The Pagan Sandbox

Take a moment to imagine a giant sandbox. In that sandbox are lots of small groups of children playing with various toys and having a myriad of adventures. In one corner there are some kids playing Avengers, and in another there are some playing with Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman figures. Towards the middle of the sandbox Twilight Sparkle is having adventures with the other My Little Ponies. At the edge of the sandbox an ambitious group of children are building a giant sand castle, and next to them a few kids are making sand fairies. (There’s also probably a kid peeing somewhere in the sandbox, but that’s neither here nor there.)

All of the young people in my hypothetical sandbox are doing their own thing, yet we would all agree that they are playing in a sandbox. In that sandbox there’s no one person in the middle directing traffic or issuing edicts, the kids all have their own individual games and they all seem content with that. Sure, there are a few little ones who work on the sandcastle for a few minutes and then wander off to play My Little Pony, but when they move from game to game they respect the rules of each activity.

Modern Pagandom is a lot like a giant sandbox. There are some of us practicing Wiccan Rituals while eating cakes and sipping on wine. Another group consists of ladies singing songs of praise to the Great Goddess. Druids throw sacrifices into a fire and the Asatru honor their gods. There are lots of things going on in the Pagan Sandbox, and while we might not all agree on what game to play, most of us are willing to admit that we are in the same sandbox. Those activities all have different rules; playing Avengers is different than building sand fairies. Similarly the rules of Asatru are going to be different than the rules governing Wicca.

We waste a lot of words online arguing about what is, what’s not, and who is and who is not Pagan. We all have our own definitions of the word (including me), but the simple truth of Paganism is that the majority of us know it when we see it. I have never run into a Pagan group that I failed to recognize as Pagan. Kermetic, Druid, Wiccan, Eclectic Pagan, Ceremonial Magick, Feri, Dischordian, Womyn’s Only (I walked past an outdoor ritual once), I have participated or witnessed all of those different types of ritual and while they were all different they were all easily recognizable as Pagan. Perhaps the idea of you know it when you see it is rather simplistic, but it’s true. Ancient gods, love of nature, a dash of magick; no matter what was going on in all of those rituals there was at least one or two threads common to my own Pagan experience.

All of this is why I don’t like reading proclamations along the lines of “I would go so far as to say Paganism that isn’t Deity centric isn’t Pagan.” You just can’t make rules for the entire sandbox. The things you and your circle do in your corner of the sandbox can have their own rules, but to say those rules apply to all of us? That’s all just a step too far for me. My personal approach to ritual is that the gods are real and that they interact with us. If you come to one of my circles that idea has to be respected during ritual, but I can’t enforce that in someone’s heart, not to mention the larger Pagan sandbox.

There are rules within traditions, and defining those rules, beliefs, and ideas is important. When we visit traditions outside of our own we agree to play by their rules. If a private circle wants to restrict membership to people who only believe in the gods they should have the right to do so. If an atheist-Pagan circle chooses to exclude “calling the gods” in their own rites they can certainly do so. What doesn’t work is taking those rules and trying to apply them to everyone else.

The Pagan Sandbox is a big place, and it’s got a lot of room for many different activities. If you don’t like how one group of people are playing, you are free to play with a different one. Heck, you can even find your own little spot in the sandbox away from everyone else as long as you aren’t peeing in it. Perhaps one day we will all play in different sandboxes, but for now we seem to be stuck together. If there comes a day when someone really doesn’t belong in our sandbox I think we’ll know it and they’ll know it. Until that day resist the urge to make rules for everybody and we’ll probably all be OK.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Scootareader

    Great opinions here. I came because of that passing mention of ponies, then stayed because you make some great points. This same philosophy can easily apply in many different creeds and walks of life.

    Thank you for this enlightening read.

  • Kauko

    See, to take this analogy, I just view myself as inhabiting a completely different sandbox. There are other people in nearby sandboxes doing similar things that I might like to chat with (Heathens, various polytheistic reconstructionist types etc), and then there are others in sandboxes farther away who just have absolutely nothing to do with what I’m up too (maybe the ‘Womyn’s only’ ritual you mentioned, or the ceremonial magicians), which is not to say that they are wrong or bad, we just have nothing in common as far as I’m concerned.

    • Joseph Bloch

      Agreed. And in some cases, the people over there in that corner of the sandbox are doing something so different from what I want to do that I deliberately choose another sandbox. That way, they don’t get in my way, I don’t get in their way, and no one looking in from the outside will assume I’m with them.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I grew up on the coast. We didn’t have a sand box. We had the beach.

    I always preferred playing in the sea. (Sand got everywhere and contaminated everything, including my lunch.)

  • Treeshrew

    This is such a good analogy! You could even see the pagan sandbox as one corner of a much larger playground (the world) with other religions playing on the swings or climbing frames, atheists having a picnic and non-human animals wandering about looking for food. All doing their own thing, but all coming together to enjoy the playground too.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Do that and we start investigating what the other play equipment represents and how all religions are defined. Which makes the whole analogy come tumbling down.

  • Bianca Bradley

    Dude. I think your sandbox is in parental utopia. The kids are way to peaceful and content.

    The sandbox analogy is realistic. You forgot to add the ones who are crying that they don’t have my little ponies. The others who come over and tell the sand castle makers they are doing it wrong and why. Then the kids who has to come over and jump on the sand castle. Or the kid who claims the entire sandbox as theirs.

    What did you give these sandbox kids? Cause, the parents I know, would like to know where to acquire it, for our children.

    I’m totally telling the parents on you. lol.

    • JasonMankey

      I live in the Bay Area of Northern California, things are pretty mellow out here.

  • AmethJera

    Wise words, indeed. I posted similar sentiments on my own blog a couple of days ago.
    Maybe if enough of us do this, the message will get through that it’s a big sandbox with lots of room for everyone to play. Pagan fundamentalism isn’t pretty.,

  • Bob James

    So, to take your thesis to its logical conclusion, Paganism includes all faiths and faith practices of any and all descriptions? I don’t agree with that.

    • JasonMankey

      Didn’t say that at all, no one is going to mistake a Catholic mass for a Pagan ritual. “I know Paganism when I see it” sounds like a cop out, but it’s fairly accurate. It’s the rare day when a ritual described as “Pagan” completely baffles me or is painfully unfamiliar.

      Anytime I have ever had a conversation or participated in a ritual with someone who self identifies as a Pagan I have found at least some degree of shared understanding, no matter how different many of our views might be.

      • Nakhtbasterau

        But they might mistake a Gnostic Mass for something heterodox
        Christian, especially if the Priestess keeps her robe on. But this ignorance does not make Thelema Christianity – no matter how “Christian” it feels to many Pagans. I guess, I just want to point out that you can’t always tell what something is simply by “feel” alone, because all of our feelings about things are limited by our experiences as individuals. A Wiccan ritual feeling Satanic to a Christian does not make it so and a Satanic ritual feeling Christian to a Druid does not make it so.

        I think this big “P” Pagan concept has only really been fullly accepted by the Wiccan and Druidic communities, and is largely
        defined (at least in my area) as rooted in a share a concept/definition of Nature – a concept/definition that most little “p” pagan polytheists do not seem to share. This distinction is of vital religious importance to many and we can’t keep ignoring it.

        I think it is great that Wiccans and Druids want the polytheist devotees (the Odinsmen, Maenads, Ubasti Shemsu, I could go on forever…) but they have to recognize that most of these people are not basing their identities primarily on ritual style like many Wiccans and Druids do (forms of devotional practice are insanely similar across polytheistic traditions – especially when one must worship alone), nor are they basing it on an abstract philosophical concept like reverence for Nature. Their identities are first and last “I worship ________” and until they
        feel that they are actually being heard when they define their religions that way, they will not want to share the label Pagan because their numbers (small as they are )are just being used to bolster someone else’s identity and cause and not first and last being dedicated to the purpose of bringing the worship
        of their god/s back to the modern world.

        • Ruadhán J McElroy

          I guess, I just want to point out that you can’t always tell what something is simply by “feel” alone, because all of our feelings about things are limited by our experiences as individuals. A Wiccan ritual feeling Satanic to a Christian does not make it so and
          a Satanic ritual feeling Christian to a Druid does not make it so.

          Exactly. Experiences can be invaluable, but we must retain a healthy degree of scepticism about our own experiences because while we feel we know exactly what’s happening as it’s happening, we often later learn that wasn’t always the case. As a completely mundane example, I read some-one’s comment on a blog about actor/singer Danny Thomas and how she visited a cousin in the early 1960s, when she was a teenager, and the cousin lived next door to the Thomases –the woman, then sixteen, caught him in his back yard and asked him for his autograph, and he responded with a look of annoyance and then just went inside. The woman then immediately, and for 40+ years, apparently, decided that this isolated incident was the whole of the man’s character, when there are so many other things that could’ve possibly affected that incident that she was unaware of. When we experience things, we only know a tiny portion of what just happened –we know how it personally affects us, at that time. We know almost nothing about everything else that affected that incident. And trying to gauge whether or not a ritual is “pagan” or something “not pagan”, going only by feelings influenced by past experiences seems to me like a test set up for eventual failure.

          Furthermore, defining “paganism” as something that can be “known when seen” is inherently exclusivist and cliquish, at best. If someone doesn’t have the experience and knowledge to judge whether or not something might be “pagan”, they’re not as likely to guess with the probability for accuracy as someone who’s been around for twenty years.

          I think it is great that Wiccans and Druids want the polytheist devotees (the Odinsmen, Maenads, Ubasti Shemsu, I could go on forever…) but they have to recognize that most of these people are not basing their identities primarily on ritual style like many Wiccans and Druids do (forms of devotional practice are insanely similar across polytheistic traditions – especially when one must worship alone), nor are they basing it on an abstract philosophical concept like reverence for Nature. Their identities are first and last “I worship ________” and until they feel that they are actually being heard when they define their religions that way, they will not want to share the label Pagan because their numbers (small as they are) are just being used to bolster someone else’s identity and cause and not first and last being dedicated to the purpose of bringing the worship of their god/s back to the modern world.

          Yes. Oh, my numerous gods, yes.

      • Ruadhán J McElroy

        “I know Paganism when I see it” sounds like a cop out, but it’s fairly accurate.

        But it doesn’t help people who simply don’t “know it when they see it”, at all.

        Anytime I have ever had a conversation or participated in a ritual with someone who self identifies as a Pagan I have found at least some degree of shared understanding, no matter how different many of our views might be.

        I find a degree of “shared understanding” amongst more politically-progressive and/or religiously mystic Christians and the more agnostic atheists, and not to mention general agnostics, like Carl Sagan. I figure many self-identified pagans, if being completely honest, would, too. That doesn’t necessarily make those Christians and others “pagan”, though.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    Have to agree with Bianca, here. What is going on at the moment isn’t some little kid standing in the middle of this sandbox declaring all and sundry either agree or depart, but the kids who were reading quietly in a corner suddenly decided that the sand castle kids were doing it wrong, or at least have to add a tower so what they just read in a book will fit. Or maybe the drawbridge is too small, who knows?
    Maybe the Sandcastlers (sounds like a cool sports team name) really only want to build sand castles the way they think they should. They’re not harassing the sand faeries, or the Avengers (no one harasses the Avengers, or Hulk smash!), but the shouting match is becoming deafening in the sandbox. A Utopian vision like you describe, paganism ain’t.

  • Mother Wolf

    I really like this analogy. I think it hits home more than the “big tent.” And I’m probably just confusing things by adding a definition of Paganism to show why we shouldn’t define Paganism (bear with me here), but when I was growing up in the dark ages, “Paganism” was considered to be any belief system outside of the three Biblical faiths. And “heathen” referred to all Pagans + atheists. When one uses that definition of Paganism, it seems to me there’s room for damn near anybody, even if you don’t like them or what they believe. The varieties of non – Biblical beliefs are almost infinite. And considering the fact that no one agrees on a definition anyway, what else can you do but make room for everybody?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      That goes back to a negative definition, though. With that, when the question “What is Paganism?” is asked, the response would be “Not Christianity/Abrahamism.”

      Most would agree it is a bit more exclusive than that (although, it is also less exclusive, once you factor in Christo-Pagans and fondness for the Kabbalah.)

      • Mother Wolf

        Well, you’re right that it is a negative definition. But then we get back to Jason’s article: How do we define Paganism and do we need to? Sometimes negativity can be can be liberating – instead of listing all the things you are, you can just list the thing or things you’re not. You are then free to be anything else and be less limited. But if Paganism is a limited subset, how would you define it? (not a challenge, I’d really like to know).

        • Sarenth

          I say we don’t define it with a negative if at all possible, for one, which means defining boundaries and being proactive in defining what Pagan means. I definitely believe this is needed if such a word is going to be used to describe something so diverse as the Pagan communities, otherwise, what is the point in uniting under it? If the word means only a negative and does not actually define what Paganism IS, in terms of communicating an idea there’s little point in using it.

          • Mother Wolf

            Ok, I see your point, though I’m going to appeal to negativity here by asking (since I’ve already asked what positive definitions people might have), what would you say are beliefs which do NOT constitute Paganism?

          • Sarenth

            If we must define by negatives, then: Monotheism, atheism, humanism, archetypalism, monism.

          • Conor O’Bryan Warren

            I think I’m in love with you.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Do we need to define Paganism?
          Yes, of course we do.

          Why? Because, quite simply, the definition is not there for ‘us’ but for those who identify as another religion. It is there for legal purposes.

          How often will people have to go to court to justify their personal beliefs because ‘Paganism’ is too amorphous to gain legal protection?

          How would I, personally, define Paganism?
          With far more exclusivity than most. But I am a pedant. So I settle for a compromise. Paganism is the belief in gods of pre-Christian Europe, generally in a modern, eclectic format. (I find that most to cleave to a specific regional pantheon will prefer another label, and would respect that.)

  • Ruadhán J McElroy

    The thing about the sandbox metaphor is, if you’re running up and down the slide, which is in a different area of the playground, you’re not playing in the sandbox. You can say that you are, but you’re clearly doing something very different.

    • Bianca Bradley

      Mind you, the whole kids in a sandbox metaphor is disturbing to me in another way. I’m an adult. I give sacrifices to my Gods because I want to, not because while I’m asleep they need the liquor to quietly get drunk to get through the next scream fest the next day.

      • Ruadhán J McElroy

        I can certainly understand that. I’ve met Jason, hanged out at the house he had when he lived in Lansing, Michigan, and still hold a good opinion of him. I don’t believe he meant it that way at all, and I base this largely on the few times we’d been in the same small room. But I can certainly see why you’re takingException.

        • Bianca Bradley

          I didn’t think he meant it personally. I understood it was a (waves hand vaguely)big picture analogy. I was thinking big picture analogy and that is why it disturbed me.

          Meh I’m weird.

        • Bianca Bradley

          Btw. Gives puppy dog eyes to how Hekate is different in Greek vs non BTW Wicca.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            Oh, I’m working on it. :-) Want to make sure it meets the hype I made at least halfway.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Just been reading one of my favourite magazines (“Terrorizer”, a UK based extreme metal magazine) and there is an article about Black Metal in it.

    There is a brilliant bit in there that I figured would be pretty relevant here:

    “A Blaze in the Northern Sky”

    While most heavy metal subgenres are at least vaguely definable – death metal is fast and brutal and dissonant, thrash has that distinctive chug etc – black metal seems to defy convenient descriptions, and has done so ever since Quorthron did something different to Cronos.
    Opinions vary wildly on what constitutes the very essence of black metal – whether it is a set of musical characteristics, of principles, an attitude, an image, a certain kind of energy, the lyrical content… throw a torch randomly at the audience at a black metal gig and you’ll set fire to someone with a different opinion. The answer, if there is one, is somewhere in the middle of all that, and to try to get to it, we roped in a few select universal figures of the genre.

    (It then goes on. Credit to José Carlos Santos for the piece.)

    I guess, what I am trying to show is that this desire for definition is pretty universal, but probably unattainable.

  • thelettuceman

    I guess it doesn’t say much for me that my town park’s sandbox was always full of cat shit..

  • Conor O’Bryan Warren

    And that’s why I don’t play in a silly little sandbox. I’m playing in the dirt with the pill bugs, but I might wander over and play My Little Pony every once in a while.

  • Taffy Dugan

    Great article! My mother always said that it takes a person of great intelligence to be able to take complex ideas and simplify them. I don’t understand all the nit-picking in some people’s comments and I’m saddened by all the comments by those who don’t seem to get it.

    In this instance, I see you as the doting father watching the children in the sand box and able to see the whole sandbox, while some of the commentators are children in the sand box fighting for toys and therefore unable to see the whole box. Perhaps one day their minds will open and they will be able to understand. Until then, do what others parents do – breathe and try to be patient – maybe have a glass of wine.

    The phrase that kept popping up in my mind while reading some of the comments – unable to see the forest for the trees.

    • Ruadhán J McElroy

      That was incredibly insulting.

      • Taffy Dugan

        How is what I wrote insulting?

        Now that I read Leoht’s comment, perhaps you think by calling Jason intelligent that I’m calling other people, perhaps in particular you, stupid? Why? Why can’t you both be intelligent?

        I’m sorry I touched on a nerve with you. Sometimes, even the greatest thinkers need to be reminded to step back and stop over-analyzing; to see the forest not just the trees.

        • Taffy Dugan

          Perhaps a better way to explain – Just because one person’s opinion shows intelligence does not mean that another person’s does not.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I’d say that the insulting part was not the bit about intelligence, but analogising certain commentators as children fighting over toys and unable to see the whole picture.

          Oh, and the implicit stating that they/we have closed minds.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            Pretty much. But hey, I’m not the one limiting the definition of “pagan” to “country folk”.

        • Ruadhán J McElroy

          Oh, it wasn’t that so much as calling everyone else little children who may someday understand.

          I have liked and respected Jason since he lived in Lansing, but I certainly wouldn’t go as far as calling him some doting father –especially when he and I are not of the same religion.

      • Bianca Bradley

        I concur.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Since I lack the intelligence to simplify (not a dig, I genuinely do), could someone please, in simple terms that I can use in other discussions, explain what Paganism *is*?

      • Ruadhán J McElroy

        It’s a sandbox?

        In all seriousness, the simplest terms I’ve thought of that describe it best, in the most inclusive, opt-in manner, which people apparently want until it’s put into words, is that it’s an experience, not unlike “queer”, to the GBLT community: It’s more than simply a religious grouping (especially if, according to some, Christians and Muslims are perfectly acceptable as “pagans”, if they want to be), and is more about being “othered”.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Not sure I want to be part of that description.

        • Taffy Dugan

          You must have had some sad experiences to put Pagan and “othered” together.

          I think I’ve been very lucky in my life that “Pagan” was never a negative term. I have many Christian, Islamic, and Jewish friends (and family) and never felt “othered”. We are all individuals. Separate but, whole.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            Wow, you have the ability to patronise down to an art.

            My experiences with my religion have been largely positive. At the same time, though, it’s reality that to be of my religion is to be disprivileged in the greater society, where Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity, are privileged. My feeling about my religion, and your feelings about yours, are not a factor in this. This state of Other is especially true when the lines are blurred between what “pagan” is and is not –my religion fits “pagan” by older, academic definitions, but because I’m spiritually charged in large, metropolitan cities, your definition of “pagan” as “country folk” renders me “not pagan”. I respect the environment, and the traditional, pre-20th Century system of urban areas / rural areas is far more sustainable than the “modern” urban / suburban / rural system –look at the mess that commuter communities have been a huge contribution to!– but I don’t belong in the countryside, the ancient polytheists who laid the foundation for my religion built cities and loved them as much as I’ve loved mine. But by your definition, I’m not a pagan –I think you proved everything I said about what that word means.

          • Taffy Dugan

            Sheesh!! Who peed in your lemonade? You’ve got so many chips on your shoulder it’s a tree!

            I was empathizing and trying to understand your position but, you insist on arguing trying to start a fight. I’m done.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            I understand sympathy –but I felt you crossed a line by assuming that my thoughts on the subject were only (or at least mostly) due to “sad experience”. Please think before you dare to assume things about others.

          • Bianca Bradley

            This is going to sound aggresive(I have an aggresive masculine typing personality). It is not meant to be. It is a helpful suggestion.

            You come across as preachy. Not preachy in the sense of Christian preachers, but preachy in another sense. You have the preachyness of a Liberal who is passionate about your politics, but doesn’t respect those who you are talking to.

            I suggest, some communication books. Interpersonal ones would be good. Maybe some others on how to dissect your words to figure out how you are coming across that way.

          • Taffy Dugan

            Thank you Bianca! I shared your comments (both on this blog and the other) with some friends and we’ve been having a blast cracking jokes about it! Some of my friends who are always getting on me for being all about individual rights; for respecting and protecting those whose believe differently than I found your calling me preachy and disrespectful the funniest part. Others found your rudely telling me to better my communication skills hilariously hypocritical. The score is so far tied but, others are holding out for more. They say you’re next reply will be better.

          • Bianca Bradley

            Thus proving my point, about you not respecting others. Just because you have people who agree with you laughing, does not negate my point, that your communication style is condescending, and patronizing. I’ll add elitist as well.

            I also suspect, you don’t have much experience dealing with people who disagree with you. You sound rather defensive. Nor are you showing that you protect, respect others who believe differently then you do(see your comments to Ruadan, me), or that you care about individual rights(why this had to be brought up is beyond me. Ahh never mind blatant attempt to demonize someone who is critical of you. Manipulation tactic right there)

            Nor was I being rude. I pointed out some weaknesses in your typing style and offered a helpful critique on how you could be seen less of a condescending person. So that people like Ruadan wouldn’t see you as Patronizing and say you have Patronization down to an art.

            Your pride got pricked. That doesn’t equal rude. But do continue, I’m sure you are showing how tolerant, and accepting you are, by having yet more snits.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            She noted in another comment that she works with children. In my experiences, there a several types of people who work with children, and some of the less pleasant sorts (there ARE some genuinely pleasant personalities who work with kids) include “the kinder, gentler totalitarian” and “the 1950s television” –seems interesting, at first, but only gives a small view of the world, relative to its presence, and tends to only see things in black-and-white.

          • Taffy Dugan

            I admit I crossed the line. I really had no idea I had it in me (and am quite pleasantly shocked). But, it is extremely frustrating to have people so completely misunderstand you. And, to be attacked every time a comment is posted before the person actually read what you wrote is maddening to say the least. I leave you all to it. I feel that this has become a huge time waster. I will continue to enjoy reading Jason’s blog and ignore those who wish to do battle.

          • Bianca Bradley

            You were not attacked. You were disagreed with and you were offered constructive criticism by someone who has some training in spotting bad communication.

            Also I’m going to add, imho, some conflict resolution researching may be helpful to you. You won’t be as frustrated.

          • Bianca Bradley

            I’m also going to add to this a bit. My background on what I’m going to say, is experience in flame wars.

            1. Never ever let them see you sweat. Your second reply to me, showed a big big button. Anyone wanting to get your goat, will continue to push that button until you break.

            2. Do not ever take stuff personally. See number 1.

            3. Don’t do the I’m better then you routine. It only lets someone know, who is experienced in flame wars that you have a weakness to exploit.

            Btw conflict resolution and some research into communication techniques would help you with that.

            Since you say you do stuff in helping people, it would help you if you are less easy to bait(since baitable isn’t a word grumbles)

          • Taffy Dugan

            You have given me some food for thought. Yes, as much as I like to see myself as a very tolerant person – which I am in many ways. My friends are very diverse with many different religions & philosophies, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. My family is international and I’ve always been surrounded by make types of people with many different points of view. I love it! It’s so much fun to get to understand others. But, yes, you are right; there are some I do not tolerate. I like Jason and his blogs. I like his points of view and I feel they show the mind of someone who works hard at understanding others. He brings such positive energy and to have people consistently belittling his efforts is annoying. I cannot stand those who lurk in places waiting to rain on other peoples parades, jumping up and down screaming about how smart they are by cutting others down. Someone called them trolls, which seems apt.

            Your comments came along as I was still simmering from another’s. I’m not used to being angry and, I’m not used to commenting on blogs, and I’m definitely not used to trolls. My life is very full and I have little time to read blogs. My husband gave me a nice break yesterday and I happily went online. I made the mistake commenting on this blog.

            I honestly did not mean my comment to be insulting. When I said that Jason’s comments were open minded, I meant that. I didn’t realize that I was calling the others narrow minded but, now that I look back and read their comments, I guess I was. They are trying to get a narrow definition of Pagan, a simple version that is more exclusive a.k.a. narrow. Still, my calling Jason intelligent does not mean that the others weren’t. I feel that their reaction to that was a big tell on their part – the showing of the chip on their shoulders. If that chip weren’t so large, there would be no need to consistently try to prove how smart they are.

            I never thought “I’m better than you”. I don’t believe I am better than anyone, nor are they better than me. I was honestly trying to see how they found my comments to be insulting. I was also trying to understand why they made the comments they did so I asked. If we had been in person, you would have heard my tone of voice was just curiosity, not elitism. The idea that I have any elitism is laughable. I’ve gone from being in high society to being on the verge of homelessness. I did find elitism at every level and found it funny

            I suppose my chip is the tolerance thing. Perhaps my pride was hurt, it’s an interesting notion that bears some thought. Thank you for that. Introspection is good for the soul – sweeps out the cobwebs.

            On that note, I leave this conversation. I’ve spent far too much time on this that I have to spare.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            He brings such positive energy and to have people consistently belittling his efforts is annoying.

            Who is belittling his efforts? I have complete respect for
            Jason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with him on everything. Nor does it mean I’m obligated to remain silent when I don’t. If you think it does, you have a very narrow definition of “respect” that is, frankly, at odds with that of many grown-up, mature people.

            If that chip weren’t so large, there would be no need to consistently try to prove how smart they are.

            Or maybe perhaps, s some-one who advocates individual realities, you could stop assuming the feelings of others and see that perhaps people are just defending reality, as they see it?

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            Damn, and I thought *I* was a snob with a mean streak. At least I have class.

          • Bianca Bradley

            If you were a snob, you wouldn’t still talk to me. My grammar would have set your teeth on edge and you’d have thrown several dictionaries at me.

        • JasonMankey

          I find your definition completely inadequate and wrong (at least to my personal experience). Protest all you want but 99% of the people who call themselves “Pagan” generally share at least a few traits. There is often polytheism, or the language of polytheism, along with the honoring or worship of many European/Middle Eastern deities (though not exclusively limited to that). “Nature worship” is probably over-doing it, but there is a love of nature and the natural world expressed by many Modern Paganisms, along with seasonal rites and rituals. There is a fairly strong European bias in Contemporary Paganism, and I would argue that most Modern Pagan experiences are filtered through the prism of Western Spirituality. Modern Pagan traditions are less likely to be strictly patriarchal like many monotheistic ones, and many include a Goddess or goddesses.

          These are all very obvious things that I see in the majority of people who define themselves as Pagan, or are defined by others as Pagan. I know it hurts, but there are these common threads, to pretend that they don’t exist just baffles me. You don’t have to subscribe to all four of them, but I have yet to meet very many Pagans who don’t follow at least one of them.

          I certainly don’t think of Paganism as an “other.” There’s a culture that revolves around the word (and what it implies). There are blogs, festivals, workshops, even a bit of music and books here or there. To argue that “pagan” is simply a social experience is completely misguided. I can put my religious beliefs in a box where no one can see them, I can’t do that with race, gender, or sexuality. I certainly feel an urge to be a Pagan, but I’ve “hidden” it at various points.

          Will the “umbrella” break? Most certainly, there are people who don’t want to be under it, and that’s their choice. I think Paganism is far more interesting when there are many different ideas being batted around (and yes, many “Pagans” engage in several traditions simultaneously-I go to BTW rituals, eclectic rituals, and Hellenic Rites, and even more stuff when I go to festivals, and I’m not the only “Pagan” to do such things either.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            So, if I were to grossly simplify and generalise, I could reach a statement about Paganism that goes something like this:

            “Modern Paganism is a belief in Pre Christian, European deities coupled with a respect for nature and a sense of equality between male and female.”

            Anything longer than this and, I fear, interest would wane. The idea is to give enough understanding that they feel comfortable with the basic premise without feeling overwhelmed with new information. This, in turn can lead to further questions which would allow for a continued conversation of greater depth of understanding.

          • JasonMankey

            I used to simplify just about you like do above, but tend to use the “language of polytheism” definition to make room for the more atheist or those that simply love the Earth as Goddess or whatever else.

            I’ve also never found that “Pagan” implies all three (or four) of those aspects, just that most self identified Pagans use at least one.

            Now I have to tidy up for ritual this evening.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Sometimes, the simplification is needed purely to talk to HR departments about why you want a certain day off for religious reasons.

            (I’m a traditionalist in as much as I mark the turning of the year on the actual days, not a day close to it.)

            As to ‘the language of polytheism’, even an atheistic Pagan believes in the gods. It is the nature of their belief that changes – they believe in the gods as symbols, as archetypes or as stories. This clarity can be added into the conversation after the initial stance.

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            That’s certainly A fairly common definition of “pagan”, but at the same time, you seem reluctant to give it a more solid definition by giving your definition four points, but being careful to couch this in the further explanation that your experience makes it difficult to think of self-defined pagans who lack a minimum of one of those four points of definition.

            While it’s certainly impossible to deny the pagan subculture that obviously exists, it’s also not uncommon for people who self-identify as pagans to be either unaware of it, or actively avoid it for other (usually personal) reasons.

            Furthermore, as has been evidenced by Project Pagan Enough, it’s hard, practically impossible, for people to control. While you certainly describe the arguable “mainstream” or arguable “status quo” of the pagan community, it’s also very easily arguable that you have not described the whole of people who self – identify as pagans.

            As for it being a social experience, you know, as a queermo, I hear and read a lot of people fighting racism, or misogyny, that gay people and trans people can just either put their sexuality in a box, or live stealth, and the social “othering” won’t affect them in the same way that being a woman, or being Black or Latin American might adversely affect someone. That idea seems to hold water, at first, until one realises that doesn’t work for everyone. If a traditional polytheist, who lives their religion as an inseparable part of their life, does what many such people do, and has a visible household shrine, and various images throughout their home were to invite people over, that might raise some questions –the only options in such a situation are to either be “out”, or make a conscious effort to self-closet which, by traditionalist thought, might risk offending certain deities. It really doesn’t work out being as simple as “just closet yourself, cos it’s no-one’s business” –that option will not work for every person, and some may feel that they have a religious duty to be “out” to varying degrees. If one argues that it’s still “always a choice”, then one seems to misunderstand theologies and religious experiences that are not their own.

      • Taffy Dugan

        To me, Paganism really is still the original definition – from paganus meaning country folk. Meaning having a connection and loving the earth. To me, it also means being open to more than just the Abrahmic view of the universe (the big 3 – Christianity, Judiasim, and Islam) but, one can still be of those faiths and still be Pagan as long as they self-identified as a Pagan. I don’t feel “othered” as Ruadhan phrased it. For me the term isn’t as exclusive as it is inclusive. If you feel you are Pagan, then you are.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          For me, I like to talk to people about lots of things, including beliefs.

          When the term ‘Pagan’ comes up, I would like to be able to answer the question “what is Pagan?” in simple terms that anyone could understand, without having to give a full lecture. I still see it as a form of belief, and explain it as such. But, if I am wrong, I’d like to know.

          Also, most of the ‘country folk’ in my neck of the woods are decidedly Christian (if anything, I’d suggest that it is rural areas that are Christian strongholds – most ‘pagans’ seem to be very much urban centred.)

          • Ruadhán J McElroy

            Most pagans I know tend to be suburban, living in commuter communities, and exalting a romanticised, idealised, and not entirely accurate notion of “nature” and “countryside” as the nature they honour. Some live in, but lament the fact that they live in a real city, idealising and exalting this cozy, self-styled image of “Gaia”.

            So they profess a “countryside” spirit, but yeah, I’ve seen precious few really embrace the life of sustainable country life in the urban/rural symbiote.

          • Taffy Dugan

            Not necessarily living in the country. I wrote having a connection to the country. Just because one lives in the country doesn’t mean that they feel the connection to earth. And, vice verse, just because someone lives in a city does not meant that they don’t have a connection to earth.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    What do we do when the playground bully decides he wants to take over the sandbox?

    “The church is training ministers to create “a pagan church where Christianity
    [is] very much in the centre” to attract spiritual believers.

    Ministers are being trained to create new forms of Anglicanism suitable for
    people of alternative beliefs as part of a Church of England drive to retain
    congregation numbers.

    Reverend Steve Hollinghurst, a researcher and adviser in new religious
    movements told the BBC: “I would be looking to formulate an exploration of
    the Christian faith that would be at home in their culture.”

    He said it would be “almost to create a pagan church where Christianity was
    very much in the centre.”

    The Church Mission Society, which is training ministers to “break new ground”,
    hopes to see a number of spiritual people align themselves with