searching for community

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A while back, I was searching for Celtic Pagan community.  Most of the local Pagans I know adhere to a Western Ceremonial tradition in some shape or form, and that‘s not for me.  And most of the ADF people I know are Hellenists, and that doesn‘t work for me either.  I was at a loss for where to find people to do ritual with and build a Celtic Pagan community. 

So in the midst of all this, I asked my middle daughter (the most Pagan of all my kids), what was the best ritual she’d ever been to.  She replied that she’s not sure, but that it was definitely one of our family rituals, not one that we had gone to in the Neopagan community!  This led me to think that I should forget about community for a while and concentrate on family rituals and traditions.  However, since then, I have realized that my kids aren’t so much into Pagan traditions as I thought they were- and they think I need to “get a hobby”.

So now I’m back to square one.  I realize my focus may be too narrow.  But what kind of compromise would I be content with?  Is it possible to have a “generic” format that would appeal to a wide variety of Pagans?  At this point in my life I realize that I’m no leader.  (My attempt at leading a CUUPs group a few years ago is a vivid reminder of that.)  So my inclination is to look for something already established instead of creating what I want from scratch. 

I am a long time member of a Unitarian Universalist fellowship.  It is through the UU that I have joined in community with fellow Pagans in the past.  But when that “community within a community” became less active (and for other reasons, I became increasingly out of sync with them), I lost interest in the UU fellowship entirely.  Without the Pagan element, the rest became meaningless.  Thinking about it though, I realize it’s not just because of that.  I don’t entirely fit the demographic- the UU culture doesn’t speak to my experience.  

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Pagan “church” here in our little ole southern college town?  What would it be like?  I imagine people meeting weekly for simple rituals in which all could participate.  I imagine not just rituals, but also social functions like potlucks.  My experience with Pagan groups is that Pagans don’t want to go to a ritual that takes place inside a church- it’s too “churchy”.  Many also do not like to attend rituals outside, because it’s too hot or cold.  There is also a resistance to becoming a regular attendee because that would be too much like a commitment.  There is also a good amount of divisiveness- there will always be more critics of the way the ritual is handled than happy campers.

I asked myself the question I asked Manda- “what’s the best ritual I’ve been to?”  I couldn’t think of an answer.  But the question did get me to looking back on and analyzing the rituals I’ve attended.  I could remember not even one in which I was “spiritually moved”- if that indeed is the requisite for a satisfactory ritual.  Music fulfills that need for me.  But should not also ritual?  Since returning to Celtic Reconstructionism, my focus for ritual has been mostly on honoring the gods and spirits without expecting anything (in the way of “spiritual feeling”) in return.  Perhaps in this, I have lost my way. 

And of the rituals I’ve attended in community, I haven’t gotten much out of either, now that I look back without the rose colored glasses.  The ones I went to as an attendee, I didn’t get much out of because I wasn’t an active participant.  The ones in which I was an active participant, I was so nervous about saying or doing my “part”, that I didn’t benefit from those either. 

All of this is somewhat discouraging, but still, I crave community.  As a result, I’ve even re-examined my beliefs to see if perhaps there is another, already established, group -community- where I would fit in.  I remembered the belief-o-matic quiz.  It had been a few years since I last took that quiz.  I took it again.  Coming in at number four in my results was Liberal Quakers (87%).  All this week I’ve been reading about the Quaker religion (the Religious Society of Friends).  Surprisingly, in theory, it may be a good match for me.  Complete lack of ritual may be just what I need (at least, perhaps, for a while).  And the hour-long meditations may be just the thing.  My next great adventure awaits…

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2 responses »

  1. I had a hard time leaving my church when I left Christianity because of that loss of community, but it came to having to make a choice for my own spiritual peace of mind. Being in a very conservative county makes it difficult to even start the process of seeking out other Pagans. And yet, having flung aside the constraints of Christianity I’m not too keen on joining another organization that has rules right now. So my community is online for the moment. In time I’ll reach out to a group in a city an hour’s drive from here but for now I’m content although I do have to say a part of me misses the liturgy. I would love to have some ritual in my life but I’m not keen on the group rituals I’ve read about in books. In the meantime I’m letting myself fly by the seat of my pants. And that’s enough for now.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Part of the appeal of Quakerism for me is that I don’t have to give up my Pagan identity. I plan to go to a Quaker meeting for the first time this sunday. I have a hard time finding time to meditate at home, so this may be just what I need. I’ve been reading about Quakers, and from what I’ve read, I think I might really fit in. In some ways I’m really into simplicity, and anyone who knows me knows I’m quiet- so I’d be very comfortable with the hour of stillness that’s part of Friends meetings.
    To me, ‘online community’ equals fantasy community- I need the company of real life people to share my spiritual journey. I guess I’m just old fashioned that way.
    I am also open to liberal Christian ideas and viewpoints, though I’ve been Pagan since 1986 (except for a brief stint into Gnostism in 2006/7).

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