The jump that is looming to large.. is moving into the Public Pagan persona. I have taught workshops. I have run websites. But I’ve only done small potatoes stuff, really. University panels, leading community rituals in tiny communities, teaching workshops for small shops. I started dipping my toe in that water when I lived in Mankato… and then I just stopped. I’m staring down that barrel again.
I’ve avoided doing the big things. I stay away from festivals. I avoid Covenant of the Goddesss and big volunteer events. I even dropped away from Pagan Pride.
The reasons are many, and to some extent it’s in this order:
1. Money. I don’t have the money to take weeks out of my life to go camping and do things I just don’t enjoy. I don’t have the money to go to these workshops – many are very expensive. While I absolutely do not resent people charging for their teachings – learning this stuff and assembling it to teach again is massive work. Even so, given my limited income it keeps things far beyond my reach.
2. Frustration of boredom. Too many of the Pagans I used to hang out with liked to either sit around a fire drinking, or sit around a table in a bar drinking. I am allergic to smoke and while sometimes sitting and talking is OK, it’s not what I consider particularly fun let alone a big social highlight. Yet to make the social connections that’s what I’m expected to do when I’d rather be dancing or trying out some new magical techniques.
3. Cultural frustration. There’s an expectation I be the same as other Pagans. I remember a survey passed out a few years ago, a playful thing to determine “What element are you?” It listed 4 outdoor activities that were essentially different approaches to camping, none of which I enjoyed. I enjoy the outdoors, sure, but again… allergies.
4. Pressure to conform. The magick I write about comes from direct experience. I’ve tried this stuff. I’ve also tried stuff that doesn’t work. Yet I often feel like I get pressured to be silent about it. One person, when I mentioned running a column on magical experiments, told me that would seem “amateurish.” It was unclear why. What’s amateur about figuring out what magic works and what doesn’t? If you have results to talk about then you’re well past the prescribed silence during spell proceeding. Why would actively practicing magic to develop refinement seem amateur? What’s WRONG with being an amateur, anyway? In Wicca there are active bans and taboos on having too many pros around. I disagree with those bans, too.
5. Inadequacy. There’s so much I don’t know. I’ve studied occultism and Pagan religions assiduously for 19 years. But for some, that just won’t be good enough. What if I don’t know enough? There’s always a troupe of people in the Paganosphere who garner all their attention on highlighting how other people aren’t good enough, accurate enough, perfect enough. Seriously – there are disturbingly popular blogs out there who get their readership wholly by posts and podcasts based on tearing other people down who are doing the work, rather than examining their spiritual ideas or even troubleshooting.
6. Isolation. I never find a coven I fit with – far too many are much too controlling, or only do the same seasonal stuff over and over or just don’t like me practicing my own magic or daring explore other traditions’ methods of magic. Yet sometimes I really want a partner. Unfortunately the best I usually do is to make an occasional student a de facto partner. I often end up feeling very ripped off by this, though it’s never the student’s fault. I end up being the one to do all the work, the one to put together all the rituals and I feel constant pressure to entertain and engage – while usually the student hits an inertia patch and resents me when I try to nudge him/her through it. I still want an equal partner, with equal curiosity and motivation. I don’t even know where/how to look and the people that have approached me have done nothing but set off screaming alarm bells. Example: one email I received in the last month started with, “We are good people.” If you need to say that… you’re not.
7. Anger. Your religious community should be the first place you can go for help in a crisis. That’s now what I’ve experienced – I’ve been treated like my life crises are spiritual failures (they aren’t), like I’m an exploitative liar even though I haven’t asked for anything and all too often, I’ve been guilt tripped for not “giving more” to the community that has treated me so poorly. And I’ve given. I’ve given quite significantly. I also have the expectation that what I say will fall on deaf ears. There are a lot of common “Pagan” organizational problems that are easily corrected – and we have the means to correct them by researching the way those outside the Pagan faith handle those issues – such as organizational sustainability. Yet when I bring up these changes, I have had stupidities piled on me like what a “true Pagan” would say (bitch, please!) in the spirit of “true Paganism,” that leads to inevitable faltering and failing before my eyes. Like the crappy way the Pagan Press in Minneapolis treated its writers – only to end up with no consistent writers and to eventually go down in flames when they couldn’t keep a staff of contributors around, or when the guy with “experience” tried to argue with me that he couldn’t be held liable for facts mis-reported in an opinion piece – a very, very poorly written opinion piece.
So maybe my problem is that I am really angry at my target audience. I have been for a long time. I don’t even know what I could begin to do about that.