I try very, very hard not to get hoity-toity. Not to get cranky and snobbish towards “city” pagans. It’s important to respect that everyone is on their own path.
Sometimes I have to try harder than usual.
Like the time that, not long ago, I met a witch at a large pagan event in a forest. A high priestess, no less. She and her coven were lovely people, and I could’ve sat and spoken to them all night, had I not gotten so upset (not to mention outright worried) after one of our first exchanges.
It went something like this:
Galloway: Anyway, it was great to meet you. Have you been to (this event) before?
High Priestess: No, it’s my first time. I’ve never even camped before! (The coven) don’t really do outdoor rituals. I’m what you’d call an urban pagan.
HPS: …Yeah, I’m not big on outdoors. <She motions to a copse of pine trees nestled among the eucalypts>. So… Are they natives? Or are they pine trees?
G: <dies inside>.
Most pagan writers, particularly those who write books on Wicca, will agree with Ms HPS.
Although many Witches meet, and work, outdoors – perhaps in the corner of a field or in a clearing in the wood – it is not always possible for everyone to do that. Many live in cities and towns and are unable to get out into direct conact with the Earth. This does not mean they cannot function. Your temple can be an indoor or outdoor one.
(Buckland, Raymond . Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. Llewellyn Publications, Minnesota, USA. p28.)
Sure. An indoor altar/temple works really, really well for day to day practices/blessings. But I tend to disagree after this point. Paganism, after all, is an umbrella term for an ever-increasing number of nature religions. Now, I may be missing something here, but if you are a nature worshipper wouldn’t that mean you would actually have to spend some time with nature?
English Ale, South Australia, 2012
No, this is not a call for each and every remotely pagan-ish person to strip off and disappear into the bush. I am not anti-indoors, or anti-modern age. The internet, especially, has kept pagan folk connected through online discussion groups, forums, mailing lists and so on. More and more people are using Facebook to publicise their pagan events, and countless others run online pagan stores for books, supplies, clothing… you name it.
As funny as we find this, we have met many Witches afraid of dirt and stains…
But what many – including Ms HPS – seem to be forgetting is that, behind all the panne velvet, cheap jewellery and silly names, pagans are nature-worshippers. Or at least they should be.
For me, this means some aspect of their practice should be outside, even if it’s once every now and then. Like Bucky says, circumstances don’t always allow for a full-blown outdoor ritual. I have heard of a couple of surprisingly poignant lounge-room rituals, and some of my favourite footage of the likes of Janet and Stewart Farrar and others shows even they performed indoor rituals from time to time. But unless there is absolutely no alternative, it is important to make an effort when and where you can.
Make an effort to cover modern appliances, regardless of how retro-chic they may be.
Increasingly, the indoor/outdoor debate is becoming a real “wheat from the chaff” exercise for me. I am inclined to agree that the modern pagan has become quite “outdoor phobic”. If you never leave your loungeroom, if you never sit in the sun or wind the windows down in your car, if you make excuses about it being too hot/cold, if you see no power in the still that comes just before a ritual outside on a windy night… Well, perhaps you need to re-assess why you have chosen this spiritual path.
I work hard at not being hoity-toity. I still think city covens are fine, as are city pagans. I just think it is important that they embrace the country and the outdoors from time to time, rather than avoid it at all costs.