The Irritation of 21st Century Paganism

Previously titled: On not Being a Big Name Pagan

This is still one of the most irritating aspects of 21st century Paganism:

“Hi! I’m doing this project. You can find more information on it here!”

“Puff. Puff. Well I’VE never heard of you! Therefore everything you say/do is suspect because Pagan Pagan Paranoia Paranoia ALWAY UNDER ATTACK!!!”

Usually a “Google me, idiot,” goes unheard beneath the panting, roaring and posturing. I mean, c’mon. There’s only two other people in the country with my exact name and I am pretty sure my writing in the 90s has forced them both to take on user handles.

It is actually a recall to a behavior I started encountering in my school growing up. The town at the time had about 16,000 people – not big, but too big to be considered a village. So at my junior high there were roughly 600-800 kids there at any given time; the high school had around 1600, give/take based on the dropout rate that year.

This all happened before the Gen Y Baby Boom, so it was the last time this town saw numbers that small in its schools.

Every so often, I would be on a church trip (I was raised Christian and active in a liberal church.) One of the guys that was part of this seemed to have a new girlfriend with him at every new church event. Every single time, she asked “Well, why haven’t I seen you around before?”

I do think after awhile this church guy was just telling his girlfriends to ask me this because it is such an irritating question. Aside from the “prove a negative” aspect – a question borne of pure narcissism designed so that no matter what you say you cannot satisfy the querent – simple math answered the question pretty damn well.

In any place with more than 200 individuals it is very, very likely you will not know or see every single person.

Hell, there were kids I had never seen before on the day I graduated – and my class of 340 should have made those kids visible to me at some point…until I realized that 340 x 4 different classes really lessened my odds of knowing every.single.person in my school.

This was in a small town.

Paganism is small, yes, when compared to the sheer towering size of other better-known religious groupings. But as a population in and of itself – a lot of people keep acting like it’s a group of around 200 people. It’s probably, globally, taking account all current living Pagan religions, closer to 300,000. This is based on a wild, wild guess and the knowledge that there are people who claim some type of Paganism as their religious belief on every continent. There are a lot of people who are in the closet or who just don’t participate in online or community life to consider. It’s also important to recognize that non-participation is their right, but that’s another issue.

In my own case, it’s led to some ridiculous behaviors. When I approached one Facebook group about participating in the docmentary for my book Divorcing a Real Witch, they demanded to know if I was initiated or not. That’s the second time some self-appointed watch dog did this. Not only was it absurd and insulting – initiation is specific to traditions and I did not walk in making any claims whatsoever about my trad or initiatory background – there was actually a very easy, legitimate way to vet my authenticity. Well, two.

1. Google me – I have an online presence that goes back to 96, though I did disappear from the Pagan web a bit between 2002-2010 because of divorce/developing a chronic illness. I was, however, still on the web.

2. My book is not self-published. I had provided my publisher name. You could check my background by contacting said publisher and asking if I am for real.

3. I have public affiliations with the PNC – so you could, say, go to one of the other editors to determine  a)am I really Pagan and b)whether I would misuse any information provided.

This can still lead to the following “prove a negative” issue: “Well, we’re still small enough that we should of heard of you as an author…”

Well, no.

1)Not all Pagan authors write books. For years I have been a short article person. The reasons for this are many.

2) Not all Pagan authors keep blogs. This is more the case in the older set than the younger thanks to conditions of the publishing world.

3)There are more than 1000 Pagan authors. This was the case even before self-publishing became easy. There may be a few eidetics who can rattle them all off but, for all our collective ambitions, most of us are mortals that would injure ourselves in such a process. (Mark Twain reference.)

4)Self-publishing was a big thing among Pagan authors for two reasons: 1)at least in the UK, writing about witchcraft as nonfiction was illegal until about 1950 and 2)publishers did not see Pagan and witchcraft writing as a profitable sector until the 1990s. Publishers Weekly documented the rise pretty well.

I am also not typically in a good financial position to go to festivals and conferences. Yes, I know people that will cheerfully plan their whole lives around festivals etc. It does look like fun – but right now I want to make sure that I am not, later in life, one of those elders who has to send out social media pleadings for financial assistance/medical assistance. So I watch and write from afar.