I’ve seen this a few times over the last couple of days and I find it kind of bothersome, I admit. If I listen to a song, and it leaves me melancholy because of my own personal experiences and another person listened to the same song and find it uplifting, my melancholy doesn’t mean they can’t find it positive. If one person looks at the ocean and cries, and another laughs, both of the sheer vastness of it, one emotions does not negate the other. Each has merely experienced it in their own way.
Yet, in the pagan community it seems, the differing experiences and practices of one seems to be seen as a direct blow on another. Why is this? Why is such personal affront taken?
In a community that is constantly pushing individuality, of embracing whatever you want no matter the source or beliefs of the path, and talks of celebrating the snowflake that is each of us, why then when someone’s own personal beliefs/practices doesn’t line up with another does it suddenly become seen as invalidating the other’s experience?
Many worship Hera as the goddess of marriage, as the voice of making marriage/relationships work, and as a guardian and protector of new brides. This is one of many things she oversees, and that is seen as her purvey. Now, I personally am devoted to Hera as a goddess to whom I am a champion for, fighting for the rights and liberties for women. I am not married, have no plans to be married, and am actually not one who supports the western civilization institution of marriage. My view of Hera as a warrior and a protector in my fight for equality does not invalidate those that turn to her for help holding together their marriage. Both are true and honest paths to the goddess, and both are equally valid.
Now the same could be said, in the latest of these “battles”, that because one sees “witchy” fashion as black and gossamer and lace and leather, and another sees it as a teefury tee with Jack Skellington and their favorite pair of jeans. Once more, one does not invalidate the other.
Yet why do so many seem offended when the path of another doesn’t match their own? Our experiences are not the same. Even if we follow the same path, view the deities in our life the same way, how we react, how we feel because of our life experiences, it will make our experiences on that path different. It’s the same for life, the same for pagan lifestyles. We have all had different lives, and we’ve had other experiences, and in the end that tinges everything we do and say, magically and otherwise. When did we lose the ability to embrace those learned differences rather than condemning others?
Of course, this is not meant to approve of cultural appropriation, or of those that seem to think they can just glom into closed cultures and embrace them as their own. Nor should people not call others for such things. Yet there is a world of difference between people being genuinely insulting another’s path and beliefs, and people embracing a different way of doing things. The latter is not an insult. It is not invalidating your path and beliefs and UPG. It is them doing things their way, as works for their deities and them. Difference is not invalidating.
For a culture that tends to try and claim to celebrate their differences from the rest of the world, that seems to only extend so far as it means insulting others for not acknowledging that you’re right.