We are in an era where the concept of community has been eroded to the point that it’s become an almost quaint word. People that talk about building community are viewed as either silly or worthy of suspicion. This is true outside of our Pagan community and sadly more and more, within it.
One of the issues that I see being brought up with frequency is the accusation of certain community groups following a ‘love and light’ form of paganism. This is usually combined with terms like ‘fluffy bunny’ or just ‘new ager’. As I’ve learned in my countless years and varying degrees of community involvement, you’re not going to please everyone all the time. A functioning community group feels at times like it’s somewhere between a group decision on compromise and flinging apart in every direction, like cake batter on the end of an egg beater.
The best examples of community are when the unified purpose of the group is identified, agreed upon, and regularly addressed to make sure it’s fitting the overall group’s goals. This recently came up in my own community when someone, in what was intended to be a bit passive aggressive, stated, “I don’t even understand the point of this group.” One of the more mature and level headed members of the community took it upon himself to then write up what the stated goal of the community group has always been, but had never been committed to writing.
That statement of purpose was that the group is a social endeavor, and to offer an eclectic observance of the eight holidays on the wheel of the year. This doesn’t jive with everyone, but many of us are involved in fairly different paths and in the spirit of finding some common ground we’ve (thus far) agreed this is the best way to move forward. I hope that at some point we’ll be able to include observances from different paths, Druidic, Heathen, or polytheist of different cultural traditions. We hope to facilitate the connections necessary that if someone is looking for a group that is Gardnerian, Asatru, or reconstructionist, they would feel comfortable joining us to see if they can network to find folks who are.
Now, outside of all of this, my personal practice of witchcraft and the practice that I take part in with a smaller subset of our community is much more dialed in and focused. I work with some Chthonic entities, spiritual presences in an animist flavor, and others. Some of it is dark stuff, hardly the type of thing to be labeled ‘love and light’ but other parts are certainly very warm and loving. It doesn’t make me any less of a witch to break bread with a heathen or anyone else.
There’s also the implication when accusing someone of being ‘love and light’ that they’re not experienced practitioners. A surprising discovery about my community was how long most of the folks had been practicing. Even though the community aspect had been absent for years, you had folks quietly moving forward with their own observances. These aren’t unconsidered practitioners who have just fallen off the turnip cart. What many of them have proven to be is people who are willing to set egos aside, find common ground and welcome people from different paths in the interest of community.
I’m damn proud of that.
In community we find compromise… we have to, because the intersection of personalities requires it. To take part in a social group doesn’t require you to give up your principles but it does require you to take into consideration someone else’s.