Posts tagged ‘pagan community’

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

A couple weeks ago I returned from Minicon, a local science fiction/fantasy convention to find yet another online Pagan/polytheist tempest brewing. Concerns of fascist infiltration and accusations were flying about. Interestingly, there is a similar issue going on with WorldCon and the Hugo Awards, with a particular faction pushing a political and ego-based agenda. People were a bit concerned, they were annoyed by these particular factions. But they were also laughing about it. Several long-time fans commented that not long into the future, this would become part of the history of fandom, and be just as ridiculous as the arguments between L. Ron Hubbard and Isaac Asimov. There’s a bunch going on, but at the root of it, are some people who are afraid of change in the overlapping fandom communities. Surely, the quality of science fiction must be going down if it’s not all stories starring straight white men who rescue alien princesses. Or something. And there’s other folks working for inclusion, but we don’t always agree how that inclusion or equity should work. Some people want more protection and safer space from opinions and people who they find threatening, while others worry about freedom of speech and behavior.

We have a lot of the same debates in Pagan and polytheist communities. And frankly, a lot of this is going on between a small percentage of people who participate in online discussions/flamewars and attend public events- both in regard to fans and Pagans. What is actually happening in your local community? If you don’t have much of a local fannish or Pagan community, well you have some other sort of community, pay attention to that, and even if you do have smaller specialized communities, pay attention to the broader community as well. You’re a part of that, too.

If we give into fear, whatever we feel threatened by wins. We become more isolated, we give up hope. What we’ve worked for falls apart.

What are you passionate about? What drives you to practice your religion, or your fandom? What do you value? Who around you shares those values, locally, regionally or from afar? How can you collaborate with them to make your project a reality? Whether it’s an anthology, a series of public shrines, a panel or workshop at a convention, or maybe you’re not an idea person, but someone else inspires you, how can you help them? Who is also passionate, but isn’t included as much in your community? Older, younger, disabled, rural, no/limited internet access & transportation. Who are we missing and how can we bring them in? Seriously, with all that on our plate, we don’t have time to worry about fascists!

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April 15, 2016 at 7:38 am Leave a comment

Year in Review

My birthday was a few days ago (the 16th) so here’s a little year in review…

  • Dan (my partner) has been amazingly patient in teaching me to drive, last summer he got me a car, a little Kia Rio to practice in.
  • Along with some other folks, starting forming an independent Druid grove in July- we have had several rituals since then, written by-laws (adapted version of Twin Cities Pagan Pride) and chose the name Northern Roots Grove, we also now have a logo.
  • I got my driver’s license in September (the 3rd test)
  • Got a job in December at my alma mater as a fund-raising assistant, but my skills were not quite up to snuff, so I lost it. Oh well, still learned some things…
  • Smashed up the Kia (I’m OK though!) Buying a new car today! (well new to us..)
  • I’ve been enjoying serving as a board member of the Bisexual Organizing Project, was re-elected to the position this January (it’s a year-long term)
  • There is now a GLBT+ adults with autism support/social group that meets monthly at the Autism Society of Minnesota, prior to the general adult support group led by BOP’s own Sara Lahti. Ran into one of my former campers there!

Upcoming Plans-

  • I just signed up for Voc Rehab (3rd times the charm) Looks like it may be slow getting in due to state funding crunches, so if I get put on a waiting list, I’ll try other things too…
  • Starting up a Bi+ board gaming group- I had a little trouble getting it off the ground before, but just met with one of my fellow board members and we came up with some strategies.
  • Northern Roots Grove will be hosting a party suite at Paganicon in March, along with several other Druid groups. We’ll be next door to the Haitian Vodoun suite. Sign up by the way- another deadline for it is Feb 21!
  • I will be doing a presentation at Paganicon focusing on clearing up common Pagan misconceptions about Irish history post-Christian conversion. It’s only 45 minutes so I will not be covering the Troubles…
  • Helping plan the BECAUSE conference– Bisexual Empowerment Conference, a Uniting Supportive Experience- it’s coming up in April- you should register! and submit workshop proposals! I’m thinking of doing one about self-advocacy.

February 20, 2016 at 1:10 am 2 comments

To Speak and to Keep Silent

Next entry on Way of the Sacred Fool- To Speak and to Keep Silent

Thoughts on getting along at the Thanksgiving table, and how we might learn from that in broader community settings.

December 2, 2015 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Pagan/Queer Community comparison

One important thing to remember about the word Pagan is that it’s based on self-identity. Personally I am a supporter of Project Pagan Enough, even at the risk of implying a “Pagan means whatever you want it to mean” stance. My stance is- let’s quit wasting time and energy arguing over who “counts” as Pagan or not.

This reminds me over some of the “who counts and is included?” struggles we’ve had in another of my communities- the GLBTQIA+ which is really a cluster of overlapping communities who work together (or don’t) with varying degrees of success. Gays and lesbians are typically at the center, just as Wiccans and religions that somewhat resemble it tend to be fit the general public’s idea of what “Pagan” means (if they are aware at all!) Likewise, how much a bisexual, and/or a trans person identifies with “GLBT” may depend on how the B and T are actually included. Do asexuals “count”? Are heterosexual cross-dressers, kinky and polyamorous people part of a broader definition of queer? Those are questions that keep arising.

As a board member of a bisexual organization I ask the question- who is it that needs access to our community and movement? The answer is, people with an attraction to more than one gender, regardless of what label they may or may not use. In the broader GLBT community we can ask similar questions- who is being excluded from dominant social norms of sexuality & gender? Whether they have so-called “passing” privilege or not is irrelevant, so are Oppression Olympics.

It is likewise with the loose association of minority religions that band together under the label “Pagan” to gain inclusion in the military, in public schools, prisons, and generally protect their religious rights. Socially and spiritually, we might not have that much in common but we face prejudices in majority Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular countries. (OK so there’s only one majority Jewish state, but still my point stands!)

I see the folks who privately practice magic & other esoteric practices and identify religiously as Christian, Jewish or secular as being somewhat equivalent to the heterosexual kinky, cross-dressing or poly folks in relation to the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas respectively. Folks in both of these groups tend to face less discrimination than others in the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas, and maybe more prone to identify as allies or not associate at all. Religion and sexual behavior, of course can be totally private things, but in particular situations a person may find their personal practices held against them in a custody battle or a political smear campaign in a way that others may not. On the other hand, if you are a Catholic that practices folk magic & BDSM, you probably will not need to debate over whether to “come out” about these practices to your relatives before your wedding. Yes, some people have BDSM-themed weddings, and some people go around introducing their partners as their masters or bottoms. But this is generally going to be kept more private, as compared with telling people about your partner of the same gender.

Questions to Explore:

What determines whether a person belongs to a minority community? Their self-identity? Their behavior? Their access to privileges or experiences of oppression/discrimination?

How might membership in a religious or sexual minority community differ from that of an ethnic/racial minority community?

Is it easier for some people to reclaim & identify with words with derogatory connotations like queer and pagan?

May 27, 2015 at 2:12 am 4 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

More Solstice Shopping Ideas, and a Rant

My fellow bloggers have come out with some of their own shopping guides here’s a list-

Of Thespiae- Solstice/Boeotian New Year Shopping Guide

Serpent’s Labyrinth- Independent Store Recs

Raise the Horns- Pagan Things Made by Pagans for Pagans

In addition to Ruadhan’s Boeotian calendar- here’s an Anglo-Saxon one

Wild Hunt- Winter Solstice Gift Guide

Several people have given Cara Schulz crap for writing this on Black Friday or criticized it having too much mainstream stuff on it. Still I thought it was a pretty good list, even if I’m not spending much myself this year or any year- how many Pagans do I need to buy gifts for? Not very many! Mainly what I will be probably doing this year is making copies of family photos to distribute. Not sure what to get the in-laws- they have 2 of everything they could possibly need.

I don’t need any more freaking lectures about the Evils of Consumerism & Capitalism. I was raised by hippies- I knew about Buy Nothing Day before Black Friday. My UU church even has a Black Friday service protesting consumerism. I’ve worked retail in the past, hoping I won’t have to in the future, and am definitely on board with the movements to unionize/raise wages and just generally treat the peasants of Walmart, McDonald’s et al. like real human beings. I am trying to get over depression, which I’ve been struggling with for the past year, and get my butt in gear to look for job, and finish learning to drive so I can get my license. My fiance bought a second car, thereby freeing up the old one for me. Those are our Yule presents this year. Before you call us wicked planet destroyers, remember I’ve been a non-driver all this time (age 32)  and while the public transit system is pretty good in the Twin Cities, it does create major barriers to employment. It’s my stubborn streak of left-wing idealism & counterculturalism that holds me back from achieving my goals, and this is continually reinforced by hanging around Pagans. Doesn’t mean I’ll give up on hanging with Pagans but I am trying to fend off the toxic messages. The ghetto mentality. The stick it to the Man mentality. I don’t judge other Pagans who live in poverty, esp. due to disability etc. While I disagree about Sam Webster about many things, I do agree that yes, we need more folks in our community who can support themselves financially and their community– but to do so we need a community has its act together enough to be worth supporting. We should not be making people feel bad for working a job that might not be for a company that meets your political/ethical approval, or for having kids (which capitalism actually *discourages* contrary to what the militant childfree types claim) or for owning a car, when you cannot get by in 90% of this country without a car. Doing those sorts of things does not automatically make you an evil sell-out, claiming that it does not build community.

November 30, 2014 at 8:07 am Leave a comment

Support These Awesome Artists this Black Friday!

Like John Beckett and many others I am pretty fed up with the holiday consumer frenzy that’s coming up. But many of us still will be purchasing gifts, I recommend that we try to support Pagan & polytheist artists & artisans, and people of other communities that could use support- businesses owned by people of color, women (of all colors/orientations) people with disabilities, GLBTQ folks, stay at home parents (or other caretakers) who are trying to earn some extra money and so forth. (Many of the folks I’m recommend fall into more than one of these categories)

Nornoriel Lokason has just created several beautiful labyrinth necklaces, rune pendants and other goodies can be found at Nornoriel’s House of Elf Swag on Etsy. His e-books can be found there, and he also does astrological charts! Post about Black Friday specials here.

Ruadhan J. McElroy has 2 Etsy shops- Nocturnal Spirits, selling his paintings, Hellenic alphabet divination tiles, a Boetian calendar and other items of pagan & polytheist interest and Odd Mod Out, selling buttons/pins- with musical, GLBTQ, political and Pagan/polytheist themes

Dver, a spirit-worker & devotional polytheist, has a Yule sale going on at her Goblinesquerie shop. She has also written several books, and offers other services such as divination and book design & formatting of self-published books.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus- founder of Ekklesia Antinou- a modern revival of the cult of Antinous- the deified lover of Emperor Hadrian, is a talented prolific writer, scholar and teacher. I admit I have not yet read any of eir books, but have been reading eir posts and articles for years and learning a lot. Info about books and other ways you can support work can be found here.

Nimue Brown is a British Druid whose writing I also greatly enjoy. She has written several novels as well as non-fiction about Druidry and Paganism.

Beth Wodandis runs Fiberwytch, an Etsy shop selling ritual cords, jewelry and candles, often devoted to specific Norse or other deities.

Alley Valkyrie, sells hand-printed T-shirts, bags, and fabric wall decor at Practical Rabbit

Anyone else I’m forgetting? Please comment and I’ll be happy to add.

November 25, 2014 at 1:41 am 1 comment

I’ll Take Liberal Christians/Jews over Conservative Pagans

One aspect of the “We’re all one Big Happy Pagan Umbrella Community” mentality is that somehow, I’m supposed to feel like I have more in common with conservative-minded Pagans/Heathens/polytheists than with people who share my values but follow other religions.  Here and there I’ve heard of Pagans running for office, and everyone gets all excited. But oh, wait they share none of my values. There was a Pagan in the Tea Party movement who was interviewed a while back. *Shudder*  So then why should I support them? I’m sure the fact that they have minority religious views will all get swept under the rug when its convenient anyway. Pagans of all socio-political stripes have to keep their religion quiet sometimes, but I notice the people who push back the most about promoting “coming out of the broom closet” often make a big deal about how its private, the personal is most certainly not political, and ewww I don’t want to be publicly associated with all those deviant hippie polyamorous Ren-fest dorks! They remind me so much of Andrew Sullivan and other gay conservatives. Be quiet, be discreet, be personal. Don’t scare the straights!

I do try to make friends with or at least be friendly and civil with people whose politics differ from mine. But it seems increasingly difficult as I can’t quite squelch the feeling some people give me that, while they act all nice and polite, it’s nothing personal but yeah, people like me deserve “what we get”, we’re not working hard enough, or acting normal enough, and asking for more is just class warfare, or a way of inconveniencing business owners/employers by demanding “unreasonable” accommodations.  Now I appear white, cisgendered and heterosexual and at least culturally middle class, so they can show me all their true colors while talking about Those Other Scary Poor Brown Queer People/Crazy Feminists/Communists etc.

So yeah serve the gods of capitalism, Ronald Reagan, the Patron Saint of trickle-down economics, the Goddess Ayn Rand and so forth and so on. But when it comes to pick teams, I’m joining up with the people of Sojourners and Tikkun and such. Sadly liberal Christianity and Judaism are in decline- at least institutionally. I’m concerned that non-affiliated liberals may be harder to organize. Pagans sure as hell are!

October 2, 2014 at 12:37 am 5 comments

Depression/Mental Health Pagan Links

When searching for articles, posts and books on Paganism and depression/mental illness, I found so much stuff that I decided to make another post to include these resources, in addition to the general Pagan/Disability resources post. I will make another post about distinguishing mental illness from shamanism/visionary/magical experiences etc.

Pagans, Mental Health & Abuse– extra kudos for discussion of related social justice issues involving shame, access to care etc.

Pagans in Recovery by Isaac Bonewits- Old essay- numbers of people with “issues” may be exaggerated…for one I will say as an Aspie, I have detected a noticeable number of Pagans who may be unlabeled Aspies, but I don’t think *most* Pagans have Asperger’s/autism.

Pagan Therapy & Counseling– blog last updated in 2013, but still has good info

Dealing with DepressionExhaustion, Bees and Depression by Nimue Brown This is advice for people who have depressed friends/family members in their lives- very helpful and not specific to Paganism, the second is social commentary. I also thought she wrote a book about depression, but I can’t seem to find mention of it!

Finding Motivation– (and other posts) by Nornoriel Lokason on the Staff of Asclepius blog (Depression & PTSD)

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Level of Skepticism by Sarah Anne Lawless

“Almost everyone in the Pagan community has suffered from a mental illness at some point in their life because 20% of the general population (in Canada) has had mental health problems during their lifetime.” Err, not sure about that statement. It’s a lot though.

“Sometimes the (online and physical) Pagan Community is too accepting and accommodating of everyone’s own personal level of crazy. Because we are on the fringe, many think we have to accept anyone who identifies as one of us and take them as they come.  Sometimes we are too afraid to tell someone they are crazy (this is especially hard to do when the person in question is in a leadership role). After all, who is a Pagan (believing in many gods, spirits, and magic) to tell someone they’re nuts or are taking something too far? But when no one calls a stop or calls bullshit, then things do get taken too far and people with real mental illnesses end up being accepted as sane.”

My “primary” line with other people is when they want me involved in their “weird”. What’s my motivation? If people want to involve me in their personal weird/kink… they need to provide a reason for me to care.”- comment from Scylla

I feel that way too. I meet a lot of Pagans that are *so relieved to be accepted* that they feel the need to share everything (Hell, I’ll admit, I’ve probably been guilty of this at times too!) I’m pretty open-minded and accepting and non-threatening seeming so often I get Way TMI pseudo-therapy session info-dumps from people I just met. Umm, thanks for sharing. Some of these people just really need a friend. I understand that but *insta-friendship* share all your personal info at once is a good way to scare people off, not keep friends. It also leaves a person very vulnerable to manipulative people. Boundaries are a thing a lot of us need to work on.

Pagan & Crazy by Alexandra Chauran- “My Pagan path has led me to British Traditional Wicca, which can be a complicated route to follow when mentally ill.  Not only do I deal with the psychological issues inherent in any religious practice that involves the supernatural, but Traditional Wicca requires that I work with others who are historically cautious about the company they keep. In fact, Ed Fitch wrote a document titled “So You Want To Be A Gardnerian” that implies that the ideal prospective coven member is, “not currently in psychological therapy.” Coven of the Wild Rose does not accept people who take psychotropic medications or require therapy and writes as a footnote to the above document that, “if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem.”- last part in bold seems reasonable to me.

I can understand if very disciplined, focused magical groups are more restrictive in their membership, personally I think people with mental health issues that are getting treatment and have been stable for a certain length of time should be included, a similar rule could be in place for former/recovering addicts & alcoholics. I think excluding anyone who takes SSRIs and such and/or sees a therapist now and then but otherwise lives a stable life is ridiculous.

August 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm Leave a comment

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 4 comments

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