Thursday, August 8, 2013

Local Community--Different Group, Different Results

Decorative hummus from Lughnasa Ritual I went to.
Looking over my Blogspot statics, my post: "Local Pagan Community--Summed up in Facebook?" so far has the most views out of any of my other posts. I guess everyone likes a good drama--that, and I have been linking to it every time I bring up my experiences in the local pagan community. However, I will probably start to refer to this article too; I have branched out once more and met with a different group of local pagans who work out of the local Unitarian Church.

I found out about the event by searching the local Unitarian Church's website. I found that there was going to be a ritual for Lughnasa the first Sunday of August. Curious, I emailed the organizer first to make sure I did not need a membership to the church to arrive as well as make sure I knew where to go and what to expect. The responses were slightly vague, but after meeting with the group it makes sense. The Unitarian values went hand-in-hand with this group, and thus the ritual was not focused heavily on theology but symbolism.

The ritual honored the Goddess and God with a focus on literal harvest: gardening and the products. We created a circle and called the Elemental Towers: Water, Earth, Air, Fire. We also sung some simple chants, too. Shared stories about gardening. It was, overall, a very simple and ritual in a style I no longer actively worshiped. But, I brought with my my own beliefs and tried to mold them into the ritual silently. I thanked Lugh in silent prayer, for example, instead of The Goddess for the harvest.

What really impressed upon me, though, was the characters in the group. Before the ritual even started, the organizer asked if I wanted to join their super-secret Facebook group. I gave a hesitant laugh and responded, "Sure, if it isn't the one I'm banned from..." I then went to discuss what happened with the first group I met with in Omaha, due to my boycott and petitioning of the local occult store (the boycott, the petition, and the recent newsletter.) Their responses were akin to understanding my point of view, disliking that such a thing would go on, and acknowledging that I was not going to pressure anyone to join my boycott (as I realize that can be unreasonable.)

After the ritual, we had a light dinner made from what people brought (see the picture at the top of the article for the beautifully decorative hummus.) While eating, we discussed various things. Among the topics was skepticism, which I find to be scarce in the community at large. Respectful skepticism is even harder to find. However, one member of the group was very open with their skepticism, and no one in the group found it to be disrespectful. Even when that same person was skeptical with my belief that all the gods/goddesses are their own separate entity,  I did not feel disrespected but just disagreed with. And I have no quarrels with someone disagreeing with me. In fact, this entire group (or at least those gathered) were soft polytheists or even pantheists; whereas I am a hard polytheist. This didn't conflict in having a shared, spiritual experience since no one made it their business to tell who was right and who was wrong in their world view.

And again, this most likely has to do with the Unitarian approach to religion. Interfaith dialogue is encouraged, different beliefs are respected. Ideally, a Unitarian Church could easily have a person of a Jewish faith, a Christian faith, and No-Faith sitting next to each other while listening to a sermon about Women in World Religions. Also, there is a respect and focus to critical and scientific thinking as well as fact.

In short, I really like this group of pagans and plan to continue going to their monthly gatherings.

So to end this with a question, as I always try to do:

What has been your experiences with meeting local pagans and pagan groups?

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