We sit in a circle in the dimly lit room. Incense smoke wafts gently upward among the flickering candlelight from the small altar. One of the attendees, a woman in her forties, speaks of the spirit who just gave a message. The woman identifies the spirit as a great aunt. She mentions that the woman had been a midwife, explaining the deep understanding of “alternative medicine” the medium had sensed in the spirit. A small, hushed conversation ensues as stories and experiences are traded. A short silence falls, soon ended as another medium shifts slightly, preparing to give the next message.
The above paragraph is a factual account of a small portion of the monthly seance I attended a couple weeks ago. I’ve tried to capture (though not entirely successfully) the somber intimacy of the moment here because I feel that moment was representative of the essence and nature of my own spiritual community. That community is something that Erin recently asked me to write about.
Spiritual community among Pagans is a complex, subtle, and even elusive thing. In some ways, I don’t think we have a community so much as a network of intersecting and overlapping communities. Different groups of people get together for different purposes, and membership to multiple groups is perfectly acceptable. The people I attend seance with are different from the people I celebrate the Sabbats with. Other groups get together to participate in ghost hunts and other paranormal research activities. Another group gets together to do house blessings and cleansings. People gather and regroup based on common interests and everyone pretty much finds what they’re looking for.
The friendships that grow out of this kind of networking are amazing. Indeed, most of the activities of these various groups allows for and encourages such bonds of affection. There’s no occasion too serious that an appropriate bit of humor can’t slip in, and the sharing of each others’ lives becomes a natural result of working together.
Of course, a discussion of Pagan community isn’t complete without a discussion of the local New Age shop. Such a shop (and even multiple shops) is usually at the center of such a community. This is because in addition to selling helpful merchandise, these shops also tend to serve as learning centers and community centers. They often offer classes, workshops, and seminars in an array of subjects. They often also provide space for other covens, groups, and organizations to post notices about their activities. Indeed, once a lucky Pagan finds such a shop, they usually have the resources they need to find anything or anyone they need.
Of course, there’s a lot more I could say about Pagan community. After all, there’s also festivals, conferences, and many other events. And of course there’s the common problems that come up in Pagan communities (no, we’re not a utopian society any more than the rest of society). I suspect I may do more posts in the future. But hopefully this gives you a glance into my community.