Archive for May 15, 2015

Approaching Pagan Religions

Now and then after I mention my religion on Facebook, Meetup or heck, in person someone asks me to tell them more about Pagan religions, simply out of general curiosity or because they are interested in exploring it themselves.

I’ll start with Pagan Pride’s definition which I feel is broad enough to be inclusive, but not meaningless as non-Abrahamic religion tends to be.

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.

Ironically, after sharing that, I’m going to make the suggestion of backing away from the word Pagan/Paganism, since as you can see it is so broad- don’t worry for now, what label applies to you if any. I’ve been on my rambling path for 16+ years, and have use many different labels!

What do you want to *do*? One thing I can generalize about, is that Pagan religions are generally more about what you do than what you believe. Personal and communal spiritual experience matters more than the words of a holy book.

Who do you want to *be*? Pagan practices also give us many more choices than simply being a clergyperson or a layperson- sometimes there are no clergy, sometimes everyone’s clergy, sometimes there are many different spiritual roles- even ones that change throughout our lives- becoming an elder, for example. It isn’t as simple as decided you want to be a Druid, Witch, warrior, priestess of Bast and so forth however, you need to find what path is right for you, and learn to listen to what calls you, rather than what seems cool and glamorous!

There are many different approaches- even within the same tradition.

Here are some of the different approaches we’ll explore in following posts-

First Steps: Unpacking/Repacking Your Spiritual Baggage

Culture-Based Religions

Magic & Religion

4 Intro to Syncretism

Earth/Nature/Eco-spirituality Isn’t Always Pagan

6 Mystery Traditions

7 Shamanism Part 1: Origins, Spread in Use of Term, Part 2: Is “Cultural Neutrality” Possible? Part 3: Other Words, Other Worlds

Getting Started in Various Polytheisms

9 Patron Deities

10 Spiritual Specialists vs. General Practitioners

11 Vocational Paths- Warrior, Priest, Bard etc.

Pop Culture Influences

Related post of interest:  Jenett’s Seeker’s Guide (amazing set of resources put together by a professional librarian, of course!)

Recommended book (general not Pagan-specific) Finding Your Religion by Scott McLennan

May 15, 2015 at 7:40 am 5 comments

Comments on Why I am Not a Heathen

I reblogged Pagan Church Lady’s Why I am Not a Heathen essay But of course, being me I have to add my own commentary. I am not sure whether I’d identify with the label Heathen or not- I generally call myself a polytheist- the details vary as I figure out my path. I tag my posts about Germanic/Norse religion with heathen, heathenry and asatru partly just to add another voice for inclusive, non-asshole Heathenry.

Rejection of NeoPaganism

I have generally found more friendly attitudes from Heathens who interact with broader Neo-Pagandom. Their friendship and cooperation does not necessarily mean being “fluffy” or “eclectic” just as when I go to an interfaith gathering, that doesn’t mean I suddenly decide I’m going to start observing Buddhist or Muslim traditions.

I most definitely respect the choice of Heathens and Heathen groups to choose to engage and work with other Pagans or not. I think there are various good reasons for doing so. I can also understand why many Heathens feel they don’t have much in common with non-Heathen Pagans or even simply feel excluded by Pagan festivals, Pagan Prides and other entities that are very Wicca-centric. Many other polytheists and followers of other indigenous/folk/tribal religions feel similarly.

It would be enough to simply state- “As a Heathen, I don’t consider myself/identify as part of the broader Neo-Pagan communit(ies), here are some reasons why…” and list some relatively neutral reasons of differences in values, focus etc. I do see those sorts of explanations from some folks. But even more often, I see a list of generalizations with undertone of “Eeew- we’re not like Those People!” A caricature of promiscuous, nudist, hippies is then painted- while on the other side, a caricature of gun-toting redneck Heathens  is painted by some Pagans. Rather ironic- considering both Pagan and Heathen mean “redneck/hick/hillbilly” in other languages. In any case, obviously these generalizations are very harmful to all our communities, so I ask that we try to get to know & judge each other as individuals. I admit that I can be very judgmental myself and make assumptions about other people’s character, beliefs and behavior based on their appearance, the bumperstickers on their car and so forth. So this is a learning process for everyone, I am no exception!

Dismissal of UPG/Spiritual Experience

I most definitely consider the Eddas, Sagas and so forth to be useful sources of information about Germanic and Norse mythology and religion. But they are not The Lore- Holy Writ from On High as Handed to us by the Gods! The Eddas, in particular are Norse myth skaldic Christian fan fiction. Actual folklore, by definition is information (lore) handed down orally by the folk, the common people, not attributed to any one person. Just as we’ve gotten literary interpretations of legends of King Arthur and his knights from Malory’s Le Morte de Arthur and secondary or tertiary historical sources from Geoffrey of Monmouth, we have literary interpretations of Norse mythology and history written from particular viewpoints by authors of Sagas and Roman dudes like Tacitus. Is Snorri Sturluson a better source for the original myths than say, Wilhelm Wagner? Yes, definitely. But that doesn’t make the Eddas holy writ. To develop any revived polytheism into a living religion we need to come up with our own folklore- we are the folk- the common people. We can use texts as guides and templates, and hold them up against our own insights and experiences. But ultimately, we need to create lore ourselves- for our time, for our lands, for our people. Likewise, Heathens in Europe tend to draw more heavily from the folklore and customs of their respective nations, even if those customs don’t go back to preChristian times. We can too. But we live in different climates, different terrains, with different cultures. So we need to adapt accordingly.

My additions- Black & White Thinking– Whenever I attempt to join an online Heathen group, before posting I have to learn not just the rules of moderation, but all the unwritten rules of this particular cadre of Heathens which I learn by lurking and carefully poking thru archives before I dare make a post. Which authors are good, which are “fluffy”. Whether patrons or fulltrui, let alone godspouses are a Real Thing ™ Whether using runes, magic and seidhr is a legit part of Asatru/Heathenry or assumed to be a fluffy Wiccan influence. Whether certain beings/deities/spirits are off-limits or not. Whether exhibiting any sense of compassion and mercy is hospitality or “Too weak and Christian”. Granted, Pagans across the board are quite capable of black & white thinking, and engage it quite avidly, but I don’t typically see the same level of uniform judgment about *every single spiritual belief & practice* My Lords and Ladies!

A Stupid, Crazy Level of Ableism Pagans, not being any exception to our broader cultural influences are once again quite capable of every sort of ism- racism typically manifests as clueless, well-meaning “we’re all human/I don’t see color” platitudes and micro-aggressions, sexism typically as gender essentialism and Truly Liberated Women will, of course sleep with me! Homophobia and biphobia are typically not tolerated, but transphobia definitely rears its head especially in the name of “safe spaces/rituals for women”. Ableism is most definitely present in various forms. But damn, among Heathen groups online anyway- I found the ableist insults and assumptions to be so constant as to be intolerable. Other isms, while present, I could learn to dodge, but I found ableist crap in pretty much every Facebook heathen group I have joined and left, notable exceptions are the Urglaawe/Braucherei groups, ADF Heathens, and a couple of local Heathen groups. Lokeans, while they vary broadly are also generally more inclusive of most categories of excluded people- I consider them a slightly different category however, since not all them identify as Heathen. People act worse online in general, but I notice particular sets of obnoxious traits among online Heathen groups, atheist/skeptic/humanist groups, Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s) and right-wing libertarians- rampant ableism (under the guise of intellectual snobbery/superiority- anyone who disagrees is stupid/retarded/crazy) machismo, and dominance by white male heterosexuals who raise a hissy fit if anyone ever mentions the concept of privilege, and loudly claim how oppressed they are by Social Justice Warriors. I agree that some nonsense that goes on in the name of “social justice” online is pretty ridiculous, but they can’t distinguish between that and everything else. (Yes the irony of that subtitle was intentional)

The Racial stuff– well, that you already know my opinion, and I have been informed by certain Heathens that I’m apparently “obsessed” with race, motivated by white guilt, “cultural Marxism” and other interesting accusations. It seems I’ve violated some social norms of their communities by not minding my own business. Well if speaking out against racism violates the norms of your community, I definitely don’t want to be a part of it. Clearly I share values with some Heathens and not others, but once again that is the same with every other community I participate in.

May 15, 2015 at 4:36 am 1 comment

Why I Am Not an Heathen (Though I Kind of Wish That I Could Be)

What she said (with personal life story variations)

Pagan Church Lady

This (long) post has been a long time coming.  I’ve referenced my feelings about personal background and development in some other articles and have been spending a lot of time trying to explore myself in relation to the modern Pagan movement and Heathenry.  Although the title was inspired by Bertrand Russel’s piece “Why I am Not A Christian” I won’t, as he does, seek to deconstruct the idea of a particular deity.  I will, as he does, explain why the values expressed in the religion in question do not fit mine, and why that leaves me in a difficult place.

Let me begin by explaining that I’ve had a love for the Aesir and Vanir since childhood.  I first read of them in children’s fiction when I was four or five and rapidly advanced to reading more adult storybooks about them.  Later on I discovered source material like the Eddas…

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May 15, 2015 at 1:10 am Leave a comment


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