Ice-cream Parlour of the Gods
So you like ice-cream, but your previous ice-cream parlour had very little in the way of flavours; their bog-standard chocolate, vanilla and strawberry just failed to wow you. But then you found a new ice-cream parlour. It had more flavours than you thought possible, and in all manner of delicious variations. You finally decide that a scoop of hazelnut ice-cream and another of chocolate frozen yoghurt will be just the right treat for you; and it is.
You’re absorbed in its flavour, its texture- it satisfies you on a whole new level that goes beyond simple hunger. You turn around and suddenly notice the person behind you with their exotic berry sorbet and intense glare, directed straight at you and your frozen treat. It is then that you look around and see the parlour is full of people. Some like similar flavours, some don’t. Some like to mix a bunch of different flavours together and others prefer to stick to one. Then you notice that everyone seems to be arguing as to whose flavour tastes better, looks better, or is better for you. Does this sound somewhat familiar?
Paganism comes in many, many different flavours; from the scholarly Pagans who devote their lives to bringing the past into the present, and keeping it relevant, to the more eclectic of the bunch who are ruled by their ‘feel’ and where it draws them. You could say that they are each on opposite sides of the spectrum, and if each path were a flavour of ice-cream, then I can tell you that adherents of either side would not approve of each others flavour.
And that is the sad reality of where Paganism is heading today. Everyone stands in the proverbial ice-cream parlour, either taste-testing the frozen treats on offer or happily enjoying one. But as soon as they look up from their dessert, they see that not everyone around them is eating the same thing as them, and a defence mechanism is triggered. It could be a throw-back to the Abrahamic roots that many Pagans share; that mentality of ‘my flavour is superior to yours’. Perhaps everyone sub-consciously needs reassurance that they are on the ‘right’ path, and when confronted with others who are enjoying a different one, they have a secret doubt that perhaps they’ve chosen the wrong one- which in turn leads to them lashing out in self-defence. Than again who knows? It could all boil down to that primitive part of the psyche that is driven by survival and instinct.
One thing that is for sure, is that our knee-jerk reactions to each other are not doing our community any favours. At all. Within the Pagan community we spend so much time drawing lines in the sand, and building stone walls around our individual paths so no-one else can come and stomp around on them. And then you wait on your path like an old man waiting to hear kids playing on his lawn, so you can rush out with your cane in hand and rant and rave on the stoep. We put so much energy into going on the defensive at the drop of a hat, tearing down others with passionate, and all too often, misdirected rage and very little forethought.
And it seems that there are all too many who have this fear of being called ‘fluffy’. Yes, the term and its meaning aren’t all that nice and it is disrespectful, but is everyone really that sensitive? Have Pagans so little confidence in their faith that they feel they constantly have to defend it from their own kind? Can’t those who take offense so easily just ignore other’s criticisms of their beliefs, move on and focus on their own path instead of what others say about it? Isn’t that what really matters at the end of the day?
As Pagans we are always preaching tolerance, inter-faith relations and trying to gain the respect and acceptance of mainstream religions; but how can we even do that when we resort to bashing our own brethren? I don’t know whether it’s a throw back to the religious bashing many of us experienced in our previous faiths, or whether it’s just something Pagans do; but I think whatever it is, it’s something that we really need to work on individually if we ever want to be a true community.
Perhaps instead of standing in the ice-cream parlour of faith, clutching your cone of frozen goodness and glaring at all the other people with their ‘bizarre’ flavours, you look around and just see a bunch of people who like frozen dessert. Sure there are plenty of different ‘flavours’, but instead of focusing on what sets us apart we should draw strength from our diversity, because unlike other mainstream religions, that’s what sets us apart from the other ‘ice-cream parlours’.