How we almost had a Pagan Church. (Thanks Gods for the failures)

There is one specific topic that comes up in the Czech pagan world every few years. Although I don't find it that big, many people apparently do. Therefore my guess is that it could be interesting for quite a few. 

Even though there is a large variety among Czech pagans and there is virtually no chance they would be willing to come under one highly organized umbrella (see one of my earlier blog posts on this), for some reason many of us think this is a good way forward. I have few experiences and observations related to these ambitions I would like to share. Before I do so, I would like to clarify that the topic here are the past (and possibly future) attempts to register and establish a religious society recognized by state with the legal status of church. So this is neither about PFI nor is it about any other similar organization such as The Czech Pagan Society. The scope of this blog post is limited to the legal form of religious society, which is something many Czech pagans view as a next natural and logical step in our development.

I have two personal experiences with this matter. One goes back to 2003/2004 and the second one is relatively fresh. It is not older than few months actually. In both cases I have realized how ill driven they were and the only difference was that in the latter case it took me few minutes to come to the conclusion that I have 'nothing to do here'.

Both cases had some interesting things in common. They started on the basis on another activities that were already establishing themselves. In both cases more than one tradition or group started to work on something very specific together. It went slowly, bit by bit.  In the first case it was a pagan magazine, in the second case it was a discussion and contact group on pagan funerals. And suddenly there always came someone who wanted a big jump and to turn the natural flow of things into some monstrous project 'to rule them all'. That is to create a religious society for all Czech pagans and to start with the big things. In both cases these specific activities I mentioned were to some extent 'hijacked' and turned into a starting point for a pagan religious society. And therefore both activities also ceased to exist as the big ambitions vanished into nothingness. 

The first case was really interesting. The whole process started to develop around a pagan magazine which was a mutual project of Czech Asatru, Slavic reconstructioninsts and ecclectic wiccans. The Czech Asatru part was probably the most problematic, because it was this group from which came those people who were most supportive and also those who had strongest objections against such thing. The Slavic reconstructionists as far as I remember didn't have any strong feelings about it, but had a very good idea about terms under which they would cooperate. The ecclectic wiccans simply wanted to be done with the whole thing soon and do something meaningful again. So while all the endless discussions and arguments between all the super-important people (chiefs of clans consisting of two or three people mostly) went on, a christian friend of us wrote the entire documentation and pretty much did the entire work. All that was left to be done was getting 300 signatures and sending the application to the Ministry of Culture. And at that point the whole thing fell apart for good.

Actually, I didn't know it was for good when it happened. Our christian friend wrote the whole story down some years after and presented it as a lecture on the Faculty of Theology on the Charles University in Prague. The document is fun to read, but it's in Czech language only. 

It helped me to refresh my memory later and to really start to understand what it was all about. I was already 30 at that time and no longer naive. I think there were two complementary issues. The interesting one was a vast difference in approach. Majority wanted just to create some necessary bureaucratic minimum to keep the official authorities happy while enabling everyone to do officially what would otherwise not be possible. Others strongly disagreed and wanted a church-like structure with study programms, training, hierarchy, etc., but acted like it was exactly what the first group was saying. The other issue was of course the question of who will be the representative of what, etc. The usual phenomenon of power struggle. Which is essentialy the first question in its nakedness. Not that any of the groups mentioned would really know what they were doing at that time or what was really going on. 

After years I came up to a conclusion that the whole story was nothing else than a successfuly sabotaged attempt of creating 'One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.' So, good riddance I say.

Now, why do I say so? First of all, I have strong believe that paganism in its many forms should retain its tribal structure. And therefore anything that is done together and has a potential to affect many 'tribes' (groups, groves, clans, covens, whatever you have) on spiritual level cannot be forced, cannod be driven from above and cannot have any ... and this word is super important to me... ANY central authority in ANY way. It must be always perfectly clear that such thing is a charade for the authorities which would enable us to do what we want and be taken seriously by the establishment. There must always be the understanding  that it has nothing to do with telling other people what to believe in, what ethic principles are the right ones and how to worship the Gods. Translated to other terms, anything that serves to fulfill the needs of individuals (people and tribes - no matter how you call them) is the good way. Anything that serves to fulfill the needs coming from power hunger of either people or the entities assciated with them should be (and out of principle will be) doomed to failure.

I have seen many unspoken lies and cheap cover-ups related to this. Pretty much everywhere. And many people believe them. In all these situations when some things are not mentioned and you feel something is not right and people are made believe certain things. But when it comes to what really matters, the Gods seem to know this whole thing won't actually serve them and all their people. I think. But who knows what all the Lokis and other tricksters can do. But it is not just them. I believe many people with few years of experience of actually living in the 21st centrury seem to understand the basic equation here. 

In year 2012 I took part in a discussion evening on this topic. Most people seemed to be very concerned about who will organize and lead the whole thing. For some reason this is always the topic number one. Another concern was a 'rehabilitation of swastika'. Which is a connection I fail to understand completely. Getting rid of the far-right political agenda in the public pagan space would do the job much better as far as I am concerned.  Then there are the usual issues, such as officially recognized rituals, funerals, weddings and so on. Which are meaningful for many and I can clearly see why. 

I was also invited to a closed meeting on this. And as soon as I heard of 'using the potential of enthusiastic young people' and the need to 'stream-line them' I knew that this time I won't listen to this crap. I went off and never turned back.

Despite all this I believe this will happen one day. It can still take some 20 to 30 years. First of all, a significant portion of Czech pagans needs to grow up. This will enable them to no longer be impressed by people who are after power in the first place and to recognize declared motivations from the real ones. It will also open a space for a reasonable debate on the issue from which could slowly, bit by bit, naturally, emerge something big, meaningful and beautiful. Similarly to other topics meantioned on this blog so far, I am optimistic.


  1. Jakub L13:42

    Interesting opinion, it is nice to know other people's point of view. I think that situation is not that bad regarding evil Sauron to take over the local pagan scene :) However, I agree that this will take some time before it works.
    Also, I remember you personally saying that you do agree with rehabilitation of swastika that evening. However, I understand that people are free to change their mind...
    (I am Jakub, we talked together later that night in the pub after the discussion if you remember me)

  2. Hi Jakub! Thanks for leaving a commnent. That parallel was indeed a bit extreme. The point was to clearly demonstrate the difference between creating an organization which truly embraces most of the traditions+people and serves them as opposed to an organization that would serve mostly to ambitions of few individuals or a single group. The difference is subtle, hard to described, but to me it's very important. Hence the strong comparison - the seven rings vs. the one ring.

    I am unclear as to why do you think I changed my mind about swastika. By all means I am for rehabilitatin of that symbol and its re-introduction in an openly displayed pagan symbolism. What I perhaps failed to express was that there are much more important factors in this process. Such as ensuring that paganism will never be connected with far-right scene in public and misused for political agenda of this kind. That I believe is a pre-condition number one. Organizational structure of pagans could as complex as the one of EU and yet we won't get any closer to this objective. Unless we are super-careful about the context in which we use and talk about swastika ourselves, we will never succeed. And in that very discussion you refer to, there was a prime example of expressing a concern about swastika that was far from careful. Not too bad, true... but still inconsiderate. That's how I feel about it.

    I think I do remember you. Guitar player? :) It must be you. Welcome to my blog. I am glad you find it interesting.