Quick Notes: Murph Pizza, Foreclosures, Chas Clifton

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 26, 2010 — 46 Comments

Just a few quick news notes for you this Sunday morning.

Interview with a Pagan Anthropologist: PNC-Minnesota interviews Murph Pizza, a local Pagan and cultural anthropologist specializing in religions and American religious cultures, about “Pagan culture” and what common ground our diverse religions contain.

I make the argument in my thesis that yes, we do have some bottom, base line Pagan values. If you talk to Pagans, they have this weird cultural thing that we just disagree on everything and we’ll never agree on anything. That is really not true. We really are more alike than we realize. We seem to have a cultural habit of denying when someone says, “Well don’t you kind of share the same values?”, we say . “No we are all different, and we like that”. Interestingly, one shared Pagan value is the celebration of diversity. Diversity is one of the things it is hard to be unified about because, well it is diversity! <laughs> The fact that we are negotiating that we are sort of the same people and yet maintain our differences, values, paths, practices, etc, is a real interesting tension. I think it keeps the movement viable. It is frustrating when you are in it, but we need to remember that kind of tension keeps us living and breathing as a culture and a religion.

There is another shared value in that there is a genuine love of place, and of the planet. How it is expressed is where the diversity really hits. Some people become politically or socially active, like SuSu does with Coldwater Spring, or some people mya just keep it in their back yard. How it is expressed is different but there really is a shared sense that this spinning ball of mud is fantastic and it is all we have got. Let’s teach the next generation to keep it around. So that is just a couple of shared values. This shared divine sense of place and insistence on our diversity.

Pizza, who wrote her thesis on the Twin Cities (aka Paganistan) Pagan community, is in the process of having the work published as a book. I would recommend reading the entire, fascinating, interview.

Foreclosures in the Pagan Community: LA Pagan Examiner Joanne Elliott, who’s been doing an excellent job covering local Pagan-oriented stories, reports that Ed Fitch, Gardnerian elder and author of several influential Pagan books, has lost his home due to foreclosure.

“The place is stripped,” Ed Fitch reported on Tuesday of his Orange County home of 31 years as he showed off the empty rooms. He was not without a little nostalgia, though. “I raised my kids here, had a lot of pets,” he said. Then he laughed, “Had a lot of parties – pagan parties, the best kind!”

Fitch will be moving to Texas to live with his eldest son. Many have been hard hit in Los Angeles, though some, like Pagan performer Marguerite Kusuhara, have been able to modify their mortgage and remain in their homes. I suspect that these stories could ring true for many Pagans throughout the United States, as they try to save their homes in this economic crisis.

The Letters From Hardscrabble Creek: I’d just like to quickly note that Pagan academic Chas Clifton’s blog has been hitting on all cylinders the past couple weeks, and you should head over there if you haven’t lately. Covering Pagan chaplaincy issues, an American goddess, and several posts dealing with Pagan scholarship and the back-and-forth over Ronald Hutton’s “Triumph of the Moon” (and the new critique “Trials of Moon”), the results have been engaging to say the least.

“No topic is ever “closed.” Historical works—which is how Prof. Hutton would describe Triumph—are not holy scriptures. New thinkers and new generations bring new scholarship and new interpretations. But what Hutton has done is establish a standard. Anyone who challenges his conclusions (and given that ten years have passed, he has challenged some of them himself, I expect) must do at least as much in-depth research as he has done. They can’t just snipe from the sidelines. Rhetoricians talk about “invented ethos,” by which a speaker or writer displays their qualifications to engage a topic: I have studied such-and-such at this or that level. I have done such-and-such. I have experienced such-and-such. (“Invention” does not imply falsification in this context.) It is that level of ethos I see lacking in his critics—so far.”

I plan on exploring the ongoing Hutton/Trials of the Moon controversy/debate in more detail on this site soon, but until then, Chas’ blog is a good place to start your journey.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

    I've been enjoying Chas' very erudite and thoughtful posts this past week, too; great stuff!

    • kenneth

      Back when I believed debating Christians was a worthwhile exercise (fool that I was), I use to get a lot of grief about the whole "unbroken tradition" thing and the notion that we are playing at following a "dead" pagan tradition(s). This is one of my replies. I know it struck a nerve of truth. I got banned from their site!

      "…..And if the old gods are indeed, "long dead," why have Christian authorities had to work around the clock, seven days a week for 15 centuries to keep killing them? If it was all just the delusion of ignorant ancients and guys like me with long-haired "inner wind spirits", why have you been unable to vanquish it in any real sense of the word? Why is it that the old gods are always just an inch below the surface of the hearts and minds of the people in the cultures they once knew?

      Why the unquenchable thirst for things classical in the Middle Ages and Renaissance? How is it that the old gods, those foolish delusions, inspired so many magnificent paintings, sculptures, poetry, over many centuries among people who outwardly swore there was no merit in such things? In the first centuries of Christian ascendance, bishops and mobs made a point of destroying any pagan artifact they could lay hands on. Why couldn't the Church ever bring itself to finish the job? Why did monks in Ireland work so hard to preserve the tales and symbolism and other bric-a-brac of this ancient heretical foolery?

      Why has the Vatican lovingly preserved every pagan artifact and artwork from the ancient world it could lay its hands on over the centuries? Why did popes and princes spend vast sums of money commissioning NEW works on these contemptible dead gods? It's a bit over the top to be explained away by simple interest in historical curation. Historians study and collect other things from the past, but we don't, say, commission new chamber pots or light our streets with torches or recreate cholera and bubonic plague outbreaks – other things which we agree are better off dead.

      Why, if the Church fully vanquished paganism, did it become the subject of a bloody conflagration in the form of the Reformation? Yes, it was about clerical corruption and secular agendas as well, but a big rallying cry of protestantism was that the Church was shot through with pagan ritual and symbolism and had, they felt, been assimilated by pagan cultures rather than the other way around.

      These "dead" gods you killed off, who were just wisps of delusion, are giving you an awful lot of trouble it seems. More, I daresay, than can be explained by a few would-be hippies and rebellious goth kids.

      But don't despair. When a strategy isn't working, you just do what they did in Vietnam and Afghanistan – redouble your efforts. You'll get 'em next month!:thumbsup:

      • Robin Artisson

        Christianity itself isn't an "unbroken tradition". Modern Christianity barely resembles what we know early Christians were doing, and in most cases believing.

        • kenneth

          I've told them that at times. They also don't like hearing that. Nothing burns their ass like inconvenient truth.

        • Rombald

          The Catholic Church is not an "unbroken tradition" in the sense that modern Catholics believe and behave the same as Catholics throughout history, but it is in having institutional continuity from about 250 or 300 at least.

          This issue seems to me to to go to the heart of what we mean by continuity in Paganism. By analogy with nations, no offense meant, but I think you have an unexaminedly US view of what constitutes continuity – you're demanding something like the US Constution. Well, few countries are like that, and no country has such continuity longer than the USA. However, there are other types.

          Firstly, there is institutional continuity, meaning that every point has evolved from an earlier point, and at each point that is considered to be the country. This applies to England, Scolland, Denmark, Japan, Korea, etc.

          • Robin Artisson

            You seem to be addressing me, but I didn't say that the Catholic church had an unbroken tradition. I said that it didn't have one. I never said here what constituted "continuity" for me, so the statement you made to me doesn't make sense. Not having revealed what I believe constitutes "continuity", it's purely mystifying that you can know that I have an "unexaminedly US view".

          • Rombald

            Yes, but I;m saying that the Catholic Church does have an unbroken tradition, in a certain sense at least. I think the sense in which we talk about other religions, or nations, having unbroken existences is instructive for what we mean by "Paganism" having one.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            The "institutional continuity", found in both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox flavors of Christianity, is an interesting case. Christians do not, as a general rule, consider their religion to be defined by it's institutions. Even "the Church" is more likely to be viewed in terms of "wherever two or more are gathered in my name", than in terms of real estate and paper trails.

            But to the extent that Christians wish to claim this "institutional continuity" they must accept all that has been done by these institutions as their own acts.

          • kenneth

            As "modern pagandom" matures, I think we increasingly realize that we are an experiental religion, not one of revelation which percolates only down to a chosen few. As such, longevity or "apostolic succession" means nothing as a gauge of an idea, or a tradition's legitimacy. Christians will often try to imply, or state outright, that the supposed "unbroken" tradition of theirs is evidence of the power and rightness of the mythology underlying it. The staying power of an institution has much more to do with conditions in the mundane world rather than the power of ideas. The Roman Empire lasted a long time, but clearly it was not because Roman Imperial order was humanity's final and perfect condition. It lasted because it had the political and military skills to do so and because the conditions of the world favored it for many centuries.

            Continuity is a big deal to Christianity, especially Catholicism, because they hold that you can only have real access to the divine through intermediaries. Thus it becomes terribly important that your priest was "made" by a guy who was made by a guy etc stretching all the way back to Peter or whoever. A lot of that baggage and nonsense followed us into the early decades of the rebirth of paganism. Remember when you had to have a "lineage" to Gardner or Sanders to be a "real" witch? Then we had even more specious claims about ancient, unlikely and totally unprovable unbroken family trads stretching back to neolithic times? You still have people like that running around, but far fewer of them, and they're taken much less seriously, as it should be. If you're like most people i know, you've come to realize that there is no real correlation between a person's "lineage" and titles and whether they're the real deal as a leader, teacher or ritualist. If anything, the people who feel the need to wave a title in your face are almost always the ones with no game to back it up. For much of the 90s and on, it seemed like everyone over 19 was somehow a "high priestess." The title was usually proof only that the person was an adept at the middle school politics of coven life.

            The only "continuity" that matters is between you and your gods. If your tradition brings you closer to them and proves out over time in ritual and workings, it's more "real" than some "ancient" book of shadows which miraculously "surfaced" in the 1960s in obviously fabricated King James English.

            I don't know if my tradition is at all true to the "real" pagans of old (whoever they were). I'm not an Iron Age Celt. I'm a late 20th Century guy facing the challenges of the 21st Century, a world where change happens exponentially faster than it did in old times. I don't make my living in an Iron Age economy. I don't employ its medical, legal or transportation systems. Why would I want to use the exact same rituals as they used, even if I could know them? Why would I want to answer to a caste of priests who have not grown or changed with the world in dozens of centuries?

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            "Continuity is a big deal to Christianity, especially Catholicism …"

            Continuity is a big deal to the Christians (and especially Catholics), but only so long as they determine what "continuity" means. And it turns out that it "means" whatever they need it to mean in order to privilege themselves with "continuity" while denying it to others.

            Catholicism as we know it only comes into existence in the late 8th century AD with the alliance between the Franks and the Pope. It was founded by people who literally could not be bothered to learn the language in which the Gospels, Paul's epistles, the Nicene Creed, etc, were originally written, and in fact it's Greeklessness was one of Roman Catholicism's most defining features (and one of the things that most clearly announces its discontinuousness with the Christianity of the past).

            Roman Catholicism is also distinctly European in a way that was completely unknown to the Early Church. In fact, the "Europe" that is the natural homeland of Western Christendom (inclusive of both Catholicism and Protestantism) did not exist in the time of Jesus.

            Also there is continuity and there is continuity. Not all change is incremental. There have been multiple abrupt discontinuous changes in the history of Christianity. First there was the break from Judaism. Then there was the alliance of the "orthodox" Church with the Roman state. Then there was the arrival of Western Christendom in 800 AD. Then there was the cataclysmic and bloody birth of Protestantism. After each of these events Christianity little resembled what had gone by that name previously.

          • Robin Artisson

            A superb comment, Kenneth. In every sense of the word.

        • Rombald

          Continued:

          Secondly, there are many countries that have absolutely no institutional continuity with an earlier state, and yet still claim, on cultural or emotional grounds, to be historically legitimate. One example is Ireland. On an institutional level, Ireland has no legitimacy. The Kingdom of Ireland was created by Henry VIII, as a tool for English and Protestant domination. Dublin was a colonists' city, created by the Norwegians, taken over by the Normans, and then the English. Yet, you'd be asking for a fight if you claimed that Ireland was invented from scratch in the 1920s.

          • Robin Artisson

            Again, you appear to have addressed your responses to the wrong person.

      • Pagan Puff Pieces

        Ah, that was a satisfying way of wording it.

        I love the things out of canon that linger and haunt us. They can say so much more about people than the canon itself.

        • Crystal7431

          There's definitely a reason why mythology classes are so popular with school age and college age youth.

      • http://newenglandfolklore.blogspot.com/ Peter M.

        Great comment Kenneth! When I went to Venice I was amazed to see a big statue of Hercules on the roof of St. Mark's cathedral. The pagan gods keep reappearing throughout history, with or without institutional continuity of pagan groups. Look at how many of Shakespeare's plays they appear in: As You Like It, The Tempest, Cymbeline, MacBeth, etc. Shakespeare wasn't a pagan, but somehow he kept writing pagan deities into his plays.

  • Pitch313

    I'm thinking that, for Pagans caught up in the foreclosure crisis, it has not been because they are Pagans (not some kind of redlining).

    I get a chuckle out of Pagan values valuing the living expression of a range of different–yet valued as Pagan–values. It's the kind of paradoxical outlook that sometimes drives non-Pagans–who desire a monolithic set of values for everybody and all–crazy!

    Which is a little part of the joy of being Pagan!!!

    If your values ain't diverse, then you ain't beheld the Whole Universe!!!

  • Robin Artisson

    What about the Pagans who just don't care about diversity? I only mention this because historically, Pagan cultures- even ones we gush over being "very diverse", like Rome, still maintained core cultural identity-values, and didn't compromise them. When they did compromise them, their cultures came crashing down. "Being Roman" had a true meaning back then- it didn't refer to your diverse background or origin; it referred to the way you practiced Roman culture, which had specific and unique identifying marks, practices, and ways of seeing the world.

    The Romans assimilated ethnic peoples from all over the world primarily for financial reasons; having their nations under their command meant more money; it meant more troops; it meant more prestige. That the Romans allowed assimilated ethnic people to keep their religions and (sometimes) local rulership and unique cultures wasn't a statement about Roman "multi-culturalism", as much as a statement about Roman savvy. They knew how to placate conquered people. And it worked. And the Romans still looked down on foreign cultures as barbaric, to a great extent.

    Outside of Rome, which is an important place to remember, though we forget it a lot, your average village in the Iron Age, or tribe, or people, had a strong core of identity, and while they accepted that other people had different mileage, they were devoted to doing things the way their people did it. This isn't quite the picture that emerges from our modern notions of "multiculturalism" or "diversity". I know that there are many diverse cultures and ways of being human out there- I just don't care. I do it my way, along with my family and closest friends. So long as those great, diverse crowds that surround us don't interfere with us or what we need to live, I welcome them to do whatever they like.

    None of this requires me to philosophically approve of what others do or think; it doesn't require me to put aside time on my own calendar to help others do what they do; it doesn't require me to state, openly and publicly, my support for others or their diversity; it doesn't require me to admire others, appreciate others, or worry about their fortunes. It doesn't require me to equalize my own thoughts, practices, and feelings alongside those of others. It doesn't require me to defend others and their ways, or see them as "kin" somehow just because we happen to belong to a larger "movement" of diverse cultures, related somehow because we look to older Pagan models for our inspiration, spiritually speaking.

    Some may say "but their destinies and yours are politically and socially tied together- their gains in acceptance or civil rights helps you, somehow." To this I would say that I don't see us tied together due to our beliefs, but due to our humanity, nothing more. And besides, such is the nature of our "pagan community" that the very last thing I've ever seen is real solidarity, much tangible or organized contact, any understanding of real community, or anything of the sort- the vast majority of Pagans sit quietly anonymous, which I do not begrudge them, and the others, who try to go umbrella on us, tend to reflect extremes of politics and social life that I wouldn't be caught dead joining publicly.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      In the interview, Murph Pizza actually talks about diversity, not multiculturalism. I'm assuming she means that such diverse practices as Wicca, Asatru, and so forth are under the umbrella of "Paganism," not that each coven or grove incorporates a little bit of Wicca, a little bit of Asatru, etc in each ritual.

      I agree about Rome. The Inca Empire was similarly organized but I've never heard anyone going on about "Inca multiculturalism."

  • Robin Artisson

    As for Chas and his statements- superb timing and wording on his part; a legitimate complaint about ethos. However, (and this is a tangent from Chas, really) I think Hutton wins far too much automatic and undeserved respect due to his position as a "scholar". Having endured the time it takes to get a PhD and being able to write in a certain manner which is intelligible to other PhD's does not make a person anything special in my eyes. It makes them a PhD, and a person who can think and write in a particular manner- but it's just one manner among many.

    In that sense, they are special; they are specialized. But if we assume that a person who caters to the standards of "evidence" (so-called) set by the mainstream of academia is somehow making a more salient point, no matter what, than another person who relies on (let's say) poetry, for example, or intuition, or any of the other styles of experiencing this world and communicating about it, we've already lost much.

    I know a lot of people that might be considered "scholars." I've written substantial scholarly works myself during the many years I've attended institutions of higher learning, and I even have the thrice-cursed style manuals memorized (and work to forget them every day). I know the mainstream rules of "logic" and "debate". I know what qualifies as supporting evidence for anything a person might wish to write about. I know how to do the sort of research and writing that makes professors smile. And it means little to me.

    Scholars and professors have their own unique set of limitations, too- and we normally get faint of heart if we hear that brought up, because we're all convinced, at a deep level, that they "do it right" somehow, in a way that others don't.

    These scholars are people like anyone else- they shit the same, eat the same, have the same confusions, doubts, wonders, strengths and failings of character, as anyone else. They aren't automatically on the "next page" because they have letters behind their name. Information and "evidence" can be slyly bent and twisted to support absolutely any conclusion a "scholar" wishes to make. Their accepted criteria of writing and debate limits them, too, in what they will say, think, or conceive of.

    The only people who care about what they write, are other scholars, really, and the laypersons who have it in their heads that quoting scholars makes them look smart. We're talking about a single, small sub-set of population here. Most scholars bring the near-sightedness of academia with them to everything, and reframe everything to suit their assumptions, of which most have many. There is no "value-free" scholarship. Never has been, never will be.

    Any person who is literate, who is thoughtful, and who reads existing sources for anything, who studies related fields (especially language) and is honest about why they conclude what they conclude can make a stunning case for whatever they happen to be on about, PhD or not. And people who happen to not be literate, but who experience this world, in all its seen and unseen "diversity" (ha!) and who are honest about what they experience and why they conclude what they conclude can do the same, without writing a word.

    Note that I'm talking about experience and honesty here- a guy who knows absolutely nothing about a field, who decides to make up a lot about it, isn't being honest. But just because he's scaffolded his mind for 15 years in a certain field, according to that field's dominant scholarly approach, doesn't mean that he's automatically suddenly more compelling to me. He's just learned to draw conclusions according to a new set of rules, and those rules have this annoying way of getting in the way of the truth sometimes.

    The scholars who dare to bring poetry and intuition to their work are almost universally reviled, unless they hit it at an angle which is acceptable to someone. It's an ugly tap dance that just limits things further.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

      Scholarly writing which is engaging, and which is accessible to the smart layperson, is an uncommon talent, and in that respect Mr, Hutton is, indeed, special.

      • Robin Artisson

        I can agree that he kept my attention more than most- but was that him, or my already considerable interest in the subject matter? I never can tell.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511407690 Star Foster

          He's a very charming writer at times. TotM is perhaps one of his most engaging and charming books. I had a great deal of interest in the subject matter of some of his other books but the dry writing style in the first chapters killed me.

    • Rombald

      I do think that Hutton is over-rated. His conclusions go way beyond the evidence.

      More generally, I kind of agree with you about accredited scholarship. Howevr, I think two advantages professional academics do have are time, and access to good libraries.

      As a sweeping generalisation, most books are either (i) written by professional academics, or at least by independent scholars who ape an academic style, or (ii) are bilge, like some UFO books I read a while ago that quote newspapers but give no references to the sources. It is refreshing to read a book, such as that by Whitcomb (which started this debate off over on Chas' blog) that doesn't belong to either of these categories.

    • Rombald

      Continued:

      Another thing is that you refer to "intuition, or any of the other styles of experiencing this world and communicating about it". The trouble is that that sort of thing tends not to be open to independent scrutiny. I have, at times, helped with editing an earth-mysteries magazine, Northern Earth (good magazine, BTW – shameless plug). The rule there is that writers must be honest about their sources. You can write "my fellow witches all know Hill X to be the Womb of the Earth Mother", but not, without evidence, "Hill X has been worshipped as the Womb of the Earth Mother since Neolithic Times".

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511407690 Star Foster

    I am a little shocked that I appear to be one of the few who actually bothered to read Whitmore's book before commenting on it. I would never write a review off of an excerpt or off of second-hand knowledge.

    I'm also a little shocked at this recurring need to shoot down one of our own. Whitmore's book is a "finger pointing at the moon". Whitmore is flawed. Hutton is flawed. Frew is flawed. Murray is flawed. Graves is flawed. Our whole history is full of research that is controversial, but that doesn't mean the research is useless, malicious or deserving of sneering dismissal. All the work we do as Pagans researching our history is separating gold from dross. Instead of focusing on the gold some days it seems all we do is complain about the dross. What farmer tosses out the wheat because of the chaff?

    Some days I think there is nothing that will unite the Pagan community faster than pulling down someone who is accomplishing something, be that a book, a fundraiser, wining a legal right, or organizing a study group. Makes me sick.

    As far as foreclosures I know other Pagans are affected by this. It's a real shame and it's forcing Pagans to move not only from their homes but from their communities, their states.

    • sarenth

      As I've said before, considering all the information is a point of strength, not weakness. I think that, in considering our histories as Pagans, we should exercise caution as well as inquiry, bold questioning of accepted theories as well as arguing our points. Out of debate, comparison of relevant data, the growth of science and archaeology we have seen an incredible renaissance in how the fields of anthropology, historical research, archaeology itself, all operate and contribute to our understanding of ancient society.

  • http://www.thescarletwoman.com LeAnn Jones

    I did not know Ed Fitch lost his home to foreclosure. I bought my first home ever in April of 2004. My boys were 6 and 9 at the time. I loved it because it was a nice home, had a very big pond on the land and was a very roomy older style home. In November 2008 I had a custody case come up and paid out a lot of money and fell behind on my mortgage. For two years the mortgage company would not accept a payment (unless i paid the reinstatement fee) and I faxed them every paper they needed with my financial information. Even after my custody case, when my finances were back in order and they had it on paper, they still denied me. My house now has a for sale sign out front. It makes me sad when I drive by, but I know someone else will buy it and be just as happy as I was.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    When Triumph of the Moon was first published a Catholic priest I knew assumed it would deal a devastating. perhaps fatal, blow to Paganism. He wasn't aware that some of the same matter had been argued within the Pagan community a decade earlier when Aidan A. Kelly published his deductions as to where Gardner's original Book of Shadows had come from.

    • Robin Artisson

      Last I checked, Triumph of the Moon made Paganism seem more attractive to some.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Enough so to compose a coven ritual drawing upon it.

  • Rombald

    I don't think Pizza is right about "Pagans" sharing diversity and love of place/nature.

    For a start, racist Pagans don't value diversity. There are also quite a number of our-way-is-the-one-true-path Pagans.

    As for love of nature, I've been told here before, in no uncertain times, that I shouldn't assume that all Pagans are dirty, tree-hugging hippies like myself (not that I'm really like that myself).

    I don;t think the word "Pagan" has any meaning, except as a catch-all term for people who are not Abrahamic, Buddhist or scientific materialist. I actually tend to avoid using it, preferring "animist".

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      The meaning of the word "Pagan" is very simple.

      When used in an historical setting (that is, when referring to people and events in the past), "Pagan" refers to adherents of religious traditions that preceded Christianity (or, more precisely, they preceded Christianization, which generally arrives at a particular locale sometime, often a very long time, after the advent of Christianity itself).

      When referring to contemporary people and events, "Pagan" refers to adherents of religious traditions that are based on historical Paganism (possibly as direct continuations, or as revivals or "reconstructions" or whatever).

      There really is no reason for anyone to be confused. Modern Pagans do not worship "new" Goddesses and Gods. Rather, we worship the very same Deities as historical Pagans. Therefore, from a purely theological perspective, modern and ancient Paganism are identical, as everyone knows.

      • Rombaldf

        About the historical context, fair enough, as long as you include Isamisation as well as Christianisation.

        About the modern context, there are lots of people who describe themselves, and are described by others, as Pagans who do not worship the same gods that historic Pagans worshipped. You are free to claim that they are not Pagans, but it is always tricky telling someone that they are using inaccurate self-descriptions.

        As I say, I use the term in a catch-all sense to include disparate people who do not fit it a number of other categories (Abrahamists, Buddhists, scientific materialists). Other meanings with which the term is sometimes used are+

        1. People whose beliefs are close to those of late-classical Pagans, who coined the term, ie. worshipping Mediterranean (or perhaps Celtic) gods, probably tending towards Platonist philosophy, etc. I guess this if fairly close to your meaning.

        2. People who have a particular set of spiritual/moral/political values, as exemplified by Starhawk, etc. Bonewitz, for example, used to state that no Pagans are homophobic, or racist.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

          I am not convinced that there are "lots of people" who self-identify as Pagans but who do not worship ancient Deities. Pretty much all flavors of Wicca worship ancient Deities (especially anyone who includes The Charge of the Goddess in their rites), as does anyone who identifies with "Goddess" type religions, and so do all of the various hyphenated ethno-Pagans, inclusive of those who don't much care for the Pagan label and prefer Heathen, Hellene, etc.

          • thehouseofvines

            What about Discordians and SubGenii? What about Chaotes who work with pop culture icons like Bugs Bunny and Spider-Man? What about Pagans who don't believe or worship in gods at all, feeling that they are just archetypal figures to be exploited in their own magical operations? What about Pagans who use the ancient name of a deity but ascribe vastly different personalities, histories, attributes, etc. to them (eg. the Morrigan as a goddess of love and light, Amaterasu as the consort/lover of Apollo) None of these necessarily meet your criteria, yet I guarantee you'll meet droves of them at your next Pagan Pride event.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            "What about Discordians and SubGenii? What about Chaotes who work with pop culture icons like Bugs Bunny and Spider-Man?"

            Indeed, what about them? Few people practice these traditions in any systematic or exclusive way. Some might take a rigidly doctrinaire position rejecting the worship of all ancient Deities, but very few self-professed Discordians, etc, do that. I think people like Jason Miller are more prevalent. He's so all over the place that he's even an Episcopalian on top of everything else.

            "What about Pagans who don't believe or worship in gods at all, feeling that they are just archetypal figures to be exploited in their own magical operations?"

            Again this depends on how rigid and doctrinaire someone is. Many Christians do not literally worship Jesus, but merely think of him as a "good man". But that does not mean they shouldn't be categorized as Christians. Or maybe it does, but then you are on a very slippery slope at the bottom of which there are very few "real" Christians.

            "What about Pagans who use the ancient name of a deity but ascribe vastly different personalities, histories, attributes, etc. to them (eg. the Morrigan as a goddess of love and light, Amaterasu as the consort/lover of Apollo)."

            Ancient Pagans also worshipped deities while ascribing their own highly idiosyncratic qualities to them. Obviously. Or were you under the impression that at one time all of the characteristics of all Goddesses and Gods were neatly and universally agreed upon?

            None of these necessarily meet your criteria, yet I guarantee you'll meet droves of them at your next Pagan Pride event.

            What is it that you believe my criteria to be? You seem to be confused about that.

          • thehouseofvines

            Scroll up a couple comments and you'll see where you set down those criteria. I tend to agree with you for the most part, at least on a theoretical basis of what the requirements of Pagan identity should be, but the reality, as with most things, is often much more complex and messy. The fact is a lot of people with diverse backgrounds, understandings and approaches are attracted to this religious continuum and claim the label for themselves. I think it's a losing battle to argue who the "true" Pagans are at this point, which is why I generally avoid such discussions. Personally, I don't put much stock in the term, favoring more accurate descriptors of what I do and believe. Eg. I belong to the Pan-Mediterranean or Greco-Roman-Egyptian intellectual-cultural tradition, I'm a local focus polytheist, I'm a Dionysian and devotee of Hermes, etc. I don't deny that I belong within the Pagan category, I just don't have a vested interest in it or belief that all Pagans believe and act alike and are part of one big happy family.

          • Bookhousegal

            Well, I don't think the SubGenius counts as Paganism, (though I regard some of it with a certain amount of affection, it's clearly a 'prophetic revealed tradition' at its heart, even by way of satire and perhaps describing/reveling in the madness of a lot of that. And I suppose there's nothing stopping Pagans from syncretizing '"Bob," either. :)

            Discordians, on the other hand, are often *quite* Pagan, just contrarian ones.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            Well, my single criterion is "anyone who worships ancient Deities", but I think you are interpreting that much too narrowly, at best. In fact, your interpretation of my criterion leads me to doubt that you understand it.

            How do we judge whether or not someone worships ancient Deities, or, more precisely, whether or not someone does not do so?

            Both historically and in modern times it is generally assumed that "Pagan" means exactly what my "criterion" holds: a Pagan is someone who worships ancient Deities. This is explicitly assumed throughout the literature of Wicca and Goddess spirituality, and most other categorizable thingies that end up under the heading of "Pagan". It is also explicitly assumed wherever "Pagan" is used in the historical sense.

            Therefore it is reasonable to assume, by default, that my "criterion" applies to Pagans generally, because that is how the word is used generally. Then there remains the question of exceptions, which one must allow for at least potentially. Are these numerous or significant in any way? Do they in any way undermine the underlying assumption that Pagan=worshipper-of-ancient-Deities? Most importantly: how are such exceptions identified?

            Since Pagans are (as everyone knows) ancient-polytheists by default, any exceptions would have to be people who insist on calling themselves Pagan while also explicitly rejecting all ancient Goddesses and Gods. They must do so not just in words, but in deed, which means that these "Pagans" would have to overtly withhold any kind of reverence for the old Gods, which in turn means that they would have to exclude themselves from any sort of religious observances or rituals in common with the vast bulk of Pagans. Which would mean that you would not, in fact, run into these folks at Pagan Pride events.

            My assumption is that such people are rare and their existence is of marginal significance with respect to the meaning of the umbrella term "Pagan".

          • Robin Artisson

            "Pagans who don't worship ancient deities" or who "reject all ancient Gods and Goddesses" would be about as meaningful as Christians who don't worship Christ and reject any and all notion of God.

          • Rombaldf

            I take with a pinch of salt the literal existence of ancient gods, as I have no evidence for their existence, although mythology, especially Germanic, does speak to my heart. My religious beliefs don't relate centrally to God or Gods at all, but directly to nature, especially in hiking, climbing, XC skiing, gardening, etc.; to specific places with a sense of holiness; to ghosts and minor spirits; to reincarnation; and to trying to find an embodied, localised morality. I now live in Japan, and, if I have to pin myself down, I might describe myself as Anglo-Shinto.

            You're welcome to tell me that I'm not Pagan, and I don't mind, as I hardly ever use the term anyway, but a lot of people like me would take offence, and I also don't see who set you up as the arbiter.

          • Robin Artisson

            You're a drama queen spoiling for a fight, looking to be persecuted for your "personal path", I see. Call yourself what you want, "Anglo-Shinto". If you've seen one white guy who likes to play with samurai swords and think himself a great enlightened being, you've seen them all. Even the Shinto have powerful spirits who absolutely meet the criteria of Gods and Goddesses in the west. Get over yourself. The Gods don't have to prove themselves to you, and what you think is irrelevant to what historically defines "Pagans".

          • Rombaldf

            I don't see why you speak to me like that.

            I certainly have no interest in being persecuted. I also have not the slightest interest in martial arts or all that dodgy samurai stuff.

            I was only using myself as an example, pointing out that you and Apuleius cannot use "worship of historic gods" as a criterion for Paganism without ruling out a lot of self-described modern Pagans. If you want to set yourself as some sort of Pagan Pope, defining orthodoxy, then it's really you who should "get over yoursefl".

  • TeNosce

    The article says, "…Some people become politically or socially active, like SuSu does with Coldwater Spring, or some people MYA just keep it in their back yard."

    I cannot help but wondering if the use of MAYA here was a typo or Freudian slip, as in, "some people are socially active, while others indulge in illusion in their backyards."

    • Crystal7431

      I think that's supposed to be "may" but your suggestion created a visual that left me giggling.