The Great Pagan Divide

I straddle two worlds within the Pagan community.  One, the Pagan online community, is this bounty of creativity where I get to connect to so many people around the world (including you, lovely reader).  The other, my IRL Pagan community, is full of tradition and ceremony passed down from person to person for generations.  I love both of them.  They fulfill me in different ways. The online Pagan community, specifically the blogs I follow and Tumblr, inspires me to think in new ways and jump starts my creativity.  My physical community is there for me and provides structure to my days. For me, they compliment each other nicely and both help my grow as a woman, a Pagan, a Witch, and a person.

Lately I’ve noticed that I seem to be the only one know feels this way.  I have noticed a lot of ire in both camps regarding the other.  Maybe it is just the people I follow, but I have read a lot of posts blasting local Pagan communities for being too restricting and for attracting creeps and weirdos.  On the flip side, I have met a lot of Pagans at local rituals and events who think the online Pagan community is full of superficial fake ill informed idiots.

Guess what, y’all. Everyone is right.

The IRL Pagan community can be rough, inflexible, and does not change quickly.  Last year at a public Beltane I was attending with a group of friends.  One of my pals (who does not identify with either gender) got elected May King.  One of the organizers made my friend switch to being the May Queen because they were born a woman, even though my friend didn’t want to be identified as a King or a Queen (after the ritual we decided to make our dejected friend the May Benevolent Dictator).  If a practitioner is used to the face paced, accepting world of the Internet, moments like this can be a real culture shock.  From my own experience, I have had a little trouble finding a community where I can truly be myself.  I’ve been coven shopping for three years and I even came close at one point, but have not been able to find my people.  It can be frustrating and I can see why newbie, young, and Millennial Pagans have been solely opting for online communities.  I can also see why young women in particular might have some difficulty.  I recently read a blog post about how young women who don’t go to public rituals or meet other Pagans because (among other reasons) they get hit on when they don’t want to be hit on by other attendees (link to article here and link to counterpost here).  While the article was insensitive to our Pagan brothers and sisters on the Autism Spectrum, as a young woman who has been unnecessarily hit on in ritual circle (post on that experience in the works) I get where the author was coming from.  When you are worshipping the Goddess, you want to be seen as a person and not an object of desire.

Now for the digital Pagan community. I love y’all.  I really do.  But I got to break it to you.  Sometimes you’re full of shit.  Daily I see blog and Tumblr posts what are under researched, don’t cite sources, and full of misinformation.  Yes, I work in higher education and I take proper sourcing a lot more seriously than a lot of other people do.  But how are people supposed to develop their own point of view and personal gnosis if they don’t who where the information they’re reading is coming form.  And yes I an guilty of this too.  Even more seriously, I have noticed a tendency on social media to treat Paganism and Witchcraft as a fandom.  From my perspective it is disrespectful to treat a faith the same way a witch treats their love of Doctor Who and Supernatural.  I applaud and encourage witches using the craft and Paganism as inspiration for works of art and to share their creations online.  I just think there is a line that gets crossed sometimes, especially when practitioners portray their craft as a hobby instead of a faith commitment.  I also understand why older Pagans get offended by the irreverence online.

Yes, do both the online and IRL Pagan communities have their issues?  Yes.  But that’s not the point.  Both communities are beautiful and vibrant and support people’s practices.  They are a source of light and strength.  The tendency to tear the other community down is unfortunate and I hope is only a phase.  In the long term, the Pagan community on a whole needs both to survive and to grow.  It is time that we start seeing people in both camps advocating for both the digital and real life Pagan communities.

I am interested in my readers’ opinions on this topic.  Please comment below!

© Ariadne Woods

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4 thoughts on “The Great Pagan Divide

  1. Great post and I think you brought up some very valid points.

    Outside of my coven and tradition, I haven’t been very involved with the overall pagan community, however I have been making an effort to get more involved by taking more workshops/classes and our trad will be holding a booth at our local Pagan Pride Day in November. So while I haven’t experienced many of these issues myself, I do believe they happen.

    There is a fundamental problem in our society that allows some men to feel entitled and to seek ownership over women. Sexism is rampant, but it is not limited to the pagan community and I wouldn’t argue it’s even more prevalent there. I would agree sexism often shows up in a unique way compared to other spaces – for example, claiming sex is required for initiation or suggesting that a real witch must practice sex magic.

    I feel like there needs to be a lot more discussion about what is generally appropriate and what isn’t. Not just for the “offenders” but also for those who are worried about being victimized or who are speaking out against sexual harassment for others. An issue that I’ve run into is that not everyone agrees on what appropriate behavior is. Some feel asking for a phone number is life-threatening, while others enjoy playful sexual banter. While I agree that it generally shouldn’t be acceptable to hit on someone during most circles (just as it wouldn’t be acceptable during a Christian sermon), outside of that I don’t see anything wrong with admitting one’s attraction to another person at a pagan event if done in a respectful manner.

    People ask others for dates at churches, bars, schools, work, grocery stores, Starbucks, etc. – there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s what sometimes happens after one is told “no” that becomes an issue. And this is where we all need to have a very clear understanding of what our own boundaries are, how we are going to enforce our boundaries, and how the pagan event organizers are going to handle repeat offenders.

    I think both communities have serious issues with resolving conflict, but that’s another four paragraphs of ranting. 😉

  2. I don’t really have an online “community”. I have some blogs I’m subscribed to (like this one! Wooo!) and some FB groups and that’s it. I don’t have an IRL pagan “community” either. I have some close friends.

    I have found working to increase either very difficult. I’m eclectic. I have a strong affinity to marginalized traditions within the pagan craft and I’m generally a rule breaker. Fun at parties! Less fun in structured environments. So I would be very interested in suggestions on both.

    That said I think your points are excellent and I can see how those problems arise. I have no suggestions. Just interest and more questions.

    1. I agree with you 100%. I think it is way more difficult for eclectics to find their IRL communities. Online at least for me has been easier, but I know that has not been the case for everyone.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I’m glad you’ve at least found some people in both camps. There are no real groups near me, and I find that the online communities are either mostly dead, or very aggressive and judgmental to folks like me who are eclectic. I’d love to find somewhere safe and friendly, but I haven’t seen it yet.

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