Queer I Stand
The Indigeny Debate
Being that this is the case, I was surprised and astonished that certain modern Pagans, particularly during and after the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions, began referring to some modern forms of Paganism as "indigenous," while others were not, when in many cases the majority of people practicing the supposedly "indigenous" forms of Paganism did not live on the land where the traditions originated.
Now, we run into a series of problems with the terminology in these cases, I think.
Yes, the Irish polytheist religion that many people today are attempting to practice, whether through reconstructionism or some other methodology, was an indigenous tradition to Ireland (sort of...we'll ignore that the "Celtic" homeland is pretty well agreed not to be Ireland, and thus any "Celtic" religion practiced there is not truly indigenous, though it certainly mixed with local traditions and gave significance to the gods of that land and their sacred places as time went on). The same is true of Greek polytheism...sort of. And, again, because the Greeks traveled widely and colonized many areas, it's a bit harder to say that the Greek polytheism practiced in Lycia or Crete or Magna Graecia was truly indigenous, though it did also combine with local traditions, as polytheist/animist religions do almost instinctively whenever they spread into new territories. The same could be said about nearly any cultural polytheism from the premodern period.
But, are British Traditional Witchcraft practitioners in the U.S. practicing an "indigenous" religion? No, not really, I don't think, because by definition, that religion was created and grew up in a land and a culture quite different from the U.S. The same is true of any "ethnic" polytheism that is practiced in the U.S., Canada and Australia, as well as many other places. At very best, those various ethnic polytheisms and the forms of modern Paganism that they have inspired are diasporic religions, but they are not indigenous religions unless they are practiced in the land which gave them—and the cultures who practiced them—their original shape.
(Hoodoo, and the various Afro-Diasporic religions—ironically enough!—are in many respects more indigenous than many other non-Native, Central or South American religions that are practiced in the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil and other places, since they combined with the practices of the places where they eventually came to rest, which is why Santeria is a bit different than Vodou, which is a bit different than Candomblé, etc. But, that's another can of worms entirely!)
I know that many modern Pagans and polytheists are socially marginalized because of their religion, and some are economically disadvantaged (whether it is connected to their religion or not is impossible to generalize), and many even have the experience of having been discriminated against; I've experienced all three of these things personally. Nonetheless, the vast majority of modern polytheists and Pagans have not had an ongoing campaign of being removed from their lands, having near-genocide committed against them, and having an aggressive campaign of assimilation perpetrated on them by colonizing governments and missionizing religious institutions that likewise will never allow them to be "fully" accepted into their majority, mainstream society due to racism and other factors.
We can all agree that discrimination in any form sucks, and that political and social marginalization is not at all fun to endure and shouldn't go on. But, when governmental and institutional resources are marshaled in a continuous effort against a particular population quite blatantly and openly in their laws and policies for several centuries, I think it's more than fair to say that indigenous populations have fared far worse than most modern Pagans and polytheists. Pagans can lose their jobs for their religion or have custodial rights taken from them in interfaith divorces; many indigenous people can't get jobs in the first place, and many indigenous children over the years have been literally kidnapped and put into re-education programs, with their language and native ways beaten out of them, often quite literally. Even in the forms of discrimination some modern Pagans and polytheists endure, we're somewhat privileged in comparison to many indigenous peoples!
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.