A Response to Ms. Telesco

Losing My / Your Religion

Author: Patricia Telesco
Posted: July 9th. 2006
Times Viewed: 3,659

It has been approximately 20 years since I dove into the Neo-Pagan ideological pool. Of that, the last fifteen years have been dedicated to writing and teaching about various aspects of our faith. Like any Path, things have changed over the years. Some changes have been positive. For example, a lot of us can be more open with our faith without people hiding their children and seeking out torches, and the media is starting to realize we are more than happy to “educate” them when they portray our beliefs inaccurately.

Some changes, on the other hand, have been negative. The current trend toward even more separatism in our community, returning to the comfort of our broom closets, and the lack of energy toward truly establishing ourselves as a viable, recognized religious group qualifies. I’m honestly discouraged. Many leaders and facilitators are discouraged. They look at dwindling festivals, publishers closing down entire lines of New Age books, and the seemingly never-ending petty infighting and ask: why bother? Why continue? I think we’re in danger of losing our religion to apathy, to a budget crisis, to weariness, to stubborn egos, and to the conservative trend in this country that is neatly chipping away at the Church-State barrier…. (continued at http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usny&c=words&id=10827)

I respect Ms. Telesco, she has more than lightly earned her right to speak about being an elder, and problems she sees within our community. But is the situation truly this bad? Or ar we seeing the ‘backside’ of the pendulums’ swing? Our community has grown enormously in the last 20 years and, like most teenagers, some of that growth hasn’t been pretty.

Yes, we ask a lot of our Elders — but they also give far more than we ask for, and perhaps there is an unhealthy dynamic of need and respect and presumption? This is a bit delicate, but what does a community of (theoretically) self-responsible, direct-connection-to-the-Divine people doing demanding so much from our Elders that they cannot supply our need? Or, have they encouraged our need of them and are exhausted from trying to meet the increased demand. (I know, thats an uncomfortable and potentially incendiary thought.) Let me be clear: technically, I am a member of the pagan clergy. I teach, am available to lead rituals on behalf of my community, and I offer back to the larger community by writing. I don’t plan to ‘make a living’ by being clergy, nor do I want to. It is my calling, but not my life.

Our community is not built by clergy, by directive individuals; it is built by the larger group who identify as similar to us. When we reach out to each other, instead of to an individual, we grow our community, we connect, we grow stronger. Yes, we need clergy. But a crisis of faith does not need to be dealt with within the hour. It can wait, at least a few hours (right?). Rituals are rarely done on the spur of the moment. Health-related crisis do happen suddenly, but no matter how respected, clergy can only attend at visiting hours — and those tend to be after work hours. Being pagan clergy is not a full time occupation, even as large a group as we have become in recent decades can not support clergy.

(Notice how I’m side-stepping the issue of charging for services? Even though it is one way to earn a living as clergy.)

Yes, 70% (or so) people who identify in some fashion as ‘neo-pagan’ practice as solitary. They do not do this because they can not find clergy, locally, so much as they haven’t enjoyed the groups they found. They don’t need to know where the ‘witch church’ is — they need to find people who are a pleasure to be with. They don’t necessarily want to be public about their beliefs and going to ‘church’ is the last thing they want to be seen doing.

I think its insulting to label 90% of our community as gripers, lacksadaisical, people who want ‘drive-through enlightenment.’ I think its enough to practice quietly, with faith, and pass on our knowledge in smaller numbers. Doing so will not relegate us to a historical footnote, or a fad. We do not need to imitate other religions to co-exist with them.

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