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Column: Welcoming Pagans of Color

Column: Oathbound | The Wild Hunt

Just lately I attended a convention that centered round problems with fairness and inclusion for under-represented  teams in schooling. Workshops checked out underlying elements as to why recruitment, retention, and growing numbers for minority teams stay a supply of concern many years after preliminary makes an attempt to unravel underlying issues of illustration.  In the course of the convention, I stored considering of similarities between points introduced for teachers and people raised at a panel I moderated at Mystic South final yr, “Navigating the Waters as a Pagan of Colour in 2018.” The viewers there requested the identical questions as the teachers surrounding me at this convention: how can our group discover, welcome, and hold individuals of colour?

Simply as some establishments look to mirror not simply the pool of obtainable Ph.D.s, however the bigger demographic stability of the USA, there are teams that need to be house for many who are in search of to seek out what every group has to supply.

Whereas some current conversations in Pagan circles might cowl questions round race, and particularly the difficulty of whiteness within the bigger group, the dilemma, and maybe the answer, stays the identical for our decentralized group of Pagans, Heathens, Polytheists, and others, because it does for the tutorial group. The one variations lie in not addressing these considerations in a nationwide discussion board on a yearly foundation the place each workshop and speaker focuses solely on problems with fairness and inclusion. Whereas there are variations between  proposing fairness and inclusion options for  centralized educational establishments and discovering comparable options for the largely decentralized Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities, there’s sufficient overlap to think about these concepts.


At the newest Paganicon, native Pagans gathered to welcome guests to the Pagans of Shade and Tradition suite, one of many many rooms that held programming consultant of the varied teams locally outdoors the official Paganicon schedule. The room was meant “to spotlight and carry the experiences of Individuals of Shade and the various paths they stroll by way of out the pagan group. We search to offer a protected area for pagans of colour and their allies, whereas offering a religious and studying environment.” Regardless of the presence of comparable suites in previous years, this yr noticed elevated ranges of curiosity and a recognition of the truth that there have been extra Pagans of shade hanging out at Paganicon as an entire.

Household enjoyable within the Pagans of Shade and Tradition Suite, Paganicon 2019 [courtesy Pagans of Color and Culture Suite].

With visibility comes the good-natured, however typically mistaken, concept that white individuals (non-people of shade) usually are not welcome into the area as a result of it’s a protected haven for Pagans of colour.  In truth, the other is true, as those that stopped by at numerous occasions came upon. Allies and people who need to know extra about Pagans of colour have all the time been welcome to hitch and assist unfold the dialog. Many dropped by to see the altars, to benefit from the meals, to take part in courses, to hitch the ancestor ritual on Saturday night, the potluck on Saturday night time, and to take pleasure in conversations all through the weekend on with these current within the room.

Within the heat environment, multiple individual famous how few, if any, Pagans of shade are seen at quite a lot of festivals, conventions, and conferences. Every individual was happy to see that there was a presence at Paganicon and that each one have been welcome. The truth that such a press release wanted to be made repeatedly by numerous guests demonstrates how visibility for these of shade who’re current locally is important.

Altar on the Pagans of Colour and Tradition Suite-Paganicon 2019 [courtesy Pagans of Color and Culture].

Two Questions: How did you find yourself right here? Why did you keep right here?

Inside the bigger Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities, these questions might come up from new arrivals who want to decide if they’ve discovered a protected area to make a religious or group house. These questions are much more related for teams trying to recruit extra people of colour. How one decides upon a gaggle is a really private choice, typically impacted by or directed by connections with specific deities, geographic necessity, or a easy lack of options.

For a person of colour in search of a gaggle that follows a specific religion, there will not be a lot of a selection in any respect: if that custom solely has one lively group within the space, there isn’t any different choice for somebody who needs to take part in group rituals. Likewise, one can also discover that there are a selection of teams who would welcome new members, however these teams have no idea who’s on the lookout for them. In some instances, teams might not know the best way to reveal openness for individuals of shade.

The presence of “religious deserts” in the USA is sort of actual; moreover, there are nonetheless the standard hazards relating to security in an individual’s determination to disclose their affiliation or want to attach with non-Christian spiritual communities.  In religious deserts, being labeled as “different” or non-Christian can have an effect on the place it’s protected to stay, work, and ship youngsters to high school. These norms already drive many into solitary follow, making it more durable for potential Pagans of shade to seek out those that are like-minded.

Altar at tbe Pagans of Shade and Tradition Suite, Paganicon 2019 [courtesy Pagans of Color and Culture Suite].

It’s via conventions and conferences, the place individuals collect in impartial newfound communities, the place these questions could be requested and mentioned brazenly. For Pagans, Heathens, and Polytheists of colour, these are areas for networking and for locating teams that may give solutions to the bigger questions of how those that are part of a sure group discovered it and why those self same people stayed. Such questions require a willingness to belief, to share information, and to show acceptance. Typically, the conversations might result in painful and troublesome revelations, which can result in new members. If the query of learn how to discover and hold individuals of shade in numerous Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist teams retains getting requested, by totally different individuals, in numerous boards, then there’s a cause why the difficulty stays essential.

Two Extra Questions: Who’s leaving? Why did they depart? 

These are more durable questions, due partially to the decentralized nature of the bigger Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities. Religion, spiritual follow, and religious paths fall into the private class for a lot of, and phrase of mouth or gossip shouldn’t be an efficient measure of figuring out why somebody who hung out locally has all of the sudden chosen to go away that group. 

Is it a matter of identification? There are people of shade who not want to be thought-about Pagan, Heathen, or Polytheist, regardless that they could take part in sure religion traditions. If so, then there’s nothing a gaggle can do to vary this sense, particularly if the group identifies as 100% Pagan, Heathen, or Polytheist.

Is it a matter of remedy in one other group? This could solely be found over time, with deep belief and acceptance on all sides. As well as, it’s the one that left who skilled the trauma; for that individual to be open to a becoming a member of a brand new group is usually a priceless present. For teams that need to add individuals of shade to their numbers, the revelation of trauma by a person and the acceptance that such trauma can affect how the individual of shade sees teams of a specific custom within the bigger group is essential. Once more, because of the decentralized nature of the bigger group, tales could also be unfold, however solely the person is aware of the entire story.

There are numerous the reason why any particular person may select to go away a specific custom, and it is very important know what these causes sooner or later as we develop numbers of all who want to be a part of the bigger group.

Barring demise, the explanation why people select to cease training a practice, drop from membership within the bigger group, or reject a previously strong id as a Pagan, Heathen, or Polytheist stay personal and infrequently recognized. This leaves it as much as small one-on-one or group conversations to ask individuals of shade if they’ve left, why they left, and what prevents them from coming again.

Areas of Motion: Being Reactive or Proactive?

Whereas one power of the Pagan group is its concentrate on decentralization, this will result in a bent to react to bigger points which will have an effect on the group fairly than taking a proactive stance. Given the selection between being reactive and proactive, the group advantages most from a proactive stance that permits probably the most flexibility and power for long-term advantages.

Strategic Planning

Whereas the bigger Pagan group doesn’t have centralized models and a hierarchical construction, some traditions do. Even smaller teams can profit from planning how a lot, if any, of an emphasis must be made for drawing in new members of shade and for participation in efforts to extend fairness and inclusion. Is there a liaison for reference to individuals of shade within the bigger group? This will vary from  public acknowledgement and participation in occasions, workshops, and packages at conferences and conventions to creating boards to deal with the difficulty at the area people degree. The most important element of strategic planning is follow-through. 

Inner Processes

Every group, whether or not coven, grove, circle, or kindred, has its personal guidelines and strategies for membership, classes, initiation, and fellowship. If a gaggle needs to take a look at how welcoming it’s general towards individuals of colour, then the place to start out is with its personal inner processes. What’s written and put into place relating to all points of the group? Are there accepted processes and requirements which might be unwritten? Are actions taken simply because one individual says so? What are the standard management measures, if any, to make sure openness and transparency to all members, together with potential members? If a gaggle just isn’t at this degree, then now’s the time to have in-depth and maybe painful conversations to work in the direction of transparency and processes that precisely mirror the group, its objective, mission, and objectives.

Evaluate standards

These go hand-in-hand with an general take a look at the interior processes of a gaggle in any respect ranges. This implies not simply from the highest down, however from the decrease ranges up. Along with insurance policies at every degree of the group, it’s useful to maintain knowledge for an goal take a look at the place the group presently stands, and the place it’s going. If the objective is to usher in new members, together with members of colour, then this might be the place or time at a gathering to notice any efforts to take action.


Are processes seen to everybody? This doesn’t imply initiatory or lesson-work, but when there are steps that ought to usually be taken in a gaggle, are these clear to all who’re members of the group and people who are guests or potential members? This might additionally embrace information, each good and dangerous, concerning the group. What number of occasions has a specific scandal damaged with the one public info being hypothesis, quite than clear information or notifications?  A gaggle’s public picture may be harmed or improved by way of vigorous transparency; nevertheless, the selection to do the fallacious factor out of comfort or expediency will do much more injury in the long run.


If a gaggle or custom is in search of this kind of change, then the presence and help of management is essential. If a gaggle has a sister or brother coven, grove, kindred, circle, or home, then it is very important know the place and the way it stands on welcoming members of colour. This isn’t to say that every group must be equivalent; nevertheless, as many teams socialize with one another, the variations may be obvious if one group is making an attempt exhausting to welcome new members of colour, whereas the others don’t help the trouble. 

As an educational and as a Pagan of colour, I see these steps as just some of the potential options for a big scale endeavor that may require a substantial amount of time, enter from quite a lot of sources, and exhausting work on all sides. The difficulty of recruitment, retention, and development for individuals of colour within the educational area is one that isn’t dissimilar to what’s occurring within the decentralized Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities. As an optimist, I don’t assume that it’s ever too late to start out the method or to revive one which has been left in limbo. In each forms of communities, though it’s straightforward to fall right into a chasm of silence on the topic, management and the best way ahead will proceed to be designated by those that have affect and energy, belief and acceptance.

Blankets hung within the Pagans of Shade and Tradition Suite, Paganicon 2019 [courtesy Pagans of Color and Culture Suite].

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