Sunday, 26 February 2012

Radical Paganism

In essence, it is the nature of paganism to be radical.

While the mainstream world is driven by money and a hunger for power, paganism reverences nature. You can’t go round pillaging that which you reverence, and in daring to care for the planet, we automatically step away from that normal and oh-so-destructive world view.

Paganism is inherently non-hierarchical. Groups tend to have leaders, but as anyone can found a group, grove, coven, order… and as anyone can move from one group to another as they see fit, that hierarchy only exists
where it is supported and valued. In short, you have to do a decent job as a pagan to be in a position of power and responsibility. Those interested in serving only themselves do not tend to survive long. Plus, you don’t get a house as part of the ‘job’ or a steady income, or a seat on a national ruling body, or any of the other power-trappings other faiths confer. Those who are trying to earn a penny along the way soon find that it’s not the easiest way to make ends meet.

The pagan faiths encourage independent thinking, personal responsibility and enough motivation to get out there and learn. No one will come round and convert you, or tell you what to think, or otherwise make it easy for you. Compare this with the sheer numbers of other religious, political and media folk who are desperate to tell you what to think, wear, feel and say. Having an opinion you formed all by yourself is pretty damn radical.

When you look at the values that exist across paganism, most of them don’t sit well alongside corporate, repressive ideologies. We value beauty, not mass produced pap. We care about where our food comes from. We respect life, and we think there should be more to human life than being a cog in someone else’s money making machine. We dance to our own drums, our own music, and we aren’t afraid to sing our own songs.

Being a radical pagan is not just about doing the recycling, and the striking clothes we might wear. If we let them, our beliefs can permeate every part of our lives. We can be radicals in our compassion and ourwillingness to try and understand others. We can be radical in defending human rights, animal rights, plant rights, soil rights. I’m a great believer in saving the human habitat, which is everywhere. Not only can we care, but we can dare to do so publically. We can stand up and speak. We can blog, protest, letter write, make nuisance and draw attention. We can be in tune enough with our emotions to get angry about what is wrong in the world, and with the courage of our warrior ancestors, we can peacefully resist.

I am hugely inspired by the nuisance making of radicals through history. The best revolutions are bloodless, and often prove the most successful. Where we try and force progress through violence, often what we get instead is more violence. But paganism gives us heroic myths and powerful archetypes to draw on. It gives us personal insight into what it means to be on the fringes, vulnerable, easily made victim. Our people have been oppressed too, and in some countries, still are. It won’t take many right wing bigots to bring back the ‘good old days’ of religious oppression. We are only ever one change in the laws away from being criminalised. Again.

People who think, are dangerous. People who ask questions, are dangerous. People who do not accept the soothing noises of politicians or the toys of consumerism, are dangerous. Every time a pagan rejects the mainstream, they aren’t just making a statement for themselves, they are showing that it can be done. For every pagan who speaks, or acts out of their reverence for nature and respect for life, there are going to be a whole bunch of non-pagans who hear them. Every time we speak with passion of our values and ethics, someone will hear us, and that has the potential to change them. By living our truth we can gently radicalise those around us.

‘Radical’ is a word those in power like to blacken. Radicals are supposedly the bad guys, the threat. To be radicalised is to step outside society, with connotations of violence, and fanaticism. Being a radical means
so much more than this, and does not have to cause harm to anyone. An it harm none, do what you will is a fabulously radical notion.

Make nuisance. Make love, and poetry. Make people listen.
Make your truth, your life. If you do so, you will be a revolutionary, a radical, a threat to the establishment. We aren’t going to take over the world. That kind of power-hunger is just another trap for those who are fearful and lost. All we need is to live our own lives in peace and freedom, which for those who crave control, is about the most offensive thing any of us could do.
Be the change.