Review by Mike Gleason
Bridging the Gap: Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society by Crystal Blanton
Those of us who have been in the Pagan “community” for any appreciable amount of time are well aware that the topic of this book is one which in of vital concern as Paganism becomes more acceptable in the world outside our Circles, Groves, and Covens. From the very beginnings of the public existence of Paganism in the modern world there have arisen situations which needed to be addressed, but which frequently were shuffled to the side with a “We’ll deal with that later” attitude.
The past decade or so has seen the rapid rise of both “solitary” and “eclectic” segments of the Pagan community. This has led to even more destabilization of the overall community, since there appears to be a high level of distrust, if not outright antagonism between these segments and the more “traditional” groups which exist.
Ms Blanton approaches the subject from the point of view of an individual who works in the field of counseling, thus she brings a perspective which is often lacking in our community. Of course, that very perspective will make her suspect in the minds of some individuals. There tends to be an “all or nothing” or “us versus them” attitude, which is unfortunate. We could all benefit from a bit of distance sometimes. She offers insight in how (and why) we react to challenges within our various communities as well as ways we can use our reactions to further positive goals.
This is a book which is heavy on psychology and psychological counseling and short on magic and Paganism, per se. Having said that, I must hasten to add that if you ever want to be a member of a Temple, Grove, Coven, etc., you will benefit from taking the time to read and absorb the contents of this excellent book.
Ms Blanton addresses the needs of groups to relate to their individual members, as well as the need for groups (and their membership) to relate beyond their own boundaries. These are aspects which need to be addressed if we, as a religion and a society, are to have any hope of being accepted. This acceptance must come from within as well as without.
She points out that many times we are less than forthcoming with our fellow Pagans and Witches. She relates an incident where an individual painted their spouse as being more supportive that they actually were, reasoning that no one would meet him, and thus they would never know. As often happens, reality stepped in and the deception was discovered, which led to feelings that the individual could not be trusted to tell the truth, thus leading to a break down in trust and, ultimately, the demise of a friendship.
The underlying theme of this book is honesty – with ourselves and with those around us. The attitude of not “rocking the boat” or of not “making waves” is so prevalent in our culture that we assume it is a natural part of how to get along with each other. Yet, it ultimately leads to problems which are difficult if not impossible to heal. In order for us to have healthy relationships we need to respect boundaries, needs, and desires – for ourselves as well as for others. This book is an excellent introduction to ways of accomplishing that.
Every once in a while I encounter a book which I feel absolutely MUST be in a Coven library. This is one of those books. Not only should each member of coven leadership be expected to read this book, each member of every coven, grove, temple, etc., should find this book on their REQUIRED reading list. In fact, if I were still working in a group situation, I would consider presenting a copy to each member, and then arranging discussion groups to deal with the contents, it is that important (and good) a book.
Do yourself a favor. Get this book. Read this book. Discuss this book.