We’ve learned in previous lessons the importance of developing a personal practice and the work and efforts of fine-tuning what that practice includes and ultimately becomes. But something more is needed that will expand upon those singular and personal threads you’ve woven. That “something” is the expansive catalytic energy created by the intermingling of your ideas, philosophies and practice with that which others have crafted of their own. It is within this space of exchange, safe haven for disagreement and accord and body of enough like-minded individuals that we find the assemblage of what may be defined as a community.
By definition the word Community means:
1: a unified body of individuals as:
a: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location
b: a group linked by a common policy
c: body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society
2: those who have:
a: joint ownership or participation
b : common character
c : social activity and fellowship
I like these definitions because they give clue to the multiple layers that community is and the varied forms it may take. This simple word encompasses geographic location, societal conditions, historical and philosophical commonalities and interaction among varied, yet like-minded individuals. In the broadest and simplest setting it is the coming together of those with shared interests on common ground. As we narrow it down a bit more, we see that the broader community is composed of smaller groups of individuals, who have even more in common and with shared interests. Moving in closer still, we separate out into the many traditions and practices that comprise the umbrella of what a pagan community includes. And, looking closer still, we see that even within our smaller pockets of community that are our covens, groves, lodges and more, there is yet a smaller community of individuals who share the common experience of expertise, lineage or mundane life. Some may disagree with my drawing the lens in so tightly and still calling it community, but if we use these definitions above we can loosely define community with as few or as many participants as we wish.
I believe that one of the key points of distinction in what constitutes as community or not is the aspect of joint ownership and participation that is at the heart of that community. This implies that there should be a sense of co-creation at work in establishing what we identify as community; and without the active participation from all who wish to claim ownership of what has been created that cluster will soon wither and dry up. I have purposefully omitted comment on the efficacy of communal efforts, power plays and negative ego based agenda that flow as an undercurrent through all communities as this is a topic for a much lengthier essay.
If we take all of the above dynamics into consideration, finding a home within a specific community adds yet another dimension of complexity in that the individual must feel comfortable, safe and identify that home as a place of nurturance and best interest. Becoming part of a group or frequenting the same open communal activities simply out of the need to belong and falsely molding yourself to fit in is not a great option. Nor is holding on rigidly to your own beliefs and remaining indifferent to the scope and breath of others experiences a positive practice. And, in the broader sense, neither of these conditions is a good foundation for creating a strong and resilient pagan community that will stand the test of time and remain viable regardless of what pressures are set upon it.
Remember that definition of joint ownership? I would like to add responsibility to the mix as well. We are ultimately responsible for the life we breathe into our communities; the strength we lend to them and the intent we place upon them to grow in a functional and positive manner. It is our responsibility to ensure that our communities will attract the necessary energy that will move us forward as magickal workers, human beings and stewards of our lives and lands. The function of a healthy community is to be the legacy from which the next generation of seekers can draw upon and take to the next level of evolvement (or involvement).
So, with the goal in mind of finding a community that will serve both your personal needs towards growth and contribute to the ever expanding diversity of that community, finding a place that you call home within this broad spectrum can often be overwhelming in choice. This is where the adage “Know Thyself” and the time spent in personal practice can serve as anchor and scale to weigh the pros and cons to where you choose to hang your hat.
Each of us wants to find a place within community that feels right and is comfortable. A place where we can be our best and at times also be our worst and still remain accepted for who we are. This is one of the primary purposes that community serves. So, explore the offerings and opportunities to participate in summer Festivals, Pagan Pride Days, Open Rituals, Balls, Conferences and anywhere others on a similar path may gather. Meet others, share in common experience and enrich and expand your own connections outwardly. Then, drawing that lens inward, return to the space of your self and evaluate and reflect on how each of these settings felt. Who were the people that you felt most connected to? What are their practices and how do they align with your own? Do your research about those Traditions that you may not know and reach out a little more deeply, probing the waters, of those you do.
Every community has its own nuances and subtleties, many of which are not apparent until you spend some time within them. But, there is also a wealth of obvious strengths and weaknesses if we take the time to open our minds and hearts and fully engage during the time spent in the setting and among the people with whom we are communing. Take the broadest of your experience within the larger community and then narrow it down, step by step until you find the one with which you resonate the most comfortably. This may be committing formally to a group or Tradition and the community they form, adapting communal practices to your solitary practice or participating routinely in select events that completely nourish and enlivens you throughout the year.
The important thing to remember is that where you choose to make your spiritual home and the connections to that community that you weave often become the pivotal factors in how you progress along your chosen path. And, more importantly, the lessons learned from your experiences will ultimately inform what you then have to share with those whom you consider to be part of your larger community.
Definitions taken from The Merriam Webster Dictionary
Article reposted from The Magickal Pen
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