Monday, September 14, 2009

Pagan(ism), definition of.

There is some confusion, it seems, about the message of my post "The Pagan Secret." Apparently, there is some misconception that I have tried to define paganism, and I'd like to straighten a few things out.

Defining paganim is an impossible task, and impossible to do satisfactorily for our modern culture and to all of paganism's adherents. Thus, most academics shy away from the term altogether. I have always said Paganism is a buffet religion, and said that in the aforementioned post. I would never deign to say it is anything but. I also feel I need to qualify, as this seems to be a mistake caused by my occluded wording, that I was never attempting to define this term, but merely attempting to - as Drake Atlas more succinctly put it - call for honesty when it comes to discussions about our spiritual and magical experiences.

For example(s): If you did not honestly raise the corporeal spirit of your dead mother-in-law, then you don't need to claim you did. If you did not commune with the astral form of some pop culture icon, then do not espouse it as fact.

Now to address a definition of Paganism, or rather undress it. Paganism is not merely earth-based spirituality. Taoism is an earth-based practice, but a Taoist would not call themselves pagan. Nor is it anything that is not Christianity, or anything anti-anything. One commenter said pagans knew from at least the time of Socrates that there was no one path or religion. I'm pretty sure that all the peoples of the world had that one figured out well over 2500 years ago. (and again there comes the sticky issue of who are these pagans that are figuring this out?) However, it is right to say there is no religion or path that is gospel, forgive the phrase. All established religions, and their temples, are man-made, and how can you possibly worship the divine in either literal or figurative confines? Chris Orapello at The Infinite and the Beyond podcast recently did an excellent podcast on the meaning of the word pagan and why none of the definitions really fit.

Though, I see the need for a universal term. It seems we use "pagan(ism)" because there is no better term. In 2009 we are surrounded by labels. We know the name for everyone and everything. Given these labels, society can comfortably allocate each of us into our respective census columns, so to speak. It doesn't matter if you're Asatru, Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, or Southern Baptist, everyone has their column. Except "Pagans." Pagans in the broad, sweeping sense don't yet have all the names for all the peoples under their umbrella. We cannot comfortably allocate identity upon ourselves without that ever-present label we're subtly told we need to have validation.

What about the duo-pantheist that doesn't like organized religion and is off-put by ceremonial magic? Are they the same as the goddess worshipping Haitian Voodoo practitioner that has a penchant for yogic meditation? Or the person who just doesn't want to spell magic with a k...? Practically, no, they don't practice the same thing. All of them can claim the label of pagan, and all fiercely defend their title against others that say they don't fit the proper mold. But, we're all seekers of the divine, all going about it the best way we can in this Judeo-Christian world. We know what we aren't, but we're not sure what to call what we are. "Pagan" seems to be a nice word. It's not as demonized as Satanism or Wicca, while not implying any sort of organization, but not as exact a term as Southern Baptist Christian. It has a history and definition which people can cling to and understand. It is a middle ground for the seekers of the divine that are looking for a little magic in their lives, however it's spelled. However, it is also as inadequate a term as it is adequate. For any label that humanity gives to the worship of the divine could never possibly perfectly define the indefinable.

I think mankind got it wrong when we put God(dess) into the box of religion. (Yes, even our good friends the Wiccans, as no religion is perfect.) Worship is malleable, as we've seen through the vast changes in faith over the millenia, and each person's path should be individual and respected.

Again, though, we should keep it as honest and simple as possible. There is no need to claim powers or titles you know to be false, just to further your self-proclaimed identity. Reality isn't so bad. It's ok to say, "I just had a feeling the Goddess wanted me to do this," rather than, "The Goddess appeared to me in a fiery apparition of Pallas Athena and bade me gather Rosemary and Bladderwort for a secret spell/Gris-Gris bag of protection." Unless, of course, a fully armored woman with an owl popped in, literally, and gave you those instructions. In that case, I wish you the best of luck in finding bladderwort. Can I get you a phonebook and help look for the nearest herbal supplier?

In summation: Be honest. There is no true definition of Paganism.

And Harry Potter still isn't real.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

P.S. I am not, nor have I ever been a fundamentalist Christian. I'm a big fan of the nicer parts of the religion, but it just doesn't fit. So, no beef with any Christians, or with the commenter that somehow gleaned my being a Fundie from my aforementioned post, but I'm a tree-hugging dirt worshipper. Sorry.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the podcast mention. I added a link to this blog to the links page of the show website.

    BB / 93!

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  2. It's a great podcast, Chris. I am just glad i accurately represented your opinion on the matter, as it's a rather sticky subject for most. Looking forward to your new episode!

    FL

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  3. Great view point Fire Lyte. I couldn't agree more.

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