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?

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • apuleius platonicus

    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.

    • Jarred Harris

      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?"

    • Kayleigh

      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.

      • TeNosce

        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!

          • TeNosce

            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. :)

          • Erynn

            Kate has a website here:

          • Dver

            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.

          • TeNosce

            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.


      • apuleius platonicus

        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.

    • Snoozepossum

      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.

  • apuleius platonicus

    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.

        • Snoozepossum


          (more cookie list)

      • Erynn

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

      • Snoozepossum

        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.

  • Rev_Ellen

    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.

      • Rev_Ellen

        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.

    • Shauna Aura

      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.

    • Robin Artisson

      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.

      • Robin Artisson

        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'.

  • Snoozepossum

    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,

          • TeNosce

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

          • Snoozepossum

            "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)

      • apuleius platonicus

        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.

          • FreemanPresson

            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.

          • apuleius platonicus

            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.

          • apuleius platonicus

            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?

          • apuelius platonicus

            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.

          • Erynn

            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".

          • Peter M

            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.

    • Cat C-B

      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.

    • Magaly Guerrero

      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.

  • apuleius platonicus

    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.

          • Peter M

            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!

          • apuleius platonicus

            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.

          • Kayleigh

            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.

        • Cat C-B

          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.

          • Cat C-B

            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.

        • TeNosce

          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)

      • TeNosce

        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,

        • BryonMorrigan

          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!

          • FreemanPresson

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

          • TeNosce

            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.

          • BryonMorrigan

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

          • TeNosce

            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.

          • BryonMorrigan

            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."

          • TeNosce

            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……..

          • Cat C-B

            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.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            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.

          • xJane

            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.

      • Angie Buchanan

        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.

      • Snoozepossum

        "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.

  • Robin Artisson

    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.

  • Lizz


    • chuck_cosimano

      I would file this under, "Who cares?"

    • Daniel Foor

      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.

  • Siegfried Goodfellow

    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.

        • apuleius platonicus

          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.

      • Magaly Guerrero

        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.

        • apuleius platonicus

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

      • TeNosce

        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.

  • Pingback: The Wild Hunt » Why the Vatican Fears Secularism and other Pagan News of Note()

  • Pingback: The Wild Hunt » After the Parliament: Statement from Andras Corban-Arthen()

  • Pingback: The Wild Hunt » Continuing Discussions on Pagan Definitions()

  • Lilinah

    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.

  • Jordan Stratford

    Here's hoping we file this under "too soon to get steamed up about". We'll see what value such distinctions bring before rejecting them outright, but it certainly seems a distinction that calls for a great deal of explanation. Let's wait and see.

  • @paganmama

    I agree with Jordan. But I will share my first reaction, which is this: as a white American woman several generations removed from Europe, raised Christian, practicing a syncretic and eclectic flavor of a very modern religion (Wicca), I can think of little more ridiculous, problematic, or offensive (to others) than calling myself or my practices "indigenous."

  • Tea

    I guess noone can decide what it really means to be Pagan. Not surprising, considering the term's amorphousness and the wide range of traditions huddled under it's umbrella.
    I feel that more focus should be directed by each individual towards their own path and the development of their personal relationship with that which they consider divine, rather than the development of these ridiculous categories. In the midst of communion with the gods, who will stop to think about whether the experience is part of a "European Indigenous Religion", "Neo-Paganism" or "What"???

  • Crystal

    Robert, I was wondering about Arthen's definition of BTW myself. Good point.
    I started my pagan journey in Wicca, as I'm sure many did. I'm offended on behalf of Wiccans that they might be grouped with Scientologists and Moonies. That may not be very pc of me but the feeling is there just the same.
    I also see defining pagan as very problematic. I have many friends who have considered themselves pagan for thirty years or more who do not fit this definition.

  • Robert M

    It's possible, of course, that Andras Corben-Arthan is using the term "British Traditional Witchcraft" in its other, older sense, now more common in Britain than in the US, to refer to the presumed pre-Gardnerian, non-Gardnerian traditions of practice and belief that have been described in books like _Twilight of the Celtic Gods_ by David Clarke and Andy Roberts, or less spectacularly but more solidly by Alan Garner in _The Voice that Thunders_. No doubt he'll clear the uncertainty up himself once he returns.

  • Robert M

    Oops! That should have been "Corban Arthen." My bad.

  • Lizz

    Apuleius has an excellent point. I believe I read in another WH post that the "New Agers" are trying to separate themselves with Paganism and "the occult" (oh my!) and this may be a way of doing so for the sake of both parties.

    In regard to practicing indigenous faiths, I do feel that this is an excellent way to communicate to individuals unfamiliar with Paganism what the umbrella term really means. In this respect I also believe that the "British Traditional" terminology is directed toward pre-Wiccan practitioners of witchcraft.

    While I, too, and several generations of my family, are American, I don't feel like it's offensive toward myself or other groups considering that our practices are revivals inspired by the Pre-Christian indigenous faiths of Europe- faiths that in many cases are not practiced today by the ethnic groups they belong to. But do eclectics fall into this category, considering that many derive practices and traditions from multiple sources? Is it still indigenous when it involves cultures that may never have met or gotten along? It seems that, in the end, we're all left where we were originally; defining our faith on our own terms.

  • Guest

    I think your correct about how Andras used the term British Traditional Witchcraft. I agree that he probably was referring to British traditions such as the Cornish Tradition (e.g. Gemma Gary) or the East Anglian Tradition (e.g. Nigel Pennick) which are both pre-Gardnerian. There are also other instances of European traditions such as the Slavic (e.g. Radimir Rustic) and Mediterranean traditions.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Ooops – also drop all references to "ethnicity".

  • TeNosce

    How is Wicca not indigenous European?

    I was sitting outside by the fire at Stubb Stewart State Park, Oregon on Saturday night. We were there for what I like to call our "monthly midnight bible study group." Of course we were there to croon at a certain Roman Goddess with a penchant for archery. I got a good look at her in the whirling snowstorm, too, and Diana looks a LOT like Kate Beckinsale.

    And nobody is going to tell me that she isn't indigenous European.

  • Jake

    I see a need to distinguish between NRM and traditional ethnic religions, but upon what authority do the representatives at the PWR make this distinction on behalf of pagans? Or is this distinction only being made within the PWR for purposes of communication?

  • Baruch

    "Are you part of a new religious movement? A European Indigenous Tradition? None of the above?"

    Both of the above. NeoPaganism is clealy a new religious movement, but it's useful to remind everyone that what missionary Christianity did to non-European indigenous tradition, it first did to European indigenous tradition.

    Should we be building fences, or tearing them down?

    Definitely the latter, but this cat is out of the bag. I wince at the seasonal return of rectonstrutionist versus ecletic bashing on this blog, and I fear that we will have a widespread outburst of it as a result of this proposition.

    And I agree that defining Wicca out of "Pagan" is absurd.

    Baruch Dreamstalker

  • Cole Gillette

    If European reconstructionist Paganism is to be considered “indigenous”, (Gardnerian) British Traditional Witchcraft must also be considered as such, for both have equally (or nearly equally) tenuous connection to any religion actually practiced by ancient Europeans. While Norse, Celtic, Slavic, Italic, Hellenic, and other traditions may draw upon historical or semi-historical pantheons and a very few myths that survive unadultered to the present day, both Gardnerian Wicca and European reconstructionism are distinctly modern religions, though inspired by indigenous practices and cosmological perspectives. Furthermore, to designate non-Gardnerian Wiccan practitioners “syncretists” is insulting to those whose practice is similar or nearly identical to that of the British Traditionalists, but who have not sought or obtained initiation into Gardnerian Wicca. A final musing; when does an indigenous religion that includes elements of syncretism (as many indigenous religions do) cease to be indigenous?

    As a Wiccan practitioner both trained by a British Traditionalist witch and extensively self-taught (but not formally initiated into a Gardnerian coven), I am deeply insulted that Pagan representatives at the Parliament may have attempted to define my religion and the religion of tens of thousands like me in terms that are unacceptably narrow, exclusive, and of dubious logic.

  • Zoe McAtee

    While I agree this is going to stir up some huge controversies (for example some in Hellas who feel they have a survivalist tradition yet things like the calendar do not resemble the historical record and some feel are rather eclectic to those book-taught reconstructionists ) either way the tag “indigenous” has some wins for recons. The primary example is for temples. Most European temples are being exploited as tourist traps with zero respect for the traditional rules that governed the temenos. People show plenty of respect for the rules of Cathedrals, but temples? enh!

    Also, people need to recall classical pagans like the Romans and Greeks didn't have ideas like "cultural appropriation"; they were more than happy to share their religion with anyone who wanted to honor their gods (aside from one particular ritual which required one speak Greek, but that is the exception).

  • Calla

    Interesting discussion.

    In the past few years the term umbrella Pagan has come to mean, more and more, a "nature" religion that follows the Wheel of the Year and believes in some form of the Law of Return or Law of Three.

    That's fine that the umbrella has been maturing and is find a more coherent self-identity – except it puts many of those in revived religions on the outside. Most revived religions are not nature religions, don't follow the Wheel of the Year and don't believe in the Law of Return. When it comes down to it, those in a revived religion just don't have much in common with Wicca or Wicca-influenced Neo-Paganism. We have more in common with living indigenous religions like Hinduism and First Tribes. So to more formally recognize what is already in common practice (many Heathens, Hellenics, Slavics, etc no longer identify as Pagan) is not that big a deal to me.

    So I guess it was fine when revived religions were being defined out of the Pagan umbrella. Now when there is word that Wiccans are in danger of being defined out of a group – that's an outrage.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not bitter and I'm not excited about being termed as an European Indigenous Tradition – because I don't think that is on the money either. I am just a bit amused, though.

  • FreemanPresson

    I'm glad you got in there early. I like to point out during any sort of dispute like that that it's the spiritual experience that matters, not what the heck you call your "tradition" or how many generations old it is.

  • Jarred Harris

    Perhaps that's just a sign that those two people aren't so concerned about whether they're personally excluded or included as they are with coming up with a useful classification.

    Or I suppose it's possible they haven't considered that fact.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Native Americans are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves as individuals. Even as "groups" there are of course hundreds of groups — and within each language group, or nation, or whatever, each individual still has their own mind, and their own mouth to express their own, personal, opinion.

    And let me ask a direct question: are you a native american? If not, then please stick to expressing your own opinion, and allow native americans to speak for themselves.

    If you do want to "report" on what you have heard from people or groups who are native americans, then be specific. If you can't name names then you are simply using "unnamed native american sources" to lend credence to your own opinions.

    Otherwise I do not have any strong feelings about that subject.

  • Guest

    I believe you are correct that the way the term was used, British Traditional Witchcraft refers to British traditions such as 1734 and the Clan of Tubal Cain

  • apuleius platonicus

    I'll have my Diana, and Isis, too!

  • munin_and_hugin

    I have to agree with the fact that no one can decide whether or not I qualify as Pagan, except myself. And even though some specific traditions could possibly be called European Indigenous Movements, the line of their history was quite effectively broken. We truthfully have very little historical record regarding how the ancients (be they Roman, Greek, Celt, Heathen, etc,) actually practiced their religions. There is the archeological record, but much of archeology is extrapolating from the evidence. Considering, at least in the Mediterranean, we do have some written record of festivals, but very little regarding the Mystery cults (which could may well have been more important in religious life.) The point is, Who Knows? So, IMO it would be rude to compare Paganism, even the admirable Reconstructions, to Indigenous Religious Movements.

    I'm Pagan, it doesn't matter what "flavor," that's that.

  • Cat C-B

    Because Wicca is just not that old. You can trace its roots back plausibly no earlier than the 19th Century–including BTW. There is just no credible evidence my religion is older than that, and likely much younger.

    "Indigenous" would mean native and not syncretistic, as I understand the term. But Wicca is a blend of cultural strands from all over the world–albeit primarily from Europe–and syncretistic as all get out.

    It is not an insult to identify us as a NRM, just because there are other NRMs we dislike. What is not so much insulting as bloody stupid is any attempt to cull the Wiccans from the Pagan herd, out of a foolish disdain for syncretism per se.

  • Amanda Chappell Armstrong

    I would agree, Brannen. Some of us are not several generations removed from Europe, either. The diaspora retains varying degrees of whatever culture it comes from, especially regionally. Sometimes quite strongly for several generations.

  • KarenAScofield

    What I said in response to Jason's "Make that Two Openly Pagan Elected Officials" (Nov. 23, 2009) entry:

    "I just hope that gaining political ground/representation as Pagans doesn't involve dragging in the hard vs. soft polytheism false dilemma (dualism) which tends to supplant an ever necessary fierce focus on orthopraxy (correct practices, including but not limited to **functional** ethics, virtues, hospitality, and the multidisciplined ways of equality) with faith-based arguments that tend to paint anything else as unreliable, imbalanced, lacking credibility, or otherwise acting out the Dionysus portion of yet another false dilemma, Apollonian (wholeness, goodness) vs. Dionysian (undisciplined destructive myopic selfishness).


    I add that this Tradition vs. NRMs/Other stuff will likely stir the pots of Tradition vs. Eclecticism, hard vs. soft polytheism, Apollonian vs. Dionysian, and conservative-traditionalists vs. eclectic-progressive false dilemmas.

  • pombagira

    ohh wow that is a whole can of worms, a whole huge can o wriggley worms.. eek!

  • KarenAScofield

    Including this adds valuable insight, thank you.


    "Having to" defend all of Paganism from **anything** is a losing proposition from the start.

    He would have done better by (1) beginning with concise cursory coverage of the issues with the definition of Pagan and of Pagan identity (religious tolerance dot org has a good page on the topic) and then (2) he should have dug into the purpose — including Paganism in the equality power metaparadigm hopefully ushered in by Parliament of the World’s Religions.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Missionary Christianity did not first target European indigenous traditions. They first targeted ALL of the indigenous traditions in the Roman world, the bulk of which were non-European. In fact it makes no sense to even speak of separate "European" traditions, since people across Europe were worshipping Isis and Cybele, and had been doing so for centuries.

    And it is simply not true that Christians ever succeeded in completely eradicating our traditions. Lets not ever minimize the damage they did, much less the even greater damage they still dream of doing. But we should never concede what has not been lost.

  • Robin Artisson

    The only reason anyone gets worked up over "indigenous" is because they think that people saying "we belong to an indigenous faith" are trying to claim some legitimacy over others. But as a person who belongs to the indigenous faith of the Germanic people of Europe, I am not using the term with that intent.

    Despite the attempts on the part of some peoples to try and stake an exclusive claim to the word, "Indigenous" is defined simply as "originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country"- and it also means "inherent" or "innate". Asatru did originate in the Northern regions of Europe, and it is characteristic of what pre-Christian Europeans of those regions were doing. Further, we believe it to be the inherent, innate religion of people of Northern European extraction. That's all. That's what it means, and I reject as political manipulation any other attempt to give this term "indigenous" any other meaning.

    Wicca originated in England, but cannot be said to be "characteristic" of anything that historical Pagans or witches in England were doing before it, as the structure, while workable and sufficient, is new, pioneered by Gardner and other contemporary occult groups. I don't doubt Wicca's power or efficacy in the lives of the people who believe in it, and Wiccans are certainly allies to all Pagans today in the struggle for recognition. Also, Wiccans, insofar as they pray to Pagan Gods, ARE "Pagan", as I see no further definition for "pagan" needed beyond "People who believe in and/or worship Pagan Gods and Goddesses."

    What qualifies as "Pagan" has been debated a long time; for the longest time, anyone who wasn't a member of an Abrahamic religion was classified as Pagan, but Native Americans, Buddhists, and others are offended by the word, for their own reasons. Now, it seems to be used for European non-Abrahamic faiths, and that's fine by me. I don't mind it at all. But the "indigenous" distinction is important to me, because all Pagans/New Religions cannot and must not be lumped together as a whole. That would be insulting to the truth about them all- different varieties of Pagan have different histories, different worldviews, different focus, and these things are very, very important to their thoughtful membership. If we want an intellectually honest appraisal of the situation, we have to cease the lumping and start studying the great variety that we've all inherited.

  • Robert M

    I wrote, perhaps, too briefly. What Corban Arthen tried to "defend," as I saw it, was not Paganism (some or all of it) against the scorn of outsiders, but one theory about what Paganism is against other theories. These theories clash with one another inside the Pagan community. They also clash with one another outside the Pagan community, in the wider world of mundane scholarship.

    As for the rest, I like what you write.

  • FreemanPresson

    You just defined reconstructionists out of the Pagan umbrella yourself. See how hard it is?

    Practices that fit your definition are basically eclectic Wicca and its close relatives.

  • Tea

    My thoughts exactly. Well put.

  • Magaly Guerrero

    You know, there is a reason why I kind of walked awake from coven settings. Not that I have anything against the practice, but the labeling was getting a bit ridiculous. I know who I am and that's good enough for me a my Gods, if others are not okay with that, well that's fine with me too.

  • Hecate

    So what does it mean if the Pagans who are representing us on the Parliament Board of Trustees

    You know, it's lovely that there are Pagans there at this meeting, but they don't "represent" me. I didn't vote for them. As for the semantic battle, I have a difficult time caring. It doesn't change who I am or what I do.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Of course not all "Native Americans, Buddhists, and others" are offended by the term Pagan. But for that matter many Pagans are themselves offended by the term and are constantly trying to come up with something else.

    it is often claimed that "Hindus" as a group are also "offended" by the term Pagan, but several prominent Hindu writers have actually embraced the term and have explicitly aligned themselves with modern, western Pagans.

  • Crystal7431

    It's also surprising, Cole, given who the members of this panel are. I know at least two of them that would be excluded by the constraints of their own definition. Odd.

  • Cat

    After 20 years of fight. I give up, I am now an earth centered cunning woman. Re-define that.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Christianity did not first target European indigenous traditions. They first targeted ALL of the indigenous traditions in the Roman world, the bulk of which were non-European. But for that matter, "European" traditions of the time included widespread worship of Isis and Cybele and this had been the case for centuries already.

  • Snoozepossum

    What you said.


  • Gavin Andrew

    Speaking as a local Aussie Pagan present at the PoWR alongside Angie, Andras and Phyllis, I agree that this is all getting ahead of what has actually happened at the Parliament.

    As I understand it, the point of bringing 'indigenous European spirituality' into use is to pre-frame certain concepts in the minds of persons who would ordinarily be hostile to the word 'Pagan' when used in isolation. For example:

    "So what religion do you follow?"

    "I identify with the indigenous European spirituality of my ancestors. You would know this as Paganism."

    The sad fact is that the word 'Pagan' comes with a whole lot of negative baggage for representatives of other religious traditions. My experience there at the Parliament has been unequivocal: pre-framing an explanation of Pagan beliefs and practices in this way results in a much more receptive atmosphere – and this is what we want when at the coalface of Interfaith work.

    The debate over self-identity and authenticity of belief and practice is a fascinating one, but again, this is not something requiring hasty decisions or arbitrary definitions – and it was certainly not the point of the exercise. Personally I would want to see the concept of indigenous European spirituality to be as inclusive as possible.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Ronald Hutton has consistently stated that Wicca's "pedigree", as he puts it, goes back to Hellenistic Egypt.

    Anyone familiar with the magical, mystical, eclectic, philosophical, innovative spiritual goings-on of late-antiquity will immediately see the strong family resemblance to most of modern Paganism. Ronald Hutton talks about this at some length in chapters 4 and 5 of his "Witches Druids and King Arthur". He also gets into a lot of interesting Medieval and Renaissance stuff that is also very relevant to the historical roots of modern Paganism.

  • Isadora

    While I understand the need to acknowledge and define the difference between the Modern Pagans and culturally indigenous religions and Peoples, it is impossible and irresponsible to attempt to define modern pagans, that is the people and groups who participate in the Modern Pagan Movement, in the terms used at the PWR. It is one thing for an individual or a group to say that the term "pagan" is inappropriate for their practices, it's quite another for one person or a small group of people to take a term that is applied as broadly as "pagan" and split hairs about which groups qualify to use it and which do not.

    It also bothers me that this looks like, at least on the surface, an attempt to classify modern Pagans along genealogical lines. As a white American, I can trace my family history back to Europe several times over, but I cannot claim to culturally identify with pre-Christian indigenous European people. I also can claim direct lineage to Native Americans relocated from Mississippi to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears, but I cannot stake a claim to authentic Native American traditions, religion or culture. Even if I prove my bloodline and pattern my religious practices after the culture I am genetically linked to, I cannot claim that my practice *is* an indigenous religion because 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.

    For all of the good done at the PWR by Modern Pagans, I fear that by claiming "Indigenous" status and trying to redefine "Pagan" in such a way, the Modern Pagan Movement will suffer untold damage to interfaith relations, both inside and outside the Pagan arena.

  • Luis Abbadie

    That makes a lot of sense, and there is certainly a lot of overreacting going on here. Andras has used the "indigenous" concept in just such a way before, and quite eloquently, back when we discussed my own quite skeptical stance concerning the feasibility of building a true "pagan community". However, that comment specifically (seemingly) disqualifying wiccans as non-pagans makes it sound quite different. maybe you could ellaborate on what was actually meant by this?

  • Luis Abbadie

    That makes a lot of sense, and there is certainly a lot of overreacting going on here. Andras has used the "indigenous" concept in just such a way before, and quite eloquently, back when we discussed my own quite skeptical stance concerning the feasibility of building a true "pagan community". However, that comment specifically disqualifying wiccans as non-pagans makes it sound quite different. maybe you could ellaborate on what was actually meant by this?

  • KarenAScofield

    Thanks for the clarification.

    One identity theory to rule/define them all?

    What are faith-based identity clashes doing in my orthopraxic Pagan soup?

    Paganism **needs** its different definitions that clash. Paganism is an umbrella term and the Pagan community is a pluralism. *Functional* pluralism knows that not everything and everyone jives but also knows when to let sleeping dogs lie.

    Functional pluralism recognizes that religious identity clashes meant to define/unite nearly always serve to divide when we fail to define who we are more by how functional we are than who we are based on creed-ist definitions, ethnicity, and so on. Kind of a tricky concept, I will admit.

  • Calla

    Well, no. I am using what people say more and more is the definition of Neo-Pagan. Which has been changing over the years.

    Not a bad thing, just something that is happening.

  • Cat C-B

    I think you overstate Hutton's point. There is a history of ideas in which perhaps all modern ideas can trace out a lineage… You could equally well say that Wicca traces its roots still further, to ancient Babylon, because the Babylonians practiced astrology, and astrological ideas have descended to become, in an altered form, part of the practice of many strands of Wicca.

    But I believe Hutton's main point is actually the reverse of this–is that the most important ideas at the core of Wicca are not evidenced in any European tradition with which Wicca can claim continuity previous to the 19th Century and the Romantics. It is with the arrival of "scholars" of that era–folks like the Grimm brothers, Jules Michelet, etc.–that we first find the idea of witchcraft as a survival of pre-Christian folk religion. That idea borrowed a good deal as it developed in the minds and writing of later authors, from Leland to Murray and eventually Gerald Gardner. But the witchcraft-is-surviving-pagan-religion meme does not go back to Hellenic Egypt or the Middle Ages or the Rennaisance–though many of the ideas it would later borrow (via Theosophy and then the Golden Dawn and other occult lodges) do.

    Certainly there are strands of very old Western thought that have been incorporated into the constellation of ideas that is modern Wicca. However, that no more makes Wicca itself a pre-Christian religious tradition than it makes NASA a continuation of the Babylonian astrological priesthood. The core identity is too dramatically different, and there is no continuity of practice to trace.

    Or if there is, it has left us no fossil record for us to find.

  • Michael York

    "I see a need to distinguish between NRM and traditional ethnic religions, but upon what authority do the representatives at the PWR make this distinction on behalf of pagans? Or is this distinction only being made within the PWR for purposes of communication?"

    Wow, most interesting discussion and reactions. As a Parliament delegate, I was not aware that Wicca was ever being excluded from paganism or being a part of our tradition. I spoke as a pagan at the Parliament and specifically as a polytheist. I argue and still fell that the voice for the pluralist conception of divinity has been marginalised and long absent from the forum of religious interchange.

    There were many of us at the Parliament who at first questioned the use of 'European indigenous traditions' over 'pagan'. But it important for everyone to understand that no one was speaking _for_ the pagan and wiccan community as a whole. This was an interfaith congress, and it behooved everyone of us to find language with which and through which to speak to others, specially to non-pagans. For instance, Gavin Andrews encountered a Roman Catholic priest at one point who asked Gavin which tradition he represented. Gavin replied first by identifying as 'indigenous European'. He then added, "You would otherwise know this as 'pagan'." The priest thanked Gavin and said that 'indigenous' he understood as a positive; 'pagan' for him was negative. But because Gavin had presented in the order he did, the RC priest was able to understand and proceed with an understanding and discussion of paganism which would not have otherwise been the case.

    It is also true that I was thanked on more than one occasion for introducing someone to the word 'pagan'.

    Andras was on an indigenous panel at one point. The Parliament had as one of its central themes the plight of indigenous peoples and the desire to understand their traditions and beliefs. This in itself was a hot issue and a controversial one. The Indigenous Peoples held their own Assembly on one day to which white Europeans and Euro-Americans were prohibited to attend. In some cases among Native Americans, the use of 'indigenous European' helped to build bridges. But for someone like Omie Baldwin (Navajo), there was blatant racism that was only publicly masked by a feigned sweetness. The contrast between Baldwin and someone like Joy Wandin Murphy, an Aboriginal professor and Australian indigenous leader who exuded graciousness, sincerity and genuine warmth, could not have been more poignant.

    The Indigenous Peoples issued a Statement to the World in which the Inter Caetera papal bull of 1493 and the Doctrine of Christian Discovery were exposed for the evils that they were. Angie Buchanan's argument is that we pagans who follow a European tradition are examples of an earlier and more complete eradication that the indigenous peoples of today are themselves facing. We are allies and not enemies. _Some_ were sympathetic to this reasoning; others less so. Andras' classification of paganism into Neo-pagan, Reconstructionists and Indigenous I have trouble with – especially when he described the second as intellectual reconstructions as opposed to revivals of indigenous survivals. For me, Neo-pagan includes Wicca as well as much contemporary Druidry and comprises a specific alignment of elements and directions as well as the eight festival calendar. Reco-paganism is ethnic reconstructions _and_ revivals. Geo-pagan is something else that is more vernacular and often less self-conscious.

    As today is the festival of Sol Indiges – even down-under in Oz – and the sun sets in 12 minutes, I have to stop now.

  • Tea

    Thank you Freeman.

  • Snoozepossum

    (adds Freeman and Jarred to the "gets homemade double chocolate cookies" list)

  • FreemanPresson

    I agree, in that I have also been seeing a lot of the "Paganism" == "Earth-Centered" type of non-definition. Unlike you, I think the spread of misinformation is a bad thing. Neither classical Paganism nor modern reconstructive Paganism has any more to do with Nature or even agriculture than any other religion.

    Knowing the difficulty of crafting a succinct and inclusive definition (e.g., I never got one that was under about 50 words that had a chance of being right), I am happy with the current vagueness, and with the fact that any group that wants to opt out of the umbrella can. I'm still going to speak up any time people broadcast incorrect or divisive definitions, though.

    It's too bad that our precursors didn't find good alternatives to the P- and W- words, with which we are apparently stuck.

  • Cole Gillette

    If were’re hell-bent on creating a potentially more palatable alternative identification for our various traditions, it would seem to me that “indigenous European-inspired faiths” or “indigenous European-inspired spirituality” would serve as a much more inclusive, much less devisive, and even more accurate term for those who now call themselves Pagan or Heathen. None of us in the contemporary Pagan movement–and I do mean none–practice an “indigenous” religion in the sense that many of the worlds tribal societies do.

    However, the fact that we seek inspiration from the known practices of our ancestors to inform our modern spirituality cannot be denied, and this fact sets us very much apart from all other NRMs. Even Wicca, perhaps the most oft-derided religion under the Pagan umbrella, is clearly influenced by certain historical European practices that pre-date BTW, syncretic as it may be.

    I will always consider myself a Pagan, but another (accurate) self-descriptor would certainly come in handy in certain situations.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Why must it be "European"???

    Much of modern Paganism is not European at all. Ellen Cannon Reed devoted much of her life to promoting the worship of Egyptian Goddesses and Gods among modern Pagans. And she also did pioneering work in promoting the use of Qabalah by Pagans. Hermeticism, which combines Hellenistic and Egypian elements, is also a major influence in modern Paganism

    Europe, schmeurope.

  • Snoozepossum

    "Religion-based folkways"?

    It's too long, and would look like crap on a t-shirt, but it might be more in the ballpark. And it doesn't have the excessive overbaggage and the ingrained bashfest triggers that "indigenous" does.

    My possible offering as a dirty rotten eclectic cultural appropriator. ;0)

  • Calla

    Hmmm….I don't consider it misinformation. I consider it evolution, growth, and increasing self-awareness. I don't in any way see it as negative.

  • Jana Hollesdochter

    Why not stick to the definitions coined by Isaac Bonewits of Paleo-Pagan, Meso-Pagan and Neo-Pagan religions/traditions?

  • apuleius platonicus

    Because Isaac Bonewits, may the Gods bless him and may he live long and happily, doesn't know what the frak he's talking about. He only passes as some sort of authority because he's competing with the likes of Silver Raven Wolf.

  • FreemanPresson

    It could be somewhat useful, except that the terms are a mouthful, Paleo-Pagan isn't needed, and there are only a few things that sorta questionably maybe a little bit might possibly be mesopagan if they weren't actually Christian.

    Overall, "Neopagan" seems the best candidate for a catchbucket term, but we already know that Heathens and some others detest it.

    I liked Paul Kershaw's idea of just coining a word, but his choice, "Canar," didn't resonate.

  • Cat C-B

    Don't be silly, Apuleius. Bonewits was writing in a very different context than Ravenwolf–in the early 70's, when there was much less scholarship on or practice of Paganism going on.

    Ravenwolf is a popularizer whose books sell nicely. Bonewits is an early leader in the American Pagan resurgence. Bonewits' ideas are dated, but not equivalent to Ravenwolf's. One drew from the best material available at the time he wrote; the other did not.

  • Erynn

    I can see the use of "indigenous" as a bridging concept word, but I can't see it actually describing modern Pagans in any substative sense. We have a number of similarities to indigenous religions, but we are not indigenous religions, no matter how much some folks might like to spin it that way. I would far rather be allied with the indigenous peoples than considered enemies, certainly, but being an ally and declaring ourselves indigenous are two very different things.

    Obviously, the majority of us weren't at the Parliament. Without knowing exact contexts, it's hard to judge how things were meant and what was intended. Yet I think that, in the long run, claiming Pagan religions are "indigenous religions of Europe" will do us more harm than good. It's inaccurate, it excludes non-European-based Paganisms like Kemetic reconstructionists, and it is quite likely to put us in conflict with the very indigenous people we should be building alliances with.

  • Michael York

    Thanks, Erynn. I agree with you and raised the same question about Kemetics among others at the PWR. I do not think that 'indigenous religions of Europe' was ever meant as a _replacement_ for 'pagan' (& I'm one of those who prefers 'pagan' in lower case for several reasons – one being that I use it essentially as a generic in contrast to 'Neo-pagan' which _is_ a religion.) Paganism is a wonderful umbrella term whose very pluralism includes its own opposites. Consequently, there is no _one_ paganism, and there could never be. 'Indigenous European spirituality' is simply _one_ form and root of paganism. Certainly _not_ a replacement designation. For the PWR task at hand, it was helpful and let us in certain situations segue our way into broader discussions.

  • Nick Ritter

    I feel the need to mention that, while my tradition (Theodism) has never had much to do with exchanging hostages (perhaps we should, though), nevertheless sacral kingship and trial by ordeal are important parts of that tradition, whether or not you think we "can't" or "shouldn't want to" have them. Also, we're rather careful about not "adding modern syncretic elements". Perhaps this excludes us from your definition of "Pagan," which is fine with us, as we really don't refer to ourselves as "Pagan" anyway.

    Please understand, I am not trying to be antagonistic. It's just that your attempt to classify as "new" what most reconstructionists see rather as the revival of something "old," you come across as a bit patronizing; nor are you alone on this forum in attempting to define our traditions differently than we would. You are correct when you say that: "[T]he majority of reconstructionists are in the process of reworking things right now, digging up original-culture sources, patching holes in ritual and theology". I suppose that makes reconstructionist religious movements attempts to practice old religions, and perhaps those "attempts" could be classified as "new," but the religions we are attempting to practice are not.

    Perhaps the upshot of all of this definitional wrangling, all of this effort being expended to classify us all under one definition, is that there *is* no one definition that applies to all who are currently being referred to under the moniker of "Paganism"; which is to say that we are not, in fact, all to be defined as one single thing. This needn't mean that we cannot work together for common causes, or see ourselves as needing to work together against forces that might seek to eradicate us. In point of fact, I generally feel common cause with religions that Michael classifies above as "dharmic," and I can do so without having to define my tradition and "dharmic" religions as somehow "the same thing."

  • Erynn

    I'm glad to hear it. I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion and debate about this over the intertubes in weeks and months to come. Personally, I'm of the opinion that the various modern Pagan religions fall primarily into the NRM category — because they are, quite literally, "new". Even the majority of reconstructionists are in the process of reworking things right now, digging up original-culture sources, patching holes in ritual and theology, and adding syncretic modern elements in the name of sensible things like equality and diversity.

    We can't and really shouldn't want to exactly duplicate the religions of two- or three- or ten-thousand years ago. I'm not into sacred kings, trading hostages, or trial by ordeal, and these were all parts of different Celtic religions in the past. For these reasons, among others, I really do think that labeling ourselves as NRMs and allying with indigenous peoples and religions is a far better and more honest approach.

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    Well, I for one think the attendees of the Parliament did their level best to promote understanding and tolerance, so thank you.

    As for reconstructionism being either intellectual study or a revival of the indigenous… can't recon include both?

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    I like that description!m :-)

  • Snoozepossum

    As a roadkill psychopomp, I applaud your definition!

  • Michael York

    Let me also add that NRM (new religious movement) is indeed an academic term. Paganism in its form of contemporary paganism is a new religion and yet one that resurrects an ancient spiritual perspective long absence from the forum of religious exchange. In contrast to the abrahmanic, dharmic and secular religions, paganism represents a fundamental religious option despite its many and virtually countless forms. So in this sense, it becomes both old and new – a return of a much earlier way of perceiving and honouring the divine and sacrality. If the abrahamic and dharmic religions as well as the secular 'non'-religions are the alternatives, paganism is all-embracing in its multiplicity – whether as Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, Faery, Family Tradition, Druidry, Asatruar, Vanatruar, Romuva, Kemetic, Hellenic, Roman, Candomble, Santeria, Yoruba, Shinto, Chinese Folk, Lakota or any of a whole host of indigenous, extinct, revived, recreated or new and/or invented practices. The definition and re-definition of paganism is part of an ongoing and never-ending dialogue which itself is as much a part of pagan expression as is its nature veneration and worship of gods/goddesses, the Goddess and the God, and the Earth and her children. But at the same time, the conversation is not just one among ourselves but one with other humanities as well. If 'European indigenous spirituality' works or helps us in this more extended endeavour, there are those of us who will employ without any intention of defining an exclusive paganism that includes some but not others. Without a pope, central authority or official list of membership, there is _no one_ who can speak for the movement as a whole. But that being said, there are many of us who wish and attempt to speak _for_ the movement in the attempt to secure it legitimacy and acceptance in a world that misunderstands our traditions and may even seek to eradicate them.

  • Guest

    Hello Michael. A point I'd like to bring up is the idea modern pagans and modern indigenous folk not to be split up into too many categories. Academic interests and study, yes; but polls like ARIS that may be using these catagories and these are looked at by more than just academics. Polls are important for public opinion as well as political argument and if there are too many categories, then our already small minority numbers will be in the nano-minority range. I think this might have the effect of diminishing the voice of concerns for civil rights and freedom of religious practice. I don't suppose that a category could be created to _include_ "…Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, Faery, Family Tradition, Druidry, Asatruar, Vanatruar, Romuva, Kemetic, Hellenic, Roman, Candomble, Santeria, Yoruba, Shinto, Chinese Folk, Lakota or any of a whole host of indigenous, extinct, revived, recreated or new and/or invented practices…."?

  • Snoozepossum

    Well said, and a voice of reason. Thanx muchly for stepping out into the gap at PWR.

  • apuleius platonicus

    It is not racism for a Native American to be suspicious of europeans. It is not racist for Native Americans to desire to be able to meet with other non-Europeans peoples who have had similar "encounters" with Europeans.

    Judging Native Americans by how much "graciousness" they "exude" to whites — THAT is racism. Not to mention just plain bullshit.

  • Nick Ritter

    A.C. Fisher Aldag: "As for reconstructionism being either intellectual study or a revival of the indigenous… can't recon include both?"

    That is certainly how I understand my tradition of reconstructionism.

  • apuleius platonicus

    My comments were meant as a direct reply to Michael York's comments above.

  • Erynn

    You're using combat and other traditional medieval techniques like plunging a hand into a vessel of boiling water to adjudicate legal issues? Remind me never to get on you guys' bad side. 😉

    I'll certainly admit that there really isn't one True Definition of Pagan. I don't think there should be. I think it's important to note that attempting to practice an old religion isn't quite the same as practicing an old religion unless you're really doing all the things that go along with that, from the ritual liturgy to the social system stuff. That's the difference between modern Reconstructionists and modern Hindus, as I see it. They have the entire culture surrounding their spirituality, they have the original texts, they have an unbroken line of priesthood. We don't. I'm not entirely sure it's possible. This is why I tend to think of us all as NRMs.

    I know for CR it's impossible because we simply don't have any surviving complete liturgy for the rituals of Pagans in Celtic cultures. We have some idea what was done, but we don't have most of the words that go with it. It's easy enough to reconstruct some of the physical actions surrounding the ritual of imbas forosnai, but when the text says that the druids "chanted truth spells" over the fili who was the focus of the ritual, we're going to have to make up those truth spells for ourselves because there's no indication at all of what that might have been. The best we can do is scrape something together based on various Irish or Scottish Gaelic texts of different historical periods that were, inevitably, written by Christian monks.

    While I think that it's the nature of any religion to change, I think that to be an indigenous religion rather requires a reasonably unbroken chain of ritual and culture that has changed organically over the centuries rather than having to be pieced back together from fragmentary remains.

  • Nick Ritter

    "You're using combat and other traditional medieval techniques like plunging a hand into a vessel of boiling water to adjudicate legal issues?"

    Heh! Not to worry. We haven't used the boiling water ordeal (or the ploughshare ordeal, or the sacred cheese ordeal; I'm not making that last one up), but we certainly have adjudicated through combat, both more ritualized and less. Usually that's reserved for issues that can't be resolved otherwise, though.

    I understand your reasoning for classifying Reconstructionist traditions in with New Religious Movements, and certainly Celtic Recon faces some serious hurdles in reconstruction, as you mention. However, the counterexample you use, Hinduism, isn't as cut-and-dry as you mention, either. There are instances in Hindusim of various rituals dying out in different places, and having to be reconstructed through scholarship (this is coming from the book _Agni: The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar_ by Frits Stall, by the way). This suggests to me that the differences between various kinds of Reconstructionism and, for example, Hinduism, is a matter of degree rather than of type. Celtic Recon could, unfortunately, be placed towards one end of a spectrum where the gaps in data are more and wider, with Hinduism, perhaps, at the other end of the spectrum.

    Just a thought.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    Let us hope that it isn't considered necessary to revive the earlier head-hunting practices of the ancient Celts. Can't say I wish to visit houses that have the owner's defeated opponents' skulls nailed around the front door, or be shown his most-prized enemy's head preserved in a box with cedar oil.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Bonewits' "theories" about different categories of Paganism have absolutely no validity. They have no basis in the sources that were available in the 1970's or at any other time in all of human history.

    In particular Bonewits has zero knowledge of the first people to whom the term Pagan was applied: the people of the Roman world who resisted coercive Christianization beginning in the fourth century AD with the reign of the emperor Constantine. If he had ever studied the Paganism of that period he would recognize (as it is readily recognized by those who have studied it at least somewhat, such as Ronald Hutton) the great similarities between the Pagans of today and the people who were first called that.

    If people want an accessible, but still intellectually sound, starting point they should check out the book "Ancient Religions" edited by Sarah Iles Johnston, especially the essay "Monotheism and Polytheism" by Egyptologist Jan Assmann. Understanding the distinction between monotheism and polytheism is the right starting place, not Bonewits' uninformed ramblings.

  • Gaarik Daruth

    Actually, for other writings he's done for the ADF (some of which are available on the website), he's specifically mentioned things such as the origin of the word Pagan. I don't think he was concerned with that particular definition when he wrote up his definitions for the modern use of the word "pagan", which he fully admits are modern definitions. He's a dude, fallible (in the extreme, my brother can tell stories on that!), but not necessarily an idiot because he uses a term in modern context rather than ancient.

    Besides, why would Bonewits recommend that people read such authors as Ronald Hutton and Stuart Piggott if he was not familiar with the authors' works? These are authors mentioned in his opening essay to ADF members in the 2006 membership guide.

    Just sayin'.


  • Patrick McCollum

    As to who I spoke for as a presenter and attendee at the Parliament, I spoke for myself and for a couple of Pagan organizations who asked me to represent them. Although like all of the other Pagan presenters and attendees who did make it to the Parliament, I am hopeful that attendees from other religions, will look upon Pagans more kindly and with more respect as a result of my participation. I also hope that we will gain more rights worldwide and face less discrimination as a result of some of the excellent presentations made by all of us who made the sacrafice to attend. It wasn't easy to come up with the thousands of dollars and weeks of time it took to make sure that Pagans had a voice in this world event, and I genuinely hope that next Parliament, many of those voicing critism today, will show their equal passion, dedication to our community, and wisdom, by attending the next Parliament. and sharing their valuable perspectives.

  • Erynn

    Sacred Cheese? Oh, that sounds so delightfully kinky! What, do they see who can stay longest locked in a small room with a large limburger? I suppose that ritualized combat between vastly mismatched opponents takes the form of Backgammon Deathmatch or something? 😉

    Yes, a lot of things work on a spectrum. I would never say it's entirely black and white. Yet Hinduism, even though it has lost a few rituals and has needed to reconstruct them, hasn't lost the vast majority of its culture or its rituals, so I'd tend to see it as mostly intact rather than reconstructionist per se. Even in reconstructing rituals that were lost, they have an entire history of unbroken ritual to fall back on for evidence and structure. Hinduism in India has seen conversion attempts from Alexander to the British Raj and survived them all with immense temples, the largest religious festival in the world, and a very strong polytheist culture. The same can't be said for any of the European or Middle Eastern polytheistic religions that I'm aware of.

    And yes, CR is definitely on the short end of the stick when it comes to material to work from for reconstruction. There's more out there than most people think, but it can be really hard to find unless you know what you're doing, we're surrounded by folks who think Wicca is Celtic, and there are very few survivals of any actual rituals. Some things that are seen as survivals may actually be Victorian creations, which adds even more layers of problems to the issue. We'll try not to think about the forged "Ossianic" and "Barddas" materials. *headdesk*

    I'm certainly speaking from my experience as a CR who's had to struggle with these problems for many years. I often feel rather envious of folks who are called to traditions with more supporting materials to work from.

  • Snoozepossum

    Sacred cheese – is that where the thing about chasing a rolling hard cheese down a hill started? ;0)

  • Snoozepossum

    Maybe, but you're going to get a response from someone else anyway.

    It IS racism for a Native American to say "all white people are suspect or bad". For the record, many NAs that feel that way feel the same about Asians, Hispanics, and Blacks too. It is also bullshit to credit people with acts they have not committed themselves. My Great-grandmother's people have their share of racists and bigots, just as any other group does. They are the ones who do as much to kill their cultures as any European, because they'd rather see it all vanish than let a non-card member, mixed lineage person, or anyone else learn it.

    How much progress can be made, when someone says "tell me what's going on right now, and talk to me about what to do about it", and an indigenous person says "piss off, you're not one of us, you're dirt"? I have asked this question, and been told I am stupid for asking, and that the only thing that would be acceptable is to return the continent back to it's pre-European state, and for all of us to die, mutts included. No mention of the fact that NAs were enslaving and killing each other long before the whiteys landed. That was okay, because it was it was all NAs.

    It seems that Joy Wandin Murphy does not use this approach. She will accomplish much more for her people than someone who does have such an attitude.

  • Gwendolyn Reece

    Continued…I think the point is that we have natural common ground with indigenous people from all over, that there are subsets of the Pagan community-writ-large that are facing many of the exact same challenges, and that we, as pagans, should focus more of our efforts to build appropriate bridges with indigenous people. I absolutely believe that the Trustees and others have the best of intentions in this discourse. To be blunt, I think many people of European ancestry feel guilt and shame that prevents us from reaching out to indigenous people because we don't feel worthy. That's not helpful. There are real challenges that need immediate action. I think that pagans of any stripe, being Earth-based, should be natural allies of indigenous people and that whether or not we can rightfully be called indigenous ourselves, we are certainly all the inheritors of the spirit of the indigenous European traditions. Let's find that common ground and act for the good of all.

  • apuleius platonicus

    While York does name names he does not provide much specificity about what makes one Native American leader a racist and another one not. The only evidence that he provides is that there was a single meeting of indigenous people "to which white Europeans and Euro-Americans were prohibited to attend". Anyone who wants to scream "racist" on that basis needs to go back to the history books.

  • Patrick McCollum

    Overall, as a faith group, (the term others have classified us as), our team kicked ass. We had one on ones with Catholic Bishops, world renouned Imams, Rabbi's, Orthodox Priests, Swami's and a myrid of other faith leaders … and we held our own. We even got a chance to give input to our own State Department, and to have an impact on U.S. domestic and international policy. Perhaps we're focusing our blogs on the wrong things. But then I guess that's for all of you to decide.

    Patrick McCollum

  • Nick Ritter

    "Sacred Cheese? Oh, that sounds so delightfully kinky! What, do they see who can stay longest locked in a small room with a large limburger?"

    Oh, that might work better, yes! The Sacred Cheese ordeal is one of those that were reserved for Christian clergy, because they were forbidden to participate in trial by combat. I think the gist of it was that a piece of cheese was blessed, the priest undergoing the "ordeal" bit off a piece of it, and the bite was observed for signs of decay: if there's no decay, the priest is innocent.

    "I suppose that ritualized combat between vastly mismatched opponents takes the form of Backgammon Deathmatch or something? 😉 "

    Hah! We might have to use that! But certainly we try to "even the field" between mismatched opponents; it really couldn't be an ordeal otherwise.

    I cannot deny that Hinduism has been more resilient than any of the religions that reconstructionists work with, and I hope they continue to be so. One does wonder where to draw the line between "reconstructionist" and "indigenous" all the same. Here's another example: Siberian shamanic traditions that have been suppressed under Russian and Soviet rule have suffered a loss of religious information. However, these traditions may have only been "broken", in some places for a generation or two, and in other places not at all. So, are the revivals of traditional shamanic religions in those areas indigenous, or reconstructionist, or (as I tend to think) both?

    "There's more out there than most people think, but it can be really hard to find unless you know what you're doing"

    That's quite true. I've often had people tell me that we couldn't possibly have enough information to reconstruct Germanic religion, and that therefore Germanic reconstructionism is a lost cause. You never know how much is recoverable until you roll up your sleeves and dig in to the information that's there, and figure out how to research the material.

    You also have my sympathy for popular misunderstanding of what is and is not "Celtic," as well as forged materials and the like. We have a certain share of those same problems, too, as well as the problem of people continuing to rely on bad and/or outdated scholarship. However, the long-standing popularity of "Celtic" things in popular imagination must be a particular burden due to the misunderstandings and misconceptions that creates. That's not something we have to deal with as much.

    "I often feel rather envious of folks who are called to traditions with more supporting materials to work from. "

    I can certainly understand that. I wonder how much you might have looked at the body of comparative research? I've found comparative Indo-European mythology to be quite a powerful tool.

  • Nick Ritter

    "Sacred cheese – is that where the thing about chasing a rolling hard cheese down a hill started?"

    No, but cheese-rolling looks like a lot more fun!

    "That whole "Heathens aren't pagans, dammit!" thing is why I started calling everybody a PHA."

    Yeah, it's a sticky question, that I've been trying to work out on another forum, as to whether we're all one, big amorphous religious stew, or whether we are several distinctive (although occasionally overlapping) religions with many common interests. I tend towards the latter, but interesting arguments have been made for the former. Also, what constitutes membership in a classification like "Pagan"? Is it a matter of self-selection (i.e. if you say you're a part of it, you are, and if you're not, you're not)? Or are there some objective criteria that included or exclude people regardless of what they themselves might think? I really don't know.

  • apuleius platonicus

    The most important advantage to the "one big happy family" approach to Paganism is that it helps to highlight the fact that violent, intolerant, monotheistic "religions" are, in fact, aberrant pathological cases, and are more properly thought of as "counter-religions".

    Paganism is the kind of religion that arises spontaneously from the innate religiosity that is inherent in human nature. A number of western scholars have recognized this going back to David Hume, Rousseau and Edward Gibbon. It is also beginning to be articulated more clearly by contemporary scholars who study the pre-Christian religions of the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.

    Human religion in it's natural state (ie, Paganism) has as much commonality, and as much diversity, as human language.

  • Erynn

    So how long did they have to observe the cheese for decay before they made the judgment? That sounds like an odd way to deal with it, but if it was "bite and judge" then it seems to me like it's rigged for the clergy to get off, which wouldn't be that unusual.

    The Siberian stuff is a hard call and really depends on the tribe and the practices in question. The Ulchi and Nanai did their last bear sacrifice back in the early 90s, declaring that it would no longer be necessary. Considering it involves raising a bear in the village for three years and that's horribly expensive (and rather dangerous) to do, I'm unsurprised they made that decision. The ritual itself was recorded on film. Some tribes have lost almost everything and have taken to pulling from "core shamanism" to get their own traditions back in order to some degree along with ethnographies of their peoples, and that does strike me as a reconstructionist situation in an otherwise indigenous population. Definitely a measure of both there.

    I'm absolutely engaging in comparative stuff. Hilda Ellis Davidson is high up on my list of great resources. I read a lot on comparative IE stuff and do a lot of reading on Hinduism as well. It helps but, sadly, not really enough.

  • Nick Ritter

    Hi Apuleius. Yours are the "interesting arguments" I was talking about. I do understand your point, really, about the "one big happy family" approach; that approach, taken to its logical conclusion, would classify all religions ("counter-religions" excluded) as just "Religion." Which perhaps is alright.

    However, your comparison of religion to language (a comparison I like: as a linguist, I draw many parallels between language and religion myself) suggest this point: While one can talk about generalities of Religion, in the same way one talks about generalities of Language, it is also useful to be able to talk about, and compare, different religions, as one does with different languages.

  • Nick Ritter

    "So how long did they have to observe the cheese for decay before they made the judgment?"

    A week, I think.

    "That sounds like an odd way to deal with it, but if it was "bite and judge" then it seems to me like it's rigged for the clergy to get off, which wouldn't be that unusual."


    I am impressed with your knowledge about the situation surrounding Siberian shamanism. This is a group of traditions I've been hoping would make a comeback for some time.

    Ellis-Davidson is a good source. Have you read any Georges Dumezil, or anyone in that school (Jaan Puhvel, Donald Ward, et. al.)? Some folks have a poor opinion of Dumezil, but I think he's been unfairly treated in academia. Also, the Journal of Indo-European Studies often has good material. I'd be very interested to know how you research, and in which fields of study.

  • apuleius platonicus

    Hi Nick,

    I was a linguist, too at one point. Well, I have a BA in it anyway, but never "did linguistics" other than to study it as an undergraduate (approximately 100 years ago).

    And just as linguists have no choice but to study language as it is, in all of it's variety and messiness, the same must hold for the study of religion. Generalizations have to be scrupulously, no, make that mercilessly, tested about "the data".

    And almost everything I've had to say, including in these comments on the Wild Hunt, comes from others ranging from Jan Assmann back to David Hume (whom Assmann also cites). I take it farther than they do, because they are not looking at things as a Pagan. Assmann actually presents himself as a potential reformer of monotheism, or, more precisely, as someone who can contribute to a process of reform that he claims has been going on since the Renaissance. That's where he and I part company, big time.

  • Erynn

    Znamenski discussed the Siberian situation at some length in "The Beauty of the Primitive", but I also studied off and on for over three years with an Ulchi woman who had firsthand experience with the bear ritual. One of her parents, incidentally, was Ainu, another tribe that has a similar bear ritual. Shamanism (in its ethnic manifestations more than its modern Western guise) has been an interest of mine for a long time and I take pains to find good info on the subject.

    I've certainly read some Dumezil and Puhvel, as well as Lincoln and others of that school. I think the tripartite society argument is a little overdone, but there's some good stuff there. I know of JIES (my roommate is getting an article published with them, I believe — he's a Celtic Studies PhD) but haven't had much chance to peruse the journal personally yet.

    I do a lot of my research work at the University of Washington library system. They have a really impressive research library and a library card is only $100 a year through the Friends of the Library program. It's worth every penny.

    A lot of my reading is on Hinduism, as well. I have a friend who owns a local Indian imports shop with a PhD in, I believe, Indian politics and he is a westerner who is qualified to lead puja and has done so in India with Hindu Brahmins. He's a fantastic source for all kinds of great information that most westerners don't have access to. Hinduism really does fascinate me and I have a lot of Indian art in my home. I'm particularly fond of Sarasvati and have a fair collection of her images. She has some really interesting similarities to Brigid and her place in relation to sacred poets in India is very similar to that of Brigid and the filidh in Ireland. There's an excellent book titled "A Poem at the Right Moment" by Rao and Shulman that deals with oral poetic traditions in India and the intro and after material is filled with some fabulous information about this topic.

    You can ping me privately anytime if you want to talk more, or just come by my LiveJournal. I'm erynn999 over there and my LJ is open to non-member posting and reading.

  • Nick Ritter

    Thanks for the invitation to your LiveJournal. I'll certainly check that out.

    As for Dumezil and tripartism, certain elements of the theory of tripartism in social order were indeed overstated, and Dumezil backed off of those overstatements later in life. The statement of tripartism that I think makes the most sense is that Indo-European ideology used tripartism as a way of organizing the universe on every scale, or which social tripartism is one manifestation. This takes the emphasis off of the idea of an original, tripartite Proto-Indo-European social structure as the origin of the rest of Indo-European tripartite ideology.

    I am interested in Sarasvati as well, as the "trifunctional goddess" in India. I have certain ideas concerning the trifunctional goddess in Germanic mythology, as well as in Celtic mythology, where she seems to have taken a very central role.

    In any case, I do look forward to conversing with you.

  • Nick Ritter

    "I was a linguist, too at one point. Well, I have a BA in it anyway, but never "did linguistics" other than to study it as an undergraduate (approximately 100 years ago)."

    Alright, now that you've said that, I feel the need to clarify my claim. I am a linguist insofar as I also have a BA in linguistics, and have continued to apply what I've learned there to the early Germanic languages that are so important to my religious tradition. Also, I still get a kick out of linguistic puzzles like these:….

    I don't want anyone getting the wrong impression that I do work like these folks:

    What they do is rather more impressive than what I do, and quite important.

    "And just as linguists have no choice but to study language as it is, in all of it's variety and messiness, the same must hold for the study of religion. Generalizations have to be scrupulously, no, make that mercilessly, tested about "the data"."

    Absolutely, I agree. Jaan Puhvel, in his book _Comparative Mythology_ talks about how comparative linguistics has grown out of its original trammels of comparative *Indo-European* linguistics, to the point that linguists have been able to group most of the worlds languages into families, and discover what elements of language are universal; many are now working on discovering the relationships between those language families. Much of this work has shed light back upon Indo-European linguistics.

    Comparative mythology, on the other hand, is still primarily comparative *Indo-European* mythology, and has unfortunately not yet undergone the broadening of scope that linguistics has. I think that such a broadening of scope would not only be a good in itself, but would also add context to the world of Indo-European mythologies, which could be nothing but good for those of us attempting to reconstruct Indo-European religions.

    John Leavitt, of the University of Montreal, had a very interesting article on the linguistic model for the study of religions. It was entitled "Dumézil Without the Functions: Some Roads Less Travelled,"in the Journal of Indo-European Studies, Vol. 34, Nos. 1 & 2. It might interest you.

  • Erynn

    Well, I'm certainly not rushing to resurrect the idea, though I've occasionally been known to utter the traditional phrase of contempt, "your head on my belt". It might be amusing to put plastic skulls on poles outside the door to warn potential miscreants but I suspect my condo association might have some objections. 😉

  • Gwendolyn Reece

    As someone who was at the Parliament and heard these lectures, I think that the context is perhaps not clear from this coverage. I did not interpret the distinctions as a way to try to legitimate religious discourse nor to exclude or drive wedges between people in the Pagan community. I think the issue is that there are some strains of pre-Christian European traditions that are surviving [barely] in remote areas and that face similar threats to those faced by other indigenous peoples…perhaps most importantly minority language rights and the surival of those minority languages, and protection of certain sacred sites. There were specific examples that were raised and Jonas Trinkunas (high priest of the pre-Christian Lithuanian Romuva religion) was also there talking about the Baltic situation. In these talks, Reconstrucitonist and new traditions were given every bit as much legitimacy as Revivalist, but the Revivalist require certain protections…as mentioned, language and protection of certain sacred sites. As I understand the Parliament, it is an international forum for people form different traditions to identify various critical issues that they are facing, find common ground, and stand in solidarity with each other.

  • Gavin Andrew

    I'm sure Andras will be able to clarify this for himself, but what I took away from hearing him speak was that modern Paganism is in a continuing process of connecting with its past. This is happening in a number of ways, including reconstructionism, reinterpretation (Wicca might arguably sit here) and renewal of existing indigenous traditions – Romuva was the one specifically examined in the presentation which Andras moderated.

    With this in mind, it seems to me that the fuss over categorizing Wicca as an 'NRM' rather than 'indigenous' is to a great extent beside the point.

  • Cat C-B

    "…in a continuing process of connecting with its past…"

    I like that. That resonates for all the Paganisms with which I am familiar. Maybe CAW would not fit this observation, but otherwise, it covers us from soup to nuts, from Wicca to Baltic survivals… It's got a good beat, you can dance to it… I give it an 8! *smile*

    Seriously, this is emerging more and more clearly as the heart of the presentation in question. And phrased like this, it makes sense.

  • Pingback: You’re only pagan if… « southern pagan()

  • Michael York

    Fair enough, Apuleius. During the Chicago Parliament of '93 (last century; not the 19th), I attempted (perhaps naively) to draw contemporary pagans, indigenous peoples, Shintoists and Confucians together into an alliance on the basis of a shared spiritual perception. Omie Baldwin told me near the end of the Parliament that I would have trouble with Native Americans and the word 'pagan' "because most Native Americans identify as Christians." OK, fast forward to when in Melbourne I greeted Baldwin and wanted to converse with her, she immediately walked away. I was not born yesterday, and I sensed that there was something else occurring. This led me to start asking a lot of questions from which I learned that Baldwin was instrumental in barring the wife of Baba Wande Abimobola from the Indigenous Assembly (despite her own long-standing initiation and priestess status) because she is white. Apparently other people were barred as well – white translators as well as indigenes from further afield. While the racist card is not shared by all indigenous peoples, Baldwin apparently took it upon herself to speak for the Assembly as a whole. There's more, including her subverting role within the Council for the Parliament as well, but you are not obliged to believe me. I am simply reporting _my_ impressions and gut reactions. But at the same time we did have one-to-one exchanges with Joy Wandin Murphy in addition to seeing her come up from behind a young Euro lady who was giving a tearful and emotional declaration to the room and gently and lovingly stroke her as the young lady sobbed out what she wanted to say. Of that kind of tenderness I do not think Baldwin would be at all capable.

    My essential point is that the Indigenous Peoples' Statement to the World mentions the need to address "contemporary problems of racism." But this is itself a two-edged sword: one cannot object to racism while being racist herself/himself. Moreover, as Seneca elder Don Hill informs me there are no 'pure blood' Native Americans. They are all mongrels as well. History books or not, let's drop the racist issue and move on and into a different future.

    For the rest, I agree with you concerning the 'one big happy family' approach to paganism and the 'counter-religions' of pathological monotheisms. But just as not _all_ monotheism is necessary pathological, not all paganisms are benign and benevolent. It's a mixed bag on both sides. But when 'our happy family' includes ethnic chauvinisms from Heathen and Slavic to Native American, I believe we owe it to ourselves to address it openly and honestly and, in the process, seek ways and resolutions to have it evaporate.

  • Michael York

    Dear Guest. As a sociologist, I am referring to what is known as an 'ideal-type'. This is less a classification or typology as such as a means for measurement, that is, establishing a standard against which to study any particular expression in order to _explain_ how and why it deviates from the ideal. Any given religion is inevitably a blend to one degree or more of several ideal-types. Ideally, however, there is one type to which the religious practice conforms over the others.

    In my own experience and study of religions, I have found that there are essentially four – and so far only four – ideal-types, namely, the abrahamic, the dharmic, the secular and the pagan. Of that whole gamut I mentioned from Wicca to new and/or invented practices, these could be argued as pagan over any of the other three. That being said, there are of course blends between two or more ideal-types in countless instances (and for pagans alone: Jew-pagans, Crypto-pagans, Christo-pagans, Buddhist pagans, secular pagans, etc.) Ideal-types are not intended to be used as 'categories', but this almost inevitably becomes the case. When it does, I believe that a broad category of pagan practices and beliefs becomes possible. This, however, is not intended to denigrate anyone's personal feelings or rights of disavowal. If paganism is not about the freedom for individuals and communities to choose who they are and how they wish to self-identify, I would prefer to have nothing to do with it.

    But to mention your concern with "our already small minority numbers," Christianity is subscribed to in one form or another by roughly one-third of our planet; Islam by one-fifth; secularism (atheism, agnosticism) by another fifth; and Hinduism/Buddhism by a fifth. The next largest spiritual orientation can be labelled pagan and comprises conservatively 5 or 6% of the world's population. This is not an insignificant figure. Apart from a range of new religions (chiefly third-world) representing about 2%, _all_ other religions (including Judaism, Sikhism, Jainism, Bahai and Zoroastrians) _together_ comprise _less_ than 1%.

  • Erynn

    ?But just as not _all_ monotheism is necessary pathological, not all paganisms are benign and benevolent. It's a mixed bag on both sides. But when 'our happy family' includes ethnic chauvinisms from Heathen and Slavic to Native American, I believe we owe it to ourselves to address it openly and honestly and, in the process, seek ways and resolutions to have it evaporate."

    Gods, isn't that the truth? I'm continually alarmed and sickened by the incidents of racism that I see around the Pagan community. Some groups and traditions are more susceptible to it than others, but we all have a very long way to go. Things like Steve Akins and his overt and abject racism while claiming to have a One True Druidic Way really disgust me.

  • Apuleius

    Thanks for the additional information. It sounds to me like rather small beer as far as "racism" goes. In fact I don't see how it merits that designation. But then that would take us down the road of having to define "racism" as well. I'll just say that I agree with those who think that there has to be some level of societal institutionalization and that the targets have to face a genuine pattern of racism that seriously disadvantages people throughout their lives. Even that understates matters dramatically.

    As far as monotheism goes, I agree with Egyptologist Jan Assmann who characterizes monotheism like this: "For these religions, and these religions alone, the truth to be proclaimed comes with an enemy to be fought." I find it interesting that Assmann self-identifies as a monotheist in his most recent book "The Price of Monotheism". He apparently believes that it is somehow possible to radically reform monotheistic religions, but only once monotheists are willing to face up and try to alter the intrinsic tendency to intolerance that has always been part of monotheism qua monotheism.

  • Erynn

    I think you folks did some fantastic work. Unfortunately, that sort of thing often gets lost in internal politics and terminology. I suspect a lot of people find it easier to deal with something closer to hand and more personal and so that's where they put their attention. Congratulations on your meeting with the Obama administration. I'm looking forward to seeing more of what came out of that.

  • Pingback: Great Kerfuffalo Rising « Pagan Godspell()

  • Ash Jao

    You have to be kidding me. I'm with Cat; I didn't vote for them to represent me either. (How did you become king then, I didn't vote for you) Ok let's get real. There is no indiginous, there is only reconstructionist. Anyone saying otherwise is full of beans. And probably calls himself Lord So-And-So.
    Let's stop this divisiveness before it gets out of hand (again). We need unity. Why can't we settle on being Pagans and leave it at that? Or Earth-based or Nature-based religions? Grrrr