Do you have to be a freak to be a Pagan?

August 13, 2015 at 10:16 pm 5 comments

Probably the worst aspect of Pagan and Heathen communities is the reactionary mentality- it can be to one extreme or the other- Saying “everyone must be as mainstream or normal as possible” is wrong but so is “everyone must be artsy/alternative-y” etc. Be yourself and do what fits with your personality, values, interests etc. Now we can be honest and say, that some choices we make can get more or less social approval points depending on what setting we are in. I think the problem sometimes people aren’t honest about that- for example, it actually can take a fair amount of privilege, access to certain information, money or simply living in a liberal area to participate in some “alternative” subcultures- being able to be openly Pagan/polytheist/heathen, openly polyamorous/kinky, being able to pursue an artistic, academic or activist-based lifestyle or career (yes, many people who are artists and activists by vocation are low-income, but they often have good social networks & access to resources that make their poverty suck less than do less bohemian poor people.) Some professional type jobs allow more personal freedom of expression, others do not. People of color and/or low-income/working class folks who make “alternative-y” lifestyle choices of various kinds often have to take on more risks to their personal safety, discrimination and so forth.

A Heathen Naturalist

This is an old post, in internet-time at least, and I intended to comment on it sooner, but then decided not to, but then I keep thinking about it.

One of the first posts on the Gods and Radicals blog was “Respectability Politics: Act Like The System so that The System Will Listen?” That spawned a lot of “Yeah! Let your freak flag fly! We don’t need to be respectable!” type responses.

This is a problem that I’ve run into before in Pagan circles, so I’m sure it will come up again.

Shucks, it’s a problem I ran into in middle school! In my middle school, the “cool kids” were the freaks. They did drugs, rode skateboards, dressed like Kurt Cobain, listened to grunge music (though some of them were “goths” instead and listened Korn and Marilyn Manson), had tattoos and piercings, had sex, made bad grades, and got in…

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Redfaery  |  August 14, 2015 at 2:24 am

    I’ll be honest. I don’t think it’s equivalent. Because it’s not just mainstream pagans who look down on “freaks,” it’s the rest of society. I’m actually frightened that my blog could one day be linked back to my legal identity and hinder my chances of employment or ruin my reputation.

    • 2. caelesti  |  August 14, 2015 at 4:16 am

      I completely agree- and I was trying to make that point. I’m now out about All the Things with my legal name, but I understand that’s not possible for everyone. A lot of the reason I do it is for the people who can’t. Even if I wasn’t Pagan, I’d still be too weird for some people, so I don’t feel as if I have much to lose.

  • 3. Ian Cropton  |  August 15, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    I had a long relationship with a bona-fide witch who is a senior member of the Avebury Wiccan Order. We used to regularly camp at Avebury Stone Circle for various Sabbats and were due to be married there this year at Beltane. Most of the people I knew from that crowd were freaks in one way or another, but all lovely gentle souls. They had good close ties with a lot of non-Pagan freak communities, particularly the Festival Travellers and radicals involved in the anti-fracking, anti Badger culling and anti-war groups.

    • 4. caelesti  |  August 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Your friends sound like great people! In all honestly, I don’t like to box people into “freaks” or “normal” categories. They are both oversimplified and superficial. I’ve met people of every social category that smash the stereotypes associated with their group. That was a re-blog of someone else’s post, so it doesn’t perfectly reflect my views, just sharing a different viewpoint. Perhaps it was a bit misleading?

  • 5. Ian Cropton  |  August 17, 2015 at 11:54 am

    I was aware that it was a reblog and don’t feel misled.

    I hear you on the label thing

    Perhaps it may help to clarify things by saying that to my mind, ‘freaks’ refer to all people, who for whatever reason, do not feel totally engaged with the society they inhabit, whereas ‘normal’ people consider themselves as totally integrated within that society.

    On that reckoning, all Pagans are freaks, because both the USA and UK consider themselves to be Christian societies.

    In the US, a high proportion of the population identify as Christians and attend their respective churches regularly. However, constitutionally the US is areligious, ie the Constitution specifically forbids there to be a linkage between the State and any given Church.

    In the UK, the State IS linked directly with the Church of England. The Monarch is required to be a practising CofE worshipper, and all State ceremonies like weddings and funerals are conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the leader of the CofE. Nevertheless, a majority of Brits DO NOT identify as Christian, though the majority will have been baptised. Practising CofE worshippers are in steady decline, and most Brits actually identify as agnostic or atheist. Plus there are sizeable populations of Moslems, Hindus and Sikhs, and Roman Catholics.

    My Pagan friends are by and large faiirly open about their chosen spiritual path, however its only at Avebury that they wear their robes and other ritual clothing. They do not look down on anyone, regardless of their spiritual beliefs. However, there is a historical emnity between Pagans and the CofE, the Roman Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus (ie the Jesuits), all of whom have, over the last 700 years, mercilessly persecuted the Pagan community on religious grounds. That emnity, for those religious institutions continues to this day.


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