Let’s talk about THOSE Pagans. Yeah, you know what I mean. Depending on who you are, lovely reader, the definition of THOSE might vary. THOSE could mean an old-fashioned, stuffy, Gardinarian or Alexandrian coven member. THOSE could refer to those New Agers who think Paganism is all about positive intentions and the law of attraction. THOSE could refer to any manner of characteristics. And I admit to being guilty of labeling THOSE Pagans, usually the type who refuses to learn, change, and evolve. But let’s think about THOSE Pagans for a second.
Lovely readers, I’m talking about judgement. I’m not speaking of the tarot card Judgement, which refers to a time of reckoning and evaluation. And clearly not judgement as in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” because that is a theological concept that Pagans and Witches largely reject. I am discussing judgement of others and their paths as weird, strange, invalid, dumb, naive, and wrong.
The more I have been observing the Pagan community, the more I’ve watched this dynamic of othering play out. Witches who infuse Eastern and New Age practices into their rituals called hippies, and feminist Witches deemed radicals. And vis versa, Gardinarians labeled as frumpy and caught up in traditional gender dynamics. And that’s without throwing personal insights from relationships with deities into the pot.
I know I am guilty of this type of judgement, too. I have never been one to tolerate absolutism from any camp, so I have never reacted well to anyone who refuses to consider new ideas and perspectives. Also I will guiltily raise my hand if asked if I’ve ever judged a fellow Pagan in the ritual circle. I know, not cool bro. And I strongly suspect that you too, lovely reader, may have rolled your eyes at some point at someone on Tumblr or in a new age shop.
Unfortunately when compared to the strengths of other religions–unity, structure, and large numbers of adherents–our independent spirit is seen as a weakness. Maybe even flighty. And I’m not just discussing outside observers. I’m talking about fellow Pagans and Witches. This is an issue that has been plaguing my own spiritual community here in New England. Do we organize under a consistent thought or theology? Or do we resign ourselves to being a religion of solitary practitioners?
Paganism isn’t about being different or even of being individualistic. Paganism is at its core a camaraderie of spirit, not necessarily one of ideas. We are a faith that lives and breathes our individual spirits however that may be. Sometimes this manifests in deep relationships with individuals Gods and Goddesses. Sometimes this inspires us to plant trees and work with herbs. Sometimes an individual spirit craves a stronger sense of self and rejects the concept of deity. Sometimes following one’s spirit means just having fun and relaxing. Do I believe that Pagans as a whole should come together in order to fight social justice and religious restrictions, oh hells yes. I’d even agree that Pagan clergy training should be a little more defined, but that’s coming from my Methodist background and I realize that idea might not work for every Pagan community. But ultimately we’re a people strong of path and somewhat flexible on theology.
The key to resolving personal and community wide issues of judgement resides in cultivating spiritual strengths: peace, gratitude, acceptance, balance, etc. If more people tend to their own little spiritual and life gardens, then they’ll be less apt to look for weeds in other people’s lives and paths. Because ultimately the plurality of Neo-Paganism is one of its strengths. It shouldn’t be something that changes, but rather should be a driving force to ignite spirits called to the Pagan path.
Perhaps we should as a community meditate on the deeper means of Judgement. I love what the ATA has to say about this tarot card: “This is another card of transition, like Death and the Tower, but its energy is neither violent nor catastrophic despite the fact that its power is far greater. This is the energy of creation without destruction, impossible on the material plane but certainly possible in the world of the spirit. There is rebirth not through discarding negativity, but through integration of all parts of the self. The spirit is cleansed and restored without loss or addition. It remains the same, but different.” So next time you want to roll your eyes or start drama with a fellow Pagan, take a beat and reflect on this definition of judgement, the creation of integrated spirit. And take a notice of your judgements of your own path within this context. If you are anything like me, I guarantee you’ll start to evaluate your path, your choices, and your life from a place of pure unadulterated spirit. And how cool is that?
© Ariadne Woods