I sit here drinking coffee and eating muffins on a quiet, and dark Yule morning. The house is quiet. I’m the only one awake. The little furry children are dozing in their respective hiding places. I am spending the morning with the lightning riffs of Yngwie J. Malmsteen being pushed through the speakers of my headphones, a distinct memory from the late 1980s.
I have spent the past few blog posts looking at what I perceive to be some of the future of our collective Paganism. Much of that has been spent comparing the group versus solo rift that has existed within Paganism for as long as I have been on this path – and has existed long before my entry-point within our collective History. I touched a bit on the two extreme edges of Pagan thought in Reconstructionist perspective and Eclecticism, as well as some of the controversy in gender inclusivity, and the ongoing debate on what constitutes a Pagan. Simply put, the wider Pagan community has its share of issues to deal with going into the future. All of which, dare I note, will play great roles in shaping the Paganism of the future. A Paganism that I more than realize I will never recognize from the Paganism I am a part of today. But its also a Paganism that is not mine to shape beyond my time here.
It is somewhat strange to realize that all that I write here, all that I do within my community, my mere existence here – all of that will have only a small wrinkle going into the future. The Paganism that I am part of right now is vastly different from the Paganism I started with. The younger Pagans of the 1990s have helped to shape what I consider to be a “freer”, more diverse Paganism with their efforts to explore, alter, and expand thought. Those changes have re-ignited the debate over eclectic thought versus what is considered traditional Paganism today. Not that long ago, these traditionalist Pagans were considered the eclectic ones versus what was traditional Paganism then. I would posit that the same cycle will continue going into the future. Adding to that circle will be those new Pagans that seek to practice Paganism as “it was.” Another cycle that will carry forward into our collective future.
I have always been horrible at forecasting the future. Tarot? Nice distraction for me, but being able to predict anything with any degree of certainty? Well, pardon the pun, that’s not in the cards for me. My mundane life is in data analytics. Even within this industry, there is a level of prognostication that is expected. As if, the people who comprise this small arena of data reporting are modern-day fortune-tellers. Those of us in this part of the wider corporate industry are not. We analyze trends and predict the marketplace for commercial sales based on past histories, current trends, and other social markers. Frequently, those predictions are wrong. Because consumer habits are unpredictable. The same holds true for predicting where a religious belief system will go. Because people can make choices and choose not to continue with a trend. And that choice can be a sudden one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn that happens at any given moment.
The Pew Research Center has a trend analysis that depicts the overall percentage of people in the United States has been continually decreasing throughout the last decade or so. Where are these people going? Into a bucket entitled “religiously unaffiliated.” These folks aren’t leaving their faith, they seem to be leaving the constructs designed around their faith. Instead of having preachers, priests, and what-not as the middleman of their faith, they are choosing to approach divinity on their own. Sound familiar? We’ve already seen that happen here within our collective Paganism. The rise of solo, eclectic Pagans that are taking what they have learned (well, not all of them) in groups, and striking out on their own. A direction that I applaud, but only because a large part of what I do falls into this category. However, that doesn’t make it the “right move” for everyone.
But this group versus solo perspective will have its backlash. A move away from fundamentalist perspectives always contains a backlash from the fundamentalist perspective. Another symptom we’ve already seen in our Pagan communities. Not just recently, but even back in the late 1970s. Pagans who went it alone being presented as “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “not sound with the basics of [x tradition]’s practices.” Looking through history, you will find all kinds of backlash when people choose to make changes to their own fundamental principles of belief – choosing to remove the power structures and hierarchies that they perceive to hold them back from finding their own expression of worship, adoration, or ritual to the Gods they approach.
Again, I point out that most of my own personal belief falls into this realm. But, in no way am I advocating that the aspects of group work are bad or stunt the necessary growth of the members that are reaching out for new expressions of their beliefs through whatever means. Group work has always been one of the very best ways to learn the necessities to ritual, spell work and so many other aspects of Paganism. I will be one of the first to step forward and note that learning the basics is a necessary aspect to making ANY Spiritual perspective work for you. I know…that sounds weird coming from a solo, eclectic Pagan who does things his own way. But everything I do in my Paganism has a foundation that goes back to the basics. Everything I add to my Paganism starts with the basics of what I am adding becoming part of that foundation.
As I have said, our collective Paganism continues to grow and change. The future of Paganism doesn’t belong to an old fart like me. It belongs to the younger Pagans. The twenty-somethings. My goal isn’t to change Paganism. I’ve already had my hand in doing that. My goal is to help the younger Pagans with the concepts of what is fundamental now, provided they wish to listen. Not force them to see this or that as concrete principles of Paganism. To be honest, everything about Paganism can be up for grabs in the process of change. Remember, the future of Paganism is in their hands.
Have you ever thought about a Paganism where everyone meets online? Its already here – thanks to COVID. Many face-to-face rituals and events have abandoned that face-to-face format in favor of meeting online. Has that changed paganism? Has that altered our connections with our Gods? Has it changed the relevance of today’s paganism going forward? All good questions. None of the answers for these are truly going to come from all of us older Pagans. We will have input, but remember – sooner or later, we all pass beyond the Veil. The future generations will grapple with these choices, bending and shaping our Paganism into their own. Good or bad, depending on the opinion of others.
Do I hope that the future of Paganism leaves a Paganism that I recognize, a Paganism that remains the same as it is now? Certainly, I do. That’s my own selfishness stepping forward to claim that desire. The reality will be different. That may be the only certainty that I can continue to grasp as an immutable truth. Based solely on the fact that they are not me, and I am not them. Of course, I do have to step back and point to my shitty track record of predicting the future. 😊 After all, I’m not perfect, and I have no stranglehold on the truth or the future. Just two quid into the pot….