Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Paganism Will Find Rescue Behind The City State Wall

In my life as an ancient Greek priest, it has not been a surprising event to receive news that a national Pagan organization has collapsed or been disbanded. It has never pertained to the Hellenic community, but just today I was given word of a fairly large nationwide organization that fell (I'm not going to say which). I have watched power grabs, bigotry and drama become the graveyard of Pagan groups and leaders over the last 13 years. Why it's so common in Paganism, and why we haven't learned from it yet, I have no idea. I think that's one reason my own temple has stood for so long, because we have a strong structure that is intentionally immune to those antics. But the bigger question, I think, is why do small Pagan organizations do well while national ones face dissolution? I think it's entirely because we are trying to be organized religion, which is not compatible with Paganism at large, nor is it how our ancestors did things, and for good reason.

In ancient Greece, every community was spread out across City States and Cults. Sometimes the cities came together to defend against a common threat, but when the war was over, they all separated and went back to their cities and regions. There is no way that one government or one order could have successfully ruled all of the cities as one. The idea alone would be beyond the realm of the ridiculous. There would have been constant strife, infighting, rebellion and coups, despite the fact that they all believed in the same Gods. My own temple serves Machesney Park, Illinois and nearby towns if needed, but I would have absolutely no business going down to Springfield and inserting myself into someone else's temple or organization, even if they were Hellenists like myself.

When we think about the American system of government, we commonly envision Washington D.C. with the grand temples and chambers, but in reality, that's just the place where all of the states meet. The fact of the matter is that American government is mostly spread out over 50 states, 3,006 counties, 19,495 cities, towns and villages, and 13,800 districts, all with their own local systems of governance and regulation. Here in Illinois, we of course call ourselves Americans, but we are also Illinoians. Our government could not possibly govern the people of Florida (even though they are Americans too) because we are just too different. If Illinois tried to rise and govern all the states with Illinois government, it would be a disaster at best.

With smaller organizations, there is also less temptation for corruption and usurping, which are always hallmarks in the destruction of groups. Think about how many people would love to take President Biden's seat, even people in his own administration. Now think about how many people want to take the seat of the Mayor of Machesney Park, Illinois. You probably don't even know who he is. While there would certainly be some individuals who would like a shot, the pile of gold is far, far smaller, and therefore less attractive to tyrants, thieves and corruption. 

People in the ancient world met and traded, but they did not live under one rule. Now Greece today is ruled by one government, certainly more than in any ancient period, but the present Greece is not even a shadow of what it once was. Most of the people are far more passive, oppressed and less motivated, if they even have any idea as to their ancient identities.

I advocate, not just for my own religious community, but all Pagan and Polytheistic organizations, to exist as numerous independent entities across the country and world. If faced with common threats, we should of course unite, and when good comes from it, we can meet and interact, but we should then return home and not attempt to rule one another. Sometimes we are trying to cover too much ground with too much diversity. The longer you extend a tape measurer, the more flimsy it becomes until it collapses. We should adopt the idea of the City State and the Locality for each community, in that each local area is encouraged to have their own temple or organization which is solely for the people of that area. Not only will it make Paganism stronger and harder to destroy, it will increase support for all Pagans out there.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.