Not only do Solitary Pagans have to deal with a different assortment of challenges than other Pagans, we also have to take different approaches to Community and Unity. Understanding who we are as Solitaries is critical if we are to be equal partners in the Greater Pagan Community.
Putting Up Rather Than Shutting Up
I have spent decades talking to Pagans about the perceived “culture of poverty” within the Pagan Community. That is the belief that “I can’t afford that and I never will be able to” or “I can’t go to that festival for $70, even though they will feed and house me for 3 days.” I have spent the last year telling anyone and everyone who will listen that the Pagan Community needs a professional media corps. If you’d like to see some of my arguments for why, check our website – www.PaganTV.org.
I realized something a few weeks ago. Pick the euphemism you prefer – “put your money where your mouth is”, “put up or shut up”, or “if you talk the talk you need to walk the walk.” It is true that I spend a fair amount of money every year attending various Pagan events and festivals. Like many of us, I also buy plenty of Pagan goodies from incense to altar tools to books, books, and more books. All of those activities are good for our Community economy but really aren’t enough to help us get to where we need to go.
Like most modern Pagans, I utilize a lot of services within our Community. Since I so often preach about the need for us to contribute financially to our Community, I decided to audit how much I contribute every year and I found that I am falling terribly short of even a minimum of helping when it comes to money. I do plenty of volunteer work in the Community, I do fund raisers for PPDs, I offer my knowledge for free whenever practical, however, all of that puts very little money into the Community. It’s not like I don’t contribute my energy almost constantly, but our Community (like all others) needs hard currency – especially if we hope to offer more services to our fellow Pagans.
While thinking about this recently, I started doing some math and uncovered something that truly startled me. Here in my state of Oregon, I was surprised to see that (according to the most recent government survey data available) that there are 3 – 4 times more Pagans living in Oregon then there are members of the Sikh Community. However, the Sikh Community has successfully paid for and constructed a temple in the small capitol city of Salem where I work. How is it that a significantly smaller religious community can accomplish this when the Pagans in Oregon have been striving to accomplish essentially the same thing for 20 years without success? Is the Sikh Community overflowing with money compared to the “poverty stricken” Pagan Community?
No, the simple truth is that the Sikh Community has a tradition of giving to support their spiritual goals and beliefs. We Pagans simply do not have anything like that. It has long frustrated me that seemingly even the smallest, most bizarre Christian groups (like The People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, etc.) seem to be able to build churches, compounds, and movie-theater like community centers, yet we Pagans struggle to fund even the simplest of charities or Pagan programs.
This column is about A Circle of One – meaning what we Solitaries can do as well as what individual Traditional Pagans can do on our own to help our Community, our Sisters and Brothers, and ourselves without depending on others to assist. How could I possibly whine about our communal approach to money and our need to support Pagan institutions and a professional media corps when I myself am ignoring my own requests. Yes, I have given countless hours in volunteer service and I attend and support every Pagan event possible, but that is not enough. The Sikh Community would not have any community centers in Oregon if they followed my example of talking without doing.
So this month, as part of my planning for Samhain, I decided it was time to correct this defect in my approach. To that end, I started looking at what services I use in the Pagan Community that need my financial support. I cut that list down to three institutions: The Wild Hunt (www.wildhunt.org), The Witches Voice (www.witchvox.com), and BBI Media (the producers of Witches & Pagans, Crone, and Sage Woman magazines – www.bbimedia.com). Once I had this list, I looked to see if I could actually help these institutions financially. I began with The Wild Hunt since they are in the midst of their once-a-year fund raising campaign. I made a fairly significant (for me) donation there because they are currently the institution best positioned to give us the professional media corps that I think is so vital to the development of important, lasting assets in our Community.
Likewise, before Samhain arrives, I am also going to add a second WitchVox sponsorship. I am already a sponsor under my personal account, but I am going to add a new account for The Pent O’clock News and pay for a sponsorship there as well. That is a much more modest contribution, but one that I still think is important. WitchVox is an asset I have relied upon for more than 10 years and I can certainly spare $40 a year to support this group of dedicated people. Also before Samhain, I am going to purchase (at a minimum) a subscription to Sage Woman for my beloved partner and possibly several more subscriptions to one or more BBI magazines for others who are close to me. In the coming year I am also going to look into advertising with BBI to help both of us reach our goals.
All of these contributions together cost less than $200 and provide support for 3 critical Pagan institutions – the very organizations that are likely to provide our Community with news and information in the coming years. Financial support for our Community has to mean more than buying books and incense. It’s up to each of us individually to decide where to give our financial support in our Community. With that said, I think it is critical that we provide that support on a regular basis. You don’t have to spend $200 either, although my family budget can absorb that simply by eliminating a couple of trips to restaurants. Even setting aside as little as $2 a month would allow you to get a magazine subscription or be a WitchVox sponsor for a year, or give a critical boost to The Wild Hunt’s fund raiser.
I want to take just a moment more to talk about The Wild Hunt since their fundraiser will be winding down in the next few weeks. You can find the fundraiser at this link: http://igg.me/at/2013-fall-funding-drive/x/4809787 and I hope that you will visit soon. It looks fairly likely that, as of the writing of this blog, they will hit their minimum goal of $10,000. However, their stretch goal is closer to $16,000. I personally think that The Wild Hunt provides far more than $16,000 a year in value to our Community. If every Pagan in just my state of Oregon donated a single dollar, they would more than double their stretch goal! If every Pagan in the USA donated 25 cents they could probably quit their day jobs and become our first full-time news media outlet with money to spare to help other institutions.
You don’t have to spend a lot to make a difference. I know that this economy sucks for many of us and it is tough to make ends meet. I would never suggest that someone donate to even the most worthy Pagan cause if it meant taking food from their family’s mouths. But I do think that virtually everyone can contribute a little bit. Too broke to pay attention? Why not do some double duty and clean up Mother Earth while also helping the Pagan Community? Organize a few friends or go alone and pick up cans and bottles from parks, rivers, and roadsides. It reduces trash and the money you get for recycling those items could then make a nice little contribution to your favorite Pagan institution. A dollar a month, or twenty dollars a year won’t make a huge impact on most of our budgets, but it would make a MASSIVE impact on our Community.
Please, subscribe to a magazine, become a sponsor at WtichVox, help The Wild Hunt reach that important stretch goal, or pick your own favorite Pagan charity or institution and make a contribution. In many cases you get something back immediately (like a magazine) but in all cases it will bring some light into your soul. Many, many of us refer to Paganism as a “religion”. Well, religions build institutions with the donations of their believers. If we want the same rights and recognition of other religions then we need to create and sustain the kind of resources that other religions utilize.
I want to make it clear that I do not work for any of the institutions I have listed nor will I profit in any way from you making a contribution – aside from the benefit of seeing our Community grow and be able to provide more support to our members who need it. I have never gotten any kind of payment from any of these organizations (in fact one of them won’t even reply to my messages, lol) aside from the incredible rewards I have gotten from the work of these dedicated and under paid (and in most cases UNPAID) members of our Community. Let us build the kind of institutions that will keep us informed, safe (physically, legally, and psychologically), and provide support for those who need it. Please, empty that change jar or piggy bank and contribute to your favorite Pagan efforts!
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