First my history. I entered the occult/esoteric world when I was about 28. My first teachers were neopagan oriented. One was wiccan solitary with former OTO connections. The other was a solitary entering a Gardnerian tradition. The last, and most dear, was a "natural" witch by practice and ability. I learned a lot about tarot and something about the workings of magick. At age 30 I moved to Atlanta Ga. There I embraced the psychic/new-age community. I picked up astrology, honed my tarot, and learned other occult "sciences". I continued my walk with the craft community via a dear friend who was a dedicated solitaire.
A year and a half later I moved to Greenville SC. There I found the Hazelthorne Coven, a Wiccan teaching coven. While I never joined the inner workings of the coven, I did participate in their bi-weekly class series. My teaching started here as I presented on the topics of tarot and astrology. This was an incredible group and I miss the members much. In 1997 I attended my first pagan gathering - The SerpentStone "Witchstock", also known as "Wetstock" due to the incredible amounts of rain that we had. Over the passing years I've attended many gatherings at a variety of sites. Most of the gatherings were at the beautiful Dragon Hills outside of Carrollton Ga. For about three years I did the SE pagan gathering circuit selling used metaphysical books under the sales banner of "Kenaz Services". Very neat stuff. A wonderful way to meet fellow pagans is to vend to them.
Since 1997 I've participated in pagan "meet-n-greets", numerous public rituals (gatherings are great for this!), some private (by invitation) rituals, pagan pride days, "adult" invitation only pagan gatherings, and a wonderful relationship with my witchy mate. I've have beautiful, wonderful, intelligent and supportive friends who are solitary or members of covens. I feel so damn connected to this world.
But what does this make me in the neopagan/craft world? The answer is simple: nothing at all. This sound harsh, but allow me to explain. My own walk is eastern (Buddhist mostly), esoteric occult and shamanic. My current teacher is a Western Cherokee medicine man. My shamanic beliefs are well posted on my blog, so I wont' go into detail here. The point is that I don't have a single shred of accreditation in the neopagan world. While I am wonderfully pagan, I am not neopagan by degree, heredity or lineage.
I have a deep and abiding love of the neopagan crowd. They are my friends, my lovers, and my companions on this earth walk. I immediately saw the tremendous spiritual potential in this group. As the spiritual minority of the Western world, much aligned by those in the majority, I thought that this group would rise to the challenges of leading people spiritually, building the adherents to cope directly with the earth and each other in loving ways. My high hopes have since been slightly muted. I've seen that the teachers and the leaders of the neopagan traditions fair as well as any other religious group. While my disappointment saddens me, I know the outcomes are primarily that of the human experience. The brighter stars of the neopagan community comfort my soul.
I believe that the neopagan spiritual path is a good one for those with the will power and desire to discover themselves. The path is not without it's struggles. The traditional teachers and priests struggle to serve a growing pagan community even as they turn due service to their existing members and charges. During this time the hidden structures of the mystery schools threaten to insulate instead of protect. Policing and enforce of cGMP, "current good magick practices", is a developing process. The growing bulk of the neopagan community has outstripped the capability for good teaching covens and priests to service this mass. The priest and teacher output of the existing covens does not seem to meet the demand. Acceptance of teachers and priests from alternative sources (i.e. solitary) is begrudgingly given. Alternative teaching methods, like books or websites, are also only begrudgingly accepted. The truth is that there are too few good opportunities for neopagan seekers. These challenges should inform the seeker instead of deter. There is great wisdom in power of the neopagan world.
One could ask why I pursue the neopagan topics. I know there are good teachers and priests out there. I also know there are some bad ones. After many years of solitary work, my lovely mate suffered through two covens before she retreated back to the solitary path. The last one was especially egregious in abuse of power and authority. I've seen the empowering structure of SerpentStone crumble as personality feuds broke away covens. I have been seeking the HOW of harmonious and correct neopagan teaching and ministering methods. I have been seeking to understand why the past ones have been "broken". Bringing the issues to the attention of elders/teachers/priests often receive a dismissive wave of "they are just a bad person/group, we're/I'm not all like that". Well, seeing the actions and results of multiple "just a bad person/group" began to make me wonder if people were the only problem. Maybe the system was slightly ajar too. So far, the results of my investigation point to human people, a human system, and room for improvement. The good, bad and ugly of responses have all been informative. I will continue explore.
I say these things because I have willingly contributed part of my heart and soul to the neopagan community. Without license given by degree or lineage, I am invested in the neopagan path being the best bet for a large spiritually seeking population. My own shamanic path is even smaller and younger than the neopagan. It is even more difficult to find a shamanic teacher who matches a student. I am fortunate that I have a teacher now and it is the shamanic path I walk. I still remain committed to the neopagan community. Perhaps, in the future, I will be able to do more.