The Wild Hunt has posted an article on a topic that has been on my mind for some time, the topic of infrastructure in the various interconnected communities of paganism. It reminds me alot of the article I talked about some time ago by Keith Parsons. He claims that paganism will be “non-institutional.” To elaborate on this idea, he has this to say;
“Will pagans build churches and hold weekly meetings, while bored kids squirm, exasperated moms reproach, and anxious dads check their watches to see how long to kickoff time? I hope not.
As I see it, pagans would form informal communities, like the early Christians. In general, the aim of pagan religiosity would be to return a sense of enchantment and delight in the experience of the natural world…”
Ok, my thoughts on this are kind of mixed. On the one side, I think it is worth re-quoting from the Wild Hunt article.
” “We need Temples. Urgently. It brings us together as a community and we certainly need that. … I can’t imagine anything that would make me happier than to one day go to a Temple with my husband and children and bow before the statues of the gods. I crave so badly for the restoration of Paganism to the glory it once had. There is no structure, and I think we need that. We need structure, we need community.” ” – Hendrik Venter
I agree, we do need temples. Places for community worship, and homes for our gods and spirits. At the same time, I am fairly nature-centric person myself, so I openly question the need for mega structures and things like that. Personally, I am of the line of thought that says that “the forest is my temple,” and this makes me wonder if what paganism needs is large structures like the Hindu temple example?
On that line of thought, here is another quote from the Wild Hunt;
“Not all, over most, Pagans want temples or community centers or libraries. They most certainly don’t want to pay for clergy. For them such things either simply aren’t needed or they’re even seen as a spiritual detriment. “My temple is a forest,” has almost become a Pagan maxim.
Dr. Kimberly Kirner, Department of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, says, “expanding infrastructure isn’t necessary if we keep a small, home-based meeting model and don’t mind that groups often die rapidly and then reform as something else. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” ”
This hits on a couple of things I think are rather important. On the topic of “my temple is a forest” we need to maintain the natural areas that we deem are our temples. Conservation is a big thing here. Forests need to be preserved, biodiversity protected. If every pagan adopted an acre of public or private land, and helped to preserve it, that would be significant. The Wild Hunt article said there are approximately 1.2 million pagans and heathens in US. That would be 1.2 million acres of land under stewardship. It would be like a pagan equivalent of “Adopt a Highway”.
Personally, I envision a world not unlike the one portrayed in My Neighbor Totoro. Where old trees are also places of worship, and things like stone spirit houses and roadside shrines are a common, as well as accepted part of our society.
The second point is, that the small, home-based model is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in my opinion, paganism starts in the home. We don’t seek out converts, and often our families are also often our communities. This also allows for a multi-generational transmission of traditions and beliefs. This is a really important point, and essential for the survival of our ideas and traditions.
In addition, small groups dying and reforming isn’t a bad thing either. I have been through several groups that imploded for various reasons. All of them were learning experiences, and I will carry those lessons on. In a way, that kind of structure allows for a more fluid and dynamic social network.
At the same time, the home cannot be the end all for paganism. Some of us were not raised in pagan homes, and interested seekers might not be either. Regardless of upbringing, some will change paths, and they will start looking for resources. That is where the next level comes in, things like local shops and local community. I cannot stress enough the value of local metaphysics shops. We have one where I live called The Wandering Owl, and it is a regular meeting place for discussion, classes, and other resources. This makes a wider network outside the home. That is an important part of the infrastructure that is needed.
In summary, I think we do need infrastructure, and in some ways we are already laying the foundations. The various communities are growing, and they will need support. Newcomers will need access to good information, and methods for transmitting between generations is a must. Many foundations have already been laid, but there is still a lot to do. The question we must ask ourselves, is what form that infrastructure is going to take?