I’m writing the Tuesday blog early. Its Monday night, its dark outside…just wanting to set the mood a touch here. 😊 I love dark nights out by a fire, just sitting and talking. That’s sort of the direction I want to take this post. As I said in the previous post, I plan on utilizing the rest of the calendar year’s schedule for posting to reflect on the future of Paganism. At least the future as I see it through my lens. Please remember, I am not trying to stir controversy with all of this. Rather, my goal is to stir conversation. From conversation we can derive so much more than we can from argument and debate. Conversation stimulates creativity, and creativity allows one to add to conceptual perceptions of matters that have yet to come forward.
I’ve got a job waiting for my graduationTimbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”
Fifty thou a year’ll buy a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing alright, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
Not sure if people remember this song. I always enjoyed it. Cheesy lyrics, but still fun enough to make you grin and remember those first steps into the wider world. Speaking of which…and turning back to the point of the Pagan future…think back, do you remember when you started down your Pagan Path? Well, I do. Let me get our fire started first.
Ever seen a fire start with a big boom like that? Nearly burned my eyebrows. LOL I probably need to use a lot less lighter fluid, eh? Anyways, that first step into Paganism. I remember mine. I was learning from the folks that had learned from the Wiccans in the Dallas/Fort Worth area back in the 1970s. They had learned from others who had learned from others in the 1960s…blah, blah, blah. This group begat that group which begat those groups. Apparently it was a lot of begats. Well, joking aside, lineage was a big thing. Where you learned from and who was important. Being part of a group was a big thing. Being on your own…usually provided you with a (sometimes) undeserved reputation of being shaky and shady. After my first year within a group, my initiation came with a notation that I was the future of the information I was learning. I would assist in passing the information on to future members. The implication was that there would be no changes to what I was learning. It came from here which came from there which got it from this other place.
Then the late 1980s hit. Pagans everywhere were finding books on the Barnes and Nobles bookshelves (about the most comparable example to today’s online Amazon), which taught the reader who to be an [x] Pagan. With the advent of the books came the perspective of comparing materials in every direction. What was different than we had been taught? Why this and not that? Experimentation, exchange of materials happened, new directions were found – brand new Pathways were beginning to be created. For your traditionalist, your reconstructionist, the purists…this was sacrilege. But we are talking a generation of new Pagans that came from my generation. I’m a kid of the late-1970s and mid-1980s. Rebellion was our calling-card. Our parents were outraged over the idea of Satanists among their midst. We flocked to Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Metallica, and Exodus for musical influences. We bought LaVey’s “Satanic Bible” believing we were touching something truly evil – which it was, but from a marketing standpoint rather a content context. We ate up the ridiculous concept of backward masking on albums, believing that messages were recorded backwards to fill our minds with “secret” messages and commands that were derived directly from Satan. Why? Because we wanted to be “different” than our parents. We rebelled against the corporate image projected on to the business world by IBM with its starched white-collar shirt with dress pants, and black dress shoes. We embraced the technological revolution, whose icons looked like we wanted to – wild hair, t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. We were looking for ways to do things our own way.
Even today, experimentation is frowned upon. Deviation from the script is considered as impolite, rude, even sacrilegious. But, just like the technological revolution sought to revolutionize the way people worked – many of the younger Pagans looked for ways to revolutionize the Paganism they were taught. Not to change Paganism, but to EVOLVE it. The technological revolution provided employees with the power of a mainframe system (which typically took up an entire floor) in a box with its own monitor, mouse and keyboard that could be set on your desk. A room half the footprint of a mainframe could contain the power of dozens of mainframes, all at desks that employees could manipulate things as they needed to, without the “High Priests of technology” (the individuals operating the mainframe in a locked, enclosed area) being the middleman. As these new Pagans had grown up in the churches that their parents forced them to, they had been living under the concept of that same middleman, in the form of the Preacher. These new pagans in the 1980s wanted to take something that “sort of” worked for them and transform it into something new. Something that spoke directly to them. And they were lambasted for their efforts. I watched all that happen. I watched Pagans walk away from their covens, away from their groups – and reach out on their own. Essentially becoming the rejected solo practitioners that they had been warned about. Because groups had the lineage – and that was the SOLE truth.
Now, before I get tackled, bagged, and quartered for slamming on groups…I’m actually not. I am however, presenting an aspect of historical notation to the growth of Paganism…utilizing a SINGLE aspect of the huge growth of Solitary exploration that has happened all the way through to today. The groups that utilized lineage as the example of their Path – they are still here in Paganism. And still a big part of all of what we are, collectively, as Pagans. Solo Pagans and Pagan groups have existed side-by-side – and continue to do so. Just as white lighters, chaos magicians, fluffy bunnies, and Pagans of nearly every descriptive that you can devise have also established their own basis. Not everyone agrees with everyone else. Some are seen in a negative light by others – but regardless, they are all here. Me? I have a foot in both camps. Most of my Paganism and Druidry is done on my own. Yet, I am still a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD). A few times a year (when COVID is not closing the doors on gatherings of people), I spend time with my fellow OBOD folks in a group celebration. Solo doesn’t mean being alone.
Let me throw another twig on the fire. Maybe I can find one with a lot of leaves, so we can get some smoke going. Sort of like what a lot of folks might think of what I’ve written so far. Which is fine. I’m not trying to appeal to everyone’s sensibilities, merely to get a conversation started. So, the future of Paganism? Groups or solo? I’ve watched the growth of the solo Pagan over the years. But groups haven’t been stagnant either. There’s been growth there as well. New Paths have started, flourished, and stepped into bigger roles within the wider community. Will our Pagan future include only a solo Path or fall back to the Groups and lineage perspective? I can’t say for sure. Predicting a Paganism that resembles a no-rules Woodstock fest utilizing a Pagan past that is much closer in scope to a 1950s coffee-house gathering…is a touch impossible. The data points are just not there to foster any kind of predictive analysis. And you know what? I’m supremely elated over that. I look at these new generation of Pagans, and I see their creativity, their excitement of exploring a Spirituality that is wide open to them…and I envy them. They are stepping into a new world that is ready to unfold for them in ways that I could never fathom. My way of doing my Paganism, my Druidry, my own Spiritual practice – all of that might fade into the dark of history after I pass away with no one to carry that aspect forward. I’m ok with that. My voice was here. It will carry on into the ages of tomorrow in whatever form. But I am elated that their voices are here – that they will carry on. That future generations will find these voices and be inspired to their own ends. What does Paganism look like in the future? Fuck if I know. But its going to something stupendous, beautiful, and amazing – provided we let it grow. Provided we remain respectful of perspectives that are different from our own. Because that’s the carrier-wave that everything else is built upon. That’s our electronic ark to the future.
Let’s face a touch of reality. Paganism today is not the same as the Paganism of yesteryear. Paganism of tomorrow will be very, very different to the Paganism of today. Our collective Spirituality evolves on a steady pace. Some of it picks up the pieces of today’s social mores, the hot political takes on the world around us, and melds all that into a newer, fresher Pagan perspective. One that appeals to the younger generations that are among us. When I was a younger Pagan, the huge majority had stepped away from a religious perspective of our parents…typically as a measure of flying them the finger as we stepped out to live our own lives. Today’s younger Pagan may also be doing that, but there are newer pagans who have lived with Paganism all their lives and were afforded the opportunity to decide their own Spiritual perspective. They likely won’t have the Revolutionary’s heart within them. Nor the measure of defiance that Pagans of my generation did. As Bob Dylan once lamented, “the times they are a-changing.”
I sincerely doubt that Paganism’s future will be anything close to what imagine. But that future is not mine. That future is for the younger generation to decide. My generation built much of today’s Paganism. Yes, this chaotic, seemingly uneven, deeply messy Paganism that we currently have. For those looking for a structured, orderly version of Paganism – where everything would be bagged, tagged, and set neatly to the side. Well, sorry. That can happen in your corner, but Paganism is much wider, far more, open, far freer, far wilder, and more feral than many may have imagined it to be. Its certainly far beyond what I ever dreamed of back when I started down this path. Frightening in some respects. In comprehensible in others. But damn it’s a gorgeous sight to behold. Paganism may seem like a hot mess to some, but it’s the freedom to reach for the beyond of our nearby environments that lets that shapely beauty out of its jumpsuit for me. Many parts of Paganism are not my cup of tea, but I am thrilled that they exist.
I truly do envy the youth within Paganism. Where Paganism is today may feel chaotic to others, but to me I see the wide-open portal to the stars…the opening to something that has the possibility to be even more. What will they create with all this available to them? I can’t even imagine. I wish and hope I am around long enough to just dip my toe into the depths of what they start. I feel its going to be incredible.
Just one Pagan’s opinion….
2 thoughts on “Rolling the Crystal Ball Out to the Fire – Pagan Future Anyone??”
As David Bowie (my personal hero) once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
I’m not a Wiccan, but I remember when I was first introduced to Wicca. It was at a local bookstore called Walden’s Books (perhaps they were near you as well?) and they used to have a large “New Age” section, fitted with different types of tarot cards, rune sets, books on demons, vampires, Wicca, and yes, even the Satanic Bible. I remember sneaking to the back corner where it was all kept, hoping that my mother wouldn’t see me, I would touch the covers reverently and dream of what kind of magical knowledge was contained inside those books and boxes.
Fast-forward to when I was 14 and I spent the night at a sleepover with my friend for her birthday. She and another girl were “into” Wicca and had several books in the corner. An early riser, I spent the better part of the next morning reading through Scott Cunningham’s Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner (maybe you’ve heard of it, lol) and wondering if this could be the kind of pathway I could walk someday.
Turns out, Wicca isn’t for me, but that didn’t stop my fascination with paganism and here I am now, 35 years old, and dipping my toe into the waters more fully. Will I jump in? Will I stay on the shore? Will I simply soak my feet a while?
I don’t know, but I want so badly to belong to this world and to these old pathways, lol. They light something up inside me that won’t quit and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.
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That’s awesome stuff. I remember the Walden’s stores too. There was also Border’s Books too. I had a little circulation route that I took on paydays between the three. 🙂 I had a well-worn copy of Cunningham’s book (or better put books in the plural) as well. Though margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon was a major influence on my exploration process, and D.M. Kraig’s book “Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts” was the basis for some of my earlier “solo” attempts at ritual – with some major tweaks and changes on my part. Ahh..such memories…
I think your point on dipping the toe in, soaking the feet, or just diving in for a deep swim or a good descriptive over a mannerism that many new Pagans face in today’s wider community. Should I stay or should I go – to quote the venerable Clash anthem of the 1980s. All of that falls within an individual’s choices within their daily Path and Journey. I’ve watched many folks leave Christianity to come to Paganism, as well as Pagans that leave Paganism of any form for another direction. And I know that is always a hard and extremely personal choice. No matter the direction of change. Its a life-changing choice that takes courage, personal drive, and a lot of bravery. Much like diving off the high-board at the public swimming pool for the first time. You’re frightened of the height, exhilirated by the emotion of the jump when you take it, and terrified of looking bad while doing it. So many emotions going up those steps. And then those steps…once you get to a certain point, there’s no going back. So many other people behind you, all waiting to take that jump too. So, you feel intimadated to keep going forward so you don’t inconvenience the people behind you so that you can climb down the ladder. Not to mention the derisive glares you get for “chickening out” and the feeling that you’ve become a “lesser” person in their eyes, which plays against your own ego.
LMAO…I can’t say that this is what plays out in your mind or even the mind of anyone else – but there are all kinds of similar dynamics that go into play when you look at making life changes. I won’t even continue the analogy of what happens after you make that first jump. 🙂
Thanks for adding to the conversation. 🙂 Love getting fresh perspectives on things!
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