Thursday, October 19, 2006

Don't Give Me That Guff: Thoughts on Community as Samhain Approaches

I guess it's ten years this year since I "became" a pagan.

I kind of always was a pagan, but that's not what this is all about. Luckily, I spent my becoming-time in relative isolation, going through my "baby pagan" and "fluffy bunny" phases by myself with the aid of books. By the time I was in my twenties, I had a sort-of handle on things, enough to know what I didn't know, to listen to my elders and those who knew more, and to not be quite so insufferably know-it-all about all things Pagan.

10 years later, I'm a teacher and a volunteer. A "somebody". People in this community know me, or know people who know me. I have years and years of work ahead of me, and that thought fills me with happiness instead of trepidation. Life, to put it in short form, is good.

We all absorb the prejudices and preconceptions of our community, for good or ill. But recently I've put paid to the idea that Tennessee, my home state, the place I love and never want to leave, is a place with little to offer the pagans, Wiccans, and alternatively spiritual folks of the state, a place, basically, with nothing to offer non-Christians.

I believed it, too, for the longest time. "This is the buckle of the !#$^$#%^ Bible Belt"..."there aren't even any covens around here"..."I just don't know anyone or how to find them"....and so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-dooby.

It's simply not true. I said it. It's not. There are pagans all over Tennessee, and they are not hiding in their broom closets. On the contrary, their events are all over the map. (More about the map, in a few.) You, personally, may have had trouble; I'm not discounting that. But we are out there, in force, public and proud.

We all have a pet horror story. We've all been waylaid by some well-meaning proselytizer, given grief by someone with more zeal than sense. Some of us have suffered more: ask Tish sometime about being held at gunpoint by cops. Some of us have less-than-horror stories: the cops who knew exactly what the altar was and treated it with the respect it deserves (because their dispatcher, a Wiccan, had educated them on proper comportment) is my favorite.


A month ago, give or take a week, I started a list for the TN Statewide Pagan Events Calendar, mostly on a whim. I had sat around the table with the AppleOak Elders, and lamented the lack of intrastate communication between the major cities, a lament I had made before. I got on the phone with Tish once I got home, tossed some ideas off, and before a day had passed, I had my very own yahoogroup. That and $4.75 will get you a cup of Starbucks tm coffee-type beverage. I didn't know what to expect.

Twenty-three days have passed since I got started, joining every public TN Pagan yahoogroup that would have me, and scouring Witchvox for updates.

The list now has 124 members, 142 messages, and a calendar that's as near to full as it can get. Between today and New Year's Eve, there are only thirteen days on which a public Pagan circle, class, festival, meeting, or other event is not shown on our calendar. Thirteen days, out of seventy-three left in the whole year.

There are events going on between now and the end of the year in Bartlet, Burns, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Cookeville, Gallatin, Gray, Henderson, Jackson, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Lebanon, Medon, Memphis, Mooresburg, Morristown, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Sevierville & Sharon, TN. That I know of. That's not to even mention the fact that there are almost certainly closed circles, coven meetings and public events which are going on merrily without my knowing about them.

I don't want to hear again that there's nothing going on, no pagan community to speak of, no one to talk to, no one to fellowship with. Our friends in the more rural areas of TN may have to drive a ways to get there, but the community is out there, and it's not hiding. I found 98% of my information through forums that are 100% public, or merely required a few day's wait to get approved.

Let's make our After Samhain resolution to go and meet more of these spiritual relatives statewide. There's no need to drive to Huntsville or Atlanta...the community you crave is right here, in your own backyard.

Which brings me to the map.

This is not anywhere close to completion, because contrary to popular belief, I have a life outside work, school, Guedra and TNSPEC. However, I have started a TNSPEC map, showing the places where events happen regularly in TN, and listing some of the rotating groups without a regular meeting place.
It's not as impressive as the list of cities above, mostly because I'm going through the TNSPEC Calendar chronologically to add locations. But it will be.
If you want to add yourself to the map as an individual, or to add your group or coven, feel free to do so. Also, if you know of a Pagan or Pagan friendly business that is not listed, put it up with correct address information.

It is not a requirement of TNSPEC membership to announce your personal location; some of us choose to remain more private, and that is A-OK by me. However, I hope that when I have it more comprehensively put together, that it, too, will serve as a resource for Pagans statewide, and bring home visually the lesson that I remember every time I look at the TNSPEC Calendar....we are out, we are proud, we are not going anywhere, and it doesn't look like anyone is making too much of an attempt to stop us. There is a community for our children to grow up in. You don't get any better than that.

Blessed Samhain to all of you, with dreams of a better future,


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