The Silent Exodus? Or Did Someone Shout “Fire” at the Ritual?

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the lowered attendance at various Pagan gatherings. For instance, a multi-day Pagan music festival, CalderaFest, canceled approximately a month before the scheduled date because of lower than expected ticket sales. At a fairly expensive price point, cost certainly seemed to be a major factor. Another Pagan gathering, WitchFest International in the United Kingdom, has significant worries over the potential of putting another gathering on next year. A quick perusal of Pagan Pride Day events around the United States sees a smaller number of events taking place. could this be pointing towards a downturn in the Pagan revival of the past few years? Or is it something deeper than that? Political? Economic?

Truth be told, my suspicion is that it can be any combination of these points – along with a few others that I just cannot figure into my thinking at the moment. And then there’s the human nature thing….the lemming factor.

Politics

In terms of potential issues that are keeping Pagans from attending public events, I find this to be the least likely. There are plenty of non-Pagans that are ticked off at the various gyrations of a moron President, here in America, that I do not really see this one being a huge factor. However, I do believe it is a factor to a much less significant degree. In fact, I would point to this as a possible tipping point in some folks stepping away from public events and the such. Just not the be-all, end-all one. I am not sure about issues elsewhere in the world so this might be a bigger point elsewhere. With much of the political world pushing to factor in a “Christian America” to be held over all over faiths, it certainly is a concerning point to watch. In a day and age where compartmentalization of other people by gender, skin pigmentation, politics, and creed, this has the potential to be an even bigger issue before the end of this calendar year – all dependent on the whims of an angry, orange nit-twit.

Economic

The world economies are facing another downturn, and this one may be sharper than ever before. So, there’s a touch of an explanation there concerning people wanting to hang on to earned monies far more than before. But it also begs the question – where are all the rich Pagans? Yes, this is not only a facetious point that gets made from time to time but is usually done so with a raucous bit of humor attached to it as well. But seriously, where are all the rich Pagans?? Seemingly, most Pagan families are rather poor in terms of personal income and overall wealth. Though I would be hard-pressed to call that a statistical fact. More like a personal perspective. And considering that my range of friends within the wider-arching Pagan community are about as well off as I am – I would call it misleading at best. I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly have a good paying job that allows me the time off to travel to places like San Jose, California, and Olympia, Washington to attend gatherings. With that noted, I believe that a potential economic downturn is on nearly everyone’s mind – and likely a more significant factor than most people would seem to think. And that’s personal conjecture on my part.

Maybe Paganism Is Not for Them

Maybe I should call this the “Trendy” part of the reasoning. After all, Paganism has been a “hot” place to be – at least faith-wise. And for a lot of folks looking for a Spiritual Home, the host of choices under the Pagan umbrella are certainly enticing. You can believe as you want. You can worship as you want. You can fashion the Gods and Goddesses in your own manner, even if Tom Hiddleston is the favored template of choice for Loki. You get to hang out by a fire with other people – sing, drink, make noise, and there is even a chance you might get laid. You cannot beat that with a stick, for sure! But then, when you finally start to get serious about your beliefs, or when the other folks start expecting you to get serious about learning to be [x] — there is that stuff that had you high-tailing it out of Catholicism or Buddhism or the southern-Baptist beliefs that you were part of before.

That’s right, the hard work. The learning. The lessons. The following of the traditional ceremonial processes. Becoming a more active member of your group. Taking on a role within that group, and the responsibilities that come with it. Yep. Suddenly, there’s work that goes with all the fun you had on Saturday night out by the fire. All that shared whiskey and beer, and now, those other folks expect you to be part of the folks that do the work.

I would posit that this is the primary reason that we are seeing folks disappearing – what I call the “silent exodus”. When the work gets hard, a lot of people get gone. When there’s more to the beliefs than hanging out in the woods, drinking good whiskey, wine, and beer out by the fire…that is where a lot of folks draw the line and find the exit to the ride. And this, I would submit – is the prime reason we are seeing folks disappear. Because shit got real.

None of this even approaches those where the shit got VERY real. Where they did encounter Something they didn’t expect. And instead of coming to the next Grove or Circle, they are at home washing their underwear to get the stains out. Nor does it approach the folks who just happened to think that what they experienced with the group in a ritual was just plain “nuts”. They like the alcohol, the vibe of the group….but holding incense in a cardinal direction, and invoking the Spirits of the Wind, Air, Sea, and Earth — that just puts them in Scooby-Doo land. And this just ain’t for them.

So where are the Pagans going?  Why are we not seeing Pagans at that many gatherings these days? Why are we seeing long-running – and just starting – festivals beginning to shutter their doors?? I think its a composite of all these reasons, and many, many more. Perhaps, Paganism is finally seeing the back-end of the current revival, which includes some of the folks re-thinking how they view their Paganism. In my mundane job, which is statistical research for a small college, this is typically referred to as the “leveling-off” of the numbers. Nothing continues to grow at massive rates year after year. There will come a time when that upward climb slows and even drops. Perhaps, this is that time. This silent exodus is certainly happening

This silent exodus is certainly happening at an intersection of what many call “interesting times”. Is this intersection just happenstance, an anomaly, or a harbinger of even more harrowing times? Definitely food for further thought….

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One thought on “The Silent Exodus? Or Did Someone Shout “Fire” at the Ritual?

  1. Ani

    I don’t disagree with you on the work or economics points but I think politics are also a larger factor than some would think, at least in my area. I live in Southeastern PA and religion is a very hot button issue here. It’s not safe to be openly Pagan here and there are few, if any events locally. This area is basically a dead zone for anything outside of conventional Christianity and there is a constant threat of possible violence towards anyone who doesn’t fit in. I can’t speak for anyone and I don’t know if anyone else in the country is facing the same concerns.

    Reply

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