So, I’ve been a little hard on the Pagan community lately.
I’ve decried abuses and hierarchies, lack of political engagement, and the leftovers of the sexual culture of the 1960s that still thrive in many corners of it.
Those things are true, in my opinion, and I stand by them.
So why, one might ask, do I continue to be a part of a community of people who I find so problematic?
Well, let me tell you: because it’s wonderful.
In all my experience, no cohort of people has ever been so smart, interesting, creative, unique and, by and large, genuinely good-hearted. Weird, yes—but isn’t that just a synonym for creative?
Despite blind spots, Pagans are generally kind and well-meaning, and wish the best for the Earth and their fellow humans. They are fiercely independent and egalitarian (sometimes to a fault). And the vast majority of them are adamantly opposed to bigotry and injustice.
They are masters of arts, like brewing and distilling, leathercraft, weaving, jewelry making, sewing. They are musicians and poets. They throw a great party, and many of them know how to create a powerful, life-transforming ritual.
Being a part of the Pagan community adds LIFE to my life. Life lived large, out loud, with unashamed exuberance. Life filled with rich flavors and sensuous textures, life full of music and dancing. Life of exploration and adventure.
Life the way I always hoped life could be before I found them.
Does it drive me crazy with its frequent dysfunction? Certainly.
Does it sometimes disappoint me with its too-human failings to live up to the vision of what it could be? Of course.
But when I withdrew from the Pagan community in 2005, following some very dysfunctional experiences, I found quickly that my life had become pale and wan. The color had simply run out of it.
Yes, there was the richness of the natural world. And as I began exploring my thoughts and researching the nature of religion (the explorations which would lead to my publication of the “How I Became an Atheopagan” essay), I certainly savored the richness of Nature.
But we are social apes, we humans. We need one another. And every social group I found myself in after leaving the Pagan community seemed so constrained, so denatured. So straight.
And maybe it’s just because I’m a weirdo, too. But the culture of suburban white middle-class America not only bores me senseless, it fills me with a kind of panic. A desperate desire to escape. I can play the game for awhile, but it’s not where I want to live.
No. Give me the woolly musky randy brilliance of a full-on human in contact with the complexity of this world, someone who thinks and feels and knows they are an animal. Give me people who laugh loudly and cry bitterly, who wring the joy from living.
For truly, they are my people. They are blessed.
For my people—you know who you are
I am among the blessed.
I am of the kind who leaves the glaring tube, remembering
And goes to watch the moon rise silver through the trees
Breathing purple and chill, stinging pine. I am
Among the blessed: I know the acacia, the first daffodil,
The irises unsheathing cream and violet labia in the green wet of May.
I tune for the new music on the radio: I turn it up.
I am among the blessed: I drink wine by firelight, clothes rank with smoke,
Bright silver twisted through my lobes. I know secrets;
They are tattooed on my body where the sleeves can cover them,
Blessed, and only if we are lucky enough, you and I, courageous enough
To shed our clothes together will you read them. Seeing scarlet leaves drift down,
Perhaps, with ice around the moon, or the steel bones of the oaks against Orion,
Knowing we are among the blessed, that we miss nothing, that we will eat this life
Like a chocolate mango, like Beethoven ice cream,
Moaning our joy with each sweet bite.