Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Beauty

Beauty
The pursuit of beauty and elegance in thought, form and speech. (Vanic Virtue)

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Text of image: Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. MAKE GOOD ART

- Neil Gaiman

I think of this one more as a “value”- a concept that’s important, rather than a virtue, because to me that implies an ideal to live up to. I was reminded of this one while reading a post by a Christian friend- The Absence of Self-Care in the Church by Kati Hammar. She talked about how she felt selfish in her church in even taking simple pleasures like painting her nails, because she felt she was supposed to be thinking of others at all times. “One of the most hurtful things someone ever told me was, “You don’t have real problems. You aren’t precious. Children in Africa are precious and they have real problems.”

This is one of the reasons I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore. For the most part, self-care and mental health are subjects that are stigmatized or even forbidden in some circles.”

Reading that made me feel really sad. Kati is such a sweet, thoughtful young woman, any church or community of any sort should be happy to have her. (Virtual hug!) Anyway, back to beauty. It sounds like a petty luxury at first- beauty. A luxury for wealthy, non-disabled, “sane” neurotypical people.

But take a step back from the great false idol that is the commercial beauty industry. One thing you notice about anthropology, is you study the world’s cultures and you find anywhere, in every society no matter how so-called “primitive” or focused on basic survival that culture is, they make art and music. They create beauty. Look at prisons and jails. Even prisoners of war and people on death row will create art with whatever materials they have available- even if they’re not allowed to, and the art they create is taken and destroyed. Why? Out of boredom, or to create trouble, prison guards might assume at first- but also to demonstrate their humanity. To express a voice that is silenced. Mentally ill people are also terribly dehumanized and silenced, and often end up in prisons and jails, sometimes because they have nowhere else to go.

Related Virtues: Creativity, Eloquence, Confidence, Dignity

Note: Beauty is also one of the 8 virtues mentioned in the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess.

Practices for Cultivating Beauty:

Follow Neil Gaiman’s advice- Make Art/Music/Write etc. I’m leaving out the “good” part, because who’s to judge what is good art or bad? Just make something, have fun with it, and don’t worry about how good it is. Stay away from people who discourage your creativity, and stifle your inner critic. Remember the prisoner artists- you don’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of money on art supplies. I would also count cooking and baking in ways you consider fun, rather than ordinary “oh, I have to cook dinner”, better yet invite over a friend!

Embrace Your Inner and Outer Beauty

Look in the mirror- think about what your good qualities are, and speak them aloud “I am kind, smart, beautiful, wise” etc.

Take a bath, add some bubbles or bath salts, enjoy yourself, put on some soft music, later put on lotion, makeup if you want, fun accessories and clothing that is comfortable and adds to your beauty. Feel free to step outside gender norms and experiment with different clothes/make-up if you feel comfortable doing so!

Resources:

Offbeat Bride- even if you’re not planning a wedding, this has a lot of fun ideas for fashion, (including many frugal ideas) entertaining for people who don’t fit the conventions of the wedding industry- GLBTQ folks, goths, geeks etc.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (and sequels)

Ms. Cameron is a successful writer, who once believed that she “had” to drink in order to write, but came up with this self-help plan to help her learn to be creative without drinking. To follow this program, you make a contract with the “Great Creator” but this can be any deity you associate with creativity (I’m thinking Brighid!) , or perhaps an artsy ancestor like Frida Kahlo.

Play With Your Food- a book to help you create beauty and have fun

Pinterest board- with fun food visuals

July 26, 2014 at 12:49 am Leave a comment

Tiptoe among the Tulips, I mean Heathens

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What, me fluffy? (Photo of bunny rabbit in Viking helmet & shield.

So I signed up for a Asatru/Heathen group on Facebook, and I was reading thru their long list of rules, which hey, I do appreciate it when the rules are specifically laid out- and that is well-moderated. Unlike in person interactions where I may have to figure them out the hard way! But I was just thinking, Wow, I think hanging out with all these Lokeans and Vanatruar online has kind of “corrupted” me, at least as far as the No UPG Thanks, We’re Serious Asatru Recons are concerned.  (This is the part where y’all get the chance to cackle!) I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, if they want to focus more on scholarly stuff in that group, and don’t want to get sucked into UPG arguments, fine.

Celtic Recons sometimes have a reputation for being anti-UPG, but the information we have available on Celtic polytheism is even more limited than what we have of Germanic traditions, so at they very least we have to be open to different ideas or we won’t have much to go on. Not to mention, every now and then some scholar will come out with a paper saying so-and-so wasn’t historically worshipped as deity. If someone has been worshipping that deity, and connecting with them and having experiences, it seems ridiculous to drop that practice based on the direction of current scholarship, which might change when the newest journal comes out. Same with Germanic religions- it was mentioned in the rules that discussing the worship of beings who are mentioned in myth but have no historic cult is verboten. Umm, that’s a lot of gods…I kinda wondered if that really was about Heimdall, Baldur, Skadi? Or someone else with red hair….

I pretty much consider myself neutral as far as the Loki/jotun worship issue is concerned, which is kind of like trying to be neutral about abortion among feminists or something…my partner (who’s agnostic, but familiar with Norse mythology) said to me once “Isn’t worshipping Loki kinda like voting for the Pro-Ragnarok party?” “Maybe so, I said. But everyone loves a rebel, particularly pagans!”

So no, I’m not going to say that honoring Loki & co. is a good or bad idea (heck, some people have rather dubious reasons for worshipping Odin…) mostly I’m just bugged by the obsessive Lokean-bashing that goes on among some heathens. I also notice that the most vocal about this, frequently use ableist, homo/transphobic language in their bashing, and seem to be more frequently (though not necessarily) associated with the folkish wing of Asatru. Hence I will be avoiding the AsatruLore forums…  I also have made the acquaintance of many bloggers/posters who have behaved courteously to me, and share many interesting and thoughtful ideas in their writings who are Loki-worshippers. Are there other Loki-worshippers who behave badly? Yes, I’m sure there are, just as they are badly behaved worshippers of every deity.

As for Vanatru, I do not necessarily label myself as such, but I do find that many Vanic identified folks are a lot friendlier, more open to new ideas, but often still scholarly. They tend to have a less of a Macho Viking Warrior mentality- a mentality which I think is very unhealthy, and also more reflective of modern projections of what some people want the ancient Norse to be, and the bias of the limited information we have on the religion.  Even people who don’t specifically call themselves Vanic/Vanatru, but happen to have one of them as their patron, seem to be friendlier.

I don’t care whether your spiritual practice is totally something you came up with yourself, or based on painstaking PhD. level research. If you behave honorably and politely, and treat people who are different from you and disagree with you with respect, and don’t put up with racists/sexists/homophobes/abusers etc. in the name of “frith” or “what will the neighbors think, let’s sweep this under the rug” then I will consider you a worthy person to discuss ideas with, whether online or offline- maybe even a friend. And I’ll tell other people that when they talk about you behind your back.

I don’t want to get into these arguments. I’ve had enough of many of the same ones among Celtic Recons. I will just be careful where I go, and what I talk about. Much like life outside the Internet.

(Oh and for the record, I’m pretty sure both major American parties are Pro-Ragnarok, at least as far as their policies are concerned…)

July 24, 2014 at 2:42 am 1 comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Even-Mood

Even-mood: Harmonious and balanced thought and action; tranquility, calm, serenity

One of the Vanic Virtues, Even-Mood struck me as being the most obvious self-care virtue. Tranquility and serenity tend to get more of an emphasis in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and Hinduism- indeed many practices such as meditation can be useful in dealing with mood disorders. We also find similar ideas in Greek Stoic philosophy. We think of Celtic and Germanic peoples as mostly valuing passion, might and anger in battle, but they understood the wisdom of keeping a cool temper.

I have seen analogs to Even-mood in other lists of virtues.

  • Moderation (ADF) a very broad virtue applied in this case to emotional balance
  • Foruste (Irish)- Forusta (modern ‘forasta’). “Well-grounded, sedate, composed”. The noun is ‘forus’ (modern ‘foras’) which originally means “established base”. The idea is “calm, composed” — also “sensible”

Related Virtues-

  • Steadfastness (as discussed by Swain Wodening here) seems more about being steady in ones beliefs/principles, which is not what I’m talking about. Still keeping steady in ones typical beliefs, versus changing them frequently could be a sign of good mental health (so long as those beliefs are healthy!)
  • Gratitude- I haven’t seen this specifically on any virtue lists, though it was one of the “Wiccan Graces” suggested by Dianne Sylvan. (This is one book on Wicca I do find very useful and insightful to non-Wiccan Pagans) I have found for myself cultivating a sense of gratitude gives me a sense of tranquility when I am feeling frustrated with other aspects of my life, I focus on the parts of my life I am grateful for.

Practices for Cultivating Even-Mood:

Serenity Prayer- originally by theologian Reinhold Neibuhr and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous

God(s), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

This simple prayer is easily adapted to address any deity/deities you prefer, plus it has bonus virtues! There is a longer version that is more specifically Christian in theology which may be harder to adapt for polytheist uses.

Next lines:

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

I like these next couple lines, but I’m unsure about the “accepting hardship” part, because it could be used by some to justify a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “everything happens for a reason” type philosophy that I think is unhelpful and unhealthy. However it can also just be a simple acceptance that life is hard sometimes, your mileage may vary.

Practice 2: Gratitude Exercises

These are examples of psychological exercises you can do to contemplate gratitude. Just be careful to not use this to convince yourself to be “grateful” for things like “love” from abusive family members (and “help” from them that comes with unfair strings attached!) Be grateful for things that are genuinely helping you! There are loads of gratitude articles online, these are just a couple that popped up, written by a psychologist.

10 Benefits of Practicing Gratitude10 Ways to Practice Gratitude I noticed the second article mentioned “3 blessings” exercise, this reminds me a lot of Irish triads! See if you can find some positive proverbs and sayings you can recite to yourself, your God(s) or supportive friends/family members. Or write them down and hang them on your wall, or put them on a screensaver on your computer.

Practice 3: Physical Activity

Physical exercise is great for mental health, just going for a walk, bike ride etc. Keep it modest and simple at first! Of course different people have different physical abilities, issues of pain, mobility so what activity you can choose may be limited. I also recommend yoga, tai chi, and some types of martial arts also can help with managing one’s emotions (though please make sure extreme mood issues are under control first!)

Caelesti’s Note: this is part of a series discussing Celtic/Germanic virtues (and possibly other cultures if I get to them) for people who are trying to manage mental health issues, it may also be helpful for those dealing with addiction and chronic health conditions and disabilities in general. I am not a mental health professional, nothing here should be taken as medical advice. It is beyond the scope of these posts to do in-depth research about What is Truly and Authentically Attested in the Lore, I am mostly interested in what is useful in promoting self-care, and in general seems in keeping with Celtic/Germanic cultural worldviews.

July 23, 2014 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Intro

Over the years I’ve studied European polytheistic religions, and their modern revivals, I’ve seen many different views of ethics- generally focused on lists of virtues that have been presented. Sometimes they can be seen as “one-size fits all” when they are very much subject to interpretation. I’ve realized that we all need to tailor our philosophies and practices to the current situation we are in, mine currently is trying to take care of mental health issues and prepare for seeking employment again, once I am more balanced. I am not trying to promote an easy way out, a “pick and choose” morality that is most convenient. I am still considering this in terms of how these virtues fit into their original cultural worldviews as well as how they fit into our own.

One thing to keep in mind, is that the texts we have were all written for elite noble warriors, by poets trying to flatter their lords to earn their keep, or by Christian monks with their own perspective. Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of people were just trying to survive on subsistence farming and herding. They were not literate, and they were not socially important so their stories are not written down. They might’ve enjoyed listening to stories around the fire of brave heroes fighting giants and dragons, but they could relate more to their own stories of how Uncle Thorvald fought off that bandit many winters ago, or how Aunt Sigrid somehow managed to feed all of her children after a bad harvest. And how their fellow villagers banded together to help all of them survive.

We have those stories too, but sometimes we are too ashamed to tell them, because our culture tells us that we are always supposed to be able to help ourselves, and that is the same message we get from interpretations of Celtic and Germanic cultural values that leave out the “it takes a village/tribe/family” part and seem to have a modern bias. Consider that the Nine Norse Virtues were written by the Asatru Folk Assembly in the 1970′s United States,  and while they did take inspiration from the Havamal and other Norse texts, I suspect there was a modern socio-political reaction to love/freedom/peace/anything goes hippie philosophy that was common at the time, as well as a reaction against Christianity. (Similarly as with Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan!) Also in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, many white Americans were trying to figure out who they were, culturally since their cultural and political dominance had been challenged, what it meant to be “white” had changed. Europeans also faced this as they watched colonies in Africa and other lands fight for independence. Sometimes this was taken in the wrong direction, certainly the case with AFA. We are still struggling to figure that out.

References:

Ar nDraiocht Fein’s Nine Virtues

Celtic Virtues by Alexei Kondratiev, Celtic Reconstructionist

An Irish Mythic Model for Celtic Virtues by Erin Johnson

Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru by John Yeowell & John Stubbs-Bailey of AFA, adopted by many other Asatru/Heathen orgs since then

Vanic Virtues (unsure of origin)

Living the Twelve Aetheling Thews (Anglo-Saxon virtues) post by Swain Wodening

Six-Fold Goal from Edred Thorsson’s A Book of Troth

Books: The Other Side of Virtue by Brendan Myers

July 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm 2 comments

Exploring Heathenry

For a long time, I’ve been a Celtic polytheist/Druid and a Hellenic polytheist, and while I still have an interest in the Greek gods, I feel the context of the culture is much too foreign to me, though I have tried grounding more in American culture. I’ve long had an interest in Heathenry/Asatru but dealing with 3 cultures just seemed like too much! But I think I will it explore it more, and put Hellenic stuff on the backburner for now. I also have been realizing that while I can certainly re-embrace my Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish) heritage, study the language, and so forth, I am really much more grounded in an Anglo-German cultural worldview.

After the looong Pagan definition post, I decided to untangle the various traditions labeled “Heathen”, “Germanic”, “Norse”, or just “Northern”. I understand there is a lot of confusion on the Internet about what is what, and I try to take a neutral stance by going by how different groups seem to identify themselves, so we can clarify what is typically considered part of Heathenry, and what isn’t (like Norse Wicca). Plus I could pigeon-hole into the Pagan Blog Project by started the title with “Odinism” for O. Which is funny, because that’s a term I don’t see people use all that often.

I started on another section about Germanic-based magical/esoteric traditions, since they are often practiced outside of a Heathen religious context. I’d heard of Pow-Wow magic before, the healing charms and hex signs of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (not Dutch!)- the term they use is Deitsch, but noticed some time ago that there is also a revival of Heathen religion surrounding it- Urglaawe, based on German folklore in the area. It would also be cool if I could find Minnesotan and Wisconsin takes on German folklore, for more local adaptations.

Another more unfortunate motivation for my interest in Heathenry, is that I am really fed up with all the racism that infect certain parts of it. We have those problems in Celtic and other European traditions as well. On the Hellenic side, I don’t generally have to deal with it, because the people in that tradition that advocate Greeks-only are pretty only communicating in Greek, as far as I know. So while that is certainly NOT my primary motivation, it has become even more of a concern since the shooting last April in Overland Park, Kansas.  After that happened, I wanted to write letters to local activist groups explaining the religion and that it is NOT what we are about- but I wasn’t part of the “we”, so I did not feel that I could do that.

 

July 19, 2014 at 2:44 am Leave a comment

Odinism, Asatru, Heathenry?

My uncle has lived for many years among the Crow Indians on an open reservation in Montana, and has befriended them and been trained as a sweat lodge leader, a very rare honor for a non-Indian. Back in college, I invited him to come to a University Pagan Society meeting, thinking he might find some commonalities. He observed us, rather bemusedly and later commented to me with his trademark mischievous grin: “I’m not a pagan. I’m a heathen“.

I’m not capitalizing it this case because he used idiosyncratically- I think as a way of thumbing his nose at white, Christian society. Certainly I’m aware that his Native friends wouldn’t be likely to call themselves pagans or heathens, as those terms are used offensively by missionaries.

So what does Heathen mean, how is it used properly, and how does it differ from Pagan?

Heathen means “dweller on the heath“- a country-dweller, so the connotation is much like Pagan, but due to it’s Germanic origin, it has become adopted to refer to modern revivals of the religions of the Germanic peoples- and there are more specific terms used for particular ethnic branches, approaches and so on. I also sometimes see Celtic and occasionally Slavic reconstructionists use “heathen” with an ethnic modifier instead of “pagan”, because those cultures tend to find more similarities with Germanic traditions than say, those of the Mediterranean and Near East.

On a socio-cultural level, Heathens differ in many ways from the broader Neo-Pagan community, and while sometimes overlapping, they do often keep to themselves. A great comparison of Wicca and Asatru can be found here.

Asatru- meaning “true to the Aesir“- in Icelandic (Aesir being the gods of the realm of Asgard) Asatru is often use interchangeably with Heathenry- but not all Heathens consider themselves Asatru. It is the label that most American Heathens identify with, a mainly Norse-influenced reconstructionism, and some prefer to use it to be specifically Icelandic. An individual member is called an Asatruar.

Vanatru- “true to the Vanir” The Vanir are another tribe of Norse gods, and people who focus on their worship sometimes use this word for themselves- others may use Vanic Paganism, Vanic Polytheism, or Vanic Heathenry.

Links: Misconceptions about Vanatru, A Defense of Vanatru

Odinism- belief/worship of Odin, is an older term that is less often used- primarily by the Odinic Rite, a British-based organization. Sometimes devotees of Odin will call themselves Odinists, while referring to their religion by a different name. Some Heathens feel this term reflects an erroneous view of Odin the All-father as a Germanic Yahweh figure. Related terms: Wotanism, Wodenism.

Anglo-Saxon Heathenry- focus on the traditions of the Angles, Jutes and Saxon peoples who invaded England from Germany.

Theodism- founded by Garman Lord, this is a specific tradition of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry that has a particular tribal structure (theod means tribe)

Irminism/Irminschaft- continental Germanic Heathenry, name comes from the Irminsul, a pillar representing Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

Urglaawe- Deitsch  Heathen folk religion(Pennsylvania German) see also Pow-wow  (Braucherei)

“The Deitsch Heathen religion of Urglaawe derives many practices and lore from the Heathen elements of Braucherei.[9]Included among these elements is a knowledge of the old Teutonic deities and other spirits. The oral traditions of Braucherei also carried myths regarding the interactions of the deities with enemies, such as the Reifreis (Frost Giants). Certain deities, most notably Holle,[10] Wudan (Odin),[11] Dunner (Thor),[12] and Ewicher Yeeger (Eternal Hunter),[13] have played an ongoing role in the evolution of Braucherei. Some practitioners have historically appealed to these entities, whether in the context of deities or as saints or compassionate spirits, for help in their healing work. Urglaawe practitioners utilize solely Heathen imagery and references in their work.”

Forn Sed- Swedish for Old Way/Old Custom, or just “Sed” (link to org page in English)

Forn Sidr- Danish for Old Way/Custom (link to org page in Danish)

Nordisk Sed- Nordic Way/Custom “in Norway and Sweden the term “Forn Siðr” is mostly bound to the, and considered a synonym for the, Nordisk Sed movement, which is in conscious contrast with Scandinavian Ásatrú groups. Scandinavian Heathens regard Nordisk Sed as a more authentic Scandinavian religion, based on Scandinavian local traditions, in contradistinction with the more eclectic Ásatrú, based on the Eddic material, and influenced by 19th century Romantic trends and 20th century New Age ideas.[2] The ideology of the Nordisk Sed or Forn Sed groups is called þjóðtrúin Icelandic (“troth of the folk / of the theod”,variants folketro or folketru in Norwegian and folktro in Swedish actually meaning folk religion —, or less ambiguously “fundamentalistic traditionalism”- Wikipedia, Neo-Paganism in Scandinavia

Not (Necessarily) Heathen Traditions & Terms

There are some other religions that are often lumped in with Heathenry that are seen both among Heathens and by themselves as not being Heathen.

Norse Wicca- is not a specific tradition, but simply means the practice Wicca worshipping/honoring/invoking Norse gods. As with Wiccans in general, Norse Wiccans will have theological views that vary from “All Gods are Ultimately One” to polytheism, whereas Heathens are generally polytheists.

Norse Paganism- even broader than Wicca, just means they are Pagans of some sort with a Norse focus, many of these folks now call themselves-

Northern Tradition Paganism- founded by Raven Kaldera, is unlike Heathenry, not reconstructionist, culturally has more in common with Neo-Pagans, and includes worship of beings/gods (Loki & giants) that other Heathens may not include. They are staunchly anti-racist/pro-GLBT etc. Note: I’ve noticed more people calling themselves this, but I don’t think they are all necessarily members of Kaldera’s group.

Seax Wicca- tradition founded by Raymond Buckland that draws on Anglo-Saxon lore.

Lokean- just means a person who worships Loki. Partly since honoring him is controversial among many Heathens, Loki worshippers may or may not call themselves Heathen, and they may belong to any number of different non-Heathen traditions or religions. “Lokeanism” is not really a separate religion as such, though I suppose an individual might use that term to describe their path.

Rokkatru- coined by Abby Helasdottir, used mostly by Northern Tradition Pagans for people who focus on the worship of the Jotuns. People who honor individual jotuns (like Loki) may or may not call themselves this.

Norse Druids- ADF Druidism is Pan-Indo-European, not just Celtic, so if you see any Norse Druids around, that may be what’s going on. Many of them do consider themselves part of the Heathen community, there is a lot of overlap between ADF and Troth membership. Or they might just be Norse Druids!

Folkish, Universalist and Tribalist- these refer to socio-political positions an individual or organization may take within Heathenry in regards to how they view ancestry and race. People who use these labels don’t even agree on what they mean, so be careful!

A good nuanced explanation of these differences can be found here.

Germanic Magical/Esoteric Practices & Traditions

There are various forms of folk magic deriving from Germanic cultures which are practiced by both Heathens and non-Heathens, including Christians. As with Paganism, some but not all Heathens practice magic, either as part of or in addition to the practice of their religion.

Pow-Wow-  “Early Pennsylvania was a melting pot of various religious persuasions, as William Penn’s promise of religious freedom opened the doors for many Christian sects: the AnabaptistsQuakersLutheransGerman ReformedCatholics, and all manner of religious mystics and free-thinkers. It is from this blending that the Pennsylvania German Pow-wow tradition was born”It primarily consists of healing charms and protective symbols (hex signs) that were painted on barns.

To be continued…

July 18, 2014 at 11:23 pm 4 comments

Pagan/Neo-Pagan Definitions List

Neo-Paganism, often called Paganism for short, is defined in many different ways- usually in the simplest terms as a “non-Abrahamic religion”, historically from the Latin paganus meaning “country-dweller”- and a civilian- not a “soldier of Christ”, essentially a “hick” that still followed old customs- as Christianity first spread in the cities of the Roman Empire- as new ideas are prone to, thus ironically modern Pagans are actually more concentrated in cities, which one argument against using this definition. Some people, mainly reconstructionists use “Neo-Pagan” to mean non-recon pagans, sometimes in a rather pejorative manner.

I’ve gotten very sick of the debate over it myself- much as with feminist I’m more interested in what does Paganism mean to you personally and why do you identify with it, rather than what it means in general. But I think it would be useful for reference to put together some definitions. I may add more, but here’s enough to chew on for now!

As used by organizations/communities-

Pagan Pride Albuquerque

(I didn’t see this on P.P. international’s website- maybe they’ve given up on defining it too!)

A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:

  • Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
  • Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
  • Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
  • Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
  • Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.

Comment: I think this is a definition that is inclusive enough to cover people likely to call themselves “Pagan” but specific enough to be meaningful (unlike “non-Abrahamic)

The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum- follower of a non-Abrahamic religion that self-identifies as Pagan- though it has been discussed that this is problematic because it excludes Jewitches/Judeopagans and Christo-Pagans/Christian Witches but that’s another debate!

Comment: OK definition for inclusive community purposes, but notvery descriptive or useful for educating the general public

Definitions by Pagan Leaders/Writers

The late Isaac Bonewits (founder of ADF) came up with definitions of “Paleo-Pagan”, “Meso-Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” which have been very influential, however I do notice that the religions/philosophies he calls Meso-Pagan don’t tend to call themselves that, not surprising given how he describe them!

Definitions by Pagan/Polytheist Bloggers

Ruadhan J. McElroy has written multiple posts & essays on Paganism that I’ve found to be insightful- I’ll go thru them in reverse chronological order

The Meaning of Pagan- May 2013

“As best as I can say, “pagan” is an experience that one practising certain religions may face.  The pagan experience includes, but might not be limited to:

  • fear of losing custody of one’s child because of one’s religion
  • fear of threats to one’s personal safety or property because of one’s religion
  • fear of loss of employment because of one’s religion
  • fear of losing friends or of becoming estranged from one’s family because of one’s religion
  • having one’s religion unfairly caricatured, ridiculed, or dismissed as something “no-one practises any-more”
  • a gross misunderstanding, from those outside one’s religious community, of what one’s religion practises
  • inaccurate dismissal by a society of one’s religion as “just mythology”, indicating a societal ignorance of and disregard to the etymology of “mythology” from the ancient Hellenic meaning “sacred texts”.

Comment: A Pagan is a religious “Other” in a Judeo-Christian (or perhaps secularized post-Christian cultural context. Utilitarian definition for purposes of political activism defending religious rights. This reminds me of a book I read about race/ethnicity, in which the author discussed that while “races” are social constructs and not biological, people are typically discriminated against by the “race” they are grouped with, rather than specific ethnic group- or perhaps are discriminated based on mistaken identity. Similarly people don’t typically get discriminated against for being Kemetic or Druid, but as Pagans or socially perceived as “Satanists” just as Sikhs and Hindus for example are often profiled as Muslims.

Defining Pagan- February 2013

“PAGANISM –a collective of religious and other spiritual practises of, based on, or influenced by those of European and Mediterranean (including North African and Middle Eastern) pre-Christian, non-Abrahamic practises. Pagans place greater emphasis on practices of groups and individuals than the beliefs of individuals. Pagans also generally place importance on community, wisdom, and the environment.”

Comment: much more culturally meaningful definition, and I think the meaning of Pagan implicitly meant that at one time, but now it’s gotten so stretched out by conflation with various New Agey ideas.

What is Paganism? Absolutely Nothing August 2012

Comment:  When I go to a gathering of Pagans, I know what Pagan means. When I look at the #pagan tag on Tumblr then I get confused.

Project Pagan Enough by Fire Lyte (March 2010?)

  1. You are Pagan Enough, because you try fervently to explore what it means to be pagan and apply it to your life, despite your physical appearance, personal tastes, level of experience, or other factor that others might use to say you are not pagan.
  2. You recognize others are Pagan Enough despite how they may look, act, or believe, as long as that person feels they are fervently seeking the divine on a pagan path.
  3. You attempt to debate those that have opposing viewpoints, learning from one another despite how passionate the debate becomes, instead of simply writing others off for not being up to your standard of ‘pagan’.
  4. You welcome, befriend, and encourage others in the pagan community despite their physical appearance, level of experience, age, or other physical or superficial characteristic.
  5. You promise to treat members of other religions and spiritual paths with equality, fairness, and grace, setting a good example for the Pagan community both in and out of the community, not judging the individuals based on fringe members of their same faith.

Comment: This is the ultimate result of the meaninglessness of Pagan. I get what this person is trying to do here- I’m sick of all the in-fighting and judging too. But I’d rather have it be “Project Human Enough”. Treat other humans with respect, and stand up to them when they behave badly. Originally- though it seems to have been removed- part of the essay discussed how Pagans who appeared or acted too “mainstream” were ostracized. I think you can use your imagination, based on my writing on this blog, about how this concern may be rather misplaced.

John Halstead, a self-described Jungian Neo-Pagan, defines Paganism as having three centers of focus which overlap: Self, Nature, Deities and fellow Patheos blogger John Beckett has added Community.

Comment: I think these are very useful ways of describing Paganism.

Volmarr, a self-described Liberal Modernist Heathen has a post describing 3 Major Approaches to Paganism: Archetypal Paganism, Polytheistic Paganism and Humanistic Paganism.

Comment: this is a more limited approach, as it only addresses matters of theology. Distinguishing between Archetypal and Humanistic Paganism is also tricky.

Freeman Presson: Defining Pagan, Last Try

modern Pagan (Neopagan) is a person who identifies as Pagan, and whose religious or spiritual practices have one or more of the following characteristics:

1. Polytheism, including recognition of multiple deities and relationship to one or several of the deities of ancient cultures, primarily those of Europe, the Near East, or North Africa. This may include more or less reliance on ancient texts and intent to reconstruct what the ancients did. This does not require a specific approach to theology: Pagans do not agree on the virtues of pantheism, panentheism, henotheism, bitheism, etc. Only exclusive (i.e., intolerant) monotheism would be excluded.

2. Belief in and relationship with spirits (similar to animism).

3. Belief in and practice of magic.

Comment: 1st part is pretty similar to Ruadhan’s Feb 2013 definition.

July 18, 2014 at 1:12 am 3 comments

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