So I’ve been doing this interfaith series talking about what I like about different religious traditions, from the silly to the sacred, and I still have a lot of religious traditions to cover: Hinduism, Buddhism, and maybe even Scientology. Instead of moving on to one of these, I’d rather focus on what I love about my faith community.
13. Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Pagans are jolly, and other things that end in “olly”. We are the closest things to Hobbits you will ever see. Few of us would turn down Elevenses and fewer still would pass up on a good story or toe tapping music. We are hearty, happy and joyous folks. We tend to have similar interests and will quote fantasy and sci-fi at random. We also have a lot of in-jokes, and out-jokes and any other kind of joke you can think of. Quite simply, we are a hoot.
12. Ecology is Key
Pagans believe nature is sacred and this plays out in their actions. I am admittedly not the most eco-conscious person I know but I do try. Almost every Pagan I know modifies their behavior, even if just in a small way, to be more ecologically responsible.
11. Drama is Life/Life is Drama
Pagans see their lives in mythic terms. We think of the stages, challenges and opportunities in our lives as quests, ordeals and part of the sacred narrative of life. Every step of our lives is sacred. That’s a powerful thing.
10. Sensual Rites
Did you know the early Christians were rumored to perform sex during their rites? Untrue of course, but we Pagans have gained the same rumors. Although much more open attitude towards sexuality, truth be told, our rites aren’t sexual (except perhaps within a very small minority) but they are very sensual. Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing are all engaged in our rites. We hug each other a lot. We bless each other with a kiss in circle. We chant, dance, burn incense and wear dramatic ritual garb to serve as visual and physical cues. We like good food, grass between our toes and a starry sky above. Nothing spoils our rites as much as having to move them inside, away from the natural world.
9. Words Are Cheap, Actions Count
I find irony charming. In Bernard Cornwell’s Agincourt there is a character who talks the most delightfully vulgar smack. Yet he is also among the most honorable and virtuous men in the book. Pagans are sort of like that. We make fun of all religions, including our own. We can be silly, grumbly, aloof or sentimental, yet in the end it’s our actions that speak for us. It’s a weird thing in the age of the soundbite to understand. I know Pagans who have said the most outrageous things, who are grumbly, who are funny and who are vulgar and profane, yet their every action is virtuous.
Consider all those who speak sweetly and behave abominably. I’ll bet you can think of two or three examples off-hand.
8. Yes or No? How About Both!
Torn between Buddhism and Paganism? Well the good news is that from the Pagan perspective you don’t have to choose. Blending paths is a difficult thing and not to be undertaken lightly. It requires research, mindfulness and respect. Being a Druid Mormon will most definitely get you some pointed questions, but it’s not anathema to the Pagan community. In fact, many Afro-Carribean religions have blended native beliefs with Catholicism almost seamlessly.
7. An Harm Ye None, Do What Ye Will
Pagan prohibitions are few, and generally based on common sense. Pagan religions don’t seek to impose rules upon you so much as they encourage you to examine your actions, consider the consequences and behave in the best fashion for the situation at hand. There are Pagans who are celibate because that is the best decision for them and Pagans who are polyamorous because that is the best decision for them. Neither is better or worse than the other. They are both well thought out choices that work for that particular persons situations, and both are respectable when practiced honestly and with respect.
6. Smaller Is Better
Pagans don’t have mega-churches. Our biggest festival drew a little over 2,000 people last year but that’s just a once a year event. The largest local ritual I have ever attended drew 80-90 people. Most local groups have between 8 and 25 members. In Wicca, the supposed ideal number for a coven is 13, no more. While we are learning how to use national organizations and how to network for mutual benefit, we still don’t find the need for large worship centers with 10,000 participants. Our local religious groups are like family and festivals are like reunions with uncles, aunts and cousins. I can think of nothing sadder than attending a regular ritual that is so large I don’t know most of the people there. I’ve experienced that in churches. I know everyone in my coven. I am at least on a first name basis with at least 75% of the folks from my trad and I have “cousins” all over the US and in a few other countries.
5. Many Gods, Few Masters
There are lots of Gods in Paganism. The good news is you don’t have to develop close relationships with all of them. The bad news is you don’t always get to choose who you work with. It’s not so much that you get to customize your religion with “accessories” as your religion is fitted to you, and where you are lacking it pushes you to fit it. It’s definitely your own personal Paganism.
4. Only I Am Answerable For My Soul
No one else can tell me what to do with my spiritual life, but there’s no one to shift the blame to either. There is no forgiveness and no sin. Either I behave well and bring respect and honor to myself, or I behave badly and bring shame and rebuke upon myself. No devil tempts me to do ill, if I act like a jerk it’s my own doing. If I misbehave then I have to atone for my actions and rebuild trust. Also, I’m not compelled to forgive and love by any scripture. I don’t have to love everyone. I don’t have to forgive every wrong done to me. I also don’t expect everyone to love me or to forgive me for any wrong I may have done them. It’s been said that Paganism is too easy, but in truth it can be pretty hard to practice.
3. We Are All Priests and Priestesses
Regardless of who you are and what type of Paganism you practice, you are a priest serving your Gods. We have no “layman” or congregation. True, being a priest and being a leader are two different things. I am thankful I can serve without having to take on the responsibilities of a High Priestess, Gythia or other type of Pagan leader. I lead badly. I do better in support roles. Yet I am no less a priestess of my Gods for that.
2. Enheduanna, Pythagoras, Julian, Plotinus, Sallustius, Valiente…
We have a long and illustrious history. The Great Pyramid, the Parthenon, Stonehenge, Teotihuacan and many other wonders were built by Pagans. Philosophy, astronomy, chemistry and mathematics all have Pagan foundations. Story goes, even NASA rockets have been shaped by Pagan culture!
1. You are OK, Just As You Are
Most religions start with the concept that something is wrong with the world and they are the way to fix it. Pagansim begins by asserting nothing is inherently wrong with the earth or with you, but there’s absolutely no reason why both can’t be improved upon. You aren’t born in sin. You aren’t in need of salvation. Yet you’re here because your ancestors survived and because the earth supports you with her abundance and because the Gods may have need of you. Even if you factor in reincarnation, it still stands that this is the only time you will ever live this life, so don’t you think you’d better do the best you can with it?
Yeah, I’m proud to be a Pagan, to be a Wiccan and to walk this path. We are joyous, we are striving and we are growing! We are the light and the dark and we are beautiful!