Pagan Voices: P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Annika Mongan, Peter Dybing, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 11, 2013 — 199 Comments

Before we start this week’s edition of Pagan Voices, I wanted to note that today is Veterans Day, and we here at The Wild Hunt would like to give our thanks to all military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifices. Today is also an excellent time to think of the modern Pagans and Heathens currently serving in the military and offer them our support. A great way to do that is to support to organizations that offer services to Pagan military members. Now then, on to our spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community.

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy. Photo by: Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

“I think as Pagans, it is especially important that we engage in this practice of remembrance.  Whatever your view on war (some traditions strongly respecting the warrior path, such as the Asatru; some being adamantly opposed to war, such as Reclaiming Witches), our empathy for the experience of it is a valuable service we can contribute to our culture and the world.  The many reasons connect to the uniquely Pagan experience of our spirituality.  Now granted, these are all generalizations; and as such, not everyone will fit these moulds.  But we seem to have these commonalities that make remembrance, especially of powerful and terrible events such as war, much more immediate and intense.” – Sable Aradia, on Veterans Day / Remembrance Day.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Yes, I think there are many truths, but “many” does not automatically mean every or any; and it certainly doesn’t mean that all things are truly equal, and thus there is no “real truth.” And, I suspect, this is where a huge number of modern Pagans and polytheists over-read pluralism, and think it means “anything goes,” or the all-too-common maxim “nothing is true, all is permissible” (paraphrased slightly from Vladimir Bartol’s Alamut). [...] As a polytheist and a pluralist who thinks that there are many possible truths, I am obliged to respect people who hold these viewpoints and not do them physical harm, nor deprive them of their bodily integrity or security of person and possessions. But, I can debate them to my heart’s content, I can disagree with them, I can resist their efforts to restrain my own freedoms or to demoralize me, and I can even repudiate them and execrate them if they think it is their right and obligation to harm or intimidate me or other queer people. (And, I have and I do, regularly!) [...] There is, then, the question of polytheism itself, and whether or not it can tolerate monotheism or monism as other potential “truths.” I would argue that it cannot and it need not, because both of those viewpoints invalidate the basis of polytheism, and thus the experiential core that almost every polytheist upholds and responds to in their theological position as a polytheist. Monotheism and monism cannot be given equal credence as “truths” (or “truth,” as they’d probably prefer it!) because they do not allow for pluralism of divine experiences, or for the diversity of approach and ways of life necessary to nature as we understand it to exist at present.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on how polytheism is not relativism.

Annika Mongan

Annika Mongan

“Many Pagans are former Christians. Those of us who converted from Christianity generally have Christian friends and family praying that we will “repent” and “come back.” We’re seen as prodigals on the wrong path who will realize our error and return to the Christian church. Sometimes the pressure is tremendous, especially where family is involved. We find strength in our Pagan community. We sometimes deal with the pressure by feeding our own us-vs-them mentality. We tell each other how much better our new path is and how glad we are to be done with Christianity. And then one of our own leaves our ranks and does exactly what we vowed we’d never do: “coming back” to Christianity. [...] As a Pagan I value pluralism. I value diversity. I believe that divinity is expressed in many forms and that we all understand Spirit differently. We have hard polytheists, monists, pantheists, syncretists, and atheists in our midst. We have endless debates on who is a “real” Pagan and who isn’t, and in the end we still find ourselves under the same umbrella. The Christo-Pagan debate has been getting old for a while now and yet the movement continues to grow. Are we really afraid of Christianity or are we worried about exclusivity? Are we so worried about exclusivity that we exclude Christians from the interfaith table because we fear they might be exclusive? Do we recognize irony when it slaps us in the face?” – Annika Mongan, penning an open letter to Teo Bishop concerning his recent re-engagement with the figure of Jesus.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Peace, it’s a word that has been redefined over the centuries to meet the needs of the cultures that seek it. Peace through strength, peace through protest, peace through conquest, and peace through the struggle to compromise have each had multiple turns upon the world stage. Inner peace has been sought through retreat, meditation, visualization, the quest for insight and service. All worthy pursuits that add to the totality of the human experience. Peace in our time, however, depends on an inner journey that confronts the closely held beliefs, privilege and prejudices that permeate the human condition. Directly stated, peace depends upon the individual human potential to abolish the concept of “the other” from our daily lives. Until the day comes, for each of us, that there is no individual beyond deserving respect, human dignity and a voice in their own destiny there will be no peace in our hearts, in our society or upon the face of Gaia herself. Sounds like a simple process to achieve such a lofty goal doesn’t it? Not really, for each of us there are those beyond being acceptable in our society. What I am referring to is not simply the political, religious and socio economic divides that separate us but something deeper. It is confronting the idea of “the other” in the most extreme ways. Coming to a place where the most heinous of criminals, terrorists, religious fanatics and bigots are seen as a part of the greater whole, fully human, deserving of human dignity and engagement in social discourse.” – Peter Dybing, on peace and abolishing the ‘other’.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“What can Pagans offer the world? Not Paganism the religion(s) but all of us who call ourselves Pagans. What can we offer individually? What can we offer in our covens and groves and other groups? As an individual blogger this is an easy question. I write what the Awen brings to me, I write what interests me, and I write what I’m doing. If you like something I write, great – enjoy reading it. Hopefully you’ll walk away better informed and maybe better inspired. If you really like it, maybe you’ll leave a comment and we’ll explore the matter in greater depth. If you don’t like it, maybe you’ll like my next post… and ultimately, there are plenty of other bloggers to read. The question gets more complicated with a group. Now you’re not just dealing with one person’s thoughts and needs and desires, you’re dealing with several. If the group is public, you’re also dealing with the needs of people who aren’t even in the room. What does your group offer? Who do you offer it to? [...]  I encourage you to have an intentional conversation about what you can offer.  What is part of your group’s core identity – what do you feel like you must do?  What are the needs of your members – both what they need to receive and what they need to give?  What are the needs of your community and how can you help meet them?  What are the goddesses and gods you follow calling you to do? Then figure out what your capacity is – how much of this can you actually do?” – John Beckett, on what Pagans can offer the world.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

“A viable balance between politics and religion is as difficult to achieve and maintain as is such a balance between the partners in a marriage. Neither too close nor too distant will work in the long run. Here I will argue that Paganism and Socialism are compatible partners, by means of a commentary on the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, to show that we are socialist, and on the Bill of Rights, to show that, in the broadest sense, we are Pagan. One logistical problem here is that the term ”socialism” has been poisoned by the lies of the rich and powerful, just as the actual teachings of Christian faith have been. The classic socialism of the Enlightenment period was simply the concept that a society should be governed for the benefit of all the people who make it up, not for the benefit of any minority, as Lincoln emphasized at Gettysburg. That concept, which Jefferson derived from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, is the foundation of our political system. We have been socialists since 1776. Our social philosophy is embodied not in the Constitution, but in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, which declared our independence not only from the British Empire, but also from the “dead hand” of all previous religious, philosophical, and political beliefs. Ours was not merely a political revolution. The colonists did not want to govern themselves in the way that England had governed them. Rather, ours was a social and cultural revolution, changing even the way people spoke and still speak: everyone would now be addressed with the respectful ‘you,’ not the familial ‘thou.’” – Aidan Kelly, on the Pagan and socialist nature of the Untied States of America.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The corporate world – when it bothers to pay attention – speaks of “life/work balance.” As if life and work were two separate and opposing forces. They are not. Just the phrase is a problem. We do it with many things: “sacred and mundane”. “Magical life and real life.” We speak in these binaries as though magical life cannot be real, or as though work is not a healthy part of life. We are tearing ourselves apart for no reason. What sort of life would you like to lead? What sort of life would remind you that every part of life is important, magical, and sacred? What things can you let go? For me, my life includes rest, reading, exercise, clients, writing, students, activism, good food, work, music, sitting under trees, bicycling, sex, friends, spiritual practice…Every day includes a healthy measure of most, and every week includes the remainder. All the parts of my self need to be fed. All the parts of myself need reminders that they are important facets of the whole. Exercise is just as important as spiritual practice is just as important as meeting with spiritual direction clients. I spend different amounts of time on each of these, but they all weave into the whole. It took me a long time and some reframing to get here. I still work a lot, but there is a more useful sense of flow among all the aspects of my life, less of a sense of separation. What feels important to you? What would feel healthy and nourishing to include? What would it feel liberating to let go of? What sort of life do you lead and what life are you hoping to craft? Stop thinking of life balance and start pondering life integration. Manifestation will follow.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on the life/work balance, and integration.

Eric Scott

Eric Scott

“In THE DARK WORLD, after a little bit of naked exposition (obviously reminiscent of the prologue to Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring), we are able to get right into it: the Nine Worlds exist, and we get to visit quite a few of them. (There’s even a scene in Vanaheim, which is traditionally the most boringest plane of existence in Marvel Asgard.) There’s very little apologizing for the fantastic elements in this film; there’s no self-consciousness in the Asgard scenes. Design-wise, this film embraces the “science fantasy” aesthetic even more than previous installments have: I can see a lot of STAR WARS in this film. And this completely works! While easily lampooned as Vikings… in… spaaaaaaace!, I found the design of both Asgard and the Dark Elves’ weaponry, armor, and space ships to be delightfully imaginative. They have flying longships, folks, complete with shields hanging off the sides. The settings are equally impressive: Svartalfheim (simply called “The Dark World” in the film because, well, Svartalfheim doesn’t quite roll off the tongue) is a sepia-skied waste of black sand, Vanaheim is a rugged wilderness, and Asgard continues in its golden glory We get a much better picture of the relationships between Thor and his companions, only sometimes filtered through a surrogate like Jane Foster. This leads to some great scenes, particularly between Thor and Heimdall; Idris Elba doesn’t spend an enormous amount of time on-screen, but he adds considerable depth to his character. Really, all of the Asgardians get moments to shine, especially Rene Russo’s Frigga. (And of course, Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, but that was to be expected at this point.) Christopher Eccleston’s villain, Malekith, remains at a distance – he’s good enough for the story, but his scenes won’t leave you with the kind of attachment you might have felt for Loki at the end of the first film.” – Eric Scott, giving his initial impressions of the film “Thor: The Dark World.”

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“The military as an example of daily interfaith relations? Never having been a soldier, it had not occurred to me, but that’s one of the things I heard at a remarkable meeting this week at the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplains School and Center, here in Columbia, S.C., at Fort Jackson. The Chaplains School was hosting the annual meeting of Interfaith Partners of S.C., and “host” would be an  understatement for the outstanding experience they provided. From the time I parked my car across the street I was greeted by chaplain-soldiers about every 100 yards who made sure I found my way to the meeting hall. Inside they had put up a lovely display of religious materials and mementos of various military interfaith gatherings around the world, plus, beautifully-presented refreshments. While the Navy chaplains had a conflict and could not join us that day, the room was full of Army and Air Force chaplains, many of them instructors at the school, who bustled around making us feel welcome as we arrived. The welcome included name tags and nice table tents, two official photographers, and a local television news camera in the corner. [...] Cherry Hill Seminary received several favorable and public mentions, which bodes well for potential future engagement with the Chaplain School. Since CHS is beginning to work on an application to the Department of Defense to have our Master of Divinity recognized as equivalent to that of other accredited schools, it is very helpful for me to learn more about the culture of military chaplaincy and its educational requirements. Also gratifying was to hear several chaplains share their encounters with Pagans in uniform. It was a great day to be out of the broom closet, because Paganism was most certainly not invisible in this crowd, and received equal respect with all the other religions.” – Holli Emore, on interfaith and the U.S. Armed Forces.

That’s all I have for now, my best wishes to you all on this Veterans Day.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I especially appreciate Annika Mongan’s comments because it is clear from his own words that Teo Bishop has not gone “back” to Christianity but rather forward to a new level of understanding of his heritage religion.A long time ago I was exposed (this can happen to Unitarian Universalists) to a stage theory of faith development. In this frame an early stage is uncritical acceptance of one’s family’s religion. A later stage is walking away from it. Still later, a stage in which one recovers those symbols and rituals with a deeper understanding honed by spiritual experience while one was absent from them.If Pagans are going to exist as a spiritually mature community we must understand that a saga of return is as natural as our own departure from the churches of our parents (or, in my case, grandparents). I say this in the face of the skepticism of P. Sufenas Virius Lupus about monotheism, and of the negativity of Sam Webster toward Christo-Pagans. Drawing lines is easy; crossing them is bracing; seeing the grace in the traveler coming back the other way is sometimes difficult. Thank you, Annika!

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      Monotheism, as it is commonly understood, is a pretty shabby theological system, in my view. There are lots of nice, respectable, and even admirable monotheists, and some of their devotional and even theological works are likewise noteworthy, productive, and beautiful; but the basics of that system of thought itself has been far more destructive more often than not.

      As it happens, I did give Christianity, in various forms, another try after becoming Pagan, from 1996 to 2000, alongside what else I was doing with Paganism–and I now have a perfectly good relationship with both Jesus and Iao Sabaoth, within a polytheist framework.

      Don’t present your developmental stages, and assume that some of us have not gone through them: the results on the other side aren’t always predictable either.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I made no such assumption about you. I regret if I gave that impression.

  • http://www.walkofthefallen.com Labrys

    I agree that remembrance is a vital part of any spiritual system. But then, I think it is a vital part of any ethical system…all religious ideation aside. As a rather existentialist Kantian, I think how and what we choose to remember and how we treat our fellow humans and our world defines us AS humans.

    I also agree that Teo Bishop’s grasp of his heritage, spiritually speaking, is vital and important. I don’t much appreciate folks who draw ideological lines around the experiences of others; freedom to see the biggest picture possible without borders defined by “Oh, leave that in the DUST!” should not be ignored.

  • Diare Turtlemoon

    Of course people have wandering paths in spiritual evolution. It is to be supported and expected. Truth unwinds, does not always reveal in a blinding moment.

    My concern is our pagan social media who lifts some one to an influential voice in the pagan community, who is obviously uncomfortable with our rituals, I can cite several instances, and who’s return to the Xian fold can be used to harm us. My intent is not to discredit or shame anyone. I want us to take a close look at the role of the media in our community.

    I would prefer that the social media use some discretion in choosing whom they call a pagan leader. There are many dedicated, influential hardworking pagan leaders who would never even get a picture or paragraph in the slick magazines or prominent blog posts. I would much rather hear from them. Why is no one questioning why Bishop received so much coverage from this blog and from the latest published W. and P.s ? I could see his spiritual evolution developing, and I am not especially clairvoyant. I just looked with clear eyes.

    Xian is in my face all the time, at work, on the radio, rampant fundamentalism from family and the major culture. I come to pagan media to learn something different, to have validation for my own beliefs and spiritual discoveries. It is a relief and a comfort to me to have strong pagans who live the life and still endure. I come to this blog and other sites to get away from the dominant paradigm, not to have it once again shoved in my face.

    Please, support pagans, the support for the others is everywhere and suffocating. We pagans, at least myself, need this refuge from the dominant world view. Some recently blessed Teo for his courage and strength. I would not take that away from him. I do want to mention, how easy it is to exist in the dominant world view, and how much support one gets from returning to that path.

    We pagans have it much tougher, at least we could support each other for our own courage and strength for being steadfast.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      If you find a way to control the focus of social media, I hope you share it widely. I don’t use them myself but that would be valuable knowledge generally.

      • Diare Turtlemoon

        I have no way to control the focus of social media, other than speaking my mind when I am called. Self control is usually the best, and learned through reflecting on mistakes.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      Xian is in my face all the time, at work, on the radio, rampant
      fundamentalism from family and the major culture. I come to pagan media
      to learn something different, to have validation for my own beliefs and
      spiritual discoveries. It is a relief and a comfort to me to have
      strong pagans who live the life and still endure. I come to this blog
      and other sites to get away from the dominant paradigm, not to have it
      once again shoved in my face.

      Please, support pagans, the support for the others is everywhere and
      suffocating. We pagans, at least myself, need this refuge from the
      dominant world view. Some recently blessed Teo for his courage and
      strength. I would not take that away from him. I do want to mention,
      how easy it is to exist in the dominant world view, and how much support
      one gets from returning to that path.

      Oh, but see, you don’t understand! Pagans NEED to privilege Christians in pagan spaces, because pagans simply don’t pay enough attention to the conversion narrative of people leaving pagan religions for Christianity –and somehow every major Christian blog makes these super-secret posts giving space to the conversion narrative of people leaving Christianity, I’ve never seen them, but I’m told they exist![/sarcasm]

      • Diare Turtlemoon

        You are probably right. ;)

  • TadhgMor

    I truly don’t understand how the term “Christo-pagan” can be a thing. Christianity (and to a certain degree it’s forebear Judaism) is established in opposition to what would now be called “paganism”. I just don’t understand the blurring here. It’s not syncretism, it’s combining two basically opposed understandings of the world.

    I guess I just don’t understand the term, or what it is supposed to mean, or why it should be part of the pagan umbrella. I have enough Christianity, we don’t need to be excluding Christians from our lives or interfaith; but why should we give up this one label we have that is our distinction? Why should we invite them in? This seems very much to me like suggesting Christians that lean “New Age” in style should be accepted, as if that is the relevant part of the “pagan” identity (which I know I am not the only one to strongly oppose).

    I have no ill-will towards Mr. Bishop, I enjoyed his writing, though his conversion back does not surprise me. I wish him the best of luck and hope he finds a path that suits him. I just don’t understand any of the rest of this. Perhaps I’m confused about terms or something else.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      The term remains useful to describe people for whom either the sacredness of Nature is original to Nature and not derivative from a sacred Creator, or Divinity is neither singular nor wholly masculine.Did you catch my apology to you and Franklin in the previous thread? I simply lost track of what post I was commenting and re-opened something inappropriately. I’m sure I looked like an a**hole.

      • TadhgMor

        I didn’t catch it, but I’ll accept it. I could have acted better as well, and I have a tendency towards sailor-style cursing.

        I disagree on that being useful. Many Evangelicals have some level of environmental feeling, usually described in an entirely Christian context. What you’re suggesting seems simply like some alternative versions of Christianity. If the only “pagan” characteristic is “they like nature” it feels like we’ve broadened “pagan” to meaninglessness.

        If the divinity is not singular, how are they Christian? As for masculine, my understanding is most theology for the “big three” reject gender as irrelevant entirely. I know some evidence for Judaism and Islam in that regard.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          In that entirely Christian context Nature is sacred because it was created by the Judeo-Christian God, not originally. There’s even a Christian environmentalist book out — they call it “Creation Care” — titled something like “How to save the Earth without worshipping it. Doesn’t fit that part of the definition as stated.”The definition has an “or” rather than and “and” so non-singularity is not mandatory. Ditto masculinity.A real problem with the definition is that it includes Hinduism.

          • TadhgMor

            I don’t see how you can be a Christian while also worshiping nature, based on the definition of Christianity used by themselves. That may be a valid path for people, but it’s neither within the bounds of current Christianity nor within the bounds of the pagan umbrella term.

            Again, there is already so much monotheist/Christian in particular influence in paganism. Even people who reject Christianity in words tend to maintain monotheist assumptions about the universe/divinity/etc. That is already a locus of conflict within the community. But adding actual Christians (as they see themselves) essentially makes “pagan” mean something new. Rather than being a religious term, it starts to take on other characteristics concerning environmentalism, etc. That’s what it looks like at least.

      • Deborah Bender

        The definition of “pagan” in your first sentence is my new favorite. i intend to quote it with attribution.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Heavens, I’m blushing…

    • kenofken

      Christo-paganism doesn’t work for me on any level either. It’s not that I want to maintain some arbitrary “us/them” boundary or to cast out those who “betray the tribe” I just find them to be radically different and incompatible sets of religions and world views. In my experience, all attempts to pretend otherwise both A) Trivialize paganism and B)Dishonor a god/godhead who REALLY isn’t cool with being part of a build-your-own dream team of deities.

      I’m not one to police the boundaries of whose paganism is “real enough”. I’ve got just enough of an eclectic streak to piss off many a serious reconstructionist. I’m usually one of the first to unload on people who try to elevate themselves to bishop or pope of paganism and who label everyone “fluffy bunnies.”

      At the other extreme though, when paganism is defined as everything and anything, it is defined down to nothing at all. Christo-paganism essentially requires that “pagan” be redefined as shorthand for anything that seems groovy and open-minded and non-dogmatic and progressive in some way.

      The Christo-pagans I’ve known invariably come out of Christianity wounded by their experience with some ugly dogmatic sect and/or authority figures therin. They’re drawn to the cool stuff we have – free spirits, a profound respect for the divine feminine, positive sexuality, connection to Earth, some damn fine ritual, drum circles unencumbered by the demands of rythym and deodorant. Take your pick. They hang out a while and party and do some personal growth with our tech, but they come to realize we don’t have answers for salvation or the the physical/organization infrastructure they were used to. They revert when they realize their pagan path wasn’t everything they’d hope and that Christianity has more vistas than whatever rigid sect they grew up in and they discern a different calling.

      I have no problems with that, or with viewing them as prospective allies in any number of social and political causes. I won’t accept the proposition that progressive Christianity is just paganism with one extra guy in the pantheon, or that my own religion is just one conceptual model for a non-distinct Bose-Einstein Condensate that incorporates all forward-thinking spiritualities.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Never before saw Bose-Einstein statistics used as a religious metaphor…

        • kenofken

          The shorter days of this time of year can take the mind in (mostly unwell) directions! The problem of Christo-Paganism can be approached nicely as a physics problem. Solving it…not so much. How do we quantify anything enough to solve for the critical “temperature” ie degree of eclecticism at which all religions fall to the lowest quantum state of “New Age?” If I were a dot com billionaire, Cherry Hill would be saddled with a fat endowment and a new theoretical metaphysics building. The department office no one ever just “drops by” unless they’re truly desperate for a stapler!

      • cernowain greenman

        There is not just one type of ChristoPagan, there are many. The Higginbothams have published a book on this phenomenon, “Christopaganism: An Inclusive Path”. I agree with you that there are elements of Paganism and Christianity that are radically at odds– and the ChristoPagans come up with some interesting ways of reconciling these things.

        But you do not have to worry about ChristoPagans blurring the edges of Pagan communities, because they are ridiculed, mistreated and judged by enough Pagans that they do not feel comfortable among them. The ChristoPagans also get that from many a Christian. too. So they are pretty much alone, except when they meet other ChristoPagans.

        I would just invite you to consider that the boundaries of religions are not rigid, but fluid. And also just because you see things are contradictory doesn’t mean others see issues the same way.

        • TadhgMor

          It’s pretty hard to misunderstand “the one true God” sort of line. I’m not sure how you can not see that as contradictory to even the most monotheism friendly versions of paganism. I’m sure some people don’t but…I don’t see how.

          What I find troubling is at a time when it feels like Recons and other “hard” polytheists are being pushed further and further away from the mainstream “pagan” umbrella, people are now talking about bringing Christians in. Maybe that is the direction this is going; many eclectic pagans share some fundamental assumptions with Christians, and some of the dualtheistic of pantheistic versions of Wicca do as well. Maybe it’s inevitable that “pagan” will come to be some sort of general nature-focused New Age identity regardless of religion.

          But that just seems a little odd to me.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Seems that is the way it is moving, there are increasingly frequent calls for certain paths (notably recons and hard polytheists) to be viewed as distinct from the ‘Pagan Umbrella’.

            Personally, I’m starting to think it is a good move.

          • TadhgMor

            Maybe for us it is. But I wonder. There is a good deal more movement of ideas from recon paths to the more eclectic paths rather than the other way around. I wonder how the pagan umbrella evolves without us anchoring the conservative flank, so to speak.

            I think we lose something if “pagan” becomes another synonym for New Age and has no religious meaning. Even hard polytheists, because our method of interacting with the broader interfaith world has generally been through these channels; alone I doubt we’d merit much attention.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Do we use the channels because they adequately and accurately represent us, or because of convenience?

            Do we even want that kind of interfaith dialogue?

          • TadhgMor

            A mix of both, probably.

            Some might not want it, but we probably need it. I’ve had to do quite a bit of reading for a class on interaction between Native Americans and early European colonists. Many of the groups that managed to survive understood early on they needed paths which could take their concerns to the authorities, so they cultivated influence with friendly(ish) traders and intermarriage.

            I see our position as similar from a power standpoint. We need the path to authority, otherwise our concerns will be ignored. There might be a medium sized towns worth of hard polytheists and recons in the entire US, my understanding is in Britain it’s somewhat less. That’s simply not enough to make our own case directly. By working through the “pagan” umbrella our numbers jump significantly.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Possibly the lack of numbers is down to structural issues?

          • TadhgMor

            I don’t think so. We’re as demanding as the monotheists in our own ways, if not as close minded theologically. A general lack of religious feeling the country, combined with near total ignorance of recon and hard polytheist groups, is likely the cause.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            One reason why the major faiths do well is because they have designated meeting places. “Temples”, as it were. They also have an organised cleric caste.

            This makes them more visible to the public.

          • TadhgMor

            That requires geographic proximity, which is usually lacking. Not to mention money, which is also generally lacking. Even Wiccans and eclectic pagans struggle to pass those hurdles, and they are much more numerous.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It also requires will.

          • Nick Ritter

            A friend of mine, a Hellenic reconstructionist, once told me about some conversations that her religious community had held with the local Hindu community (which in itself gives one an idea for how and with whom can network outside of the umbrella of Paganism). Part of the upshot of this conversation was the idea that, wherever two or more people (or maybe it was two or more families) who worship the same gods live, they should build a temple. This temple will form the nucleus of a community, and the community will form around it.

            I was rather moved by this idea. It makes sense on a number of levels (not least of all in terms of mythological images), and I think it is a solid idea. By all means, people should be careful about whom they form a community with, but I do think that moving forward in terms of infrastructure and the support that a real community gives its members requires that people be serious about such communities and start (or continue) building them.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I have, this autumn, gone back to college for retraining. I’ve started on the path to becoming a carpenter. It is my full intention, once competent, to become a temple builder.

            I have a long term goal to see many Pagan and Heathen temples spring up across the British Isles.

          • Nick Ritter

            That’s a worthy goal. I have done a great deal of research into old holy places, and would love to see them re-sanctified.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            A lot of them have been built over. I think starting anew is more viable and productive than trying to reconstruct a long dead and forgotten past.

            That said, I’d like to see some of that research.

          • Nick Ritter

            “trying to reconstruct a long dead and forgotten past.”

            Neither is it fully dead, nor, clearly, is it forgotten.

            I say do both.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Speaking from a purely Anglo-Saxon point of view, there is almost no hard information on their myth and legends prior to conversion.

            Both does sound good, though.

          • Nick Ritter

            I’m certainly aware of the paucity of specifically Anglo-Saxon data from before the conversion. There is rather hard information on place names that included names of gods, however.

            I am one of those who doubt that there was a great gulf of difference between, say, how the Anglo-Saxons viewed Wóden, how the continental Germanic tribes viewed Wôdan, and how the Norse viewed Óðinn; although I am open to the existence of such local differences as there may be evidence for. As such, the paucity of said data doesn’t concern me so much. I am hopeful that more information will continue coming to light.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I am inclined to agree with you, although I tend to think that Óðinn is a somewhat more ‘evolved’ form of the god than Ƿōden. I see Tīƿ as the head of the Ēse, for example.

            Not to mention a distinct lack of cognates for the Vanir.

          • Nick Ritter

            “I am inclined to agree with you, although I tend to think that Óðinn is a somewhat more ‘evolved’ form of the god than Ƿōden. I see Tīƿ as the head of the Ēse, for example.”

            In the lack of direct evidence, these things come down to a matter of personal preference, of course, or which way one feels the data lean. Personally, I don’t think that Tíw was the head of the Ése, although I know that that is a popular theory following Pollington and Linsell. Insofar as a lack of cognates for the Vanir, I do think there are likely connections between Freyr and Ing. Your mileage may vary, of course.

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            While I’m obviously not an expert on Germanic mythology, everything I can remember reading seemed to suggest that the connection between Ing and Freyr was pretty firm.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I usually think of Ing as an ancestor rather than an ōs. More a hunch than anything else, though. A major one, for me is Frīge.

          • Nick Ritter

            She’s a major goddess everywhere in the Germanic world, it seems. There are some places that were dedicated to her in England: Freefolk in Hampshire, Fretherne in Gloucestershire, and Friden in Derbyshire, for instance. It would be a great thing, as I see it, if there were functioning temples in these places (and more, of course), dedicated to her.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            But in the later, Norse world, she becomes two – Frigg and Freyja

          • Nick Ritter

            Yes, I think so too. At the end of the Heathen period in Scandinavia, Freyja and Frigg seem to have been considered two goddesses (although there seems to be a little ambiguity there, too). Earlier and elsewhere, I think this was one goddess.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I sometimes wonder if there was a pre-existing pantheon in Scandinavia that came to be known as the Vanir.

          • Baruch Deamstalker

            I would regard that as altogether likely, with a good candidate for the source being the absorption of one spiritual cohort by another. Such a process clearly took place with the redesignation of Pagan gods as saints in the Christianization of Europe, and archaeology has confirmed it in the Fertile Crescent.

          • Nick Ritter

            I actually tend to disagree with the idea that the Vanir come from the pantheon of a pre-existing (pre-Indo-European, etc.) people; primarily because those gods have fairly clear cognates in other Indo-European cultures. The myth of the war between the Æsir and Vanir is paralleled in the myths of other Indo-European cultures, too. As such, it seems more likely that the gods who came to be known as the Vanir, and the myth of the war that leads to their incorporation into divine society, dates back to before the beginning of the Indo-European diaspora about 6,000 years ago.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            There are lots of stories of inter pantheon conflicts. I wonder if there was a lot of conflict at some point, rather than one source story.

          • Nick Ritter

            There are too many parallel details between these myths. I would really recommend two books dealing with this matter. The first is Jaan Puhvel’s “Comparative Mythology”, and the second is Donald Ward’s “The Divine Twins: An Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition.” Ward’s book is difficult to get a hold of, but you can get it as a print-on-demand edition from ABEBooks.

          • TadhgMor

            This, I’ve seen people associate the Fir Bolg or the Fomorians from Gaelic myth with pre-Indo-European pantheons, but I just don’t see the evidence for it. There has been a tendency to find anything old and name it pre-IE for quite awhile in scholarship. The obsession with IE stuff clouds even good scholars. D.A. Binchy, who is amazingly important to the study of early Irish law and society, was absolutely obsessed with finding “Indo-European law” in what remains of Irish law.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            I think we lose something if “pagan” becomes another synonym for New Age
            and has no religious meaning. Even hard polytheists, because our method
            of interacting with the broader interfaith world has generally been
            through these channels; alone I doubt we’d merit much attention.

            Of course something is lost, but you see, this “diversity” that the pagan community claims to have such a bone for can only be maintained by excluding polytheists and inviting Christians. Apparently, there is no other way. Polytheists can have our space back when we agree to the circular “logic” of “all religions are equally valid” and that pagan spaces should be a place for Christian voices as much as everywhere else in the Western world is a place for Christian voices.

          • cernowain greenman

            “I like your Jesus, I just don’t like your Christians” I hear often. And I think that’s where most ChristoPagans are: they embrace Jesus but not the Christians. They generally don’t accept the Christian scriptures (Old and New Testaments) either. Some look to the ancient Gnostic gospels for a different view of Jesus. I think he becomes something like Aesclepius or Kwan Yin for many of these folks.

            But no one I know of in Pagan circles is “talking about bringing Christians in”. It just isn’t happening. For now, they are sidelined even more than the hard polytheists.

            What “Paganism” will become is something beyond our knowledge or personal control. Movements take on a life of their own. We shall see.

          • TadhgMor

            Then the term “Christo-pagan” is essentially meaningless, and they shouldn’t use it. It strongly implies a Christian identity.

            This whole conversation is about bringing in what are essentially unorthodox Christians. Many people are coming out quite strongly against defining any boundaries, though for the life of me I didn’t know boundaries (rather than disrespect) were such a problem.

            I disagree. It’s well beyond my personal control. Same for most on the hard polytheist fringe. But there are still people who maintain great influence in where this is going.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “I like your Jesus, I just don’t like your Christians”

            I am quite the reverse. I’ve had plenty of positive dealings with Christians. It’s their pantheon I have an issue with.

    • thelettuceman

      I’m also trying to fathom a work around, but from a different angle: I’ll accept that one can be a Pagan with Christian influences, but that same person is almost invariably going to be a *bad* Christian, theologically speaking. Unless they immediately go towards a “progressive” form of Christianity that is a modernist interpretation that denies and rewrites the two thousand years or so of established works. Historically speaking, being Christian is not just being “Christ-like” for good or ill, but accepting a distinct paradigm.

      • TadhgMor

        I have trouble accepting pagans with Christian influences to be honest. If you’re so attached to the path of Christianity, be a Christian. If you call yourself a polytheist, but constantly think like a monotheist, I think you need to do more deep thinking, because it’s an inherent contradiction.

        I guess my point is I don’t understand why we should open up our already stretched definition of a community to include even more people. “Pagan” barely means anything as it is. Especially when the other people self-identify as Christians.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          There’s an implicit assumption of scarcity in the word “stretched.” I make an explicit assumption of plenitude; always room for more.

          • TadhgMor

            That’s true.

            But “always room for more” means giving up our identity in all meaningful ways. Perhaps this is a mismatch between the different pagan paths.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            My attempt to define Paganism earlier was, in a sense, a fool’s (or, in respect of Tarot, I might say Fool’s) errand. I have an intuitive sense of what is Pagan and what is not, but to precipitate that as a definition is to filter it through another part of my brain which perhaps does not play well with others.Let me in addition make explicit my tacit reply to those who say “Christo-Paganism doesn’t work for me.” It doesn’t work for me either, and I tried. When I was still a Baby Pagan (at age 45!) I composed a boilerplate-Wicca ritual with the Nazarene and the Magdalene as God and Goddess. It did not ring any particular chimes. (The party afterwards was memorable but that was likelier chemical than spiritual.) But I would not want to kick out of the family someone for whom that worked.I recently read the Secret Gospel of Mark in a Funk translation of known canonical and apocryphal gospels. It strongly implies that Jesus had a young male lover who barely escaped capture at Gethsemane. This and the implication of other apocrypha that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were lovers, make for a yeasty mix that might underpin the spirituality of some searcher. Evidently not me, however.

          • Franklin Evans

            TadhgMor, I’m following your posts with interest. I don’t have any “good” answers, just a couple of odd echoes. :D

            In many early lexicons — meaning in the modern age with English being in common use — the term “pagan” was primarily “defined” as anything other than Christian. I’ve seen dictionary entries with that as the first or second meaning. My point is that we Pagans are faced with generations- and centuries-long inertia around the word and the commonly-held understanding of it. For most people (yes, I’m calling most people lazy) being handed a negative definition lets them skip any personal inquiry or effort.

            In my experience as a local activist, needing to have public labels with which to work (starting with an organization name), the word becomes an immediate point of conflict: knee-jerk fear from society-at-large (or asking us where we parked our motorcycles), and sometimes angry arguments from people who object to the word on principle (notably Heathens). Our organization settled on a simple “definition” for our mission statement — a Pagan is someone who self-indentifies as Pagan — in an attempt to avoid the latter conflict. I regret to report on its lack of success, though the Heathens of my acquaintance tend to be both tolerant and generous, so no fingers pointed at them.

            Anyway, one personal anecdote sums up my own frustration: I encountered a respected and credentialled historian who (eventually angrily) insisted that none of us can use that term for ourselves unless we practice some form of blood sacrifice. He didn’t care about any other criterion. Shrug.

          • TadhgMor

            I sincerely hope he was not a historian of the ancient period. Because that’s a massive error of bias.

            But “a pagan is someone that self-identifies as a pagan” is also essentially meaningless. That’s my issue with it. It seems like openness is being favored over any sort of substance, and that leads to danger for the community as a whole. There will be nothing left to bind us together, even to the tenuous level we are bound now.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It is not ‘essentially’ meaningless. It is very much meaningless.

            Labels are less useful for the individual to use on self identify and more a way for the individual to recognise others.

            If someone was to say “I’m Pagan” to a(n average) non-Pagan, would the non-Pagan likely know what they meant by the term? Could they explain, concisely, what it meant?

          • TadhgMor

            They would understand it far better than “I’m a Gaelic Polytheist”. That’s why I use it. It saves me from the burden of constantly explaining what I believe unless I choose to do so.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “Gaelic Polytheist” is far easier to explain than “Pagan”, though.

            The former is one who believes in the Celtic gods worshipped by the Irish/Scots prior to the conversion of their lands by the Christians.

            The latter… I don’t even know where to begin.

          • Franklin Evans

            I find the inclusion of Bonewits’ tripartite -paganisms with a good summary of Jones & Pennick’s attempt in “A History of Pagan Europe” a very reasonable answer to where to begin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagan_religions#Contemporary_Paganism

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Not great for general conversation, though.

          • TadhgMor

            Bonewits model is good. But Jones and Pennick’s model is severely hampered by modern biases. The historian in me finds it seriously questionable based on that summary; it would continue to push a version of paganism based more in “New Age” ideas.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I confess, I don’t actually know where Paganism starts and New Age begins. Main difference seems to be price tags.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            But Jones and Pennick’s model is severely hampered by modern biases. The
            historian in me finds it seriously questionable based on that summary;
            it would continue to push a version of paganism based more in “New Age”
            ideas.

            I don’t really see that until the “divine feminine” principle is juxtaposed with the principles of polytheism and reverence of nature (I can’t think of a single ancient, pre-Christian religion that dosen’t include a recognition of spirits or lesser-divinities of the Earth alongside recognising deities that exist independently of the Earth). The “divine feminine”, as a principle separate from the recognition of individual goddesses seems less pluralistic than some apparently want it to be, as it basically homogenises ideas like “masculinity” and “femininity”, which even ancient cultures tended not to do in the manner common amongst goddess worshippers.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            The latter… I don’t even know where to begin.

            In my expereiences, though, most people understand the word “pagan” as essentially synonymous with “polytheist” more easily than they understand the word “polytheist”.

          • Franklin Evans

            We certainly proved the “essentially meaningless” part: the organization exists in name and on paper only at this point.

            It begs another query, though: Shouldn’t we insist on a disciplined effort to create hyphenations that will promote meaningful distinctions and discussions of them? It seems simplistic to me, but I wonder if just having a solid list with “Pagan” as the category — thoroughly researched and discussed — would be a major accomplishment.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            This statement of your concern I can take away and store. Thank you. I don’t agree but I can think about what you said. On the substance, I guess I have more faith in the bonds that tie us together.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            What are those bonds? Solidarity against a belligerently dominant religion can only go so far.

          • thelettuceman

            @LeohtSceadusawol:disqus – Which is why you see different collections of people turning against each other or becoming schismatic within their own group. The foundational building blocks of community don’t get erected properly and, instead, organizations coalesce around this paradigm of solidarity.

            I’m not saying NO community exists, by any means, but it’s hardly a community in the traditional sense of the word.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It’s more a collection of loosely affiliated communities and (more often) individuals, isn’t it?

            I’ve seen more solidarity amongst music fans.

        • Deborah Bender

          In a pluralistic society, communities only have clear boundaries to the extent that those boundaries are policed by hostile outsiders.

          When the outside environment isn’t hostile, there will be lots of interaction between the community members and outside people and institutions. That inevitably leads to mixed loyalties, people who straddle the boundaries, and people who don’t give any thought to where the boundaries lie.

          A couple of American examples are the difference in the communal consciousness of Jews in the 1920s-1930s and today, and the rise of people who self identify as “mixed race” who twenty or thirty years ago would have considered themselves, and would have been treated, as either “black” or “passing for white”. Or the differences in strength of class consciousness in the U.S. versus the U.K.

          • TadhgMor

            Interaction and allowing someone to co-opt your identity are two different things. I’m not arguing against interaction. I’m arguing against turning “pagan” into a meaningless term. I don’t think it’s wrong for a community to say, for example “if you believe this thing that is the opposite of us, then you simply cannot be one of us”. To take your example of Jews, ask some Jews about the whole “Jews for Jesus” movement.

            I don’t believe your examples are one to one comparisons. Someone can be “mixed race” now because we no longer set up white and black as a dichotomy. But that is a very different issue than say, religious beliefs.

          • Deborah Bender

            I don’t have to go very far to ask that question, since my late father served as president of the Sacramento, California Jewish Federation and my late mother was president of the Temple Sisterhood. They were, to put it mildly, not pleased when I adopted the Craft as my primary religious path and they asked me to be discreet so as not to embarrass them. But if I had converted to Christianity, they likely would have disinherited me and might have cut off all contact, at least for a time. My mother refused to meet the fiance of her eldest grandson because she was a (not going to use the Yiddish here) Gentile woman.

            I don’t think the less of my parents for that. Once I had learned enough history, I understood their feelings. Unlike them, I didn’t grow up having to worry whether every criminal or crooked politician with a Jewish-sounding name who made the news was going to lead to outrages against me or my family. When hatred and suspicion of a group is sufficiently widespread and you happen to be a member of that group, you damned well stick by your own, police any behavior by your own that’s likely to draw trouble, and trust people who aren’t part of your group only to the extent they have proven themselves trustworthy.

            If you behave that way when the actual situation doesn’t warrant it, you make matters worse.

            The problem with your belief test is first, what do all pagans believe? and second, how important is belief to pagans? One of the founders of my Craft tradition is an atheist; that doesn’t stop us from doing good rituals together.

          • TadhgMor

            There are no pagan monotheists. “Pagan” is generally used in opposition. Beyond that, it’s fairly broad. But adopting in Christians makes it meaningless. It turns it into a cultural term, something about New Age beliefs and environmentalism.

            I don’t know about you, but considering I’m being pushed on by the Christians AND by eclectic pagans like you, I certainly feel policing my identity is very important. Policing does not equal hostility towards others. As I noted in another comment, I find it somewhat odd that even as hard polytheists are being pushed out of the “pagan” umbrella we’re talking about bringing Christians in.

            How exactly does one do ritual if one does not believe in any deities? Do you mean non-religious ritual? I fundamentally do not understand. That seems absolutely disrespectful if you mean religious ritual. How can you honor a deity you don’t believe in?

          • Deborah Bender

            In many contexts, I’m a splitter, not a lumper. I value careful definitions as aids to clear thinking and communication. So on many subjects, I’m opposed to vagueness. Within my own Craft tradition, I’m known for being picky about the details of practice and theology that distinguish us from other Craft traditions, even though some of those details are really minor.

            I’m not advocating adopting Christians into the Pagan community. I’m recognizing the facts that more than once pagans and Christians have lived together in the same parts of the world for centuries at a time, long enough to influence each other’s beliefs and practices, that this is one of those times, that religions are cultural products like music and cuisine and therefore express themselves as genres, that there are people attempting to blend religions just like they blend musical styles and recipes. When these fusions are inept, they are worse than either of the parent traditions. When they are well done, they operate on the boundaries between the parent traditions, not quite fitting in either one, but have some value in their own right.

            As to your ritual question, short answer: you honor the deity by performing the rites that the deity has requested. Respectful attention and behavior is required. Belief isn’t.

            Pretty much all polytheistic religions see things that way.
            Christianity doesn’t. Judaism straddles the line, as it does with regard to a lot of the Christian-Pagan dichotomies.

            Long-winded answer: one reason that coven-centered Wicca has traditionally been selective in whom it admits to its rituals is that it is a mystery religion. Most mainstream religions to the west of the Orthodox Church repress or mistrust mysticism. Wicca attempts to make mystical experience accessible to those who desire it and to provide a bit of discipline and supervision to keep people from going off the deep end. Mystical insights/experiences of divinity take place in altered states of consciousness and aren’t fully communicable in ordinary language. Plain doctrinal statements, myths and symbols relating to deity have only conditional truth; they are doorways to direct experience. The sense one makes of the experience after the ritual is over and ordinary consciousness resumes will vary from person to person.

            It’s a pleasure discussing these matters with you.

          • TadhgMor

            If you don’t believe in the deity, why would you honor the deity? How can a deity request anything if you don’t believe in them? You have had no interaction with them. Especially considering that there is no compulsion to do so in society, unlike ancient societies, it seems quite odd.

            So you’re opposed to vagueness….except for when it comes to appropriation of practices and rituals and language? I’m not sure I understand here. You completely dodged my point about appropriating and redefining an identity.

            What Wiccans do is up to them. That in no way provides a cover for appropriation. This is a long running issue for me. “Individual experience” is not a solid base to redefine terms that already have a meaning. “Christo-pagan” redefines the term pagan to make it into a cultural thing. That seems to be acceptable in parts of the pagan community, since Wiccans and eclectics as a whole tend to accept the same New Age styles that seem to be represented in “Christo-paganism”, and overall share a similar…unconcern with appropriation in many instances, compared to personal experience which is held up as more important.

            But it’s definitely not in others. Perhaps this fraying of the pagan umbrella is inevitable, as this discussion seems to simply continue to highlight the vast gulf between recons and hard polytheists and the New Age friendly paths.

          • Deborah Bender

            I didn’t dodge your question on appropriation. I didn’t see it on the first pass because it wasn’t there. I’ve replied to it separately.

            I myself am not an atheist. I’m a devotee of Hecate. It’s none of my business to ask the senior priestess who has said she is an atheist what her experience in ritual is or what she gets out of it. When she invokes or is invoked on, the deity shows up. The power arrives into the circle and it’s the power we requested to work with; it matters f-all to me whether it’s a projection of our collective unconscious or mass self hypnosis or Persephone Her Own Bad Self dropping in for a cookie.

            It’s hilarious that you think I’m a New Ager. But you don’t know me. It’s ok if you find my statements meaningless, illogical, Unsupported Personal Gnosis, PI or some other kind of horseshit. All is well. We are both on the right track; they happen to be different tracks. It’s a total fluke that Wicca ever got to be a popular fad and I’m relieved to see the fad fading because I can’t think of a religion or spiritual practice that is less suited to the mass of people. Witchcraft is dangerous. Only a handful of people are drawn to it. Only a handful of people stick with it. For the most part, witches are people who have to be witches. It doesn’t need to make sense to anybody else, and mostly it doesn’t. If there wasn’t a larger pagan community, we would still be doing what we do.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            If you don’t believe in the deity, why would you honor the deity? How
            can a deity request anything if you don’t believe in them? You have had
            no interaction with them. Especially considering that there is no
            compulsion to do so in society, unlike ancient societies, it seems quite odd.

            To play Devil’s Advocate for a mo’, what tends to be the best the reasoning I often see from people is that they can do it because their pre-Christian ancestors did, and this honours that. It’s basically a form of ancestor veneration to some. To others? I guess it’s all about theatrics, which really doesn’t make it any different than, say, an unmixed white person in New Zealand getting a Maori chin tattoo; to those who just get off on the theatrics without any contextualisation of the Divine actually existing in the experience is thus appropriative and kind of misses the point. But when others say that they do it to honour the pre-Christian traditions and restore a natural balance that was unsettled by Christianity, basically making it an ancestral veneration, I still don’t completely understand, but it makes more sense to me, and seems at least slightly more respectful than people who just want so “theatrics”.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “As to your ritual question, short answer: you honor the deity by
            performing the rites that the deity has requested. Respectful attention
            and behavior is required. Belief isn’t.”

            Then what is the point? Seriously I do not understand why someone who does not believe in a god would want to honour them, outside of social pressure and a desire to conform. Neither of which I see as positive things.

          • TadhgMor

            I think this must just be one of those unexplainable differences, because I see it the same way.

            To me, honoring a deity I don’t believe in would be offensive and risky.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Word!

          • Deborah Bender

            If you had voiced your initial objection in terms of cultural appropriation, I would have been more sympathetic to it. Cultural appropriation is real. Not every borrowing is cultural appropriation; there needs to be a power or privilege imbalance between the two groups or a lack of consent and you may be right to call one here.

            I’m not sure why you are labeling me an eclectic unless you regard all pagan witches as eclectics, or I’ve used a term or concept that is a red flag to you. Within Wicca as it exists today, my personal practice and views probably fall slightly to the right of center. I’m also an amateur student of religious studies for nearly fifty years and that gives me a broader viewpoint than some people.

          • TadhgMor

            All Wicca is eclectic from where I stand. It’s based on a number of different influences, and I still have some issues with appropriation of Celtic terms and holidays divorced from context, but that’s a different issue (though it plays into my views here).

            Christians certainly have power and privilege. Even unorthodox ones. What I disagree with is the idea that “pagan” is a style, rather than substance. As someone noted upthread, that’s a traditional slur used against us. We “don’t really believe in anything” we’re just a “bunch of hippies and New Age spiritualists”. Perhaps that is more true than I’d like to think for the community, since I find myself in opposition to those ideologies.

          • Deborah Bender

            It’s only a slur if you have accepted the Christian idea that belief is the most important part of religion and different beliefs are the main thing that set religions apart. Otherwise, it’s an irrelevance. Would you be offended if they said your religion isn’t a real one because you lack a canonical holy scripture? Or a central authoritative person? Or a means to be saved from sin? Of course not, those judgements just show the person is ignorant of the basis of your religion.

            It isn’t belief versus style; that’s a straw man. Practices, goals and ethics matter too.

            The idea that belief is the most centrally important aspect of religion originated with Christianity and was carried to extremes in Christianity beyond most other religions. No other religion in the world, old, new, large or small, tries to pin down correct belief the way Western Christianity does. This only seems like a normal way of thinking to people brought up in a culture that has been dominated by Christianity. Christianity is an aberration.

            Religious beliefs are not unimportant, but starting a discussion about the differences between two religions by comparing their theological doctrines betrays a theoretical bias that is rooted in Christianity. Hindus regard a person as a good Hindu if they are performing puja and other practices. All sorts of theological views including monism coexist within the Hindu religion. Theravada Buddhism acknowledges the existence of numerous deities; discussing the nature of gods or paying much attention to them is a distraction from what is really important, attaining enlightenment. Judaism is strongly monotheistic but teaches that what the One God cares about, and therefore what you should care about, is what you do. Atheist rabbis abound these days.

            If you want to make modern pagan religious movements satisfy the criteria for validity set by Christianity, obviously we’ll never measure up. On the other hand, Christianity sucks at some things pagan religions are good at.

            PS Yeah, Wicca is eclectic compared to pagan religions that are based in one specific national culture.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Different religions are defined by belief. Divergences in practice are sects.

            Example: Hinduism and Christianity are two different religions, whereas Anglicanism and Catholicism are two different sects of Christianity.

          • Deborah Bender

            I don’t think your statement holds water. The Anglican church came about because the Pope wouldn’t grant an annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage. So the division between Anglicanism and Catholicism was originally over who was the rightful head of the church and whether divorce is permitted to Christians, both matters of belief.

            Many of the early Protestant denominations arose from differing views on doctrinal questions such as forgiveness of sin and the degree to which individuals have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves.

            Differences in practice are often justified by differences in belief, so it’s not simple to separate them. E. g., infant baptism.

            Reform Judaism has many differences in practice from Orthodox Judaism. Some, such as segregation of the sexes in the synagogue, are differences in practice first and foremost. Others, such as observance of the dietary laws, arise out of a profound disagreement over belief, namely whether all 613 commandments are equally incumbent on Jews or whether rabbis have the authority to say that the ethical commandments are mandatory but the purity commandments are optional.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            I’m going to have to disagree there. There are sects of Hinduism and Buddhism that are essentially rendered into a kind of atheism by the core philosophies that they teach. Hindus are defined less by belief than they are by practise; the only “belief” common to all Hindus is that there is a “pantheon” (for lack of a broader term) common to Hindus, but what exactly the beings within that pantheon are, or rather, are believed to be, is dependent on the sect. Are they all individual entities known as deities? Are they all manifestations of a triune godhead (the most common in Hinduism seems to be Man-Woman-Child), or are they manifestations of a singluar godhead? Are they ancestors who’ve achieved an ultimate state of consciousness? Is the question of ‘what is a god?” even one that should be worth asking? These are all questions with answers that vary by sect in Hinduism –and these are all questions of belief. Aside from a common pantheon, Hindu sects tend to hold most, if not all of the same basic rituals (though things may vary somewhere, depending on the region), and even when a practise does differ, there’s still something about it that most other Hindus will recognise as “inherently Hindu”.

            Furthermore, even within Christianity, different sects do tend to have different beliefs –even if the “differences in belief” between, say, Baptists and Methodists might be minor when compared to, say, Catholics and Quakers (though, intriguingly, Catholics and Quakers are both Christian sects that embrace a degree of mysticism). You really can’t say that two sects in Christianity believe the same things but just do it differently –all Christianity has uniting its sects is a common mythology, but each sect is careful to have a unique interpretation of it: Each sect of Christianity has a unique belief in what it means. Is there overlap in this belief in most sects? Sure, but they’ll argue that it’s those “relatively minor” differences that make a big difference.

            As best as I can tell, different religions, or rather religious groupings, are defined by a combination of the mythology each one holds as sacred and the broadest overlapping practises.

            Christians have a book of mythology that each sect curiously defines as its “beliefs” (so I guess I can see where your confusion lay), and most sects have the same relatively basic rituals –a Christian wedding or baptism or funeral will be undeniably recognisable to most Christians from different sects of Christianity, with the major exceptions off the top of my head being Catholic eucharist and Quaker group mysicism might be things that’d seem especially strange to other Christians who’ve never been exposed to it before.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m not pinning down correct belief. You’ve set up a wonderful strawman there. I’m saying if you believe something that is IN OPPOSITION to paganism, you cannot be a pagan. It’s that bloody simple. I was unaware this would be so controversial.

            I’m extremely skeptical of Wiccans making “right practice” arguments.

            Something tells me a Hindu would not be considered a good Hindu if he was espousing things that fundamentally oppose the basic understanding of Hinduism, right practice or no.

          • Deborah Bender

            A great many pagans do not regard the worship or veneration of Jesus to be in opposition to paganism, as long as that worship is in the context of a henotheistic or polytheistic theology (e.g. Jesus is my personal savior but other gods exist and are worthy of worship; or I worship Jesus as healer and his mother as the fount of mercy; or all gods are facets of the jewel net of Indra and I choose to worship the Jesus facet because he is the god of my ancestors.)

            There is nothing new about the above theological formulas; they predate the contemporary neopagan movement by hundreds of years. These are syncretic approaches that will pop up anywhere in the world where there is a robust pagan religion operating alongside a Christian community. Some pagans see no objection to adding another foreign god (Jesus) to their pantheon, and some worshippers of Jesus find the objects of pagan worship attractive regardless of what church authorities say. No surprise there because pagan polytheism is the default option for most people; it took the Babylonian Exile to stop the Israelites from worshipping Asherah.

            If a person regards Jesus as the one true god or one true savior for all of humanity, and the worship of other deities to be defective, useless or sinful, that individual is not a Christo-pagan. He or she is a theologically conservative Christian. We are not disagreeing about the placement or labeling of such people.

            When it comes to placing theologically liberal Christians, behavior is a more reliable guide than belief IMHO. There are many Episcopalians and Lutherans (for example), including some priests and ministers, whose theological views are completely heretical and frankly pagan. They are counted as Christians because they are affiliated with Christian institutions, not because they believe in any kind of Christian orthodoxy or want the rest of the world to convert to Christianity. The Episcopalian diocese of San Francisco hosted a big weekend conference on the Divine Feminine, including featured speakers from non-Abrahamic religions, back in the 1980s, and it was completely uncontroversial.

            If people’s institutional loyalty, the place where they spend time and money, is a Christian church, then we have no reason to count them as part of the pagan community. I think the converse is also true. People’s behavior, not their beliefs, is what counts for community.

            As to your last point, don’t make assumptions about the Hindus without asking them.

          • Deborah Bender

            Please substitute “monolatrous” for “henotheistic” where appropriate in the first paragraph.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            You know, if you create an account with DiscUs, you can go back and edit your comments.

            Just telling you that option exists and what the perks are.

          • Deborah Bender

            Also strike the sentence about the Divine Feminine conference; it’s irrelevant.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            In a pluralistic society, communities only have clear boundaries to the
            extent that those boundaries are policed by hostile outsiders.

            That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of pluralism.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      What gets me about the term “Christo-Pagan” is the way it makes one god so important as to merit special mention.

      You seldom see Pagans do it with other gods (I admit, certain Heathens do it with “Odinism”), so why should Christ warrant special treatment?

      • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

        I’ve always read ‘Christo-Pagan’ not as a combination of Pagan + Christ, i.e. the person/deity/figure, but as a hyphenization of Christian + Pagan.

        • TadhgMor

          That makes even less sense though.

        • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

          You could also argue that much of rural, pre-Modern Europe was in a sense Christo-Pagan; in some of the most remote parts of Europe that was true even into the 20th century.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Much of Paganism is eclectic and/or syncretic.

          Would someone be likely to describe themselves as Hindo-Pagan?

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            I’ve heard of Indo-Pagans, as well as Judeo-Pagans.

          • TadhgMor

            What do either of those even stand for? I don’t understand how you can be both a monotheist and a pagan (doesn’t apply necessarily for Hindus, though I don’t understand what Indo-Pagan would mean either).

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            Of course, you are assuming that Christo-Pagans and Judeo-Pagans are monotheistic. Christo-Pagans, in my understanding, would likely be people who incorporate elements of Christianity into a polytheistic or pagan practice. The same with Judeo-Pagans, no doubt. Also the roots of Judaism go back to polytheistic, typical northwest Semitic religions, so it’s not inconceivable to explore that in the context of some kind of Judaism.

            For Indo-Pagans see here: http://pagan.wikia.com/wiki/IndoPaganism

          • TadhgMor

            The roots of Judaism. Not Judaism itself. Calling it Judaism would be trying to repurpose a term that has a strong meaning and a living community behind it. Same with “Christo-pagans”. I’m not even sure you how you take monotheist rituals and apply them in a polytheistic practice without it being one thing or the other.

            As for Indo-Pagans, that just seems like garden variety eclecticism, not to mention a little bit of Orientalism. It seems dangerously close to white people appropriating “exotic” Eastern culture in bits and pieces, pulled from their original context. Further for Sikhs for example, you have the same issues as above. Taking Sikh practices out of a monotheist context seems fundamentally disrespectful to Sikhs, who are quite monotheist.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Why is the term “Pagan” not sufficient? It means whatever people want it to, anyway.

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            I guess people just love to hyphenate things.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Especially when it makes them look exotic and “2kewl”.

            I’M JUST SAYING.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Because Pagans who include Christ in their pantheon know they are crossing a boundary whose existence is made abundantly clear in this discussion. Maybe the topic behind this topic is: How does this sometimes abused minority treat its own minorities?

          • TadhgMor

            I think the retort would be that they aren’t our minority, they’re a Christian minority who likes to hang out with us.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The way minorities treat their own minorities is a sad thread of history. The abused Puritans came here and abused Quakers, who subsequently abused Native Americans. “You do not exist” is a standard ploy in rebuffing a minority.

          • TadhgMor

            I didn’t say they don’t exist. I said they aren’t a pagan minority. They’re Christians. There is absolutely no way to be both a Christian and a pagan in my mind. Like all that New Age stuff? Well then you’re a New Age Christian. Not a pagan. My identity with that word is much more than a bunch of hippy influences.

            As for Puritans….I wouldn’t call them abused. They were a bunch of ****s for lack of a more appropriate word. They left because no one liked their supremacist ideology. When they were in power, they slaughtered the Irish. Calling them victims is a major play in white, protestant apologia, not history.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Getting rid of the Puritans did wonders for Europe.

            …Maybe we should send the rest of the Christians over?

          • kenofken

            99.5% of the screwy ones are already over here, as far as I can tell. I haven’t spent enough time in Europe or the UK to know for sure, but I don’t think any of these countries are beset by evangelical loons like we are. They certainly aren’t in positions to dictate public policy the way they often are here.

            If there are any Westboro or Tony Perkins sorts left, don’t ship them here. We’re full up! I propose sending ALL of them to Nauru. It’s a nice little island in Micronesia that’s basically a tapped-out phosphate mine next to the middle of nowhere on Earth. The Aussies contracted it out as their own version of Guantanamo Bay, if that tells you anything.

            They’re good people, the Nauruans, and they’re in very tough straights these days. Their trust fund is about tapped out. Unemployment is near universal. There are only about 9,000 of them, so for a clean billion, we could give them all a fresh start somewhere. The Christian dominionists would finally have a place to run their way!

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “There is absolutely no way to be both a Christian and a pagan in my mind.”With respect, yours is not the mind that matters. Theirs is.

          • TadhgMor

            So they can take my identity simply because they say so? I have no say in the maintenance of this identity? But a bunch of Christians do?

            That seems downright perverse. It shows a fundamental lack of respect for others. It’s my same issue with “Judeo-pagan”, which ties individuals to Judaism, which is fundamentally monotheistic. Using a pre-existing label and redefining it to suit yourself is at the least disrespectful to the living community using that term.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Including a Christo-Pagan in the Pagan community does not erode your identity, and gives you no warrant to define their identity.

          • TadhgMor

            Yes it does. It fundamentally changes paganism from a religious definition to some sort of “New Age” cultural moniker. If they so strongly identify with Christianity, then they are some form, however unorthodox, of Christianity. Christian in substance, not style.

            You’re excluding the entirety of non-New Age pagans from the definition by changing it in this way. You make “pagan” into a term of only style.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Eh? My definition excludes hard monotheists whose God is masculine and gave Nature its sacred character second-hand. That’s hardly all non-New Age Pagans.

          • TadhgMor

            There is no such thing as “hard monotheists”. You’re a monnotheist, or you’re something else. Monolatric, in the case of most Christians who aren’t strict. Some of the more New Agey ones get into Henotheism.

            God isn’t masculine in most forms of “hard monotheism”. Judaism uses both genders in certain writings, and Islam rejects any notion of gender for Allah. I believe Sikhs also reject gender. Even Christians use neuter Greek pronouns for the Holy Spirit, and reject any gender for divinity, simply using masculine pronouns.

            The “sacred character” of nature argument you’re making is also primarily one of eclectics and Wiccans. The terms and assumptions you’re making are foreign to me, and I highly doubt I’ve the only one. It’s based more in New Age environmental ideas of nature than traditional views.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Of course there are soft monotheists. They are the ones who find God in rushing waters or the barricades of a revolution. Inclusive, not exclusive.

          • TadhgMor

            No. Now you’re just inventing categories that suit your fancy.

            You’re are entirely too beholden to New Age ideas for us to be on the same page in any way. Your talking about style, I’m talking about substance.

            If you are a monotheist, you believe there is only ONE deity. It’s that simple. If you suggest “all have their own path” or such things, you’re monolatric or henotheist. You are no longer a monotheist. These terms have meanings, you can’t just jettison the definition because you feel like.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Any theological argument whose pivot is “It’s that simple” is overwhelmingly likely to be wrong.

          • TadhgMor

            It’s not a theological argument. It’s a classification. I’m not rejecting the existence of those people, I’m rejecting a completely fanciful classification system that does not meaningful distinguish the primary characteristics of the thing being quantified.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Invalidating someone’s self-identification is a way of saying that person does not exist. Arabs and Israelis have played this game for most of my life. It doesn’t get sweeter with age.

          • TadhgMor

            This is getting patently ridiculous. You’re invaliding any term in favor of some sort of tyranny of the individual. Whatever someone feels, no matter how inappropriate the things they say, no matter how much they hostilely appropriate practice and belief, is sacrosanct?

            That seems to be what you’re suggesting. You CANNOT be a monotheist if you believe in more than one deity. Period. You are dodging that very simple statement. You can be a monolatrist. Or a Henotheist. But you cannot, cannot, be a monotheist.

            Otherwise all of these terms are absolutely meaningless.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Repetition is not an argument.

          • TadhgMor

            You’re beginning to show a considerable amount of intellectual dishonesty here. You’re not even attempting to engage my points, you’re simply misdirecting.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I never engage a point I’ve answered already, even if it was originally presented in different words. That’s why I reject repetition as an argument.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m going to end this here. It is still intellectual dishonesty, and perhaps, perhaps, you should understand that if I think you did not fully respond to a point ,rather than responding to a strawman you created, that I will restate my point in hopes of a more honest, engaging answer.

            I am glad this remained more cordial, but I simply will not stand for such a style of debate. Dodging my points then stating you “already answered” them seems from my end to be very arrogant and selfish. As does your need to define things solely via your experience, rejecting convention classification in favor of some sort of individualistic nightmare. Neither of which contribute to any meaningful exchange of ideas.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It is not saying that they do not exist, it is saying that they are in error about a term.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If the term is one of self-identification then the dismissal is a symbolic, and therefore psychological and spiritual, attack on the person’s existence.I should have said “Palestinians and Israelis” above.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It’s not an attack on their existence, only their grasp of terminology.

            Let’s try an analogy.

            I decide that, for whatever reason, I like the term “Christian” and start identifying as such. I keep all my current beliefs but just take on the label for self identification.

            Would that make me a Christian?

            The answer is no. The term has a defined meaning and changing that meaning to suit my own agenda does not make my stance valid.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            We have a basic difference here. I lack the fealty you show the accepted definitions of terms, certainly not to the extent of letting them roll over someone’s Path.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Without an accepted definition, a term is meaningless.

            You could easily spend a couple of hours telling someone what “Paganism” is, only to have someone else tell them that you are completely wrong.

            This is not helpful in wider society.

            Accepted definitions are the basis of language.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Accepted definitions are the basis of language.On the contrary. Language is the basis of accepted definitions. Language is how a culture actually communicates with itself. Accepted defintions are a consensus of scholars who, as evidenced by the repeated re-issue of dictionaries, are generally behind the curve.

          • Franklin Evans

            As a thumping good read as well as a story about language, I strongly recommend to all “The Professor and the Madman” by Simon Winchester. The “professor” was the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary’s first edition, the “madman” one if their most prolific contributors.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Without accepted definitions, you have no language, just noise.

            As it stands, there is no accepted definition of ‘Paganism’ for the ‘uninitiated’ to be familiar with. As such, when discussing religion with others, Pagans will struggle due to a lack of understanding of the term.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            And yet we successfully talk among ourselves about Paganism. Where we stumble and argue is in talking about talking about Paganism.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We talk about ‘Pagan’ topics, perhaps, but since I don’t have an actual definition of ‘Paganism’, I find it difficult to talk about. All I can be sure of is that I don’t fit the term and, so, am an outsider to something I self defined as for the best part of a decade.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If that’s your sincere take on the matter then all I can do is express regrets. But this is not something anyone is doing to you; you are doing it to yourself.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            I have to agree with @LeohtSceadusawol:disqus on this –without an accepted definition of what words mean, language is rendered meaningless. Even if there are contextual instances where a word is either a verb or a noun, in proper context, that word still means something very specific. Language doesn’t exist for the individual, it exists so that the audience –be that audience be a single other person or a collective in a stadium or readers of a book– can understand ideas the individual has.

            If the audience doesn’t understand a word, and the speaker hasn’t defined it for them, how can the speaker’s definition become accepted? Common nouns, like “cat”, kind of prove that accepted definition is the basis of language –if some-one doesn’t understand what the word “cat” means, it’s easy to point to a picture of a cat (or several pictures of cats, to make it clear) and say “this is a picture of what ‘cat’ means”, it’s understood that a cat is a specific kind of animal that includes many species of wild animal and many breeds of domestic animal. A more abstract noun, like “religion” and thus religious movements like “paganism” exist as ideas, first, and are then given a language.

            The problem with defining “paganism” is that its etymology is tainted with pejorative use that has been so broadly applied that there are many ideas that many people want to attach to it.

          • Franklin Evans

            May I respectfully suggest, TadhgMor and Baruch, that you are talking past each other more with each exchange.

            Labels have value, primarily to those who accept (even demand) that the labels accurately portray them both in meaning and in substance. The logical and experiential truth from that is its inherent subjectivity. We are simply not going to find agreement on it.

            My impression of both of you is of people with deeply felt and intensely focused beliefs. You both express yourselves clearly, also (to me) a sign of much intellectual and self-honest examination of your beliefs. On that standard, the vast majority of people — emphatically those of whom TadhgMor has the harshest view — are crawling infants seeking the easiest path.

            In the end, we are all just shouting into the teeth of a gale. I believe TadhgMor deserves respect — perhaps others would prefer the term tolerance — for being motivated to keep shouting. I believe Baruch deserves the same consideration for believing that the shouting is not worth the effort. I place myself in the middle somewhere, if only because I sometimes forget earlier decisions that it’s a waste of effort and catch myself shouting again. ;)

          • TadhgMor

            Perhaps we are. But I maintain you cannot simply redefine things to suit your fancy. Perhaps it’s a scholar’s bias, but doing so seems not only poor logic, but fundamentally selfish and dangerous to me.

            A person cannot redefine Judaism against the will of the vast majority of Jews to mean something else. It is morally and ethically wrong. You cannot suggest that “monotheism” suddenly means something new when monotheists themselves would completely reject such a categorization.

            Things have context and meaning. This argument seems to be, on a broader level, between those who accept those meanings on a functional basis and those who reject context or definitions as valid in any sense compared to their personal experience or desires.

          • Franklin Evans

            From work I can’t do “ups” other than as “guest”, and I do have a further comment, but I wanted to acknowledge this response and show mostly agreement with it.

            I would posit (and argue) that the Messianic Jews did not redefine Judaism, they naively attempted to roll the calendar back 2000 years. Theirs is a valid belief system if only from that early time. It simply has no validity for modern Jews.

            Does that mean they must not call themselves Jews? I would say no. They are no less Jews (in an abstract sense) than the first believers in a divine Jesus as the prophesized messiah.

            Pagans have several disadvantages. We have enormous continuity gaps with our spiritual forbearers, gaps barely (if at all) filled by Gardner and his successors in our general belief community. We also have direct competition — that New Age category, about which I also agree with you at least in principle — our predecessors did not have.

            Anyway, battles over labels and lexiconic shifts make sense only for their contributions to general clarity and understanding. The biggest and oldest obstacle is not the lazy thinkers or money-grubbing egotists. It’s the mainstrean/majority belief systems who hold the reins of social and political power, and they are never going to abide by rational discipline over labels and their use. Indeed, they are much more likely to deliberately corrupt them with propaganda. That’s the hurricane behind the gale, in my view.

            I wish to add, perhaps belatedly, that I am neither criticizing nor second-guessing those who make continuity claims for their traditions. They are too few, and ubiquitously secretive about details, to have much to contribute to this argument. TadhgMor, I do not include you in that grouping.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “battles over labels and lexiconic shifts make sense only for their contributions to general clarity and understanding.”

            Exactly. And the people who have most use of labels are those who do not self identify as such.

            If “Pagan” means whatever someone wants it to mean (as is currently the way), then Christians are not wrong when they define “Pagan” as a devil worshipper.

          • Franklin Evans

            I claim dibs on Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty for my debate team. :D

          • TadhgMor

            Good cause I’ll make no continuity claims. I just wrote my undergraduate thesis on early Irish law, I’m well aware of how little claim to continuity any Gaelic polytheist can have (though some of the surviving folk traditions are pretty awesome).

            Most Jews I know would state, emphatically, that the Messianic movement are not Jews. They were not able to redefine the term, but they have certainly tried.

            Again some of this might simply be bias from academia. To me, things have defined meanings. Sometimes they need to be made more accurate, or broader, etc, but generally you can agree on basic things like classification. But inventing terms like “hard” and “soft” monotheists just drives me insane, even if I recognize the motivation. I wonder how many others think in those terms, and if that contributes to the sense of why these Christo-pagans (who’d be soft monotheists according to Baruch’s definition I expect) seem to be already gaining more sympathy than us mean old hard polytheists (who are mentally associated with “hard” monotheism).

          • Franklin Evans

            My pipedream is a good pub and the good and stimulating company of fellow Pagans of many stripes, an extension of my image of the Inklings. It would have the rarified (and possibly musty) atmosphere of academia balanced with the odors of the beverages of choice of all those participating. A free exchange of ideas is a gift beyond any price.

            I fall back on Jones and Pennick because they made a disciplined attempt, not because I completely agree with them. I choose Bonewits as a good way to balance that. Indeed, either alone leave me unsatisfied, but together work very well for me.

          • TadhgMor

            I see far too many modern biases in Jones and Pennick. The “goddess” thing for example has essentially is not historic. It’s a very Christian-unitary view. Further, it misunderstands most monotheisms, which ascribe no gender to their God. It betrays a fundamentally modern obsession with gender that personally I find problematic. Instead of making gender irrelevant, it becomes the end all be all, leading to people to mischaracterize monotheists as overly masculine (of course there is some basis in it, but generally they go to far) because it is in opposition to their “feminine” views of the divine.

            I disagree fundamentally with “nature-based” as well. That is an modern descriptor and understanding. The sacrality of nature is a hot debate, but overall people vastly overstate how important that was to ancient peoples. It’s a modern New Age bias about seeing “God in all things”. It’s nearly pantheism, and pantheism is a 17th century invention.

            Finally, I’d love to see what evidence they have for “soft” polytheism in the ancient world, because I’ve never seen any of it.

            From a historical perspective their definitions are anachronistic and heavily prejudiced in favor of modern concepts that simply did not exist.

          • Deborah Bender

            In a comment I just uploaded, I made a statement about an Episcopalian conference on the Divine Feminine that I now see is irrelevant to the points under discussion. Please ignore it. I don’t know how to delete part of a post.

          • kenofken

            Would the same be true if I included myself in the Native American or Jewish communities? No skin off their backs, as long as I feel I’m authentic in some way. I struggle with this.

            There is no governing body to paganism to define orthodoxy, and there never will be, if I have anything to do about it. At the same time, are we intolerant by seeking to stake out ANY coherent identity for ourselves? Do ethical considerations of cultural appropriation or misappropriation only accrue to certain cultures and religions?

            I guess I take a different tactic than TadhgMor even if I share some of the same concerns. At the end of the day, I can’t stop anyone from identifying as pagan, and I have much better things to do with my time. At the same time, their assertion that they are “one of you” incurs absolutely no obligation for me to accept that as I define my own identity as a pagan.

            I draw distinctions between “community” in the sense of identity versus hospitality. I’ll share a fire at PSG with anyone who conducts themselves well, whether they’re of my own tradition, a different one, or Christian. If someone holds beliefs that are in direct contradiction to my own or even morally repugnant to me yet insists that I have to accept them as part of my system, that’s gonna get them nowhere at speeds they never dreamed possible.

            At some point, the right of disparate groups to define themselves as part of a movement becomes a denial of the right of others to define themselves. Recall that one of the key slanders of our evangelical and Catholic enemies is the assertion that pagans stand for nothing. We are just kids and hippies playing dress up in the woods. If we don’t assert and exercise any right to define ourselves at SOME level as “x, but not y”, we have no basis to refute their slander.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Analogic fallacy. The history of the Pagan community is not the same as that of the Jewish or Native communities, and facile comparisons are invalid.

          • kenofken

            I’ll accept that if you’re prepared to define an exact standard for what degree of historical persecution or other experience entitles any given group to basic respect of its cultural identity. For that matter, why should any group have to “earn” such consideration by virtue of some arbitrary amount of suffering?

            If we as pagans claim no form of self identity that isn’t definitive or exclusive at some level, then we have no standing to demand things like tax breaks, military or prison chaplains. We don’t grant such things for people based on their affiliations with aesthetic or cultural modes like “emo.” If paganism is truly as formless as that, or more so, then we stand for nothing and have no valid First or Fourteenth Amendment claims, among other things.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Persecution is not measured by degrees but qualitatively. Natives had their land ripped off. Jews were repeated refugees for two millennia. You get a different kind of community from such experiences, and trying to appropriate them is just tacky.I gave you a definition of Paganism. It was not intended to go to court to defend its First Amendment rights. Specific paths and traditions do that.

          • kenofken

            Pagans in the West haven’t exactly had a garden party since Constantine. Even if we’re not allowed to count the plight of our forbears, our modern collective community has had an honest helping of adversity. We’ve lost jobs and children and sometimes freedom for who we are. We’ve had and sometimes continue to have our religions identified as phenomena of criminal and psychological deviancy.

            We had to fight for a decade to have our war dead honored properly, spurred in large part by the statement of a sitting president who declared our religion wasn’t “real.” Hardly the stuff of the Shoa or Trail of Tears or Wounded Knee, but it’s enough of an authentic historical experience that I don’t think we’re off base when we resent the trivialization of our identity.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If I agreed that opening our community to Christo-Pagans trivialized Pagan identity, I’d go along with you. Since I don’t, I can’t.And no, I don’t regard Pagans alive today as having suffered directly the plight of our forebears in antiquity. As you yourself admit, in our lives we have had the slings and arrows of a minority in a society with flaws but also with constraints on mistreatment of the unfavored.

          • kenofken

            Being told that we must open our community to belief systems many of us don’t recognize as pagan trivializes our identity. It demands that pagans who joined the larger movement for pagan values accept the proposition that their values are meaningless.

            Since the only criterion for membership in the pagan community is self-identity, do we have to accept the white power Odinists as full members of our movement?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Technically, the white power Odinists are more likely to identify as Heathen, not Pagan.

            However, unfortunately, I would say that they are a more valid part of Heathenry than Christians are of Paganism. if for the simple fact that their belief in the gods is the defining characteristic, not their political ideals.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Turgid as it is, this thread-mix has successfully teased into the open some basic differences in outlook. As has been mentioned elsewhere, belief is not that important to a LOT of Pagans. Look for the comments of Deborah Bender for a better exposition than I can rattle off this close to lunch.Racist Pagans are a problem for the movement, but invoking them here to prove another point is a red herring.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “belief is not that important to a LOT of Pagans.”

            Has that always been the case?

          • Franklin Evans

            In my experience, in a word, yes.

            The can of worms I’ve opened in the past — long since learned that lesson — is the exercise of judging an individual (or group, it should be noted) on standards of sincerity, integrity and consistency (there are other worms there).

            My personal lesson: when the individual (or group) has done nothing resembling due diligence concerning their chosen belief system, any of those worm-questions become a waste of air before the final sound is vocalized.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Regarding the Pagans of antiquity, I would have to defer to someone line Apuleius (whom I miss; hasn’t been around lately). As to modern Pagans, according to Magot Adler and others, including personal testimony such as Deborah Bender’s, if you participate fully in a ritual you can believe in the Gods as conscious, powerful externalities endowed with will and intent; as archetypes residing in the Collective Unconscious; as sacred metaphor; as the smoothly-worn mythos of a highly social primate species trying to be social with an aspect of the Universe (eg, the sea => Poseidon); as aspects of a Source that can barely be named; etc — and you’ll perform in that ritual just fine alongside others who make a different choice.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Trying to appropriate anything not your own is theft.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I guess this is the gulf between our viewpoints. To my way of thinking, no culture “owns” any of its practices. It owns its identity, but anything else was probably initially borrowed from others anyway.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            If that is the case, then all appropriation is fine.

            Can’t have it both ways, just because some people got shat on at some point.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            One may disapprove of some appropriation on other grounds than violation of some spiritual patent law. Most specifically, misrepresentation, the spiritual equivalent of fraud.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            And what is defined as ‘misrepresentation’ differs from person to person, does it not?

            It is not like most people who are accused of appropriation are deliberately misrepresenting.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Someone who is not Lakota presents hirself as such and offers an “authentic Lakota sweat lodge” for money. Someone who is not Roma offers “Gypsy fortune telling.” That’s misrepresentation.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            That line will shift for everyone.

          • Franklin Evans

            They do it because they can, and you and I cannot stop them. Lexicon shifts are a fact of life. We are offered neither consolation nor respect in this.

            That said, we have the same recourse they use: verbal opposition and the hope that others will add their voices to ours.

          • TadhgMor

            That is a fundamentally selfish way to live your life. I truly don’t understand it. I am not one to judge their path, but they are taking terms from two communities which they don’t truly belong to. Strike out on a new path, don’t try and repurpose existing identities to suit your needs.

            It’s the same reason I disagree with Celtic Recons who call themselves “Gaelic traditionalists”. That term has an existing meaning to some Irish Catholics, and we have no right to repurpose it. Especially when there are other options like “Gaelic Polytheist”.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Both minds should matter, surely?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Not equally on this subject. My opinion of your path is not as important as your opinion of it.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            How about it my path wildly differs from yours, but I like the label you use and appropriate it for my own use?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            This has already happened to me, and I survived it nicely, thank you. I started calling myself a feminist in 1969. During the 1970s other people calling themselves feminists got deeply into antiporn, hostile theories of male psychology, and bad statistics about rape and domestic violence. For a while I only called myself a feminist among people who knew what I meant. But I survived it and still call myself a feminist. I think you’ll do just fine.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’ve been doing better since I shrugged off a term that does not have any real objective meaning.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Changing the subject in reply is not really a rebuttal. The basic character of none of the groups in the minority cascade I cited, is consequential.

          • TadhgMor

            Of course it’s consequential. The Puritans weren’t a persecuted minority. They were widely hated because of their actions and ideology. The notion of the “elect” and their haughtiness turned off even other Christians. Their supremacist tendencies were shown in full force in Ireland under Cromwell (where Quakers also helped in the slaughter. Non-violence was adopted later).

            Context ALWAYS matters.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Repeating a red herring more loudly doesn’t change its nature.

          • TadhgMor

            It’s not a red herring. Context matters. Removing things from context is how you end up with ahistorical and wrong views of the past.

    • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      I truly don’t understand how the term “Christo-pagan” can be a thing.

      There’s an old, ancient history of Christianity cross-polinating with paganism (or, at least, that which has been retroactively included in the “pagan umbrella”). As a Hellenist, I’ve long said that Neoplatonit philosophy is “for people who want something that’s like Christianity, but isn’t Christianity”, and there’s a reason that adage rings true. The Neoplatonists cross-pollinated with Christianity and Gnostics in the early CE, and vice-versa. There are also theories that the Orphists and their understanding of Dionysos was a direct influence on the Christ mythos, more than anything else. For these purposes, “Christopaganism” is less about the Christianity known as it is today, and more about a cohesive philosophical system based on the inherent compatibilities between Neoplatonists, ancient, pre-Empirical Christianity, and Gnostics. It’s the philosophy of the Christ and Plato with the theology of Neoplatonism.

      • TadhgMor

        I suppose maybe I’m uncomfortable calling Neoplatonism as pagan. Ideologically is very very different, though I’ll admit I’m not clear on the overlap between those ideas and tradition Hellenistic paganism.

        From what I’ve seen, and I could easily be wrong, “Christo-pagans” seem to maintain at least part of their identity around modern Christianity. I have not seen anyone describe it the way you have, but I’ll admit I’ve given this little attention until now. I suppose to a certain degree I’m the reactionary voice here.

        • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          Keep in mind, as a Hellenist (who practises Hellenic, not Hellenistic, polytheism ;-), I’m speaking to what I know about most-directly from those within my particular religious community. I know that most people adopting the term “Christopagan” lately have just been little more than latter-day Jesus Hippies who read watered-down “facts” about obscure forms of the Virgin Mary or the figure of Sophia and think about soundbites from The Sermon on the Mount as they go on nature walks and they might worship in an Eclectic Wiccan style. Such people tend to have little knowledge nor care for the history of the term, as they use it, nor the spiritual growth that a cohesive philosophical system fosters.

          That’s not what I care to talk about, though. You said that you were bewildered by the concept, that it didn’t even strike you as syncretic or even peaceably compatible. I offered a historical perspective that should put your concerns to rest (and one that does still exist today, but gets almost no attention from the pagan community –cos thinking and growth are too difficult, I guess), because there is a long history of the two systems not only reconciling differences, but influencing each-other. Graeco-Egyptian blogger, Sannion, also seems to incorporate some obscure Catholic stuff from an Orphic understanding –thus proving himself a fan of the theories that paint Orphic understandings of Dionysos as a blueprint for Christian mythologies.

          • TadhgMor

            Ah, I’ve spent too much time as a historian hearing Hellenistic. It sounded wrong to me. Darn.

            Yeah, I found what you said very interesting, though I stand by not really seeing Neoplatonism as inherently “pagan” rather than pushing into it’s own definition (as an aside it’s odd to think what was once so philosophically powerful as to influence the Abrahamic traditions could not be relegated to a small position under the pagan umbrella). But I’ve mostly interacted with the former, rather than the latter. Even though I don’t really see the latter as pagan, their inclusion under the “umbrella” is a much different issue to me. I don’t see major fundamental contraditions there that I do with essentially unorthodox Christians that like nature being brought in.

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            So, to be clear, you’re suggesting that Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, and the Emperor Julian- among others- were not pagans?

          • TadhgMor

            I’m suggesting their worldview is distinct from what would generally be the norm at the time, yes. If it was not, why would there be a descriptor to identify them at all?

            As for their personal beliefs or level of devotion, I do not know.

            But they certainly were not reflecting the general religious feeling of the populace in the places they lived. So they are “pagan” in the sense of non-Christian, but not “pagan” in the sense of traditional forms of polytheism, at least based on the adherence to Neoplatonist thought, which was distinctly an “elite tradition”.

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            You are, of course, making the- false in my opinion- assumption that there was some singular ‘norm’ in the Greco-Roman world. If there were any one thing you could say about the religious worldview of antiquity it would be that it showed incredible diversity. Like it or not, ‘folk religion’ in the ancient world, the mystery traditions, the philosophical schools etc were all equally valid expressions of religion in that era.

          • TadhgMor

            Yes, the term norm implies that.

            If there was not a norm, then a good deal of classical literature has been misleading me. They were certainly capable of viewing things as “beyond the pale”, so I don’t see why we should assume there were no norms. All societies have them.

            Perhaps their norms were much broader, which I would agree with. But suggesting there were none is ahistorical.

            That’s just the thing, I don’t see the philosophical schools as an expression of religion. Neither did at least some of them. The movement towards Neo-Platonism and mystery cults was decidedly a new one in late antiquity, with all the societal debates that come from that. I’ve seen historians directly link those ideological shifts to the rise of monotheism even. But what made them noteworthy is that they were different, not that they were part of longstanding tradition.

            You’re doing the same thing I have a problem with from the term “Christo-pagan”. It’s broadness to the point of vagueness. All detail and context is being thrown out in favor of some sort of fetishized “diversity”. Diversity for it’s own sake even, rather than because it’s needed. By calling all of those things “pagan” off-hand you lose the context of the debates, the shifts in broader belief, and importantly you focus out the “folk religion” as you call it. History is biased in favor of those who write, and those who write were increasingly drawn to these new movements in late antiquity. I think it leads to people over-estimating their power among the general populace to be honest.

            It seems like there are two groups in this debate. Those who are uncomfortable with boundaries of any sort, and those who feel boundaries are necessary for maintaining identity.

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            I’m not ‘doing’ anything; I’m describing religion in the Greco-Roman world as I see it. You’re so convinced of some conspiracy of ‘soft polytheist and christopagans’ out to steal your religion from you that you see them everywhere. I know it’s easier to just automatically make assumptions about me because I dared to express disagreement with you, but I don’t have an agenda here. I am both a ‘hard polytheist’ and engaged in religious reconstructionism, and hell, I don’t even identify as pagan. Your comment history here, however, screams that you are interpreting things through some very obvious biases, and doing so rather stridently.
            Mystery cults were not some new-fangled aspect of late antiquity, many of them were genuinely ancient already in late antiquity, including the most famous one, the Eleusinian Mysteries. Similarly, the popularity of the philosophical schools and the religious aspects of them predate Christianity. It’s a very unsophisticated view of history to just dismiss everything you don’t like about paganism in the Roman Empire to merely be tainted by Christianity. If you personally disagree with those aspects of ancient religion, that’s fine and your right. I don’t agree with all of it. However, to try claim that they can’t even be considered legitimately ‘pagan’- a term whose usefulness is questionable before the political domination of Christianity came about- just because you don’t agree with them is just bad history. Even if the mystery cults and philosophical schools had a small number of adherents in the grand scheme, that doesn’t make them irrelevant or illegitimate aspects of religion in that era.
            To borrow an idea from linguistics, I would say that I’m attempting to be a descriptivist, namely that I would like to say that I want to look at religion in antiquity and describe it for what it is. You are engaging in prescriptivism; you attempt to impose rules and judgments on the subject. The indisputable fact is that people were Platonists or Stoics or Pythagoreans, and could be initiated in every single Mystery tradition there was, and they were still actively a part of the traditional cultus of the gods, and no one really cared. You are making more of a big deal out of it than ancient pagans ever did.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            No, I think you might be oversimplifying things. At least when speaking as broadly as to say that there are “two groups in this debate”. I for one have no problem with boundaries, I have a problem with people imagining that boundary much further inward than I see it. Just because there are many true paths does not mean all paths are true. It’s been a few years since I’ve trotted out this saying of mine, but I’m sure there are as many as hundreds of ways to get from New York City to Seattle –but heading due North without any turns will not get you there.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            If it was not, why would there be a descriptor to identify them at all?

            Because it was a distinct school of philosophy.

            As were the Atomists. As were the Epicurans. As were the Aristoleans. As were the Cynics. As were the Pythagreans. As were the Orphics.

            I could go on.

            Most schools of ancient Mediterranean philosophy were really not as “elite” as many modern people like to paint them, even if certain schools became rather well-known for attracting the elite classes.

            As for there being a sort of monolithic common religion in the Græco-Roman world, @Kauko:disqus is correct in stating there was no such thing, really. Things differed from place to place, and visitors tended to go with the flow. There was a commonality in pantheon (though to varying degrees) and a commonality in what a basic ritual looked like, but things still weren’t cookie-cutter.

          • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            By academic definition of “pagan”, which include any pre-Christian system of belief, especially those of the ancient Mediterranean and Europe, Neoplatonism is absolutely “pagan”. I find it hard to conceptualise as it as some kind of “other” for the simple fact that it was born of the pagan systems that came before it; the fact that it both influenced and was influenced by Christianity, and that many Neoplatonists, both ancient and modern, hold Christ as a Neoplatonic philosopher who simply came from Judaism rather than the local polytheism, are inconsequential to whether or not it’s “pagan” or not –especially in the ancient Mediterranean, where both systems developed, religion does not develop in a vacuum, both the individual and the school are going to eventually pick up on bits here and there from neighbouring systems.

      • Deborah Bender

        That’s one form of it, for sure.

        • http://www.oddmodout.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          Yes, and it’s a form that is so ancient that it’s hard for people to argue that the two systems are somehow fundamentally incompatible, except, of course, if one, like @tadhgmor:disqus here seems to be doing, wants to re-define well-established pagan systems as inherently “not pagan” because of their compatibility with Christianity.

  • Segomâros Widugeni

    I guess I’m going to extend Teo the same courtesy I would expect. When I explore other deities and pantheons within the Polytheist and Pagan spheres, I certainly appreciate having support so that I can work things out in a healthy way. He deserves the same respect, even if he explores a more radical departure.

    Teo’s likening of his experience to a Polytheist being called by a deity suggests that it is indeed possible to subsume Christianity into a a Polytheist context, albeit by doing some violence to its claims of monotheism and exclusivism. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’ work in that regard, being based in real history, may be very useful and illuminating. So might the study of Natib Qadish or else of pre-monotheist Israelite/Jewish mythology.

    Many of us have had unpleasant experiences with Christians. I have myself. But we will get a lot farther, both as a movement and as individuals, by taking the high road, by being accepting and supportive, even while also being quietly subversive.

  • Franklin Evans

    I offer this as a personal POV and possible comparison point. Any resemblence to rebuttal or argument is reasonable but not my primary intention.

    I started out with a strong ego, in large part from personal tension in a strongly feminist household (two elder sisters, with our mother all very active in gender politics) while also lacking a strong macho role model. No value judgments there, btw, just observations. I didn’t need my mother’s strong self-reliance as an example to have early concluded that I am sovereign in both mind and spirit, and it is my choices that define me, not labels or heritage or ethnicity per se.

    My basic challenge to fellow humans and the universe alike: Show me, and leave me to examine your offering until I’m satisfied and ready to make my own decision about it. Like the various reverse-psychology cliches, the fastest way to get my rejection is directly proportional to the authoritative, impositional tone used.

    The chip on my shoulder is smooth, well-worn by much use and exposure to the “elements”. I’m constantly aware of it. I’m sometimes painfully aware in hindsight of how I’ve used it as a bludgeon or irritant. Just as an example, for a long time I scoffed at Wiccans and ceremonialists, teasing them with phrases like “so, still working with training wheels and a net, eh?”

    I’ve traversed my personal journey circle more than once. The “path” metaphor is deeply and intensely strong for me. I’ve also learned important lessons from accepting shamanic concepts and practices — those being the most attractive to my free-wheeling approach to life and spirit, bringing me the only label I’ve accepted along the way, chaos mage — and I’ve arrived at some basic conclusions. Have your grains of salt handy.

    My path is merely a broad and infinite horizon bounded by my senses and my rational and cognitive limits. If I look far enough — or just pay attention — I see others on their paths, or people resting or stagnating. I reject labels because the map is not the territory, not because they lack utility or can be destructive (they can be either or both, of course). I assert that religion — as the broad term — is first and foremost personal. One individual can be damaged, even destroyed by a given religion. Groups of individuals are just as vulnerable — my objection to monotheism is its nearly ubiquitous paternal focus, to the detriment of anyone not male — but I still insist that giving the religion per se the first or only blame will invariably miss the point.

    I call myself Pagan because it’s the only belief system that holds the personal relationship — with nature, with deity, with each other — as the highest ethic. Blame, if we can agree on that term in this context, rests solely with the human proclivity for wanting, keeping and using power over others. Religion is the most effective tool for that, not the reason for it.

    I’ve met Christians on whom I’d unhesitatingly turn my back while they held the last morsel of food, the last drop of water. I’ve met Pagans I wouldn’t trust while free of a cage. The common point is that they are people, not believers in one religion or another.