After the Parliament: Who’s Indigenous? Who’s a NRM?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 9, 2009 — 208 Comments

The Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, has drawn to a close. The closing plenary by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the XIVth Dalai Lama given, and some remarkable advances for modern Pagans at this massive interfaith event have been achieved. As we await post-Parliament reflections from Pagan participants, an issue of identity and language has emerged this past week that could spark some bitter divisions just as our interconnected communities gain greater respect and visibility among the world’s religions. In a post yesterday to the Pagans at the Parliament blog, Ed Hubbard, who has been covering the Pagan presence at the Parliament, noted a trend towards new definitions of certain Pagan traditions.

“The first Pagan presentation of the Parliament helped begin this change of identity and was called “People Call Us Pagans-The European Indigenous Traditions”, by PWR Trustees Angie Buchanan, Andras Arthen, and Phyllis Curott. The opening of the description is as follows: As the World confronts environmental devastation, we are beginning to appreciate the wisdom of Indigenous peoples who have lived thousands of years in sustainable harmony and spiritual connection with the Earth. After hundreds of years of suppression, most Westerners have forgotten that their ancestors once shared this wisdom as the Indigenous traditions of Europe.”

Apparently the term “European Indigenous Traditions” was used by some during the Parliament as a way to redefine Pagan faiths to non-Westerners unfamiliar with what “Pagan” (or “Neopagan”) meant, to shift relations with Abrahamic faiths that might be hostile to mere “pagans”, and to approach indigenous/native peoples suspicious of cultural appropriation. While redefining (some) modern Pagans as “indigenous” carries with it a host of issues and questions, there was also the matter of who among the modern Pagans aren’t considered “indigenous” (or even “Pagan” for that matter).

“Andras Corban-Arthen points out that Wicca, for example, cannot be seen as an indigenous Pagan faith practice and is instead a modern syncretic movement. Under this description Wicca therefore would not fall under the definition of Pagan, and would be squarely a New Religious Movement, while British Traditional Witchcraft could be considered a Pagan and Indigenous faith tradition.”

So if you are an initiated Gardnerian you get to be in the “European Indigenous Traditions” club, but if you practice some other form of modern Witchcraft, say, Feri, or Reclaiming, you may not be. If you are a book-taught eclectic, you may not even be considered “Pagan” under these new definitions. Now, these are very provocative statements, and I called Ed Hubbard yesterday in Melbourne to verify that his information was correct. He assures me that he has documentation for everything in his post, which he’ll share once he’s stateside. No doubt Arthen, and the other Parliament Pagan trustees, will soon be able to speak for themselves on this issue, and I welcome their clarifications on the matter.

So what does it mean if the Pagans who are representing us on the Parliament Board of Trustees are indeed willing to separate the “New Religious Movement” goats from the “European Indigenous Traditions” sheep within the global interfaith movement? How would we even quantify when a Pagan tradition crosses from “NRM” to indigenous? Claims of lineage? Claims of heritage? Would any proof be necessary? Or is this mainly a political act, with the “right” groups grandfathered in? Are book-taught reconstructionists “indigenous” while second or third-generation eclectic-tradition Wiccans part of  a “syncretic” new religious movement? It just seems like a minefield, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.

“So Pagan is redefined to include only indigenous religious movements? And Wicca is therefore not Pagan (despite its position as the forerunner of the Pagan resurgence of the 20th Century)? But British Traditional Witchcraft somehow is Pagan, presumably because it is “indigenous”? That’s just daft. There’s little plausible historical evidence for a continuous indigenous witchcraft tradition, inside or outside Britain, and what I know of BTW falls squarely within the history of Wicca as described by Ronald Hutton and others. I agree with Michael York that the Western Pagan movement does share some vital common ground with indigenous religions worldwide, and I am willing to be convinced that certain European Pagan traditions might plausibly be described as “indigenous.” But it flies in the face of both the recent history of the Pagan movement as a 20th and 21st Century phenomenon, and of what we know of the history of Wicca (including BTW) to redefine Paganism in this way. Plus, I’m not budging. I’m Pagan, and I know I didn’t delegate anybody at the Parliament to speak for me or to define me out of the religion!”Cat Chapin-Bishop, from a comment on the Pagans at the Parliament blog.

Other reacted more harshly, saying these new definitions were a case of “striving for false legitimacy”.

Now, there is always the chance that comments were misconstrued, or misunderstood. So we should await official word from the Pagan members of the Parliament Board of Trustees before we accuse anyone of trying to drive wedges between different Pagan groups. Context is king, and I don’t want to start any flame-wars for an off-the-cuff idea or mis-stated opinion. As for myself, I consider myself Pagan, and part of a larger Pagan movement, even if I wasn’t initiated into a British Traditional tradition, or privy to some sort of handed-down European fam-trad. I’m a modern Pagan, and I have no problem with owning both the “modern” and the “Pagan” part of that term. What do you  think? Are you part of a new religious movement? A European Indigenous Tradition? None of the above? Should we be building fences, or tearing them down?

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • It is very unlikely that this is a case of misconstrual. The idea that Paganism is the indigenous religion of white people is hardly new. It forms the basis for Jones and Pennick's "A History of Pagan Europe". It is often implied and always assumed throughout the writings of Ronald Hutton. It is openly asserted by many reconstructionists, and almost always assumed even by those who don't assert it.

    The worst thing about this is that this "indigenous religions of europe" claptrap is now being promoted as the main alternative to the "New Religious Movement" position that seeks to group Pagans together with Scientologists, Raelians, Moonies and Amway.

    • I tend to agree with you. It sounds to me like someone is trying to develop a classification system. I'm not so worried about how I get classified and whether I fit a certain label under a particular classification system. My only questions would be, "Is that classification system useful? Is it accurate enough for its intended purpose? Is that intended purpose a worthwhile one?"

    • Right. As an aside, my/our religion of Hellenism wasn't even confined to Europe, so to call it a European Indigenous Tradition is laughable. We were in Asia Minor, North Africa, Europe — images of Eros have been found as far as China. The definition of pagan proposed excludes all Mediterranean faiths and the religions of Asia Minor, yet scholars still use the word "pagan" to talk about them.

      • Hi Calla,


        I'm reading about Hellenism because I'm drawn to it. I appreciate her book and her scholarship. Obviously she thinks Hellenism is better than Wicca or she wouldn't be a devotee of Dionysos. Her bias is not readily evident except for the passage on Wicca's use of magical names. As far as I can tell we do it for the same reason.

        (1) There is a paragraph (again, book not in front of me) where she explains that some followers of Hellenismos insist on ones being Greek to partake in the religion. I read it this just morning int he bath and it struck me as similar to the more radical element of Asatru. She did not seem to say that it was a mandatory part, but rather, a fringe attitude.

        (2) I'm game for making fun of myself and my religion as well as having fun on internet forums. I'm sorry you didn't find humor in my Oakenphallus, bathrobe or my Harry Potter wand comment. Religion is a very important part of my life to the point that I've traveled to Athens just to leave olives for Athena. But after 25 years on this road I don't think religion is beyond humor or sarcasm, lest we break out the dynamite vests.

        In my opinion the gods do not need defenders, and we are mere children in their eyes. Sorry to hurt your feelings. That was not my intent.

        … off to mix my wine.

        • Calla

          I would agree that it is VERY fringe that people would insist on being Greek to be part of Hellenismos, but in how you posted, you are leaving the impression that this is normal to the religion. That's just not true and I don't want people to have that idea.

          Thank you for your response back – it was very kind.

          I do suggest that you chat with Kate as she is usually very open to talking about Hellenism. She is very kind, very open to people and their religious paths. I think she, and most of us would say that X tradition/path/religion is the best for ME because of X, Y, and Z – but that's not the same as saying it is the best for everyone and my religion is better than your religion. *grin*

          And you can certainly be a devotee of Dionysos without being Hellenismos!

          • Thanks Calla,

            Sometimes I get silly when posting. You're right in noting that it is a fringe element. To be fair, Kate even says that she finds it "unfortunate." I appreciate your patience with me.

            I'd love to chat with Kate. Does she have a website of her own? I've already learned a lot from her book. I'm a vegetarian of 20 years by vow to my mistress, but next time I have a campfire I'm thinking of throwing a sirloin in the coals.

            Have a great weekend. 🙂

          • Kate has a website here:

          • Hi there,

            This is Kate, author of Kharis. You are welcome to email me at if you have any questions. I just wanted to clarify one thing that seems to have been misunderstood. The part about names in the book: I wasn't saying our reasons for choosing magical/religious names were different (or better) than the reasons Wiccans have. I said that some people have questioned whether we are just mimicking Wiccans by taking religious names at all (in other words, they think there is no ancient Hellenic precedent for this, so to do so would just be stealing from neo-pagan traditions). I then said we had better reasons than that – meaning that we had better reasons than just stealing from other traditions, *not* better reasons than Wiccans have for taking their names. I see how the wording could have been misleading, but I'm hoping this clears things up. While I'm certain that some Wiccans and neo-pagans just choose names to be cool or whatever (as do some Recons), I'm well aware that plenty have deep, spiritual intent behind those names, just as much as any Recon.

          • Thanks for clarifying, Kate. Sorry for any confusion I generated – I've tried to clear your name in this fracas. I like to make myself laugh when I write – – I'm so gods awful serious the rest of my work-day. I'm really not picking on anyone but myself.

            Great book by the way.

            Although I've practiced Wicca for aeons, I think I'm really channeling some past life remembrances here. My relationship with Artemis/Diana borders on obsessional. The centerpiece of my home is a life-sized marble statue of Diana de Gabies (Artemis of Brauronia by Praxiteles). The rest of my home is filled with phallic, horse-tailed bronze statues of Dionysos, Medusa, columns (in lieu of end tables), reliefs and friezes. They've got me on speed-dial over at Design Tuscano. 🙂 My kids names are Alexander and Aurelius.

            Maybe I'm not Wiccan after all!?!

            Since I seem to have re-built Rome in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, I think it's time I finally take this interest seriously and start asking questions.

            (1) Any tips on statue care and proper treatment? I've made laurels for her before and leave offerings at her feet. Before my babies were born my wife and I did rituals in her shadow.

            (2) I've been to Delphi and learned that statues were often given as offerings. Did the Greeks view these statues like the Hindus do in terms of animate objects? If so, how could you give a statue as an offering?

            I have so many questions… Feel free to answer here or e-mail me directly if you would be so kind. I'd love to chat with you. I'm off to check out your website now.


      • Yup. If more people were familiar with contemporary scholarship (or even not so contemporary) on classical and late-antique religions, well, more people would realize just how ludicrous it is to claim that Paganism is somehow "European" — or even that there is any reason for confusion about what the word means in the first place.

  • Guest

    There are other conversations taking place about this, outside of pagan forums. There are Indigenous Americans who were at the Parliament, or following the news, who are insulted by non-Native Wiccans, and other non-Native people who live in America, claiming to be somehow Indigenous. We had American WIccans there who are not indigenous to Europe or America, insinuating themselves into "indigenous" panels. This is not good for any of us.

    Though I'm sure (and have heard) that some of the indigenous people were polite to Arthen's face, in other discussions among actual Indigenous people… yeah, people don't like it.

    It's ironic that it is Arthen who is doing this, as he started as an Alexandrian Wiccan. His practice and back story have changed multiple times over the years, but former elders in his groups, and those who trained and initiated him tell a very different story than what he's saying now. The idea he can represent Scottish traditions, and represent them on an Indigenous panel, is absurd.

    • Those Indigenous Americans need to realize that they are not the only people on the planet the word "indigenous" applies to. I also question their problem with someone who may not be indigenous "insinuating themselves into indigenous panels". Were some of those people there because they were interested in learning more about indigenous positions and issues? Was there a bloodline screening at the door?

      I gathered that a major point of PWR was to overcome barriers of misinformation and ignorance. If the indigenous panels were not open to anyone who couldn't flash a Res card, why have them there?

    • Bellamy

      My experience with Andras is from many years ago, and at that time he was solidly Alexandrian. While we all evolve spiritually, and he may have added to his spiritual repertoire since that time, it's clear that even if his current tradition is "indigenous", it is not indigenous to HIM. It is not where he was rooted.

      That being said, all that concerns me about this is as has been stated–that Wicca will be somehow "delegitimized", even among other pagan traditions, and that we'll be religated to some sort of "outer circle", both within the community and outside of it, where we already have our difficulties with misunderstanding and prejudice. In addition, I fail to see where it serves ANY of us to further divide ourselves within our own community–it seems to me that further divisions between pagan peoples will only weaken our ability to stand as pagans within a non-pagan world, and be accepted, no matter our personal tradition. These definitions are destructive, in my opinion, in that divisiveness serves none of us.

  • If one Native American is offended, this does not represent all Native Americans.

    Besides, when white people claim to be their friends the only sane response for a Native American is, at the very least, suspicion.

    Trust must be earned.

    • Miss Lynx

      So if you are an initiated Gardnerian you get to be in the “European Indigenous Traditions” club, but if you practice some other form of modern Witchcraft, say, Feri, or Reclaiming, you may not be.

      When people draw a distinction between "Wicca" and "Traditional Witchcraft", they are not generally referring to Gardnerian Craft by the latter term — more often it's an attempt to position supposedly pre-Gardnerian witchcraft traditions like that of Robert Cochrane. What they appear to be trying to do is appropriate the now-discredited "myth of Wicca" — as in, the claim of it being the original pre-Christian faith handed down through the ages, went underground during the Inquisition, etc. — and simply claim that it doesn't actually apply to Wicca, but to them instead.

      Some of them may sincerely believe this to be true, but for the most part, it strikes me as kind of a sad attempt to get around the fact of that myth having been roundly debunked my scholars and still try to feel like they're practicing something authentically ancient despite all evidence to the contrary. It's like saying "Well, er, OK, so maybe Wicca isn't really an ages-old secret tradition — but oh look, this other near-identical practice over here really is!" Of course, it completely ignores the fact that most of the scholars who called Wicca's historical claims into question found that there was no substantive evidence of any pagan survival in the guise of witchcraft, not just that there wasn't one called Wicca. *sigh*

      I also find it highly questionable when reconstructionists who don't actually live in or hail from the cultures whose religions they're attempting to reconstruct (other than perhaps many generations ago), claim to be practicing "indigenous religions". I used to be more accepting of that claim, and the general idea that following a reconstructionist path was a way of practicing "your own people"'s religious traditions, until a paper I wrote in graduate school that used that argument was skewered by a Scottish professor who felt that for North Americans to claim to be (in that instance) "Celtic" was just as much an instance of cultural appropriation as whites using Native spiritual practices. Once I finished licking my emotional wounds, I had to concede that she had a point…

      • A.C. Fisher Aldag

        Miss Lynx: Ask your noble learned professor if Jews who emigrated to America to escape persecution are any less racially, religiously, and / or traditionally Jewish. I will still be Celtic, even if I move to the third moon of Jupiter.

      • I don't think that the majority of reconstructionists are in any way "indigenous". To claim so is absurd.

      • I think your Scottish professor is an idiot with personal issues. Most of North America has Ancestor Gumbo. If North Americans can't claim their great-grandparents' heritage because they were born here, but can't claim to be natives either because those same forebears weren't born here, what would she have them identify with? Cheese Doodles?

      • hartofiron

        I find it amusing how many folks jump on the "Wicca [is a] Myth" bandwagon when they have absolutely no direct experience living in Britain or dealing closely with British citizens who tell a different story. Personally I have spoken extensively to a great many British citizens who are not "Wiccan", and yet will wholeheartedly confirm that witchcraft is a venerable English tradition. And a French tradition, and an Italian tradition, and a Basque tradition, and so on and on and on and on. One fellow I know who was an SAS officer from Bath, told me how funny all the new-age claptrap was to him, as compared to the witches he got mixed up with as a lad who had blood-grooves running down the side of their stone altar.

        These are the same scholars and pseudo-atheists who will deny that Norsemen were living and trading throughout Southern Ontario, despite that I myself have personally stood in a *massive* stone henge in Peterborough, before the local condo developer bulldozed it into the ground. Scholar all say it doesn't exist, even despite my having spoken to local Mohawk medicine keepers who tell the same story, and regularly perform ceremonies to placate their ancestors who were sacrificed to Odin at the local petroglyph park. *shrug* Guess their all wrong. Oral traditions maintained in the face of violent oppression are certainly hogwash! *shrug* History is written by the conquerors. In this case it's a bunch of academics with a personal axe to grind and their sheep flock of new-age fan-boys.

  • To me, an indiginous religion is one that is practiced by a group of peoples that have been together for generations in the same community without break. Anything else is reconstructionist. Neither is better than the other. Both fulfill the divine-human connection for the participant. The word's etymological root means "native" which means "to be born of". This doesn't change the meaning of Pagan one bit to me. I will always remain a Pagan. I am not part of an indiginous religion.

    Please, we need to stop trying to make ourselves look "respectable" to others on their terms. I am respectable on my own. I do not need to validate myself by their standards. I have constructed a sytem that blends both my husband's Nothern European mutt heritage with my English/Scottish/Icelandic heritage into a workable trad and we are teaching this to our children and others that join our kinship. Is this any less valid than any other tradition, indiginous, reconstructionist, syncrenistic, or just plain made up? It works. That's all that matters.

    Blessings to all.

    • A.C. Fisher Aldag

      This means Native Americans whose families were moved to reservations far from where they originally lived, such as Pottowatomi Indians who were force-marched to Oklahoma, who later reclaimed their ancestral lands, would not qualify by your definition of indigenous.

      • By being born of I didn't mean the land, but the religion, the society, the community. Your example of the Pottowatomi peoples would still be indiginious, they have still been "born of" or "native" to their beliefs. I never said that the actual land had anything to do with it.

    • Ok, call me crazy…but Paganism is neither Indigenous, nor a New Religious Movement. It's both. Sadly, Paganism (Wicca, Witchcraft, modern Druidism, Celtic Reconstructionism, Heathenism, etc.) doesn't cleanly fit into either camp.

      I look forward to hearing more from the Pagan PWR panelists after their return. But having looked over some of the programming and reports, what I'm seeing is an attempt to shoehorn Paganism into one of the Parliament's designations vs. the other–Indigenous, vs. NRM.

      Paganism–all the different religious traditions of it–are both, to varying degrees. There are certainly European Indigenous Pagan traditions. And there are people working to reconstruct indigenous traditions. And there are other groups that are using indigenous traditions and blending them with modern tools as well, especially when the old tools aren't as effective in a modern setting, or are completely lost to time. Some Pagans are inspired by the old traditions–by the myths and stories–and by the cycles of the earth, and have structured their faith based on something more modern.

      So we're in the middle; trying to shoehorn us just divides us in a way that doesn't serve. This is a lot of gray area, and trying to shoehorn us into one or the other of the "boxes" doesn't serve.

      Though, to reclarify this, those who care enough to correct these assumptions are either going to have to do a lot of lobbying with the Pagans who will attend the next PWR, or save up the money and go themselves.

    • Your definition of indigenous is wanting. It's idiosyncratic, and I think it defends the perspective you choose to take for your own reasons. See my post below for a more mainstream definition of it, and re-think what you've said.

      • I spoke with Andras a few years back, and incidentally, one of the things we discussed was my consternation at the fact that he was considered a "representative of Paganism" at the Parliament, when he attended before. I never elected him, or anyone else, to represent me. He talked to me about that, but the real topic of conversation between he and I was on the topic of his "non-theism". I was quite disturbed by it, but he explained it to me as a sort of agnosticism that helped him to remain flexible and open to experiences. I suppose I thought that was okay, but hey, what I think doesn't matter. I'm a polytheist, now and always. And I'd like to see more polytheists.

        • Michael York

          I'm certainly with Robin on this; where are the polytheists? I've had the same conversation and difference with Andras over his 'non-theism'. While I can understand the gist of his argument and approach, I tend to see the gods as works of art, things of beauty. They might be archetypes, metaphors, physical entities (e.g., sun, moon, earth, etc.), personified configurations or any combination of these. For me they are helpful and enjoyable to work with, but others may and sometimes do feel differently. The beauty of paganism is that we are all free to find and pursue our own paths as long as we can maintain respect for the earth and life and can agree to disagree.

      • A.C. Fisher Aldag

        During the forced diasporas, native families, tribes and communities were broken up. Many were forced to abandon their religion and culture, or be penalized. On reservations, this included withholding food. Children were taken from families and put into Christian schools and foster care. Often, when moving back to their homelands, they "reclaimed" their religious and cultural traditions and met family members they never even knew they hand. Yet they're still indigenous. Just an example. Are the Jewish tribes "indigenous" to Israel? Just sayin'.

  • I agree with Jordan, that the best thing to do is let the material from the panel be fleshed out more fully before making any calls. Some of the participants aren't even home yet.

    • Brannen

      I know some folks in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia who would take serious issue with that professor's opinion.

      • Calla

        Re: Hellenismos

        I agree that Kate's book is great. But I'm not sure where you are getting the "unless you are Greek, you can't play". I haven't found that at all – even from YSEE, once they explained what they were talking about re: ethnic. That it was directed at the internal stuff going on in Greece of how the Greek Orthodox church was trying to claim cultural superiority and had nothing to do with who can be a part of the religion.

        As for the "better than" – I don't see that either. We do see "different than" and it does get a bit tiresome to be told by Wiccans that what they do in their religion is just the same as what we do. No. It's not. So even things that we do that may seem similar – we may do them for different reasons – and to point that out is informational. Which is not to say one is better or lesser – but again – they are different.

        As for your last (full) paragraph – that's just plain insulting and goes against what you profess in your last sentence. You spent pretty much your entire post taking shots at another religion and then say "Let's keep our eye on the goal, friends. Remember – – divide and be conquered. "

        OK. I'm game. Are you?

        • Brighde

          It seems to me that this issue has some things in common with the dilemma of mixed-race people. With whom shall they identify? Their mostly Norwegian mother? Their African American father? Their Chippewa maternal grandfather? Given our mixture of antecedents, both cultural and religious, could we perhaps just call ourselves Pagan mongrels, as I identify myself as an American mongrel?

          blessings on the quest and the questors,

          • Thanks for being so sweet. Probably a bad idea to encourage me, though. 😉

          • "Given our mixture of antecedents, both cultural and religious, could we perhaps just call ourselves Pagan mongrels, as I identify myself as an American mongrel?"

            Works for me. Pedigreed breeds can be great, but mutts are usually the healthiest and most viable! ;0)

      • Nowhere are the indigenous traditions completely broken and forgotten. Nowhere.

        When pressed, even the most ardent Ronald Hutton fan will retreat to the position that it is really all a matter of degree, and that we shouldn't get caught up in absolute positions. Of course their opening gambit is always to take the absolute position that "it is all just reconstructionism and NRM's", as "e.s." does above. That position is completely indefensible, but to a certain type of person it just has such a nice ring to it, or something.

        • Tracy Wharton

          I have to say that I am appalled to hear people bashing other religions. While I may, personally, think that Scientology, Moonies, and other groups are pretty far to the fringes, it is not my or anyone else's place to judge such things! How very elitist of people to say that they are afraid of being grouped with them. Believe me, I understand the struggle against being "lumped in with the crazies" but honestly, are we now to allow the kind of discrimination that we have fought against, just so we don't get mistaken for them?? Just take a step back and think about what you are implying, and ask yourself- if it's not ok for someone to say that about me and my religion, at what point does it become acceptable to say it about someone else's? You should be ashamed of yourselves.

          As for Andras' comments- why don't we give him a chance to clarify before we start dividing ourselves.

          • There's yet another layer to this onion: the existing connotations of the term "Indigenous European," which is everything from revivals of minority ethnic languages and traditions (with or mostly without reviving the underlying Paganism) to "White Pride World Wide," which I don't think I have to caution anyone here about.

            I'm also reserving final judgment, but as reported, this strikes me as ill-considered in the extreme.

          • I agree that it is "ill-considered", but it is also "well-considered" in the sense that a number of people have been "considering" this for quite some time.

            The precedent for this was the formation of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions in 1998, and that itself was the result of a long, and, after a fashion, thoughtful, process:
            <a><a href="” target=”_blank”>

            Basically there are people with a very 19th century conceptions of nationalism and ethnic identity who are struggling to find some way to validate and gain acceptance for their world-view. They are taking advantage of the fact that many Pagans are now pushing the noxious idea that modern Paganism should be classified as a "New Religious Movement" (a position strongly promoted, for example, by Chas Clifton, among many others). Many (probably most) Pagans instinctively realize that our ancient Goddesses and Gods have nothing in common with the spiritual teachings of L. Ron Hubbard or the Reverend Sung Yung Moon, and therefore are eager for an alternative to the NRM idiocy.

          • Jake

            Yet many reconstructionists and ethnic religions feel they have nothing in common with Neopagan religions like Wicca, Reclaiming, Neodruidism, Thelema, witchcraft, etc., so feel the need to separate themselves.

          • And I feel that this animosity is often very ill-considered indeed.

            However, most reconstructionists, posturing aside, do realize that they have a great deal in common with Wiccans, etc. Much of the friction can be chalked up to familiarity breeding contempt.

            Also, the urge to differentiate and distinguish oneself is often, and predictably, directed precisely against those one is most similar to. That is not always the case — but I do believe it is so when it comes to Reconstructionists vis-a-vis Wiccans.

          • Jake

            Who's saying it is animosity? And what do reconstructionists and Wiccans have in common exactly?

          • Surely you are not going to claim that you are shocked, shocked to hear of animosity of Reconstructionists toward Wiccans?

            As far as what is held in common, well, there are the Goddesses and Gods that are worshipped by both, for one thing. Actually that's rather important.

          • Not all of us have animosity toward Wicca, some of us just point out we're not following the same religion and kind of resent being lumped in the same basket. We may worship some of the same deities, but we're doing it very differently. Nor do some of us reject the label "Pagan".

          • I agree with you Freeman. Some of this emphasis on European roots can shade into racism. I do wonder why so many white Americans feel the need to identify with a European homeland their ancestors left, often centuries ago. I also wonder if more American pagans are identifying this way now than in the last few decades. I think we should definitely acknowledge where we came from, but live in the present and look towards the future. I'm an American pagan, not an indigenous European anything.

    • I'd put my money on there being a whole lot of "out of context" or "misconstrued" going on here.

      I do not necessarily agree with every idea that each of these presenters holds, but I know them to be sane and reasonable human beings. Andras, for instance, holds a few rather unusual ideas about Paganism–including that the word "Pagan" should not be capitalized, last I heard; and I believe he is also nontheist, which is an unusual perspective in the Pagan movement. (I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this perspective, by the way; I find it thought-provoking, actually.) However, I've never known him to misrepresent his individual opinions or those of his particular tradition of Witchcraft as universal.

      Same for Curott and Buchanan, though I know them less well.

      So while any unusual idea might be advanced for the point of discussion or to shed light on an unfamiliar idea, I don't suspect any of these three of redefining me out of the Pagan movement, even if it were possible to do so.

      I think that Mr. Hubbard may have misunderstood or mis-stated a point, and I will be surprised to learn otherwise.

      Till then, I'd have to say this looks like a tempest in a tea pot.

    • Amén to that Snoozepossum. It would really blow to get mad for nothing.

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    British traditional witchcraft pre-dates Gardener, who drew on its material and expanded upon it to create Wicca. There are several other indigenous European pre-Christian and/or Pagan religions. Russian shamanism, Norse tradition and various folk religions existed for years… Hitler and Stalin attempted to suppress several of them. There was WWII-era propaganda cartoons depicting European tribal religions as primitive and dangerous, much in the same manner as the Nazis defamed Jews with the hook-nosed stereotype. Thousands more little pre-Christian traditional practices survived in the British Isles, some given a veneer of Christianity, others which endured more or less intact. Not all of them are reconstructions. Today, they're often promoted online as town festivals, their history unabashedly described as Pagan.

  • I think the solution is to keep "indigenous" and "pre-christian" but drop "european".

    Even those Pagans whose practices and beliefs are relatively newish can still claim continuity with the past. Ancient Paganism was never static, and, in fact, there were always those Pagans who were open to new innovations and/or exotic ideas from far-away places. This openness and flexibility is actually one of the things that distinguishes Paganism from certain other types of religiosity, if you know what I mean.

    Even most of what people today identify with the occult, esotericism and even the "New Age" has ancient, pre-Christian antecedents. Check out Wouter Hanegraaff's big honking book on the subject: "New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought":

    • e.s.

      There is no such thing as "indigenous European traditions" anymore. It's all reconstructionist and it's all NRM, even Gardener, whose claims have been pretty soundly skewered by serious scholarship. Even Goddess traditions are loathe to admit that their entire system of worship is reconstructionist at best, and try to claim that they are worshipping the ancient Goddess in the ancient methods. It's poppycock.

      This really seems to be the "older is more legitimate" argument cropping up again, a claim that is ridiculous in and of itself, and indicative of trying to compete with Christianity and Abrahamic faiths, whose claims of being around since time began are often used to try to give them more heft.

      • Guest

        In case I wasn't clear: Arthen may no longer call himself a Wiccan, but others see him as one. He may have added in things from Harner and yoga and his imagination. He may have even learned some Celtic songs off CDs and read a couple folklore books. But his roots and practice are Wiccan, not Indigenous.

        • Guest

          You are incorrect if you are saying that Andras does not hold a Scottish tradition. I and a few others have taken some instruction from him in this regard.

          • Rombald

            I can't really see a workable definition of 'Pagan'.

            A definition of 'indigenous' is a different issue. I would say that a narrow definition is a religion that has been handed down orally, for at least several centuries, from one's genetic and cultural ancestors. That would eliminate all Europeans except maybe a few Balts and Saami. A wider definition would be a religion that is based on specific holy places, near which one currently lives, that has at least some element of reconstruction of or borrowing from an ancient religion, and also has some element of use of traditional folk ways. I would say that some Druidism, and some Heathenry fit these categories, but I doubt that most Wicca does. My twopenceworth, anyway.

          • I agree with you on this. Really, aren't the religions of Europe the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches? They both can definitively be traced back to the Roman Empire, and preserved so many of the ancient world's rituals and philosophies until the present.

            I get a little creeped out when modern pagans talk about the Abrahamic religions as if they are alien to Europe. It sometimes veers into anti-Semitism. All the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean interacted with each other, and the three modern monotheistic religions were all heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, which is at the core of European culture. The Mediterranean was like a big pool party and everyone jumped in!

          • The "Abrahamic" label is sometimes handy for classifying the three monotheistic religions together, but I strongly agree that attempts to portray Christianity as "foreign" to "Europe" are extremely creepifying.

            "Semitism" has little or nothing to do with anything as far as I am concerned. Some of the most steadfast defenders of Hellenism against Christianization were Semites.

          • Well, I call them Abrahamic faiths because all three trace their roots to Abraham. It's a simple term that allows one to talk about Judaism, Islam, and Christianity without taking up a lot of space. They all consider themselves People of the Book, and they all share the same sacred genealogy to a certain point.

            The Catholic and Orthodox Churches maintained the polytheistic philosophers who could be read in monotheistic ways and burned/sequestered the rest — an intellectual pillage & burn to match the very real physical destruction Christians wrought by outlawing polytheistic ritual and destroying temples. Really, they've done a lot more harm than good to humanity.

        • Um… However antique Andras' practices are or are not, they certainly predate Harner, include no yoga of which I am aware, and, whether or not they have expanded to include material from his imagination (some might say spiritual experiences–it can be hard to tell the difference as an outsider, yes?) I have never seen any reason not to take his word for it that the couple who initiated him into his Scottish practice existed and taught him something.

          That does not mean that they were, themselves, truthful, or that their initiators, assuming them to have existed, were truthful in their turn. It does not prove that the Arthen/Glenshire witch practices derive separately from Wicca, or predate it. I tend to think that Andras' initiators existed, but were likely influenced by various occult practices then prevalent in the United States, including Wicca. I believe Andras takes a different view of the matter, though I doubt that either of us can prove our point.

          However, there is no reason at all to impugn his honesty or to make snarky remarks about his religious practice. Though it is not yours, it has satisfied a number of intelligent and spiritually mature human beings for several decades now, making it as valid as any.

          I do not myself accept the theory that his practice is an indigenous one. But I see no need to be insulting in saying so. I don't tend to think that only people who believe exactly what I believe are worthy of respect, either!

          • Guest

            Having had several classes with Andras on the topic of his tradition and having studied both shamanism both in general and as taught by Harner and having studied several European traditions and being a holder of such a tradition myself; it is clearly evident to me that there is both a uniqueness to Andras' tradition and enough points of commonality to other European traditions to say with great probability that Andras' Scottish tradition is historically authentic.

          • Having also taken classes with Andras and been exposed to both academic and Harner-esque views of shamanism, as well as studying as much as I have been able to find on the evolution of witchcraft and Witchcraft-as-religion, I have come to the opposite conclusion.

            That Andras' tradition is spiritually authentic I entirely accept, while remaining a skeptic regarding claims of its historicity.

          • guest

            Historical resources could be lacking as a source for comparative parameters; while, I think, living traditions are more fruitful in that regard. It's really the results of comparison of important beliefs and metaphysics that's most compelling to me; certain characteristic markers if you like. Outward praxis is quite different of course.

      • Robert M

        Actually, it depends on what part of Europe you're talking about. In the case of the Balts (Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians), the aristocracy were christianized only at the very end of the Middle Ages, and the lower strata much later than that. Parts of Lithuania (esp. Samogytia) remained essentially Pagan well into the Modern era (i.e. after ca. 1500), and parts of Estonia even into the 20th century.

        I have a friend whose very elderly father (well into his 90s) is Estonian, from a wealthy family that owned vast tracts of land until the Soviets invaded. When the Soviet Union fell apart, she and her father went back to Estonia for a visit. He took her around the family's former lands, pointing out all the groves and lakes that were holy places and naming the Gods and Goddesses who lived in each place and the correct rituals that were done there in his youth. So in Estonia at least the indigenous traditions are still not completely broken and forgotten.

        • Oh yeah! 🙂

        • Robert M

          Aha, finally found what I was looking for: []. Read the entry for 21 September, "At the Indigenous Walk," on the first page. Here Andras Corban Arthen reports a powerful experience that he had at an interfaith conference held in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2007.

          This is probably what lies behind the position that he took at the Parliament on "indigenous European pagan traditions.". Of course, he needed to find a way to defend his position against the contrary position that all of (Neo-)Pganism is an NRM.

          However, the way he chose to do so strikes me as unfortunate, in that it divides the community. Some other means of defending his position would serve the community better. Let us see whether we can come up with a more nuanced and sophisticated defense than he did.

          • Brighde

            TeNosce, that was one of the best, sanest laughs I've enjoyed in a long time! Thanks for your perspective-restoring humor to the "inside" of Paganism. That said, "outside" Paganism, folks seem to need a handle by which to grab hold of us. I'm not sure it's our responsibility to give them one, but in the interest of playing nice in the world, some label or other might calm the waters. I don't particularly like being categorized as a NRM as it feels to me like being under an academic microscope…..a squirmy reductionist location. I'm totally committed to being Pagan (contemporary preferably, not neo-), but I can't possibly be indigenous anything, having grown up in the military and totally without roots….or perhaps with too many to decide. (to be continued)

      • Upon further review, I think this "Indigenous" thing is much ta-doo about nothing. It's just taxonomy with no more power to include or exclude people than the power we give it.

        I think we all need to be careful to stop the "my sect is better than yours" stuff. From a metaphysical point of view, aren't we all just believing in Santa Claus? Imagine arguing about whose Saint Nick traditions were purer? Does he wear red like the guy on the Coke can, or carry a switch like (the more authentic guy) does in Germany? It makes me want to throw cold water on people. My three year-old doesn't care, as long as the bearded one shows up.

        Lately I've been very interested in exploring this growing Hellenic neo-pagan phenomenon, so I've been doing research. There are some great books out there (and just as many painful-to-look-at low-tech websites). 🙂

        Right now I'm reading "Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored" by Sarah Kate Istra Winter. I love her writing style. She's clearly educated and gets right to the point. I was disappointed, however, to read that many people in the Greek revival eschew Wiccans, and even more want to suggest that unless you are Greek, you can't play. Aren't we all from Africa?!?!?

        What disappointed me most (and it's still a great book!) was her treatment of the subject of magical names.

        She basically says (and I paraphrase because I'm at work right now), 'We're nothing like Wiccans in the reasons that we choose magical (Greek) names. For example, we might choose a Greek name to mark our participation in rituals as sacred, or to set us apart from the mundane world psychologically. For others it is a name that we use when interacting on Hellenic websites, etc.'

        I closed the book and wondered why this passage was necessary. I'm Wiccan, and I have a magical name, and (for her information) it isn't the password to my Hot Topic account! What is she saying here, and why was it necessary to say it? AND how is this different from why ANY neo-Pagan might want to have a magical name?

        Is it that naming yourself "Thorrin Oakenphallus" is somehow sillier than calling yourself "Bubo Silver-owl?" Both are equally absurd from a certain point of view.

        Let's keep our eye on the goal, friends. Remember – – divide and be conquered.

        Of course Hellenic Pagans think they are doing something purer than the rest of us hoi polloi (a Greek expression,

        • TeNosce stated, "I was disappointed, however, to read that many people in the Greek revival eschew Wiccans, and even more want to suggest that unless you are Greek, you can't play. Hey, aren't we all from Africa?!?!?"

          It's one of the most preposterous ideas out there. Hellenism in the ancient world was practiced in far more places than that modern construction called "Hellas." Alexander spread Hellenic Polytheism all the way to modern day Pakistan, and there were Greek city-states in North Africa. It's a stupid, moronic belief, created by Greek Nationalists of low intellectual stature.

          Besides, the idea that the people who live in "Greece" nowadays are the direct descendants of the Greeks of the Age of Pericles is as preposterous as saying that white Americans are Native Americans. Thanks to waves of invasions from the Visigoths and Turks and what-not, over thousands of years…probably the only people in "Greece" who might be able to claim direct ancestry would be a few isolated Maniots up in the mountains. (*)

          I hate it when people don't take the time to conduct actual research before opening their mouths.


          (*) BTW, this goes for just about any European country, unless it is as isolated as Iceland or something.

          • A.C. Fisher Aldag

            Hey, all semantic hair-splitting aside: if the term "indigenous" gains us more respectability, I'm all for it… many of us are darned tired of having to explain to our bosses at work, our childrens' teachers, our civic leaders, and the Veteran's Administration that we are in fact a legitimate religion. This might circumvent a few expensive and time-consuming civil rights lawsuits!

          • I wouldn't exactly call what it gets us respect. Google "Wanabi Tribe" sometime. That is all the "indigenous" ploy amounts to.

          • Thanks for your clarity, Bryon.

            I learned in grad school that there are differences between race, ethnicity and culture, and that sadly the words are often used interchangeably. I also learned from (a particularly zealous) diversity professor that cultural appropriation is the way that "blue-eyed devils" obtain cultural relevancy. So I've always felt a bit guilty about my Wiccan appropriation of gods and goddesses.

            On the same coin, the African – American appropriation of all things Egyptian is equally ridiculous to most historians. Chances are Cleopatra looked like Elizabeth Taylor (although she was recorded to have been much homelier). The Nubians were part of the Egyptian story to be sure, but cultural appropriation happens all the time and everyone is guilty of it.

            So I feel better worshiping my Diana.

            The truth is that no modern person can claim anything but nationality. Our races are a crap shoot. To draw lines based on race is mute and stupid. To further this idea, I read somewhere that the reason DaVinci Code was so silly was because there could BE NO direct lineage to Jesus. In other words, if he had kids, 1 in 5 people are probably related to Jesus. The genetic mathematics are astounding.

            Great discussion. Thanks for your post.

          • BTW, it's nice to run into other Pagans with graduate degrees. I'm working on my Ph.D. at the moment myself.

          • Really? Cool! What area of study?

            I'm a clinical psychologist with two master's degrees and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. It's amazing how often metaphysics comes up in therapy. 🙂 I feel like the luckiest guy on earth. My whole profession is rooted in Greek hermeticism.

          • Another "Renaissance Man," I see?

            I'm working on my Ph.D. in psychology. My dissertation is on the "Satanic Panic."

            I have an M.A. in ancient history and a B.S. in forensic science.

          • Ananta Androscoggin

            Or, as Heinlein went on in one of his novels (my paraphrase), "The more precisely one defines one's pedigree into ancient times, one is doing little more than stating _which_ tribe of cannibals one isi descended from."

          • Ha ha! That is funny as Hel. :))

          • Pitch313

            All in all, I don't think that this distinction between "European indigenous traditions" and "new religious movements" is very useful–at least for post-Columbian immigrants to North America and their descendants.

            I am a Californian, of Irish, Scots, English, Scandanavian, and who knows what descent. I use to fancy myself "Irish." Until I met a bunch of Irish-Americans who grew up in those large East Coast cities. If I'm not even as "Irish" as a Philadlphian of a Bostonian, then my links with any European culture, modern or ancient, has been effectively severed. No "indigenous European traditions" for me! Mine are deeply rooted in North America's West Coast!

          • Patrick McCollum

            Wow, what an interesting ad provocative conversation!

            I attended most of the Parliament presentations including the one being discussed, and at no time was there anyone trying to make a point that one form of Paganism was less valid than another. Quite to the contrary, all Pagan paths were supported over and over again in many discussions including those by the panelists being discussed. While the quote attributed to Andras may or may not be accurate (I didn't record the session or write down everything said, verbatum) it was part of a wider discussion and somewhat taken out of context. I think its best to let Andras address this himself and clarify his meanings……..

          • Yes… thus far, the picture that is emerging is not the provocative one suggested by the "sound bite" version of what was said. I await Andras' clarification, but I suspect he'll be surprised at the message derived from his words.

            I hope there will be as much coverage of the clarification as of the original paraphrase.

          • Cat, I explicitly state that I welcome clarifications in the originalpost, have pointed out Michael York's commentary/clarification, andwould be happy to highlight anything Andras Arthen has to add on thematter.

          • I agree. I grew up half "Irish Catholic" in Washington—which was sometimes Irish/pagan and sometimes Catholic—and half Bavarian—which is sort of half Catholic and half Germanic/pagan. My pedigree reads like yours: I call myself an all-American mutt; but I have strong spiritual ties to Celtic Recon, the Æsir, and desert polytheisms (I've settled in Los Angeles and have had to make my peace with the blazing sun above in the absence of the snow I love). Any "European tradition" I can claim is, at best, "indigenous reconstruction". I'm pagan, but that's about all that can be said for me.

      • hartofiron

        Sorry. You're wrong there. Romuva, Dievturiba, Hellenism, Asatru, are all indigenous and European Pagan traditions.

    • A.C. Fisher Aldag

      (cont'd from above)

      We modern European indigenous religious practitioners often employ a conglomeration of Paganism… just as Norse immigrants changed the manner of worship in Ireland and the Shetlands, and Native American religious traditions were adapted by European immigrants in the American East Coast "Pow Wow" traditions. More recently, we've had to meld with modern Wiccan and neo-Paganism to be included in festivals and gatherings.

      I've been using the term "European-American" for years, shortly after folks began calling themselves "African-American" or "Asian-American". Here on this very blog, I've had detractors tell me that there is no such thing as a European American, since Europeans supposedly have their own individual identity(ies). If "African-American" exists, then the term "European American" is just as valid: determinining ethnicity by were our ancestors lived and what faith they originally practiced.

      • Thank you for this, A.C.. We're just home and I will be attempting to address some things shortly.

  • Guest

    I wasn't talking about one, I was talking about groups of Native (and some non-Native) people who are discussing this amongst ourselves. Believe me, I know one person can't speak for an entire group.

    • Riverbend

      Bingo–"the line of their history was quite effectively broken" is absolutely the key point here, I think. The people around the world who DO practice religions that no one questions are "indigenous" are those whose histories and practices really do go back thousands of years in the same or nearly the same places (however much the colonialist powers might have tried to destroy them in the past). For Europeans, those traditions WERE broken by the advent of Christianity. Contemporary Pagans are practicing new religions that draw on and/or are inspired by what we know of the indigenous religions our ancestors practiced, but as lots of other commenters have said, we just can't know for sure what those were, exactly.

      I'm not thrilled by the term NRM though, considering what it does lump us in with, though we are in fact a collection of religious movements that are, in fact, pretty new.

      I remember a couple of years ago picking up a Pagan magazine from the UK (I'm American)–maybe Pagan Dawn?–and being very puzzled at all the references to "Native religion" in there, particularly in the classifieds. I couldn't figure out why so many Pagans in Britain were interested in Native Americans. 🙂 After a bit I realized they were of course talking about Native *European* religion, but it was a fun lesson in how complicated this terminology is, particularly for Americans who are that much farther removed from the religions and lands of our ancestors from thousands of years ago.

      So ok, having said all that–could we maybe NOT ream our Parliament representatives a new one for bouncing ideas and definitions around? There's nothing wrong with presenting new ways of thinking through sticky problems like this–if their ideas don't work, that's fine, but we don't need to get all up in arms about it. I'd hate to think we're moving from "Yay! Look at all the Pagans representing our communities at this big important conference, isn't that great!" to "How DARE those self-appointed bigwigs claim to speak for us!?" in just a couple of days.

      • "So ok, having said all that–could we maybe NOT ream our Parliament representatives a new one for bouncing ideas and definitions around?"

        Thank you!
        PHA interfaith efforts and relationships to the world religious community are a WIP – you have to start communicating ideas from some point of common understanding, even if it's only to say that the ideas behind that common understanding need tweaking. I seriously doubt anyone who was on the panel was trying to establish some set-in-stone ruling of terms

        We get it at organizational meetings for various events. You come up with a working title or idea or tentative goal for something just to get the ball rolling; people chime in with input, and figure out better definitions and more functional goals in the process. But you've always got somebody that gets all pissed off because they don't feel that they were consulted on some possibility somebody tosses out there, as if it were ratified policy, and you get drama and sulks and other stupid tripe that just bogs everything down and keeps anything from moving forward.

  • You say "having historical ties to a culture and patterning practices after a culture's practice is not the same as participating in and living a culture"- but you aren't understanding that Asatru, Romuva, and related movements are living religious cultures.

  • Bravo!

    • I would file this under, "Who cares?"

    • Wow, rich, lively, important discussion.

      First thought: The conservative (in the sense of cautious) way to use the word "indigenous" (see United Nations definition or Wikipedia) when referring to people suggests that there are about 350 million indigenous people on the planet and that most folks of predominately European ancestry (like myself) are non-indigenous (one of the few exceptions being the Sami folks of Northern Scandanavia). Sure, there is a lot of controversy at the margins (e.g. issues of blood quantum in Native culture) but this basically sloppy delineation is more often than not accepted by indigenous folks who prefer to determine who is a part of their community and who is not (in a blood/ancestral sense). Partly informed by my time in Native American ceremonial circles as a non-indigenous person, I believe it's important to understand and generally respect this use of the term when referring to people. This also aligns with lots of existing international organizations that focus on indigenous peoples' issues. To use just a dictionary definition of the word and ignore this popular usage denies the cultural reality and history at play; we can't just decontextualize the word and be all semantic and expect to play well with others. If we don't care about pissing off Native Americans and other indigenous peoples then do whatever.

      Second thought: It's also also pretty common to use the word in a more expanded sense in expressions like "indigenous mind", "indigenous wisdom", "indigenous spirituality", "indigenous perspectives", "indigenous soul", etc. to refer to animist worldviews, typically in a favorable way, and almost always in a way that is not limited to folks who are indigenous peoples by blood ancestry. For example, I'm a student of indigenous wisdom. Even more complicated and somewhere between indigenous peoples and indigenous wisdom is "indigenous religion or indigenous traditions". So, how the hell to honor the first, much more specific use of the term indigenous, and still allow for a way to talk about our own (another curious term here) indigeneity? Do we say that we're mostly European-ancestored non-indigenous practitioners of indigenous European traditions? Right.

      Final thought: I personally continue to struggle with this topic at times and end up using the expression (a practitioner of) "earth-honoring traditions and practices" although I've experimented with expressions like "indigenous traditions of Europe" (slightly different from calling myself an indigenous person). At present I lean slightly toward avoiding the use of the term indigenous for Pagan stuff or shamanic revival stuff as it can easily become a "who's more valid" trip and also because it's more likely to sour relations with Native folks, a demographic that theoretically at least, we should be able to walk in good relationship with. And because there is a risk of internalizing to everyone's misery (as hinted at in this thread) the whole insider/outsider politics that can so ravage Native communities (see above controversy around blood quantum). Expect divisiveness to ensue to the degree that the terms are more widely adopted by pagan folks to describe European based or inspired earth spirituality, and for good reason. And not to fixate on it, but how we think and talk about ourselves and our work does matter.

      Thanks for the great discussion here. I have actually written some on this subject on my site under the FAQ section if it's of interest.



  • Earthwalker

    It seems that there are some good points to be made on the various sides of this issue, but I wonder about the core behind it. So much time and effort is spent categorizing various religions into boxes, and never do any of them really seem to fit in them. They’re useful for communication – sometimes – but the labels inevitably obscure as much as the explain. Let the academics and officiators have fun debating the technicalities of religious demography. In the mean time, the rest of us can be happy simply being who we are; how they decide to put us in a box probably will not change our practices overmuch.

  • Robert M

    Here's another place on the web where one can read Andras Corban Arthen's views on the contrast between most forms of (Neo)Paganism as NRMs and a very, very few forms of Paganism as genuine European indigenous traditions: [].

    His prime example here is Romuva in LIthuania, but he says that there are several other, less conspicuous European indigenous traditions which he does not identify more precisely. Certainly this is correct for the Balts and Eastern Europe generally, though these regions also have other (Neo)Pagan organizations that are clearly NRMs., and yet others that fall between the two extremes in that they attempt to reconstruct traditions that once existed, but were largely stamped out.

  • I think indigeneity has more to it than simply “faith”. It includes practice, connection to a land base, ability to feed oneself, etc. A culture which emerges out of a sustainable relationship of livelihood to the land is going to be different than a culture which does not but has recently tried to reintegrate indigenous ideas. The people who practiced pagan religions in the past were often indigenous, but are we? Or is that something we’re working to reintegrate that will take time, time, time? To be truly “native” or “odal” in Germanic tradition, requires at least five generations, sometimes more, of continual occupation of a land base, and that’s occupation free and clear, not mortgaged. How many of us have at least five generations of pagan ideas that have fully shaped our experiences and lives, accompanied by the ongoing connection to land and wights that creates the whole of indigeneity? It’s a goal we’re striving towards.

    • Lesley Madytinou

      Khaire TeNosce

      If you are indeed interested in Hellenic Polytheism, I would sincerely advise you to read primary source material rather than third hand sources like Winter’s book. Firstly because the information she gave to you about not only ‘naming’ but also the preferred indigenous separatism of Hellenes is way off base and illustrates her ‘real-time’ lack of acquaintance with the Ethnikoi Hellenic religion in Hellas.

      I am not Hellenic by birth but I live in Hellas and have met with most of the major organisations in the Ethnikoi Hellenic Religion and have participated in their ceremonies. Not once have I ever encountered any form of xenophobia or hostility based on my cultural ancestry. I have only received warm and accepting welcomes.

      Please do not base your opinion on the logic of the Hellenismoi to be defined as an Ethnikoi or indigenous religion on the misinformation provided by Ms Winters. It simply is not about cultural separatism but rather a matter of cultural preservation.

      • Sara Curran

        There's a lot of misuse of terminology in that article. Gardenerian traditions are Wiccan, British Traditional Witchcraft is also Wiccan. The idea that Witchcraft is a pagan religion is modern, not indigenous.

        • One can, on paper, separate the techniques of magic, or the Craft, or what have you, from the spiritual beliefs of those utilizing these techniques. But in practice all practitioners always rely on some kind of metaphysical map as they ply their Craft. And those "maps", even when forced to adopt other guises, have always been polytheistic and Pagan.

      • Calla

        Kate's book really doesn't have that in there. Or I should say, she points out that the "ethnic to play" view is one that is fringe and generally not accepted. Which is true – every group has it's people that you kind wish were playing for another team. *grin*

        But let me also say that many Americans, when reading the information YSEE has, misunderstand what that whole Ethnikoi deal is about. After it was explained to me I understood it and saw that it in no way implied that YSEE said that ethnicity was a deal-breaker for the religion. But it had to be explained. Perhaps the website, especially the English language portion, could be updated to reflect what you actually mean. The misunderstanding is very understandable.

      • There is a song in Spanish that says "The baptized me when I was a baby, but they didn't even asked me" that pretty much defines my feelings right now. I know who and what I am and as much as I would like for all Pagans to get together and come up with a common "theme", I don't really need someone to give permission to be part of a spiritual path I already belong too. I'm telling you the more anyone tries to define, redefine, and super-redefine Paganism the sillier we look as a community (but I know that isn't news to anyone).

        I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens… but like Cat, I didn't sent a rep either.

        • What is the title of that song? I would love to hear it! Maybe it's even on youtube?

      • Calla is right. On page 38 of her book she mentions that some people say you have to be Greek, but goes on to say that it is "regrettable" in her view that some feel this way. The rest of the book is very fair, respectful of science and straight forward.

        I regret my role in misrepresenting Kate's position on the matter.

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  • First, i understand this is a working definition, not a finality, in order to carry on dialog with other religions. Those at the Parliament were not attempting to define this for most individual people who consider themselves to be Pagan, neoPagan, Heathen, Witch, Wiccan, or on another related path.

    The short 16 year history of the Parliament shows that great advances in communication and understanding among religious leaders have been achieved. I really do appreciate the hard work of the Pagans, neoPagans, and others who have been involved in calmly and articulately presenting the many and varied practices and beliefs of “us” to religious leaders who used to reject us, and are now willing to have meaningful conversations with “us”.

    This may make little difference in our own personal practices. But it can eventually make a HUGE difference in reducing persecution and getting our religious rights recognized around the world.

    I do have a complaint, however. Those of us practicing Southwest Asian paganisms have been left out. Where are we, the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Mesopotamians, Sumerians, in the definition? I’m not entirely surprised we’re not there yet, since we are often not as well organized in a public presence as neoPagans, neoWiccans, Brit Trad Wiccans, etc., and various European oriented Reconstructionists.

    I look forward to the PotWR continuing to further communication and understanding among religions. And i look forward to the eventual inclusion of Southwest Asian pagans, and others who have been omitted from the dialog.

  • Kuma

    I'm inclined to agree that Wicca and the various modern traditions are not "Pagan" in the same way as reconstructionists or indigenous spiritualities. Just because something is an "earth-based spirituality" does not a pagan make.