#paganvalues: a vision for future Pagan infrastructure (USA, anyway)

This is the post I’ve meant to write all month. But I think that what I’ve said earlier had to be said first. While I did not explore my financial values in terms of my Pagan beliefs in the depth I originally intended to, they have been quite thoroughly explored elsewhere. As it is, I think I might be able to speak with greater clarity on the subject of money and how I handle money in accordance with Wiccan values of revering nature and looking to nature first for life guidance, doing as little harm as possible,  and honoring my truth/true will (not an explicitly Wiccan tenet, that one) after I complete my work on Money Drunk/Money Sober and the Prosperous Heart. If I have learned one thing about myself in all my self-work of the past decade, it’s that my attempts to do all my work all at once is ultimately my way of NOT doing the work. So now, in time- in time.

So this is where I wish to present – or re-present – my vision for Pagans in the US. I am not speaking for other countries not just because of legal and cultural differences, but because for Pagans outside the US, populations are either a)so small/or so isolated that you still need safe ways to get in communication with each other or b)at least the British Pagans have their own ways of handling these things suitable to life on a somewhat crowded island, but not as fitting for life on a very, very large continent.  One big example is that in the US, getting land is actually relatively easy – unless you’re in Hawaii, which is an island, where of course actual land and property ownership comes at a premium. Also, just as culture is not homogeneous across the British isles (just listen to the the accents!) it’s REALLY not homogenous across the American continent – and that’s before we turn our attention north to Canada, let alone south to Mexico. For every recommendation I make here, there will be an area of the United States where it’s just not safe to do it, or where it’s already been done and failed, or where there’s a whole lot of community integration work that needs to be done, first.

A lot of this also calls for those willing to do so to rethink their place in overculture. We are still part of it, and I am not of the Pagans as counter-culture generation. I’m part of the Pagans as subculture generation. I suspect that the Pagans coming after me will be something else altogether in relationship to overculture, based on their own collective will and karma.

All that stuff I said about working on yourself first? It still applies. I’ll explain when I get to it.

The big picture: create a Pagan foundation

I think the next big thing for the current multi-generational Pagans to do is to create a foundation. By foundation, I mean one of those organizations that have random fancy parties to raise money for AIDS research and are often brought up in movies to demonstrate that the millionaire romantic lead is not such a bad guy. Those are the stereotypes for them that I know, anyway.  I’m guessing other people have them in a similar mental index file. The United Way is an example of a foundation – it is the virtual Borg of nonprofit foundations, it tries to assimilate everything.

Not getting the land, or establishing another school. Creating a foundation. Creating more than one foundation would be great, too – one for every geographic region, or specific organizations dedicated to raising funds for specific causes. The foundation then raises money for the people that want to get land, etc.

This is by far the most Pagan-heretical thing I have or likely will ever post. It proposes central organization. Please note that it does NOT propose central authority, although some must be conferred to those selected to manage funds, etc.

Why?

Foundations allow for long-term growth. One of the biggest problems with most Pagan organizations is that they are constantly running out of funds. This pools funds for multiple causes into one organization that can steward the donations through careful investment, and disburse the funds to Pagan causes on a regular basis. This will not eliminate the need for Pagan organizations to do some of their own fundraising and volunteer drives, but it will relieve the burden in significant ways – and align Pagan causes with what most nonprofit groups already do.

Foundations are key to creating a better cultural infrastructure for Pagans.

Right now, for instance, prison and military chaplains that happen to practice a Pagan religion regularly need sources of legal support. A foundation can raise funds, or can act as a referral body to connect that chaplain to that legal assistance. Other things that a Pagan foundation can help build over time that we need now, and may well need in the future:

  • Creating education teams to work with local police forces. It’s high time they start going to actual occultists when they need an occult expert.
  • Pagan retirement – most retirement homes are aggressively Christian, and some still try to prevent their elders from enjoying active sex lives AND often force them to attend Bible study. It’s why so many Jewish people try to get in specialized retirement homes – it’s not just about the diet.
  • Pagan funerals and funeral services – we have a very open market for funeral homes, funeral services, and Pagan-specific grief counseling. THERE IS A NEED RIGHT NOW.
  • Assisting Pagans with specific concerns with their wills, healthcare, etc. that might not always be covered well in overculture.
  • Pagan chaplaincy support – while the idea of paying Pagan clergy is still quite controversial, it’s less controversial to give them legal support when it’s a situation of someone in power just not applying the first amendment to something he/she doesn’t like. Legal fees, sometimes even protection for people in especially volatile areas, are a serious and semi-regular occurrence.
  • Pagan organizational training – a place to get training on how to apply for 501 c 3, working with social services, volunteer management training, organizational financial management.
  • Pagan financial management – even opening a credit union specific to Pagans has some potential, but that concept is a few decades off yet.
  • Funding for current and future Pagan seminaries, scholarship funds to send Pagan children to mainstream and Pagan oriented colleges and universities, establishing legitimately accredited colleges that also have Pagan and holistic-friendly aspects to the curriculum.
  • Pagan mental health support, where magical thinking is not viewed as a disease, and where byproducts of shamanic experiences are treated as seriously as any other trauma and not as a psychosomatic instance.
  • Creating a Pagan volunteer corp that can also use skills learned while volunteering in mainstream resumes – this may mean a sort of veil name – “The Veiled Volunteer Corp,” or something.

A foundation should also operate as a de facto Pagan community center, and provide a welcoming environment for those seeking help in different ways. It should, however, not blend with a for-profit business, although it should cultivate relationships with some businesses and corporations over time. (That is how fundraising works.)

This of course can not and should not replace what’s already out there. I make this suggestion because stuff that used to work for pulling it together with Pagan orgs just isn’t any more. Culture changes with every new wave of technology, and while people may feel more connected than ever on Facebook, I really think Facebook actually makes it infinitely harder for people to reach out and find one another. We may have scads of friends, but we know less people and we meet less people than we ever did before.  It really keeps people in a circular pattern where they can’t reach beyond their immediate circle to see what else is out there, and so it turns into the same combinations of personalities with no new input for anyone. We once had Witch’s Voice as a central information source, but now it’s very, very scattered – so we need something.

Of course, after all my talk on doing the work on yourself first, proposing an organization sounds a bit mad. I get that. Here’s my reasoning:

In Gretchen Rubin’s the Happiness Project, she explains that happiness is not a sense of ecstasy. It is a sense of engagement with what you are doing while you are doing it. Happy people are engaged – not high. She also mentions talking to a friend who grew up with hardcore activist parents. They explained the secret to their sustained success participating in activism movements: “If you’re going to join a cause, you have to do it for YOU.”

Ultimately, people contribute most and best to what serves their self-interests. Not every person’s self-interests are bad – some are quite, quite good. I’m a feminist out of pure self-interest. I vote mostly Green Party and Democratic because a)I like continuing to breathe and think that keeping rain forests around are in my personal long-term breathing interests and b)because I live in a somewhat dense urban population, I like living there, and crowded places require more government oversight than do less crowded places, like Montana.  If people start seeing their Pagan community activities as things they do for themselves – and not “for the community” which is a vague and rippling concept at the best of times, they will choose activities better suited to the truth of their hearts, burn out less, and make bigger changes while physically doing less/spending less time on these efforts and thus making themselves as individuals sustained and more sustainable over time.

If we do this for ourselves – for the retirement home we WANT to be in, or even just for the parties and campouts  –   we’ll be doing it for the right reasons.