It’s very easy, and very normal, to spend huge swathes of time within a few very specific, very defined communities. Some of these will be due to circumstances, such as the place you live, where you go to school or the people you work with, where you pretty much have little or no choice over who you engage with. Others will be due to interests or pursuits such as clubs, societies or peer groups, where you are drawn together by one shared thread but may have little else in common. Even in social situations we’re often not entirely at liberty to decide who we do or do not engage with – friends of friends, friends of partners, random people you end up sharing a table or bench with.
Each different community will have its own ecology – different hierarchies, different modes of language and different terminology, different ways of behaving and relating within them. There will be similarities and there may also be contradictions. What may be par for the course in one group (hugging, cussing, playing with candle wax) may be considered downright scandalous by another.
Navigating and juggling between different groups, and particularly entering new communities, can therefore be confusing, especially when you want to make a good impression but don’t know what the unwritten rules are. Within the pagan community we’re probably very fortunate because, overall, it’s more or less that we don’t have any, are generally all as confused and confounded as each other and therefore make everything up as we go on a case by case basis regardless. There’s a great deal more tolerance about what ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ looks like when (for better or worse) it’s impossible to get any clear consensus on the issue!
But limiting our interactions to only those that are safe and familiar and comfortable is, well, limiting. Even failed social experiments give us new insight, help our understanding and open us up to new worlds. And perhaps help us define, shape or even build our own…