I have to say, somewhat disappointingly, that it is exactly what I expected it to be. An old friend and I were the only Ásatrúar / Heathens there. We had been hoping that a local group would be there but after I was on site I looked at their Facebook page and noticed that they had scheduled something else for this day. In years past, there had been other reconstructionist faiths there as well as at least one group representing Ásatrú. Those days are clearly long gone and this event really was for the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan crowd. While I was there I saw things that made me want to rush home and smash out a post about why they get no respect and why no one takes them seriously. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to rip on someone else for what they do. So, instead, I’m going to try and turn this into something a bit more constructive and see where it goes.
My friend expressed to me his frustration in trying to get Neo-Pagans to understand that what we do is unique and different from what they do. This got me to thinking about the reality of the situation. They don’t have the concept tools to follow where we are going. Some of this is their fault but some of it is ours. The very lack of any presence by anyone in our entire and rather broad spectrum of religious traditions shows just how far our communities have drifted. Yes, we find a lot of what they do annoying but the reality is that most converts come from Neo-Paganism, not somewhere else. If we find them frustrating or annoying because of their ignorance of us then that is our fault because we haven’t done ecumenical work with them. That’s right, I said a dirty word right there. Ecumenicism is necessary if we are going to teach them to respect our traditions. Yes, we do run the risk of someone snapping up something and running off with it, but that risk exists no matter what. As it stands, we scare them away by being jerks. What’s that gotten us?
We need to do a better job reaching out to the Neo-Pagan community because we will find more allies there than enemies. We also need to reach out to them and work to address the reality that we do have to deal with the issue of racism but that it does not define who we are and that racism is not what we represent. One of the things I got tired of hearing when I did work with some part of the Neo-Pagan community in the Atlanta area years ago was hearing that they thought we were all a bunch of Neo-Nazi morons because they only ever saw the scum who abuse our faith and heritage to mask their agenda of hate. We can also teach them to respect our traditions and that it would be better not to copy them because it is both insulting to us and something they don’t really understand the ramifications of. In truth, we need to work towards dialogue with the Wiccans and Neo-Pagans, even if it drives us nuts. They aren’t going to come to us so we need to go to them.
I desire a day when Pagan Pride Day lives up to the claim of representing the diversity of traditions rather than the diversity of Wicca knock-offs in Atlanta. I would actually like to see us lead an interfaith blót, maybe to FreyR for frith, at one of these events. Yes, it does require us to turn an eye to “showing off” our religion and that is something that a lot of us aren’t comfortable with. It does require that we work to break down a self-imposed restriction built from frustration and irritation. If we don’t then we run the risk of becoming truly isolated and that will work against us. There are more of them than there are of us. We need to be on good terms with them because we want them to have positive opinions of us and to send people to us that might otherwise be lost or missed.