explain and ... bleh.

Trinity said...

I have the same problem too. I kind of like the idea of the wheel of the year, but the heterocentrism about it all bothers me too. I don't like the idea that the year is always celebrated the same way, and that queer gods or genderqueer gods are interesting footnote or an exercise. And I don't like the idea but I'm automatically going to participate in rituals I'm honestly not even all that familiar with in the first place.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I've never resonated well with the wheelyear, myself, even though I've generally lived in areas with a climate that functions with it. I'm not actually sure why.

MP said...

I've stopped answering discussions online about the "Pagan community" with my stock answer "there isn't one".

People just don't get it.

And, frankly, I'm still sick to death of the people who think that all Wiccans are Silver Ravenwolf wannabe's who think the movie "The Craft" was real.

I blame Llewellyn, for basically telling Initiates "No, I won't publish your book until you provide a self initiation section", or other publishers who have said "No, we won't publish your book on XYZ Witchcraft, unless your change your title to XYZ Wicca."

I do some ritual work, or worship, with people who are not part of my tradition - but they are part of a larger shared tradition, a tradition of the place where we come together.

I've stopped trying to explain my tribal Deities to people who think they are just some sort of Margaret Murray inspired false archetypes.

Which was one of the reasons I disliked the Graeco-Egyptian mythology that predominated the published works of the Ceremonialists - it treated YOUR Gods, D, like they were just masks for Yahweh.

I avoid the people who tell me that there are no secrets, and never should be ... yet won't let me install a camera in their bedroom.

"No, I won't tell you everything my coven does - you haven't proven yourself trustworthy yet. What do I mean? I mean that what my group does is intimate, and, therefore, personal and private."

Oh, so it must be all about sex, hur, hur, snicker, snicker.

On the counterpoint, so many come up and tell me that the Great Rite in symbol is excluding homosexuals from being priests or priestesses.

Excuse me, but, unless you are the product of parthenogenesis, or in vitro fertilization, someone had sex to bring your existence about.

Celebrating that miracle doesn't change the idea that "all acts of love and pleasure" are the rituals of the Goddess who is speaking in the Charge.

Wendy Blackheart said...

So, this is the first thing of yours I read, and I think I love you.

I've spent 99.9% of my time as a pagan quite solitarily and happy about it - what I do and how I think is a mixture of what *feels* right to me, what has spoken to me, what and who I've encountered on my path.

It didn't help that the 'pagan community' where I grew up was filled with idiot who gave me that twitchy eye thing I hate.

So I do my own thing, when I can (I'm as much of a lapsed pagan as I was a lapsed catholic sometimes), and when I'm in friendly environs like DO Camp, I meet up with others and have lovely rituals.

Otherwise I keep myself to myself and let other people do their thing.

Though if they have cake, I might stop by for that. I do love a nice slice of cake.

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