I was reading the blog of a friend who was expressing that which I have been observing recently, the decline in both content and quality of various pagan forums. I have been giving this some thought as to why this should be. It seems that the peak in interest was probably arrived at around 3 to 5 years ago, I can’t say definitively as I have only frequented the internet for about this length of time and therefore didn’t participate before.
The rise in interest for these forums, it would seem to me, would be directly related with the increases in numbers of people who now have broadband internet connections. I am sure that before this rise in internet connectivity, the methods for people wishing to explore this potential avenue of spirituality was through either personal contacts or mail order type arrangements, potentially placing the material into the perceived “darker” side of society.
The initialization of these forums gave individuals the opportunity to peruse without commitment of either time (to a degree) or financial expenditure (to a lesser degree than the methods described earlier). So, with the corresponding rise in internet use, came a corresponding rise in forum activity. It is indeed my own experience that when I first started to frequent these forums myself, in an effort to both enhance my limited knowledge of the subject matter and to make tentative contact with others, the activity shown on these forums was quite high.
It has been my experience though, that the people who made a good deal of the posts in the earlier times are now, by and large, absent. They were responsible for a lot of the momentum in those times, and a lot of people empathized with their viewpoints (and it has to be stated, a lot of people were also alienated by those very same viewpoints), but it occurs to me, that the effort and possible conclusions of those same people, may have resulted in either burnout or withdrawal into a more secular or isolationist perspective.
It has been my experience that my own style of posting has moved away from the brief conversational type of exchange and I now require a much more in-depth type of interaction whereby the responses needed require more consideration and a better style and length of response. So, I too, find myself becoming more focussed on the content and intellectual quality of a site, as opposed to just a collective of superficially like minds.
The nature of Paganism is also changing, I would suggest. There will always be that initial attraction of a spirituality that promises to deliver an experience that moves away from a humancentric approach, but one may find that the very act of removing those alternative theologies actually leaves a vacuum which as yet to be defined in a universal method. We are finding that the language used to try to define that experience is somewhat lacking, yet, what alternative is there to language? For the creation of a universal empathy to the relationships trying to be defined by this method of communication, there are very little. So we find ourselves with the experience and the, presently, inadequate means by which to communicate such a thing.
In a society that wants and expects instant solutions, for many, this realization leads to the abandonment of such forums and the transient nature of life today and the sheer volume of internet sites offering that very same marketing led next “instant big thing” guides this superficial interest further on.
And yet, this type of action being witnessed actually reflects what actually happened to classical Paganism. Early Paganism was rooted in a tribal / agricultural model of society with individuals being tied to this way of life, leading to the establishment of area defined deities. As these tribes later adopted the oppida type of living, the roles changed and a percentage of these peoples adopted a more migratory style of life as they worked in the armies of the differing empires that had established themselves. Because these people no longer experienced the physicality of their local area, their method of divine interactions also changed. I suspect that this is, to an extent, being reflected in the decline of these Pagan forums at this time through both lifestyle limitations and superficial transitory attitudes.