13 Things I LOVE About Pagans!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

About Star Foster

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

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  • Bookhousegal

    Ah, it really does feel good to run down some things like this, …why I often feel such affection for the Pagan community. Even on those occasions of a big ritual full of Pagans I haven’t met, (yet :) )

    Just to look around and be like, ‘Here’s a rebirth after a long dark time,’ and it really strikes me that, yeah. Here we are, against all odds and report, still here. I don’t think I ever particularly expected we’d be, well, nearly household words, worhipping together fairly freely and openly, or, I suppose, quite so bogglingly-numerous.

    However things may get in the world, it’s hard to long forget that twenty five Yules ago, it was quite possible to feel as though one might be one of the very few, or only Pagans in the world.

    Since then I’ve been to everything from pretty sizeable-and well-orchestrated Solstice celebrations, to small city tribes huddled around a few candles, but still about as warm as I’d ever felt.

    Makes me kind of proud of ‘my people’ to see all that’s become. And it’s nice to see some talk about so much of what there is to feel such *affection* about. :)

    BB!

  • Andrew

    A nice enough tale, well told. However, it’s not strictly true.

    “An ye harm none, do what ye will” is the Wiccan rede. As I am not Wiccan, but of Cunning folk, I don’t follow that. I can see why it exists – to stop Wiccans blowing themselves to pieces – but seriously, the rede has no bearing outside Wicca. Unfortunately, Wiccans tend to take ownership of the whole of Paganism, and this isn’t the case.

    The dramatic clothing thing is the stuff of only certain sections of Pagan society too, to be honest. Okay, I’ll admit that I will strike a dramatic pose now and again, but that isn’t a reflection of my Craft, per se, insofar as my Craft is separate from me. It isn’t some kind of statement that I am of Craft, because that fact needs no statement.

    Thirdly, you don’t want to go mixing and matching traditions. That doesn’t work; in fact, it’s dangerous. It’s like building a car and using parts from different models which don’t fit together. Traditions have histories, and histories inform why certain things are the way they are. Unless you know the complete history of that tradition – and I mean *complete* – you won’t know why something is important, what it’s for and what can be dispensed with. Nobody has that level of knowledge – we build on the wisdom of our ancestors, and if we dispense with it in favour of whatever happens to be fashionable that week, we’re setting ourselves up for a pretty big fall.

    Okay, maybe it’s not what you want to hear, but surely it’s best to do things properly. As for the rest of the article, top marks.

  • Sara A.

    I was going to bet Star $5 that someone would come along and argue with her. I totally should have.

    Andrew, there’s a problem with your scary car analogy. It’s called “syncretism” and is has been happening for thousands of years. Every single religion on Earth, except *maybe* some of the ones practiced by isolated tribes in the Amazon or somewhere…and I’m not totally sure about them…is a product of syncretism and the blending of historical cultural forces. Some, like the African Diaspora traditions, quite obviously so.

    “Our ancestors” were not all alike either. Mine came from five different European countries and indigenous North Americans. This notion of cultural purity you seem to have bought into is predicated on a misapprehension of history, how culture works, and how people work.

    I am not a fan of cultural appropriation or taking things completely out of context just because they’re shiny. However, knowing when it’s appropriation also requires a grasp of history…specifically, colonialism…and how it shaped the power relationships in the world we live in now. There’s also such a thing as cultural blending and influence.

  • Zebrine

    Can I list 13 things I love about Star Foster?

    1) This list
    2) Many of her other posts
    3) This list
    4) That she encourages other writers
    5) This list
    6) Her interfaith work
    7) This list
    8) Her pink hair
    9) This list
    10) Her work in general
    11) This list
    12) Her sense of fun
    13) Did I mention I love this list?

    Keep up the good work!

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

    Sara, everything I write starts arguments, which isn’t always a bad thing.

    Zebrine, you’re so funny! Thanks!

  • http://witchdoctorjoe.blogspot.com/ WitchDoctorJoe

    AWESOME POST, 1st time reading your blog, but not the last!

  • The_L

    …And every time I get the number of blogs I read down to a reasonable level, I find something as wonderful and Well-written as this, and the list grows again. XD

    Very true, and a good description of “why would you want to worship this stuff” (a question which, sadly, I’ve heard asked more than once).

  • http://spiceandcraft.blogspot.com George

    Star,

    A fun post, though I feel that you take some things for granted in your second favorite thing, regarding our history.

    Please view my response, if you’d like.

    http://spiceandcraft.blogspot.com/2010/12/re-13-things-i-love-about-pagans.html

    Blessings,
    George

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

    George, indigenous cultures created the great ancient wonders of the world. If Paganism isn’t an indigenous culture then what is it?

    I dislike the attempt to divorce us from other indigenous cultures around the world. Am I the same as a Shinto practitioner? No. Are our beliefs close enough to label us as spiritual cousins? Yes, I think so.

    Embracing the indigenous cultures of the world isn’t a sign of disrespect. Calling Hindus Wiccan is a sign of disrespect.

  • http://spiceandcraft.blogspot.com George

    Just because Paganism can be called an indigenous tradition doesn’t mean that the opposite is true. I’m not attempting to divorce our tradition from other indigenous practices – I think that our relationship with them should flourish, not end.

    Words are important, however. Names are important. We have embraced the label given us, we’ve made it the name of our tradition. Other indigenous religions have not necessarily done the same. I’ve spoken to traditional Native Americans, for instance, who truly dislike being called pagans.

    I just think that the definition of “Pagan” is too hazy to ask other traditions to wrestle with it. Further, I truly believe that attempting to define Paganism as all indigenous traditions makes it a useless phrase. The term “indigenous tradition” covers that, I think. Any further labels needed can be covered using terms like “polytheistic”, “pantheistic”, “animistic”, etc.

    Again, we have similarities with indigenous cultures worldwide, certainly. That makes Paganism a European Indigenous Tradition, but it doesn’t make all local traditions worldwide Pagan.

    I don’t see any reason that we can’t keep “Pagan” as our own, both the good and the bad. The contexts that we would use “Pagan” for in regards to other worldwide traditions can be replaced with other words, ones that are more objective and more clear.

    I agree with your sentiment completely, but I think that our community needs to take a leadership role in clarifying the language used to describe religions, and replacing the ever-ambiguous “pagan” in broad contexts with properly objective language is an important step to take.

  • Ivana

    I believe Paganism is the same as any other belief in general aspects – when you open a door, you close one. When you turn a light on, you turn a light off. There are good Pagans and unfortunately bad ones. “An ye harm none, do what ye will” is the golden rule in Wicca. All Pagans are not Wiccan, so that rule doesn’t generally apply. However, with that rule I must say some Wiccans seem to think that rule applies for everyone except themselves. . . the BAD Wiccans, anyway. Pagans are peaceful and joyous people but your article put them all into one category. They are still human and as humans we always learn. Most Pagans are wonderful people in general, but again, this doesn’t apply to all.
    As for forgiveness and love, no, you’re right, no one HAS TO love anyone they don’t want to or forgive anyone if they don’t want to. However, as we grow older and become more wise we learn that forgiving someone or learning to love them brings an inner peace within ourselves. Everything we do in life is a choice and that’s a burden we chose to live with. This goes for any other belief as well, not just Paganism. Great article though! :)

  • Ivana

    I believe Paganism is the same as any other belief in general aspects – when you open a door, you close one. When you turn a light on, you turn a light off. There are good Pagans and unfortunately bad ones. “An ye harm none, do what ye will” is the golden rule in Wicca. All Pagans are not Wiccan, so that rule doesn’t generally apply. However, with that rule I must say some Wiccans seem to think that rule applies for everyone except themselves. . . the BAD Wiccans, anyway. Pagans are peaceful and joyous people but your article put them all into one category. They are still human and as humans we always learn. Most Pagans are wonderful people in general, but again, this doesn’t apply to all.
    As for forgiveness and love, no, you’re right, no one HAS TO love anyone they don’t want to or forgive anyone if they don’t want to. However, as we grow older and become more wise we learn that forgiving someone or learning to love them brings an inner peace within ourselves. Everything we do in life is a choice and that’s a burden we chose to live with. This goes for any other belief as well, not just Paganism. Great article though! :)


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