A Challenge to Grow

By Leo Sapphire

pentagrowThe time has come when we as Pagans must stand up and begin to take responsibility for our own health, safety, welfare and security. What this means is that there needs to be a support system in place for Pagan folk fully equal to the support provided by members of non-Pagan religions to their own kind. From cradle to education, old age and death, we need to be taking care of our own. Some will say we can't. Some will say they won't.

        Bluntly, we cannot mature as a religious path and gain the full respect of non-Pagan peers until we take responsibility for our own kind. This needs to happen soon due to the following conditions.

        There are increasing signs of instability in nature and in the government, as well as decreasing amounts of natural resources. These things, added to an artificially supported population already far exceeding the natural carrying capacity of the land, and an increasingly unstable climate, are danger signs that can no longer be ignored. Passionate arguments are ongoing about soil erosion, the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, the water table, logging old growth trees and rain forests, just to name a few. Check it out for yourself. It would be better if you do your own research than to take the word of someone else for it.

        It must be noted that all of the above concerns are both supported and condemned by what both sides call good research. On one side, university studies independent researchers, and environmental groups. On the other side, equally good research reaching totally different conclusions sponsored by industry and in some cases, federal government agencies, including some whose job it is to protect the environment. They cannot both be right.

        Some of the biggest arguments are not about whether change is coming, but how soon and how large the change is likely to be.

        All of this research is available in the public record. The library has tons of data. One way or another we appear to have a recipe for what could be real trouble down the road. The point is that very little is being done in comparison to the magnitude of the problem. Greed drives it all and arguments and protest only cloud the issue while accomplishing nothing.

        It is precisely because of this inaction that it has become vitally important that we as Pagans act immediately to protect as many of our people and preserve as much of our traditional practices as we can against the times to come. We also need to learn to live comfortably and well independent of high technology.

        Without wishing to come off sounding like a survivalist, as many of the mundane skills of our ancestors as we can reclaim should also be preserved. Looking only at how they live, we have an excellent example in the Amish. These people work hard for what they have and do it basically with the tools and knowledge of a hundred years ago. Yet, they do have everything they need and have kept their spiritual practices intact as well.

        Many of our people have some of these skills. The task now becomes to learn more and teach others while caring for those who can't care for themselves. To do this we need places of sanctuary and safety, places where we can live, work and worship, and care for our own.

        We must find ways to keep our people in touch and make safe spaces to retreat to in the times to come so that we are never cut off or scattered again. We need to be able to live and stay in touch without high technology. This does not mean abandon high tech. It does mean learn how to live well without it, if we need to.

        This is extremely important to understand. The Goddess doesn't care if you are P.C. or if you own a p.c. She is calling Her children home and it is up to anyone who can to make those homes, and make viable, sustainable, safe places for our vast extended family to live.

        To that end, over a period of several years, an idea has been taking shape based on the expressed desire of many Pagans that the ties to each other that have been forged in this lifetime or over many lifetimes are never broken again. The feeling is that we as a people have worked so hard for so long to rebuild our identity and reclaim our place in the world that what we have done must be preserved. All that we have learned, all that we have done, the ties that link us as a larger, worldwide community, regardless of tradition or practice, must be saved for future generations.

        This document is intended to raise awareness. If it makes you think about our place in the world, that's what it was intended to do. If you decide to take action on some level, welcome. If it makes you angry, think carefully about why and at whom? Are you afraid of the truth? Don't care? Is your personal plan for the universe going to be disrupted if others decide to give a damn? We need everyone who is willing, if you are not, what will we lose by your refusal? More to the point, what might you stand to lose?

        The idea to begin gathering our people and working for our own independence came into existence during the Pagan Spirit Gathering held in June of 1996 in Wisconsin. There were 4 people involved in the initial meeting. Several ideas were discussed and a consensus was reached that immediate action was necessary. The Goddess Brigid and the Green Man made Their approval known in a burst of tangible power and presence. We then called upon other people at the gathering and the concept won a fair amount of acceptance. A few concerns were voiced, which I will list here. Let's look at these in order, as follows:

  1. It is too cloak and dagger. What are we afraid of?

2.      It can't work because there are too many witch wars.

3.      Somewhere along the way, someone is going to try to take over and the whole the whole thing will fall apart.

4.      Pagans, especially those of different traditions cannot live together in a community for any length of time

5.      The government will be all over us like stink on a skunk at the first sign of anything going on that they don't control.

6.      Pagans are just like everyone else, too tied to their creature comforts to get out and do the work that is needed.

7.      No one really cares. If it all drops in the pot we are all dead anyway so why bother?

8.      We are too few to do it and there is no place to go anyway.

9.      No one wants to admit they don't have the skills to live without electricity, running water and a grocery store nearby.

10.  We can't maintain communications without computers and phones.

11.  We don't want to have to sever our ties to non-pagan groups.

12.  We must do this in accordance with the law if at all possible.

13.  Who died and put you in charge?

1. Cloak and Dagger?

One of the most important concerns expressed by people interested in this project was establishing lines of communication between each other that do not depend on high tech means. Mundane groups have addressed this as well, and there are several possible answers. Anything can be used, radios to horses, even couriers, if necessary. The point is to be anonymous and secure in communication.

        What seems like cloak and dagger is due to the recognition that discrimination is still a part of our lives. Many Pagans said they would readily participate but only if anonymity could be preserved. They expressed a fear of exposure that could put loved ones in danger. Violence was a factor often mentioned first. Careers and homes could be lost, as well. There was also a concern for making retreats, gathering sites and communities hard to find and penetrate, again for the reasons mentioned above.

2. Witch Wars

Witch wars are an unfortunate fact of life. They usually start when someone gets their feelings hurt. Jealousy, a snub, and an insult, real or imagined: The stupidest arguments of all concern the validity of other traditions, degrees or training, and bad attitudes in general. All these and more are part of the problem.

        It does not matter who you are or how you practice or who you know or how many degrees or initiations you have collected. Even those who are fully public and legally ordained are just as likely to face discrimination from other Pagans as well as the mainstream.

        The point is, get over it! If we cannot learn to work together then people may be lost, isolated and alone, because someone else in their pride and blind prejudice refused to step up for the greater good of other Pagans and the Old Ones we all serve. What a shame! What a loss! We should be learning to grow beyond all that crap.

        Very simply, if someone loves and serves the Old Ones, how they do it should not matter. Do what thou will, but if you intend to be a part of this, forget the witch wars. We simply do not have the time for stupidity, internal politics or posturing fools. We need to work TOGETHER.

3. Take Overs

We need leaders, not bosses. Witch queens and kings of the universe can run their own things any way they want to, but DO NOT expect anyone to recognize your natural superiority simply on your say so. If you want to lead, do so. But remember, leaders are out front, doing anything they can, helping, guiding, learning at the same time they teach. If all you can do is give orders, and be a screaming control freak, good luck.

        In the Army there are two types of people, lifers and career. The career people are professionals, leading by example, from the front, doing the best job they can do, and helping others as they go. Lifers on the other hand, do nothing if they don't have to, except give orders, make threats, and take all the credit. Which one are you?

4. Living Together and Cooperation

We need to pull together as a people as if our lives depend on it, because someday it just might. All our different traditions are directly equivalent to the different denominations in the Christian church. They have hundreds of different denominations, yet in a disaster they all pull together regardless, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, whatever. If it goes long term, so what?

        So where are the places and spaces for our own people? Does anyone really want to say we have no duty to each other?? If we cannot take care of our own, why are we here in the first place? No one in the larger mundane community will take us seriously until they see that we are taking responsibility for each other and ourselves.

        Remember, respect is earned, not given on demand. What have we done to earn the respect of the rest of the non-Pagan world?

5. Trusting Government

One reason expressed for keeping all of this as quiet as possible is related to the perception of many, mundane and Pagan alike, that our constitutionally protected freedoms are being steadily eroded. The honest feeling is that we are at a point where we can no longer trust our government any more than we can trust the infrastructure we currently depend on. If we do this quietly and with a maximum of discretion and the appearance of not being part of a larger movement, it is likely no one will notice or care because we will have little or no impact on any government function.

6. Comfort or Laziness?

Get real. Saying we can't or won't do whatever is needed is ridiculous. This attitude presupposes that we are somehow lazy or inferior. Do you believe that? If so we are really in trouble.

7. Do We Care?

There are many that do care. Some are already doing things in their own neighborhoods. To them I say, thank you and please keep doing whatever you can as an example to the nay Sayers. Please help others learn from you, and spread the word.  - If it works keep doing it.

8. Numbers

This project is designed to find and link others within our wider communities who care about our future. This also includes finding places for our people to gather in the coming times. The number of those places is growing, as are the numbers of people to fill them. Let's find more of both people and places.

9. New Skills

If you don't have the skills get them. Ignorance can kill, and we need everyone who is willing to try new things. Consider this. Our task over the centuries has been to survive as a people and restore Her worship at some future time. That time is now. Do we give up now, or do we step up to do HER will? To paraphrase a line from a recent song, we will NOT lie down, we will NOT go quietly!

10. Communication

The idea is to use whatever methods we can trust and prepare to use more primitive means if we have to. There are ways to communicate that are essentially untraceable but sometimes shoe leather express may be the only way.

11. Non-Pagan Liaison

Short of persecution, prying into personal matters or deadly threat, there is no reason to break off contact with non-Pagan groups or individuals. Quite the contrary, mutual cooperation could raise every ones survival chances. The idea is to live well at a sustainable level with our history and culture intact, and stay in touch with each other.

12. Law and Order?

This should be obvious. We are not covering up a criminal operation. We ARE following the traditions of our ancestors, maintaining a low profile for fear of persecution, not prosecution. The laws of the land give us the basic rights we need to do what we need to do, including the right of self-defense. However, we seem to be approaching a time when these rights may be in grave danger.

        This could be a problem down the road because many people may at some point take up arms to restore those rights. Many of these will be combat vets, Pagans among them who buried friends and relatives who fought for our constitution as they were sworn to do. If they see what so many fought and died for being destroyed you can bet there will be trouble. We should be aware of the possibility that some of us could get caught in the middle and be prepared accordingly depending on the situation at the time. Let your conscience be your guide.

        There is a caveat here though. We have all heard at one time or other that the Burning Times are over.

Do we mean it?

Many of us do. We have the right of self-defense. Many of our ancestors who did not go underground died because they could not defend themselves. We are under no such handicap. If we mean what we say, then we must be prepared to rescue and/or defend our own. To do any less brings dishonor to the sacrifices of our ancestors. Could YOU stand before them and say you did nothing?

        Don't fight if your conscience won't let you but there are other things people can do. For example, the Underground Railroad of the Civil War era served a vital function, unseen and undetected, and there may be a need for it again. Just don't stick your head in the sand hoping it will all go away. It won't.

13. In Charge?

In charge of what? The short answer is no one can be "in charge" of it all. No one person can direct what needs to be done. Do what you can in your own area. Take responsibility. If we all do a little, a whole lot will get done. After all, it is our own future as a people we are working for.

One More Thing Before Moving On

I can already hear the howls of protest. "They want to mainstream our religion! It will wind up hide bound and dogmatic like the Christians! We will have no more freedom to run our groups any way we see fit!"

        First off, dogmatic religions are rigid, inflexible, doing the same things over and over until it is automatic. Many tend to be authoritarian and intolerant of any path different from their own. Hello?! By that description, a good number of Pagan traditions are already dogmatic! If mainstreaming means more legally ordained clergy to handle our rites of passage so we don't have to have someone not of our faith do it, SO BE IT!

        If you would rather remain in the shadows, please, by all means feel free to do so. Just try not to hinder those who are out there doing the more public work. We need to take care of our own as best we can, from cradle to grave and help those who need it in any way, regardless of who they are, in between. If you can't help in some way, no problem. If you won't help, at least look after your own. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

The Goals

There are several goals, all in harmony with each other, based on the understanding that at some time in the future a time will come when we will no longer be able to depend on high technology or our current infrastructure for convenient communications or travel. Our desire is to work with as many people as possible to build a clearinghouse for information, a communications center or contact point, one of maybe hundreds all over the world, each locally run. If others will help;

  1. We will try to create a sort of worldwide network independent of the current infrastructure.

2.      We need to be able to move people out of dangerous situations if necessary. Moving people means having somewhere for them to go, so is making safe places for our people to stay.

3.      We also need to establish a network of archives sharing and preserving as much information about our practices and lore and rituals as we can. Preserving information about lines of tradition and history may be vital later, so that we do not lose our heritage again. Too much was lost when all we had was oral tradition that could be lost due to an elder's untimely death.

4.      A central need is a trained and ordained clergy, in every tradition, to meet the needs of Pagans so that we no longer have to depend on mainstream religions for our rites of passage.

5.      It would be nice to find a way to teach people the ways our ancestors lived. The simple skills of about a century ago may be more labor intensive, but often they are more environmentally responsible, since every effort was made to reduce waste. These skills can also be valuable in a barter economy.

        These are only a very few of the many things that need to be accomplished. One last thing: It is known that hard drives can be read by other machines. Because of this, our own people will not put personal data on any machine that is connected to the Internet.

        Ordinary communication is one thing, but data and archives should not be available online. Other ways will need to be found. Couriers in relays maybe, but one way or another, we need to maintain our privacy.

        It may be necessary to adopt a public and a private face. ; One to collect information and a separate one to maintain and transmit it. There was a temptation to call this an outer and inner court system, but that seemed like treading on long standing traditions. For ourselves, it is likely we will adopt a guild system of some type with a priesthood and archivist guild at the heart of it all.

We have only a few guidelines that are really important to us:

  1. Keep us off the Web, except for public networking.

2.      Be discreet about our work with the non-Pagan public.

3.      Establish contact and network with as many other interested parties as you can reach. Share and be real with each other. Remember, we are working for the good of All of us.

4.      Find and practice a useful low-tech skill.

5.      Record and archive as much as you can, preferably on acid free paper as well as removable media.

6.      Give a damn. It is not a game or a joke, even if it could be fun at times. Lives may depend on you someday.

7.      Make safe spaces, each according to your own ability to do so. And above all;

8.      >Love and care for each other.

9.      Teach our children the <i>Truth</i>, not just what is politically correct.

10.  Do Not Say It Can't Be Done, Find A Way And Do It.

Blessed Be!

Copyright 1996, Clan Raven