The Heroic Life
Vision of a Pagan World
But the world I describe is a very real place. It is not different than the way Hinduism pervades India, or Vodou in New Orleans, or Catholicism in Mexico. These are all places where a religious tradition, not practiced by everyone, has gained a cultural dimension and feeds into community life.
There's something truly touching about the votive candles under the tree outside the church in Valladolid, Mexico. I'd sooner undergo crucifixion myself than actually practice Christianity, but I dropped a coin in the box and lit a candle before going on my way. Too tantalizing, even for me.
It's not a numbers game. Sure, the Church is dominant in Mexico. And Hinduism has had a few thousand turns of the wheel to get itself rooted. But New Orleans is a perfect example: only a tiny, tiny handful of people there practice Vodou. Until recently Vodou was almost universally scorned and misunderstood. But there is a sort of citywide pride about Vodou in NOLA, a total buy-in that this is an exciting part of who we are. It goes beyond the veve tattoos and the lwa t-shirts; it does better work than the commodified pop-voodoo of tourists. You will find their candles burning, their beads worn, their priests and priestesses consulted, their rhythms hummed and drummed and woven into the everyday.
Small shifts add up to giant changes. A minority religion can become an axis of culture. If the religion is as awesome as Vodou or Paganism, this is a win for both the religion and the society it's part of.
The catch: the religion must speak to people.
In my previous article I asked how Paganism can become a world religion. How can it distill a message that speaks to people? The comments and discussion expressed a horror at the very idea. We don't want to convert people! We refuse to be the next wave of fundamentalists! Paganism is not, I was told, about marketing Paganism.
But having a clear message doesn't need to entail any of those things. Vodou will not try to convert you. Never has, likely never will. But Vodou has a clear, simple message: dance with us. There's a hidden world and it's coming to the party. Sing, dance, touch the divine; you will become a believer.
I present my vision of a Pagan world for one reason, to show what it can be like, to show the benefits that can come from a clear message, a shared focus. Those benefits have little to do with conversion and everything to do with a cultural shift that celebrates, rather than demonizes, the rich life of myth and ritual that Pagans bring to the table.
As you reach the end of this article, my challenge to you is this: putting aside the question of proselytizing, which is not the idea here, what is Paganism's message?
If you distilled everything you love about Paganism—everything about it that grips you—into a single sentence, what would it be?
Drew Jacob is the Rogue Priest, a philosopher and adventurer. Travel is his spiritual practice. To find purpose in life, one needs only to wander. The journey will show the rest.
To pursue that ideal Drew has undertaken his own journey. He wanders across two continents, hoping one day to meet the gods. It is his own attempt at adventure.