I’m gonna start it this off with a quote from an article titled “The Rantin’ Raven: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”
Think about that: The very people who have the most to offer the Craft are giving up because they can no longer tolerate what we’ve become. We’re no longer magicians and ritualists, we’re bickering, petty cliques and political factions. We’ve become so obsessed with the outer face of Wicca we’ve forgotten to nurture its heart or tend its fires. We’re trying so hard to be current and progressive that we’re pushing out those who have spent their lives preserving and practicing the essence of Wicca. And so all that knowledge is being lost. A way of life is being lost.
I touched on this a bit in my previous post. There is, right now, basically two visions for the future of Paganism.
- Paganism as a united group.
- Pagan religions as their own groups.
I talked about a guy named Sam Webster, who has been working to build a united paganism (primarily using existing systems in the world). There’s been a lot of talk about Rhyd and Gods & Radicals, who seem to be pushing for a united paganism (built on the ashes of existing systems in the world). And I talked about something else I had been seeing, the dissolution of Paganism into various unique religions.
The thing with a united paganism is that as good as it sounds in a world where minority groups only get things done by having a unified front, is that it appeals to the lowest common demonstrator (which is also usually the whiniest one too). Anyone who is different from that LCD tends to at best get silenced, and at worst get pruned.
Rhyd, in a former life protesting this fact, sums it up well.
Fuck. With a legislative body, we could make rules on who gets to call themselves a Pagan! No more Atheo-Pagans or Christo-Pagans or Naturalist-Polytheists. We could have rules people have to obey about claiming Wiccan identification, or Feri/Faery, or perhaps an entire testing apparatus to verify someone who claims to be married to Loki or have a direct line to Dionysos isn’t just writing masturbatory fan-fic. No more racialist Heathens or fluffy-bunny woo-witches; no more Otherkin or Otherfaith or Other-anything except what we name as true and accepted.
So you can pretty much say goodbye to unique Pagan religions like the various Heathen faiths, Wicca, Cultus Deorum, Druidism, and so forth in all but name. Sure, there might be people who identify as those things as part of their Paganism, but they would not be their paganism. Their “Pagan” identity would have to rule over all.
And there’s a lot of pagans like that out there. For the last several decades, a very homogenized Paganism has been the norm. There’s always been outliers, distinct paths all their own, but they have not been the norm. But now those “outliers” are starting to become the norm. Heathenism is one of the fastest growing branches in Paganism as I understand it, and in Heathenism it is the Folkish ways that grow fastest. The Rise of many more reconstruction based religions from all over is a sign too. The fact that they tend to be the fastest growing parts of Paganism is another sign.
At the same time though as the Raven article points out, so many elders in so many traditions are pulling out and going solitary. Mainly by those pushing for a more progressively minded Paganism (like G&R), who attack people for hierarchies, traditions, and “problematic” beliefs. Heck, Folkism really has become a “solitary” religion, cutting itself off from Paganism at large because of that attitude. More and more elders from so many paths are doing the same. Heck, part of the reason I never stopped being a solitary was partially because of this issue.
This isn’t just one person leaving British Traditional Wicca. This is the wholesale loss of a generation of trained, dedicated teachers, coven-leaders, and occultists. They can’t even publish because they don’t want to deal with the attack mentality so prevalent today. And they shouldn’t have to. When I suggested it to my friend, they said, “Ugh. Writing a book as one of the spiritual inheritors of [well-known Elder’s] lineage is just asking for trouble from both the upline and the rest of the Wicca.”
Now, ever since the original “Confronting” Post by Gods & Radicals, we’re having a big conversation in Paganism as a whole. Who gets to decide what is and isn’t good Paganism. Who gets to have the leading voice, the Marxists or the anti-Marxists. People like Krasskova have started writing articles about how interconnected and incestuous the Marxists’ side of things are, how embedded they are in so many of our Pagan institutions. You’ve had people like me and Joe from Upsal taking down their rationalizations for jokes with dank memes and sharp words.
But I’m starting to wonder if we aren’t playing the false game. We’re playing politics with our religions and playing politics to preserve our religions and playing with politics to change the religions of others, depending on which side you’re on. But as much as Bellona urges me on for blood, the lessions of my wife Hela stay with me. And these lessons i think give me the answer to Raven’s ending questions.
So now that I’ve whined for three hundred words, I put this out there: What can we do to stop Elder Flight? What can we do to keep our Traditions from being lost? Or is it too late? Seriously, I’m asking for suggestions, because I’ve got bupkis.
And the answer is simple, and most people are not going to like it.
You’re gonna have to go “Folkish.”
Now, before everyone gets mad, I don’t actually mean everyone has to become a Folkish Heathen. That really would defeat the point of trying to preserve the traditions whose elders are fleeing. No I mean you’re going to have to do as the Folkish do.
- Get back to your roots.
If you’re an initiatory Wiccan tradition, this means you scrub the booksales, the tours, the mass covens. You go back to initiations, individual by individual. You try people out, you test them, you see if they’re willing to keep to your orthodoxy and orthopraxy. If they show signs of being “progressively” minded or wanting to change the teaching of your faith, you kick them out. You make it take decades, not years, to rise in power and position and knowledge. And sure, eventually you can get to the point where you can have hundreds of people in your coven, but only a few, trusted people know all the secrets and hold all the power, and those who advocate for something different get shunned out.
If you’re any other path, you do the same. You fix your dogma and you refuse to let it change. You do this for your path, and your path alone. You don’t give a shit about anyone else’s path, and you don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about your Path. And if you think this doesn’t work, I will point out that Folkish Heathenism is the Fastest Growing Pagan path out there. And it’s not because of Trump, or white nationalism, it’s because it clearly states “This is what we are, this is what we believe, and if you don’t like it, fuck off.”
Give your elders the power to say “fuck off” and back them, and you’ll find your elders will fight instead of flight.
2. Ignore the Paganism of others.
One of the things that is both surprising, and comforting about Folkism in Heathenism is they literally give no fucks about what anyone says about them. Sure, you have a few bloggers who do PR and punt about those who say bad things, but the average Folkish heathen is focused on their religion and their religion alone. They might fight with other heathens, but when it comes to anyone outside of heathenism…no fucks are given. They don’t care if the Progressives think they’re racists, or the Dianics think they’re misogynists, or anything.
And that’s what you’re going to have to do too. Instead of focusing on “interfaith” work, tell that stuff to fuck off and focus on “yourfaith” work.
I’ll give a good example of how this changes things. In Heathenism, there’s two big organizations, the AFA and the Troth. Both have roughly the same membership (I think the AFA is a bit bigger and growing faster), but they have roughly the same collective wealth between them. Now, reading Upsal’s blog, I found an article about how the Troth was struggling to get funds to send some of their people to a Pagan convention, but the AFA has just complete most of the work to finish building their first Hof, or temple.
By focusing on your path alone, you can accomplish much more.
This is not to say all interfaith work is bad, but leave that to your elders, no the average worshiper. And my advice to Elders is “keep it to discussions.” Have friendships with elders of other paths. but don’t plan big sweeping projects or other things that can leave you open to the dicatons of another path. The best interfaith work is tea in a cafe, or emails between friends. If you want to have conventions and worships…do those in your own path, to find the talented and the wise, and make yourselves stronger.
But at the same time, it will insulate you from the slings and arrows of those who want to control you by vilifying you. If you pay no attention to their words, their words have no power over you.
3. Know your Orthodoxy
On an objective level, there is no one right ideology out there. However, in our various Pagan religions, most of us have found ideologies that we like and can agree with by and large. Subjectively, these ideology are “right” to us that believe in them.
I’ve talked in a number of posts about how we should not promulgate the concept of “wrongthink” in Paganism. As an umbrella, this is true. Obejctively, there should never be “wrongthink.” However, as is easily demonstrated, those with political agendas who desire to reshape pagan religions into their “ideal” rather than live by the ideals of said religions are out there and will do anything to tear down what your path holds as true to replace with what they think is “right.”
Which means you, as a believer of whatever path you practice, need to know what is the Orthodoxy of your religion, and be prepared to either ignore when someone tries to speak against it, or remove them when they try to destroy it. I know that probably sounds horrible to a lot of people, and a lot of paths as you get into the ancient orthodoxy may run counter to modern “politically correct” ideals, but that’s how it’s going to have to be. If you want to preserve your traditions…you have to know and enforce those traditions and belief as morally right and undeniable within your religion. You will have to carefully remove those who try and enforce the “wrongthink” from your traditions. (and then never do that to other pagan paths).
It’s going to be hard. In a lot of ways, you’re going to have to do this to yourselves individual, as you find beliefs you hold that are different from your traditions teachings. You will have to ask yourself, every day, “Is this something I can live with?”
If it is, then adopt it and believe it. If not, well, maybe that tradition isn’t for you. If you cannot affirm the tradition in its entirety, even as a thought experiment, then you cannot preserve it.
Are these three rules perfect? No, there probably needs to be a few more, but I think I’ll stop at those three because they encapsulate what people need to do if they want to preserve their traditions.
They’re going to have to go to the elders who have so long be abused, get down on their knees and say “I’m sorry for what has happened. I am sorry I didn’t do enough to stop it. But let us try again, together, the right way. With respect for you, and knowledge for me.” And elders are going to have to understand that the days of fame and fortune are over…for now. Their best gifts will not earn them money, but can earn the respect and honor, places of privilege within their own religions traditions. And then, down the line, fortunes may come, because people want solidity in their religions, something unique, fulfilling, and immutable. Practice that, preach that, enforce that, and you will find people come to you much more than they ever have to something homogeneous.
Bellona Invicta and Hela Bless