The diversity of the Pagan community is, for me, one of the best parts! I love that as an Eclectic I can follow my own path and still be a part of a supportive larger group. In no other faith do you get the kind of diversity that you do here! In every other religious group you are either a part of a larger group, or you aren't. But for Pagans, we really get the best of both worlds! Not only are we a part of a group where we can feel supported and included, but we can also forge out own path and follow our hearts! This is a huge blessing - but it may have a downside... Two, in fact.
The first "downside" to all this diversity is that it's difficult to educate those outside of the Pagan community to what "Pagan" really is. There are so many beliefs, traditions, faiths and paths encompassed by the Pagan title that it's really impossible to clearly explain everything and include everyone. Even showing someone the "basics" really leaves out a lot of people who don't follow those basics. For example, I would say that most Pagans have Nature Based Beliefs of one kind or another... But there are a great many in the community that that simply doesn't fit for. So that makes things difficult.
The second, and more unfortunate "downside" is that there are those within the community that wish to place strict labels and limits on what is or isn't "Pagan" rather than allowing everyone to be included when and if they choose to be.
For me, the diversity is a clear asset. I'm what is considered "Eclectic." I do not follow a preset path or organized religious group. Instead, I share most of my beliefs and practices with a number of different traditions and religions. I would say the majority of my traditions & practices come from various Wiccan traditions, but I also share some beliefs with Hinduism, Buddhism, Satanism, Different Native American Traditions, and even Abrahamic paths. I am a firm believer that all religious traditions or philosophies are simply different branches on the much larger "Spirituality Family Tree."
So the idea of being a part of a group that doesn't require me to believe one way or another is a positive thing for me. It allows me to do my own research, search my own heart & soul and come up with my own beliefs and ideas. And at the same time, it allows me to have others to share my ideas and beliefs with or to go to for support or simply to come together with when it's time to celebrate. Unfortunately for me, and for others out there who love the eclectic group of crazies we happily belong to, not everyone is so gleeful to be inclusive when it comes to our community!
Recently I posted the following poster on my facebook page. And the conversation which followed was, at best, saddening!
Some of the comments I feel the need to address here, and I would welcome any thoughts from readers below in the "comments" area. **some of these are direct copies, others are para-phrased.
- What the heck is techno-paganism?
- Why would you worship pop-culture and why would that be pagan?
- And worshiping a CITY?
- The very definition of pagan means that you believe that the Divine spirit is in all of nature, so that is a kind of nature worship, is it not?
- Atheists can not be Pagan.
- Satanism is NOT Pagan. It's Christian and has no historical basis for being Pagan
- CHURCH is not a word we use in NeoPaganism. (referring to the Church of Satan)
- Christ Worshiping? Not Pagan!
I am sure that some of these questions - especially the first few - were made simply out of ignorance. So I want to provide a few descriptions for those who may not know.
- A Techno-Pagan is an individual who does the bulk of their study and practice through technological means. This could include online circles or study groups, a Disc or Blog of Shadows, or a focus on the spiritual aspects of technology.
- "Pop-Culture" Worship can refer to a few different practices, but in my understanding it's someone who uses mythology originating from popular media or culture. (ex: Lord of the Rings or Star Trek Mythology) Personally, I feel most people understand that the myths are NOT factual occurrences for the most part, but are meant to be used as teaching tools, so where the myths originate, be it ancient history or modern media, really doesn't matter.
- City Worship is not unusual. In fact, Ancient Athenians are known for their city worship. Yes, Athenians were worshiping Athena, and not the city itself, but she was the spirit of the city. Today, city spirits or Gods still exist and are still actively worshiped by some modern Pagans. (Read "The Urban Primitive: Paganism in a Concrete Jungle")
- The term Pagan, like the term Christian, holds many definitions depending on the individual being addressed. In point of fact, the belief that all of Nature holds divine energy is Pantheism or Animism, NOT Paganism. While SOME Pagans do hold this belief, many do not. (Refer to the "What is Pagan" post for a more in depth description of Paganism)
- The term Church is NOT owned by any religion! And there are more than a few VERY CLEARLY Pagan organizations who have taken the title of Church rather than Coven or Organization. Some examples would be The Church & School of Wicca (founded by the Frosts), The New Wiccan Church, and The Pagan Alliance Church.
First of all, as addressed above, Pagans are not limited to any specific belief system and this includes their beliefs surrounding Theism. The fact is, a theistic view is not required to be Pagan. I would say it's safe to say that the majority of Pagans are, in some form, theistic, they hold a belief in God, Goddess, both or many. But there are plenty of modern Pagans who fall in to the category of Atheist. I would say it's very important to keep in mind that the definition of Atheist is simply someone who does not hold a belief in a God or Goddess. There are in fact many Atheists who believe in spiritual energy, magick, and even spirit or metaphysical beings such as fae. One "Atheist Pagan" Woman I know says that while she follows the Celtic/Wiccan Calendar and recognizes the feminine and masculine aspects of nature she does not believe in any literal Gods or Goddesses and she does not work with them in her practice. She sees the Gods & Goddesses as characters of cultural mythologies which were created in order to explain phenomenon that they did not understand or to teach lessons about morals or history rather than actual entities. This makes her BOTH a practicing Pagan (she is mostly Wiccan) and an Atheist.
Secondly, I want to discuss the idea that Satanists can are not Pagan. I've heard this one more than a few times in the past. The fact is I've known more than a few Satanists in my life time (I dated two) and in each case they were very much Pagan. I believe the confusion comes in when people wrongly assume that Satanism and Devil Worship are the same thing. In point of fact, there are more than a few forms of Satanism, but the largest and most common branch is LeVayan Satanism (Church of Satan), which is NOT a religion by definition, but a philosophy or ideology. LeVayan Satanism founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality. LaVeyan Satanists are atheists who regard Satan as a symbol of man's inherent nature. There are those Pagans who, like my Atheist Pagan friend (above) who follow the Celtic Calender, believe in spiritual energy and entities and for all purposes are practicing Pagans and/or Witches, but who follow the philosophy put forth by the Church of Satan. Is it a different approach than most? Yes. But I don't see how that makes it less valid. I like to compare Satanism to Buddhism, in the fact that both are philosophies rather than religions and can be combined with religions to form a "bigger picture" belief system for some who find religion alone lacking.
It is important to note here that there is a such thing as Theistic Satanism or Devil Worship, and that this is NOT generally considered to be Paganism. Instead, it's a "loose" form of Christianity. The idea here is that in order for someone to believe in the Devil, one must first be Abrahamic in nature, because the Devil only exists within the Abrahamic umbrella. But since the equation of Satan and the Devil ONLY exists within Christianity (for Jews Satan & the Devil were two different entities) Satanism is a branch of that faith rather than Judaism or Islam. Theistic Satanism actually identifies Satan/the Devil as a Deity worthy of Worship. Beliefs and practices of these individuals and their beliefs usually vary from person to person - or coven to coven in those rare cases where there is a group. There is no recognized Theistic Satanism Group or Leaders, and most are solitary believers. There are numerous books available which contain mythology, rituals and practices meant to honor and worship the Devil and/or deny the divinity of YHWH and/or Jesus. In most cases these are bastardized or otherwise altered versions of Gnostic Myths, Middle Ages Apocryphal Texts and/or Catholic or Occultist Ritual. However, it's important to remember that there ARE those individuals who combine Christian and Pagan beliefs and practices (ex: Christo-Pagans) so I am sure that there COULD BE those who combine Theistic Satanism & Paganism as well. Because of this I say Theistic Satanists are GENERALLY not Pagan, but I am sure there are a few who cross boundaries. It's important to remember though that when it comes to Satanism, most are LeVayan or similar and NOT Devil Worshipers, and that out of those few who are, even less would consider themselves Pagan in any case.
And Finally, like I mentioned above, there are plenty of Christo-Pagans or Christo-Wiccans out there who combine Christianity and Paganism quite fine. I talked a couple of weeks ago how I view Christianity as just another branch of the Religion Family Tree, so I'm not going to go in to great detail here. But if you're wondering about Christo-Paganism or how it can exist, I would suggest you read my past blog posts - Can You Be Christian AND A Witch, Resources for Christo-Witches, and/or PBP Week 6: Christianity IS Pagan. Personally, I'm not Christo- Anything. But I don't see YHWH or Jesus as any "less" godly than any other Antient God or Demi-God. I believe in Zeus and Hercules and Osiris and Horus, so why not YHWH and Jesus? Unlike Christians however, that is how I view them, as existing beside other equally important Gods, Goddesses & DemiGods. So I suppose this is why I don't see Christo-Pagan paths as all that strange.
Being Pagan isn't about following, it's about finding. It's about discovering our own truth and doing what we understand to be right. For some, that means following a strict set of Wiccan or Cultural rules or traditions, for others, that means going completely off script. For someone like me, that means a bit of both. Regardless of what someone practices, if THEY consider themselves to be Pagan, I don't know - or understand - why anyone else would want to take that from them. The beauty of Paganism is that we are all different, yet we are all in it together.
|The Pagan Pride Day Logo, |
Features Numerous Symbols
More and more I'm noticing a trend to nit-pick other Pagans, which I find upsetting. Yes, these faiths all have differences, and yes, in some ways these differences do set one separate from the others. But the point that I want to make here, is that just because YOU don't agree with a belief, tradition, practice, philosophy or personal title does NOT give you the right to decide someone is or isn't Pagan. The diversity and differences we encounter within the Pagan Community SHOULD BE an asset to us, but instead I'm seeing more and more arguing, intolerance and anger occurring between members of the community. I've personally been told that I'm "Not a "real" witch" because I am not Wiccan by one person and that I'm "rather uneducated about what Paganism is" because I willingly accept Atheists and Satanists in to the fold. But here's the thing, I don't allow anyone else to choose how I believe, or how I label myself, so I don't feel it's my duty to define or label others either. I prefer instead to support and accept everyone!
We are lucky enough at this point to be growing in numbers and recognition. But as recent events (Fox News Comments) have shown us, we are still not receiving the equal treatment that we've all been fighting for for so long. Many people still have no real understanding of what it means to be Pagan. Which to me, means that we should be working TOGETHER to create a strong and united front. We should be presenting as a group, not as individuals. For us to get that equality and recognition for those on the OUTSIDE of our community, we first need to have it come from within. That means understanding one another, being tolerant to the differences, and being accepting of things we may not totally agree with as kindly and lovingly as we can. We should be supporting one another, and presenting a community full of love and light to the world, instead of attempting to force or push out ideals, beliefs or understandings on others simply because it's what we believe.
Only one we become tolerant and accepting of one another will those on the outside give us the same level of tolerance & acceptance. Reach out to one another. If you don't understand someone's path, ask about it. Don't EVER assume that your path is right for someone else and don't EVER feel someone else is wrong just because they are different. Elitism creates separation, and ruins relationships. We, as a community need to rise above all the negativity surrounding our differences and fully, happily & lovingly embrace the diversity which the Pagan Community provides us.