January 03, 2004

Pagan Groups

Posted at January 3, 2004 01:46 AM in .

Monk and I got together today for some lunch and a chat. We did some general catching up since he's been out of town and we discussed some of the stuff that we're mutually involved in.

I hadn't been able to go out to the prison with him last week and there has been a change in chaplains there. The new chaplain is insisting that all pagan groups must meet and practice together. At McNeil, there is a Wiccan group, which Monk and I volunteer for, and an Asatru group. The Asatru and Wiccan groups met together at one point but there was enough mutual friction and differences in belief and practice that they no longer meet together and have been separate groups for a while. The chaplain there wants them to meet together again, which is an all around bad idea. The Department of Corrections for the State does recognize them as separate faiths so it isn't clear where all of this is coming from. It will need to be addressed though.

On another note, we were discussing the sorry state of local pagandom from a public, liturgical point of view. Lo these many years ago (only 14 or so), when I first became involved with the pagan community in Seattle, there were two very public pagan groups: The Earth Religion Cultural Association (ERCA) and the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS). ERCA ran an open Full Moon at the Longhouse every month and did Sabbats as well. CUUPS did pretty much the same sort of thing. A lot of people went to events at both of them and it was a common way for people to get involved with paganism and to meet groups for further involvement. The Wiccan group that I was involved with for a while effectively recruited me out of meeting me at CUUPS and the Gardnerian Coven that I was in was involved (or members of it were) with ERCA.

ERCA eventually went away (a tale not to be told here) and CUUPS is a shadow of its former self with no real presence and just a handful of people, including still regularly involved in it. Our Lady of the Earth and Sky (OLOTEAS) has effectively replaced ERCA in the role of facilitator of the public Full Moons for the area but, unfortunately, I've called it "Our Lady of the Lowest Common Denominator" for a reason in the past. There are some very dedicated and solid people involved with it and I don't want to be seen as critisizing those particular people but the few rituals that I have attended of the group's have been rather uninspiring affairs that just kind of sat there emitting something... The main issue that I have beyond this sadness is that there is this cult of personality around the people that run the group that I just find very hard to swallow. Neither of them are bad people at all. I'm not in a moral position to make that kind of judgement, but neither are people that I would consider very spiritually advanced. Paganism is a rather small and incestous pond around here and they get to be big fish by running OLOTEAS. This is bully for them but I'm not sure if it is doing a real service locally in the long run. I'm not seeing the next genertion of leaders and teachers coming out of there. I'm also not sure it really meets all of the needs for a local open group.

I'm aware that some of you reading this have various levels of association or involvement with these people or OLOTEAS. I'm not wishing to be critical of your involvement with them or even your friendship. This is just something that I, personally, have felt for a while and which has been bugging me. Various people have their own reasons for doing public ritual and being involved in groups and I do realize that my viewpoint is hardly universal and my opinions are biased.

I've felt for a long time that there should be another choice, another venue, for public pagan activities. Some place that people can go and not necessarily feel like the group is catering to the lowest denominator but which still maintains a public space. Monk and I were discussing this today and agree that it would be possible for a fairly small but somewhat dedicated and experienced group of people to do this. He's going to investigate a possibility or two for meeting space and organizational affilitation but I'm pretty interested in doing this and getting the ball rolling. The provisional plan is to get a small core of interested parties to help this get off the ground and to focus, initially, on doing only the Full Moons in a pretty Wiccan sense. Leave the Sabbats out of it for now and stay focused on a regular, monthly cycle of ritual work. This would allow us to focus on a useful and somewhat unified liturgy and build a base around it and then see what people are really interested in doing and attending beyond that.

If anyone reading this is interested in such a thing or knows someone that is, please e-mail me. Also, I'm interested in any approach people have used for regular public rituals that has really worked well for them.


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