This weekend I was honored to take part in my very first pagan festival, The Brothers of the Sun. What an amazing experience! I was welcomed in to a group of pagan men from various traditions as a brother. I learned so much about male camaraderie, masculine energy, and other male mysteries. And I definitely learned a good bit about myself. What I learned most was that my family tree of pagans has more branches and deeper roots than I realized.
I wish I could share with you all everything I learned this weekend, but these are men’s mysteries. What I can share with you is that I learned that this community of men is not a group of bystanders at the will and service of their witches. These men are roves seeking their own destiny, fathers shaping their future and the future of those they love, and sages manifesting the will of paganism as a whole. I am proud to call these men my brothers.
I can also share with you what I learned about myself. I practiced a solitary path for many years. When I was led to formal training at Temple of the Sacred Gift I looked upon this training in a preconceived notion of what a church is supposed to be. I also looked at my training as a training of rules, guide lines, and how-to’s on the right way and wrong way to practice and worship. I had decided without thinking that because this training was from an eclectic church and not a coven I would still be a solitary witch. I would be a part of a fellowship of like-minded individuals and learn what has been written and recorded about witchcraft. I would take this information and apply it to my own spiritual practice but ultimately I would still be a solitary because I wasn’t practicing like anyone else; my roots were my own.
Just before I left for my men’s weekend, my teacher invited me and others to be a part creative part of Southern Fried Pagan. Our first task was to create our bios for the page so that readers would know who we are and from what perspective our views originate. I did this quickly, because I had began writing a blog of my own earlier this year. I sent it to her and she wrote me back to inform me that I needed to look at blog bios because they tend to be short and to the point. And I wasn’t a solitary like I claim any longer. My first reaction was who is she to tell me I’m not a solitary. I latched on to my ideas of what my training was going to be and swung from the tree limb beating my chest. I have thankfully learned to avoid discussing things until I have had time to think about them. I used the weekend to plan on what I was going to say to my teacher to make her understand and accept my idea. Funny I know. Tell your high priestess she’s wrong about something she’s been formally teaching for a few years.
I was involved in a casual conversation with a sage of high respect as a brother one night during this weekend. He was saying something about the students he teaches and how he has to teach to each one differently because they are different people. This sparked in my head and I said, “Aha!” I realized now why I needed to go to college to become a teacher of elementary school only to leave that field. Differentiated instruction, the biggest concept of my college training. And this high priest has been using it for a lot longer than it has been in practice in public schools. I then began to think about teaching and how friends in college would tell professors that the idea of differentiated instruction, teaching to reach every level and type of student and to each individual student, was good in theory but wasn’t realistic. After some time examining lesson plans of differentiated instruction and some training on how to construct them, I was quite able to apply this skill. I thought, “How dumb are they to tell the teacher their wrong.”
What had I just done? I had to think about this. I looked around and saw the men and the ways they did things. I learned the connections these men had and why they had them. I saw practices of various sages being used by the fathers and learned by the roves. Some of these were discussed openly after rituals and workshops. And the answer to my quandary was revealed. Traditions were made and passed on and are being passed on. These traditions were not limited to the men or this festival. I realized I wasn’t just learning what someone else had learned; I was learning traditions. Now my high priestess and high priest and maiden and squire had told us this many times. It never made it past my preconception. This weekend I saw the traditions from one hand to the next. I was a part of these traditions. I learned a way of thinking and doing that had been passed down from generations much older than one that attended the festival.
No I am not a part of a coven, but I am part of a tradition. It is an eclectic one. But it is a tradition. I have brothers and I have sisters. I have fathers and mothers. I have grandfathers and grandmothers. I am not alone anymore unless I choose to be. I choose it no longer. I WAS a solitary pagan. Now, I am a Templite.
My advice: If you are practicing solitary do not seclude yourself. Get out and be part of the community. If you wish to be part of a group, which in my opinion most of us do, get out and do whatever it takes to find an accepting, loving group. A new light will dawn within you. The Charge of the Goddess states, “If that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without.” I hold that some things cannot be found within unless we actively seek them without. Paganism is about community and traditions. If you do not make yourself a part of the community you will not know paganism completely. I may be wrong. These are just the ideas of a seeker in training.
Kevin Red Patrick is a seeker at Temple of the Sacred Gift – ATC. Raised in Memphis, TN, and educated at the University of Mississippi. His pagan path began at the age of thirteen after understanding that his views of life, spirituality, and sexuality did not align with his Christian upbringing. He has followed an eclectic Wiccan path with strong Celtic influences for twenty-two years. Divine direction led him to TSG-ATC in December of 2012, where he is now receiving formal training with aspirations of becoming clergy. He now lives in Southaven, MS with his partner of thirteen years and two dogs.