Once upon a time…
Many years ago I was asked to join some pagan friends at a local café for an afternoon meet up. As usual, I’d arrived twenty minutes earlier than required and so I decided to while away some time at the occult shop that was situated above the café. I had frequented the shop for a number of months and was known by the shop owner as someone who was very active in the local pagan community. He and the shop assistant greeted me politely as I walked through the door and started scouring the shop for supplies. After filling a few minutes and my wicker shopping basket until it was nearly overflowing with witchy supplies, I moved to the service counter where the shop owner and his assistant went about packing my bags and totalling up my purchases. What was to happen next however would change my perceptions of pagan community forever.
The shop owner paused momentarily before picking up the books I had gathered earlier and putting them in my now near-tearing paper bag asked the question: “So… Tell me, what is it that you actually do?”
I was naturally confused by this question when the shop assistant added: ”What my husband means to say is what magical path do you follow? Are you Alexandrian or Gardnerian?”
I suppose I was taken aback by their question(s), but I felt it only polite to answer. ”Well… I’m neither and both, with a little bit of this and that added for flavour. But I suppose you could call me an eclectic pagan!”
You can imagine my surprise when they both went deathly pale and the wife of the shop owner (i.e.: the shop assistant) stepped behind her husband. Suddenly the shop owner bellowed at me: ”We don’t want YOUR kind in here, get out and don’t come back!”
I did exactly that; leaving the considerable amount of money for my purchases on the counter; grabbed my store bags and headed for the door, telling them to keep the change. Fuming; I took off downstairs to the café as fast as my legs could safely take me, nearly bowling over my friends who were coming up the other way as I hurtled past them. I exploded onto the street to find another one of my friends waiting at a nearby table. She studied me silently for a few moments and realising that something was afoot, motioned me to sit down, asking me what was wrong. I put my bags down and settled into a comfy chair to explain just as my other friends arrived with the change from my purchases in their hands. ”What happened? The shop owner told us you left this behind!”
I quietly took the change and explained what had happened, asking them if they wouldn’t mind if we took our gathering to the local botanical gardens as I needed to take some time out in nature, as far away from that shop as possible. I used the change to pay for our impromptu picnic and spent the afternoon with my friends enjoying some very good food and chatting about our paths and experiences.
As the day drew to a close, one of my friends suggested that we all go get some retail therapy in before we caught up with the rest of the group for our fortnightly meet up. A short walk later I found myself being blindfolded in front of an old red brick building, where I was guided down a narrow flight of creaking stairs by my giggling friends.
Suddenly the blindfold was removed from my eyes. Before me was an Aladdin’s cave of magical goodies that beckoned me to explore while behind me my friends spoke in unison: ”Welcome to the big kid’s playground!!!”
To my surprise I found that this new shop was just around the corner from the other one! Don’t bother looking for the other one anymore; it went bust a few weeks later. Apparently the owners prejudices/big mouth got him in trouble with the pagan community as a whole.
The moral to this story…
One must remember that paganism is made up of many paths, and just as many ways to find ones truth.
Remember that to dismiss one person because of their choices is to dismiss the potential of further growth on your own path. It is to deny the richness and growth that free and open minded exploration can bring.
Also; to state that you follow a specific tradition is ludicrous unless you are following the very first version of that specific order/tradition unerringly fully, to the letter. If you have altered it to resonate more harmoniously with your own perceptions/experiences then you; like me; are an Eclectic Pagan.