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Mainstreaming Pagans

What’s the difference between today’s Paganism and indigenous traditions? Intensity and commitment.

By Gus diZerega

The United States has a long occult tradition; the United Kingdom’s is even longer. Most of those involved devoted considerable effort to study and practice. The subject was so disreputable in many circles, and so often terrifying to outsiders, that this level of commitment followed almost as a matter of course. To study the occult was not like having a fish tank or electric train set. The first public witches were part of this larger occult community.

Today, it is relatively easy to be a Pagan the way many people are Christians. By this I do not mean to criticize, but rather to point out that for many it can be one interest among many, an interest pursued relatively easily within the context of a normal day-to-day set of priorities. Attending eight Sabbats is not a serious time commitment, and honoring thirteen Full Moons a year in addition is still less than regular church attendance. Further, many Pagans now study and learn on their own, at their own pace. Few are members of covens or equivalent groups.

I think this growth is good, and I think the growth of a mass of less deeply trained Pagans is also good. But it also changes the flavor of the broader community. I have talked to more than a few Pagans of the first camp (with which I myself identify) who are bothered. I am not because I think it is a sign of developing a deeper cultural matrix within which the specialists in healing, spirit, and occult work generally can find a more comfortable and supportive environment. Further, I think this diversity is also what many Pagan societies were.

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