Paganism as Studied via Social Media

I want it to be clear that none of what I write in this blog is in the spirit of “this is the way it should be done” outside of my own practices and experiences. I see a lot of New Pagans make that mistake, especially in the Pagan-centered blogosphere. Perhaps because I occasionally search the keyword “pagan” on Tumblr, where the median age of users seems to be 17, and it brings up the same things over and over:

“I am interested in Paganism. What are some good sites to learn all about it?”

“I’ve just started learning about Wicca and wondered if I should start a Paganism blog here. What do followers think?”

Listen, I get that you are excited about your first Wicca 101 book you bought from Amazon (which you are now diligently copying directly to your blog despite all copyright notices, etc). I just think it may be a little premature to start putting forth all this information in a manner that suggests you know what the hell you’re talking about. There’s no shame in writing a blog that comes right out and says it’s purely exploratory and you’re just a beginner. I’ve been studying various Pagan ideas for more than 20 years, and I’m still a novice. In my opinion, it’s a fine thing to just say that. I’m a beginner. Don’t take what I write here as “truth” or even “fact” when it’s just my own truth. When I see things like those quoted above, it makes me shake my head. In a way, the first person is trying to find shortcuts to answers. The second person is trying to collect more “followers” (“Friends” if you’re a Facebook user) in the usual social-media-as-validation manner.

My personal path has always been about personal experience and revelation, which is why Druidry speaks to me. Especially OBOD Druidry (there are multiple Druidic schools of thought) speaks to me for its focus on philosophy and harmony, and its ability to be blended with most any other faith. There are Buddhist Druids, Christian Druids, Wiccan Druids… you get the picture. Of course, there is ADF Druidry, which presents itself specifically as a religion (vs. a spirituality), but I have not studied their materials as yet.

I think that it’s great that young people are continuing to get interested in alternative religions, and that Paganism is becoming common enough that these kinds of discussions can be had in the public sphere. The Internet provides a means of connecting with others of the same or similar mindset and attitudes. But, the Internet is made up of documents (blog posts, blog comments, web pages, etc) posted by amateurs; said documents are often the result of a big game of Whisper Down the Lane. Things get truncated, misinterpreted, shorthanded and repeated without all the context, leaving New Pagans with more questions than answers, really. I have a strong memory of being on a newsgroup (the precedent of message boards) where the origins of Celts was being discussed, but in such disjointed, unclear ways that left me more confused than before.

It wasn’t until I took up the study from actual, physical, researched books written by people who make it their living to study and write about such things that any of it made sense.

“But I don’t have money for books!” you exclaim.

That’s okay, neither do I. What I do have is a library card, and inter-library loan.

“I’m afraid to ask for Wicca books! They’ll judge me! Right in the face!”

*shrug* Well, there was a time when none of us had another option. Maybe you could study mythologies and folk tales instead for a while; it all informs modern Paganism in some way, and no librarian will judge you for reading W.B. Yeats. Or, you know, you could just go for it and judgey people be damned!

Okay, admittedly, one thing the Internet is good for is connecting you to Project Gutenberg. Where you can get a copy of the Norse Eddas for free and nobody has to know you downloaded it. Although it’s not written by someone calling themselves Starlight Ravenclaw or Lady Fairy-toes, it is most certainly a very Pagan work. Does it tell you how to do spells? Of course not. But then, should you really be trying magic out already when you don’t have any training at all? Can you not imagine how that could go horribly, horribly wrong? (*sigh* All right, fine, check out The Golden Bough if you must.)

Listen, I certainly am not trying to tell you How It Should Be. Just, you know, putting thoughts out there, making suggestions. Specifically that if you want to actually learn something beyond skimming the Wikipedia entry, log off the Internet and hit the library.

Category(s): Spirituality, tough love

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