I entered Paganism back in the 1980s. I am sure you have all heard the war stories. We had no internet, no festivals to speak of. Instead, we had quiet covens and circles. There was the occasional metaphysical store, sometimes closeted as candle shops or new age shops. In Sacramento, we had one literally called “Al’s Feed Store,” and it was just that. There were tarot decks, books, and stones sitting alongside live chicks and bags of cracked corn.
There was a tiny section of metaphysical books in Barnes & Nobel or Waldenbooks, which usually amounted to two or three shelves…not two or three bookshelves, but two or three shelves on the bookshelf. Oz printed , and the Llewellyn Magical Almanac was in every Pagan bathroom. I longed to mingle with the Big Name Pagans like DJ Conway, Silver Ravenwolf, Janet & Stewart Farrar, and Scott Cunningham. They were a pantheon of gods and goddesses to me.
In 1999, a woman named Gail Dettmar created and hosted our first Sacramento Pagan Pride Harvest Festival. My husband and I arrived in our 1969 VW bus with our children. Our youngest, Nathan, was two weeks old. We stared wide-eyed at the crowds. Over a thousand people per day attend that event. So. Many. Pagans. Not just me and my husband, but all of us were shocked to be out in the open with so many other Pagans. There were endless Pagan vendors, performers, and information booths about local groups and various traditions. Coming from the small circle we ran, it was absolutely stunning.
A few years before that, Glenn Turner started Pantheacon in San Jose, which also hosted thousands of Pagans a year. The late 1990s showed festivals and conventions growing all over the country, with a cornucopia of fellowship, instruction, and fun.
Then the internet gave Pagans all over the world a voice and an unprecedented ability to connect. At first, we had “bulletin boards” and message groups, and then social media overtook the internet and we connected on a previously unimaginable level. Now, everyone has a voice and a platform, and many have a strong message.
What comes next? Many in the current Pagan community do not remember a time when it was a luxury to connect with other Pagans. Both COVID and easy access through social media took its toll on festivals and conventions. YouTube is now the preferred method of teaching because it is free and you can access it anytime, anywhere, without then need for scheduling or traveling. Amazon took away the need for bookstores. What does our next evolution as Pagans look like?
Do we need elders and teachers? Are covens and circles dissolving into history? What does the 21st Century Pagan look like over twenty years into the millennium? I find myself both excited and terrified to see. People of the Earth, we are and that we shall always be, but the earth changes and by necessity, so do we.
Our thanks to Katrina for her guest post! For more from Katrina Rasbold, read her article, “Sacred Sprays for Magical Self Care.”