There is a model evolving within our Pagan communities that’s bringing our faith and beliefs into the larger stage. We are finding out that we have a path open to us that lets us be real human beings. We’re coming out of the shadows and into the open, often working shoulder to shoulder with folks from all different ways and paths. We don’t need the shock value anymore–although it will always be fun to display at times!
If you examine the core of this evolution, you will find modern covens, witchy shops and Solitaries.
Being completely open as a Pagan in society is still a challenge in many situations. That is part of our evolving society. However, there are an increasing number of groups, both coven and not, that have let their spirituality begin to break down the walls of ignorance. There are groups that let their goddesses and gods direct them in reaching out to those in need. The difference between religion and spirituality is actually being lived out. The result of that has allowed intolerance to become acceptance within communities, large and small.
I know of a High Priest that entered a town ready to fight for his right to be himself, a proud Pagan. Rev. Terry Riley started out determined to stand hard against the mainstream folks that lived around him. He started a coven and became the Southern Delta Church of Wicca – ATC. When a local disaster struck in Lake City Arkansas, he was there to help out before any other churches could react. Not asking for anything except to help, he and his coven started working together in the community. Gradually, folks from the other spiritual communities joined him. Now they provide all kinds of support for those in need and have an honored place on the local council of churches. No one had to fight. They only had to be human and follow Spirit.
A go-to for incense and crystals, witchy shops and metaphysical stores have gradually become a focal point for the magical community. Folks meet and gather there. Circles form there. Rituals, classes, outreach–even festivals sprout from today’s metaphysical stores!
Matt and Melissa Stewart opened Spirit Apotheosis (now, including a coffee bar) that grew into the community that hosts the annual Cleveland Pagan Pride Days. It’s arguably one of the best local festivals and is attended by folks from all different walks of faith. In the early days, though, there were protesters and hecklers throwing biblical phrases around. There were even missionaries that came to “enlighten” the poor pagan folk! But they were welcomed and invited in. They were treated like friends. Lively spiritual discussions ensued with everyone getting some education along the way!
I’m not sure when it actually happened, but being a Solitary lost its stigma. The label lost the feeling of unattachment. It is a title I hold with honesty and pride. We Solitaries don’t always practice alone. Rather, we are drawn to magical Circles that exist in our local communities and online. Where we don’t find them, we create them!
Closer to my home, there is a little witchy shop called The New Moon. I think it is the only place in town that offers Broom Parking! The owners, Dawn and Bob Bartos, are both Solitaries, as are all the folks working there. They have provided a place for solitary practitioners to grow and thrive. From that lovely little shop, open Circles have formed. They started in the immediate community and now spread pretty much around the world, thanks to the internet. There are Circles for Sisterhood, for Crones, for LGBTQ friends, for those in Recovery and for Brothers and Sages– and for Music!. A beautiful thing called The Rise Center evolved, offering counseling, readings, life and spirit coaching. The Cleveland Witches Walk was born from this community and has become a great pre-Halloween celebration in the local area that raises thousands of dollars for its annual charities.
When needs arise, so do these Circles. If someone is injured, meals are brought to their doorstep. If death touches a family, there are helping hands, strong shoulders and open hearts. In response to a call for aid for Ukraine, these Circles rose up to work with an Orthodox Catholic Church. They filled a 30-foot truck to overflowing with medical and hygiene supplies, necessities for mothers and babies, cases of food and clothing for people who had had to leave their homes as bombs fell.
The Pagan presence in the World of the Internet has become something of a phenomenon. Tik Tok kerfluffles aside, Pagan and Witch groups are openly out there and accessible. Their numbers are amazing. One group based in the UK has more than 12,000 members–and that is not the largest, either! If you take a closer look, that growing number spirals out to touch other groups all over the world. The online communities provide education, friendship and counsel to both seekers and each other.
These are Pagans in the open, accessible, responsive, approachable. They are no longer hiding who they are or what they do. There have always been covens to provide support and education within their traditions. Now, the living concept of an Open Circle is stepping into the light, working with covens and the public at large.
This is not to say that we don’t encounter friction in the wide world. It’s still very much there, as demonstrated by vandalism and threats. However, I’m observing support in the mundane community for the people and businesses affected. Many of our Pagan based enterprises are starting to work together and share resources. They are demonstrating to the world at large that they have become a vital part of the community.
It makes me happy to say that I believe this is the new order of things. Thanks to folks like Selena Fox and so many others, we have the option of declaring our religion in the military, hospitals and legal matters. Many professionals are identifying themselves as Pagan and not prevented from practicing law or medicine. Pagan ministries are recognized all the way up to the Federal level, providing support to our prisons and hospitals. Metaphysical businesses are run by coven and Solitary alike, reaching out to the greater community and sharing our varied spirituality.
We have started stepping into the light, my friends. Come out and blossom!