The Wild Hunt has a featured article on “where Paganism will be in 100 years“. Eight individuals were asked to provide their perspectives, including John Beckett. Now I’ve known John for a while, and his perspective was not that surprising to me. And honestly, its a perspective I can share in to some degree. The other seven folks also had very different views on where the next hundred years will/may take us – the Pagan community – into the unknown future.
I thought this was an interesting exercise, so I have decided to provide my own perspective. Except I am not going to head quite that far down the road. Instead, I am going to aim at a patch of time: forty-to-fifty years. Why? Because trying to foresee the future is really difficult stuff. And while one-hundred years makes for an interesting barrier that goes just far enough down the road and past the horizon, for me that’s a bit too far for my failing eyes (thank you, diabetes type-2) to glimpse.
First off, I have no special dispensation on what the future may or may not hold. In fact, I’m nowhere near being enough of a social scientist to even predict fads, trends, and social changes. All of which can factor into how something as personal as religious beliefs and practices can be discerned. In fact, I’ll stop and point out that everything I note here is merely my own jaundiced perception of the immediate future being projected against the back wall of the room while the lights are dim.
I would hope, in my heart of hearts, that human kind would learn to be more caring and favorable to one another. The current election cycle put a claw hammer through the skull of that dream. With politicians bandying about hateful and hurtful remarks against people of a racial or religious background, there’s a lot more territory to cover before that happens. With protest movements continuing to focus on the barriers that divide us, rather than on how removing those barriers changes the focus, I just don’t see where people are going to alter their perception to that of all people being equal, and worthy of respect. That battle, I do believe, will continue to be the same uphill struggle that we currently push against.
Paganism, from a wide-ranging “umbrella” or “big-tent” notation, will continue to grow. I have heard statements tossed around that liken Pagan belief systems as some of the fastest growing segments of religious belief on the face of the planet. Perhaps that is so, perhaps not. But I do see more and more Pagans stepping forward publicly with their beliefs, unafraid of the social stigma that it may or may not carry. I can only see that growing in strength and in numbers. I’ve been a public Pagan for most of my life – just a touch under thirty years now. In the beginning, I was public because I had the protection of being in a closed community – the United States Air Force – where my right to believe and worship as I wished was somewhat protected. I have delighted in Pagans continuing to embrace their beliefs openly, and shed the social stigma attached with Paganism, as if it were merely a straw blanket placed over them. In forty to fifty years? Perhaps Pagans will be in widely viewed jobs, such as television journalism – openly Pagan on the air, and willing to share the same space cordially with non-Pagans. Or, perhaps forty to fifty years might be a touch too soon, and such a change will take place shortly thereafter.
In a political and social environment that seems to value and desires to protect our natural surroundings, I continue to see hope. However, I see change as being far slower than I had imagined it would be fifteen years ago. We still have a major segment of the world community that views the Earth as a natural resource to consume and use at their whim, not as a part of the environment that we all make up together. Where will all that be in forty or fifty years? I would hope much further along, but I fear that any major changes won’t be made until we have done irreparable damage to our relationship with Mother Earth.
There were a few points made about Temples and Sacred Space – particularly that it will come quickly, and that our overall world community would embrace such locations for the religious aspects that they bring. In all my traveling around the United States over the past three years, I have only seen one location that was held up for its sacredness. That was Medicine Wheel in the Wyoming Bighorn Forest, near Medicine Mountain. And when I visited, in the middle of Summer, I was one of three people there. Not much of a visited place, other than by the local First Nations’ tribes that utilized it for their own ceremonies. Other places, such as Glacier National Park, the Badlands, and Mesa Verde – had the feel of a tourist attraction, rather than the sacred locations that they are. I am left to wonder, in forty to fifty years, will the attitude towards such places change? Would building temples to the Gods attract the believers or would it attract the sight-seekers with their selfie sticks, merely there to take a photo proving they were there? I am not completely sure, which of those would truly took hold in that time span, much less within the next one-hundred years.
I know. Rereading all of this, it seems a somewhat bleak picture. That perhaps Paganism will not took hold in the rocky soil we are trying to plant it. But surely, I would say that the future of Paganism is quite bright. As more come to know their connectivity to their surrounding environment; how they are not apart from their world as conquerers, users, and abusers — the future for Paganism begins to shine. Where people who choose the path of Paganism can shed their dark cloaks and step out of the shadows, free to be who they are – without fear of reprisal or social stigma. For me, that is what my fight with the United States Air Force in gaining chapel space for Pagan rites was all about. Not to shove my beliefs down someone’s throat. Rather it was about being able to step out into the public light – free to be who I am, without shame or fear. And that, my dear friends and readers, is what the next forty to fifty years will attain. The freedom for those who come after us – the generations yet to step on to the paths of Paganism – to be who they are. And never to fear the burnings, the beatings, the fear or the shame of others. Whatever else I may believe, this I will continue to fight for it to come to fruition. And I know many others will too.