I remember when I first joined the Pagan community when I was 18 years old – after four years of blundering through it on my own (after a very brief foray into asking questions which left me feeling as if my lack of knowledge was the biggest sin in our community). I remember that I met some really amazing people in the community in Hattiesburg – some of which I’m still, at least partly, connected to online – and I was welcomed with open arms. The first Pagans I met in real life were at the Circle of the Green Fairy in Petal (closed now) – Tracy and Jason. I came in and I was so scared, not talking to anyone and just looking around. I imagine I was a little wide-eyed, but they started talking to me and really made me feel welcome. Over the next few years, The Fairy was a critical part of my life – holidays and fairs and classes. I miss those people and those times greatly.
But back then, everything was very pan-Pagan/Wiccan in nature and I adjusted my practice and my worldview to fit that. I don’t regret it, because the sense of community and the flare of our practice was so much fun and still felt true. I’ve been to circles where it really felt that it was mostly for show and I got nothing out of it. But I never once felt that our rituals at the Fairy were just for show. The energy, the passion, and the interactions with my Gods were always more than I could ask for. And I am thankful that I had that community – as well as the community with the Pagan Night Out group (PNO was mostly the younger crowd from The Fairy), which I loved and miss just as much! – for the beginning of my relationship with Sir Joshimus. They gave us a forum to introduce him to our world, to allow us to worship together, and for us to see that we could, quite well, combine our faiths into one life.
That said, in recent years, I’ve moved away from practicing with the wider Pagan community, moved away from the mindset of the pan-Pagan/Wiccan/eclectic community. Not because there is anything wrong with them, but because my own faith has flourished into true polytheism and drawn me further from pan-Pagan practice. Let me be clear, I make no judgement on other people’s paths. I think the beauty of our umbrella of faith is that there is something for everyone. And some of the most devout Pagans I know are Wiccans or eclectic Pagans – and also some of the most giving, loving people.
That being said, there are some elements of pan-Pagan practice that I just don’t understand. When I ask questions, I’m happy to listen to answers. Oh, I’m sure you might recall not to long ago when I posted about my outrage at the snarky response to my question – or rather, their misunderstanding of my question. But I stand by the fact that I was not receiving helpful answers based on a misunderstanding of what I was asking. And I HAVE seen other hard polytheists who speak of Manannan as I have found him to be. But today something happened in a group that eventually had me ducking out of the conversation for the pure sake of my sanity. And I begin to wonder if I came across as those people have to me and find that I just don’t care. Let me explain.
I joined a group on Facebook recently about Celtic Paganism. Since I am searching for other people who are walking a similar path to my own, I’ve been joining Celtic groups of all sorts. And tonight someone asked if druids practiced alchemy. Now, not tons is known about the druids, so we are mostly working blind. But there are some clues to this answer – not the first of which is that the earliest record of alchemy in Europe was in the middle ages, when we have record of it elsewhere in the world much earlier. So, I pointed this out and said – in response to someone who claimed that “something like alchemy” was probably practiced in Europe, so why not? – that I wouldn’t call it alchemy or claim that the ideals were the same. What I know of alchemy involves finding an elixir or stone to make you immortal and turning base metals into silver or gold. Which doesn’t fit at all with the worldview seen in most Celtic traditions (note I say most because I cannot even begin to imagine that I’ve studied them all), or most European traditions in general.
Well, apparently I pissed off everyone that was talking about it. Because they immediately jumped in to inform me that of course they practiced alchemy, because alchemy is nature-based science. You know, because chemistry is the mother of all science, and alchemy IS chemistry. Not alchemy is like chemistry. Alchemy IS chemistry. When I disagreed that alchemy was the mother of all science, that it was chemistry, that the druids had to practice alchemy if I agreed they practiced science, they went a little mad. Apparently the group is mainly a pat their heads and tell them they are right group. I don’t like it when it is to the other extreme (you know, if you don’t look at the myths with the same clinical eye as we do and if you don’t come to the same conclusion as us, you’re wrong), so I don’t like this one (if someone believes it, it is right).
I see a thread of commonality here. If you don’t agree with us, you are wrong, so shut up. I don’t like that. No matter what end of the spectrum you come from. Hell, I don’t like that, no matter what we’re discussing actually empirical, proven fact. (ie, 1+1=2? you can be as stubborn as you wish about that) But when it comes to matters of perception? Nope. No thank you. And when I offer a differing point of view, don’t dismiss me or jump down my throat.
So I walked away from the conversation and, as with the CR group (yes, I am still a member), I’ll just keep to myself from now on. I have a wonderful community of other Pagan women that I enjoy being a part of, even if they don’t share my views. Besides, there are other communities that I don’t feel I have anything to contribute to, but I do enjoy learning from those who share their wisdoms. And, for now, that’s good enough for me.