In reply to Chris (this reply grew to be post worthy by itself…)
My problem is really twofold.
Firstly, that these attitudes are endemic to neo-paganism. They are left mostly unchallenged, and bring along with them a whole parcel of wooly thinking, preserved by the idea that to challenge them is to “disrespect the ancestors”, disregarding how many ancestors would challenge those ideas, many of which are pulled from the usual orifice.
Secondly… I’m tired of the politics, the attitudes, the arguments from spurious authority. Not in neo-paganism so much as everywhere. Work. Family. Fandoms of various hues. Amateur dramatics. RPGnet. Sometimes the Forge, though to a less extent. Naively, I’d thought that perhaps a loosely amalgamated, supposedly dogma free movement would be free of the politics and sniping, or at least lighter on it. Silly me.
This is, I suppose, magnified several times by the way in I and my partner have used. Not starting out by knowing any local pagans, we’ve had first encounters with folks we din’t know, meeting them solely in their roles as pagan authorities per se. Add that the joys of internet communication and exposure, and it was a recipe for disaster.
On top of that, every (at least) semi-coherent neo-pagan seems to have a book to their name, proclaiming their way, and the rest have put up websites for the same. I know, there is no one true way, but from an interested party who’s not prepared to leave large parts of their critical faculties behind, it’s disheartening to see the mass of blatant anti-intelligence rubbish promoted as spirituality, regardless of the faith behind it.
So, the defence against charges of inconsistency between individuals is that diversity is a strength, and each must find their own path then? Fine. If that’s the way to find a path, alone (well, with my partner) is how we will find it, and gracias por nada to those that have put us into that position.
*sigh* I’m aware it would probably be the same were I on a Christian, Islamic, Buddhist or Baha’i path (please note: a couple of my friends have turned to Baha’i, and they’re amongst the coolest guys I know… I don’t know any uncool baha’i, but I only know a couple in toto). It would be the same were I starting out in Am Dram, needlepoint or book collecting. At least druidry, frex, doesn’t require engaging with a community necessarily.
I relate it to my getting back into am dram now: the greatest with the group I’m working with is that it’s a community production under a professional production company. Which means that politics don’t enter into it. The producer / director is the boss, the stage manager is the one employed to do that job, no one gets a role because they’re the treasurer’s wife or lighting man’s husband, and it works. Sure, I noticed some bitching in the ranks from those used to their privileges in their am dram groups built up over years of politicking, and I silently mocked them.
No, I don’t mean pagan groups need professional clergy, though it may not be an entirely bad idea. Just supposedly “informal” groups ostensibly for recreational or spiritual or whatever purposes tend, in my experience, to mutate over time into soul sucking bitch fests more about power structures than their exoteric purposes. IMHO, The Forge avoids this by, mainly, having a pretty well stated social contract up front, and a common purpose of intelligent discourse. Oh, and a pair of mods who are also very upfront about their methods. Very much like the professional director in fact: if you didn’t want to be on a site run by Ron & Clinton, well, what the fuck are you doing here?
We got ostracised from our local pagan groups for accidentally offending a senior Wiccan Priestess right at the start of our association with them: for which we deeply apologized, but apparently this isn’t enough. Ick. Well, if her sensibilities are more important to them than spiritual guidance for others, you know, perhaps they’re better without us and we without them. Again, they could say, if you’re not here to support your priestess, what are you here for? Errm, spiritual exploration and guidance, actually. See you sometime.
It may not sound that way, but I mean that absolutely sincerely along with a wish for their well being and prosperity. Just that the incident seemed to demonstrate that they’re more interested in propriety than pastoral work, and didn’t seem prepared to demonstrate otherwise. I can only move so far before I start feeling that I’m making a lot of effort for very little return.
I just thought it might be nice to explore within a supportive community that didn’t abuse my intelligence or see me as a pawn in inter group rivalry, or a source of irritation. Tant pis.