Hipster Pagans: The Language of Disrespect

I have a cousin who doesn’t understand how I can love C.S. Lewis and still be Pagan. I completely agree with him that Mere Christianity is a fabulous book that everyone should read, but simply because it’s a great example of religious writing and reasoning. I like writing, reasoning and religion. Therefore, I like C.S. Lewis.

Courtesy ideowl on Flickr via CC License

Something he wrote, I believe it was in The Four Loves, has always stuck with me. He makes some observations on the use of the words “real” and “really”. I believe the example he uses is that “close male friendships are really homosexual”. There’s a sort of hubris at work here that states despite the intent, feelings and self-identity, the speaker knows better what lies at the root of other people’s behavior.

We as Pagans get this a lot from outside sources. Are you really a Pagan? Do you really believe that those Gods exist? Are you a real Witch? Is that even a real religion? We’re used to this sort of disrespect from the outside world. It’s rudeness at it’s root and completely dismissive of what we are trying to communicate. Lately I’ve heard this language used within our communities, and though I ain’t nearly as eloquent as Mr. Lewis, I’m compelled to pull out my soap box and tell you why this bugs me.

Think long and hard about anyone calling anyone a “real Pagan”. Doesn’t this tell you more about the person using this language, than the person they are directing it towards? What does that even mean? If your intent is to serve the Gods and seek the Mystery and you act upon that intent, then really all the rest is window dressing. Important window dressing to be sure, but that’s basically what makes you Pagan. Whether you are a monotheist practicing the cult of Sol Invictus or a solitary blending paths and working with an eclectic pantheon, it all boils down to good intent and matching action. There is no Pagan Pope to divide us into the faithful and the damned, because if there was we’d all want a ride in her popemobile!

Recently I’ve heard this language used to disparage some Pagan organizations. The argument being that they appease monotheism by conforming to mainstream religions in order to be accepted as a “real” religions, and by doing that they lose sight of the inner Mysteries. It’s an old argument but this time it had that warning label: “real”. I had to sit with this for a moment before I could formulate a response. The first thing I had to think about was whether Pagan religions are doing anything different today than they did in ancient times. Pagan cults ran public temples, held inner mysteries for members, trained clergy, collected needed resources from members and were sanctioned in some form by the local authorities. When Christianity came along it followed the same pattern, merely dropping the inner Mysteries, unless you consider being able to read the Bible itself a mystery, in which case they survived for centuries. Pagans reclaiming a public identity being characterized as a “sell-out” is as ridiculous as claiming the Catholic church is destroying tradition by going back to the Latin Mass.

The Aquarian Tabernacle Church and Covenant of the Goddess both embrace the Mysteries wholeheartedly in their own ways though they have an organizational structure that almost any religious person can understand. Circle Sanctuary might be considered the most “mainstreamed” Pagan organization in the US in both it’s structure and outlook, but I doubt anyone who attended the rituals at Pagan Spirit Gathering last year felt a lack of ecstatic Mystery. I know a lot of Pagans who, either independently or as part of a tradition, engage in temple building, interfaith work, clergy training and Pagan education but though they may be trying to build lasting resources they don’t resemble monotheists in the slightest. In fact, some of the Pagans I know who are most passionate about this type of work are some of the most radical people I know, because they fight not only mainstream religions to accomplish their goals, but also Pagan naysayers who tend towards armchair quarter-backing.

This dismissive language reminds me of musical arguments on who’s “really” punk. The answer almost always is that if a band is popular, makes a living and receives recognition for their talent outside of the punk community they aren’t really punk. This argument is repeated in every musical genre. This stems from a subcultural need for exclusivity. “Me and my friends are cool because we listen to X.” When this “hipster language” is applied to Wicca I always imagine Gerald Gardner in a black turtleneck and shades saying that Louis Armstrong sold out when he started singing.

Sometimes it really does feel as if there is a movement of “Hipster Pagans”. They lounge in coffee shops spouting obscure references and mocking Pagans who are out there getting things done. That tends to be all they do though. I’m not saying Pagan organizations are to be immune from critique, but this sniping from the sidelines isn’t helpful. Some Pagan organizations have a rule that your voice is as big as your contribution. I think that’s an excellent concept. It doesn’t mean only leaders get a say, but it does mean that even if you’re just a neophyte in your organization yet you show up for clean-up projects, volunteer for ritual prep, be present, active and supportive then your opinion carries some weight regardless of your degree/level/rank/position.

When you hear language like “real Pagans” and “real religion” what you’re hearing is disrespect. Paganism isn’t about who’s the coolest kid on the block. It’s not about eyeliner, tattoos, titles, lineages, obscure lore, bling or degrees. It’s about your actions, your relationships, and being authentic to your values. When you show respect you receive respect. Disrespect brings you dishonor. It’s really that simple.

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About Star Foster

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

  • Morgan

    Well said, Star, well said. We may not always like what our co-religionists do or hwo they do it, we may even condemn other pagans for criminal or morally bankrupt behavior, but that doesn’t actually revoke their right to be pagan. And the phenomona of “arm-chair” paganism, or hipster paganism as you cal,l it does seem to be on the rise – too many people willing to criticize what others are doing, but not willing to do anything about what they are criticizing.

  • Morgan

    Well said, Star, well said. We may not always like what our co-religionists do or hwo they do it, we may even condemn other pagans for criminal or morally bankrupt behavior, but that doesn’t actually revoke their right to be pagan. And the phenomona of “arm-chair” paganism, or hipster paganism as you cal,l it does seem to be on the rise – too many people willing to criticize what others are doing, but not willing to do anything about what they are criticizing.

  • Sara

    I think you are seriously misrepresenting the statements you are referring to. Speaking of knowing the intent of others. When someone talks about other people responding to the pressure to act like a “real” religion organizationally, they’re not dismissing the organization…they’re talking about the very REAL (as in actual, it really happens) tendency for the mainstream to say “you don’t have any buildings, you don’t ordain ministers, you don’t have a church….you’re not a real religion.” There’s some value in gaining credibility (such as for Pagan ministry in prisons) and for someone to say that that’s what people are doing is not dismissive. It’s also not dismissive to say that there is value in the other ways of doing things which are traditional for Pagans especially the witchcraft trads, and that something is lost when you abandon those things.

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

      Sara, you’re assuming I’m responding to a single statement or incident. I’m referring to a broader issue, one I’ve referenced before. It’s why we have the “Pagan Enough Project”. It’s why we have sites like “Real Pagans”. It’s why Pagan leaders have to deal with a barrage of negativity from their own anytime they try to accomplish something.

      Yes, a response to the last Wicca Series post did motivate me to write this, but I’m speaking to something broader than a single statement. This is something that affects Wicca, Heathenry, Druidry and many other Pagan religions.

      • Oakthorne

        Of course, as someone who has been handily classified as a “hipster pagan” by my response to the article you’re referring to, I was speaking only to Wicca, as I know and experience it. I would never be so daft as to speak to paganism as a whole. I speak of our Mysteries, not those of other pagan paths.

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

          I am sorry both you and Sara have taken this personally. My post is meant to be broad in scope because I see the issue as being broad and pervasive, as the responses I’ve received also seem to suggest. I apologize if I’ve offended.

          • Oakthorne

            No, no. Not on my part, at least. I think it’s really a matter of context, as you point out. Identifying the “language of disrespect” isn’t sufficient. Discerning the context in which that supposed language is applied is everything – I can comment only on the Wicca that I know, and those Mysteries we embrace. I can say things about those Mysteries, without intended those words to be somehow applied to all other Mysteries, of all other paths. What to some is the “language of disrespect” is to others the language of integrity and discernment.

  • Sara

    I think you are seriously misrepresenting the statements you are referring to. Speaking of knowing the intent of others. When someone talks about other people responding to the pressure to act like a “real” religion organizationally, they’re not dismissing the organization…they’re talking about the very REAL (as in actual, it really happens) tendency for the mainstream to say “you don’t have any buildings, you don’t ordain ministers, you don’t have a church….you’re not a real religion.” There’s some value in gaining credibility (such as for Pagan ministry in prisons) and for someone to say that that’s what people are doing is not dismissive. It’s also not dismissive to say that there is value in the other ways of doing things which are traditional for Pagans especially the witchcraft trads, and that something is lost when you abandon those things.

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

      Sara, you’re assuming I’m responding to a single statement or incident. I’m referring to a broader issue, one I’ve referenced before. It’s why we have the “Pagan Enough Project”. It’s why we have sites like “Real Pagans”. It’s why Pagan leaders have to deal with a barrage of negativity from their own anytime they try to accomplish something.

      Yes, a response to the last Wicca Series post did motivate me to write this, but I’m speaking to something broader than a single statement. This is something that affects Wicca, Heathenry, Druidry and many other Pagan religions.

      • Oakthorne

        Of course, as someone who has been handily classified as a “hipster pagan” by my response to the article you’re referring to, I was speaking only to Wicca, as I know and experience it. I would never be so daft as to speak to paganism as a whole. I speak of our Mysteries, not those of other pagan paths.

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

          I am sorry both you and Sara have taken this personally. My post is meant to be broad in scope because I see the issue as being broad and pervasive, as the responses I’ve received also seem to suggest. I apologize if I’ve offended.

          • Oakthorne

            No, no. Not on my part, at least. I think it’s really a matter of context, as you point out. Identifying the “language of disrespect” isn’t sufficient. Discerning the context in which that supposed language is applied is everything – I can comment only on the Wicca that I know, and those Mysteries we embrace. I can say things about those Mysteries, without intended those words to be somehow applied to all other Mysteries, of all other paths. What to some is the “language of disrespect” is to others the language of integrity and discernment.

  • David Salisbury

    Great article Star. I think people get intimidated by larger organizations by CoG for many possible reason. 1) They’re jealous that they don’t have the same resources 2) They’re afraid of responsible hierarchy 3) They don’t under stand (as you mentioned) that ancient Pagans were likely to more more organized than we give them credit for.
    Thanks for bringing this to the table. :)

    • David Salisbury

      And I totally butchered that comment’s grammar. Time for more coffee before I start responding to blogs!

  • David Salisbury

    Great article Star. I think people get intimidated by larger organizations by CoG for many possible reason. 1) They’re jealous that they don’t have the same resources 2) They’re afraid of responsible hierarchy 3) They don’t under stand (as you mentioned) that ancient Pagans were likely to more more organized than we give them credit for.
    Thanks for bringing this to the table. :)

    • David Salisbury

      And I totally butchered that comment’s grammar. Time for more coffee before I start responding to blogs!

  • kenneth

    The problem of “hipster pagans” is one that comes from both sides of the traditional/eclectic divide. Yes, you certainly have the coffee shop lone wolves who won’t even call themselves chaos magicians or discordians because THAT would be too confining and organized and uncool. On the other hand, there is a hell of a lot of elitism in some of the trads and organizations that appear to be aping mainstream churches. Not all of them are like this certainly, and you need a certain degree of formal organization to get big projects done. I support Circle Sanctuary and groups like Lady Liberty League.

    On the other hand, some organizations play the “real pagan” game with the best of them. They won’t give you the time of day unless you convince them you’re “clergy” who got a “real” initiation through some lineage they find to be up to snuff. Whatever degree of real work they get done is always secondary to the concerns of who gets top billing and making sure only the “right sort” get admitted to the country club. There are plenty of us in the solitary/eclectic traditions who would love to offer our hands-on help with meaningful work. But since we haven’t “proven” our credentials to the in-crowd, we usually don’t even get a call or an e-mail returned. Some years ago, I actually had a good-faith offer of mine to get involved in veteran’s work used against me in a pissing match of inter-coven politics that was ultimately used to maneuver me out of my coven at the time. Maybe my experience is atypical and colors my judgment too much, but I get a queasy feeling in my gizzard when I’m dealing with pagans who place a huge emphasis on status, organizational charts, committees, titles, umpteen letters of recommendation, probationary memberships etc.

    I won’t presume to say whose tradition is “real” or not. But it is clear to me that a certain subset of people are in fact bringing with them the worst habits of mind and instincts from mainstream monotheism (perhaps just reflective of the worst hierarchical instincts of primates as a whole). If other trads and groups want to get caught up in having a 50-foot wall between “clergy” and laity and have congregational worship and church buildings and synods and councils and dioceses, bully for them. But they won’t get any of my money or very much of my respect.

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

      Well, I think to participate in a tradition then you need to do what it takes to be an accepted member of that tradition.

      That said, giving solitaries the short end of the stick in pan-Pagan initiatives is just short-changing the initiative. There are amazing solitaries out there. I was solitary myself for almost a decade.

      The Witch-wars are simply silly. This isn’t jr high. Who hangs out with or volunteers with who shouldn’t matter. Traditions and groups should be secure enough in their own community to not care about such things.

  • kenneth

    The problem of “hipster pagans” is one that comes from both sides of the traditional/eclectic divide. Yes, you certainly have the coffee shop lone wolves who won’t even call themselves chaos magicians or discordians because THAT would be too confining and organized and uncool. On the other hand, there is a hell of a lot of elitism in some of the trads and organizations that appear to be aping mainstream churches. Not all of them are like this certainly, and you need a certain degree of formal organization to get big projects done. I support Circle Sanctuary and groups like Lady Liberty League.

    On the other hand, some organizations play the “real pagan” game with the best of them. They won’t give you the time of day unless you convince them you’re “clergy” who got a “real” initiation through some lineage they find to be up to snuff. Whatever degree of real work they get done is always secondary to the concerns of who gets top billing and making sure only the “right sort” get admitted to the country club. There are plenty of us in the solitary/eclectic traditions who would love to offer our hands-on help with meaningful work. But since we haven’t “proven” our credentials to the in-crowd, we usually don’t even get a call or an e-mail returned. Some years ago, I actually had a good-faith offer of mine to get involved in veteran’s work used against me in a pissing match of inter-coven politics that was ultimately used to maneuver me out of my coven at the time. Maybe my experience is atypical and colors my judgment too much, but I get a queasy feeling in my gizzard when I’m dealing with pagans who place a huge emphasis on status, organizational charts, committees, titles, umpteen letters of recommendation, probationary memberships etc.

    I won’t presume to say whose tradition is “real” or not. But it is clear to me that a certain subset of people are in fact bringing with them the worst habits of mind and instincts from mainstream monotheism (perhaps just reflective of the worst hierarchical instincts of primates as a whole). If other trads and groups want to get caught up in having a 50-foot wall between “clergy” and laity and have congregational worship and church buildings and synods and councils and dioceses, bully for them. But they won’t get any of my money or very much of my respect.

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

      Well, I think to participate in a tradition then you need to do what it takes to be an accepted member of that tradition.

      That said, giving solitaries the short end of the stick in pan-Pagan initiatives is just short-changing the initiative. There are amazing solitaries out there. I was solitary myself for almost a decade.

      The Witch-wars are simply silly. This isn’t jr high. Who hangs out with or volunteers with who shouldn’t matter. Traditions and groups should be secure enough in their own community to not care about such things.

  • KonaKane

    Great article. Some of the bristling at “lineage” based traditions, though, is assumptive. Coming from a lineage based path myself I have run across more than one instance of someone assuming I am an elitist snob upon even finding out about the nature of my way. Nothing could be further from the truth, but when you introduce things like this in public, it’s not uncommon to get a reactive, rather than thoughtful, response.

    It doesn’t make me better or worse than other paths. It simply is what it is, another beautiful strand in the glorious web we call modern paganism.

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

      I’m trad Craft. I’m not saying lineage isn’t important in trad Craft, I’m saying lineage isn’t important in Paganism. Macrocosm, not microcosm. Trust me, I’ve run into more than one cold shoulder for being trad Craft.

  • Anonymous

    Great article. Some of the bristling at “lineage” based traditions, though, is assumptive. Coming from a lineage based path myself I have run across more than one instance of someone assuming I am an elitist snob upon even finding out about the nature of my way. Nothing could be further from the truth, but when you introduce things like this in public, it’s not uncommon to get a reactive, rather than thoughtful, response.

    It doesn’t make me better or worse than other paths. It simply is what it is, another beautiful strand in the glorious web we call modern paganism.

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

      I’m trad Craft. I’m not saying lineage isn’t important in trad Craft, I’m saying lineage isn’t important in Paganism. Macrocosm, not microcosm. Trust me, I’ve run into more than one cold shoulder for being trad Craft.

  • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

    Bling? You’re dissing my Pagan bling now? Oh, the cruelty!

    Seriously, though, I think the Punk analogy is apt (not universally, but commonly applicable) and is the same kind of thing as the parable of the crabs in the bucket.

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

      I’ve got a pentacle the size of a tea saucer. :o)

  • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

    Bling? You’re dissing my Pagan bling now? Oh, the cruelty!

    Seriously, though, I think the Punk analogy is apt (not universally, but commonly applicable) and is the same kind of thing as the parable of the crabs in the bucket.

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

      I’ve got a pentacle the size of a tea saucer. :o)

  • Beth W.

    This is a good piece about legitimacy and respect. Among other things, it’s a reminder not to respond from that place of disrespect when someone asks “are you a real pagan?” — it’s easy to be put on the defensive, which can sometimes make the disrespect worse.

    That said, I do wonder whether the “hipster” analogy is appropriate. I suspect some hipsters would claim you’re disrespecting them by using it. :-/

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

      As a lifelong square, I’m afraid I have little sympathy for hipsters. :o)

      • Beth W.

        Oh, same here, I just find hipsters such easy targets that sometimes I wonder if criticizing them is even a legitimate pastime. That aside, I was trying to play devil’s advocate here. :)

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

          It’s a nice change from ragging on fluffbunnies… lol

  • Beth W.

    This is a good piece about legitimacy and respect. Among other things, it’s a reminder not to respond from that place of disrespect when someone asks “are you a real pagan?” — it’s easy to be put on the defensive, which can sometimes make the disrespect worse.

    That said, I do wonder whether the “hipster” analogy is appropriate. I suspect some hipsters would claim you’re disrespecting them by using it. :-/

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

      As a lifelong square, I’m afraid I have little sympathy for hipsters. :o)

      • Beth W.

        Oh, same here, I just find hipsters such easy targets that sometimes I wonder if criticizing them is even a legitimate pastime. That aside, I was trying to play devil’s advocate here. :)

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

          It’s a nice change from ragging on fluffbunnies… lol

  • http://twitter.com/chorisschema Corc Hamr

    As a proud ADF member, I still have to say I see this attitude a lot in our mailing lists among some of the members. This is despite ADF being clear that our way of Druidry is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the only way of Paganism. The question is not, “Do they know x or y?” The question is, “Do they Live their Beliefs?” If they do, that should be all that’s needed. Unfortunately (especially in Recon or “scholarly” branches of Paganism), this is forgotten a lot.

  • http://twitter.com/chorisschema Corc Hamr

    As a proud ADF member, I still have to say I see this attitude a lot in our mailing lists among some of the members. This is despite ADF being clear that our way of Druidry is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the only way of Paganism. The question is not, “Do they know x or y?” The question is, “Do they Live their Beliefs?” If they do, that should be all that’s needed. Unfortunately (especially in Recon or “scholarly” branches of Paganism), this is forgotten a lot.

  • Makoons

    This article makes a lot of assumptions about the intentions of people who question others about their path. There are those who use it as an exclusionary tool, but there are others who use the world “real” as a way of educating. The harsh reality is that there are people out there (and not just angst-ridden teenagers) who take on titles to feel special. They want to teach seekers, to inform listeners, and to claim recognition when they haven’t done any of the work. For a lot of people, spirituality IS work and for many Pagans their spirituality is experiential. Mine in particular, being an oral tradition (First Nations Spiritualist) is not something a person can claim after reading a book. I’m sorry, but anyone who claims this is NOT a “real” First Nations Spiritualist. They never will be until they have a teacher, go to ceremonies and *experience* the Spirits first-hand. There are requirements in most spiritualities, And while you find the word “real” offensive, I find the careless use of a title I hold dear to be appropriation.

    This article reminds me a lot of the people who say “why can’t I call what I do Wicca if that’s the word I identify with or the title I like?” Words *do* matter. And if “real” matters so much, than so do these titles.

    Finally, I would like to say that I agree there *are* people who use the word “real” against others to judge. People tell me all the time I’m not a “real” Native American because I’ve never lived on the reservation or am not dark-complected. They use it to serve their own prejudice or racism when they want to feel special. But that doesn’t mean that the word never has its place or that *discernment* is nothing but a useless, mean-ol-traddie tool.

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

      Where did I say anyone can claim whatever they want? I’m talking about Paganism, a big large vibrant diverse umbrella term. Obviously you can’t claim Gardnerian without initiation, or practice First Nations Spirituality from a book.

      With specific traditions you have specific requirements, but not to claim the title of Pagan.

  • Makoons

    This article makes a lot of assumptions about the intentions of people who question others about their path. There are those who use it as an exclusionary tool, but there are others who use the world “real” as a way of educating. The harsh reality is that there are people out there (and not just angst-ridden teenagers) who take on titles to feel special. They want to teach seekers, to inform listeners, and to claim recognition when they haven’t done any of the work. For a lot of people, spirituality IS work and for many Pagans their spirituality is experiential. Mine in particular, being an oral tradition (First Nations Spiritualist) is not something a person can claim after reading a book. I’m sorry, but anyone who claims this is NOT a “real” First Nations Spiritualist. They never will be until they have a teacher, go to ceremonies and *experience* the Spirits first-hand. There are requirements in most spiritualities, And while you find the word “real” offensive, I find the careless use of a title I hold dear to be appropriation.

    This article reminds me a lot of the people who say “why can’t I call what I do Wicca if that’s the word I identify with or the title I like?” Words *do* matter. And if “real” matters so much, than so do these titles.

    Finally, I would like to say that I agree there *are* people who use the word “real” against others to judge. People tell me all the time I’m not a “real” Native American because I’ve never lived on the reservation or am not dark-complected. They use it to serve their own prejudice or racism when they want to feel special. But that doesn’t mean that the word never has its place or that *discernment* is nothing but a useless, mean-ol-traddie tool.

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

      Where did I say anyone can claim whatever they want? I’m talking about Paganism, a big large vibrant diverse umbrella term. Obviously you can’t claim Gardnerian without initiation, or practice First Nations Spirituality from a book.

      With specific traditions you have specific requirements, but not to claim the title of Pagan.

  • http://www.realpagan.net Shawn

    I guess I see it a little differently… For one, I usually see pagan as an umbrella term. If you aren’t a pagan.. that makes you a Christian, Muslim, or Jew :)

    But in the way I’ve seen it used before (and likewise, “you’re not a REAL witch,”) it’s usually followed by “Because you don’t .”

    In terms of your comment about sites saying “Real Pagans,” however, I need to add this.. I help to run such a site. Our name is, in fact, RealPagan.net.

    We talk about real pagan issues. Real spirituality, and real-world things that affect us all. We’re not about people who claim unprovable super powers, pretend to be faeries or werewolves, or simply like to play dress-up because they played a game or read a fantasy novel.

    We are people who live our paths, whether they be of the Wica, druids, ceremonialists, Hellenic, other traditional witchcraft practicioners, or any number of faiths or philosophies.. But real world people, and ones who walk what they talk.

    I cannot think of any member I’ve ever heard say someone isn’t a real pagan, and our site has absolutely none of the negative qualities that you’ve mentioned in your article or comments here.

    • Shawn

      Whoa.. the one comment there that tossed a bunch of stuff around should say:
      But in the way I’ve seenit used before (and likewise, “you’re not a REAL witch,”) it’s usually followed by “Because you don’t {Accept Me}{Help Me} {Believe me when I say I can shoot fireballs out of my bottom.}{etc}

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT5Y2IBII67B6U5JU7K3SOG5UU Sarenth

      So you decide who’s a real Pagan based on your own beliefs of what a “real Pagan” is and then discuss the “real Pagan” issues?

  • http://www.realpagan.net Shawn

    I guess I see it a little differently… For one, I usually see pagan as an umbrella term. If you aren’t a pagan.. that makes you a Christian, Muslim, or Jew :)

    But in the way I’ve seen it used before (and likewise, “you’re not a REAL witch,”) it’s usually followed by “Because you don’t .”

    In terms of your comment about sites saying “Real Pagans,” however, I need to add this.. I help to run such a site. Our name is, in fact, RealPagan.net.

    We talk about real pagan issues. Real spirituality, and real-world things that affect us all. We’re not about people who claim unprovable super powers, pretend to be faeries or werewolves, or simply like to play dress-up because they played a game or read a fantasy novel.

    We are people who live our paths, whether they be of the Wica, druids, ceremonialists, Hellenic, other traditional witchcraft practicioners, or any number of faiths or philosophies.. But real world people, and ones who walk what they talk.

    I cannot think of any member I’ve ever heard say someone isn’t a real pagan, and our site has absolutely none of the negative qualities that you’ve mentioned in your article or comments here.

    • Shawn

      Whoa.. the one comment there that tossed a bunch of stuff around should say:
      But in the way I’ve seenit used before (and likewise, “you’re not a REAL witch,”) it’s usually followed by “Because you don’t {Accept Me}{Help Me} {Believe me when I say I can shoot fireballs out of my bottom.}{etc}

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT5Y2IBII67B6U5JU7K3SOG5UU Sarenth

      So you decide who’s a real Pagan based on your own beliefs of what a “real Pagan” is and then discuss the “real Pagan” issues?

  • crucialprism

    …i guess i might be classified under your label of “hipster pagan” as well since i’m a member of one such site, realpagan.net, and let me try to be brief in my reasonings for being affiliated to one such site…..

    …i’ve had the opportunity, as many have i’m sure, to be a member of large and small pagan communities, mostly on-line, and have interacted within community locally… but focusing on the web aspect, i came to realize that the term “pagan” seemed to mean many things to many folks depending upon their own personal ideologies…. having been a moderator for a large on-line community for 2 years, and a member for 3 years i saw everything commonly found in the sci-fi and non-fiction horror movie and book genres being passed and assumed to be of pagan ideals by a vast majority of today’s societies, and what was more surprising to me not only limited to a north american geographical context of limitation, but worldwide perceptions…. and what’s worse, is that people were passing this along as perfectly acceptable since the pagan community is known for it’s complete “love and light” acceptance having been fed to us by years of societal entertainment industries …

    …to me, the site that has been created such as the one you mentioned, speaks to the truths of what paganism is… a cultural definition of not only what is considered traditional acceptance, but also of a cross cultural gathering and common meeting grounds of understanding that tradition and eclecticism in today’s societies means a specific and separate doctrine/entity/family of methodology…. basically all it boils down to is a familial “this is what and how we do this when we do it” … no more difficult than if grandma gives you the basic ingredients for her special recipe but not the specific amounts…..you wouldn’t divulge that to the next door neighbor if it was a special memory important only to your family ….. unfortunately, folks do steal and make up their own based upon what is assumed, and call it the same…….this site simply attempts to portray the truths, and not as an elitist mindset of “realpagans” excusivity

    …in essense, i too abhor the need for the term “real” in societal terminology as it would therefore imply fake …. which, as pagans, we would have to accept as a fact of occurance, and as pagans, know this could -never- occur (note the sarcasm)

  • crucialprism

    …i guess i might be classified under your label of “hipster pagan” as well since i’m a member of one such site, realpagan.net, and let me try to be brief in my reasonings for being affiliated to one such site…..

    …i’ve had the opportunity, as many have i’m sure, to be a member of large and small pagan communities, mostly on-line, and have interacted within community locally… but focusing on the web aspect, i came to realize that the term “pagan” seemed to mean many things to many folks depending upon their own personal ideologies…. having been a moderator for a large on-line community for 2 years, and a member for 3 years i saw everything commonly found in the sci-fi and non-fiction horror movie and book genres being passed and assumed to be of pagan ideals by a vast majority of today’s societies, and what was more surprising to me not only limited to a north american geographical context of limitation, but worldwide perceptions…. and what’s worse, is that people were passing this along as perfectly acceptable since the pagan community is known for it’s complete “love and light” acceptance having been fed to us by years of societal entertainment industries …

    …to me, the site that has been created such as the one you mentioned, speaks to the truths of what paganism is… a cultural definition of not only what is considered traditional acceptance, but also of a cross cultural gathering and common meeting grounds of understanding that tradition and eclecticism in today’s societies means a specific and separate doctrine/entity/family of methodology…. basically all it boils down to is a familial “this is what and how we do this when we do it” … no more difficult than if grandma gives you the basic ingredients for her special recipe but not the specific amounts…..you wouldn’t divulge that to the next door neighbor if it was a special memory important only to your family ….. unfortunately, folks do steal and make up their own based upon what is assumed, and call it the same…….this site simply attempts to portray the truths, and not as an elitist mindset of “realpagans” excusivity

    …in essense, i too abhor the need for the term “real” in societal terminology as it would therefore imply fake …. which, as pagans, we would have to accept as a fact of occurance, and as pagans, know this could -never- occur (note the sarcasm)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT5Y2IBII67B6U5JU7K3SOG5UU Sarenth

    I think, also, that dialogue is dependent on mutual respect, so I click a lot of times where you go with this post. I see that addressing the overarching ‘hipster’ attitude is a need in the Pagan community, one that raises its head some days, and lays mute others.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT5Y2IBII67B6U5JU7K3SOG5UU Sarenth

    I think that there is a difference between having standards (i.e. for clergy or our varied organizations) than there is for being exclusionary. A person who claims to be clergy, but does none of the accompanying community-based or personal-based qualifications to be clergy, is not clergy. This is not to say lapses in practice don’t happen, that problems don’t arise, or that communities don’t change, drift apart, etc. or that people need to put down the ‘clergy hat’ for awhile. What I am saying, is that if our words are to have meaning, we should give them some kind of lasting meaning.

    That said, Pagan is such an amorphous word that in order for people to understand where you’re coming from, you have to say more than “I’m a Pagan.” I see this as an advantage; you aren’t so neatly packed into the ‘Pagan box’ unless your listener hears the words and blocks you out, turns on their heel or is dismissive. In my experience having to explain what you are, religiously speaking, and getting into the meat of how you practice on occasion, develops dialogue and even your own understanding of where you’re coming from further than a “I’m this”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT5Y2IBII67B6U5JU7K3SOG5UU Sarenth

    I think that there is a difference between having standards (i.e. for clergy or our varied organizations) than there is for being exclusionary. A person who claims to be clergy, but does none of the accompanying community-based or personal-based qualifications to be clergy, is not clergy. This is not to say lapses in practice don’t happen, that problems don’t arise, or that communities don’t change, drift apart, etc. or that people need to put down the ‘clergy hat’ for awhile. What I am saying, is that if our words are to have meaning, we should give them some kind of lasting meaning.

    That said, Pagan is such an amorphous word that in order for people to understand where you’re coming from, you have to say more than “I’m a Pagan.” I see this as an advantage; you aren’t so neatly packed into the ‘Pagan box’ unless your listener hears the words and blocks you out, turns on their heel or is dismissive. In my experience having to explain what you are, religiously speaking, and getting into the meat of how you practice on occasion, develops dialogue and even your own understanding of where you’re coming from further than a “I’m this”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WT5Y2IBII67B6U5JU7K3SOG5UU Sarenth

    I think that there is a difference between having standards (i.e. for clergy or our varied organizations) than there is for being exclusionary. A person who claims to be clergy, but does none of the accompanying community-based or personal-based qualifications to be clergy, is not clergy. This is not to say lapses in practice don’t happen, that problems don’t arise, or that communities don’t change, drift apart, etc. or that people need to put down the ‘clergy hat’ for awhile. What I am saying, is that if our words are to have meaning, we should give them some kind of lasting meaning.

    That said, Pagan is such an amorphous word that in order for people to understand where you’re coming from, you have to say more than “I’m a Pagan.” I see this as an advantage; you aren’t so neatly packed into the ‘Pagan box’ unless your listener hears the words and blocks you out, turns on their heel or is dismissive. In my experience having to explain what you are, religiously speaking, and getting into the meat of how you practice on occasion, develops dialogue and even your own understanding of where you’re coming from further than a “I’m this”.

  • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com/ WarriorPrincessDanu

    You have the right to call yourself whatever you want, but that doesn’t obligate anyone else to validate your claim. To put a more positive spin on that idea, we should be confident enough in who we are and what we believe that it won’t matter if someone says we’re not a “real X.” Of course, you make a good point, Star. I would hope that being respectful would be something all Pagans (and people in general) value. Like so many of us were told in elementary school, to receive respect you have to give it. But in the end we can’t make people be respectful. I think the best thing we can do is to be confident and not let the opinions of others get in the way of our spiritual paths.

  • WarriorPrincessDanu

    You have the right to call yourself whatever you want, but that doesn’t obligate anyone else to validate your claim. To put a more positive spin on that idea, we should be confident enough in who we are and what we believe that it won’t matter if someone says we’re not a “real X.” Of course, you make a good point, Star. I would hope that being respectful would be something all Pagans (and people in general) value. Like so many of us were told in elementary school, to receive respect you have to give it. But in the end we can’t make people be respectful. I think the best thing we can do is to be confident and not let the opinions of others get in the way of our spiritual paths.

  • Wes Isley

    Glad you addressed this topic since I seem to be encountering a lot of “hipsters” lately. But because of my Christian background, I just call them “fundamentalists,” because they act and speak exactly like people I’ve known who say, “You’re not a real Christian unless..” or “A real Christian doesn’t do A or B…” Unfortunately, that mindset can be found anywhere.

  • Wes Isley

    Glad you addressed this topic since I seem to be encountering a lot of “hipsters” lately. But because of my Christian background, I just call them “fundamentalists,” because they act and speak exactly like people I’ve known who say, “You’re not a real Christian unless..” or “A real Christian doesn’t do A or B…” Unfortunately, that mindset can be found anywhere.

  • (0v0)

    :-)

    Yes, using my hipster photograph is apropos for this. We are academic mystics who adore CS Lewis.

    Thanks for honoring the Creative Commons License.

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

      Thanks for sharing your work through Creative Commons!

  • (0v0)

    :-)

    Yes, using my hipster photograph is apropos for this. We are academic mystics who adore CS Lewis.

    Thanks for honoring the Creative Commons License.

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

      Thanks for sharing your work through Creative Commons!


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