Posts tagged ‘polytheist community’

Topics in Polytheism: Race/Ethnicity

Topics in Polytheism #7 Race/Ethnicity

First view: Neither ethnicity nor “race” are important in polytheism, because religion is a matter of spirit and practice and toleration

Second view: “Race” is not so much a social construct as a reality, and therefore necessary in polytheism. Ethnicity is less important and reliable, because it can change or overlap.

Balanced view: “Race” is a rather useless word, but ethnicity is an indispensable concept in polytheism that needs to be redefined* in today’s troubled, modernized and global world.

To begin with not all forms of polytheism are based around a specific culture or ethnic group.  There are newer polytheist religions like the Otherfaith and the Fellowship of the Phoenix which have their own pantheons.

One can also be a polytheist within many different religions and philosophies that include different theologies such as: Wicca, Thelema, Discordianism, Unitarian Universalism, ADF Druidry, Revival Druidry, Core Shamanism, the women’s spirituality/Goddess movement and theistic Satanism/Luciferianism. In addition to of course, un-interrupted polytheisms-  indigenous Asian, African, North & South American religions/spiritual traditions. The so-called “polytheist movement” or “polytheist community” doesn’t always reflect this, making it seem as though all polytheists in the “Western” cultural sphere are reconstructionists, revivalists or traditionalists of some type. We need to be careful to say what we really mean when we say polytheist, who are we including or excluding? I find conversations with polytheists from other culturally focused traditions very illuminating, but I also enjoy conversations with polytheistic Wiccans, Druids, Thelemites etc. Of course many of us have multiple affiliations and spiritual/cultural identities. That’s one of the great things about polytheism, after all! 

For those of us drawn to culturally based religions I would tend between the first view and the third view. Rather than ethnic ancestry however, I would define it more by cultural upbringing since many of us are far removed from the cultures of our ethnic ancestors, if indeed we even know who they are. Certain people (typically some folkish Heathens) are prone to claim Heathenry or Asatru as pan-European and the label “Celtic” is often defined so loosely that anything vaguely resembling nature spirituality regardless of cultural or historic origin gets lumped in. I know many people who have made a serious effort to connect with traditions that they have ancestral connections to, or believe they have connections to with not much success, while instead stumbling across a connection to cultural tradition that they are not related to. Some of these people were later able to more easily connect with their roots after exploring another, non-ancestral tradition either temporarily or in addition to their ancestral tradition. Many people also honor their own ancestors within their adopted tradition- indeed it is often a requirement of their tradition!

The ancestry doesn’t matter at all stance goes too far. I’ve seen some polytheists become so concerned about racism and nationalism that they discouraged even mentioning or honoring ancestors as part of their practice. In particular I recall a Heathen group in Austria that had that policy– they didn’t honor ancestors in their rituals. That is going way too far. Veneration of ancestors and the dead is key component of any traditional cultural polytheism, and I also think it’s important in other forms of polytheism, simply because we’re all human, we don’t live a long time, and remembering our past and where we come from either by familial or adoptive descent or other kinds of lineage is key part in knowing who we are. In fact, I believe that instinct is the most basic ingredient of religious reverence, we can see it in our Neanderthal cousins, as well as intelligent species such as elephants. Another Pagan, NeoWayland has a unique take that some might find more approachable. Here’s another post I’ve written about different types of ancestors.

 

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July 19, 2018 at 8:03 am 2 comments

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!

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

Yes, Virginia! Wiccans Can Be Polytheists

One of my values is *sovereignty* and that means respecting the rights of individuals, as well as different traditions and cultures to speak for themselves and define their boundaries. That includes Wicca. Some Wiccans are polytheists. They have explained their polytheism, though they shouldn’t have to, only to have *some* (not all) polytheists explain this away.

This not mean that I accept everyone who claims the label polytheist as polytheist- I have an inclusive definition, but it still has limits, so the word doesn’t become as watered down and meaningless as “pagan” has. Words can have some fluidity in meaning yes, but we need some degree of shared meaning in order to communicate.  I wonder a bit if the adjective might be more helpful than the noun. I also like the Anglo-Saxon “manygodded”- it’s a description, not an “ism”.

I just added this to my Inclusive Polytheism post- since it seems some folks need a reminder-

  • Polytheists do not all adhere to any one political ideology or party, apart from most likely, supporting religious freedom and impartiality towards a variety of religions and non-religious people. (As for separation of church & state- this may very by country)

Granted, there are polytheists out there that have political/ideological and theological beliefs and practices that I have serious moral objections too (racism, sexism, homo/bi/transphobia et al) But I’m not claiming their polytheism isn’t genuine just because I disagree or don’t want to collaborate with them.

There are many religions like Wicca that include polytheists in their midst, but aren’t *only* polytheist by definition. Other examples-

A theistic Satanist or Luciferian might be a henotheist- who focuses worship on Satan or Lucifer within a framework of polytheism, or a more general polytheist.

Buddhism is often depicted in the West as the Super-Rational Atheist-approved No Gods Here! religion/philosophy, but in spite of it tending to be less worship focused, deities, buddhas, boddhisattvas (who are more like saints) and ancestor spirits are honored. There’s also some overlap with Hinduism, and Shinto…and I will just let more knowledgeable folks explain this more.

There is a lot of disagreement about whether polytheistic monism (as found in Hinduism, some types of Neoplatonism, some kinds of Wicca) counts as “true” polytheism. Honestly, I am mostly just sick of the hostility of this debate. If theology nerds want to hash it out in a civil fashion, OK great.

One of my fellow members (indeed a founder!) of Clann Bhride, a devotional Brighidine order I belong to, is Chris Scott Thompson, and he has a well-put together explanation of polytheistic monism here on Patheos- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Agree or disagree respectfully with his theological views or his scholarship- in any case, he knows a lot more about Neoplatonism and Hinduism than I do, but more importantly to me anyway is that he’s a great person who does a lot of good work for his communities and his Gods/spirits/ancestors. We have a quite diverse membership in Clann Bhride and hold these Nine Elements in common, but there is much room for interpretation. Devotion, ethics, and fellowship are to us what matter.

March 11, 2016 at 7:52 am 2 comments

Clergy/Laity & Community-Building

Interesting conversations happening…

On Pagan Clergy, Layfolk & the Struggle for Selfhood– by Keen

“Basically: what’s with the tense, almost love/hate relationship between pagan clergy – to use this as a shorthand – and laity?

Why is it always clergy who talk about the importance of “hoeing onions”, or doing the proverbial gruntwork of being a lay follower?

Why do lay followers seem to glamorize clergy, and the responsibilities involved in occupying those positions, and rarely, if ever, speak of the merits of simply being laity?

I think it’s more complex than just being a case of the grass being greener on the other side, and actually has a lot to do with the concept of social capital.”

Thoughts on Clergy, Laity, Hierarchies & Roles in Polytheist Religions by Sarenth (a response)

I’ll re-iterate that I’m more of a fan of the concept of “general practitioners” vs. “spiritual specialists”. Both traditions I belong to, ADF and UU have formal clergy but very active laypeople, who frequently lead groups. My druid grove is a “haptocracy (hapto is one of the Greek verbs for ‘work’) – the theory that the people who are doing the greatest work to do something get the most say in it.”- concept coinage by Jenett Silver.

We should also think about the factor, that many people find in our religions ways to re-invent and express themselves in ways that they don’t have the opportunity to in broader society. How many people become herbal healers when they would never go to medical school, or scholars when even if they could get a Ph.D., there would be very few options for an academic career in religion, mythology or ancient history?

A third post related to this is by Allec, in which she discusses beginning a blog o’ resources on Gaelic Polytheism (yay!) and many people offered to help, then later questioned “Am I good enough/knowledgeable/experienced enough to help?”

Thoughts on Community

January 13, 2016 at 12:37 am 3 comments

Pushing Round Tables together

The Heathen Round Table topic for July has been posted: What are your beliefs about deities from other religions/pantheons, both polytheistic and not? Do you honour any, and how do you balance that with heathenry?   

Well, that one’s certainly a relevant one for me! Be sure to link to the wordpress blog above, or tag your tumblr posts with #heathen round table.

I notice the Celtic Round Table on tumblr hasn’t been updated since April. Summer happens, people get busy! It’s also on wordpress here. A lot of the participants are part of the Polytheist Community Forum that I belong to, so I will poke them.

So I’m starting it up again with- for folks in the Northern Hemisphere: Do you celebrate Lunasa or other harvest festivals?  Do you integrate any local practices, such as county/state fairs, corn feeds, barbecues, etc? How and why?

For Southern Hemisphere peeps: Do you celebrate Imbolc or other late winter/early spring festivals?   Do you integrate any local practices or holidays? How and why?

The Kemetic Round Table is also on hiatus- I’m not a part of that community, but just thought I’d bring it to folks’ attention in case anyone’s interested in re-starting or re-visiting old topics- you can still submit posts for the old ones.

July 8, 2015 at 9:56 pm Leave a comment

Polytheist Isn’t Greek for “Reactionary”

We are the Queens and Kings of the Polytheists- a word we act like we invented and have redefined for our purposes

Those silly Pagans only wanted to play- But rest assured, we’re here to Do the Work!

Surely those impious Humanists will soon be struck down by Zeus,

Who needs rights or human dignity? I’m a God-slave!

Born to serve a Higher Purpose, above those mere mortal fools!

Their hubris is not my own.

Silly feminists, getting upset over rapes in myths. Go back to college and take my class if you’re *really* serious!

We must smash the Monotheist Borg! So come join the Polytheist one instead!

Smash capitalism! I already have my Properly Spiritual artsy/academic/activist career. Have you given in to mainstream corporate fear? I’m a full-time mystic in the woods looking down at your plebeian ways. Care for an oracle reading? I’m only a vessel for the Gods, a puny insect they’d squish if I dare disobey. Still, I must be Their favorite!

Puck tells me the moral of this tale-

Discordians, experimental mages, Zen Druids, atheist witches, Radical Faeries (his favorite of course!) all have their role to play in this spiritual ecosystem…don’t forget all those beasts and plants that were not adaptable, that were too choosy in their niches or in finding a worthy mate- they are no longer here. Will that be your fate?

(Oh, does Puck from Shakespeare count as a pop culture being? He is older than Columbia…)

Not much of a poem, and not quite spoken word..but better than a prose rant I think!

June 27, 2015 at 6:12 am 8 comments

ADF: Bridging the Gap Between Neo-Paganism & Polytheism

Initially when I began exploring Paganism, it was from talking to a friend and checking books out at the St Paul public library like Drawing Down the Moon, and books on feminist theology (Christian, Jewish & general Goddess-y goodness alike) at Hamline University, which my mother at the time was attending. The Internet, while available was a lot smaller at the time, and when you searched for “goddess” in Netsuck, you’d come up with more porn sites than pagan ones (Though I suppose in some cases they could be both!) Witchvox was the hub of the English-speaking Pagan internet, and I also hung out a lot on the Cauldron Forum, Beliefnet fora and Yahoo groups. A lot of Pagan organizations, websites, internet forae and such have come and gone, merged and split since those days. One that is still around after all this time, chugging along is ADF.

After going to this retreat, and thinking about all my experiences with ADF- both offline and on, I find myself shaking my head at this supposed conflict between Pagan and polytheist “movements”. The Pagans are wild & crazy hippies that only care about partying at Renfests & casting spells that invoke cartoon characters and the Polytheists are snooty elitists with a Holier Than Thou attitudes. Other folks have different impressions of what these words mean that are just as misleading It seems to be that ADF has been doing things as both pagans & polytheists, that each supposed “faction” thinks the other incapable of!

Regardless of how “recon” others consider us to be, people in ADF have probably done more to promote good scholarship to the general Neo-Pagan masses than any single group of polytheists in the United States at least. For some, ADF is a gateway to other types of polytheism and Druidry, and certainly a better gateway than pop Wicca!

We have room for both scholarship and personal inspiration.

We have a standard ritual structure that people can recognize wherever they visit an ADF grove or protogrove, which each grove has a unique style, and regional cultus.

We have a well-developed clergy training program, while still keeping a healthy debate about the role of clergy in and outside of ADF, as well as other training programs (Dedicant, Initiate, Liturgist, Bard, Warrior etc.)

We have people of many political viewpoints, while maintaining inclusivity of race, sexuality, gender identity, class et al. religious freedom, and conserving the environment- exactly *what policies* an individual ADF member supports in regards to these values is up to them!

Our rituals are polytheistic in practice, and we have certain principles and values we hold in common, but individual members have a variety of personal theologies. Monistic Goddess-worshippers, Liberal Christians, archetypalist Pagans and duotheistic Wiccans might attend our rituals but so long as they don’t make theological proclamations in the middle of things we don’t really care!

We use words like “worship” and “piety” that some people complain are “too Christian” but we refuse to cede those concepts to Christianity alone. Honoring the Kindreds (Ancestors, Nature Spirits & Deities) is the main focus of our rituals, joy, communal fellowship, aesthetic pleasure, and magical workings are aspects as well.

While you have to seriously win the geographic lottery when it comes to managing to find another Slavic, Hellenic, Norse or Celtic polytheist who is willing to play well with others within decent driving distance of where you happen to live (even sometimes in a big city!) by founding or joining an ADF grove, you can pool all these people together into one big Indo-European family! I’m not saying this is a perfect solution for everyone, and I know some people will prefer specificity even if it means solitary practice over compromising for the sake of having a community. But many folks who assert this often state that they are capable of and enjoy doing much of their own research and writing their own rituals and figuring out most things for themselves or happen to be loners or introverts by nature.  But not everyone has the skills and resources, and whenever I see a polytheist proclaim that they want polytheism to spread and replace monotheism, and then see them snark & condescend towards people looking for basic resources I kind of wonder how they expect this to happen! Most people are busy with their jobs and families, and they might be willing to pitch in to help put together a community but they can’t all be Super-Scholar/Liturgists of Awesomeness.

I live in one of the largest Pagan communities in the country, and I still ended up joining a UU church, mainly because it gave me more stable social & emotional support than I could get from Pagan groups I could find, though it is spiritually far more general than ADF. Still I have great hopes for ADF in this region!

So to all my fellow pagans, polytheists, Heathens and Druids- in ADF and outside- keep being awesome and figuring out what is your way of doing things, share with others and support new folks (regardless of age and path)

June 10, 2015 at 12:23 am 2 comments

More Writing Collaboration Requests (Blogs & Books)

There’s getting to be so many of these CFS’s I made a page for reference for the books. Please comment if you know of any others!

From Kvasir Among the Gods:

“I am going to be engaging in something similar to those “30 Days of Devotion” things that are going around.  I’ve fleshed out some of the questions I intend to use, and I’ve also taken inspiration from some of the memes of other bloggers.  My plan, however, is not to start with a script of thirty days worth of questions.  Instead, I’m looking to have about twenty question (or so) related to devotional work, philosophy, worship, and spirituality…and the rest will be questions I answer from any readers and/or peers who care to post them.  If I get less than thirty, I’ll still have the chance to charge my batteries and restore my focus.  If I end up with more than thirty, I’m just help to contribute to the dialogue surrounding devotional practices.  Either way, it’s a net positive.  I’m looking to help myself expand my spiritual horizons and, at the same time, get some respite from all of the horrific, soul-sucking news that’s going on in the realm of current events.  I want to re-immerse myself in my spirituality, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my devotional work took a downward spiral while I was so focused on the headlines.

So in the comments below, post some of your favorite devotional/worship/spirituality based questions.  Ones that you have struggled with, ones that you think are at the core of spirituality itself, or things that you just want to see be talked about more.  If you think of some after I start, feel free to post them as well…in any of the posts with “The Days of Devotion” as a category, for ease of organization.  If you are a blogger yourself, perhaps you can answer your own question as well.  Better yet, I’ll be posting the initial schedule a day or two before I begin and it’ll be adjusted with any needed updates.  So if you want to repeat this entire meme later or even participate in it along side of me, you’ll be able to do so.  Devotional rumination for it’s own sake, on a community based level, can be a potent force…and if I (or we) can help recharge the batteries of others along the way, all the better.

This suggestion is not limited to Northern European/Heathen based Polytheism either; if the project sounds worthwhile to you, and you are a devotionally engaged, Polytheist of any sort, feel free to join in!  There is nothing wrong with taking a moment to remind yourself that the world is still a potentially beautiful place in spite of all of the despicable nonsense that occurs around us.  I’ve been focusing a lot on the former lately, and I feel that it is high time to take a moment for some of the later.

More details to come, so stay tuned!”

From Nornoriel: “My awesome colleague at Staff of Asclepius at Patheos, CJ Blackwood, has a WordPress blog entitled The Crimson Crescent and is seeking contributions within the community from feminist witches (can be Dianic, non-Dianic, also do not have to be women or assigned female at birth to contribute, blog is trans-friendly) on where feminism and witchcraft/paganism intersect.  I support this project and I figure of the 1100 of you who follow this blog now, someone’s got to find this relevant to their interests and have something to contribute.”

Wytch of the North: Call for Submissions: Mask of the High One, a Devotional Anthology for Odin- Submissions will close on May 1st, 2015. As far as I am able, I want to make this book a true reflection of some of Odin’s countless masks (both historical and modern), His relationships with His devotees, and the myriad ways in which He inspires and changes people’s lives. To that end, I am interested in all of the following: personal anecdotes and gnosis/doxa, original retellings of myths, prayers, songs, scholarly articles, essays, hymns, poems, artwork (clear black and white images or black and white photographs, please!), spellwork, recipes (for food and drink offerings, incense, oils, baths, etc.), sacred fiction (no erotica, please; I don’t necessarily find this disrespectful as such, but it is one of the few boundaries I wish to maintain in this book), and rituals celebrating Odin and His Family. (Pieces touching on His relationships with Frigga, Balder, Loki, Gunnlod, Bragi, and Bestla are especially welcomed.)

Call for Submissions for book on basics of different Pagan traditions

We would like to hear from founders and leaders of as many different traditions and organizations, established and brand new, as possible.

 Deadline for submissions is March 1, 2015.

By no means can we capture a portrait of every Pagan path. What we are trying to do is give aspiring and knowledgeable Pagans alike a springboard for proceeding with their studies, with information and stories from a wide selection of Pagan traditions.

We are looking specifically for articles and stories from tradition/organization leaders and founders as well as other leaders who have a wider view of the Pagan landscape.

 

September 1, 2014 at 2:29 am 2 comments

Inclusive Polytheism

So with various discussions of “devotional polytheism” vs. “immersive polytheism” going on, I find myself puzzled by what these terms mean and if I personally relate to them at all. Once again the Unitarian Universalist in me is saying “Who cares what someone’s theology is if they act like a jerk?”

Now I think theology does matter in helping us find others who have enough in common with us spiritually to create in-depth and meaningful worship. I do enjoy and find meaning & beauty in UU worship, but it’s more about sharing with others the sacredness of Life, the Universe and Everything than expressing devotion to specific divinities and spirits. From a polytheist/animist viewpoint, UUism’s strong point in the piety department is towards ancestors and heroes, particularly individuals important to UU history and various social justice movements. I believe this is an area that we can keep building on theologically and liturgically, in a way that is still very inclusive of UUs of different belief systems.

So here’s my idea of “inclusive polytheism”- by inclusive I do not mean anything goes, I do not want a lowest common denominator definition that paganism now has, I want a meaningful definition.

Practice:

  • Functional ritual polytheism– treating gods or spirits as individual beings in ritual & prayer
  • Expectation of reverence & respect for deities and spirits by ritual participants (if not literal belief) thus balancing obligations of guest & host
  • Reconstructionism is a methodology, not an end to itself. Not all polytheists are reconstructionists.
  • Inclusion of syncretism, eclecticism and following more than one tradition. Practicing blending & mixing of religions is like playing with a chemistry set: sometimes it blends together well. Sometimes explosions happen.

Theology:

  • Soft agnosticism (gods might exist, leaning toward belief/treat them ritually like they exist even if belief is uncertain), polydeism– many gods that are less directly involved in the world and straight up polytheism, primarily philosophical polytheism and primarily magical polytheism as parts of a theological spectrum/cluster
  • Animism, a belief in many spirits (or that everything has a spirit)
  • Patron and godspouse relationships happen but are not a requirement, people who have more intense relationships with deities/spirits are not necessarily “better” or “more spiritual” than others, they just have a more specialized path/role. Same with being a temple/cult priest/ess. If you don’t recognize them as being a Real Legit Thing within your tradition, cool. It’s not your tradition.
  • Nontraditional deities/spirits (that people may have channeled, created, discovered in popular culture/history/legend/their imaginations) happen in polytheism. However, Tinkerbell/American Gods theology (if I believe it, it exists/has power if I stop believing, it doesn’t) is bad polytheistic theology.
  • Archetypes, eregores and magical “thought constructs” might be Things in your path, but they are not gods.

Identity Issues:

  • People with polytheistic theologies/practices may or may not primarily identify as polytheists. They may prefer calling themselves Pagans, Heathens, Witches, Wiccans or other more specific terms.
  • Polytheists do not all adhere to any one political ideology or party, apart from most likely, supporting religious freedom and impartiality towards a variety of religions and non-religious people. (As for separation of church & state- this may very by country)
  • Whether service to the Gods is “more important”, less or equally important to helping fellow humans is up to the individual, and has no bearing on whether they are a “true” polytheist
  • Question: is a “polytheist community” one in which participants primarily identify themselves as polytheists, or people who happen to be polytheistic, regardless of self-identification? 

Notes: the reverence & respect portion is an opinion I came to after reading this interview by Jason Mankey with Amy B., an atheist pagan who says she does ritual (as a priestess!) for “entertainment purposes”. Understandably, many Pagans and polytheists were offended, and other humanistic pagans like John Halstead were “horrified”. The second portion was inspired by writings on PSVL’s blog about hospitality in ritual. Can’t find the post!

The statement about theological diversity, is I think much more reflective of the reality of ancient polytheism than the way some have promoted polytheism in modern times. Some people in both ancient and modern times were/are more focused on the pursuit of philosophy, ethics, truth and knowledge, others focus more on magical practice and occult knowledge, and may do so while still being legitimate polytheists, though they likely won’t call themselves devotional polytheists, or use the term polytheist much at all.

I’ve also seen several people assert that they consider serving the Gods to be higher priority than helping other humans. As a humanist and a polytheist, I don’t take that position (it seems a false dichotomy!), but I do consider it one of many ways of being a polytheist. I can see there being a place in community for a small number of individuals whose primary calling is serving the Gods/Spirits directly. However for most of “serving the Gods” is going to be part of a long to-do list!

August 12, 2014 at 12:36 am 8 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 4 comments

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