Your One-Stop-Shop for Pagan-Polytheist Controversy (Updated 1-26-13)

Star Foster recently added her name to the growing list of Polytheists who have dropped the Pagan label.  [It looks like her post has now been taken down.]   (It wasn’t too long ago she was telling everyone how much she loved being Wiccan.)

Jason Mankey says there’s no running from the Pagan label (There’s nothing like telling people they can’t run to make them want to run.) and then appeals for “Big Tent Paganism”. (There’s over 200 comments too! Although almost 50 of them are by semi-professional blog commenter Lēoht Sceadusawol.  Dude, get your own blog!)  Can’t we all just get along?

Kenny Klein says “yes”, unless you dig Jesus, or are an atheist, or worship the Valar (the gods in J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythos) — oh, and owning a drum is not enough. (Note: In the comments below, Kenny says the Valar are okay.)

Kenny’s “significant other” (Lauren DeVoe) throws in her 2 cents.

Jonathan Korman tries to redefine the question as one of “pagan sensibility” (but in my opinion ends up proving the Polytheists’ point about Pagans). [Note: Jonathan's post actually predated, and so was not in response to, Star's announcement.]

Elani Temperance questions whether defining “pagan sensibility” is really any more manageable than defining Paganism.

David Dashifen Kees tries to distinguish non-Pagan polytheists from Pagans in terms of transcendence and immanence.

Eric Fritter Riley suggests that the diversity of our experience of small-t truth is precisely what makes us Pagan. I liked this response a lot. (It’s not a coincidence that Eric’s blog is titled “Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis”.)

Ian Corrigan feeds the flames by insisting that you’re all Pagans, whether you like it or not.

Teo Bishop analogizes the situation to reality T.V. and then to the trans-/queer confusion (leaving me really confused — which maybe is a good thing).

Meanwhile Teo’s Facebook page has become a locus for debating the issue. (This is why I don’t friend anyone.)

Elinor Predota explains why Wicca is to Paganism as Gay is to GLBTQ (or QUILTBAG?).  She uses “PPRNBS” (Pagan, Polytheist, Reconstructionist, Nature Based Spiritualities) to save her finger when typing.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus makes his case that Paganism needs gods (which I found myself simultaneously agreeing and disagreeing with, so much so that I felt compelled to respond over at PaganSquare.

Stifyn Emrys takes issue with Lupus’ “Pagan fundamentalism”.

Lupa cautions against Pagan Fundamentalism, too.

Christine Kraemer responds to Lupus and offers up a tripartite Venn diagram to explain this mess. (There’s some overlap between Christine’s diagram and my own.)

Peter Dybing counsels that all of this is part of the growing process (and he should know).

“Sannion” writes that we have nothing to gain and everything to lose from this debate.  He writes that what concerns him is the “intellectual and creative energy that could be going towards honoring the divinities or making beautiful art or a dozen other laudatory ventures is instead being squandered on fruitless navel-gazing, politicking and ad hominem attacks.”

Chas Clifton just doesn’t want anyone to start uncapitalizing the word “Pagan” again. (Does anybody know if we’re supposed to capitalize “polytheist”?) (P.S. after the exchange in the comments below, I’ve decided to capitalize it.)

And Crystal Blanton is too busy living her Paganism to get into it with you about whether you are or aren’t Pagan.. (You’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you, don’t you, don’t you?)

“Thalassa” wonders if this isn’t just all the same old thing, among her other musings.

“Lee”, the Chaos Witch, says: if Pagans don’t peeve you off too much, then you’re welcome under the tent.

Sarah Lawless warns against the “glamour of labels”, by which she seems to mean borrowing someone else’s label, and then concludes by recommending everyone make up their own labels.

Taylor Ellwood says “Paganism” is fine as a “meta-label”, but it doesn’t really fit.

Heathen Joseph Bloch argues that there is no such thing as Pagan community, and for that matter “Paganism” is an illusion too.

“Chirotus Infinitum” says Pagans are Polytheists … unless they’re Wiccan, and then makes room for “outliers”.  I never ceased to be amazed at how every Pagan wants to make their own vision of Paganism the center of the Pagan universe.

One Hellenic Polytheist tumblrer is “done playing nice with this fluffy neopagan bullsh*t”. [This actually was not a response Star's announcement, but it was a recent example of one extreme in this discussion.  The number of "likes" and reblogs was disturbing.]

Heather Greene collects quotes on “Pagan solidarity”.

“Sigrun Pallene” says that the Internet has given Pagans a false sense of community: “These people are not your friends, they are not your kindred.”

Last but not least, Julian Betowski counsel against defining Paganism in contrast to (or even in comparison with) Christianity. Reading Julian’s post, I realized that the fact that this debate is even happening is maybe a good sign, because it likely means we are no longer defining ourselves so much in reaction to Christianity. The result is that we are no longer bound together by a shared experience of (real or perceived) Christian oppression and the subsequent identity crisis. I want to close with an excerpt from Julian’s post, which resonated with me:

“I firmly believe that if we are to continue to identify as a single community despite the broad variations which Modern Paganism contains that we need to do a lot of work as a community to build a coherent and cohesive definition. In doing so, however, we need to be willing to set aside our own identity defenses and end up in inter-community bickering, trying to establish ourselves as more Pagan than you. There is a large array of characteristics which combine and overlap to describe contemporary Pagan practice, and we need to be careful not to privilege anyone of those over the others. Doing so only leads to defensiveness and tension between different Pagans and Paganisms. We cannot reduce Paganism to Polytheism versus Monism, nor Nature Worship versus Deity Worship, nor thaumaturgy versus theurgy, nor any any other combination of polar relations.”

If you know of any more good posts related to this discussion, let me know and I’ll add them.

  • http://Namasteomshamrock.blogspot.com Tara Loughborough

    Geez… there’s already too few of us as it is, do we really need to get fighty about semantics? Call yourself whatever, and respect whoever’s right to call themselves whatever. *shrug*

  • Dave

    I actually resigned my membership in ADF over Mr. Corrigan’s post. It wasn’t the only reason, but more the final straw that allowed me to finally let go. I’ll admit to being a sentimentalist and I still have a lot of sympathy for ADF’s ideas (although a lot of consternation as well).

    The move to decide that you know better than other people who they are and what’s in their hearts is the first step away from freedom and justice. I also frankly found a lot of his assertions to be based on half-assed reasoning that makes me question his ability to understand nuance.

    No iron age culture was socialist no matter what similarities you can draw between those cultures and the ideas and values of any form of socialism. It simply didn’t exist yet. To assert otherwise, well at least I know now why ADF is so comfortable with pan-Indo-European “reconstructionism”.

    • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com soliwo

      I thought it was a horrible piece too, and not very well-written too boot, but why let him determine your pagan pathway? Is he a leading member of ADF? And is there any way I can contact you outside the blogs we both tend to visit? Maybe some of us agnostic god-loving pagans need to create something new.

      • Dave

        He’s a central figure in ADF leadership, arguably second only to founder Isaac Bonewits. I just left the organization though, I’m still interested in carrying on my practices and retaining my beliefs regardless of what he writes on his blog.

        I’m a pretty private person honestly. I need to protect my religiosity from my colleagues to preserve my credibility. Just the nature of my field. Additionally, my schedule is already very busy with teaching and research obligations.

        On a personal level I may not comment on blogs for a while either. I’m kind of burned out on this identity crisis. I may continue to be involved in Teo Bishop’s SDF though, perhaps we’ll see each other there?

        • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com soliwo

          Yes. I’ll see you there. Sure :)

        • http://www.facebook.com/ian.corrigan.338 Ian Corrigan

          Just to be fair to ADF, I may be a central figure in ADF *history*, having done a great deal to help build the ritual and symbolic patterns in common use. I have not, however, been central to ADF governance or policy for some years. My only title at this time is as a fully-ordained i.e. Senior Priest.
          Please don’t mistake my blog posts for ADF positions or policy – I’m just one voice among very many. Certainly my theological or socio-political opinions have no special weight.

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  • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

    In case anyone’s wondering, these are the correct capitalisations:

    Abrahamic, Celtic, ceremonial, Christian, druid, heathen, humanist, immanent, Jewish, Jungian, magical, monotheist, Norse, pagan, pantheist, panentheist, panenentheist, polytheist, Wicca, witch

    Is it derived from the name of an individual? Capital.
    Is it derived from the name of a people? Capital.
    Is it derived from the name of a place? Capital.
    Is it a new coinage? Capital.
    Otherwise, lower case.

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      That’s quite a claim. Why do you think that “ceremonial magician”, “druid”, “heathen”, “humanist”, “pagan”, “pantheist”, “polytheist”, and “witch” should not be capitalized, but Christian, Jew, and Wiccan should? I’m inclined to disagree … strongly.

      • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

        “Christian” derives from “Christ”, the name of an individual.
        “Jewish” derives from “Jew”, the name of a people.
        “Wicca” is a new coinage.
        All the others are common words.

        • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

          I mean, a new coinage to name something, rather than to describe something.

          • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

            Is this based on the Chicago Manual of Style or some other linguistic authority? Do you have any concerns about the disfavor it shows to new religious movements?

            • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

              If someone wants to create a new religious movement, then they’re free to name it what they want. Like “Wicca”, for instance. And that name should be capitalised. But not so much if they want to take over an already existing common word, such as “pagan”, “witch” or whatever.

            • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

              And what about “Muslim” and “Islam”?

          • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

            This begs the question when a descriptive word is taken as the name of something. And “pagan” was as much a noun in the 3rd century CE as it was an adjective.

        • http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com aediculaantinoi

          “Christ” is not a name; it’s a title that was given by Christians to Jesus, whom they consider to be the Messiah, which in Greek is Christos.

          • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

            Interesting. So we should properly “the christ” perhaps, italicised because it’s a foreign word. Instead it seems to be treated as a name? Or perhaps titles are more like names than they are descriptions. Certainly descriptions such as “pagan” should be lower-case.

            • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

              Where are you getting this from? Existing words get capitalized all the time when the become names of groups: Consider the names of sports teams: (Red Sox), or names of businesses (Best Buy), products (Juicy Fruit) or blogs (The Allergic Pagan).

            • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

              Or take “Redskins”, a descriptive term for a group of people that was pejorative, and then adopted by another group as a positive description … Just like “P/pagan”.

            • thalassa

              And lets not forget that capitalization rules are a modern convention anyhow…plenty of historical writers capitalized ideas and words they thought were important. So really, its sort of a straw man (or maybe a red herring…I always get them mixed up!).

            • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

              “Red Sox”, “Best Buy”, “Juicy Fruit”, “The Allergic Pagan” are all names coined for particular creations. And their meanings are separate from the common meanings of those words.

              For instance, let’s say I’m allergic to cats, making me an allergic pagan, who’s wearing red socks, whose best buy at the supermarket today was a juicy fruit. See how those meanings are separate from the capitalised names?

              Now we already have the common word “paganism”. If someone wants to create a completely new religion and name it “Paganism” they can I guess, but besides being confusing it doesn’t change the meaning of the existing common word. Just like when Gardner & friends created their thing, they named it “Wicca”, but it didn’t change the existing meaning of “witchcraft”. Perhaps all Wicca is witchcraft, but witchcraft also includes things that are not Wicca.

            • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

              I think the capitalization is precisely the way that we distinguish the Red Sox from red socks, Juicy Fruit gum from juicy fruit, and Pagans from pagans.

            • http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/ Ashley Yakeley

              No-one’s going to confuse Red Sox with red socks, they’re completely different things. But what’s this Paganism? Who created it? Why did they name it in a way that’s going to make people confuse it with paganism?

            • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

              So pretty much the old adage of ‘there is a minor, but telling difference between I’m going to help my uncle, Jack, off his horse,” and “I’m going to help my uncle jack off his horse.”‘

            • Lugh

              Certainly descriptions such as “pagan” “should” be lower-case when one’s adjectivizing something that one is demeaning as something partaking of a rustic and unlearned nature. When talking about my religious friends and their books, I use Pagans and Pagan books, just like I use Christians and Christian books, or else I’d feel as out of style as the Chicago Manual is in this Wired age.

  • http://kennyklein.net Kenny Klein

    After much consideration, I’m willing to alter my viewpoint: Since Tolkein based all of his writing on Norse Pagan epic cycles, and the Valar are essentially the Aesir, anyone who worships the Valar would be a Pagan. Just sayin’…

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      :)

    • Dave

      This is brilliant.

    • http://www.gopagan.com GOPagan

      Wouldn’t that be Heathen rather than Pagan? ;-)

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  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/asenseofplace Elinor Predota

    I don’t know if you’re interested in further additions, but I wrote this thing: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110510117111186214241/posts/Lz73p1tNTur

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Thanks, I’ll include it.

      • Elinor

        Thanks. One small correction: I don’t propose PPRNBS as an alternative label – I think we’re better sticking with Pagan as our outward-facing label; it was just to save my fingers while typing that post!

        • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

          Duly noted above!

          • Elinor

            Thanks – I made an addition to my post as well, to make it clearer :-)

        • Deborah Bender

          I think PPRNBS is pretty comprehensive, and like it for that, but heavens It’s hard to remember. There’s a traditional sexist mnemonic in electronics for the color code that identifies the resistance level of resistors. In that spirit, I came up with PoPulaRNeoBullShit.

          • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

            That nice! :(

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  • http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com Chirotus Infinitum

    Thanks for being so casually dismissive of a rather complex discussion I undertook, that did not conclude in the exclusion of all other forms of paganism than my own, which you seem to think I “place at the center of the universe.” I wouldn’t reduce your 12-point “definition” of paganism to two comments, but your blog, your prerogative.

    Why does my name get scare quotes? Am I scary? Am I exotic in some form? Perhaps I occupy a place of honor? I insist that I do not deserve the elite status you bestow upon me. Flattery will get you nowhere.

    • http://gravatar.com/allergicpagan John Halstead

      First of all. I put most internet pseudonyms in quotes. I could not find your real name on your blog.

      You think I was “casually dismissive”? How about: “I can’t see Wicca as anything other than a cheap copy of a rather elegant and complex Qabalistic Ceremonialist system that is essentially monotheistic, but pretends to be polytheistic.” Oh, that’s right, that was you that said that. It’s ironic that you spent half of you post bashing Wicca and the other half demanding respect for your brand of Polytheism. Unfortunately, I think you are representative of a vocal and dogmatic minority of Polytheists.

      (In your first post) You divided Paganism into (Hard) Polytheists, Wiccans, and a miscellaneous category. Anybody with even a passing familiarity with contemporary Paganism(s) would know that that picture is woefully incomplete. It’s a neat rhetorical trick to sideline what may actually be the majority of contemporary Pagans. (At least I keep reading hard Polytheists talking about soft polytheists as “Majority Pagans”. See, e.g., http://tessdawson.blogspot.com/2011/06/two-winding-rivers-changing-face-of.html )

      You wrote: ” And really, I don’t know that I have met a Pagan who did not at least believe in other gods, even if they didn’t worship them. … I have always defined paganism as a belief in multiple gods. I can’t think of many pagans who disagree with this, and the ones that do are usually what I think of as “outlyers” – those who aren’t quite pagan but associate with pagans because they do magic of some kind.”

      You really need to broaden the circle of your interaction with Paganism (it’s not hard — try Google) before waxing eloquent about the Paganism writ large. For example, you conflated Polytheism and Reconstructionism, and the two are not the same. There are plenty of non-Recon Polys.

      Also, Wicca and Neopagan Witchcraft have evolved far beyond anything Gardner imagined (as you point out in your second post), so your proxy attack on Wiccans via Gardner (in your first post) is meaningless. You know, as a Recon, you may not realize this, but not all Pagans look backwards to history to define what Paganism is to them today. (Also, you may not have heard, but Wiccan-bashing is considered kind of passe now.)

      You wrote: “What it really comes down to for me is that I don’t like being told that the gods and goddesses I revere and interact with on a daily basis are just archetypes, or figments of the imagination of some Great God who Himself is an impersonal abstract expression of somethingorother. I see little difference between this and Christian telling me all of my gods are deceptions from Satan, or Hindus telling me that Jove is really an incarnation of Vishnu. Yes, I will desire to distance myself from anyone who condescends me like that.”

      I get this. I do. But if I happen to believe that the gods are archetypes, I don’t know why you have to be offended by my personal belief. I’m not offended if you think my archetypes are personal gods.

      What’s more, if you want respect, you need to show it, and in the comment below (from your second post) you are guilty of doing the same thing you accuse others of:

      You wrote: ““Earth-Based Spirituality” is romantic environmentalism under a spiritual sheen; “Goddess worship” in many cases is radical feminist similarly wrapped in a spiritual coating.”

      You don’t really get more disrespectful of someone’s spirituality than that.

      • http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com Chirotus Infinitum

        Um, yeah, I think you were casually dismissive. As in, casually dismissed everything I said by commenting on two things, and ignoring the rest.

        Such as how in my second post I own and address the error in thinking and assumptions I made in the first one.You know, the ones that you criticize while ignoring that I criticized them as well.

        Such as how I am open about my issues with Wicca, am trying to sort them out, and don’t use my criticism to imply that Wicca is not a valid religion.

        Such as how I readily acknowledge the differences between Wicca as Gardner constructed it and as it is often practiced now, and how many of my criticism don’t apply to modern versions.

        Such as ignoring my final point that this discussion seems not to be about what is “real”
        paganism and what isn’t, but in pagans trying to make sure that there is room for their brand of paganism under the umbrella, without it being assumed that they are something else.

        And by somehow coming to the conclusion that I am making my own brand of paganism the “center of the Pagan universe” — despite the fact that my primary concern is how my minority practice is often marginalized and subsumed by other brands of paganism.

        That’s kind of dismissive.

        Is it dismissive for me to want to separate political positions from religious ones by pointing out the influence of romanticism and feminism in early paganism? Does that change what people who incorporate those elements into their religious concerns get from them? I don’t think so, but I’ll consider it. I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m done dealing with the people telling me I’m not a real pagan because I have a penis and I eat meat.

        I can’t help but wonder why you’d even bother to link to my posts. You’re dismissive of my opinions, don’t consider any of my points, call me dogmatic (because I demand that you must think and act as I do!!!111!!one!111) and then want to call me disrespectful while doing so. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

        • http://gravatar.com/allergicpagan John Halstead

          “… I think you were casually dismissive. As in, casually dismissed everything I said by commenting on two things, and ignoring the rest.”

          This post was not intended for detail commentary on each link, as you should notice.

          “Such as how in my second post I own and address the error in thinking and assumptions I made in the first one.”

          Yes, and then you proceeded to double-down and repeat your error.

          “Is it dismissive for me to want to separate political positions from religious ones by pointing out the influence of romanticism and feminism in early paganism?”

          You’re ignoring the fact that, for many Goddess feminists, religion and politics cannot be so readily separated.

          “… don’t consider any of my points …”

          Um, see the comment above that you are responding to.

          • http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com Chirotus Infinitum

            “This post was not intended for detail commentary on each link, as you should notice.”
            Nope, just quick, dismissive ones.
            “Yes, and then you proceeded to double-down and repeat your error.”
            Yes, with my dogmatic declarations of stuff you don’t agree with. And disrespect. And making points and conclusions that well, don’t.
            “You’re ignoring the fact that, for many Goddess feminists, religion and politics cannot be so readily separated.”
            Defend Christians conflating their religion and their politics that casually. I. Dare. you.

            • http://gravatar.com/allergicpagan John Halstead

              How old are you? Have you ever heard of “the personal is political”? Ever hear of Starhawk?

            • http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com Chirotus Infinitum

              Appeals to authority now? I should have bragged about my graduate degree.

              Radical feminists conflating their personal issues with political one (even in cases where such conflation was valid) does not convince me that religion and politics need to be the same. I don’t want politics in my religion. And this is big issue, especially given that we were talking about defining “paganism” (which really is more of a political classification than a religious one, but that’s a whole thesis paper in itself).

              See, if we conflate goddess worship with certain political positions, it pigeonholes people. I worship goddesses, Am I now compelled to hold certain political positions? If I don’t, must I stop worshiping those goddesses? Am I really a pagan if I don’t recycle? If I don’t support universal health care? If I own a gun? If I did not vote for Barrack Obama?

              The religious differences in paganism are complicated enough. And I’m supposed to accept the thesis that now paganism is political as well?

            • http://gravatar.com/allergicpagan John Halstead

              You should accept that *for some Pagans* their Paganism is political, and their Paganism is as Pagan as your non-political version.

              By the way, that wasn’t an appeal to authority. I’m not even 40. But for someone so interested in history, you seem to pick and choose.

              Oh, and you’re confusing goddess worship with Goddess worship.

            • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

              Err… That’s not an appeal to authority fallacy. He was just pointing out an easily accessible example of an influential pagan writer who demonstrates the difficulty that many pagans have in clearly and cleanly separating their religion from their politics. I guess that might be an appeal to common practise fallacy, but the practise would also need to be proved wrong.

            • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

              Oh, that’s what he meant. I thought he was referring to the age comment.

              You’re correct: that’s why I mentioned Starhawk.

            • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

              Well, that was what made the most sense to me, anyway. You may have guessed right, but I dunno, I seldom see people even incorrectly making accusations of Appeal to Authority over an age comment. [shrugs]

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

            For a lot of recons, religion and politics cannot be easily separated. I’m speaking as a recon, too, and oi theoi, let me tell you, Internet….

  • http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com Chirotus Infinitum

    “You should accept that *for some Pagans* their Paganism is political, and their Paganism is as Pagan as your non-political version.”

    Oh, I accept that. I disagree with it, but I accept it. My problem is that too few people accept that my paganism is not political.

    I propose an experiment: Show up to a Republican Party meeting an identify as pagan (but still politically conservative), and then show up to a pagan gathering and identify as Republican (but still pagan, although this works best if you don’t identify as Heathen). See which gets you more grief.

    “Oh, and you’re confusing goddess worship with Goddess worship.”

    All goddesses are the Great Mother Goddess, remember? She who presided over the Great Golden Age of Matriarchy, before the penis-worshiping warmongers arrived?

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Now your confusing the myth of matriarchal prehistory (which is a metaphor for contemporary women’s experience of patriarchy) with pan(en)theism.

    • Northern_Light

      (I know, old post that I just found.) I’ve done that, what you suggest about Republican meetings and Pagan ones. It depends on the Republican meeting– I used to be a Republican and I was out as a Pagan at the time– sometimes I was received warmly, sometimes I got just as much crap there as at a Pagan thing when someone outed me as Republican. Just to make this more interesting, I was immersed in Goddess Spirituality while I was Republican. My politics have always been driven by my ethics which have always intertwined with my spirituality, just not in ways that are always predictable or typical. In my experience, *most* Pagans I meet are like you, they see “politics” as occupying a completely different box than “religion” and never shall the twain meet. I admit it’s odd to me, because I’m somewhat obsessed with the process end of Pagan religion and spirituality, the ways it shakes out in the day-to-day world, the way our religions influence our decisions. It’s hard for me to understand a viewpoint where religion, politics, and ethics don’t flow together in a person and guide their behavior, but I know that I’m unusual in this and that for most of you, it doesn’t.

      Admitting it, though… I don’t think I’ve ever *failed* to see Goddess Spirituality identified as a feminist spirituality. For me the personal is political, and both are also religious. I do, however, break with my sisters on that thing you mention at the end there about the Great Mother Goddess and the myth of a prehistoric matriarchy. I understand why we do it, why we believe in a fictitious prehistoric matriarchy (John nails it in one), but I think it’s a poor substitute for the inspiration we could be taking from *actual* historic, pre-Christian women and what they succeeded at, suffered and experienced. I also have no problem with the idea that Frigga and Freya and Isis and Astarte are separate and individual goddesses with practices drawn from their own respective cultures and unique to those cultures. OTOH, I also consider all goddesses to be The Goddess. I see no conflict between having both beliefs. One is cultural and historic reality; the other is a Mystery. I disagree *sharply* with many Dianics, feminist Goddessians, and other Goddess-worshippers in that I think All Goddesses are Goddess was never meant to be seen literally, that it’s ridiculous to say that a goddess from one culture is literally the same as one from a completely different culture based on superficial “portfolio” qualities. For me, standing in a woman’s circle at a Goddess ritual often turns strangers into sisters, and shows us the Goddess we serve in all her multiplicity, all of the things She is are the things we are, and we *can* be– for that short time– anything She is. After the ritual, it’s like Cinderella after midnight– the pumpkin is just a pumpkin, we’re just well-meaning strangers who had a moving experience together, and all of the Goddesses we met with reverence within Her shifting form are Themselves, separate and individual. People who try to make what’s in that ritual space into a literal, everyday thing, to *me*, cheapen the Mystery of Her. I had the opportunity once to swap chants around a fire with a group dedicated to Men’s Mysteries. I had the impression, just from the chants they sung, that their experiences weren’t all that far off from ours.

    • Bianca Bradley

      Showing up to a Pagan gathering as an open Republican Pagan. I’ve done both. Conservative Republicans treat me with more respect.

  • http://blacklightmetaphysics.wordpress.com Chirotus Infinitum

    Now you’re just being a jerk.

    But I’ve decided I like you. Be afraid.

    • http://gravatar.com/allergicpagan John Halstead

      I’m afraid of myself, because I decided I like you too. Too much alike I think.

  • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

    By the way, thank you so much for compiling this apparent shitstorm. I decided to take a couple weeks off from reading my Google Feeds, and look what happens. Now I know what it must be like for The Daily Show’s writers –all the biggest drama happens when you’re on break.

    I gotta say, though, considering the three threats to “leave paganism” (that I can remember off the top of my head) over the course of 16-18months (last one maybe 3-4mos before she quit Patheos), I’m not at all surprised that Foster has finally decided to jump on this bandwagon, as well. What does surprise me is how strongly so many people reacted to it, how how much of a domino effect it seemed to cause. I hope I’m not alone in thinking how ridiculous this has been.

    • Elinor

      Hi Ruadhán. I don’t think it’s ridiculous, I think it touched a nerve.

      On the “I’m not a Pagan” side:
      How dare you try to tell me I’m something I’m not? I’m sick to death of people assuming I’m ‘like them’ spiritually and religiously because we have shared this label in which Wicca and Witchcraft have a dominant, privileged position. [I'm not on this side of the debate, so this is far as I've been able to get with representing the position.]

      On the “We should all call ourselves Pagan” side:
      How do we constitute ourselves (in the loosest sense) as a religious grouping? Indeed, DO we constitute ourselves as a religious grouping? Are we in a position to allow our inward-facing, personal, spiritual and community labels to trump our outward-facing ‘religious category’ labels? Have we really won such solid recognition of our religious rights that we can start publicly splintering?

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

        I found it all very predictable, which is something I still find fundamentally silly, or ridiculous.

      • Ashley Yakeley

        See, now, this is the trouble one has with a big-P “Paganism”. Obviously anyone can claim with authority that they are leaving or that they are not part of some defined religion, if such a thing exists. But by and large, all these folks remain pagans, that is, “pagan” remains a sensible common-noun descriptor of what they do. No mere declaration affects that, unless it refers to an actual change in the thing being described, religious practice, behaviour, attitude etc.

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Teo Bishop was right in that it has been a bit like watching “reality” TV.

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán

        Oh, yes, spot on, indeed.

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