I have noticed, in my travels around the net, that there is a growing movement to begin building pagan and heathen communities. This is not a completely new movement, truth be told, but I believe it is a movement whose time is finally coming about.
Why has it not really happened yet, at least on a large scale? Because we haven't had the people to do it. Much of the history of modern pagan/heathenism has been one of solitary practitioners, small covens or groups, the former of which could be anywhere and the latter of which generally could only be found in larger cities until more recent times, where increased numbers and lowered fears.
So what's changed in the fifty odd years or so since people started reclaiming the paths of the gods and goddesses? What makes now different from then?
Well first of, its a numbers game. Paganism is one of the fastest growing religious affiliations. We're getting more and more people into this little polytheistic party. Also, it's the type of people we're getting in. One of the fastest growing subsections to is "Reconstructinism," at least to my knowledge. One of the big things most of the reconstructionists have is bringing back the way things were done, which requires a community. It's all well and good to live like our ancestors, but trying to make your way thought the world with the values of a 7th century Scandinavian in a 21st century post modern society isn't easy. There's a lot of cross over, true, but there's a lot of values dissonance. The other is that such paths put a strong emphasis on kinship, at least the "folkish" ones do. Building a community, building family who live and practice as you do.
And we are getting the numbers for that now.
Another thing that's changed is that as we've stepped out of the shadow, the broom closet, and the history books, we've drawn a lot more attention to ourselves. Where once cries of occult ritual murders and such would have meant a lot of hysteria, but now they are real attacks against our ways of life. In California, there is still a battle over freedom of religion, where paganism is not counted in the "Big Five" (three of which are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and thus "may not have the same rights and protections" as the "big five."
People are looking at us now, and not all of it is friendly. Now, instead of protecting us, our solitary natures are acting as a hindrance. Where once we could hide in ones or twos, now we are open and that means that those who disapprove can attack. People hide who they are because they fear losing their jobs, their children, their families, and much more.
But what if we could change all that? What if we could come together? I think that's what's pushing people more and more into a desire to build communities. I've heard everything from getting run down properties that are going for cheap and making pagan neighborhoods to buying land and making communities from scratch. These are good ideas, they are a start, and its one we need to look at seriously.
So what do we need to do this?
Well, the first thing that we must do to build a community is just that, build community amongst ourselves. Too often I see the pagan and heathen communities online fractured into different factions, while in person, well they're almost as volatile as the Christians as far as keeping groups together. You end up with a bunch of very small, very ideological groups that can't stand each other because of drama and such. Maybe we need to wait until these fractured communities grow large enough to sustain themselves. I don't think we do.
What we have to do is realize that we are pagans/heathens above all else, that for our different patterns of belief, we are that if nothing else. We have to take that and use it to do something that has been bashed, vilified, "discredited," and all together "mad."
We have to build a "Nation," we have to invest ourselves with "Nationalism." "Right," "Left," "Progressive," "Conservative," etc, must become as meaningless words to us. Politics has divided us, kept us separated and hindered us from reaching the true potential we could reach. We must reject the dogma of modern political theory and delve deep into our pagan and heathen ways. There are pagans who have inserted their progressive and leftist views into their teachings, seeking to undo the harm Christianity has done without bothering to learn what is actually Christian in origin and what is originally pagan. Too often, heathens have imparted ways of the right, though not as bad as they could have. Still, we have let politics keep us at each others throats, when we should have been reaching for hands in kinship. We have to move past this, to stop calling the other sides ignorant and shallow. It is our diversity which will help us to move forwards and deal with problems, but not unless we can realize we have more in common with each other than against each other.
There are already plenty enough people out there trying to get rid of us. From the rabid Christians who preach no witch shall live to the Muslims who teach that all must worship Allah or die to the Atheist scientists who insist that there are no gods or that the gods were aliens who pulled a con job on our primitive and stupid ancestors. I don't care if you're a polytheist who believes all the goddesses are representatives of a single being or a hard polytheist like myself who believes each individual god and goddess was their own person. We need to stop bickering, about are the gods and goddesses few or many, about if straight men are as capable as bi-men and all manner of women, about if the recons are racist bastards or the Wiccans are feminists misandric harpies. We need to stop the infighting and bloody well remember that we chose these paths because they accepted us, and its bloody time we put our money were our mouths are and start accepting our Pagan and Heathen Brothers and Sisters.
We need to build community.