Roles are a hard thing for me. Even with my comments in earlier posts about titles being something that can cause significant hardship, I still have a hard time trying not to assume a role of some sort. Let’s face it; no matter how much we want to identify ourselves without some sort of title or role attached, we live in a world full of roles. We have to therefore agree to have SOME sort of title occasionally.
The role that fell to me a lot during my early years in the pagan community was that of a facilitator in some form or fashion. I led groups, answered questions, put together rituals and overall was heavily involved in my pagan community, not just in the state that I lived in, but also in the state I was born in and had family in. After getting tired and frustrated with a great many things, and having lots of many other personal issues that I needed to work on (including getting back to college, finding work, getting married and divorced, you know, all of that stuff of life), I stepped out of the limelight, so to speak, of my local pagan communities. I went ‘incognito’, for many years. I didn’t fully leave my practice; my gifts were always there, but I didn’t rely on them as much anymore.
Fast forward to several years ago, and I found myself getting back involved. And while many things never changed, quite a bit did. And with that change, my original role of ‘facilitator’ went away. Sure, I can give you all of the detailed information you want about how things were done and why back then, but with the invention of the internet (yes, I’m THAT old), changes started coming fast and furious, and there was no way anyone could really keep up with those changes in practice, in worship, heck, even the terms themselves changed. This left me struggling for a long time. The same position that I was in so many years ago was now something that I didn’t feel comfortable enough taking anymore, yet I was absolutely not a newbie to any of these forms of worship, ritual or magic. I found myself stuck; feeling like I didn’t belong, was constantly ‘sized up’ or was pushed away from those of higher lineage in Wicca.
Trying to find my own role within this new pagan community also was made even harder by status. Many times I also felt looked down upon by others of the same belief structure that I followed, whether it was my Native practice, the Wicca, or even by some Heathen Shamans. I realize now that I was not the only one feeling these times of rejections; or sizing ups. Many people in face to face pagan communities feel this way. And perhaps the people who are doing it don’t even realize they do. Perhaps they are looking for a ‘peer’, but are unsure of how to do it without belittling. Or perhaps they are so tied up with defending what their beliefs are that they decide that is more important than making feel welcome.
Another concern of mine are the ones with good intentions, but expect that they are going to now make a living off of taking a title of “shaman” or “Witch” and use it to sell their goods and services. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic people out there who make fantastic products, but there are also those who don’t have the greatest of intentions, are interested in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or don’t expect to put the long hours into building a clientele or making a product. Unfortunately, those who bring negativity to those roles only belittle the ones whose intent is true, making it much harder for the legitimate businesses to actually get anywhere.
However, the more that I blog and the more that I pray, the more I realize I still have to figure out where I fit. “So, what’s it going to be?” my Gods ask; “Are you going to be what is that we we know you are, or are you going to keep trying to find a human term for all of this?” That question basically was the entire dilemma summed up in a nutshell. And perhaps it tells more truth about the entire pagan community than they wanted to let on.
Using a Role or title like “Shaman”, “Witch”, “Priest” or the myriad of other titles out there brings up certain assumptions within the pagan community. When looked at as an aggregate, the community is not nearly as structured as many other religious communities either; we are lucky if we fit in a structure of a scatter diagram much less any hierarchical organizational chart. This means that many who take on a role might end up also having to take on countless other roles, such as ‘counselor’, ‘advocate’, ‘role model’ and many others that they may or may not have the training to do.
Maybe some might think it a rite of passage in the pagan community nowadays to not fit into one specific spot. Perhaps we aren’t meant to. Perhaps instead we are meant to create our own place; a place where we can help others in need when we have strengths that can provide service, and refer them to others when we cannot help. And perhaps that referral could be somewhere else, thanks to the internet we could refer someone to an author in another state, or even another country to get the information that they need or desire.
So what have I learned about my role from all of this? I am all of these things, and yet none without the other. I am a shaman or spirit woman, a witch, a healer and a heathen. Perhaps that was what I needed to know all along. Perhaps it wasn’t the role that I needed to find, but instead I needed to find (even more) courage to just accept what it is I am.
I am of the firm belief that this community and the world today are both on unprecedented ground. The only things that we have of precedence is that things will change, our spirits will leave for other places while some may return here, and that if we don’t treat her well, this beautiful Mother Earth that we live on will begin to shake us off like a bad cold. And perhaps figuring out new ways together, including figuring out new roles that may not have a simple word to describe them, may be all part of building that new community, and perhaps that new world.