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On Stories and Community

by Robyn  

We are each alone in our relationship with the gods. In the beginning, and during initiation, we are solitary. Then comes the fire, the fire of desire. We desire to know others who do these things, practice these rituals and worship these gods. We seek to gather round the fire of a common knowledge. Or, out of fear of persecution. It does not matter why we seek each other. There is this desire, and people gather to warm themselves. They gather to keep off the dark, and to be together. They gather for safety, or to socialize, to learn, to sing, and to listen to stories. That's what history is, whether it's the history of a subculture, or the over-culture, it is the stories we tell one another. Our stories both create and define our realities, they inspire us to stretch and grow. They can teach, and correct. They can harm, or they can heal. Our stories tell us of ourselves, of magic, and of life. Even where pagan community feeling is less cohesive than we may wish, the fire remains. Whether we get all we hope for from our interrelations or not, we are related and will gather.

We are learning the worth of stories in our studies of magic. Why else should we create or reconstruct stories of gods, creation stories, and mythologies? We say that stories are important, that they are powerful aspects of reality We sense that knowledge is a form of power. This is true not only of the stories of the gods but of stories of ourselves and each other. We should also be learning to tell stories to one another that make us whole and strong. We could use the power of our stories to teach us how to be who we can, or want to be. Let us tell stories to create ourselves in the image of our fondest dreams. Let us use our stories to build our community, and make our selves stronger, more knowledgeable, more powerful.

We each have our own perspective on pagan community, based on where we live and who we know. Our perspective is based on how we relate to others both within and beyond our direct circle of friends. I don't know the national community. I only know the area in which I live, and the community I see. It isn't all smooth, we fight, we bitch, we have our politics. Yes, I have sworn up and down again that networking, large groups, and inter-coven relations are not worth the effort and the pain. I can only assume things are similar elsewhere. Politics, gossip, and rivalry occur in the pagan community I know. I suspect it is inevitable, it may even be good.

What I want to say is that community can be created links can be forged between people and covens such that all benefit. Yes, it can be difficult for each person involved. It means more supervision of each priest and priestess, as a teacher, and more supervision of one's coveners by others. People will know what you teach your students and what others teach theirs. It is a bit harder to do what ever you please if you know that people can, and will, engage in a little friendly social comparison. They will comment on what they see you do. When more than just your sworn coveners know what you're doing, what worked, and what didn't, it is harder to make believe you re more important than you really are. It makes it easier for novices to shop around for a coven. I think that's good. It allows people to find the group, or deity, or people, that they can work with well, and what works best for them.

I like gossip and social comparison because they allow for the maintenance of a flexible social order, a social order that does create a framework for us, a network of interrelations, without laws. Working together we can make self-criticism a community effort for self-improvement. It needn't be a competitive thing. We will inevitably discuss each other; let us do so in a friendly manner that recognizes our connectedness. We need and love each other even when we disagree. Remember that. Let's correct each otherís mistakes, not gloss them over, but correct them with care and love. We wish one another to be the best we can.

Our stories are not just myths of gods and goddesses, not just stories of the beginnings of the world, but of the beginnings of ourselves. The mythology of the ancient past, and of the recent past, are both important. Our stories of ourselves and each other; our responses to the challenges of our lives, can teach us as can the myths of the ancient past. It is important to tell each other of both our successes and our failures so that we can learn from one another. We won't sound perfect in these stories, because we aren't perfect, at least not yet. But they will be the myths of the future and it is important that we take the time to record our stories. It is important to take the creation of stories seriously.

Come into the circle, come to the fire, tell us your story. We may do more than simply praise your efforts, we may critique them. It might hurt a bit at first. We should critique each other, to help each other grow. Let us affirm our connectedness, as one circle of friends, around one fire. There is still cold, darkness, danger, and hostility out there; there is still ignorance among us. But we have our heroes too, and we will emulate each other. We always copy those whom we love and admire. Tell us your story, that we all may learn.

"Gossip maintains social order in a well knit society more effectively than law." Starhawk

 

      

Illustration, "Pool"  Copyright © 1991 by Don Murray. Copyright © 1991, 1999 by Dawnblaze. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04 Jan 2002 06:13:29 -0500

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