Community and (my) polytheism

I am very much an introvert. I love – and need – long stretches of time alone where I cannot be forced into interaction with other human beings on their terms. I don’t have any human roommates, and it’s great.

I also really wish I had a community of some kind to be involved in – ideally, it would be one in which I could be open about my spiritual life, and occasionally do group rituals or celebrations.

My workplace isn’t going to provide that; I haven’t done much in the way of trying to make friends with coworkers, partly because I’ve intended to never be here long and partly because this place is not one I really care about; I’m not particularly emotionally invested in the company. The organizations I do volunteer work with don’t really provide community, either – with one, the work I do is completely by myself, and I only see the other volunteers once or twice a year at get-togethers. With the other, the physical space where I do most of my tasks is slightly isolated from other people, and, being not prone to striking up conversation with others, I’ve failed hard for three years to get to know the other people there very well.

I get a lot out of contributing to organizations whose goals/mission/whatever I value, but it’s been a really long time since I had the opportunity to put a lot of energy into such a group AND for that group to also provide some meaningful social support for me, too. The last such group I was part of was before I became a polytheist, and a lot of that experience left me feeling really, really, like 5,000%, burnt out on even wanting to have anything to do with “community” or helping create/sustain it. (I’m feeling better now, maybe only 45% burnt out!)

When I became a polytheist, I was fortunate in that I lived close enough to a group of people who worshiped the gods I was drawn to, and I was able to participate in some rituals they did, and talk to people – and get advice from them! – who wouldn’t think I was delusional. It was incredibly beneficial. However, during those early months it also became undeniably clear that I had to move back to Oregon, where I had no social network other than my parents, and I wasn’t going to move back to my (small, rural) hometown anyway.

That was three and a half years ago, and it’s only been within the last 14 or so months that I feel I finally have something like offline community with others of similar spiritual bent.

This city has a very large pagan population, and I’ve been to some of the big weekend-long events here as well as taken some very “woo” herbalism classes. It has been worthwhile, and I particularly enjoyed the plant classes, since we were doing ritual work as part of getting to know the plants. I’d never done that kind of group work, or that kind of ritual, and it was really wonderful to be in a group of people doing that. However, as much as I really hoped that might turn out to be “my” community (or a part of it), it never felt quite right, and so at this point, I’m continuing my plant work on my own.

The other pagan events also have felt like not-quite-mine, although over the years, I’ve noticed some of the same people at those events showing up at some very clearly polytheist events; the paradigm a lot of those folks are working in (witchcraft traditions, many of them) is not quite mine, but at least some of those folks are people I can talk to about gods and spirits, as real beings, and know we have some similar experiences.

I’ve also attended several of the rituals the local ADF grove does. They’re well-done, and at two of their rituals, they honor Norse gods, including Loki, which is fantastic! I’m really glad they exist, I like what they’re doing and the social aspect is nice, but I have to line up a car to get there and the structure is also . . . just not my thing.

Meanwhile, I have always had some level of online community. It’s how I’ve found literally every offline group I’ve checked out, how I first got to know local people who are now friends, and a place I can always go to talk about my spiritual life and get support. It does not provide me those vital kinds of connection that I can only get in face-to-face conversation, but it’s been absolutely invaluable, especially when I’m too tired or depressed to even contemplate attempting to leave the house for any in-person anything.

I appreciate very much the effort that people put in to organizing regular offline religious community and all the associated projects that can go with that. I know how difficult it can be to just get a group of people to get together to talk over tea!

I also share the concern in the wider polytheist community to see traditions become more fully developed, grounded in physical place, passed on to others, and generally more a fabric of society. I have a hard time imagining what that would be like, but it sounds really wonderful, and I’m glad there are people making it happen.

I’ve also seen people spend huge amounts of time and effort into creating online community: educating co-religionists, sharing celebrations, handling conflicts, and supporting each other, and I’m pretty blown away by that, too.

Creating healthy communities is hard and valuable work, regardless of where it’s happening.

I personally, selfishly, want more community in which we all have enough in common, religiously/spiritually, to do some stuff together, and so I’ve periodically put out feelers towards my gods, to see if maybe this time, this spiritual group is one I should get more involved with, to learn more from, to develop as an additional path of spiritual development, but the answer has always come back as no. No, I have to do what I’m doing (whatever the heck that is) pretty much on my own. I can take classes here and there, but no, not that tradition, and not that one, either. (And to some degree, I get it – my personal relationships with spirits have to be done with me and Them and that’s it, it can’t/shouldn’t be a human-community project – but gods . . . having structure presented by other human beings? Who are doing the same things within that structure?! . . . I want it, and for reasons that would turn into too much of a digression here.)

Someday, I’d really love to have other people to do some level of in-person group worship with, but I don’t know that I also need my religious community to provide me other things such community often does – like volunteer opportunities, ’cause I’ve got that sorted.

I’ve sometimes wished I could do more community building on my own, but I don’t have the best set of skills for it, and I’ve also had to be very careful with my energy for the last couple years, due to being burnt out by previous “community,” and dealing with internal crap that’s left me with little for anything beyond necessities, so I haven’t made much effort to get together with the other local Lokeans (there are several other Lokeans here!! !!!!!) or other polytheists more, but I feel like I’ve gotten enough energy back (finally!) that maaaybe I can get more involved in what’s already here (like the “Portland Polytheists” group) and see how that goes.

In the meantime, I am grateful for the communities I have that are sustained by this series of tubes, and I’m particularly glad for some of the more recent additions to that (like G&R, and, more recently, the “My Polytheism” thing), since it’s brought me into more/deeper contact with people who have really interesting things to say, some of which are similar to some of my things, yay!, and one of the most valuable things about community is, after all, feeling that there are others with whom you belong.

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About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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