3 (Big) Wishes for 2023
Posted by Michelle Gruben on
The fake tree is glittering, the stockings are hung. It's time to reflect on the end of the season. Because we are approaching both the Winter Solstice and January 1, this post is one part Yule wish list, one part New Year's resolutions. I've been thinking about what I would wish for the Pagan community if I could have anything at all—and also, what I might be able to do to bring it closer to reality.
Everything on this list is a pretty big ask. That is because it is Solstice Eve and getting dark at 4 PM, and I am in a weird mood of childlike optimism mixed with existential dread. So, I've kept it down to three entries. (And Santa, if you'd rather just bring me an espresso machine, I will totally understand.)
Wish #1: To create places to gather.
If there's one thing the last couple years have demonstrated, it's that there really is no substitute for meeting up in physical space. To do ritual in person—to light candles and run energy and sing songs—is something I've missed even more than I thought I would. With so many Witches and Pagans suffering from cabin fever and Zoom burnout, 2023 is sure to bring a bumper crop of events and gatherings.
I am lucky enough to live in a city with several well-run witch shops. There are some wonderful seasonal festivals within a few hours' drive. And my work allows me to travel a couple of times a year to larger events—like Atlanta's excellent Mystic South—where I can fill my head and heart with the newest books and workshops. When I add in my close Pagan friends and my at-home practice, my opportunities for learning are rich indeed.
My big wish for 2023 is for more people to have access to these kinds of resources. No matter where you live, no matter what your budget. There’s a big price gap in Pagan events—ranging from free artists' markets and potlucks to big, multi-day hotel conferences and fancy retreats—with not much in between. I’d like to see the middle of that spectrum fill out more in the future.
This year, I'm going to continue to look for things to get in involved in, both individually and through my company. I will be more consistent about sharing events that are in my network. I'm going to get better at supporting—with my heart, my voice, and my hands—those who are doing the heavy lifting. I'm going to try to be more mindful with my criticism, also...well, right after this next part.
Wish #2. To de-politicize the sacred.
True Witchcraft, as I see it, is incompatible with bigotry. That's why politicizing Witchcraft is redundant. Ours is a life-affirming, individualistic path—one that values diversity and sees the Divine reflected in every part of our big, messy human family. As we grow in power as Witches, we should strive to help others find and embrace their power. Especially the most oppressed, marginalized, and strange among us.
And so, when Pagan leaders get in the habit of conflating these big important truths with the narrower aims of politics and the culture wars, they make our communities smaller, weaker, and more homogeneous.
I'll be real blunt here: I'm a big ole queer liberal feminist and even I'm tired of the language policing and the purity tests. Being welcome in Pagan communities shouldn't be dependent on your ability to broadcast your level of wokeness. It shouldn't matter whether you drive an electric car or don't, whether you use sage or don't, use neopronouns or don't, spell magick with a "k" or don't, whether you start every ritual with a long disclaimer about gender and culture and land use, or don't. If this is how I feel—and I agree with 95% of the Secret Liberal Agenda—I can only imagine how my more conservative and/or apolitical friends feel.
Remember the worst parts of the pandemic, when even an act as simple as putting on a mask (or not) felt like choosing a side in a culture war? The Far Right politicized common-sense disease control efforts, and it resulted in the loss of countless lives.
I'm afraid that—though the stakes are much lower, obviously—that the liberal Pagan obsession with virtue-signaling is another form of harmful politicizing. It's our special way of eating our own. It stifles creativity and makes public rituals boring and sucky. (If we know anything about spiritual experiences, it's that they don't like to follow arbitrary cultural rules.) It alienates people who could be lending their support. Worst of all, it's a distraction from the more urgent issues—such as the fact that there are still Christian nationalists trying to control our private lives, including what we do with our bodies and how and where we worship.
How can I help to foster the kind of community I want to be part of, one that's progressive but also sensible and fair? This question has been especially on my mind in 2022. This past year, I saw a beloved organization divide and shrink over a frankly shallow political correctness effort. Although I mostly supported the change, I was disheartened by the process. Dissent was suppressed. Attendance declined and morale ebbed. We sloughed off elders and moderates to satisfy the agendas of a few highly motivated people. Even among those who stayed, there was a widespread sense of loss, of feeling silenced and overlooked. Sadly, this story isn't unique—other long-standing Pagan organizations have been split and eroded by similar conflicts.
Was it a worthwhile sacrifice? Will it actually result in a better, more vibrant and inclusive space? I want to be optimistic, but it’s too early to say.
I realize that some of what I just wrote resembles Fox News grandpa talk, so let me add this: I am not saying that we should make room in our Pagan communities for haters and fascists. If your mission is to oppress others, then you can GTFO. Trumpists, TERFS, and racists can all find their own clubhouse, and I won't miss them.
I'm also not saying that leadership needs to be divorced from activism. Some writers and teachers feel called upon to use their platforms to push for political and social change. And I absolutely hope they continue to do so, according to their will.
My wish for 2023 would be to let people share their sacred experiences without apology, guilt, or shame. I wish we could agree about the big stuff—like the need for safety and inclusivity within our communities—and lower the temperature in discussions about the smaller stuff. If that happens, we'll be in a much better place than we are now.
Wish #3: Peace between the worlds.
World peace, oh yeah? That’s so 1999. (Just kidding! Geopolitics is very very important, but it only matters if we have a planet to live on.) So this New Year's, let's wish for peace between all the worlds. And not only peace, but conversation and constructive action.
In truth, this is already happening. Those who are sensitive to such things have been noticing it for some time. The doorways to Faery are thinner than they've been in a while. Gods that are usually silent are speaking to their people with increased urgency. Sleeping dragons are stirring, mushrooms are showing up in weird places like parking lots and even chocolate bars. Intelligent beings of every flavor seem to be gently (or not-so-gently) nudging us to attention.
Why the sudden chumminess from these normally aloof allies? I don't have much information—and I don't like to talk about calamity when I'm unsure—but from where I'm standing, it looks rather frightening. Our Earth is clearly on the brink of massive change, and the Gods and Fae are close enough kin to us that change is coming for them, too. As Witches we have special abilities to move between worlds—and therefore, special work to do. Let's heed those cues and help each other prepare for whatever is next.
My wife, who’s reading over my shoulder, just lovingly told me I sound like a tin hat wearing weirdo, so I’ll leave it at that. I wish everyone a blessed Yule (or any holiday you are celebrating)—and may all your heart's wishes come true!
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