Independence is a deeply American value and one that the contemporary neopagan and polytheist community has embraced with abandon in our country.
Although the Pew Foundation did include Wicca/Paganism on their 2015 religious landscape study, linked below, there is no definitive demographic understanding of how many of us practice as solitaries or within family units instead of in grove or kindred formats that could be likened to churches and temples. So, too, do we lack any information on how many of these self-identified religious are part of a larger organization or tradition, such as Alexandrian Wicca, OBOD druidry, or even the Radical Faeries, rather than practice a deeply personal, idiosyncratic form of spirituality. Our community, while we have changed radically since the secretive late Victorian counter cultural movements, where we find our roots, independence remains at the center of values we hold dear, sometimes to our own detriment, both as practitioners and as a community at large.
While neopagan and polytheist revivalists have rightfully inherited a love and value of independence; as individuals, as covens and groves and kindreds, and as larger organizations, we also need to learn to love and value interdependence if we are to grow as a community and continue to manage our autonomy. Our independence, inherited from secretive covens and groves who grew and thrived under punitive law, is hard won. However, as modern, open communities, we must learn to depend on one another and provide communal resources, whether to a kindred or grove or a solitary family. As we continue to grow, the services required by our people demand that our values and philosophy grow with them.
Our growth, as a broader community, has been irregular, occurring in fits and starts over the past century and a half. Aided by the decline of Christianity in Europe and North America and the change of religious laws, particularly those banning witchcraft, we have moved from the utopic, counterculture covens of the late nineteenth century into a broad spectrum of often contentious groups that vary from the kindreds of Heathenry to the traditional Wiccan covens and solitary eclectics. We put a lot of time and energy into blazing our own paths, in deep spiritual contemplation, and showing the beginnings of a way to new practitioners called to our confederation of faiths.
However, there are communal needs of our people that are not being addressed and, given the current state of affairs, cannot be. We do not have chaplains who can visit the sick and dying in hospitals. Many, especially solitary practitioners but also those who belong to larger organizations without aid of grove or kindred, desire a sacred place for worship and communion, such as might be found in a synagogue or mosque. We are no different in this aspect than any other faith group in that we desire validation of our faiths in our darkest hours or in that even the most solitary eclectic who normally worships at a private bedroom shrine might sometimes yearn for a physical community and shared sacred space.
Thus, on this day where Americans celebrate independence, we as a community can reflect on the nature and importance of interdependence. As Donne wrote, no man is an island and so, too, is no member of the religious an island. Perhaps this is why we reach out so often, online and in the physical world, and why we can and should develop a social safety net for our people.