Discrimination In Paganism

On the Patheos Pagan FB page I posted a poll regarding discrimination after reading Patti Wigington’s post on racism in Paganism. It’s really awesome. You should read it.

I’m not going to pretend online polls are good science, but I still found the results interesting. And as with any “add your own option” poll, I love the amount of useless snark and confusion that accompanies the serious answers.

From what I can tell, everyone who answered that they had not experienced discrimination is a white, vaguely Wiccanate woman.

Some of the responses I expected to be popular were not: race, sexual orientation, gender, economic status.

People who responded with politics, lifestyle choice and education were in the middle, where I would have predicted they’d be.

In an opinionated community, of course having an unpopular opinion was a popular response.

But what completely blew me away was the number of people who say they have been discriminated against in the Pagan community over theology.

True, people may have misunderstood what discrimination actually is, but even so such a perception of having been wronged for a theological belief flies in the face of most Pagans insistence that orthodoxy is anathema.

Pagans have these ideas about our community that are idealistic, and that we like to think are true. But if the most common form of perceived discrimination is over theological matters, then that suggests we need to review our attitudes towards theology and orthodoxy.

So do you think this poll suggests an issue with theology in our communities that needs to be addressed?

Do you think Pagans are just misinformed about what discrimination actually entails?

Have you been discriminated against withing the Pagan community? Was it over theology?

Feel free to share your story in the comments.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Lucywright83

    I was surprised to find how bad Christian witches were hated.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

      I’m always surprised (and disappointed) to see the prejudice against Christianity within our community, whether aimed at Christian witches or simply just at Christians.  Maybe simply because I’ve never been one, I have trouble empathizing with the feelings of those who have such strongly negative impressions of the faith and it’s faithful.

      • Deb Shaw

         I grew up Christian.  My parents used their holy book as grounds to beat the living daylights out of me on a daily basis, to constantly remind me that women are lesser beings, that I deserved the treatment I got, and to label me “whore” because I looked into peoples’ eyes, rather than down at my own feet all the time. 
        I mistrust Christians, unless they prove themselves to be good people by their actions.  I’ve seen too many who think that their religion gives them leave to lie, cheat, and steal from non-Christians, and to abuse, even kill, witches and homosexuals.
        I do know a few Christians who actually do what their avatar has said for them to do, but most follow Paul, who was a misogynist.

        • ReneeSchwarz

          “I’ve seen too many…”

          Yes, but you haven’t seen them all.  I understand your religious upbringing was shitty, but mistrusting ANY Christian because of it, to me, is just as shitty.  If I meet a Christian who is cool with my faith, then they are cool with me!  

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=802910152 Anthony Hart-Jones

            I think you are being unfair here; everyone has the right to mistrust other people.  I know I have never been quite comfortable around Christians until I’ve known them for a while because I too know what it’s like to have Bible-verse (mis)quoted between kicks and punches.

            It might not be fair on the liberal and reasonable Christians you meet, but it’s natural to be wary around a group of people who have wronged you in the past.  It’s no different from being shy around dogs after being bitten by one.

          • EH

             I agree.  If we use “I’ve seen too many…” as a basis for distrust, then you could easily justify racism as well.  @Anthony — yes, everyone has the right to mistrust other people, that’s not being disputed.  What you don’t have the right to do is to distrust an entire group of people just because some of them did you wrong.  If that was the case, then I wouldn’t be able to trust anyone.  I have been wronged by too many men, women, white people, black people, kids, adults, friends, teachers, strangers… the list is way too long.  Just because I’ve been wronged by nearly every close girl friend I’ve ever had doesn’t mean I stop trying to be friends with girls until they jump through hoops to prove they’re not evil.  Just because I’ve been raped and emotionally abused by ex-boyfriends doesn’t mean that I don’t let myself trust men enough to try to find a healthy relationship or make friends with them.  Just because I was bullied by white kids growing up, I don’t assume that I’m the only decent white person or make white people or people from that school prove themselves before I allow them into my life.  And just because my dad’s version of Christianity and the Christianity practiced by most “Christians” that I’ve met is completely insane and out of line with the gospel, it doesn’t mean that I assume that every person who self describes as Christian is a fundie and hate-monger.  In fact, it seriously angers me when people use that as a defense.  Someone that I used to be friends with said that he hated/didn’t trust black people because one black guy beat up his grandpa during a mugging.  It’s complete insane logic–every group has bad apples, but it’s not reason enough to assume that they are all bad.  Not ever.  That’s prejudice, by definition–judging someone in advance based on preconceived notions in your mind.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       The poll didn’t reflect that. Are you referring to something else?

      • Deb Shaw

         I think she’s referring to her own status as a Christian Witch, and how much she is hated within the Witch/Pagan community.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

           She didn’t say that. Speculating isn’t helpful.

  • http://twitter.com/APippinger Angela Pippinger

    Honestly? Seems like people are really confused on what discrimination is. Just like when they start yelling “I am being persecuted!”. More often than not, I come across individuals who equate those two things with sheer disagreement. And our society has, as a whole, forgotten how to agree to disagree. 
    This of course doesn’t mean discrimination doesn’t exist. And there are many issues our pagan community needs to deal with, like our lovely knack for being hypocrits. But we need to start paying attention to the real issues of discrimination, like with Patti’s article. 

  • Ytierian

    Actually, discrimination on  theological grounds is fairly prevalent in groups.  The reason I became a solitaire was because none of the groups in my area would accept certain aspects of my own research (historical/archeological evidence) or my UPG as even approaching what “we believe”

    I’ve seen groups torn apart by minor differences in approach; hard vs soft polytheism; or observances; night or weekend before or closest weekend, no matter what

    As groups become more closed in their views on who/how/when to observe the holidays or the Gods themselves, and as more people insist that their way is the “only” way – we’re going to see a meltdown of community.

    • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

      What’s missing from all our communities is any sense of true dependence on the group, which removes any sense of real responsibility.

      When I live in a small village, and when being a jerk means that when I walk into the pub everyone else will walk out, or that the grocer won’t sell to me any more and there’s no other place to go, then I apologize and try to be nicer. Even if the grocer is a damn Coptic Christian who accepts that wicked Heresy of Arius. Or a Wiccan.

      We don’t have that dependency. We can “go it alone” because, for the most part, our intensely intricate “civilized” infrastructure lets us go anywhere, be with (or without) anyone, do pretty much anything, and there are very few consequences. So we can afford to get into a high dudgeon over practically nothing.

      • LeohtSceadusawol

         This is being recognised, slowly.

        I’ve noticed a tendency in the ‘Northern tradition’ range of faiths to have a strong sense of community, whether it is the hierarchal structure of Théodism or the ‘folkish’ attitude of the Odinic Rite.

        I think this is a vital aspect of any religion/belief system to have, if it wants to thrive.

  • Nicole Youngman

    Is the poll still accessible/visible? I don’t see it. In any case, for future polls it might help if you include more specific definitions of “discrimination” to work with–questions like “Have you ever been kicked out of a group/organization? Have you ever been told you weren’t welcome at an event?” to get at whether or not people are actually being discriminated against or just disagreed with.  With all of the very small private groups so many of us work in, though, even that will be tricky, as private groups have the (legal) right to exclude whomever they choose and it’s pretty much normal for someone who’s interested in joining a coven, grove, etc to be told they’re not a good fit and should look elsewhere if they don’t “click” with the other members.

    It’s a fascinating issue, actually–let me know if I can help with survey design at some point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Yes, it’s linked in the post.

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

    I’ve encountered this discrimination over theology many times, not just in the Pagan community but also in the Reiki community. In the Pagan community, the trouble I often encountered was people who got angry when I spoke about a deity in such a way that it didn’t match their knowledge of the same deity… it was sort of a, “You chose the wrong historical interpretation of this deity.” I remember it happened on a poll at the Wild Hunt about what deities might be associated with the Occuupy movement – I suggested Uranus for his radical, sudden, and innovative spirit, but I was directly criticized by several other commenters for being either wrong in my knowledge, or for being wrong to follow the “contemporary” astrological interpretation of  the plant (and the deity itself.) So much disagreement and discontent – everybody wants to be right all the time about what they believe, and to quote the sage, “Damn anybody who disagrees!” In the Reiki community the matter of discrimination is a question of orthodoxy and lineage – the debate from ~40 years ago in the Witchcraft community about how “you can’t be a witch unless you were made a witch by a witch who was already a witch made by another witch, ad infinitum” is very much alive in the sense that “You can’t practice Reiki unless you were initiated by a master who was initiated by master who was already a master made by another master (all the way back to Mikao Usui.) People seem to use theological differences (real and imagined) to establish authority, create influence where previously none was had, and discredit critics and criticism.

    • Éireann

       James, these examples strike me as differences in ideas, but not examples of discrimination in an overt sense.   Were you directly excluded from something due to your understanding of Uranus differing from someone else’s?  Were you barred from a Reiki event because you don’t carry a Reiki lineage?  Also, can questions of Reiki lineage qualify as ‘theology,’ meaning, a study or discussion on the nature of deity?  Maybe we are not all applying terminology in the same ways here, which can confuse the discussion a bit.  While I understand your frustrations James, I’m not sure what you experienced is actually defined as discrimination.  Know what I mean?  ;)

      • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

        I didn’t give a broad enough example of what I’d encountered – my apologies! The post I referenced came to mind because the responses seemed so offended. A vast many people interpret Uranus as a deity in the sense that I described (with the character and attributes given to him by modern astrology), but the replies I got were people trying to turn it into a debate over Uranus or Ouranus, and also implying that the modern interpretation was incorrect. It’s not the, “I have a different opinion and this is what it is,” but the, “I have a different opinion, which makes you wrong, and I want you to know it,” that bothers me.

        A number of years ago when I first left the LDS Church and began looking for another path I tried Wicca on for size and ultimately left because I encountered a lot of what I just described – a great many people picking arguments with other people over which interpretation of deity was correct. I did the thing a lot of people do, and I did some correspondence study in an online forum, and found that the online environment – even within a forum with rules set up to prevent this sort of thing – was heavy with in-circles and subtle looking-down-the-nose at people who disagreed.

        For example, I’m a pantheist and although I like to talk about deity in an historical sense, I don’t believe any supreme deity or “first cause” exists in the anthropomorphic sense. As I shared my views more with others, people began avoiding me and eventually stopped messaging me.

        Regarding Reiki, the question of orthodoxy and lineage is very important to many people. The Wild Hunt blogged some time ago about a schism in the Faery community, and reading that as a Reiki practitioner I saw the exact same conflict: practitioners with the “correct” lineage working very hard to keep out practitioners with the “wrong” lineage (or no lineage at all.) As a Reiki practitioner who believes that no initiation is necessary to practice Reiki (after all, nobody initiated Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki), I find that many other Reiki practitioners (especially the ones trained through the system of William Rand, Phyllis Furumoto, any of the Japanese masters, and to an extent Dianne Stein) not only immediately discredit anything I say, but either cut off contact with me or take the position that in their superior wisdom they have to “educate me to the truth of the way.” It’s disappointing that the Reiki community is fractured along these lines – it makes it very difficult to establish connections when the “ticket to entry” is no more than the name of your instructor.

        In the local community, the problem isn’t so much of orthodoxy but of gender. The local Wiccan / witchcraft community is divided along gender lines, and it’s very much a “girls club only.” For a time I served on the board of a local pagan group and it very nearly came to an end over hurt feelings among the men stemming from more than two outspoken feminists who believe men couldn’t understand the ways of witchcraft. What I encountered in the sense of gender-discrimination was that even though I was the social coordinator and leader in charge of healing services, female members would either not talk to me or would ask to speak only to the chairperson of the board (a female) who, even though the charter of the organization says there isn’t such a person in the group, they insisted on calling a high priestess and expecting her to be the lead person on all activities.

        I often encounter discrimination in the Reiki community over matters of orthodoxy (especially lineage), and have really lost enthusiasm for Wiccan and witchcraft communities because they seem to be perpetually caught up in gender dichotomies and – very often when run by women – worship of the goddess and the feminine to the exclusion of the masculine (and men.)

        • http://www.facebook.com/eala.ban Éireann Lund Johnson

           Wow, you really fleshed all that out!  I see better what you mean.  You have a few threads going on here; I’ll start with the Reiki, as I’ve been in that community.  Although it is true what you say that no one initiated Usui, and I get your point that anyone really can make a contact with that Universal Energy, the tradition as it came out of Japan is heavy on lineage and teacher and tradition because, culturally, that is how Asian society operates.  There is a -very- high regard for tradition and elders (teachers), and this is how this element came to be integral to Reiki.  We in America are the rugged individualists and do not have this preoccupation for tradition, so it is also understandable that some of us might not feel a need to emphasize it so greatly.  From a traditional Japanese perspective I get it, but when it is insisted on in America, especially when Reiki masters are trademarking their teachings, I get the sense that it is really about power and money that they choose to emphasize lineage.  This sounds more sociological than theological to me; what do you think?

          The bit about feminism in Wicca and Witchcraft community I have also noticed, and men -are- routinely discriminated against, sadly, based on an idea that the divine feminine is superior to the divine male, and so women are superior to men.  I have found Reconstructionist traditions to be much more balanced with regards to ideas about gender within their communities by comparison. 

          Reconstructionist traditions, though, may veer more towards the  ‘this is the proper historical and cultural way to view this deity’ stance you inferred.  For myself, I have found it helpful to study and learn the historical and cultural foundations of a tradition, but also take guidance from my own intuition and experiences as well.  The caveat there though is that experience and intuition are personal, mine won’t necessarily match what anyone else’s might be.  I have gotten to the point where I do what I do because it works for me, but I am always open to new ideas and procedures.  I am social with some polytheist groups online, but haven’t been active in the larger pagan community for years.  I have recently found a small group to participate in, whose members don’t seem too hung up on things, which I like.  I hope you’ll be able to find such a comfortable group for yourself sometime, too.

          • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

            You’re spot-on regarding the cultural and historical components in the Reiki community; the research I’ve done (albeit second-hand through the original research of Rand, Petter, Yamaguchi, and others) teaches me that Reiki as practiced in Japan is a master-disciple relationship steeped in Eastern traditions of heritage and lineage. Similar to the transmission of dharma in the zen community, I’m confident Mikao Usui (who was a lay Tendai Buddhist monk) saw it similarly.

            Regarding Western teachers who seem motivated more by wealth and influence, well… you can’t say it’s not “historical” because Hawayo Takata firmly established the (Western) Reiki tradition as something which requires the exchange of money. I’m always curious how Reiki was traditionally offered, especially 100 years ago. All the descriptions I’ve read say that Reiki sessions were given many times per week (or even daily) for an hour or longer (this is especially true for Usui and Hayashi), and if those accounts are correct, then that would mean the services would either have to be very inexpensive or free, or else the only people who could afford them must have been very wealthy.

            I contacted Rand’s ICRT for help researching this, but the person responding to me would not get off this idea that I was asking either “How to price a Reiki session,” or “Is it morally correct to charge for a Reiki session?” We had about four emails each back and forth, but she either didn’t know the history of how Reiki clinics operated in Japan or was so locked in her Reiki-for-money paradigm that she couldn’t understand my question. I suspect either student practitioners were probably required to give Reiki at no charge, or else as part of a monastic tradition practitioners gave Reiki at no charge or by-donation as part of temple service. Well, more research required – I haven’t found that information anywhere else yet.It disappoints me that there’s so much competition in the Reiki community for who has the “true” version of Reiki – Rand’s Karuna Reiki is promoted as the stronger, more powerful successor to Usui Reiki… and Yamaguchi’s Jikiden Reiki is promoted as being purer and more potent than other varieties of Reiki… and Phyllis Furumoto is still promoting much of the fake-lore originated by Hawayo Takata ($10,000 fixed price for Master-level instruction, etc.) I think the world is big enough to accommodate many styles and interpretations of Reiki – I just wish there was less discrimination among Reiki practitioners.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1197543165 Eric Devries

    When I was a teen and struggling with my Mormonism I came  to find out that one of my close friends was a witch and thought she may have answers for me, I felt a draw towards maternalistic authority, on some level even then I knew what I needed was a relationship with Goddess though I couldn’t understand or aritculate it. She felt strongly that my being male excluded me from the practice of any magicks, said some horrible things to me. That kept me away for a long time, since I found my place in the pagan ‘community’ i’ve been told i’m not a real pagan for any number of reasons including my politics(many seem to view paganism as being reserved for liberals). The ‘community’ to me is shockingly dogmatic and filled with the same ugliness one would expect to find in any sufficiently large group of human beings. Hatred and exlusion by gender, sexual preference, politics and theology are common which at first puzzled me as it seems so many of our stories involve us leaving faiths for those same reasons. I avoid groups at all costs and practice with my family, my wife has different traditions than myself but they blend in the nicest way. I have no more love or trust in Pagans than I do in Christians or any other group and I don’t expect them to behave with greater decency or honor as that is contrary to my experience. I think many people need to feel like they are part of something special and it inevitably leads to an us and them mentality wherein if someone is not initiated in the same way, practice the same rituals and think like we do then they are ‘other’. It can terribly jarring for those of us who left a place where we felt like we didn’t belong, found what we thought was a home and then were told we were still ‘other’. That is what led me to determine that my home was Brighid and that noone was allowed input on our relationship but she and I.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

      “It can terribly jarring for those of us who left a place where we felt
      like we didn’t belong, found what we thought was a home and then were
      told we were still ‘other’.”

      Well put.

    • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

      I’m curious to know – and you don’t have to answer in public if you don’t want to! – what was your decision to leave the LDS Church? The biggest reason I left the LDS Church was that I no longer believed in an anthropomorphic deity, let alone one with human needs and feelings. I tried Wicca on for size after I left the LDS Church, but to me it felt very much the same, the only differences being cosmetic: there was still a deity I was obliged to worship, the deity or deities still had human faults and emotions, and so on. I became a pantheist after getting into the Kybalion and the broader New Thought tradition, and learning Reiki and other meditative ways.

  • Marienne Hartwood

    I’d be curious to see how many people state that the “discrimination” they experience is online. Online, I’ve been told rather unpleasant things because I’m a chosen monogamous, a person with an upper-middle class lifestyle, a traditionalist, and not an environmentalist (everything from merely not being welcome to share anything about my experiences to death “threats”), but I don’t count them as discrimination (or, in the case of death threats, as legitimate threats) because aside from providing amusing discussions over the dinner table, they didn’t tangibly affect my life. Other people might see those sort of things as a form of discrimination.

    As an aside, I’d be willing to bet that an overwhelming majority the people who do make such vile comments online are also not likely to state similar things in person, nor actually carry out genuine discrimination against folks in the offline world.

    That being said, I think that paganism as a whole has more schism-like mentality than other religions specifically because there’s not a binding doctrinal force that can be looked at for a benchmark. The only requirement for one to be pagan is to state they are pagan (and sometimes that isn’t even required!). Thus, everyone has their own personal view of what “pagan theology” is, and when someone else doesn’t have the exact same view, “persecution” and “discrimination” (read: disagreement and conflict) occur and often escalate. In all my years, I’ve been treated far worse by the comments and behaviors of self-described pagans than any other followers of any other type of spiritual path. I’ve got lots of theories about why that is, but at this point I’m long enough in the tooth that I just ignore and move on with my own kith and kin and leave them to their own petty squabbles.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eala.ban Éireann Lund Johnson

       Marienne, you make a good point in that Paganism is such a large umbrella term that it doesn’t share one overall doctrinal bind which holds members together.  What this means is that really, Paganism is a -collection- of traditions and paths, and that each one will have its own agenda and sub-culture to which potential members might feel they need to conform.  And this will necessarily change from group to group.  Although, if one experiences such discriminatory behavior at one of the large pan-Pagan events then it might not be the result of one group’s particular agenda at work.  I too have noticed that there is a general Pagan culture which tends to favor polyamory, liberalism, rebellion, and other forms of non-conformity.  I suspect that this is due to Paganism being one form of non-conformism for many people who then feel compelled to other non-conformist lifestyles.  But I agree with you that it can have the result of leaving us family-oriented, scholarly, politically-moderate types feeling alienated.  These aren’t discriminations based on theology, but this kind of cultural discrimination is a very real thing in this general community.  Other related communities like the Asatruar and Sinnsreachd are more geared towards  family lifestyles and moderate politics, it seems, and have different cultural orientations which would probably leave more mainstream pagans feeling out of place.  Perhaps these cultural differences are what really define what kinds of experiences we each have with various pagan or polytheist communities.

      • Guest

        Out of curiosity how  do you define “family-oriented” and “family lifestyles”?

        • http://www.facebook.com/eala.ban Éireann Lund Johnson

           In my case, I mean being a mother raising kids and primarily focused on my hearth and the traditions I create for my family in our home.  My experiences in the pagan community were very skewed towards attending ritual as the way to properly practice, which one seldom did with one’s kids, or child care might be provided, or one was a solo practitioner at one’s personal altar, but it was a tradition that took one -away- from one’s family core, and there was a sense that one had to let one’s children choose for themselves which religion to practice.  I decided to focus my tradition -on- my family and weave pagan observances into my family’s lifestyle and culture.  I wouldn’t say, theologically speaking, that my husband or sons feel they are  ‘religious,’ but I don’t ask them to be.  I share stories and feasts with them, we leave offerings together, and sit round the fire together.  There is no ceremony or circle cast, and while my boys are free to be whatever they will as they grow, I don’t introduce them to a smorgasbord of world religions and ask them to choose one; I simply create a family culture in our home and we all partake of it.  This was not at all what I saw when I was in the larger local pagan community, although when I ran a pagan moms playgroup it was part of some of those moms’ family cultures.  This is what I mean when I say ‘family-oriented’ and ‘family lifestyle.’

          • Guest

             Very cool family tradition and thanks for clarification! Cheers!

    • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

      I hear what you’re saying; I had a discussion on a Facebook group about two years ago and what began as me sharing my views (because other people asked) resulted in me picking up a stalker-troll who’s done everything from impersonating my family members and insulting my wife and children to flaming my blog with paragraphs-long tirades and using anonymous sending services to send me threatening email messages. It’s less encouraging to meet new people when I get that kind of response; I met the troll in a Reiki forum, but I don’t know if he’s just a really scary Reiki practitioner or just a troll who likes to stalk Reiki forums. Hard to say, really, but he’s been a huge pain.

  • Deb Shaw

    I’ve had other Wiccans vehemently disagree with my own personal pantheon which holds the Earth as the Prime Goddess, the Sun as Prime God, and the Moon as our Brother Guardian.

    I am Choctaw, and our folklore calls the Moon our brother.  I cannot see how my own god-world can affect another person’s god-world, as I am a Solitary.

    A few times, some rather immature women have tried to gossip about me within their coven.  My friends within the coven explained that I am not committing any sin or crime with my beliefs.  A fellow Druid tried to tell me that I am not a Shaman, and that I can’t be Wiccan and Druid, but I just ignored him.  So, I don’t suppose this will count as persecution, per se, but they have been my only negative experiences from interacting with fellow paganfolk.

    Oh, and that one time that a harridan tried to tell me that my husband should be my servant, because I, as Woman, am more important than he is.  She was quite vociferous, so I told her that my relationship with my mate is none of her domain, and to keep out of it.  I guess I’d rather just handle difficulties, instead of crying “discrimination.”

    • Kilmrnock

      I  agree Deb , Tis better to handle these problems as they occur , than to yell discrimination . i have one question for you . Do you think the greater pagan community has a chance of partnering with the Native American tribes? I think we could be valuable allies . As i said in an earlier comment we are stronger together than apart . But i also understand hostility left over about how the white man has treated them . Just wondering ?One encouraging thing i saw recently on Jasons blog was that some Native Americans are atleast calling themselves pagans .As NonChristians will they realise we are on thier side in the case of Native American issues ?And that we in many cases consider them pagan brothers and sisters . Because you have Native American blood i thought you may better understand the mindset .As i said i am a Tribal CR based pagan a Sinnsreachd. when our movement was just forming one of the founders actual talked to tribal Native American Elders about how to reclaim our heritage and tribal ways . Much very good information was given and helped start us on our way . Due to almost a millenia of Christian influence alot of our ways were lost , though research , our myths etc we are slowly reclaiming what was lost .    Kilm

  • FernWise

    I’d really like to see an ‘itemized list’ of what discrimination people have experienced, to see what consistent themes show up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/summershadowtwin Beth Daniels

    I have seen discrimination from plenty of pagans, believing that their certain traditions are the only way to legitimately practice.  Some of it comes from ignorance of the diversity in our community, and some comes from a belief that their traditions are superior to anything others believe.  Neither is appropriate.  We should always remember that each human is entitled to believe (or not believe) as they deem appropriate.  

    • LeohtSceadusawol

       “We should always remember that each human is entitled to believe (or not believe) as they deem appropriate. ”
      I agree. However there are those who are so zealous of their own path that they stop treating it as belief and start considering it knowledge.

      It can be hard to temper conviction with moderation.

  • Kilmrnock

    I too have seen discrimination over theology within our communty. As a CR style polytheist i have seen it against and by us . The hard ethnic polytheists shun and fuss at eclectics . I have seen Wiccans , that tend to be eclectic talk down polytheists . Seems this sort of thing is human nature and is something we as a species must work hard to aviod.Particuly in a group of widely varying crazies like us there is no place for discrimination of any kind . Altho many in my community have a problem with cultural apropriation …………if done properly i’m ok with it .But i must admit when it is done poorly i too will get upset . Generaly a hard polytheist stays within one ethnic tradition usualy one of their own ethnicity . Many will get upset when an eclectic uses a god/ godess from thier pantheon , usually not used correctly as the pantheon uses them . Many hard polytheist are downright hostile torwards eclectics in general . This is the discrimination i see personally . And strongly beleive , for our communities sake , must let bygones be bygones and move beyond pity B.S.Our hard line Dianic freinds have a few problems to work on as well , Z Budapest and freinds .We all as a community must work hard to aviod and iradicate this nonsence , the Witch and other flame wars must be a thing of the past .We have enough problems dealing with the outside world w/o this kind of crap tangling us up from the inside.        Kilm 

    • LeohtSceadusawol

       Actually, I think a significant mistake is one that you are making (I make it often enough, myself):

      “Our community”

      ‘Paganism’ is an umbrella for a plethora of communities.

      And this is also reflected in what you are saying about the ‘appropriation’ of deities. People getting upset about ‘their deities being used outside of context’ is simply a statement of ownership, as though a deity can be owned by a person or group.

      Just as a person can be very different depending on who they are interacting with, so too (I believe) can gods and other entities.

      • Kilmrnock

        i sorta agree paganism does encompass many different groups , but i still believe we can be called the pagan community. Even our American Indian friends have a problem w/ cultural Apropriation . Another point is that a God or Godess can be part of an ethnic groups history or a regions people . In the case of the Celts we consider our gods our ancient relatives , we are of and from The Tuatha de Dannon ……..the family of Danu. More like we belong to them actualy. But getting back to cultural appropriation .Many recons style pagans myself included believe a God should only be used in the proper context w/ the proper attributes . The whole Wiccan concept of all Gods being a form of their God and Godess makes a polytheist crazy.Our Gods each have a specific personality and origon , they are individuals not an architype. All these things must be taken into account when a God or Goddess is used by someone outside thier pantheon. We feel it is disrespectful to our gods not to do so.Just for the record most recon style pagans feel this way, as do the Native Americans .Another Point i need to adress is altho Discrimination may still exist within paganism doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight against it . We may never iradicate it , but we can try to keep it down . not rearing it’s ugly head. I still believe we as the pagan community need a more united front so  we can deal w/ society at large more effectivly . to protect our rights and be more accepted and recognised .Internal discrimination and bickering needs to end or atleast be kept to a minimum , so we can move forward.      Kilm

        • LeohtSceadusawol

           I’ve encountered Heathen/Northern Tradition groups (here in Britain) that refuse to accept the term ‘Pagan’ as a valid descriptor of themselves.

          I’ve heard that (some) Native Americans don’t see their form of indigenous belief as falling within the ‘Pagan’ umbrella.

          If the individual paths are looked at as distinctly as Hinduism, Buddhism (both are labelled as Pagan paths, by some), Christianity and so forth, the term ‘Pagan’ suddenly encompasses a far smaller group of people.

          How do you reconcile attempts to include people that do not really want to be included?

          • Kilmrnock

            Well , atleast here in the states the Heathens don’t call themselves pagans either and pretty much stay to themselves as well . But functionaly , they follow a pagan religion and i believe for practical porpuses will jion in with the rest of us , eventualy. Here we have two branches of Heathenism , Asatru and Theodism . Asatru here has recently had problems with a white supremist element , they are still sorting that one out .I can also understand some American Indians not wanting to be associated with white  pagans The  white man , Christians btw, almost distroyed them and thier way of life , and are still doing so . But in all reality they are pagans and we are stronger together than apart . But it as true there are many separatist groups within the modern pagan religions . I personaly am part of a CR style tribal faith , many within CR groups and religions tend to be separatist as well. But for the good of the pagan community as a whole i stand by my previous comments .     Kilm

          • Kilmrnock

            Also in these discusions porpuses i am speaking as a Pagan first and as a Sinnsreachd/Druid second . We as pagans can be united for our own good w/o compromising our own religions and identities as many Christians have . As a united community of Pagans  we will have more political power and recognition, than we could ever have as small seperate groups .     Kilm 

          • LeohtSceadusawol

             I guess what I am saying is there needs to be a distinct term that encompasses the various ‘pagan’ systems out there that isn’t ‘Pagan’.

            In the UK we have the Pagan Federation, an umbrella organisation that works for Pagan rights.

            Admirable work, but they did, until not all that long ago suffer from an inherent bias. Part of their constitution included the Wiccan bit on ‘ye harm none, do as ye will’.

            Caused a fair bit of alienation.

          • Kilmrnock

            Heathenism should be Heathenry, sorry

  • kenneth

    It would be delusional to presume that paganism in any form has or can eradicate the human tendency toward discrimination. It would also be a tragedy not to do our best to overcome it. I’ve seen theology discrimination within and among pagan groups from every conceivable direction. Trad vs trad, eclectics vs trad or recon, you name it. Wiccans have been on both the giving and receiving end of that since day one. We had the endless “witch wars” over who had the “real tradition”, the ongoing battle over whether self-initiates/dedicants are “real” Wiccans, and the discrimination of Wicca against non-Wiccan pagans. The priestess of my first coven held a very unfortunate and old-school belief that Wiccans were not “pagan” at all and that “pagans” were a lower form of spiritual life. “They” had no ethics, we were told!

     I’ve also seen plenty of backlash against Wiccans. In many scenes, identifying as “Wiccan” led people to presume you were a fluffy bunny, a magickal lightweight, an angry lesbian or any quality the non or ex-Wiccans didn’t like in some Wiccans they once knew. The tendency toward orthodoxy is universally human but also deeply ingrained by centuries of Judeo-Christian thinking which sought to stamp out “wrong” belief and practice. Our best hope might be to draw upon the diversity of the ancient pagan world. They were able to sustain and (mostly) tolerate a wide variety of interpretations of deity and religions. 

    • LeohtSceadusawol

       “Our best hope might be to draw upon the diversity of the ancient pagan
      world. They were able to sustain and (mostly) tolerate a wide variety of
      interpretations of deity and religions.”
      Completely agree. Very little evidence of ancient spiritual war is available to suggest that conflict was religion based.

      Of course, there was still a lot of conflict, and that was mostly due to tribal factors. The modern form of ‘tribalism’ is not so geographical as it once was but is more cultural (for lack of a better word). I have to wonder if geographical discretion helped foster tolerance. It is much easier to tolerate what other people are doing when they are doing it ‘over there’.

  • Psychesvariance

    I am a Neo-Pagan. I have subscribed myself to being both an eclectic and a re-constructionist.   Most of the discrimination that happens in the Pagan community that I have observed (or been subjected to) is ego based. Personal hubris runs amok from the solitary to the dedicated coven. It’s astounding as to what gets “aped” over as a legitimate excuse for being discriminate. The “Burning Times” and disaffection with Christian Church- be it Protestant or Catholic; are the biggest causes and usually the two are  linked together The Second form is being Wiccan versus being just Pagan.The latter usually feels that the former is, well to use a coined phrase “fluffy”.

    It disheartens me when a Pagan or a Wiccan Witch- or any Witch for that matter- defames a book of considerable wisdom (in this case it’s the Bible) or a profanes the memory of the mass murder of innocents by claim of indirect lineage because of  religious association. They use thier own bias as the foundation to justify being critical and biased, and to justify being discriminatory towards the Church and God. The truth is: You can find religious bigots in all religions of the world. We term these types of zealots as fundamentalists for a very good reason, and we often disdain them for the  rabid approach they often taken to prove the superiority of the religious view over another, and with enough research you will often find that the fundamentalists view is  very narrow and very egocentric. In short, in my observation is that Pagan fundamentalists exist, and that rigidity to view is what initiates much of the  discrimination that exists within the community.

    If we’re  a community that says it prizes individual and religious liberty, and holds that no two approaches to the divine are right or wrong; then how can we allow  this type of egocentric behavior to continue without showing the fallacy of paying “lip service” to an communal axiom of tolerance and Individual freedom? We can’t, but we often do. We all too often do.  That makes us no better than the person(s) or Religion(s) that we hold  in contempt for enforcing restrictions to a particular Spiritual view. As pagans we have learned to avoid people like this.

    However, as a community we can no longer afford the schismatic practice of avoidance when it comes to religious or spiritual fundamentalism within our ranks. Its unbalancing, and counterproductive to growth  of any kind but especially to individual and Spiritual. Therefore we must confront it. We must do so, not to prove the superiority of our own particular view, but to show that its a destructive behavior to the communal collective of Paganism  in General.

    Where do we begin?

    First, I believe, We begin by stamping out the notion of suffrage under the “Burning Times”. Its a historical social lesson of what fundamentalism can do to a community and it should be valued as such, but to say that we have right of injury because we are Witches is patently wrong, and profranes the memory of the innocents that died during those times. Why? None of ever witnessed or experienced that point in history. All we know is what has been passed down to us through lineage and writing.  These two do not prove a legitimate cause to assert any claim to that injury.

    Second, we realize that not all Non Pagans are fundamentalists, and not all Non Pagan discriminate. They are searching for the same basic truths that we as Pagans are searching for, and often the same Identity expressed a different way. No, they aren’t perfect- but as you can see neither are we. Truth, after all, is subjective. Everyone approaches and interacts with Divinity differently. That diversity is our strength, and we should encourage it in our community and outside of it.

    Third, We enforce the Ideal of equality across the board. Wiccans and Pagans in general are no closer to the Truth than any Christian, Satanist, or Atheist (for that matter) is. Balance is beautiful, and it is maintained by a diversity of views and girded by the  braces of equality. All religions- even the act of no religion- are equal. All views are equal. We enforce this ideal in order to combat fundamentalism with in our ranks and outside of our ranks.

    Fourth, We must be willing to Lead and to be Led. We are all priests and priestesses of the Divine. We inherited that right by virtue of who we are, and no by right of education or initiation. We must Lead by showing we value all opinion as long as it is constructive to the community, and be willing to  surrender our view for the good of the community over all. We must therefore stamp out the notion of authority by virtue of position. If knowledge if Freedom then all knowledge must be free as it exists with in the context of Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism and its practices.

    If we can’t do any of these (or even just one of them) then this fundamentalism with the community will become a cancer that will force the community to succumb before it has a chance to really thrive and come into it’s own, and we will remain the quaint if funny barb of the Religious community .

  • Whitecrane123

    I have had to deal with unforeseen discrimination from our local groups because they only recognize Wiccan, as opposed to Pagan paths.  If you are a newcomer, no help is forthcoming.  I have been a solitary Northern Trad Pagan for years, with little community to rely on.

  • Pam Sadie

    Hello. I have always wanted to become a Druid pagan in my life style , but my mom is a Christian, and I do not trust her as well as my dad, who understands Druid customs I really need some help becoming a Druid please e mail me at Pam.sadie @yahoo.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=802910152 Anthony Hart-Jones

    Orthodoxy may be considered anathema by the majority of pagans, but those who do believe in it REALLY believe in it, heart and soul.  That’s where the issues come in.  Some of the worst examples I have seen involve watching an eclectic ‘wiccan’ meeting an initiated ‘Wiccan’ (capitalisation as demanded by the initiated Wiccan) because they will pitch a fit if anyone suggests that the word ‘Wiccan’ is not theirs to define.


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