As Paganism matures, we have to address a huge range of accessibility issues for our religion: physical accessibility for Pagans with mobility issues, assistance for Pagan parents, audiobooks for Pagans who are blind, sign language interpreters for deaf Pagans, inclusivity for LGBTQ Pagans, a welcoming atmosphere for Pagans of colour, accommodations for Pagans with allergies, and more. Luckily, we have some smart, helpful, welcoming Pagans talking about those issues already:
“In this case, the unpopular thing is the idea that we – Pagan leaders and ritualists – may need to change how we approach rituals in order to make our rituals more accessible and inclusive. We may even need to re-evaluate some of our dearly-held theological beliefs. If we want the dominant culture to change, to legalize gay marriage, support people with disabilities, eliminate racism… don’t we have to do that work first ourselves, within our community?”
“Given the huge variation between and within lineages in Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca, adding a bit more variation to the mix shouldn’t be in the slightest bit controversial – but strangely, as soon as you mention including LGBT people, disabled people, and people of colour, it becomes controversial. I wonder why that is?”
“If there’s any piece in a ritual that’s gendered, they’re usually for one of the two most common genders. Where do I fit if I’m involved in that ritual but the best descriptor for my gender mode is “the green of the deep woods in shaded places” (and yes, that is a gender mode I experienced very recently, and no, I don’t have any better way to describe it). And that’s just in ritual; what do I do in social spaces before and after? “Hi, my name is Dee and my pronouns are they and them,” isn’t necessarily the best icebreaker that doesn’t also completely derail the purpose of the gathering (depending on the group, of course).”
“And yet when these sorts of things occur, it gets kinda frustrating, and isolating, and lonely, and sad, and painful, and emotional… because when things like this come up I feel these complex issues do separate me. They kinda split me in half. I know I can go into the Deaf Community and they get it, and they can provide support… but they can’t always provide the magick and the healing, and the spiritualness that gets me through days like this. But where can I find that same comparable understanding and support within the Pagan Community? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist… but it does seem more challenging to locate it.”
“One of the walls I often crash against in the wider pagan community is the inaccessibility of events and rituals for children who have special needs, from autism spectrum disorders to physical mobility issues, that require accommodation. We are a community that prides itself on inclusivity, and yet I often see a lack of it towards children in general and specifically towards children who have behavioral or physical challenges. The biggest argument against it seems to be that something important will be lost if we change what we are doing to make it easier for children with different needs to attend. I disagree, and I think by making our [open, public] rituals too focused on creating a numinous experience for the adults present we are losing a more genuine feeling of community that should be present in religious worship by open groups.
“What frustrates me is that it doesn’t have to be this way – while it does require compromise and reworking it is not impossible to accommodate families that need it. And I will never believe the Gods, ancestors or spirits are offended by the actions or needs of a child who is doing their best in the moment and only wants to be part of a spiritual celebration.”
“There are also a lot of festivals, rituals and events, whether as small as a coven or large as a regional festival, that aren’t very accommodating. And that’s a problem.
“You see, we’re getting old. As a movement, we are aging. Today Gardner would be over 120, and Alex Sanders would be in his 90’s. The youngest of their initiates would be in their 40’s to 60’s now, and most would be much older.
“The Beatles wanted to know if you’d still love them when they turned 64. I wonder if our community will still be there for us when we’re 72 or 86?”
“Some people in the Pagan community get it. They design gatherings with flexibility built in. They communicate clearly but inclusively — “We will be doing X” rather than “X kind of people should not apply.” They are more interested in providing a positive experience and encouraging their fellow Pagans than in excluding people whose bodies don’t meet their preconceived notions. They welcome questions and find ways to work around limits.”
“There are also many people with disabilities whose voices are not included in this article. Some are quite isolated and have difficulty attending events at all, and rely almost entirely upon the internet to make contact with people of like mind. The Wild Hunt did reach out to a number of Pagans with disabilities about sharing their perspectives, but one thing that is all too common is that some disabilities — regardless of its other impacts — sap energy and make otherwise simple tasks much more difficult, such as sending an email or typing out a sentence or two in reaction. We would like to acknowledge these unheard voices within our community.”