The Pagan Terminology Discussion Continues

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 29, 2011 — 298 Comments

I put in my two cents yesterday, and the Patheos Pagan portal continues to gather different perspectives, but I thought I’d highlight some of the voices that have sounded off on the issue of using “Pagan” as a descriptor for our diverse movement since Friday. Let’s start with T. Thorn Coyle, who’s written extensively on this subject before, and now weighs in again.

“I’m all for self-definition. I’m also, as I’ve stated before, suspicious of too much clinging to solid identity. There is also a sense, though, that a larger umbrella of association can be of help to us. There are commonalities of worship and belief and practice, even while there are stark differences among us. I’m with Drew in that I’ve attended Druid rituals that were a lot more in line with other neoPagan rituals than I had hoped or expected. There is a homogeneity that has crept in that feels problematic, but I don’t feel there has to be. I would far prefer that Heathen and Druid rituals look almost nothing like Wiccan rituals and that we could all learn something from this cross pollination, and still sit around the same fire, sharing the beverages of our choice. Why? Only ever sitting in our separate enclaves feels like we are missing out on some opportunities for growth and self-examination. Why do we do ritual in the way we do? Why not? How do we interact with our Goddesses and Gods? What is our theology and why?

Sitting around the fire with people we don’t agree with pushes us to become better, to think more deeply, to practice more concretely, to stretch our muscles. When we only live in association with like-minded folk, we are the lesser for it. There is nothing that says we cannot associate with a wide variety of groups without all coming under a common rubric. But the reality is, mostly we don’t and won’t. Mostly, we will drift further and further apart, coming back to the sense of, “We are not like those people over there. They are of a different tribe. We have our own.” The thought of that saddens me.”

Another thoughtful essay comes from P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, who examines the (perceived) problem with Pagan.

“It seems to me that much of the discussion elsewhere on the internet over the validity and appeal, or lack thereof, of the term “pagan” is because far too many people are mistaking it for a religion rather than a descriptor. They then feel left out or marginalized or not accurately described by the term because they have conflated the descriptor with another religion–usually Wicca–and then they observe that Wiccan practices and beliefs do not align with their own, and thus don’t apply to them; or, they observe Wiccans have not represented their beliefs in their rituals and presentations and events, and thus they feel excluded because of that, and also feel that there is no interest in other types of paganism within Wiccan contexts. I don’t mean to downplay the experiences or the feelings of the people who have described their approaches to the term in these sorts of ways; indeed, I think that the generic Wiccan assumptions that portray themselves as “Pagan” need to be seriously questioned, and true inclusiveness needs to start happening on a much larger scale than it has previously. But, likewise, I don’t think that any of us should just “let them have the term” either–we need to do everything we can to prove true the phrase that “Not all pagans are Wiccans” (and perhaps later we can also address the fact that “not all Wiccans are pagans” as well…but that’s a side issue for the moment!).”

Daughters of Eve Contributor Nouvelle Noir Goddess gives an African Traditionalist perspective.

“In my experience with the African Traditionalist “community” there are even debates on what individuals prefer to call themselves: Yoruba based religions, African Traditional Religion, Pagan, our exact religion name (Ifa, Vodou, Hoodoo, Batuque, ect). We also don’t come into an agreement with names of practitioners (Bruja/Brujos or Curanderas for Spanish speaking practitioners, mainly Mexico, for an example). Even in my native familial country of Haiti there is many divination of what Vodou is. Some believe that monotheism best describes the religion. Since there is a Supreme Deity, who is remote or “active” pending on the practitioner. Monotheism doesn’t have negative connotations for many Haitians. Similar to Catholicism is seen as Monotheist with saints as intermediaries. So, it is with the concept of monotheism in Vodou (and its many forms: Vodun, Vodu, Voodoo,ect) or Fon Religion (Vodou is Fon based not Yoruba based). Nevertheless, there are individual practitioners who find comfort with using the terminology of polytheism/polytheist for they don’t feel the connection with the Supreme deity. At times, the Supreme deity can be “out of sight out of mind.”

There is another growing use of the terminology of “Pagan” and “Wiccan” with many immigrants from Latin American society who still holds onto their indigenous practices. For many immigrants identifying themselves as “Wiccan” is away to inform “the others” who are not of their practice that their religion is “peaceful” and “nature based.” I’ve actually heard Santeria practitioners tell others that they are Wiccan. Their intention is not degrade the actual Wiccans but to inform U.S. unknowledgeable “spectators” that they are not sinister, since Wicca is a religion that most “mainstream” Abraham followers at least heard of or know of. Believe it or not, it does hold less negative stigma to refer oneself as Wiccan than hougan, mambo, Vodou/Santeria practitioners, and the likes. I’m sure Wiccans born in the states and raised in the states may not believe it. Yet, it is these individuals truth. So, many times when I tell individuals that I am Pagan, who are not Pagan, jump into the next question of, “Are you Wiccan?” Wiccan is not seen as a “threat” than being from a religion that is not indigenous or known in the U.S. Yes, there is more awareness of Wicca than any other “Pagan” denominations/faith. This is were I can appreciate non-Wiccans sentiments in feeling alienated by the media.”

Finally, Star Foster interviews Drew Jacob, who got this whole ball rolling in the first place.

“It’s an effort to be as honest with the community as we can be. People can define Paganism however they want, but the fact is that when we call ourselves Pagan and focus on a Pagan-identified audience, we get a lot of disappointed guests. None of my students feel like they are part of the Pagan community, and most of our community members don’t, so why would we lie and say we’re part of it?

I let the community steer me on this one. A few years back I assembled a document that exhaustively described all the branches of Celtic religion from the Iron Age to today. I included everything, even Celtic Christianity and Romano-Celtic syncretism. I asked the students to discuss where in this document our tradition, the Old Belief, would fall. They came up with some really astute observations that helped us define ourselves. They told me we didn’t fit with the “Pagan” groups. So really, it was a matter of community consensus.”

There’s even more from Peter Dybing, Teo Bishop, Lamyka, Crystal Blanton, and Alorer (among yet more still). I think there’s been a lot of productive thoughts and comments made on this issue so far, but I hope the next step is to start talking to each other and working on ways to still collectively accomplish larger goals while allowing our distinctiveness to be expressed.

 

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Star Foster

    It's my hope that this discussion encourages people to listen to each other's concerns, rather than talking at or over each other. If we truly are all in this together, then we should all be concerned if a tradition feels marginalized.

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

      But who is being marginalized in this case? Drew's group? Wiccans? Pagans? Small 'p' pagans? It's great to find differences between all of the beliefs that fall under Paganism, but wouldn't it be better to also focus on what binds and ties us together? The commentary provided by Drew left me agreeing with some parts and also shaking my head that moderns pagans can't yet advance beyond details that divide us. To quote my wife's commentary, "a duck is a duck is a duck, even if you cut its webbed feet off and give it a silly non-provable historic hat."

      • Star Foster

        At Pantheacon I spoke with several Recon folks who did feel as if there wasn't "a place at the table" for them.

        • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

          Well they (recons) either have two choices, make room at the table if they wish to be included or don't enter the room. I don't get that view myself, as I've always felt recons of all sorts are a vital part to the discussion of Paganism as a whole.

          • Star Foster

            Right, and that's why they're leaving, because you shouldn't have to fight for a place in a theoretically inclusive community. It's like saying you can't join the Pacifist Club until you've made your first kill.

          • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

            Who is making them feel like they don't have place at the table?

          • Star Foster

            Maybe you should read some of the responses from Recons.

          • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

            Thanks, I will do that.

          • Bookhousegal

            I have to admit that it seems that part of the problem is that too many Recons seem to claim to feel 'marginalized' when they can't come up, say, often none too politely, 'You're all Wicky-poos, slavishly following Wicca and chaotically doing whatever you please cause you're not all the same… You're doing this, and this and this and this, unlike me, which means you're all wrong, look, here's my books, and what I say about them, this is the Real Thing, you should all be like me, or you're excluding me,' …and for a lot of people in groups, it's not about rejecting someone's *beliefs,* it's just that what they came to *do* at the table isn't what that table is *for.*

            In short, many of the posts from recons are kind of less-than respectful of what they want to be 'included' in. It's not that people don't *value* Heathens or other recons or scholars, it's just that some seem to insist 'You neo-Pagans don't!' And that's not about seats at the table, in some ways, it's about *manners.*

            I've often been a little torn about my own participation in some more-scholarly sorts of, say, Druidry, and I certainly am not criticizing their beliefs, nor wanting to overplay the 'divisions,' (Since I hold a lot of those beliefs, myself: the thing is, it turned into more of cultural study… Like candy, …but in my case I ended up mostly writing poetry and making references few in the community would *get* when what I wanted most was to *serve* that community *as* a community. And just because there were a lot of irksome times of people saying, of present needs and practices 'That's not sourced: you can't do that!" and being like, 'Oh, yeah, watch this… :) '

            (We *have* picked up a few tricks and learnings since the old glosses, after all, and if we hadn't we'd really need to: the world's changed, too.)

            It's not why I parted from that estimable company, actually, but a lot of these things that are complaints of various recon groups really do go both ways: For those called 'eclectics,' that's simply not as close to our prime concerns or necessarily self-definitions, is all. Inclusivity means being *inclusive,* and *sharing has to go both ways, too,* as well as respect.

          • Grant

            "In short, many of the posts from recons are kind of less-than respectful of what they want to be 'included' in. It's not that people don't *value* Heathens or other recons or scholars, it's just that some seem to insist 'You neo-Pagans don't!' And that's not about seats at the table, in some ways, it's about *manners.* "

            You seem to be missing the point. We don't want any seats at the proverbial table. That table just isn't for us because we don't have anything substantive in common with mainstream Pagans.

          • Bookhousegal

            Then you're clearly not one of the ones complaining of being 'marginalized..

          • Grant

            Very few, if any, of us would actually complain about such a thing. We Recons have our own approach, an approach which starkly disagrees with the "whatever feels right" approach found in a lot of Pagan groups. This difference of approach is why many of us *willingly* stay away from such groups – you go your way, and we'll go ours. We simply ask that you not make Straw Men out of our perspectives.

          • Maryte Danute

            I agree. I just tend to walk away myself, as a Baltic Recon. I have nothing in common with the "pagan community" except that my faith isn't judeo-christian. I'll socialise, but I've given up even discussing my path with others.

          • crystalblanton

            Sometimes we have to create our place at the table. I have been at that place many times, as I am sure others have too. I am not willing to allow differences to prevent me from being a part of my community as I would encourage others the same. I think it would be incredible for us to create community together and celebrate all the differences that make our experiences unique.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            Every Wiccan who has ever told us "that's not how you do it" when, in reality, that's just not how THEY would have.

          • kenneth

            And when they leave, they cede what is their birthright to the non-inclusive/intolerant crowd and then reproduce that model by creating another little Balkanized group of their own where they won't ever have to feel challenged to understand someone unlike them. It would be great if we all had that "perfect love and perfect trust" thing mastered, but then we wouldn't need any religion or any trads at all. In the real world, human relations take some work and some tolerance for frustration (not an infinite one, certainly). If separatism is the answer anytime we don't feel like we have the seat at the table we want, the only ultimate solution is to all become totally unaffiliated solitaries.

            Those who don't like "paganism" are going to find that "polytheism" or whatever other term isn't any greener a pasture up close. They're going to find, very quickly, that it takes on some connotation that doesn't agree with them. It will get co-opted and dominated by some majority that doesn't represent them. Some group that's too fluffy or too freaky or who hogs all the cool ritual parts for themselves at community gatherings. This will happen at ALL scales of organization, by the way. (The old "as above, so below model, which is admittedly very Wiccan of me to say). Even those of us who have been fortunate to find a coven that is a well-defined tradition and a good match for us, let's be honest with ourselves. Even in our tight little home group, things are not all that we want them to be. There is some aspect of ritual or teaching that doesn't quite jive with what we experience in our own lives. Some elder or newbie who just annoys the hell out of us. Sometimes a majority of the group which just refuses to see the wisdom in something we're proposing.

            Sometimes leaving is indeed the solution, but it's one that is taken too lightly by too many people. Nothing worthwhile was ever created by retreating.
            To put it on yet another scale, we shouldn't have to fight for a place in our own political and legal system. Our country was founded on the explicit premise that nobody should have to do so. But we must, and we do because we know there's no strife-free untilled homeland or magick kingdom out there in the wilderness for us to run to.

            For the sake of argument, let's agree for a moment that there is no realistic pagan "ecumenism" worth pursuing, no common religious identity. Paganism still stands for something as a movement – religious freedom if nothing else. Not a unique concern of pagans of course, but nobody is going to look after our interests in that area in the same way we can, because it affects us all in ways that are more similar than not. Every advance we've made we've made by working together, and even then, it was usually by the skin of our ass. Does anyone think that an "Un-pagan, not-connected with anyone else" Wiccan or Helene or Roman Recon splinter alliance is going to win any of those battles on their own?

            The instinct in separatism is to keep one's head down, disavow any radical voices, keep with your own kind and below the radar and everything will be okay. It makes a certain amount of intuitive sense, but before you commit to it, you may want to ask some of the older members of the gay community how that strategy worked for them in the pre-Stonewall days.

          • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

            Well said Kenneth, well said. Pretty much everything I was going to make points on.

          • cara

            Polytheist is a wider and more inclusive term than Pagan. (even though not all Pagans are polytheists) There are more religious groups than (some)Pagans who are polytheists. Claiming a polytheist identity, whether you also claim the identiifer Pagan as well, wouldn't separate yourself into a smaller group. It would place you in a much larger one.

          • Grant

            "The instinct in separatism is to keep one's head down, disavow any radical voices, keep with your own kind and below the radar and everything will be okay."

            That's a bit of a Straw Man, kenneth. Many of us who call ourselves Heathens dissociate ourselves with the term "Pagan" because we have little in common with the majority who use the term. We don't worship nature, cast circles, use Tarot, or anything of that nature – our approach is essentially archaeo-spirituality, an approach which lends itself to understanding what our ancestors did and why they did it. We're not trying to involve ourselves in political movements, either – we prefer to involve ourselves in our respective geographical communities and make good names for ourselves in those.

            In short, we have a fundamental difference of approach and as such we don't want to have a seat at the proverbial Pagan table. Your criticisms are unwarranted and ill-informed – we don't dictate your approach, so don't attempt to dictate ours. If you leave us alone, we'll happily leave you alone as well.

          • harmonyfb

            We don't worship nature, cast circles, use Tarot, or anything of that nature

            But there is a tradition of treating with wights and other land spirits (nature is imbued with the sacred), you have sacred space within which you meet to worship, and you use the runes (ie, you perform divination). Potato, potahto.

            In other words, there are a lot fewer differences than you seem to think.

          • http://kallisti.writingkaye.com Kayleigh

            Hellenists have that, too, and it's just not the same thing. It's not just that some places are numinous or held to have spiritual power — it's how we recognize it and what we do there that matters. And we worship deities and local spirits who are integrated with the natural environment — so even though I would also consider this "Earth-centered," it's definitely not Earth-centered according to a more Wiccan framework because our relationships with them are different. We also have methods of divination.

            With the argument you have raised, Hinduism, Shint?, and some forms of Buddhism would also fall under your definition despite the fact that many in those groups would rather remain their own distinct entities. Every religion has different ways of describing the sacred and doing everything you just subscribed. The fact that they're all conceptualized differently actually matters.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            So we (recons) either fight our way onto the table, or we are ignored? Wow, that's going to go over real well either way we go. If we are ignored, we still get to be marginalized. If we fight, we are seen as confrontational, violent, and an unwelcome guest who is forcing themselves uninvited into something. Nice, Dan, really nice.

          • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

            I didn't say "fight", I said make room, if it's important to you, as a reconstructionist, to be at the 'Pagan' table. I said nothing about violence or any of the sort. I love having recons, heathens, and all the rest at the Pagan table. Never seen or heard of recons as unwelcomed guests from any of my experiences either.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            I'm seeing a lot of similarities in what you say as I see from other types of privileged people who are equally ignorant of the fact of what the real cost is to marginalised people to "make room at the table" for oneself.

            Get called an "uppity homo" and be accused of "wanting special rights" enough, and you'll see what I mean.

            There are very real risks that Recons and similar paths face when expecting to be represented and welcomed at pan-pagan events, and I don't think that Wiccans and Wicca-based bagans really appreciate that when they say "of course you're welcome" from a position of relative privilege in that community.

          • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

            Risks faced at pan-pagan events? Seriously? Talk of privilege among pagans? Really?

            I can see this topic has run out of ideas and is about to slide into a pile of excrement.

            Best of luck Ruadhán in your future and blessings upon you.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            Privilege is always contextual. Just like a lower working-class white person has pretty much no real privilege driving through Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (or any highly wealthy community), a non-Wiccan at an event where Wicca is the dominant class is disenfranchised while Wiccans are privileged.

            Privilege is merely the ability to say that one's own demographic is the "assumed default". Therefore, Wiccans are not only privileged at pan-pagan events, they are privileged in the majority of discussions concerning modern "paganism" by the fact that Wicca is the assumed default.

            Your inability to acknowledge this privilege, preferring to be offended by one who merely points it out to you, speaks very greatly to whether or not you actually care about making non-Wiccans feel welcomed at pan-pagan spaces (as if your previous statement didn't already).

          • DanMiller

            I'm not offended, but am highly bemused. Methinks that you should hang out with a better group of Wiccans or something. Or better yet, do your own pan-pagan events, then there is no excuse for 'privileged' wiccans spoiling your fun. DIY (do it yourself) is the answer for most things when your feeling marginalized and otherwise persecuted. Keep us posted on how your event is shaping up, cheers!

          • http://kallisti.writingkaye.com Kayleigh

            I think that what "privilege" means in this context needs to be made more clear. It is a sociological term. People outside of certain backgrounds may have a difficult time wrapping their heads around it the first few times they hear it, but I can assure you that it doesn't always encompass persecution.

            We're not talking about obstinate people here (although there are those, too). Privilege in this context is very much like privilege in sexual orientation. If a heterosexual couple walks down the street holding hands, the public generally has an unspoken acceptance of this symbol of their relationship. However, if a same-sex couple walks down the same street, they may receive unpleasant stares or remarks, so they have to be conscious of WHERE they are before they even consider holding hands. The heterosexual couple in this example is not actively taunting same-sex couples. They're just doing what they've always done. The fact that it's not the same for the same-sex couple — that they have anxieties about what shouldn't be a big deal — shows heterosexual privilege at work.

            Wiccan privilege is very much the same. When you go to a festival, the "default" is a Wiccan-based spirituality, complete with eight Sabbats spaced six weeks apart, no matter what you say your background is. Most Wiccans are completely unaware that by assuming everyone has the same general framework, they are actually marginalizing a large minority of people who do not hold to the same views.

            Often, things that are recon are seen as exotic and strange. When I performed a libation and invited one or two Wiccan friends, they were very uncomfortable with the lack of circle-casting because it conflicted with their view that circles were necessary for ritual. This comes from the expectation that people who are in the community will perform their spirituality in very set ways. It can be very difficult to make space for recons in this kind of environment.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            While "DIY" sounds like a good idea, you're basically saying that only those with the resources have the right to not feel marginalised, cos that's ultimately how you're coming across. Ultimately, it's mainly Wiccans who have those resources — if only because their part of the pagan&polytheist community is so big that they can pool their resources.

            This also has absolutely nothing to do with the Wiccans I've known –most of whom have actually been rather lovely and have genuinely tried to accomodate. It's like the analogy Kayleigh used for same-sex couples vs hetero couples — even if any number of individual Wiccans at any given event are being nice and friendly, the fact alone that there is always such a wealth of Wicca-focused events, the language used on materials for the event is overwhelmingly Wicca-based, and the majority of attendants assume everybody else is some form of Wicca by default shows the contextual privilege of Wiccans.

            Privilege isn't about how one acts — it's about what one gets and uses and typically takes for granted. The fact that one typically can't self-identify as "pagan" outside of those events w/o being assumed "Wicca", either, is simply further evidence of privilege, albeit slight, that Wicca has. The fact that some non-Wiccans will identify as "Wiccan" because it's presumed "safer" than their actual religion is further evidence of the deree of privilege taken for granted by Wiccans.

            Please educate yourself.

          • DanMiller

            Best of luck with your pan-pagan event.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            You assume I have resources. What gives you that impression?

          • DanMiller

            Resources? Nothing that some hardwork, dedication, and ingenuity can't overcome. My wife and I built a legally-recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit spiritual organization on nothing more than than a dream, vision, and a threadbare personal budget for providing community for pagans and pagan-friendly folks. Our only resources was our hands and minds and community. The rest will come. If you wish to discuss this further, then please get in touch. Blessings upon you Ruadhán.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            Sorry, I don't speak Randroid.

          • DanMiller

            I imagine that is some personal dig at me, based on scumbags like Ayn Rand? Nice.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            Maybe if you and her didn't share thoughts on bootstraps…?

          • DanMiller

            LOL again, thanks for the giggle, made my day.

    • cara

      The "How dare you leave me, you ungrateful bitch" approach rarely works well, especially if you are trying to encourage reconcilliation or forge a new path so the friendship can continue.

      Groups may feel marginalized or they may simply feel they aren't Pagans. This doesn't make them bad people and certainly doesn't mean they are no longer willing to stand together. Unless, of course, we treat them with suspicion, disrespect, and anger.

      • kenneth

        I don't think they're bad people at all, just a little unrealistic.

        • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

          So, those who disagree with you are unrealistic? That doesn't seem right, kenneth.

      • Bookhousegal

        It seems, Cara, there are two separate arguments going on here, then: those who want to claim Paganism marginalizes Heathens, which is blamed entirely on Wicca or more eclectic types, who are accused of saying and being whatever's convenient, and apparently Heathens that just want to marginalize the rest of Pagans, at least in their own lives. I see a lot of passive-aggression about who's being unfriendly about it, really.: I haven't heard anyone say things like you characterize them as doing.,

        People can certainly find the door without being abusive or joining the defamers in the process.

        • cara

          That could be because you have a hostile mindset about this topic. It's been in many, many blog posts linked to b Wild Hunt and Patheos. Or you could have just read the entire interview with Drew excerpted in the OP here.

          • Bookhousegal

            My mindset means there aren't two separate arguments going on here, or do you just want to claim I haven't read Drew's article and compared that concern with what I hear here, in some of these 'posts.'

            Star's post at the start is about 'listening to other's concerns,' Calling *me* hostile doesn't mean I'm the cause of what others said, and, *yes* I'm impatient with certain aspects of this, including some taking the attitude that 'liberal' Pagans are 'supposed' to just sit and take the blame for what others put in our mouths.

            That said: maybe I *have* actually been listening to this debate, particularly on these few threads, and maybe I *do* see two separate arguments going on here. And one of them *isn't* Drew's point. (I'm not so sure Drew's point really makes a great deal of sense, but it seems the old 'Recons v General Pagans' kerfuffle does keep getting commingled there.

            If *you'd* been reading you might even see that your 'tone argument' wouldn't hold up since my actual position on a lot of this has by and large been in other tones.

            But yeah, there's an 'us v them' going on there, and those leaping on the Pagan community or even the word are using two separate ones: the idea that Pagans should be more inclusive to Recons, apparently by not having a name, and the idea that Pagans are to be eschewed by Recons, and are thus not supposed to be inclusive, by …having a pretty inclusive name.

            Maybe you could listen to *that* instead of leaping to denigrate others.

    • http://greeneclectic.wordpress.com Anne Green

      It's interesting, watching the way in which this discussion has evolved over the past few days. It has gone from one spark of a blog post to a series of Here We Go Again sighs to This is Starting to Coalesce. I was actually *this close* to posting a comment about how refreshing it was to watch our community discuss this in an intelligent way, but some of the comments here are, in fact, pretty marginalizing. People seem unwilling to step outside themselves and observe how the world might look from other perspectives. And listening to those voices has, in fact, helped me to figure out where I am on this issue: that I don't want the term Pagan to be taken away from me.

      I suppose it's too much to go into here, so I'll take it over to my blog, but one thing I'd like to say before I go: you've hit this nail right on the head. Let's listen to each other's concerns, rather than talking at or over each other. Yes, this.

      • http://greeneclectic.wordpress.com Anne Green

        ….and three hours later I've finally finished writing and editing said post.

        It's here: https://greeneclectic.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/wa

        Thank you again to everyone who has constructively contributed to this conversation. It's been (and I'm sure it will continue to be) very thought-provoking in ways I hadn't previously considered.

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com highway_hermit

    Before rallying around a common name, I think the first question that one should ask if the name in question is even worth using:

    Pagan Pa"gan (p[=a]"gan), n. [L. paganus a countryman, peasant, villager, a pagan, fr. paganus of or pertaining to the country, rustic, also, pagan, fr. pagus a district,canton, the country, perh. orig., a district with fixed boundaries: cf. pangere to fasten. Cf. Painim, Peasant, and Pact, also Heathen.] One who worships false gods; an idolater; a heathen; one who is neither a Christian, a Mohammedan, nor a Jew. [1913 Webster]

    Under this definition, we're idolaters who worship false gods; let's pick something else.

    • kenneth

      Yeah, that will make the Evangelicals stop hating us…..

      • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

        Nobody is under any such delusion — nice straw man, but I think it's getting a little worn out.

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

      Maybe we should instead petition Webster to ditch the worshipping false gods part of the definition?

      • Bookhousegal

        That'd be more productive. If I was getting my spiritual path and community from Webster's Dictionary's editorial staff, it wouldn't change what *others* call 'false Gods' or, for that matter, 'pagans.'

        The dictionary definition *also* used to call us atheists, after all. I'm sure some still do. :)

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Yes, it's worth the effort to try to get Webster's to update its entry — they get that kind of request all the time — but no, it's not going to either get the Dominionists off our backs or settle our intramural disagreements.

          • http://sodiumnoir.com/KAOS/ sodiumnoir

            Maybe you want to look at the whole definition … which as well as the traditional latin meaning of the word also gives us :"a follower of a polytheistic religion" (websters) which is spot on and "a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim" (random house) – which sound perfect to me if you added Atheist. Seems rather stupid to get hung up on an old defunct definition appropriate to a dead language while ignoring the comonly understood and frequent used meaning from our own vibrant language.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            …but no, it's not going to either get the Dominionists off our backs…

            Who is under that delusion? I've seen no such claims, so if you've seen something I've missed, please source it. Otherwise, you're arguing straw-men.

    • Tea

      That definition is obviously coming from a Christian perspective, in which all gods but the Judeo-Christian one are false gods. So given the context, I think it makes sense.

    • Druidwood

      I don't think you should let webster or anyone define what you believe. I think that is the trap many Pagans fall into, does it really bother you what other's think a Pagan is or isn't? As many others here have said you would be better off to contact Webster & get them to change it, that is if you feel the need for someone elses approval. Either way it won't change what the majority of people believe about us.

  • Ingus

    I am an Italian, a European, and I don't understand why a handful of New Age (rather than Pagan) American authors should decide how we have to be called! I'm totally angry about this!

    "Paganism" and "Neopaganism" are blanket terms referring strictly to the European Ethnic Religions, Near Eastern Religions, and new religions based on them (such as Wicca and Stregheria). This is the definition shared by most of the European Reconstructionist Pagan organizations and particularly those which are into the European Congress of Ethnic Religion. The ECER was also one of the main proponents of the re-definition of "Paganism" as "European Religions" at the 2009 Parliament of World Religions. "Polytheism" is a broad term referring to a theological viewpoint, not to a specific religious movement, and, first of all, not all Pagans/Neopagans are polytheist.

    We need a common identity, and this identity is the label "Paganism/Neopaganism", encompassing European and Near Eastern religions and nothing else. "Paganism" is not only a religion, but also a culture and identity, the ensemble of the cultures and identities of Europe (and European-derived nations such as America and Canada), the Mediterranean Basin and the Near East (Berber, Egypt, Canaan and Mesopotamia).

    Furthermore, in defense of the term "Pagan" I link an interesting Italian article: http://www.centrostudilaruna.it/la-battaglia-del-….

    As you can read in the article maybe it's true that originally "Pagan" meant "dweller of the countryside" (the "pagi" were the Roman smallest administrative divisions of the countryside), member of local village communities, but during the first period of conflict between Christians and "Pagans" the label came to mean "civilian", "Gentile", as opposed to "milites Christi", the uncivil soldiers of Christ, who set themselves out of civilization. The term was used this way by Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger.

    • Ingus

      PS: I'm a Heathen (Germanic Neopagan).

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Ingus, the vehemence of your insistence on the strict European linkage does nothing to reassure the people of color in our larger community that we mean solidarity, not hegemony, in our use of the term. It's not what you say as much as how you say it. I've withheld this observation twice now but the third time's the charm.

      • Ingus

        I just exposed the view Europeans conceive "Paganism".

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I'm not disputing your view. I don't agree with it, but I leave it to others to carry out that argument. I'm talking about the *tone* of your messages.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            Baruch, it kinda comes across as you saying that those who insist they have a strong European heritage are pushing towards being supremacists and aren't joining in on the 'everyone is welcome" bandwagon. I wonder if you would feel the same if Ingus had been speaking of an African or Latin American heritage in the same words as Ingus

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I am absolutely not attacking those who claim a strong European heritage. My own path is rooted in Europe but I find it through intuition rather than library research.

            Had Ingus been speaking in the same aloof, grating, repetitious manner about an African or New World heritage I might not have commented, but only because he wouldn't have been providing (as he actually did) yet another example for Pagans of color to cite in complaint about arrogant Eurocentrism in Paganism.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            So you did it because he's white. Gotcha. :D

          • Bookhousegal

            Actually, I'm kinda seeing both of your points here, Norse, but you do have one about the perception that 'European' is *necessarily* racist. I think if there's any of that that as a community we might look at, is the assumption that someone being 'black' at this point in history actually means they *don't* have European ancestry, too. (Not that I'm saying that is or should be *required,* mind you.)

            Particularly in America, people might be considered 'Black' if they look so and were raised so, even if they may be mostly 'European' by descent. Maybe this'll fade out now that we've been becoming less-segregated in recent generations… Much less so, just in my lifetime…

            But we still walk around with those sorts of assumptions that 'Black' is something that makes one 'Not-European' even on those ancestry terms.

            (Cool thing about our current President: a very cursory check shows he could claim some of the same ancestors I do. :) (It's not hard to believe: many do, actually. Doesn't really matter, but it was enough to feel a little proud. :) )

            Just makes me think, though, how people *assume,* you know? Certainly doesn't have to mean 'supremacy,' .. I mean, I don't *feel* particularly 'supreme' right now: anyone out there feel like they have much call to? If no one's noticed, the world's a bit messed-up right now, and if anyone's 'supreme' they've been slacking big time for a long while, now. :)

            Old kin and comrades, new kin and comrades: it's all good. These kinds of connections are being made all over as we *speak,* and that's always been going on. (Not always in nice ways, but that's up to *us* )

            We can honor heritage, we can be welcoming, we can change: we can and do do all these things. Some might tell you differently, but that can't be stopped, (Or forced) and it's not a bad thing, either. It may be one of the very best things.

            As for heritage, (and legacies we leave,) what are *our* contributions? Maybe they can't and won't be all the same, or the same as they were *once upon a time,* either. But it's more than a 'definition.' There are a lot of ways to be 'strong.' (notice the language, there?) *That's* something that may require us to see some things in new terms. It's not really as though there is some binary decision between being 'in conflict' , or being isolationist.

        • anonimo

          agree with baruch….and besides the skin color…
          there are modern pagan witchcraft traditions that derive from african sources too….
          the only european linkage will not work

          "I just exposed the view Europeans conceive "Paganism"."

          some europeans like you…i lived in england and france, and not all european pagans agree with your statements.

          • anonimo

            needed to add
            there are modern pagans who reconstruct aztec/mayan beliefs and also, taino…they are pagans too
            the sources are of too many different roots to just limit everything to one category

          • Ingus

            No, they're not Pagans, they're Mexicayotl/Maya/Taino.

          • anonimo

            yes, they are.
            we are talking about americans and europeans who reconstruct ancient aztec and mayan beliefs. here, in the usa, they are modern pagans. like it or not.
            again, we don't need anybody else's approval to define ourselves.

          • Ingus

            No, they're not Pagans, and there's NOTHING racist in that. "Paganism" defines the Ethnic European and Near Eastern Religions. Couterwise Ethnic Mesoamerican Religions fall under the label "Mexicayotl", Ethnic African Religions fall under the label "Vodun", Ethnic Japanese Worship fall under the label "Shinto", Ethnic Turkic-Mongol Religions fall under the category "Tengrianism", etc.

          • anonimo

            never said there was anything racist about it. you were the one who brought the racist bit up…hmm?
            you can define paganism however you want, it doesn't mean it is correct and should be imposed on the rest of us.
            ah but yes…. you were the one who implied "new age american mix-mash"

    • Andras Corban-Arthen

      While I am in general agreement with your post, there are a couple of clarifications I would like to make. You say: " 'Paganism' and 'Neopaganism' are blanket terms referring strictly to the European Ethnic Religions, Near Eastern Religions, and new religions based on them (such as Wicca and Stregheria). This is the definition shared by most of the European Reconstructionist Pagan organizations and particularly those which are into the European Congress of Ethnic Religion."

      I am a member of the board of directors of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, and am not aware of the ECER adopting a definition such as the one you describe. I don't know of any ECER members who practice "Near Eastern" religions — the focus of the organization, emphatically reiterated at last summer's session in Bologna, is on the _European_ ethnic religions ("European" being understood in its current geopolitical sense). The ECER's mission statement explicitly includes the following: "By Ethnic Religion, we mean religion, spirituality, and cosmology that is firmly grounded in a particular people’s traditions. In our view, this does not include modern occult or ariosophic theories/ideologies, nor syncretic neo-religions."

      I would also like to clarify that there was no "re-definition of 'Paganism' as 'European Religions' at the 2009 Parliament of World Religions." Nothing remotely like that happened — it is not the Parliament's business to "re-define" any religion. There were pagan speakers at the Parliament who, in the context of their presentations, stated their personal definitions of paganism, just as various people have been doing here as part of this discussion; they are all, of course, perfectly entitled to express their opinions.

      What the Parliament did do was to recognize that _some_ forms of European paganism (e.g., substantial survivals of non-Christian, ethnic spiritual traditions) qualify as _indigenous religions_. The ECER, however, played no part in making that happen, though the subsequent presence of krivis Jonas Trinkunas — its founder and president — at the Parliament certainly helped to support that decision.

      • Ingus

        Okay, thanks for the clarification. However, I added the Near Eastern religions and the New Pagan Religions to the definition since the second ones are called "Pagan" by anyone, and the Near Eastern religions are very tightly linked to the European-proper ones. For examples Rome adopted many Egyptian and Semitic cults, which spread throughout the whole Empire, the Etruscans (and their religions of course) had probably origin in Mesopotamia and were descendants of the Mesopotamian populations, many Hellenic deities had a Semitic origin (Attis, Adonis, Astarte, Derceto, etc). Also, in many European dictionaries you can find a definition of "Paganism" as "the pre-Christian religions of the Greeks, Romans, other populations of Old Europe and the Mediterranean (thus including the Near East)".

      • anonimo

        thanks andras
        because it seems that some people are twisting things and trying to construe a "this is how pagans should be defined because x (i or the ECER) said (supposedly) so"

  • Ingus

    The complete link for the post above: http://www.centrostudilaruna.it/la-battaglia-del-

  • Ingus

    The semantics of the word "Pagan" has changed over the centuries and during the last decades it has come to mean specifically "European and Near Eastern Ethnic Religions and New Religions Based on Them". This is the definition given by the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, the most authoritative Pagan body in Europe. http://parliament.pagannewswirecollective.com/200

    • anonimo

      but not all europeans agreed with this definition
      i know because i remembered when this happened…
      and besides, pagans in the USA (and also in europe), dont bind themselves to what a congress or organization says about our beliefs or defines who we are…
      we have no pope, thank you very much…

      • Ingus

        Paganism is our ethnic religion, not American New Age mishmash.

    • http://alansalmi.com Alan Salmi

      An argument citing an "authority" doesn't hold much in a community founded on being anti-authoritarian in the first place (at least to the dominant culture).

      • anonimo

        true true alan.

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

      Ingus: "…. This is the definition given by the European Congress of Ethnic Religions …. "

      First of all, as Andras points out above, what Ingus says is not an accurate representation of what the European Congress of Ethnic Religions has actually adopted as its official public policy.

      Second of all, the ECER does not get to determine what the word "Pagan" means in the English language. In fact, the group that comes closest to speaking for anglophone Pagans would have to be the Pagan Federation, which has a rather different view of what that word means.

      Third of all, and as a matter of fact, the ECER not only tries to avoid using the term Pagan, but they (obviously) have made a conscious decision to reject that term altogether in favor of the extremely unfortunate formulation "Ethnic Religion".

      • Andras Corban-Arthen

        I would just clarify that the ECER doesn't actually reject the term "pagan" completely — in fact, many of its members (including some who are Ásatrú, incidentally) openly define themselves as such. But you're quite right that, organizationally, "pagan" is not the main descriptor that the ECER places up front (it's maybe at the second or third tier of information sharing), preferring to refer to “ethnic” or “indigenous” European religions.

        I’m sure you know this, but for those who don’t, “pagan,” in today’s Europe, carries not only the same baggage that it does in the U.S., but also the additional onus of being identified with groups that many consider to be fascistic or neo-fascistic, ranging from gangs of violent, white supremacist, misogynistic & homophobic “skinheads,” to the intelligentsia of the Nouvelle Droite. And, contrary to their American counterparts, those right-wing groups tend to be militantly anti-Christian, which compounds the negativity that many associate with their label of choice. That’s the main reason the ECER has chosen to downplay the use of “pagan,” without giving up on it altogether.

        Perhaps of more interest, in the context of this discussion, is the fact that the use of “pagan” has become a source of conflict and divisiveness among modern Italian practitioners of the old ways. It was the Romans, after all, who gave “pagan” its first pejorative sense — the classist putdown equivalent to “rube” or “redneck” — and to this day, in Rome, “pagano” is used colloquially to mean such insults as “gross,” “unstylish,” “loser,” even “nerd.” Because of this, there are some in Rome and the surrounding areas who adamantly refuse to call themselves pagans, preferring the Latin “gentilis” or “gentilitatis,” while others elsewhere in Italy insist on using the “p-word.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/Zac.Strix.Nebulosa.Kolb Zachary Kolb

    The more and more I watch this debate unfold, the more and more it looks like the same old ugly bag of snakes I've seen being wrangled in recon communities. If the issue is about a certain recon community or recon individuals feeling that there is "no place for them", I honestly have to ask them just what have they been doing? This community is malleable, and at times overeager to welcome any and all who would step up to make a space at the table. And as far as I've seen, recon communities have always been able to get their fair stakes in, no matter where they are or what the pagan community around them looks like. And to be blunt, if there isn't a defined space existing, then make a damn space. Playing this whole labels game in my opinion is a middle school game that I feel has more to do with weeded out the people you don't want to associate with because they aren't authentic enough, or are "wiccan" or "neo-pagans", rather than any real feelings of isolation.

    And if a definition of what it means to be pagan is really what all this is springing up over, and we're all keen on self-definition, then I give you what the group of pagans I've been associated with for some years have boiled the term down to in it's essence. Pagan is a descriptive term that describes religions and religious practices that are derived primarily from, are, or reconstructed from the pre-christian indigenous religions of Europe, the Near and Middle East, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia, with a focus on those faiths arising from pre-christian Europe and the Near East. That's what we've come up with, it's worked pretty well and the group I am a part of has yet to find a better descriptor. If anyone has a better term to use for a descriptor, not a religion but a descriptor, then I say lay it down right now. I've seen this polytheist label having cropped up once or twice before this current debate, and honestly it such an overarching descriptor that it really tells me nothing aside from a belief in many dieties, and exercises far more alienation than what I've seen the descriptor of being "pagan" ever achieving.

    And speaking as a kemetic recon, I have to say I've felt that the descriptor of being "pagan" as has been defined by the group I'm a part of, and we are a very diverse group, is a good lead in to helping others understand just what my religion entails. I'm all for letting be known what one's individual religion is, but a over-encompassing descriptor is the foot in the door to relating to people and breaking new ground to people who know nothing. And that is mighty important, seeing as our myriad faiths are a rather small minority, and even when bunched together under the umbrella descriptor are still a very small minority.

    That's just my .02.

    • Brenda Daverin

      You are clearly ignoring the conflation of pagan with Wiccan that happens every day. I received a copy of "Pagan Every Day" and found the author meant "white cisgender female Wiccan of middle-class means who owns a garden" when she said pagan. Just one example. What is being asked for if not demanded here is that more people realize pagan goes beyond Wiccan. I disagree with my fellow Celtic recons who abjure the label. I use it to reinforce the fact we're not all into pentacles and quarter-calling. And the people who do the conflation have to step up and stop doing it more than those of us who aren't conflating it need to keep going. The conflaters have the power here; they have to stop.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Brenda, I assume that "Pagan Every Day" is some kind of calendar or planner and (as such things do) comes from a particular publisher. That publisher most likely has a business model of appealing to white cisgender female middle-class Wiccans who own a garden, as a niche marketing appeal. Nobody on this board, not even everyone on this board acting together, is going to get that publisher to abandon their business model, no matter who says they "have to stop."

        But their success in that niche market is not a form of power over those outside the niche. We have much bigger problems than being unable to find a planner illuminated by our theo/alogy (which could be relieved btw by another publisher marketing outside the niche). We have the problem of what the town of Catskill NY is doing to the tax status of the Maetreum of Cybele, of what David Barton is whispering to GOP president wannabes. That's power, and the abuse of power. Do you perceive these as your fights, or not? I use the word "Pagan" to refer to those whose fights they are, with no other preconceptions about the relative standing of your path and mine.

        • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

          Brenda, I assume that "Pagan Every Day" is some kind of calendar or planner and (as such things do) comes from a particular publisher.

          http://www.amazon.com/Pagan-Every-Day-Extraordina
          Not a calendar, published by Weiser books. Found this out in 0.26 seconds.

          You're welcome.

          You see, this problem exists considerably beyond Llewellyn Publishing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Zac.Strix.Nebulosa.Kolb Zachary Kolb

        No, I am not ignoring the misguided conflation that happens in the world due to miscommunication and confusion. Rather, I am looking past it at the overall picture of what is going on here since this discussion has blown up all over the pagan blogosphere and their attached communities. But, let's entertain that thought, and I will ask you a straight question; what have YOU done to stop this? The conflaters have the power because we give them the power. To be blunt, those who feel "alienated" because of the large amounts of "wiccanate" elements do so because they haven't done something about it. You don't like how one sided the community appears in your neck of the wood? Change how the community interacts and make it more even. Don't just walk away, thinking that the issues stop there by seperating yourself and adopting a new label because by the gods they won't. They'll just manifest in whatever new label you choose to adapt. I know I have been doggedly involved in any and all outreach, interfaith and intrafaith my campus pagan organization has put on because I wanted to make sure the pagan community on a whole was well maintained, people knew who and what we were, and all the various groups who rally under our banner. And if I had gotten a copy of that mag, I'd have not bought from that publisher again, sent the author and the publisher a letter that clearly stated in a civil manner how they were mistaken at their presumption, and so on.

        If people are getting tired of seeing something where they don't feel represented, they should ask themselves just what have they done to make sure they get represented. Nothing in this life is is free, easy, or get's done overnight. You have to put your effort in, not just walk away. Nothing changes when we isolate and refuse to interact. Sorry to have rambled on, but I've been on top of this discussion and I've seen some things I can't help but comment on.

        • Bookhousegal

          Maybe, Zachary, the problem is that some want to come to what we have of community with the idea of *stopping something* rather than being a part of it. There are ways in which, well, yes, a lot of vocal Recons (usually of conservative *politics*) up and *quit.*

          Went and maybe made some nice stuff (or sniped all the while) and then come back and wonder why that nice stuff isn't part of the 'Pagan community' …frankly, seemingly trying to 'stop' things they thought were happening in Usenet days. A lot of them *still* think 'Wiccanite' things or 'Non-Recon Pagans' actually *read* or can be *defined by* the same old books from 'a certain publisher.' Bluster on in like it's 1995 and expect we even have *time* for this stuff in a lot of communities at this point in history.

          There's a certain amount of 'Help out, reach out, or get out of the way.' Plenty of recon groups can do and do do, just that. Barking at 'fluffbunnies' …or everyone else as if they *are* 'fluffbunnies' isn't doing the *Job.* This is *identity politics* and *division.* And I can't help but notice it comes at a certain time in America's political history when *other* conservative organizations are noticing that what we've been building is actually getting a little bit of clout.

          • Crystal7431

            "This is *identity politics* and *division.* And I can't help but notice it comes at a certain time in America's political history when *other* conservative organizations are noticing that what we've been building is actually getting a little bit of clout."
            So being at least partly politically motivated as opposed to just spiritually motivated? Sometimes I get that feeling as well. I can disagree with someone's politics without disagreeing that they are a vital and necessary part of the community.

          • elnigma

            Under pressure many times a group divides up and some people will run.
            I don't know if that's any reason people want to do this now or if it's just being tired of being confused.

      • SeaSerpent

        Did the author literally say that? Or was that just her attitude?

  • saturndarkhope

    The problem of defining paganism is a familiar one. I believe the intensity of this current discussion is potentially based upon a feeling of being threatened. That the response is primarily one of encouraging community is reassuring. This is the short version, the long version is on my blog: http://wp.me/pUA50-5G

  • gallowsburden

    Hopefully I will post something on my blog The Urban Asatruar (http://gallowsburden.wordpress.com/) soon in relation to this issue. But i can speak for some recons who hold the same general perspective as myself. Also this is an issue i have recently reexamined after having some experience dealing with the 'Pagan Community'. Many of us Heathen Recons want nothing to do with Pagans. Not on an individual basis, but on a community level. We hold very different values than those espoused by the many different religions which fall under the catch all of "Paganism" and also we tend to lead secluded lives in which our only participation with co-religious practitioners is once a season at large gatherings. Im not saying this is true for everyone but it is for many. When we interact with the 'Pagan Community' its quite frankly hard to take them (Pagans) seriously. In general there is a sense among recons that 'Pagans' use a mix of different religious elements and cherry pick whats useful to their situation or just make shit up and under the guise of religion, its expected to be respected and so holy its beyond judgment. We are about real historic tradition not 'paths' and pseudo-science/history. Yes we stereotype a bit, but its not without just cause. We are, however, more than willing to work with people from other religious backgrounds when our commonality is threatened. For example, i know Heathens who have worked with people of diverse religious backgrounds when issues in their geographic community are cause for action. A few cases i can think of are banning together with more conservative Jews and Santeria's when Animal Sacrifice is comes under attack form law-makers or (and this FAR more common) when our children come under fire within the school systems by the dominant religion of the area. Does this mean we need an official organ in which to operate. No. Sometimes MORE hierarchy is LESS useful. Recons will band together with anyone they need to when the time comes. Never forget the power of Scandinavian practicality and our emphasis on autonomy. Also, by not letting our name fall under the catch all Pagan, we are knowingly separating ourselves from a community we don't find that much in common with (outside of being a minority religion). When i spend time with Pagans its hard not to get offended when MY ANCESTORS gods are use by others who know nothing of their history and how they were worshiped. So its no wonder why everyone cant just 'get along' from the start. We are all different and autonomous, that should be preserved. But we will CONTINUE to work with others from our fellow minority religions when we see the collective need to do so. I think toying with definitions of minority religions is only going to lead to more splits over ideology and less cooperation. A believe it or not but peaceful cooperation has its own word in our traditions. And there you go, Heathens already is a bit of a catch all word that many Heathens have issue with (we in come in many different flavors depending on our background: Forn Sed, Asatru, Theodism… the list goes on). Lets take it one defining term at a time please!

    lurseen verden,

    Dave the Urban Asatruar

    • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

      Dave, thanks for your input. I just wanted some quick clarification. You say that the general Pagan community has different values then you, exactly what values are they? Are you talking more in the political spectrum or something else?

      • gallowsburden

        Its more of a question of 'end game' than anything else. Recons are trying to reconstruct something. Pagans are trying to gain credibility in the mainstream (at least thats how it appears to me). and in the course of trying to accomplish those goals we will head in different directions. Many Pagans are accepting of types of behavior and general attitude that Heathens are not. Its a long list of things but as we are not a book guided folkway it differs from person to person.

        • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

          Okay, a couple of quick observations then. First thank you for replying :)

          "Pagans are trying to gain credibility in the mainstream (at least thats how it appears to me)" – I can't argue with this because I feel the same way. I'm not so sure it's so much credibility though as much as it is just wanting to make sure the same rights other religions get are afforded to other minority religions. I think the best example of this would be the fight to get the Pentacle as an approved carving on military headstones. I dislike the idea this had to be fought for at all, I think anyone who fought and died for our country is owed to the right to put whatever the family (or they if they willed it) request.

          "Many Pagans are accepting of types of behavior and general attitude that Heathens are not. Its a long list of things but as we are not a book guided folkway it differs from person to person. " – This I have some issues with. Just because "many Pagans" seem to be accepting of various types of behavior (I understand it differs from person to person but maybe you can list what some of these behaviors are for yourself) does not mean that all are. There are various actions that others do that make me cringe (the subtle racism of "enlightened" groups for one) but I don't think for a moment they speak for everyone else.

          • gallowsburden

            Frist off i agree with you that mainstream credibility is for recognition of rights, and im all for that. but its not so much that YOU personally are accepting or not accepting of certain behaviors but that this is more of an observed phenomena. For example: Heathens are family oriented and believe that their children should be surrounded by men and women of exceptional ability and this is reflected in their ability to adhere to a Heathen ethic. Pagans do not follow a Heathen Ethic because they are simple not Heathen. so here we have a disconnect. Different values are found in their expression. And yes this doesn't mean that Pagans in general are bad people or shouldn't be around kids but Heathens surround themselves with their own. We are suspicious of outsiders for good reason. WE are beset on all sides by racists trying to coopt our symbology and infiltrate our religious organizations and by well meaning Pagans who just dont understand that Heathenry is a different kind of animal and NOT part of a potpourri of different beliefs from all over the world. Different doesn't mean bad, but rather, just different.

          • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

            Of course it's not about whether or not I personally am accepting of social behaviors or not. I don't speak for everyone who doesn't follow a Monotheistic path (and I wouldn't want to. Nightmare~~) nor do I claim to. But when you throw out generalizations, it helps to explain exactly how you have gotten them.

            As for well meaning Pagans who don't understand that Heathenry isn't Wicca-influenced well…yes. I realize that those who are new to Paganism/don't know much about it would believe so but I would hope that most folks who have been around the block for a bit realize what it most certainly is not.

    • Bookhousegal

      Question, on this: Suppose you weren't around, Dave?

      You say this:

      "When i spend time with Pagans its hard not to get offended when MY ANCESTORS gods are use by others who know nothing of their history and how they were worshiped."

      What if *you* 'knew nothing of your ancestors' Gods and how they were worshipped?'

      Or precious little.

      What do *you* think the Gods would want for you: To do nothing for want of a *footnote?*

      Cause I'll tell you, buddy, I've been there.

      And that's not how it came down.

      • gallowsburden

        What I think the gods want from me is between me and the gods. it has nothing to do with you unless YOU start going around saying you represent ALL Heathens. Thats the crux of the issue. Once a group is strictly defined, its definer becomes its defacto representation. And yes, as a recon there was a time when i knew LESS about how my ancestors practiced their religion. but what does that have to do with anything? i think i am missing your question…..

        when I say "When i spend time with Pagans…." i am simply illustrating two things. 1. This is what i have heard from many fellow Heathens, so its not just MY opinion and 2. im stating a position about agency and community definitions. Many Pagans coopt and unknowingly offend Heathens when they start talking about the "Gods of the North" (as i have heard it said). This is typically followed by a laundry list of other non-Germanic Gods thought to be archetypical equivalents to MY ANCESTORS GODS. My gods have no equivalents. They are THE gods of MY folkway. Not anyone elses. They are not aspects of the Feminine or the Masculine, they have very particular characteristics depending on the period and place in which their worshipers are observed. Heathen era Swedish village dwellers from 8th century worshiped their gods in slightly different ways from 10th century Icelandic Heathen Vikings. But the difference between you and them is that they had ethnic, cultural, AND spiritual practices that were MORE similar than a modern Pagan or Wiccan (of any stripe). We are different. Thats all. Remember, the Heathen community rarely has been open to the idea that we should be considered Pagans in the modern sense. Its not that we dont like Pagans, we just have little in common outside of being a minority religion. Heathens are tied to their folk way by shared ethnicity, culture, AND spiritual practice, just like our ancestors were and very much UNLIKE modern Pagans. I hope that answers your question! thanks

        D

        • Bookhousegal

          The point is: there's that word, 'MY' again. Says who? Says you? You claim a folkway and you can tell everyone who 'owns' the ancestors?

          Then use that as a reason to call others' theology 'wrong?'

          Maybe coming to a community table with that attitude has more to do with it than some failure on the community's part to be 'tolerant' enough: *maybe* it's cause if you come trying to tell people "All this is mine," they don't consider that very friendly.

          Ancestors we may share and ancestors of mine you don't claim, well, they may well have scrapped a lot, and if you roll it back to some arbitrary point in time they may have been 'different' as can be from each other, but now, in both our lineages, ourselves, and our *cultures,* they're all in varying combinations… within all of us.

          This is *this* time and place. You can't expect that to go away for everyone.

          And you haven't answered my question: while you accuse people of doing something 'wrong' for not accepting it when you pick some of *your* folkways, repackage them, and come in off the street and say, 'You must do this or you do not respect the Gods… and if you don't obey this, you're excluding me.'

          The question I *asked* was, really, are the Gods and ancestors something that lack of a book or a folkway can *really* take away? What if it was *you* without what you now consider 'the right way,' …Would you ask the Gods to just leave you in the lurch, punish you for your 'inauthenticity?'

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mt-Dickinson/1813917193 M.t. Dickinson

            I think he's made himself more than perfectly clear. Seems like you're not even bothering to listen to him since you rather continue on with your presumptuous interpretations of things you're obviously too lazy to do serious research on let alone take into consideration.

          • harmonyfb

            I can't see that he's made himself "clear". He's claimed that Pagans and Heathens don't share values (but apparently can't articulate what those points of difference might be), he decries Paganism for seeking 'mainstream acceptance', yet then claims that he's all for it. He implies that Pagans don't value family and kin (clearly never having met Pagans with families), etc.

            What I hear in his posts is a lot of knee-jerk animosity, implied ownership of the Gods, and an echo of the monotheistic disdain for religions that aren't like them.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mt-Dickinson/1813917193 M.t. Dickinson

            Then you need to work on your reading skils

          • harmonyfb

            No, I believe he needs to work on his writing skills.

            Let me illustrate:

            First, he insults Pagans for seeking 'mainstream acceptance' (in reality the fight for equal legal rights): Pagans are trying to gain credibility in the mainstream

            And then, he declares that he's all for it: i agree with you that mainstream credibility is for recognition of rights, and im all for that

            Then he insinuates that HE owns the gods and he's the one who gets to say who does and doesn't worship them: My gods have no equivalents. They are THE gods of MY folkway. Not anyone elses.

            Honestly, I think the Gods are just a tiny bit bigger than the little box he wants to put them in.

        • http://badocelot.com badocelot

          "Many Pagans coopt and unknowingly offend Heathens when they start talking about the "Gods of the North" (as i have heard it said). This is typically followed by a laundry list of other non-Germanic Gods thought to be archetypical equivalents to MY ANCESTORS GODS. My gods have no equivalents. They are THE gods of MY folkway. Not anyone elses. They are not aspects of the Feminine or the Masculine, they have very particular characteristics depending on the period and place in which their worshipers are observed."

          I understand your concern, but at the same time I can't help but think that you're being too possessive. Modern Pagans are actually taking cues from OUR spiritual ancestors, who often went to great lengths to either syncretize their faiths with those of trading partners (as with Romans and Greeks did with the Egyptians) or aggregated the Gods of others into one big pantheon (as the Romans did with some of the Greek Gods, and IIRC, the Sumerians (or some other Mesopotamian culture, anyway) did to the point that they had thousands of Gods).

          So, you have every right to state that the (say) Wiccan use of your Gods is not in keeping in line with their traditional worship. It absolutely is not. You have every right to be proud of your own efforts to stay true to the old ways. But at the same time, I don't think it's fair for you to presume that the Gods don't want to be worshiped in the new ways. That's up to Them, isn't it?

          • gallowsburden

            Not what i am saying at all. I am saying that once you start to worship the gods outside of Heathenry, its no longer Heathenry. Thats all. Thats not possessive, its just true. Its as if a Buddhist would start practicing Christianity (with no understanding of xtians or their ideas). It wouldnt be Christanity. It would be something else, unless he was accepted by a specific christian church. Theres nothing wrong with that, just not the same, thats all. Paganism and Heathenry are just not the same, why is everyone taking this as a bad thing? I thought Pagans were all about diversity? Or is it not diversity when someone puts their foot down and says NO you cant coopt my life? This isnt just about 'religion' its about a way of life. Pagans are so accepting of other using their gods they dont seem to understand its offensive (especially to recons) when other go around saying they worship the same gods as I. But to put Heathenry under that same label (Pagans) it assumes that Heathens do the same. Which we do not. These things (Paganism and Heathenry) are different.

          • http://badocelot.com badocelot

            Then we're actually in agreement. I actually have a similar argument about Christo-Pagans: Pagans ought to embrace them, but they're not Christians.

            One comment on the statement "its offensive (especially to recons) when other go around saying they worship the same gods as I": whether non-Heathens who incorporate Heathen Gods in their practice are worshiping the same God in a different way or a different God is a really murky topic. If anything, I'm more comfortable with agreeing with you on this, but I can see both sides of the argument.

            For instance, returning to the Christo-Pagans, if someone were to worship (as someone I knew actually does or at least did) Yahweh as the Father, Gaia as the Mother, and Jesus as the Son, are they worshiping Jesus within a Pagan framework or just a deity like Jesus but not actually Jesus?

            I don't think there's necessarily a "right" answer to that. As my favorite philosopher, Richard Rorty, once put it, questions like that are a matter of whether it's "more convenient to update our dictionaries or our encyclopedias." You might even say that the question will only makes sense once we've already decided what the answer is.

          • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

            "whether non-Heathens who incorporate Heathen Gods in their practice are worshiping the same God in a different way or a different God is a really murky topic. If anything, I'm more comfortable with agreeing with you on this, but I can see both sides of the argument. "

            Just asking for clarification, do you mean that if someone is devoted to say, Brighid then they're only right if they are following the same modes of worship that a Recon does? Or is that what you mean by murky topic :)

          • http://badocelot.com badocelot

            That's what I mean by "murky topic."

            But it's not really a question of one being right and the other wrong. It's a question of where one thing ends and a different thing starts. Like Loki's Wager: some parts are clearly head, others are clearly neck, but in between, who knows?

            For example, do Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God? Yes, if you stress the shared theological ancestry, no if you stress the differences in character. Do Unitarians and Trinitarians worship the same God? What about Mormons?

            At some point one begins to suspect that the very question is loaded. Not only do different people (a) disagree about the same God or (b) worship different Gods, they also disagree about when a disagreement is (a) or (b). So it's not even always the same question when asked by two different people.

          • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

            Ah gotcha! Thanks :)

          • Bookhousegal

            Hee, Vermilion, that's what I call a good question: in Brigid's case, I'd say …Ask Herself. (In that particular case, that was *exactly* my first instinct. :) ) It gave me to realize too, that one might get different views of *this* subject if one asked Someone Else. Guess that's part of the beauty of being polytheist, you know?

            Maybe many of us talk about this *as if* there was a 'single answer to get right' on human terms that was really the be-all-and-end-all. But maybe part of it is that different Gods or aspects of Gods… Teach different ways of looking at things, as well as some things about common contexts. :)

          • Bookhousegal

            Well, seems we're making progress here, Gallows, but you still seem to be projecting a few things regarding the diversity issue: you seem to accept none in one way (you say the Gods you claim cannot be outside your own ways, or it's not Heathenry or 'Real Heathenry,' ) Of course, the definition of 'Pagan' is *not* actually analagous: in that it's an umbrella term for many paths, descriptive, more than definitive in these terms.

            Some of these paths are substantially similar to Heathenry in that they're recon and specific traditions: to many of *them* the 'umbrella' refers to a certain common interest in the fact that we represent a minority: those hearkening back to the 'old ways' in one way or another. Between ourselves we can see the difference: Heathenry's obviously big enough and different enough that it can be seen as distinct from 'the movement' in many ways, though I might point out that the dominant religions and wider world don't draw the distinction and are unlikely to start doing so any time soon, whatever we call ourselves.

            As for saying who actually 'can' and *does* worship those Gods between us all is rather a separate matter: obviously you're connecting the 'how' with the 'Who,' and while these ways may be inextricable to you, that kind of doesn't mean you get to define others' practices or claim 'You can't do that,' when it might well be their Gods, too: and if you don't like how they do it, they might well ask, 'Well, where were *you* when I learned *these* ways to do it?'

            'Christo-Pagans' represent a different sort of problem: I suppose the position of Christianity is more like the one you'd claim for Heathenry: they're exclusivist , deny the very existence of anyother Gods, and tend to call 'heretical' any practices incorporating their divine figures outside whatever they call 'Real Christianity.' (And they haven't stopped going at each other about *that* bit yet and don't look to be stopping any time soon.) Because the Christian worldview is so different, (people needing to be 'saved,' needing to deny all other Gods, etc) it makes crossovers kind of problematic. (Note that I'm not saying it can't be *done,* just that it's a bit of a complicated thing to try and draw analogies between polytheist religions/umbrella terms with. )

            Frankly, you're the one insisting on exclusive rights to certain things and saying all else is 'co-opting your life,' then calling someone else bad about diversity. There are a *lot* of ways of life, and trying to stop *that* from being so isn't something 'Paganism' could do if that was even what the label meant. It's useful to describe Heathenry as distinct, particularly *regarding* matters of religion (otherwise third parties will look at us all and talk like 'You're all one big religion that contradicts itself,' while insisting that tree-huggers are to be associated with some 'Pagan racism' and Heathens are all about 'free love' or something, generally simultaneously, ) …but the fact is, when it comes to religion, to claim that 'Pagans are taking my Gods away,' usually by claiming, 'You're just seeing Them as archetypes or equivalents' whether one is doing so or not, is actually kind of arrogating to yourself an authority over others you don't have. And it's not accepting the very *idea* of diversity, in many ways. No one's saying *you* or your tribe need to do things in some 'general Pagan way.' But denying others' sincerity or even right to exist doesn't leave much room for cooperation.

            Being offended that someone has a different view of the Gods isn't likely to go away any time soon, regardless of what others do. I think in a way you don't understand that there's more than lazy eclecticism at play, here. (Not that there isn't plenty out there: popular books about Wicca with those darn correspondences sure don't help sometimes, but it *is* quite possible to see the Gods as existing on more levels than just one: I'll reply to myself with some elaboration, in hope it helps.)

          • harmonyfb

            But to put Heathenry under that same label (Pagans) it assumes that Heathens do the same. Which we do not. These things (Paganism and Heathenry) are different.

            But can you illustrate those differences? (Without insults, please.)

            In using 'Pagan' as an umbrella term, no one is suggesting that Heathenism/Asatru/Odinism/etc is the same as, say, African Diasporic faiths, or that Wicca is the same as Celtic Reconstructionism, or that the Sami faith is the same as Hinduism. What I am suggesting is that we all share enough common ground that we can benefit from the same fight for legal rights.

            Or is it not diversity when someone puts their foot down and says NO you cant coopt my life?

            Nobody is "co-opting your life" by praying to Northern European gods according to their own beliefs and practices (which, by the by, are a "way of life" for them, as well). Perhaps you'd have an argument if someone was pretending to be Heathen while, say, integrating the worship of Obatala, but simply expressing their own understanding of the nature of the Gods (and/or making offerings to them)? I think not.

    • Bookhousegal

      I should probably add, they're *my* ancestors and Gods, too. (some of them, and Them, anyway. I've got *lots* of others, but I can raise a horn of mead as sumbel with full sincerity, too. ) You *don't own them, never mind everyone else, with some books, not claims to 'The One True Practice,' * you know.

      You say yourself that dividing that way would never end, ….'one defining term at a time' or not. If *I* did, that division would run right through my heart. And I think, honor.

      I certainly wouldn't forsake the Gods , and I probably wouldn't want to be part of a kindred that would *accept one who did,* never mind demanded it. This doesn't mean I can't celebrate what *they* celebrate with full sincerity, to. (And be really thankful *for* that, by the way. If you've felt like an 'orphan,' there's nothing like time with a few long-lost relatives, even if they don't represent *all* you are. Or, at least overtly, Who's been with your from the beginning,' .. I may not be of 'pure blood,' or 'choosing only one ancestry,' but I think we all know and believe that bonds of kinship are not something which can or should be undone lightly.

      And we *are* kin. And if that can happen, we can be more than one 'decision' can say. To each other, as well as ourselves.

      • gallowsburden

        Like I stated before, I do not speak for ALL Heathens. Clearly I do not speak for you. But when you are in Sumble I am at, I expect ONLY Heathenism to be the subject at hand. Its not about race, its not about me trying to say they are ONLY MY gods. Clearly they are the gods of ALL HEATHENS. but ONLY Heathens. Anything else is removing the gods from their context and they cease to be the gods I call upon, the gods of my ancestors. Its about identifying with a community that is accepting of YOU not the other way around. And unless you have the evidence i would tell a Heathen that you were kin with them. Our kinship is fully APART of our practice and muddeling with someones familial line in Heathenry is one of the worst things you can do. Its this level of assumed familiarity that many Heathens reject. This is precisely what i am speaking about, we are not the same. My community (based on what little we have talked about) would probably reject you. Not based on your acceptance of other gods, but on your assumed familiarity. Ethnicity and practice is not enough to call yourself a Heathen. There is sayin amongst we Heathens that your not a Heathen until your called one by the community. Thats a real community and thats real acceptance. hope that answers your question. i am still not totally sure as to your position.

        • Bookhousegal

          OK, here's a point of misunderstanding here: For starters, you assume:

          ""Like I stated before, I do not speak for ALL Heathens. Clearly I do not speak for you. But when you are in Sumble I am at, I expect ONLY Heathenism to be the subject at hand.""

          And that's how it is. Distant 'relations' or not, that's what *that* 'table' is for.

          I think the assumption somehow is that this has something to do with Heathens coming to the 'Pagan community table' and not extending similar considerations, but rather acting like all 'tables' are rightfully theirs and theirs along, then walking away claiming to have been 'excluded,' (usually complaining all the while 'You would probably be doing bad things at *our* tables cause you're not like us.)

          It's not 'assumed familiarity,' either. I'm not even sure where you *get* that sort of accusation. NO, we're *not* 'the same,' especially not in *your terms.* That doesn't mean sharing is impossible and all must be either obedience to *you* or some kind of *theft,* either. Especially not when you make assumptions about whose ancestry is what.

          And, yeah, I know about the 'acceptance' thing. And what that'd mean. Kind of thought you'd take a cue from that. Being a guest and what that's about is something we *do* have in common, but you don't seem to be applying those very standards to 'The Pagan community,' then wondering why something's not 'including' you.

          Double-standard, there, is what I say. But it doesn't have to be that way. It could never be my *whole* practice, Heathenry, but that doesn't mean I don't think it's wonderful, valuable, (Also not for me to walk in and rewrite, and honestly don't see these divisions you describe as the real impediment.)

          If you have complaints about how 'Pagan community' seems to treat you, consider that you're applying a double-standard there, especially when the *point* of that community is usually very much about accepting and cooperating *with* our diversity, and we're in general *exceptionally* willing to learn more about *any* ancestral tradition, our own ancestry or not. But that doesn't mean you walk in and *dictate.* Or start trying to *remove* things as "Mine, not yours."

          It's the very way you start treating people for pointing that out that tends to mean fewer invites, you know.

          • gallowsburden

            ok last post on this… 1. I aint dictating shit to anyone, these are the rules (i dont make em nor do i enforce em, they are there and have been for thousands of years). 2. I fail to understand your use of the 'table' metaphor. Its changed in your posts so im just not sure at this point that the Hel your talking about. 3. Yes I am assuming that if your at a Sumble your there to toast the gods (ie the Heathen gods of prechristian germanic culture) cause thats what its for. If your not there to do that, and bring your own agenda, it stops being Sumbel. anyways i think you meant to say Blot not Sumble. 4. Not once have I assumed that i was wronged in anyway. I post a response from a Heathen perspective. I really dont give a rats ass what the wider Pagan community does as Heathens dont generally consider themselves apart of it. I posted cause people in their responses tended to talk about recon Heathens yet none had actually posted anything. So i wanted to bring some clarity to the discussion. 5. I aint dictating shit to anyone. Thats your assumption. I am just saying, from a recon perspective, this is how MY community (as in the community that accepts me) might respond. 6. yes the Pagan community is diverse and does work successfully together, but they also SEEM TO ME, as a condition of acceptance, to disregard any slight. something youll be hard pressed to convince any Heathen worth their salt to ignore. In order to get respect you have to give it. A gift for a gift as we (HEATHENS) say. We dont get respect from Pagans outside of general interest in our folkway. and yes it is OUR folkway. we created the infrastructure, community ties, and developed our community along the line of what WE want. You seem to be the one dictating terms. I am just giving a perspective through examples. What have you added to the discussion other than accusations??? And that is why Heathens dont want to be Pagans. Cause then would have to claim folks like you who are ignorant of who and what we are (HEATHENS THAT IS).

          • Ralph

            This attitude is why I no longer am a heathen. Your folkway is just as made up as Gardnerian Wicca is, and its more fraught with peril my friend.

          • Grant

            Actually, Heathenry isn't "as made up as Gardnerian Wicca is," as you say. Reconstructing a traditional pre-Christian cultural worldview as best as is possible with the available literature and archaeology isn't the same as inventing a religion cobbled together from various sources (as is the case with Gardnerian Wicca). The difference is quite clear.

          • harmonyfb

            Grant, modern Heathenism has a considerable amount of 'made-up' practice – there's no printed manual handed down whole and inviolate from the distant ancestors. Some of it was gleaned from Christian tales, some of it was guessed from archaeological discoveries, etc. And that's OK – it if was all there with no interpretation to be done, you wouldn't need to "reconstruct" it.

          • Nick_Ritter

            Are you saying that reconstructing practices based on source literature, comparative religious studies, philology and archeology is equivalent to "making things up"? Because if you are, I don't think I can agree with you on that.

          • Varkald

            Beyond that, there are many sources that are not "christian" in origin (just because christians write them down doesn' t make them "christian") that show when and how things like blots were done. That's just one example. it isn't just "made up".

          • Nick_Ritter

            Indeed. Pieces of information transmitted by nominal Christians are not necessarily "Christian tales". Considering the recent conversations on this blog about the piecemeal and generally syncretic nature of the Conversion, and the long-lived remnants of many old religions in Europe, I should think this wouldn't need saying.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mt-Dickinson/1813917193 M.t. Dickinson

            Good riddance to you then. One less fool to deal with as far as I'm concerned

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            Agreed

        • gallowsburden

          i read more of your reply and i think you have no clue what the subject at hand is or what i have written… im not saying that Paganism should be accepting of Heathenry but they should be respectful, as I am of Paganism, its not my bag, but i am not about to denigrate it. And yes, im sorry but i have material PROOF that my ancestors practiced prechristian Scandinavian religion, and if you could present me with some evidence we are related, id love to see it! NO i am not rolling back history to one specific point and NO i am not saying anyone has done anything 'wrong' in some strict sense. I think you need to meet some real Heathens or read some books dude. your making a ton of assumptions about my perspective and have apparently not read what i replied to you. Also im not calling anyones "theology" wrong. if i did, can you please quote me where i did? perhaps i can clear that up for you. also, its not about owning 'the ancestors" but owning MY ancestors. who were not an idea, concept, or archetype but living breathing people whose reputations and memory I keep alive through my folkways practice. Once again I think your talking about concepts you dont fully understand. and thats not just me saying that, its clear in what you have wrote that you dont understand issues of identity, how a folkway works, and what it means to practice a religion. I will have to respectfully stop replying to you unless its for clarification about something i have already posted.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            "im not calling anyones "theology" wrong. if i did, can you please quote me where i did?"

            Dave, in the post at the head of this thread you wrote:

            "In general there is a sense among recons that 'Pagans' use a mix of different religious elements and cherry pick whats useful to their situation or just make shit up and under the guise of religion"

            That's calling someone's theology wrong.

            "its not about owning 'the ancestors'"

            In the same post you wrote:

            "When i spend time with Pagans its hard not to get offended when MY ANCESTORS gods are use by others who know nothing of their history and how they were worshiped."

            That's owning your ancestors.

          • Grant

            Actually, that's owning the world view of one's ancestors, not the ancestors themselves. No one's claiming to own their own kin from past times, but as Dave rightly pointed out Heathenry is what *we* made it through our scholarly research and practical application thereof. It's no less than a labour of love for one's ancestry when one wants to see the world through their ancient eyes and apply that point of view to the modern world as practically as possible. That quite a few mainstream Pagans try to tell us that we're wrong for this approach and the inner yard / outer yard distinction that it brings is rather ironic and hypocritical given that there's much ado about tolerance in their corner.

          • harmonyfb

            Heathenry is what *we* made it through our scholarly research and practical application thereof.

            Nobody suggests that you are wrong to do so. What I hear people suggesting is that having done so, such a worshiper should not climb up on their high horse to sneer at those who worship in a different manner.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mt-Dickinson/1813917193 M.t. Dickinson

            If anyone is on their "High Horse" it's not gallowsburden. I swear the majority of you are like children who never want to do their homework and then get upset when the teacher gives you a low or failing grade. It's no wonder few people take "The Pagan Community" seriously as it is.

          • Grant

            Who's climbed on any high horse from our end? In his original post, Dave was simply replying to the needless attacks on Recons, attacks which were coming from people on their own high horses. We don't dictate your approach, so don't attempt to dictate ours. In fact, this very disparity of approach is the central reason why Heathens eschew the Pagan label.

          • harmonyfb

            Who's climbed on any high horse from our end?

            ::points up-thread:: That would be gallowsburden, with his insulting posts about how everybody else "made shit up" and his implications that he owns the Gods and nobody else can worship them, because that's "co-opting", and his further implications that Pagans don't value Kin or Family, etc.

            While I often use "Pagan" as a descriptive term when speaking to monotheists, I have no problem not blurring the line between religions which fall under the Pagan umbrella. Asatru isn't Druidry isn't Vodun isn't Mari isn't Hinduism isn't Wicca, etc, etc. However, we all benefit from a concerted effort to reinforce our legal rights in society (and throughout the world), and we all have enough surface similarities that we're going to get lumped together by non-Pagans, in any case.

          • Varkald

            In a sense, he does own his Gods and Ancestors, because Gods and Ancestors (as you know) are often the same. And his own family line, his hamingja, has its own Ancestors, and perhaps its own Gods. It's okay to "own" your ancestors in this way. It was always done this way in the past, and it is an evergreen impulse.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            Indeed, I haven't seen one Heathen or Recon here climb on a high horse. Perhaps you are thinking of Ingus, but even he was more staunch than insisting he was better than anyone.

          • Bookhousegal

            I wasn't saying 'kin' in that kind of sense, but rather in terms of the subject at hand: these broad labels of tradition and ancestry: but just to reinforce the point *I* was trying to make: what if you *didn't* know your ancestry? (It's *nice* mind you: a traceable bardic lineage sure clarified a lot of ancestral pulls for me: doesn't mean I walk around DNA-testing people, either. But, yeah, genealogy comes with the package for some.) No one's claiming to be related to *your particular* ancestors in your particular way, either. (Frankly, who's to say they're *not* unless you've got em all accounted for.)

            You seem to be accusing people of doing that, who are not, in a much broader sense, too, then claiming they're not 'coherent' because it's not your particular way of doing what they're not trying to do in the first place.

            I think part of my issue here is that despite chiding me assuming I behaved certain ways I did, either you're saying I'm lying or 'Those Heathens weren't 'real,' ' just cause …what?

            I don't claim to 'fully understand your concepts,' never mind what you consider 'valid' ones, …I'm just talking about the fact that whatever your concepts and interpretations, perhaps you're projecting those onto *others* who are not the same as you and then calling them horrible for it.

            Don't think I don't honor what you *do.* I'm just saying there are other things going on as well. And you act like there's something wrong with that: in fact, making haste to claim, 'Oh, you only see archetypes,' ….Which means that lack of understanding perhaps goes both ways. And you being in 'attack mode' isn't clarifying the issue of our definitions or community in a wider sense.

            It seems what you're being 'offended' at is people not being you. (I understand there's stuff about boundaries, there. One thing a 'traveler' learns is about how different people treat boundaries and hospitality, of course, and why to respect and honor that,) Maybe the idea in your mind: that a more 'mainstream' Pagan *could possibly* be accepted in some way by 'Heathens' couldn't be 'real' is cause of your own limitations and labels, not ours.

            Yes, we're different, but *maybe* not so different as you 'accuse,' anyway. Maybe, for the most part, Pagans just aren't *making* the kind of claims you're 'opposing.'

            Actually, I do very much understand a lot about issues of 'identity,' and how that can be a constant crisis for some. If you have an identity in your way to be proud of, do it proud. And let's find ways for there to be peace between us. Together or apart.

          • Grant

            Perhaps it's time for a bit more clarification.

            When we Heathens operate within the community, we're talking about the geographical community in which we live. Because of our worldview, creating ties within our respective geographical communities is important to us. We don't care what religion(s) the people in the community hold to – the importance is that we share the region and can coexist within it. This is far more important to us than a "Pagan Community," or even a "Heathen Community," although many of us come together for blot or sumbel during our holy tides.

            Something else that needs to be taken into consideration is the Heathen concept of inner yard vs. outer yard – it lends itself to a very "live and let live" ideal. In the end we don't care what mainstream Pagans do – you go your way, and we'll go our way. It's only when we feel our identity is threatened by a misrepresentation of our folkways (such as the débacle involving Raven Kaldera and Cauldron Farms) that we really speak up. We don't have a right to dictate what non-Heathens do, but we do have a right to say what Heathenry is and isn't.

            Hopefully this clears the air at least some.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            It doesn't so much clear the air as demonstrate that there are Heathens more reasonable and polite than Dave. To really clear the air, you might explain what the problem is with using "Pagan" as an umbrella term in a sociological sense, covering Heathens, Wiccans, Vodouisants, Native Americans, etc. It's relevant because the folk covered have similar problems with tolerance and the law. What's the assumed harm? Where is the perceived insult?

            For the record, this is not the first Recon-vs-Eclectic outburst on this board. It generally starts with a Recon like Dave calling Wiccan theology "making shit up" or similar dulcet tones.

          • Grant

            I'd say the central problem with Heathens (Asatruar, Theodists, and other such groups) using the term Pagan is that although we *technically* fit into the *broad* definition of uppercase P Pagan, we have little or nothing in common with those who commonly use the term "Pagan" and we therefore prefer a more accurate label with which to define ourselves.

          • harmonyfb

            Grant, you and others keep saying you have "little or nothing" in common with other Pagan religions, but I still haven't seen one real difference listed. Can you elaborate?

            Frankly, through my own reading of the Eddas, and the work of modern writers active in Asatru, I've come to the conclusion that you're not actually very different in practice. Polytheists, yep. Honoring ancestors? Yep. Entering into agreements with land spirits (wights/fairies), yep. Gathering in local communities, yep. I have my own list of the differences between modern Heathen faiths and other religions under the Pagan umbrella, but I'd like to hear your take on it.

          • Crystal7431

            "Hopefully this clears the air at least some." Somewhat, yes. Thank you for your measured and civil reply. This discussion was becoming a bit taxing to my sensibilities- on both ends.

    • Maryte Danute

      Dave, well said. I follow a Baltic path myself, Romuva, and I find myself shying away further and further from the local pagan community. I don't them cherry-picking at my culture and gods, and I don't like the assumption that we all have the same beliefs. The only thing I have in common with a wiccan is we both follow "fringe" religions which are not judeo-christian. I hear the platitudes of "yes, we need to learn more of what the different paths are" but many seem to forget to follow up their words with actions. Time & time again, when invited to do a talk, I get pushed to the side cos someone wants to do a reiki session during my scheduled talk and needs my room.

      I don't refer to myself as "pagan" anymore, but as "old believer" to distinguish myself from the general pagan/neo-pagans.

      • Nick_Ritter

        "I don't them cherry-picking at my culture and gods, and I don't like the assumption that we all have the same beliefs."

        I think that the issue of "cherry-picking at culture and gods" is a fairly widespread one that Reconstructionists have with "at-large-Paganism". Unfortunately, I tend to see non-Reconstructionists dismiss this (as above in this comment-stream) with answers tantamount to "Well, you don't OWN the gods!" I think this dismissal of something sincerely felt deepens the division many of us feel with Paganism at large.

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    Since it seems I was the first person to claim the words "Pagan" and "Neo-Pagan" as self-descriptive–both for me personally and the Church I'd founded (the Church of All Worlds)–clear back in Sept.of 1967, I feel it appropriate for me to enter this conversation with my own thoughts and observations. Prior to my proclamation of myself and CAW as "Pagan," the word was invariably used as a pejorative to refer to other people–"those damned pagans" (with a small "p")–who needed to be "saved" by Xian missionaries.

    Here's the basic definition of the word that I have been using for the past 44 years:

    Paganism (meaning “of the country”) is a collection of diverse spiritual paths which are rooted in or inspired by indigenous (native) and classical (ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, etc.) traditions worldwide. Paganism is often referred to as “The Old Religion”—meaning pre-Christian. It may also be considered "Green Religion."

    And here are the most universal common factors among Pagans I've always identified:

    Pagans believe in the interconnectedness of all life, animism (everything is alive), pantheism (everything is Divine), polytheism (there are many gods and spirits), and immanent divinity (divinity is within everyone—expressed by some as “Thou art God/dess”). Pagans value diversity, good works, living lightly on the Earth, individual freedom, personal responsibility, and gender equity (equality between men and women).

    More to follow…

    Brightest Blessings,
    Oberon Zell

    • elnigma

      What name or umbrella do you think best describes other traditions that came before yours that have/brought many of the common factors you claim as 'Pagan'?

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    More by OZ…

    When we put together the "Papal Apology Petition" in 1999–which garnered more than 6,000 signatories–we created a FAQ sheet that was honed and refined by the international Project Committee into something that everyone agreed with. Here are the relevant items concerning the terminology:

    What is Paganism?
    Frequently-Asked Questions about Paganism

    1-Q: Doesn’t “Pagan” mean irreligious or heathen?
    A: No. The word “Pagan” comes from the Latin paganus, meaning peasant or country dweller. This gave rise to the French word pasan, meaning “peasant.” As a religious term, it is correctly used by anthropologists to designate indigenous folk religions of particular regions and peoples, and by classical scholars to refer to the great ancient pre-Christian civilizations of the Mediterranean area (as in the phrase, “Pagan Splendor,” often used in reference to Classical Greece.)
    To the Romans, “pagan” denoted a “hick,” one who was not part of the dominant, privileged, roman society (just as they used the term “barbarians” to describe foreigners who spoke no Latin). The derogatory quality of the term comes from Roman Christian classism. Thus, from the Christian point of view, all traditional native tribal religions have been considered Pagan, such as those of the American Indians, Polynesians, Africans, Norse, Celts, Gauls, Australian Aborigines, Hindus, etc.
    “Heathen” is not a specifically religious term at all, but simply refers to the people who lived on the heaths (where the heather grew), as in the British Isles. Since such people were usually Pagans, especially in being unsophisticated, not part of the dominant, urban, privileged culture, the two terms became synonymous as far as Christians were concerned.

    2-Q: What is Paganism today?
    A: Paganism is, quite simply, Nature worship. It is also called “The Old Religion,” “Ancient Ways,” “Earth-Centered Spirituality,” “Natural Religion,” “Nature-Based Religion," and Green Religion.”
    The early Christians, most of whom lived in cities, adopted the Roman word “pagan” to refer to persons living in outlying areas who had not converted to Christianity. Paganism was pre-Christian. Over time, the term came to be used to describe any non-Judeo-Christian religious minority, invariably in a negative way.
    Today, the word Pagan, in its broadest sense, refers to persons following alternative spiritual paths, and who probably do not strictly adhere to the tenets of the world’s largest religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. Most modern Pagans feel a close connection to Nature and the seasons, and may look to early “Pagan” or indigenous cultures for guidance in strengthening this connection.
    Modern Paganism (sometimes referred to as “Neo-Paganism” to distinguish it from original and indigenous pre-Christian folk traditions) is a revival and reconstruction of ancient Nature-based religions, adapted for the modern world. Paganism is an umbrella term denoting a collection of natural religions of the living Earth. Pagans generally view humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of all Life, rather than as something special, created separate and “above” the rest of the natural world. Pagans seek not to conquer Nature, but to harmonize and integrate with Her. Paganism should be regarded as “Green Religion,” just as we have “Green Politics” and “Green Economics.”
    Examples of Pagan traditions today include Wicca, Druidism, Church of All Worlds, Norse, indigenous African and Afro-Caribbean, ancient Egyptian, classical Greek, Celtic, Shamanism, Eclecticism, Judeo-Pagans, Hindu-Pagans, Christo-Pagans, and all indigenous Earth-centered paths.

    More to follow…

    BB-OZ

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    OZ on "Pagan" continued…

    As you can see, the term has from its initial adoption been intended to be globally inclusive, not just exclusive to European traditions. In the early 1990s, the Editors of "Akwesasne Notes," the major journal of indigenous religions of the Americas, proclaimed that the term "Pagan" encompassed all Native American traditions. And in the late '90s, the editors of "Hinduism Today," the major newspaper of English-Speaking Hindus worldwide, proclaimed that the umbrella designation of "Pagan" also encompassed all Hindus.

    By the same token, Shinto is quintessentially Pagan by these definitions, as are the indigenous traditions of Africa, Australia, Polynesia, etc.–which is what was evidently recognized by the Parliament of the World's Religions at their last meeting. But what I find most regrettable is their omission of the other–and even more traditional–inclusion of the Classical religions of the ancient world: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece, Rome–as well as the Druids, the Norse, and all other "Old Religions" that were later oppressed into extinction by the expanding empires of the "New Religions" of Christianity, Islam, and–in Tibet, Buddhism.

    Benjamin Franklin was once asked what was his greatest invention. He said "Americans." Before his (successful) efforts to popularize that term (via his journal, "Poor Richard's Almanac") as an umbrella definition for everyone living in "the New World," people identified themselves far more narrowly–by religion, national origin, or even colony: "Puritans," "French," "Virginians," etc. Adoption of a single unifying umbrella term–"American"–made possible an "American Revolution."

    By the same token, the global adoption of the identity of "Pagan" has made possible a Pagan Movement that has been growing steadily in strength and numbers for nearly half a century, and now embraces millions of self-identified adherents throughout the world. Indeed, Paganism has been called "the fastest-growing religious movement in the English-speaking world." And Pagan revivals are also gaining strength in many non-English-speaking countries as well, such as Iceland and Lithuania, where they are seen as nationalistic reclamations of suppressed folk heritages.

    I hope these contributions to this dialogue are useful.

    Brightest Blessings,
    Oberon Zell

    • Ingus

      I would exclude Hinduism and South Asian indigenous religions, Shinto, Shenism (Chinese), Taoism, Sinism (Korean), Zoroastrianism, Vodun, Candomblé, Santeria, and all other non-European or Near Eastern religions from the label "Paganism", since in the last decades is has come to define, at least here in Europe, ONLY the ethnic European and Near Eastern religions, and the new religions based on them. Paganism today comprehends Reconstructionisms (Hellenism, Heathenism, Rodnovery, Romuva, Celtism, Kemetism, Natib Qadish, etc), which are primarily ethnic-indigenous religions, and Wicca and Stregheria, which are new synthesises and universalistic or pan-European Pagan religions.

      • Warren Stott

        Pagan, in the context of organized religion, is commonly anyone of a non-Abrahamic faith. That, arguably, leaves out atheists. Oberon is correct in his history and interpretation. Simply looking up the word pagan in a half dozen different dictionaries you get a good overall definition of all that is pagan.

  • thehouseofvines

    This issue has been decisively resolved as of last night: http://thehouseofvines.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/t

    • Nick_Ritter

      I enjoyed this quite a bit.

  • Ariel Monserrat

    To me, Pagan simply means someone who honors Nature and the earth as sacred. I don't understand why some don't feel a part of the Pagan community and I'd really like to understand this. I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere in the Bible Belt and have no Pagans that live near me – I have to drive 1.5 hrs to be with a Pagan friend. But I'm on the internet alot and I go to festivals and I feel very much a part of the Pagan community.
    So why would someone not feel a part of the community? I'd really love to know more about this.

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

      The age old frailties and faults of the human condition keep getting in the way of people agreeing on any religious or spiritual practice, it's history and where it should be going in the future.

      • Bookhousegal

        Perhaps, Dan, those things are only of prime importance to *some,* being the thing. I seem to see notions of those kinds of 'agreement' getting in the way of some understanding of what the Pagan community *is.*

        Sure, we *disagree,* but mostly we don't *have* to in order to celebrate ….and build our diverse heritage and identity as a community: I don't know who taught us 'agreeing' was the primary concern, but I can think of a few good suspects.

        Not like we don't love to debate constantly about any given thing, in general. It's *something,* but it's not *Everything.* Y'know? :)

        • Crystal7431

          "Sure, we *disagree,* but mostly we don't *have* to in order to celebrate ….and build our diverse heritage and identity as a community: I don't know who taught us 'agreeing' was the primary concern, but I can think of a few good suspects." Agreed. I don't need to agree with someone on every point to accept that person or consider someone a part of my community.

    • Nick_Ritter

      "To me, Pagan simply means someone who honors Nature and the earth as sacred. I don't understand why some don't feel a part of the Pagan community and I'd really like to understand this."

      Simply put, not all who get lumped under the category of "Pagan" would consider their religions to be primarily concerned with "honoring Nature and the earth as sacred." In other words, there are people who don't fit your definition of "Pagan," or for whom the defining terms are not the focus of their religions. Ought those people, then, identify themselves as something other than "Pagan"? That's the whole question at issue here.

      • Khryseis_Astra

        While I'm a Hellenic Polytheist who still considers herself under the larger Pagan umbrella, the "nature worship" and/or "earth-centered" classifications tend to bug me. Not because I don't see the Earth as sacred (I do), but because I'm not worshipping the Earth itself or nature itself: I'm worshipping gods and other divinities, some of whom may be connected to nature. Nature itself is not my focus; the gods are my focus.

        I think maybe the irritant comes from the idea that everyone seems to be taught in their mythology classes that our gods were merely "made up to explain natural phenomena," disregarding the gross oversimplification of our deities that implies. Zeus is about more than lightning, Poseidon is about more than the oceans, etc., etc. Not to mention, that to date, no one claiming this theory has been able to come up with a "natural phenomena" explained by Hermes. LOL

        • Nick_Ritter

          That pretty much sums up my position on "nature centered" and "earth worship" as well.

    • Druidwood

      Ariel, not all Pagan paths are nature based take the Norse Gods for example. I guess this is why it is hard to define at times what people think a Pagan is.

    • Grant

      Heathens get put off the Pagan label by virtue of the seeming obsession with nature, among other things. We're not nature-worshippers – our worldview is family-centred and community-centred. To us "nature" is that area outside the security of the civilised community, the outer-yard, and it's not an area to be trifled with.

      • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

        Not to mention, Nature is often linked with the Jotun. In Scandinavia, nature bloody well does it's best to kill you! It's one of the reasons we're so folk and kin centered, because that's all that keeps you alive when everything else is trying to return to the chaos that came before Gods and Men.

        • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

          See this to me is understandable. The Nature of Scandinavia is not the same as the Nature of other places (and vice versa) and IMO it's sort of foolish to expect the worship (or lack of) to be the same as other lands.

  • http://audacityshewrote.com Cari

    This from T. Thorn Coyle absolutely resonates with the way I feel & I thank you for posting it, Jason! "Sitting around the fire with people we don’t agree with pushes us to become better, to think more deeply, to practice more concretely, to stretch our muscles. When we only live in association with like-minded folk, we are the lesser for it. There is nothing that says we cannot associate with a wide variety of groups without all coming under a common rubric. But the reality is, mostly we don’t and won’t. Mostly, we will drift further and further apart, coming back to the sense of, “We are not like those people over there. They are of a different tribe. We have our own.” The thought of that saddens me.”

  • http://deathbylollipop.com Sam Hamilton

    There’s conflict within Christianity, but most of them at least agree that they’re all Christians. And there are ones who proclaim to be separate and better, who separate their children from outside influences, who loudly decry the “cherry-picking” and “willy nilly” of mainstream churches. I belonged to one as a kid.

    I’ve heard this argument before, many times. It makes me gag. And you know what? People still tend to conflate mainline churches with the fundamentalist ones. For all their purity and tradition, it still happens.

    You can either accept that people who worship your gods differently from you will be recognized alongside you, stand together, and work towards common goals, or you can sit in your gated communities and still be conflated with us.

    There’s absolutely no benefit in shutting your communities away over silly little slights. Go ahead and do it, but it’s ultimately not in your best interest to do so.

  • Henry Buchy

    Just for the sake of accuracy
    It was Scot Reimers essay that got this ball to begin unravelling. http://www.patheos.com/community/paganportal/2011
    a full month before Drew Jacob's essay

  • Tea

    The term Pagan works for me, because I am not a part of a tradition, I am on my own path. If I was a part of a more specific tradition as many are I'm sure I would prefer being called by the name of that tradition.

    I really enjoyed hearing Nouvelle Noir Goddess' perspective on this. I had no idea Santeria practitioners sometimes referred to themselves as Wiccan because it is more socially acceptable How interesting!

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      I don't think "interesting" is the word I'd use — it's kind of sad, actually, and indicative of both racisms faced and Wiccan privilege (albeit slight).

      • Tea

        Yeah, its definitely sad. We have a long way to go.

  • Dromahair

    Oh, this again. I remember this argument from many years back. Looks like we have progressed not a bit in a decades time. So here's my take on the whole thing (after 10-years of mulling it over) in the form of two brief public service announcements…,

    ATTENTION PAGANS (Wiccans, eclectics, what have you): Get over yourselves. Not everyone is going to agree with you or your Theology. That's okay! We can still all work together to achieve common goals without everyone having to accept that everyone else's beliefs are correct and true. Just accept the help when it is offered and be willing to let the others walk away from the table when the work is done.

    ATTENTION PAGANS (Reconstructionists, Heathens, whatnot): Get over yourselves. The gods are not our exclusive property. While we hammer on about OUR ANCESTORS this and OUR ANCESTORS what we ignore the very real truth that OUR ancestors abandoned the gods and became devout christians for a good long time. There are no unbroken lines and all the dressing gods up as saints or preserving their memory in fairy-tales does not an unbroken lineage make (seriously, we start to sound like the "hereditary witches" with this crap). If the Wiccans (or whoever) are doing it wrong, they are doing so because our ancestors screwed up. All this whining about who we do or do not want to be associated with just makes us look like a bunch of spoiled children.

    In the interest of full disclosure, when asked I refer to myself as a Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheist. That's a pretty big mouthful so I use "Pagan" for short among friends and family who already know of my beliefs. I'll also use "Pagan" if asked by strangers about my beliefs when/if I don't care what they think.

    • Bookhousegal

      Nice post, Dromahair. But, actually, I think there *has* been a lot of progress, and I think the 'rehash' of the old stuff is because to some, it may really *seem* like a time for some notion of 'further progress,' …and to others, a thoughtful piece by Drew (Though I can't say I really agree with or understand his priorities right now) ….becomes a wedge with which to just hammer on the same things they've been saying all along, as if nothing every *had* changed, in light of the recently-polarized politics of the present moment in history.

      I think in part, many are tempted to go into rehash-mode because some walls between us, which those old arguments in some ways actually *are* falling down, not cause anyone's actually attacking them, but perhaps because indeed they're just less *necessary.* (especially in light of where walls *around* us as a general faith-group in America are dissolving.) One might expect certain reactionary… Reactions. But I do think there's a lot *more* going on than the debates here may let on, and in many ways, always has been.

      It may not generate as many posts, but I think a lot of us out here are ready to be over it. Especially since, whatever we call ourselves, we're in a bit of a situation, here, in some respects: notably, certain people with a lot of power and media influence who *don't like Pagans by any definition* starting to get pretty nervous about our numbers and happening to have a certain amount of use for scapegoats.

      I doubt they'll be much-diverted by nametags, footnotes, or someone claiming 'We're more *authentic* Viking or Roman or Druidic 'pagans,' see how we denigrate the 'wrong' sort!' We're Pagans, you know, if we *do* study our history, we ought to know better than *that.* :)

      Things to do, you know?

    • http://www.magickal-media.com A.C. Fisher Aldag

      Sure, there are unbroken lines, found in folkloric traditions, which may have sencreticized oldline ways with Christianity, but essentially kept most of their cultural and religious traditions.

      The rest of your statement I agree with.

  • Adrian Pertuset Columbia

    I think the reason we use the umbrella term "Pagan" is because it is a uniting force that bands all of us who are polytheistic, with earth-based spirituality, reconstructionism, and the like. It is a way for us to set aside what differences may occur within our own beliefs so that we may band together to form a united front so that we can achieve results. We want rights, protections, and opportunities afforded to mainstream religions and therefore we must put our differences aside to see that the term pagan is not one chock full of negative connotation but rather one of unification and strength.

  • Bookhousegal

    QED: you're going right to tone arguments and ad hominems while putting words in others' mouths: I certainly didn't say 'suck it up and get over it, or ever claim 'there's something evil or threatening about people claiming they are not Pagans.' I said I was impatient with the idea that some seem to have to vilify the whole community and other paths in order to *do* it.

    My *point,* again, was that we seem to be dealing with two arguments here: one that we should include and listen to recons, (Call me-closed-minded or not, but I've always been all *for* that, not that I understand how the very name ought to be abolished in order to do so: I don't think that's really very productive or doable,) …and another that recons are so different and 'everyone else' so awful that recons shouldn't want to be *associated.*

    Which they're free to do, ….I just don't see how it's supposed to make 'Pagans' any more friendly to keep on at us like we're all out of some trade paperback, you know? I don't see how the *word* is going to be seen as 'more than trade paperback Wicca' and all the other things some keep saying non-recon Pagans are all and only about, if 'recons' keep *insisting* that's all it is.

    • caraschulz

      I think some feel they are *increasingly* marginalized, would like to stay within Paganism, but feel that may not be possible for much longer. Others simply do not identify as Pagan and ask people to respect that.

      • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

        I'm going to have to agree with Cara for the most part. BookHouse, you have some good points, but it's coming across like you're saying something like "bad recons, don't pick on the Pagans for not including you!"

        It's the nature of the beast, but as a "recon" I've felt unwelcome several times because my views don't like up with those who say they are of the larger Pagan community. Are these people part of it, i couldn't tell you, but they are some of the most vocal, and I've lost count of the times i've been told I don't know what I'm talking about, that I'm wrong, or that I'm just a horrible person and not really a pagan. Not the most welcoming response. Hardly what I could call a welcome place at the table. And I'm not the only one. You'll notice there aren't a lot of Recons and Heathens around here, because they'll pop up, say something, and then have what feels like almost the entire community on Wild Hunt jump on them and tell them they're wrong and horrible. Half the time, it's only because of my Heathen nature and sheer will that keep me here because I refuse to give into people that try to attack me, that has kept me here. Because while people might not like what I say, my views are close enough to those who fall into my beliefs, that I feel someone needs to speak for them.

  • http://badocelot.com badocelot

    I've just realized that this whole situation is like debating whether Linux users are PC users.

    • Bookhousegal

      Reminds me most of 'soccer' fans trying to stop American 'football' from calling itself that. Seems to go in similar directions. ;)

    • Grant

      It's not as simple as that actually. Why should Asatruar, Hellenics, Romuva, and Recons of other such cultural flavours use the generic term "Pagan" when we already have more accurate labels for our own viewpoints?

      • http://badocelot.com badocelot

        Show me one place where I said you should use it, and I'll apologize profusely, because I don't believe anyone should adopt someone else's label for themselves, even if it is the common usage of the word.

        My whole point is that the question can be turned around:

        "Why shouldn't Pagans count Asatruar, Hellenics, Romuva, and Recons of other such cultural flavours as fellow Pagans when we move in many of the same circles (such as this blog) and when Asatruar etc. fall under the normal sense of the term 'Pagan' as it is used in English?"

        Back to the Linux/PC analogy, there are two analogous questions:

        Q: Why should users of Linux, BSD, Solaris, etc. use the generic term "PC user" when we already have more accurate labels for their systems (ex: "Linux user").

        A: In the interests of clarity, we shouldn't.

        Q: Why shouldn't Linux users be counted as PC users when they use hardware understood to be "PC hardware" (as opposed to Mac hardware or server hardware) in the normal sense of the term?

        A: We should be counted as such for precisely such purposes.

        Analogously, I see the use of "Pagan" as an umbrella term as legitimate when intended to discuss things American Neopagans, Asatruar, Discordians, Druids, Hellenics, Romuva, Wiccans, etc. share in common. For example, devotion to paths reconstructed from or inspired by religions that Christianity displaced, and a common fight for our rights as religious minorities.

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    To me, the best advantage of the term "Pagan" is that it specifically embraces ALL of the many diverse Traditions of all the tribes and peoples of the world from before their conquest and suppression by imperial monotheism. "Paganism" intrinsically does NOT dictate to anyone what they should or must believe; modern Paganism identifies no heretics, and wages no holy wars (an oxymoron if ever there was one!). Paganism is inclusive enough to encompass extant surviving pre-Christian religions such as Hinduism, Shinto, and indigenous folk religions, as well as cultural reconstructionists attempting to reclaim our lost legacies and stolen heritages–and even entirely modern groups inspired by ancient ways but not claiming any direct lineage from them.

    Separate, many of our Trads and Paths are small, and vulnerable to any concerted effort to eliminate us. But together, our numbers are vast and our strength is great. In ancient times, our tribes were easily conquered one at a time by the Imperial Romans, Christians, Moslems, and in Asia, Buddhists. Divided we fall; united we stand!

    Tune in to "Pagans Tonight" Blogtalk Radio this Wednesday evening–9:00 Central Time–for "Over to Oberon & Ariel," where we'll be discussing the latest threat to Pagans everywhere from certain extreme Fundie organizations such as the Seven Mountains Mandate. Our special Guest will be Sylveey Selu of the Pentacle Project. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchschool/2011/06/

    BB-OZ

    • http://badocelot.com badocelot

      I think at least part of the problem is that some people in some of those traditions don't want to be embraced. Many Asatruar [1] in particular do not like being lumped in with other Pagans. My only objection is that they don't get to decide how English is used, but perhaps out of respect for their wishes it would be better to speak of "pagans and polytheists" or at least the "broader Pagan community" rather than just "Pagans."

      [1] Someone please correct me if that's the wrong term. I'm not quite sure how the noun "Ásatrú" declines.

      • Nick_Ritter

        "Asatruar" is the commonly used faux-Icelandic plural in common use. My knowledge of modern Icelandic is sketchy at best, but I'd guess that the accurate terms would be masc. sing. "Ásatrúmaður", masc. pl. "Ásatrúmenn", fem. sing. "Ásatrúkona", fem. pl. "Ásatrukonur". A collective noun might be "Ásatrúfólk".

        I have no idea if native speakers of Icelandic would make those sorts of compounds, and I'd be happy to be corrected.

        "Many Asatruar in particular do not like being lumped in with other Pagans."

        This is true. And, in turn, Theodish folks don't like being lumped in with Asatruar, so they kind of get to experience both sides of the argument.

        For my part, I have never referred to myself as "Pagan". I have consistently referred to myself as "Heathen" or "Theodish". As such, I have a good deal of sympathy for Drew's position, and greatly enjoyed his article. I'm a bit surprised that anyone got offended at it, though, since it seemed to be merely a matter of what he and his thought of themselves as, and not what they intended everyone else to refer to them as, or how they're not going to find any common grounds with Pagans anymore, or any of the other big bad things that some seem to be taking it as.

        Honestly, a lot of the reaction seems to me to be reminiscent of nothing more than outrage at secessionists. I suppose I would prefer a "federal" model, where all of the different groups can work together when they need to, but are free to ignore each other otherwise. I think that's better for everyone's sanity,

        • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

          I tend to stick with Pagan because for what I do there don't feel like there are any good alternatives. I could call myself 'Suomenuskolainen' but that would just be awkward to an English speaking audience and I shudder to think at how the pronunciation would be mutilated :)

          • Nick_Ritter

            I saw your post over at Drew's blog the other day, but unfortunately didn't have time to respond then.

            My opinion: You should use the term "Suomenusko" to refer to your religious practice (and "Suomenuskolainen" would be the people who practice it, right? my knowledge of Finnish is even sketchier than my knowledge of Icelandic). Thirty years ago, no one knew what "Theodish" meant either, nor how it was pronounced, but now thousands of people reading this blog have at least an idea of what it's about (and how it's pronounced, sort of).

            And here's why I think that, and my main concern in this "to be or not to be Pagan" debate: as a reconstructionist, I feel a great deal of sympathy and fellow-feeling for other reconstructionists, as well as surviving polytheistic religions such as Hinduism, Shinto, Siberian shamanism, Voudun and so forth. That's not to say that I don't have sympathy and fellow-feeling for Pagans at large: I do, but I feel closer to the surviving and reconstructed polytheisms. I think it would be a terrible thing if all the unique traditions of looking at and interacting with the divine were to be: 1) snuffed out by the continued encroachments of monotheistic faiths, or 2) swallowed up in a bland omnidefinitional "Paganism".

            The world needs difference.

            And for folks who might react to the self-definition of our various relgions with all the outrage of a spurned lover or a righteous Unionist at us ungrateful Secessionists: I understand. Such folks see strength in numbers, and they don't want us to leave. Or, they feel that they're the one's who have made all the gains for Paganism, and now that we've ridden their coattails thus far, we are conveniently throwing them under the bus at a dangerous time. The thing is, i don't see anyone really advocating that. People belonging to minority religions can still band together to make gains, even if they're not all still under the same rubric, the same way as I'd take a stand for the rights of Hinduism to exist even though I'm not Hindu.

            As for folks who will continue to call folks like us Pagan – even though I've never called myself that – because we fit the dictionary definition; they can go ahead, so long as they understand that they can't really infer what my religious practice consists of based on that term. Being called a Pagan neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg… yet.

            Good luck (hyvä osa?), Suomenuskomies.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

            Correct, suomenuskolainen would refer to someone who practices suomenusko (the -lainen ending usually added to roots to denote a person belonging to the group indicated by the root, amerikkalainen, for example = American). I'll admit I've been generally using 'Finnish Paganism' in place of suomenusko, just for recognition, but I've thought about mixing in suomenusko occasionally to get people used to seeing it. One issue for me is that suomenusko, unlike various forms of Heathenry, Theodism etc which are established in the English speaking world, is pretty much limited to Finland right now, with rare examples of people of Finnish ancestry, like me, outside Finland who are exploring it. It also suffers from a general lack of English language scholarly resources about pre-Christian Finnish religion(s). I have what is probably among the best selection of books relating to the subject in English and they add up to less than two shelves on my book case.

          • Nick_Ritter

            I'd be interested in what books you have. I've got one that might interest you, if you don't have it already, called "The Great Bear: A Thematic Anthology of Oral Poetry in the Finno-Ugrian Languages" by Lauri Honko, Senni Timonen, Michael Branch and Keith Bosley.

            Also, it occurs to me that there might be more scholarly resources on pre-Christian Finnish religion(s) in German or Russian, possibly also in French.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

            That's a great book, not just all of the texts that wouldn't otherwise be available in English (and also in the original languages, that excites my inner linguistics geek), but all of the introductory material is great. I actually have my whole collection of books on a bibliography on my blog ( http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com/2011/01/bibliog… ). That lists pretty much every book I own on the subject. A lot of them were out of print and/or hard to get. Another great anthology of folkloric material, in this case restricted to Finnish/ Karelian material is Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic. Unfortunately, it was published in the 70s and is out of print now. I paid a ridiculous amount to get a copy. It has a diverse selection of folk poetry, including material that Lönnrot used in forming the Kalevala, both in English and the original Finnish. There is also some good introductory material and notes on the individual poems at the end.

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

      Oberon Zell: "In ancient times, our tribes were easily conquered one at a time by the Imperial Romans, Christians, Moslems, and in Asia, Buddhists."

      Only someone completely ignorant of history could lump the Pagan Romans and Asian Buddhists together with Christians and Muslims.

      In fact, Buddhists and Romans provide some of the best documented historical examples of the religious tolerance that is characteristic of non-monotheistic religions. But you would actually have to know something about history to know that.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      Just to quibble a bit: Pre-Christian Rome was actually astoundingly tolerant of the religions of the tribes they conquered — as much as Recons like to tout that the ancient Mediterranean had religion deeply interwoven into the average person's entire life, there are clearly examples of separation of religion, culture, and politics. Rome conquered tribes politically, but after the final battles, arrangements for taxes were made, and tribes were generally allowed to resume to 'business as usual". While the establishment of said as a new "Roman colony" often carried ill effects on the social classes (such as well-educated and formerly wealthy Hellenes resorting to be sold into slavery cos now there's no money), cultural religions were allowed to thrive — at least with the assumption that lip-service would be paid to the cult of the Emperor. Furthermore, even in Hellas, there were "free cities" peppered about the otherwise "conquered" land — sure, "free" usually meant so much as long as they aligned with Rome, politically, but these were thus technically cities not of the Roman empire.

      Comparing pre-Christian Rome to the later "Holy Empire" is severely intellectually dishonest, as it conflates Rome's acquisition of taxed lands with Christianity's veritable cultural genocide.

      • Brenda Daverin

        And you make two errors that need to be highlighted for completion's sake as well. The Romans were tolerant of other religions so long as they did not risk the State's power. This is why Christianity was initially oppressed (they refused to sacrifice to the gods of the State, which was seen as an attempt to destroy it from within due to the religious significance of doing so) and the druids of Gaul and Britain were massacred by their troops (the druids had too much input on how the tribes were ruled and thus had to be eliminated). The basis of Rome's handling of other faiths after it became Christian-only was born from this intolerance of faiths that wouldn't play nice with the government. It wasn't native to Christianity. It was native to Rome.

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

          Brenda Daverin: "The basis of Rome's handling of other faiths after it became Christian-only was born from this intolerance of faiths that wouldn't play nice with the government. It wasn't native to Christianity. It was native to Rome."

          Your analysis fails to pass the most basic test of common sense. When Rome was Pagan there were dozens, if not hundreds, of different religions coexisting for centuries. The vast majority of these religions were not, in fact, natively "Roman" at all, although many of them became central to the religious life of Romans, including those who traced their families back to the old aristocracy. But when Rome became Christian only one religion was allowed, on pain of death, and even the followers of that one religion were slaughtered by the tens of thousands if they did not follow it in just the right way.

          To claim that there is continuity, with respect to religious toleration, between Pagan and Christian Rome requires either an actual ignorance of historical facts, or, something that is far worse, a willfull blindness to those facts that do not fit with one's own ignorant prejudices.

      • Brenda Daverin

        Thus what I meant by your second error; you claim they had the religion and politics separate. Refusing to sacrifice to gods being a state crime means the two were interlinked. And the gods of other people's were integrated into Roman belief, sometimes as whole-cloth as the gods of the Celts were, given Roman names and forced into their pigeonholes.

        • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

          …sometimes as whole-cloth as the gods of the Celts were, given Roman names and forced into their pigeonholes

          Cos modern self-defined "pagans" are *so much better* concerning this? Pfft.

        • Tom

          There is a significant difference, however, between pre-Christian and Christian religious suppression: the former was still largely political, only suppressing religious cults that were politically subversive, while the latter suppressed ALL religious cults on the basis that they were not Christian (or, regarding other Christian sects, not the preferred type of Christianity). Christian exclusivism and homogenizing introduced a whole new and unique approach to religious suppression in the Roman Empire.

        • Tom

          Pagans really need to get over this peurile piling on Rome.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            This.

            And thanks for putting it better than I was feeling up to.

            It's like, I can't deny that the Romans suppressed *some* cults, but bringing up interpretatio romana is a bit nonsense — it was seldom enforced onto native cults, and it was generally understood that's just what Romans did, that's how they reasoned that all the world could be Roman, if they wanted to: "Ah, we see your Maponos is like your version of our Apollo — Who's Greek, but we liked Him, so obviously He's a Roman god." Huge difference between that along with the occasional suppression of a cult that threatened Rome's political power and destroying the temples of "idolaters" where "false gods" are worshipped en masse.

            Compared to Christianity, polytheistic Rome suppressed almost nothing (almmost).

  • elnigma

    Some thoughts I had:
    Pluses to "pagan"
    - it's general
    - it's associated with ecology
    - it's been used for longer
    - it umbrellas everybody who wants in
    - atheists, agnostics, etc. are included
    - (if you're Wiccan) it's linked immediately in people's minds with Wicca
    - liberty rights groups that call themselves pagan

    Pluses to polytheist
    - is accurate if your home isn't rural (mine isn't)
    - isn't linked immediately in people's minds with Wicca (if you aren't Wiccan)
    - hasn't been used in the Southern US to be synonymous with things like having messy hair "Brush your hair, you look like a heathen"
    - direct acknowledgement of gods plural, doesn't exclude those other paths that are also polytheist.

    • http://badocelot.com badocelot

      « – hasn't been used in the Southern US to be synonymous with things like having messy hair "Brush your hair, you look like a heathen" »

      As Southerner, this made me smile.

      I've actually come round to the idea that maybe we should just start talking about "pagans and polytheists" or "the broader Pagan community" (as in, "the Greater Birmingham area," which actually consists of several counties: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham-Hoover-Cu… ). Drew Jacob made a really good point about "Pagan" having too many Wiccan/Neo-Druidic connotations to be useful to groups not similar enough to those two paradigms.

  • Juliaki

    My concerns…. aside from a lack of agreement among self-professed pagans on what the definition is, I'm hearing a variety of definitions for what needs to be included in pagan, which do not apply to me.

    * Pagan = country dweller, however I do not live in the country, so I am not pagan by that standard
    * Pagan = eco-sensitive, environmentalist, or "green", however I do not have any sort of political or societal leanings that way. I am not a nature worshipper. I do not follow an earth-centered spirituality. I like this planet because it's a very convenient place to live, not because I see a rock as a spiritually evolved being.
    * Pagan = "Old Religion", however the path that I follow is a modern creation. To say my path is old because it contains a handful of old concepts is to say that my new Prius is an ancient device because it contains wheels, which have been around for millennia. Also, to imply that Pagan is the "Old Religion" (singular) hints that there is a unified pagan religion, which I think we can all agree on there is not.
    * Pagan = nothing Judeo-Christian or monotheistic touches your path. I'm a pragmatist. I use what works. If that means using a Jewish psalm or a Christian saint candle to accomplish a goal, I'll use that just as much as I would use techniques not directly linked to modern Judeo-Christian practices.

    My path is not Wiccan, nor Recon, nor anything in between or around the fringes. I am a modern, suburban witch. I am a pragmatic spiritualist. I have no problem being seen as the "guest of the pagans" status, however this does limit my willingness to support "pagan goals", "pagan rights", "pagan pride", or any other pagan socio-political movement as a member of said movement. Perhaps the simplest way would be to not try and find a single label to put everyone under, but several terms that touch (and for some people may even overlap). Instead of looking at pagan as an end to itself, maybe we need more spiritually localized interfaith work among the different classifications of pagan and non-pagan streams. The question would become what is the minimum number of umbrella terms that we could string together that encompasses the most number of individuals/traditions that want to be involved in some type of grouping? Does something like "the Pagan and Polytheist communities" cover enough ground to start, or do we need to phrase the list in terms of items in a series? ;)

    • elnigma

      Pagan = nothing Judeo-Christian or monotheistic touches your path.
      Well, that would exclude the roots of the majority of those calling themselves pagan, or Wiccan.

      • Juliaki

        Yup, which is what I find rather amusing. On the one hand, they say that one cannot be pagan if you have any sort of Judeo-Christian and/or monotheistic aspects to their path, and yet they call themselves pagan when they do have those things. That's part of the oddness that I see coming up with the challenge of defining pagan. Most of the definitions out there, when combined together into a single statement of criteria for being pagan/being excluded as pagan actually ends up having something to exclude just about every person who calls themselves pagan.

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

    There has never been any lack of clarity about exactly what the word Pagan means. It refers to anyone who worships the old Gods, including those who did so before the Christians came along, as well as, naturally, those who continue to do so today.

    In the old days, we didn't need a word for "Pagan", because it was assumed (for the most part correctly) that everyone, everywhere, worshipped the Gods, albeit in many different ways and languages. In the same way there was no word for "religion" in the modern sense of "my religion" versus "your religion".

    • Grant

      The "old Gods," eh? And you wonder why Heathens and other Reconstructionists are reluctant to come on board with the Pagan label. Interpretatio hellenica and interpretatio romana, respectively, on the part of Greeks and Romans does not sameness of gods throughout cultures make.

      "But there are too many similarities to be ignored." Any "similarities" that exist are superficial at best.

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

        Grant: "Interpretatio hellenica and interpretatio romana, respectively, on the part of Greeks and Romans does not sameness of gods throughout cultures make."

        This "intrepretatio" was not something peculiar to the Greeks and Romans, but was also found among the Lydians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Etruscans, Sumerians, etc.

        The important thing, however, was not the correlations between the various so-called "pantheons", but rather the fact that ancient Pagan peoples matter-of-factly accepted the validity and the reality of the Gods of other peoples. This is nicely summarized in an ancient Arab proverb: "When you enter a village, swear by it's Gods."

      • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

        The "old Gods," eh? And you wonder why Heathens and other Reconstructionists are reluctant to come on board with the Pagan label. Interpretatio hellenica and interpretatio romana, respectively, on the part of Greeks and Romans does not sameness of gods throughout cultures make.

        Agreed — and I'm a Hellenist, but I also know the difference between the chauvinism of certain ancient Attic philosophers and genuine respect for other cultures and their deities.

    • Juliaki

      So are you saying that some gods are older than other gods? For me, deity is deity… it exists outside of our concept of time, thus the Christian god is just as old as the myriad Hindu gods who are as old as a modern deity of technology who has just revealed him/her/itself today.

      Can I say that I honor the same gods that people 10,000 years ago honor? I don't know… I think they may be different sides of that type of deity, however I'm not sure they're the same deities (even if I call them by same or similar names) because the way I can relate to and interface with them is different enough that I'm probably not tapping into exactly the same deities.

      You also bring up another sticky wicket. I'd wager that probably half the self-described pagans I've met would take issue with the idea of worshipping the gods. I've heard lots of justification about why they don't want that word used, but if worship is required to be pagan, you'll be tossing a lot of people out of the pagan umbrella. Just sayin'. :)

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

        Juliaki: "So are you saying that some gods are older than other gods?"

        Are you really unfamiliar with the common usage of the term "old Gods" among Heathens and Pagans? The use of this term is not based on some claim that we make about our Gods being "older than other Gods", but is rather a response to claims made by the worshippers of Jesus concerning their "new" God.

        • Juliaki

          Even though I'm neither pagan nor heathen, I am familiar with the terminology because I interact with those two subsections of society. What is "common usage" in our very small subsection of society is not understood by a majority of the world's population, however, so I am trying to address the issue as it may be seen by the outsiders that are the target audience for education.

          That still doesn't address the challenges that not all self-described pagans choose to worship deity, nor do all self-described pagans believe in gods and/or work with either "the Old gods" or "the Elder gods" (whichever term you prefer). If you want to say that the requirements for paganism are: 1) must worship deity and 2) the deity(ies) worshipped must be from a religious-cultural system aged older than 2,000 years, I think there will be a decent number of self-described pagans who will be cut out in the cold. Is that the definition that you are advocating, however?

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

            Juliaki: "That still doesn't address the challenges that not all self-described pagans choose to worship deity, nor do all self-described pagans believe in gods and/or work with either "the Old gods" or "the Elder gods" (whichever term you prefer)."

            Worship of the old Gods is central the conception of the Old Religion as it is described in the writings of Leland, Murray and Gardner. This is also true of more recent authors including Doreen Valiente, Vivianne Crowley and Scott Cunningham. Worship of the old Goddesses is also central to the more feminist, Goddess-centric forms of Wicca/Witchcraft as described by Budapest, Starhawk, etc. Worship of the old Gods is also a defining feature of "reconstructionism". Many more examples can be given from an even broader spectrum of authors and teachers, many of whom do not fit into either the Wiccan or reconcstructionist categories.

            To define what the word "Pagan" means is not the same thing as establishing "requirements" that all Pagans must follow. Obviously. Many Christians do not accept many of the central tenets of Christianity, including even the divinity of Jesus. Pagans and Paganism should not be required to be any more consistent and coherent than any other religion.

          • Juliaki

            So if I'm hearing you correctly, you're okay with the idea of defining pagan as "one who worships the Old Gods". I have no problem going with that definition (as I would be on the fringe of that definition and could easily step outside as needed), however I think there's more than a handful of people I've seen in this thread and beyond that would be very surprised to be told they are no longer pagan.

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

            Juliaki: "I think there's more than a handful of people I've seen in this thread and beyond that would be very surprised to be told they are no longer pagan."

            Actually, Pagans who are squeamish about such things are usually well aware that this sets them apart to some extent.

            Pagans obviously love to squabble about ideas, as this discussion illustrates nicely. But at the end of the day we do not apply ideological tests to one another. Most of us have pretty vague and constantly shifting ideas about just exactly what "the Gods" actually are, anyway.

      • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

        So are you saying that some gods are older than other gods?

        Eh, I think it's less than and more the "poetic sense" of Old Gods. Like the concept of "Old World, New World" — obviously, there was a wealth of evidence at the time of European first-contact with the Americas that those lands had been there for at least as long as the Old World, but the New World was simply "new" to Western consciousness.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      …including those who did so before the Christians came along…

      Uh… Source? Your blog doesn't count, by way way, Curt — unless, of course, a particular entry cites its sources and they're easily verifiable.

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    My personal aphorism: "If you don't like it, you can't have any!" And the corollary is: "More for me!"

    I don't believe anyone is saying that people such as Juliaki who don't feel comfortable identifying themselves as "Pagan" should in any way feel compelled or coerced into doing so! Pagans are adamantly not evangelistic; we don't wanna drag anyone kicking and screaming in off the street! We only want people here who want to be here.

    We're happy to get along with everyone–even non-Pagans. We're OK with Christians, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Heathens, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and even non-Pagan Witches. It's just that some of them aren't OK with us–and keep trying to persecute us, deny us our rights, and even burn us at the stake. We're not really OK with that, and with people who feel that way. In fact, we're generally not OK with any folks who want to persecute others–whether it's us Pagans or anyone else. So we don't tend to be so OK with, say, Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, Jihadists, Dominionists, Puritans, and the Spanish Inquisition.

    So, Juliaki and others, call yourselves anything you want; believe anything you want; join anything you want. If you wanna hang out with us Pagans, you're welcome to do so. We're pretty friendly and generally amiable, and we're used to hanging out with people who don't necessarily agree with us. Take a seat at the table if you wish. Just play nice, be polite, don't pick fights with the other company, and don't steal the silverware!

    BB-OZ

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

      Oberon Zell: "I don't believe anyone is saying that people such as Juliaki who don't feel comfortable identifying themselves as "Pagan" should in any way feel compelled or coerced into doing so!"

      That is definitely true, but at the same time Juliaki does not get to dictate to others what the word "Pagan" means.

    • Juliaki

      Sadly, I've started running into a growing trend of evangelism within the paganosphere in the past few years, mostly among people who have come to the circle within the past few years and generally (although not always) among the younger set and those who have come from other evangelical religious backgrounds. I've been told on several occasions in the past few years that because I identify as a witch, I am automatically a pagan and that if I don't like it, I should stop calling myself a witch. Likewise, I've seen people who want to call themselves pagan who have been told that they aren't "pagan enough" for a variety of trivial reasons–everything from not being vegetarian to being a political conservative to considering themselves a part of a mystical path largely based on Christian philosophies. If that kind of mindset could be curtailed, I'd be very happy. Heck, I'd even bring an extra bottle of wine for the table. ;)

    • caraschulz

      Anyone else enjoying the irony of these two comments almost right next to one another?
      Oberon: "I don't believe anyone is saying that people such as Juliaki who don't feel comfortable identifying themselves as "Pagan" should in any way feel compelled or coerced into doing so!"

      Druidwood: "Every one of us here are Pagans like it or not. None of us worship the Judea-Christian God & to be honest it doesn't matter if you like the definition or not."

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      Pagans are adamantly not evangelistic; we don't wanna drag anyone kicking and screaming in off the street! We only want people here who want to be here.

      Considering the number of times I've been told by self-identified "pagans" that my religion, despite any reservations I may have against calling it such, is "really pagan", I'd say you're very well out-of-touch with the growing and changing face of modern Pagans and their community.

      We're happy to get along with everyone–even non-Pagans. We're OK with Christians, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Heathens, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and even non-Pagan Witches.

      So… Whether we like it or not, everybody else is "pagan"?

      [sighs tiredly]

  • catrioux

    I am Pagan, I am Wiccan, I am a Witch, and I've fought for over 20 years to be able to say that openly and with pride. I welcome anyone who welcomes me regardless of race, color, beliefs, or sexual orientation. That's all I need and that’s what I will keep.

    • elnigma

      I don't think anybody calling themselves polytheist will be living without what prejudices have been around

    • elnigma

      Whether a person calls themselves pagan, wiccan, witch, polytheist, non-pagan, etc. once someone has an alternative spirituality they may get flack from the majority religions.

  • Druidwood

    Every one of us here are Pagans like it or not. None of us worship the Judea-Christian God & to be honest it doesn't matter if you like the definition or not. If you want to try & change it then go for it. It won't change what people think about us due to the media & Christians. I don't see my fellow Pagans banning together to change it, only because we can't agree on what it should be. So in the end we're going to have to live with said definition as it is. The best thing we can do it try & change peoples mind about what we do & what we believe. Because in the end that's what I believe really matters.

    • Juliaki

      See, it's this kind of statement that sets me on edge. I don't worship the Judeo-Christian God, and I am a witch, however I don't agree with "Every one of us here are Pagans like it or not." I am here, but I'm not pagan. Why do you feel you have the authority to deem me as pagan? Or, if you feel that it isn't an authority issue that you've taken on, what qualities do you think I possess that puts me under the pagan umbrella in your mindset?

      • http://twitter.com/lunamoth42 @lunamoth42

        THIS, exactly. Now, I've identified myself as Pagan for years but in light of this whole kerfuffle, I'm *actually* considering stopping its use BECAUSE so many people are telling me what I am "whether I like it or not". I don't like being told what to do by strangers. (It all started when I was a church-goer, go figure…)

        Druidwood, and others: Nobody is suggesting we take away the Pagan term. But many do seem to be asking that their personal spiritual paths be RESPECTED and if that includes not self-identifying as Pagan, that shouldn't be such a huge personal affront that people are making it out to be.

        • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

          I admit, part of what influenced my decision to reject the term "pagan" is plain contrariness. "What's that? You say I 'should' do This? Screw you!! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!"

          Ahhh! It feels goooooood!!! ;-)

      • Druidwood

        By the very definition of that word we all are pagans & we do fall under that umbrella term Just as Christianty is umbrealla term.. I think some believe that is a negtive term & if you & others for some other reason don't want to be called pagan then that's your right. I never said I had any authority to deem you as anything I'm stating by definition what we are. If you don't agree then get in line with those people & get a hold of Websters & ask them to change it, untill then & by said defintion your pagan. My mindset has nothing to do with it either. Don't blame me because you don't like the defintion, It is no fault of mine.

      • Druidwood

        By the very defination of what Websters states we all pagan we all fall under the umbrella term. Much like Christianty is umbrella term if you think about it. Like others have suggested here if you don't like the defination then try & have it changed because no matter how much you might dislike it, people will always look to the defination when it comes down to it. You act like I am suggesting that you have no choice not to be called a Pagan, please believe me I am not trying to imply that. Nor do I have the authority to do so. Utill the defination get changed by Websters you will always be considered a pagan by everyone,

        • Druidwood

          Sorry it didn't post the first time…..

        • Juliaki

          The publications I work for don't use Webster's, so I don't have a copy around to check the definition, but going by what someone posted earlier, one of the meanings in of pagan in Webster's is a person who worships false gods. Are you really sure you want to go down the road of telling everyone on here that they worship false gods?

          In my experience, the only people who try to identify me as pagan are people who themselves identify as pagan. Non-pagans who ask about my beliefs are generally okay with me saying "witch", although I did have one ask if that was something like Wicca.

          I have no problem whatsoever with people who want to call themselves pagan if that's what they believe is the best word to describe their path. I'm just asking to be given the same respect to be not pagan. In a perfect world, I would like to see some sort of consensus among people who identify as pagan as what pagan is, but that hasn't happened in the decade and a half I've been 'round the community, so I'm not holding my breath. It would be a pleasant surprise, though….

          • elnigma

            I would like to see some sort of consensus among people who identify as pagan as what pagan is, but that hasn't happened in the decade and a half I've been 'round the community, so I'm not holding my breath. It would be a pleasant surprise, though….
            That should happen a few years after everybody has consensus on the definition of magic(k) and on their favorite colour
            So keep breathing.

        • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

          Here, perhaps you should familiarise yourself with how the word "pagan" is actually used.

          You act like I am suggesting that you have no choice not to be called a Pagan, please believe me I am not trying to imply that.

          Uhh… hon, when you say:
          Every one of us here are Pagans like it or not. None of us worship the Judea-Christian God & to be honest it doesn't matter if you like the definition or not.[link]
          …you haven't implied that — you've outright stated it.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      I worship the Theoi (the gods and goddesses and hemitheoi and earth-bound daimons recognised by ancient Hellas), and I am not a pagan. I reject the term as a Christian slur, and as one that may only be rightfully "reclaimed" by those who feel closest to the Divine in the woodlands or countryside — not by those, like myself, who are spiritually enriched by large cities.

  • Juliaki

    Bah, first instance of their should be your. No ability to edit. Sorry 'bout that. :)

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    Okay after reading all the replies I've got to ask…if some folks don't want to be called Pagan, why is this such a big deal? Is it because of the whole "minority faiths must stand together" bit? I haven't read that the folks who don't identify as Pagan won't stand WITH them when it comes to important matters. They just don't want to be called Pagan. That's fine, I'd rather call somebody by the name they prefer then something that they feel doesn't apply to them.

    • Juliaki

      Quoting Vermillion: Is it because of the whole "minority faiths must stand together" bit?

      *nods* That's what I've been told by some individuals about why I must identify as pagan, even if I don't want to… because if I don't, I'm letting "them" win (for various values of "them"). It's about strength in numbers, and so putting myself in the "Other" category instead of the "Pagan" category makes some people feel that I'm somehow hurting "the movement" (again, for various values of "the movement"). Granted, I'm not sure why putting "pagan" on my jury duty notice or as the faith on record for the delivery of my daughter would make a difference in the world, but apparently some people think it would. I really want to understand, but at the same time, I don't feel comfortable lying about who I am to stuff the demographic ballot box, ya know?

      • Druidwood

        I don't think you HAVE to do anything you don't want to. However doing something like putting pagan in said box would show people your not ashamed of your belifes.It also might give a push to others as well. Please believe I am not saying that you are in the first place. I do think at some point we have to stand up for what we believe & what we are. Of course some believe that there is no need to to stand out & say "I'm Pagan" And of course no one can tell you to stand up for what you believe, other then yourself & only when you feel it's time.
        After thousands of years most of us are still in the closet when it comes to letting everyone know what we believe. It's still not the easy to tell someone when asked what it is one believes. These things need to change.

        • Juliaki

          I'm not ashamed of my beliefs…. if I was, I would check something I'm not, like pagan, for instance. ;) But I'm not pagan, hence the best label on most demographic forms is "other". I tried to work with the pagan label for about a decade, and it never fit right. I'm out and open to everyone who cares that I'm a witch, however.

          I think that people choosing how much, if any, they want to be open about their beliefs (or anything else for that matter) is a personal choice, and trying to cajole me to lie about what I am so that they have the false perception of safety in numbers is not constructive action.

          • elnigma

            A personal choice unless someone outs them in some context with the hope to do them harm.

            And it's in those circumstances it is nice there is some few giving solidarity to protect their rights.
            That being said, what you want to identfy as is your business and you can always tell off those with whom you disagree and who continue loading on you pressure.

          • Druidwood

            I am in no way shape or form trying to conjole you or anyone else to check said box when it comes to define what it is you wish to call yourself. My ex-wife called herself a Witch not Wiccan but if you asked her in general she said pagan. It said enough for her & myself without going into great detail. Not me mention it didn't shock people as much. As far as people choosing to be open about thier belifes I agree with you to some extent. I live in the bible belt so I don't have a lot of choice. I've been a Pagan for 15 winters plus & this issue about is the term pagan upsetting to some is nuts. I have never met any fellow pagans who have complained about it. The again the world has become SO pc that people tend to get offended by someone else breathing these days. And maybe that's what it boils down to in the end people being over sensitive about everything.

  • http://www.iaraschamber.etsy.com iaraschamber

    How about…If you'd like to call yourself a Pagan raise your hand….ok everyone else you're gonna have to come up with a new term….

    jk lol

    Don't we wish it was that easy…. My brain is starting to hurt from reading about this for so long….I think literally every Pagan has a different opinion….

  • iaraschamber

    every Pagan/person….see this is so not working in my head…

  • Amanda

    Ugh, not this debate again!

    Ok, if Heathens and Pagans are totally different, then what does that make me? I only worship Germanic gods (because those are the only ones who "speak" to me), and I do blots on every solstice and equinox. I wear a Thor's hammer. All my Wiccan and Wiccanate and Celtic Pagan friends consider me Asatru.

    But when I tried to meet some other heathens, they didn't like me because I have Wiccanate friendsI was against the Iraq War, I voted for Obama, and environmental issues are vitally important to me. So heathens consider me a Wiccan, even though I don't believe in most of the Wiccan religious teachings, like "all gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess" or the Threefold Law or the Wiccan Rede.
    So which am I?

    At least the pagans have been more accepting of me despite me worshipping the Germanic gods than the heathens have been of me being too liberal.

    • Varkald

      The question is twofold: What do you consider yourself? "Heathen" is a general term that points to a unique identity. It is not the same as "Pagan" or "Wiccan". And, have you made the conscious decision to be a part of the Heathen revival, in one of its iterations (Odinism, Icelandic Godhord Asatru, American Asatru, Theodism, etc.)? If you have made that decision, devoted yourself to the revival of the cultural values of the ancient Teutons within the context of the modern world, and devoted yourself to their sacred pylons of culture (chiefly the Gods) first and foremost, then you are Heathen. I'm sorry that you get hardness from conservative heathens because of your liberal beliefs, but then, they shouldn't have a word to say about your personal political or theological beliefs. That's not their business. Heathenry isn't about "thought control". It isn't about orthodoxy, in the slightest. As a free person and Heathen (if that is what you are) then who you vote for, or what you personally, privately think about the nature of the Gods, is your business, and it shouldn't affect your standing in the community that you belong to at all. The trouble is, you may not belong to a community, and that is your downfall.

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

        Varkald: "'Heathen' is a general term that points to a unique identity. It is not the same as 'Pagan' or 'Wiccan'."

        Actually, "Heathen" is an extremely broad term that does not necessarily mean anything more specific than (or different from) "Pagan". The 19th century German Catholic historian Ludwig von Pastor called the anti-Christian tendency of "malcontents" in Renaissance Rome "Heathen-minded Humanists", who were charged at the time with the crimes of "republicanism, irrelegion, heresy, neopaganism, and sodomy."

        Also, Helena Blavatsky liked to refer to herself as a "Heathen", and so far as I know she never used the term "Pagan" for herself.

        As is the case with the word "Pagan", everyone is free to use "Heathen" with whatever meaning you please, but you do not have to the right to impose that meaning on anyone else. It is certainly not the case that "Pagan" and "Heathen" refer to two separate separate groups of people, even though some people do use the terms in that way.

        • Varkald

          I know where the term "Heathen" came from, how it has been used, and all that. Today, to we Heathens, it has taken on a particular meaning. Words do change in usage and meaning, depending on the group using it, the cultural context, and so forth- just look at the term "Pagan" and its metamorphosis. "Heathen" is just a term the protestant ministers of Northern Europe used to fulminate against non-christian practices, whereas it appears to me that Catholic priests were far more likely to shout "pagan".

          So, I'm talking from the only perspective that matters to me- my religious one- and I can assure you, that there are many, many people who would contest you if you used the term Heiðinn to just refer to any old polytheist of any culture. This is part of the revival- the reclamation of words. We don't care whose agenda we have to step on to do this. But the universalist agenda is one of the most pernicious.

          • Nick_Ritter

            Just a linguistic footnote to this conversation: "Pagan" and "Heathen" are not two different words in most languages.

            In German, for instance, there is one word: "Heide".

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

            Right. It's like "Witch", "Strega", "Hexe", "Sorcière", etc.

          • Andras Corban-Arthen

            " 'Heathen' is just a term the protestant ministers of Northern Europe used to fulminate against non-christian practices, whereas it appears to me that Catholic priests were far more likely to shout 'pagan'. "

            Bear in mind that the term 'heathen,' as equivalent to 'pagan,' was in use for hundreds of years before the Protestant Reformation took place. 'Heathen' was the word the Catholics used instead of 'pagan' when they were speaking in the Germanic vernaculars instead of Latin — the two terms have been synonymous since the early Christianization of Europe.

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

      But Amanda, hairs must be split asunder, and split they will be! ;-)

      Seriously, best of luck finding a group that fits for you.

    • Nick_Ritter

      This surprises me, Amanda. I know a number of politically liberal Asatru folks. I think they may be greater in numbers than politically conservative ones. This is especially true in Europe.

  • Amanda

    And by the way, those are the gods of MY ANCESTORS too, My Mom was BORN IN GERMANY for crying out loud! Conservative Heathens don't own the Aesir any more than Southern Baptists own Jesus, no matter how much they may wish. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to ask Odin himself why he picked me, because that's what happened.

    I'm totally fine with a great big umbrella term for everyone who doesn't worship the Abrahamic God. I think it was the monotheists in the first place who started this whole thing , because they had to tell who was saved and who was damned. Before you just had lots of people worshiping lots of different gods lots of different ways, and it was EXPECTED for everyone to be different. I don't see any reason why pagans can't keep being that way.

    • Varkald

      I personally cannot belong to any "umbrella" that contains a perception, from the outside or inside, that values contrary to my own values are being promulgated by it. Most "pagans" I know do not live by my value system, honor it, or even live according to a value system that remotely approximates it. What we value, what we believe, that is the key, the most important element. The "pagan umbrella" will forever be tainted by inside and outside perceptions of post-modern nonsense, "sexual liberation" (whatever that means), feminism, rainbow-coalitionism, environmentalism, and many other "isms" that I'd rather not be blanket associated with- even if I personally appreciate aspects of some of those things. But there's ugly politics involved here, utopianism here, and issues here too numerous to count.

      • Nick_Ritter

        Speaking as a Heathen of about 20 years, and someone who is on the conservative side of a number of issues:

        "What we value, what we believe, that is the key, the most important element."

        No, I rather think not. It is what we do that is the most important. Do you worship the gods in the old ways? Do you sacrifice? Do you keep your word? I think these things are much more important.

        Deeds done well ought to mirror some inner reality of value and belief, this is true. Such things are fluid, though, and hard to pin down. The deed carries more weight than the belief without deeds; but the deed backed by belief is probably worthier.

      • Bookhousegal

        So you're claiming the Gods validate, agree with, and impose, your version of right-wing political and sexual mores, and no others? Ye Gods, you're equating 'Divine values' with, what, being anti-sexual freedom, anti-environment, anti-diversity, anti-women's equality, and some 'taint' from these things?

        Where have we heard *that* before.

        Why don't you call everyone disobedient and damned liberal sinners and be done with it? :)

        Heathen values don't have to mean oppressing people, and Pagan values most *assuredly* don't mean that freedom, even to have sex some may not approve of, equates to *irresponsibility* or some kind of 'wanton immorality.'

        • Bookhousegal

          Let me add on some of that a bit more: What 'Sexual liberation' means is that one's free to apply one's *own* feelings, honors, and, yes, values to a given situation, not be chained by the dictates of some others: one has to *live* it, respect it, love it, not just obey some rules based on some other commands, ….which has a tendency to place one's 'moral center' someplace outside onesself rather than as being something one must live and be responsible to self and others about *from within.*

          So that when you give your word in, say, a marriage-oath, it's really yours to give.

          And it's not to turn around and criticize Heathen ways, but I've occasionally been able to be of some small service using some very Reclaiming-esque conflict-resolution techniques: not to override Heathen ways, but, I think to just point out that sometimes wrongs are done, and conflicts of honor can result in people looking for honorable ways *out* by saying 'who did worse,' when what they *really* want is honorable-ways back *in,* so to speak. Nothing you guys don't *have,* but sometimes something you don't *see.* There's ways in which we're stronger together, or at least being friends. Doesn't have to be all or nothing. ;)

        • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

          Straw man.

          And that isn't at all what Nick is saying, he is saying that orthopraxy matters, not orthodoxy.

          And as to sexual freedom, the Norse were fairly liberal with that; women were often seen as equals; and environmentalism had nothing to do with what Nick said.

          I think your rant says more about your beliefs than Nick's, really.

    • Druidwood

      I would like to know why people have a problem with that defination no one has really stated why they don't like it, ot refuse to use it. All I have read is whining about that they are not pagan & refuse to use that defination, yet the only excuse I am seeing is because they think someone else is trying to tell them what to believe or be. Amanda I'm with you I have no problem with that defination myself I think it describes us perfectly..

      • Juliaki

        I think I mentioned somewhere in these comments some of the reasons why I don't use the word pagan to describe my practices, but the crux of it is that whether you're going by the ol' Latin meaning or the more modern meaning, paganism seems to have importance placed on being an earth-based, nature worshipping, or eco-centric spiritual path. Don't get me wrong, I love this hunk of rock that I'm living on because it's the best option available in my lifetime, however my spirituality is not earth-based nor eco-centric and I do not worship nature or the earth. I don't buy into the idea of earth = Gaia = deity. I also do not live in the country, work primarily with agricultural cycles in my personal practices, or focus on nature/natural cycles as my primary source of interface with that which is beyond myself. As I feel those things are generally important to those who call themselves pagan, that is why I do not want to disrespect them by using that label for myself when I do not fit into that mindset.

        Let me repeat that last bit again so it doesn't get lost….I don't use pagan to describe my path not only because it isn't accurate for what I practice, but also because I respect pagans enough that I don't want to take away from the beauty of the word as it relates to their practices by trying to force it to fit into my distinct practices.

        • Druidwood

          Juliaki, I call myself pagan because I do not worship the Judea-Christian God & that's where it ends for me.
          That is the one thing I think that we ALL have in common if nothing else. I do believe that the earth is alive & without it we wouldn't be here. So I do think it is important that we take care of it. If you met me you would never know I am pagan unless you talked to me. I am one of the very few people who think Wicca & Witchcraft are two VERY different paths I could go on & on about how differently yhink I think when it comes to being a pagan. We all differ in some ways that is to be expected, as someone else said maybe we should talk about on what does bind us as a religion.

          • Juliaki

            Here's where it gets tricky. If the whole reason that people need to identify as pagan is because we're trying to protect "minority rights" or whatever, but then by your definition, most of the people in the world are pagan, we're not a minority anymore. We're the majority. That's why I can't get behind the idea that anyone who doesn't worship the Judeo-Christian god is automatically pagan. I'm also of the old school of discourse that says it is ineffective to try and define what something is by merely stating what it is not. Telling me that you don't worship the Judeo-Christian god doesn't tell me what you actually do.

            So I'm certainly open for that dialog… what in your view does bind our different religions together, aside from things that we are not/do not do?

  • Druidwood

    Personally I do consider Buddhist, hindus, etc as pagan that's my personal belifes as what I believe a pagan is. I don't expect anyone else to agree. And I don't think that we are the minority religion when you consider them as pagans as I do. Reverence for the natural world, We believe in free will, & that we're into sin or born bad. That's all I have for now I work nights & I'm beat I'll look at your response later.

    • Juliaki

      A lot of people bring out the big non-Christian paths when they try to say that all non-Judeo-Christian god worshipping paths are pagan, but there's a lot of others that also would have to be included in that definition. Some diverse examples that you may have heard of include Juche, the Raelian movement, Druze, the Five Percenters, Scientology, atheism, Baha'i, Christian agnostics, and Heaven's Gate. Would you feel comfortable with naming them as your fellow pagans, or do you think that just a lack of worshipping one deity isn't enough to put you in the same category?

      Conversely, would religions/paths like Umbanda, Sufism, UUs, the Indian Shakers, Pow-Wow, and Gnosticism be excluded? If so, do you feel comfortable excluding them simply because they may at some times worship one particular deity that is the sole criterion used for determining paganism?

      Get some good rest and talk to you later!

      • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

        Baha'i _do_ worship the God of Abraham and his prophets (they just tack a few more on after Muhammed).

        And the Sufis are Muslim (albeit a fairly small and marginalized group within it).

  • http://www.OberonZell.com Oberon Zell

    Try it like this:

    I object to the term "Judaism," and its derivatives, "Jew" and "Jewish." This terminology implies a connection with ancient Judea, and I don't have any such connection. I have no Semitic heritage. My ancestors came from Ireland, Scotland, and Switzerland, so why should I be expected to call myself "Jewish?"

    Besides, I don't really believe all those things that are put out as what Jews are supposed to believe: being the Chosen People; the Covenant of Circumcision; the Fall of Adam & Eve; and awaiting the coming Messiah. I don't even accept the Torah as binding upon me!

    I suspect there are many other people besides me who do not feel particularly "Jewish." So I propose that we drop all this "Jewish" terminology and find some more inclusive language that doesn't exclude people like me who don't identify as being "Jewish." Perhaps something like "Humans" would be more appropriate.

    And since i don't consider myself to be "Jewish," this gives me a perfect right to harangue all those people who do claim that identity, and tell them that they aren't being inclusive enough!

    BB-OZ

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

      Spot on OZ!

    • Druidwood

      I think that we all can sit here & find something that defination that we're not going to like & have a problem with. I might get flamed for this but I believe people are one of the three. Athiest,Christian or pagan. Even Detist from what I understand believe in God but they believe that God created us & then left.

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

      OZ has provided a very good illustration of a point that everyone should take to heart: stop arbitrarily applying to Paganism tests, conditions, criteria, etc, that are never considered for other religions.

      For example: no one calls Presbyterians "Neochristians", even though there was no such thing as Presbyterianism until 1.5 millennia after Jesus was dead and buried.

    • Juliaki

      The first two paragraphs are exactly where I'm at with the word pagan. I don't come from the country. My ancestors back hundreds of years didn't come from the country. I have no connection to the country, wide open spaces, or pollen-filled "fresh air". To me, because paganism at its core is a nature-based faith, it doesn't describe me. On the other hand, I think it *does* describe a lot of people who should come together under that label for various goals.

      The challenge for me has been finding people who identify as pagans who are willing to accept that a non-pagan might either have an interest in mutual goals or might be willing to support pagan-specific goals. Two examples come to mind: one was a letter writing campaign where there was specific phrasing to be used which identified one's self as pagan. When I asked if it was okay if I identified as a witch instead of a pagan (because that's who I am), I was told not to bother participating because this was a "pagan only" thing. Another example, at a public event, someone had printed up "pagan and proud" stickers for everyone to wear and came up and put a sticker on each of us as we were milling around. She saw me remove the sticker and asked why. When I explained to her that I was here to support pagans, but that I personally didn't identify as a pagan, she made a snide comment about hating that these events attract so many posers and walked away. The fact that Mr. Zell has been okay with the concept that a non-pagan might be able to share a meal with pagans without having to lie about one's identity makes me wonder if some of this is an east coast vs. west coast thing. Both instances I described happened when I was living deeper in the bible belt, where there very much seemed to be an idea of "if you aren't one of us, you are against us".

      My view is that pagan is a term that is fine for itself for those people who follow non-Judeo-Christian paths that have an earth-based spirituality core. If there's another definition that pagans as a whole find to be more accurate, let me know and I'll see if I can revise my mindset on it. I'll gladly help in ways that I can to support pagan-related goals that are in line with my beliefs and ethics….as long as non-pagans are welcome. And if it is important that the word pagan be included for some sort of lingo emphasis, I'd have no problem going with something like "pagan supporter and polytheist". I don't need inclusiveness from other spiritual paths. I just need to know if I'm welcome as a guest.

  • Druidwood

    Who said anything about measuring up? I doubt if anyone here is jealous of Wiccans either. I don't understand why you would think that.

    • Just Another Pagan

      Measuring up: See the responses to Amanda's post.

      Jealousy towards WIccan: From the responses throughout this topic, Wiccan seem bear the brunt of the scorn, for no real reason other than some folks don't like their rituals and practices, and they somehow equates that with marginalization.

      I think it's time for some folks to pull up their big boy/girl undies and be more concerned about building community, supporting community, and supporting each other, than worrying about what their label is.

      • Druidwood

        It's not Wicca it's Garnder most have a problem with I myself am one of those people. As I stated above Wicca has become a yard stick for how Pagans are doing as a whole.

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

          Gardner? What's your beef with him?

          • Druidwood

            I don't wish to de-rail the topic but there is a lot of claims that doesn't add up.

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

            I'm absolutely certain that you don't know anything whatsoever about what Gerald Gardner has "claimed".

          • Druidwood

            You would be wrong to assume that.

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

            I am familiar with what Gardner "claimed" in writing about the historical roots of Wica. In fact he was very cautious about committing himself to specifics, notwithstanding the fact the few people seem to recognize that. It appears to be some sort of problem with basic reading comprehension (or possibly people just believing what they have been told without ever actually bothering to read for themselves what Gardner actually wrote).

  • Sehnga

    "Alot of what I've read on this topic makes me feel like recons, heathens, etc., are just trying to exclude people from their practice who don't measure up in some fashion?"

    It does seem that way, doesn't it? Over on one of their blogs, the entire page is filled with 'they-they-they pagans' – and usually in a derogatory manner. I'm not sure who this 'they' is that they keep referring to, but apparently it's anyone who is 'not them.'

    Add extreme Folkishness to that mentality and – oh, yes, we've seen where that leads, haven't we: "we're purer/our religion is purer/our group is purer than anyone else." Sieg, baby..

    Pagan, to me, simply means 'not Big 3.' If others automatically associate it with Wicca or SCA or anything else, that's their own impression, and I'm not sure where they've gotten it, since Wiccans don't usually say they're pagan, they say they're Wiccan. Could these protestors be absorbing 'outside' definitions provided by xtianity and PR?

    In any event, call yourself whatever you wish, but I think it's both foolish (& semantics) to not ALSO have a loose umbrella term for purposes of rights, etc. The umbrella term has no boundaries or restrictions inherent to it, nor is it 'a religion' – so I think al this squabbling is much ado about nothing.

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org/ DanMiller

      Right on Sehnga. Thumbs up on your post.

    • Druidwood

      Sehnga, I agree with you that Pagan to me also means NOT part of the big 3. That's is where is end for me as well.

    • Nick_Ritter

      "Add extreme Folkishness to that mentality and – oh, yes, we've seen where that leads, haven't we: "we're purer/our religion is purer/our group is purer than anyone else." Sieg, baby.. "

      Not only are you putting words in other people's mouths, but this sort of attack by innuendo is the lowest form of ad hominem.

      You're demonstrating quite well the sort of knee-jerk reaction that many Reconstructionists tire of in dealing with non-Reconstructionists, to wit, that by focusing on one particular culture's religion and pantheon, we must all be suspect as some kind of purity-obsessed racists.

      Yes, I think that your post demonstrates quite well why some folks might feel that the "Pagan Community" is no place for them.

      • Bookhousegal

        Actually, no, she wasn't being knee-jerk nor talking about 'focusing on one reconstruction of one culture's religion and pantheon,' ….but rather the way some seem to pursue this by speaking of 'they they they Pagans ' in dismissive and derogatory terms if they *aren't* seen in that manner: in fact, it's often these Recons who *most* promote the idea that everyone else is somehow callow, undedicated, or just 'wrong.'

        That *does* lead to bad places, and it can turn the good in 'folkishness' to something else, if one's not very very careful.

        • Nick_Ritter

          No. Sehnga draws a direct line between "recons, heathens, etc.", their perceived "exclusion" of other people, and her innuendo of Nazism. It comes down to saying "they say they're not us, so they must be Nazis."

          I'm sure that some Reconstructionists and Heathens are being overly derogatory of Pagans; I do not dispute that. However, this attempt to tar Reconstructionists and Heathens with the brush of Nazism is a tired old tactic intended to shame people into toeing a particular line, and it's high time that people were called out on it.

          If someone really thought that folks like Drew were mistaken in considering themselves not Pagan, then that someone would make some attempt to find some sort of common ground or fellow-feeling with them, instead of attributing to them base motives.

          No less than the Heathens and other Reconstructionists that have pointed at the distinction between themselves and Paganism at large, it is the *Pagans* who react against this as an affront that deepen and reinforce that divide; even moreso, those who try, as Sehnga did, to make a caricature of "recons, heathens. etc."

      • Sehnga

        No, I was not putting words in anyone's mouth, I was referring to the extremists, and you as well as I know there are a number of websites who mumble 'Odin' and White Supremacy/purity/superiority in the same breath. That's sad, disturbing and historically inaccurate, as the Norse peoples were not particularly xenophobic to the best of my knowledge..

        Niether was my reaction knee-jerk, as my original comment was posted after reading the blog and comments I mentioned. They said what they said, labeling 'all pagans.' I was specific that extreme Folkishness could be an issue; not all Recons or followers of Norse traditions. So they – not I – are guilty of what you accuse me of.

        It would be more productive to spare the general pagan community (goofballs included) and focus on the hate-breeders that are usurping the Norse pantheons/cultures, would it not?

        I'll take a sparkly goofball (harmless) fluffy bunny over a hate-driven and potentially dangerous group any day. My Asatru friends do not subscribe to the form of extremism I mentioned, and in fact are angry at the usurping of their religious and cultural beliefs by these neo-Nazi's. Unless you are one, I fail to see how you could be offended at my pointing to them.

        • Nick_Ritter

          Let's review:

          ""Alot of what I've read on this topic makes me feel like recons, heathens, etc., are just trying to exclude people from their practice who don't measure up in some fashion?'"

          "It does seem that way, doesn't it?"

          "Add extreme Folkishness to that mentality and – oh, yes, we've seen where that leads, haven't we: "we're purer/our religion is purer/our group is purer than anyone else." Sieg, baby.."

          It seems fairly clear to me that you are drawing a connection between "recons, heathens, etc." and a tendency towards racism, implying that Reconstructionists of various stripes are more prone to that sort of ideology than other Pagans. *That* is what I find offensive.

          "I was specific that extreme Folkishness could be an issue; not all Recons or followers of Norse traditions."

          I think you're backpedaling. In any case, you have repeatedly implied that racism is something that "recons, heathens, etc." are more prone to than others, and specifically in the form of "extreme folkishness". Again, I find that offensive, particularly as it seems to be a tactic that is repeatedly used by non-Reconstructionists against Reconstructionists as a way of, as I said before, shaming people into toeing a particular line. It's something that people use to make sure that us Recons don't get "too uppity." And it gets old.

          "My Asatru friends do not subscribe to the form of extremism I mentioned, and in fact are angry at the usurping of their religious and cultural beliefs by these neo-Nazi's. Unless you are one, I fail to see how you could be offended at my pointing to them."

          See, there you go again. In effect, you are saying that one should not be offended by someone heaping suspicion of neo-Nazism on others unless one is oneself a neo-Nazi. Do you really not see how this an attempt to use innuendo, in an almost McCarthy-like manner, to silence someone who disagrees with you? It is shameful.

          "It would be more productive to spare the general pagan community (goofballs included) and focus on the hate-breeders that are usurping the Norse pantheons/cultures, would it not?"

          Except that hose "hate breeders" are vanishingly few and quite marginalized, generally by Heathens themselves. Excessive focus makes them seem like more of a threat than they are, and gives us the reputation for being more of a recruitment pool for racism than we are, which leads into people like yourself using innuendos of closet racism to keep people like me on a short leash in public discourse.

          • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

            See, there you go again. In effect, you are saying that one should not be offended by someone heaping suspicion of neo-Nazism on others unless one is oneself a neo-Nazi. Do you really not see how this an attempt to use innuendo, in an almost McCarthy-like manner, to silence someone who disagrees with you? It is shameful.

            This.

            Seriously, I'm one of the last people on Earth who's be a racist, and this insinuation of hidden racism among recons severely annoys me, to put it lightly. Yeah, I know some racist groups will use slick language to paint it as a somehow "kinder, gentler racism", but I distance myself from that. The other recons I'm friendly with (both in and outside Hellenism) distance themselves from that. In fact, I've argued profusely with people about how ancient practise really wasn't so "pure" as some people like to think (especially in Hellas — but only really cos that's what I know).

            ETA: For serious. My father's family is Ultach and my mother's is Cornish & Cockney. I'm a Hellenist, cos those are the gods I feel closest to; I've known non-whites who are Hellenists or Romans — and most of the Kemetics I've met don't appear Middle Eastern in "genetics". Reconstructed religions can be practised by anybody — some feel a close bond or calling to worship the gods of their ancestors, others feel that bond to the gods of other tribes.

    • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

      Can you provide a link, please, to the blog in question?

      Sehnga wrote:
      one of their blogs, the entire page is filled with 'they-they-they pagans' – and usually in a derogatory manner.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      Add extreme Folkishness to that mentality and – oh, yes, we've seen where that leads, haven't we: "we're purer/our religion is purer/our group is purer than anyone else." Sieg, baby..

      umm… excuse me? As some-one whose religious practise is based on reconstructionist methodology, I really resent that straw man. Yeah, OK, Hellenism and Religiio probably have the lowest rate of that I've seen amongst other recon paths (makes sense, I guess — ancient Hellas defined "Hellenes" as anybody who spoke the local language fluently, and Rome would let any free man, and certain classes of free women, who applied and paid taxes be a Roman), but you're still lumpng all recons together, and yet you seem surprised, shocked, that there are recons who resent Popular/Eclectic Wicca?

      I've seen nobody in all this go on about "purity". I know that mentality exists, but nobody in Patheos' link round-up has had that sort of mentality. I've seen nobody simply linked there in the comments with that mentality.

      This is the worst kind of ad hominem, and not to mention a bad case of poisoning the well.

      Thanks! >:-|

  • cigfran

    The siege mentality of the 'yay, Drew!' faction baffles me. He has in fact achieved exactly what he set out to… he has firmly established himself as the Rogue Priest and bolstered his credibility as, and among those who need to be, an iconoclast among iconoclasts. He manufactured and promoted this round of controversy, and his ego is well feasted as a result.

    No Rogue Priests have been harmed in the making of this little drama.

    • DanMiller

      It does seem a slick bit of marketing for his group.

    • Henry Buchy

      promoted, maybe…
      but as I posted a few days ago:
      'Just for the sake of accuracy
      It was Scot Reimers essay that got this ball to begin unravelling. http://www.patheos.com/community/paganportal/2011….
      a full month before Drew Jacob's essay '
      it was the above piece by Scot which sparked Thorns two part essay: http://www.thorncoyle.com/2011/04/paganism-one-wo
      But I can see where you're coming from. It's the same pop fandom/marketing type thing I've noticed over the past 5 years or so.

      • Bookhousegal

        Perhaps the difference is that this thing about Drew's group comes about just as there's been a lot of talk about the Pagan community in the Twin Cities being something special, and it seems particularly-divisive, the way it was gone about (Not that I get the impression Drew himself was setting out to be particularly-divisive, but it sure came off that way, as though 'I have to dissociate this temple from the Pagan community cause people think Pagans are this certain type' ….if for any reason I were someone Drew knew or consulted, I think I'd say, 'But… Aren't you just reinforcing that very notion by doing this, instead of just being clear that this is your form of Celtic traditional practice and being really *part* of the term?'

        I don't know what his real intention was there, but it certainly *has* become a bit of an occasion for division, and perhaps it'd have been better to be *part* of the diversity of the Pagan community, (and not seem unwelcoming to the rest, just as the Twin Cities seem to really be coming together, there. Again, I don't necessarily think that was his intention, from what I can see from here, but I also don't see why it had to come off like a 'schism' instead of part of a 'teachable process.' )

        • DanMiller

          "but I also don't see why it had to come off like a 'schism' instead of part of a 'teachable process."

          Because it's much easier to pour gasoline on the bridge, and set it on fire, than to repair the bridge itself. That seems the standard operating procedure for most things in pagandom. We need more bridge fixers, than the wrecking crew-mentality. I've experienced it first hand, seen it in action via friends. Not fun.

          • Bookhousegal

            "We need more bridge fixers, than the wrecking crew-mentality."

            Well, maybe that's me, among others. I suppose I'm kind of a bridge-walker and one much concerned with how they're made.

            I don't know if I'm the one that builds them, but rivers do change course, and in any event, pilings are rooted on both sides. Before there's other fancy work, towers and spans and decks, never mind toll-gates, you need to know what it's all built on. As well as where and how.

            I'm not claiming I have it all worked out: I can just see how they're put together, and I hate to see good people fighting each other.

            When I was a child in this American dreamscape, I used to fear so much the teetering bridges that seemed to be our connection between the worlds and each other. This world, this culture, the ancestors, the ties between that were part of me. (Pardon if I spare the detail for once.)

            All those bridges seemed high, tenuous, and shaky…. I think sometimes it was about fear of falling, sometimes about fear of flying, and sometimes about fear of trusting …..in the walking. Bridges aren't just spans, they're *gates.* And maybe we make them tall when the real thing of it is at the ends.

      • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

        Oh GODS, I'd almost forgotten about that silly "PaganD" nonsense. :-(

  • cigfran

    > Aren't you just reinforcing that very notion by doing this, instead of just being clear that this is your form of Celtic traditional practice and being really *part* of the term?

    This question reflects some of my attitude. In fact, I tend to view Drew's practices as more strictly 'pagan' in some ways than many postmodern neo-traditions.

    > Just for the sake of accuracy …

    Thanks for the refresher, Henry.

  • Sehnga

    "I'm sure that some Reconstructionists and Heathens are being overly derogatory of Pagans; I do not dispute that. However, this attempt to tar Reconstructionists and Heathens with the brush of Nazism is a tired old tactic intended to shame people into toeing a particular line, and it's high time that people were called out on it. "

    I do not want anyone to toe any line, and my post was quite specific; it is you who have tarred all Recons/Heathens and put words in my mouth. The blog and comments I referred to seemed to equate Wiccans with pagans and lumped all pagans together to boot; the same thing you are protesting here.

    I would prefer that people be themselves (barring hate groups.) I don't care what you do or call yourself or whom you associate with as long as it's not destructive or harmful to others. I don't care about labels either, except as Oberon pointed out – that much progress has been made regarding equal rights under the loose term 'pagan' for many years now; it would be a shame to lose that progress.

    • Nick_Ritter

      "it is you who have tarred all Recons/Heathens…"

      You are trying to shift blame. How, exactly, have I "tarred" all Recons/Heathens? I have not; instead, I have spoken up against your innuendo that Reconstructionists are more prone to racism than other Pagans. That isn't "tarring," Sehnga, that's protesting a wrong.

      "… and put words in my mouth."

      I quoted what you wrote. If what you wrote isn't consistent with what you think, then it's up to you to issue a retraction and clarification. An apology would also be in order, I think.

      • Sehnga

        …because I said specifically "when you add extreme Folkishness to that." – and you have since proceeded as if I had said all Recons/Heathens.

        I suspect your response to me is based on experiences or something more than I have actually said here.

        In any event, to topic: if groups don't want to be considered Pagan, then they wil likely have to take on educating the media and the mainstream regarding their own group, as they are the ones who primarily lump everyone together. I don't really care all that much about this issue except where it benefits all Not Big 3 peoples regarding equal rights.

  • Druidwood

    I have never let my religious beliefs mix with that of politics nor have I cared to combine them. I don't vote based on party affiliation or religion. I would say the pagan I personally know are liberals I can't recall ever meeting a conservative pagan. I might of & just didn't know it. I see no difference between the two major parties, I haven't voted in the last two elections because I see haven't seen no one worth voting for. So what does that make me? Pagan/ heathen?