I had a realization yesterday after reading one of Ali’s entries in Foxfire’s commonplace book. We’d been having a conversation about why we’re Pagan. Given that Paganism isn’t really a definable thing, given that our beliefs and practices tend to be different from what I’ll call the Pagan “mainstream,” and given that we don’t always feel like we have a lot in common with other people who describe themselves as Pagan, what the hell are we doing?
And Ali wrote something to the effect of:
“I love hanging out with other Pagans. I love going to festivals, seeing other people’s rituals, talking about different kinds of magic, and being a part of a bigger community. I’m Pagan because it’s fun.”
And that probably sounds shallow to some of you, but I’m in the same boat. I’m Wiccan for all kinds of profound-sounding spiritual reasons that require me to make my serious face, but I’m Pagan because it’s fun. And that’s actually just as profound and serious. The Pagan community has felt like home to me since I showed up at my first open ritual (a very elaborate one in Washington, DC, designed to find a cure for AIDS and facilitated by a very lively coven of Radical Faeries). We are an amalgamation of people from a lot of different backgrounds, and we have conflicting beliefs, practices that seem unrelated to one another, and often very different values. About the only thing we seem to have in common half the time to me is that we identify as Pagan (whatever that means).
We’re a lot like a fandom.
I’m sure someone has written about this before (if not, they should), and give me a sec before getting offended. Understand that I don’t mean that to be dismissive.
Fandoms are groups of people (often very large groups of people) united by a deep, common love for a show, a book series, a band, a genre, maybe even just a concept of something (like the Furry fandom). It often looks silly to outsiders, but fans are serious. Things are canon or not canon (and this matters). People create art, music, stuff. They build identities within their fandoms through the creation of OCs or else by establishing themselves as other kinds of contributors. It’s every bit as about identity construction and meaning making as anything we might conventionally think of as “religion.” Not for everyone, of course, but the potential is there.
Pagans behave a lot like people in fandoms, I think. We’re even organized in similar ways. When we go home, we may be very different people, but when we’re together we’re united by our identity as Pagans, whatever that means to us.
I don’t mean this to be dismissive precisely because I think fandoms are serious business, just as I think Paganism is serious business. These kinds of communities make life meaningful and valuable to members. They provide creative outlets and help us to build identities. Often, they help lonely people make their first and best friends. They help us to feel like we have a place and like we matter.
It suddenly makes even more sense to me why Paganism attracts so many nerds.