The following article on ugliness and nastiness was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on May 28th, 2014.
As I have mentioned in past blog posts, in my 15 plus years hanging around in the Paganesque community I haven’t received nearly as much negativity from the people you might expect. No, not the hardcore fundamentalist Christians who dominate the region I grew up and live in. The truth be told, the most hateful, negative, ugly words I have ever heard directed towards my beliefs or those of other minority religion faiths have come from right within the Pagan, Heathen or Earth Based Spiritual communities.
It’s a bizarre phenomenon to me. Here we are surrounded, literally out numbered 1000 to 1 or more by people who wholeheartedly believe we are bound for a lake of fire and eternal damnation for daring to believe differently than they do, but some of us would rather cut one another’s throats, figuratively (hopefully), than understand one another and embrace our differences in the midst of mainstream dogma.
I remember a time, back in 2002, I was a freshly minted 1st degree Alexandrian Wiccan priest. I was proud of what I had learned in my past year and a day of study. I was proud of my new pentacle and robe. I was delighted to be a part of a Pagan community which I naively believed at that time to be all open minded, friendly, earth loving, ancestor honoring people supporting one another in their paths. I heard about this Druid gathering going on near Austin called Modron’s Gate. To this day I do not know who the organizers were or which Druid order was represented but I think it was ADF (the one I eventually joined many years later) and I think I remember Skip Ellison (former Archdruid of ADF although he was not yet Archdruid at that time I don’t think) speaking there.
I had really enjoyed myself there that first day and that night went to sit down by the fire with the others and listen to the drumming and story telling.
At one point the drumming stopped for awhile as people were resting their hands and refreshing themselves and someone, I don’t remember who, began to speak. He went on for quite some time about why he believed Druidry was superior to Wicca which isn’t bad in and of itself. Everyone is entitled to their opinion after all. But as he continued the stereotypical cliches about Wiccans came out. The stuff about how all Wiccans believe magick is powered by fairy farts and unicorns who shit rainbows. All Wiccans believe everything in the world is love and light and there is never any darkness. All Wiccans believe in a bunch of New Age (which rhymes with sewage) mumbo jumbo and don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. You know, the kinds of things people say when they are stroking their own ego at the expense of others in an attempt to make themselves look superior.
Well, needless to say, I left that place thinking, if this is what Druids are about I don’t want anything to do with them. It was many years later that I bothered to look into it and find out there was much more to it than that person’s impression left me with. The founder of ADF was, himself married to a Wiccan and didn’t feel at all that way about Wiccans. But, how much more might I have been willing to learn about Druidry in 2002 had I not been driven away by that ugliness?
Also, back in the day I used to frequently make trips down to a popular Pagan festival ground to volunteer my time at work weekends. The land crew as it was called had their own camp ground and because I had helped out with the clearing of the land for camping places, I was invited to camp with them at the first festival held on the newly acquired land. My friends and I had a great time that night at land crew camp. There was drumming, dancing, story telling and camaraderie. No one was negative and I don’t recall a cross word being cast toward anyone. Then, the next evening, my wife at the time (ex now) went down to the medical tent area because she was experiencing some pain as she often did and needed some attention. While there another individual was in the area commenting about how there had been some “strange energy” coming from the land crew camp the night before and it just wasn’t good. I’ve come to learn that sometimes “strange energy” is used by some people as code for “I don’t like those people.” But I had no idea what the guy was talking about. I had been there the whole time and they all seemed like a wonderful group of people to me. Still, it stayed with me and showed me that this was not the cohesive, spiritually focused community I naively led myself to believe at first. But why can’t people talk to one another instead of about one another? It’s much as Tommy Elf said in his article, You Never Know Who Is Watching. You really never do and while most community leaders and organizers want to see their community grow, such negativity and divisiveness has the opposite effect on new comers. They see it and it usually makes them want to run the other way.
I, only recently started exploring the Reddit online community or the Front Page Of The Internet as they like to call themselves and I found out they have subreddits for groups like pagan, druidism, wicca, heathen, etc. I’ve known about Reddit for a long time and have been on the site a time or two but never really took the time to fully explore it and get involved. I used to spend a great deal of time on Digg reading news articles back when I was kind of a news junkie and the people on the Digg boards would frequently mention what was going on over on the Reddit boards because, at the time, I think the sites were very similar in style as far as what niche markets they were catering to. Apparently on Reddit, anonymity is a big thing. They don’t even let you put much personal info on your profile over there which has it’s good points and bad points. On the plus side under a cloak of anonymity people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and saying whatever they want. On the negative side under a cloak of anonymity people feel more comfortable expressing themselves and saying whatever ugliness they want. What I mean by that is, some people hide behind anonymity to say some of the most negative and ugly things they can think of which they probably would never say in a face to face conversation. Sometimes it’s just out of pure meanness, ugliness and spitefulness. Other times it’s just general trolling. I come from a long history of not feeding trolls that stretches back to the days before DejaNews got bought out by a search engine newcomer called Google. So, I don’t give the trolls the satisfaction of a response most of the time. But, if these people are not trolls but instead regular participants in their tradition’s particular subreddit board, I wonder if they realize their antics do their groups more harm than good or if they even care. Look at all the good Westboro Baptist Church’s ugliness has done for views on Christianity after all. (/sarcasm)
Health and Blessings!