When we think about “awareness” the first thing Pagans usually think about, is awareness outside of the Pagan community -of bringing the practices and beliefs of the various Pagan religions more to the mainstream. We think about ways we can break down negative stereotypes to achieve acceptance, or at the very least tolerance from those of other faiths who, traditionally, have often seen us through a lens of fear and/or hatred. What many don’t realize however, is that many of those same issues exist within the Pagan community as well. So the question becomes, how can we teach others, when we often show the same ignorance and intolerance towards each other.
The answer it seems, comes to us through “awareness” as well, though of a slightly different kind. In this sense it’s a matter of being aware that not everything we hear and see is truth – even if we see it in print, or hear it from a major news network. It’s an awareness that just because someone claims something to be “the way it is”, or claims that they speak for a particular tradition/path, that it doesn’t make it so. It’s about being aware of how to make sure that your sources of information are valid, and that when you are passing on knowledge that you’ve learned, or that interesting bit of news that you might have heard, that it’s actually true.
This is especially important these days when in-person teaching of traditions seems to be falling to the wayside. So many Pagans rely on books or websites to learn about their paths, and especially when one is just starting out – they often have no way of discerning a good resource from a bad one. How to tell if someone actually has the experience, knowledge or even the proper authority (particularly in traditions or religions that require initiations, or are based on closed-cultures) to even be speaking – much less attempting to teach, on any particular subject.
While many of us came to Paganism because we were looking for less rules and less structure, etc… , there still needs to be accountability. We need to be more aware of what sort of misinformation is being spread (even if it’s being done unintentionally), and how that misinformation is creating the misconceptions that are helping to divide us from within. From this new found awareness, it is a matter of consciously making an effort to stop the spread of misinformation, which will in turn make it easier for us to change the misconceptions that continue to plague us. Which in turn, brings us full circle to “awareness” outside of the Pagan Community, and how much easier that will be, when we all are working together, rather than at cross-purposes.