Interview with Drew Jacob

Find other posts related to this topic on the link round-up post!

After setting off the latest round of debates in the Pagan blogosphere, Drew Jacob kindly answered a few questions regarding his stance on the Pagan label and community:

What makes your practice different from modern Druid orgs and Celtic Reconstructionists?

That’s a fun question. A lot of people have looked at my post and said, “Well, you’re not Wiccan, but you’re still Pagan. You must be a Reconstructionist or something.” I’m not.

There are a lot of differences between the Old Belief that I practice and the way Celtic Reconstructionists practice. For one thing, we use aspects of traditional etiquette. You won’t find a CR article talking about bowing, but we bow toward the altar when we enter or leave the temple. You won’t find a CR group that uses a traditional apprenticeship system, but that is the backbone of what we do. Most Celtic Reconstructionists focus on understanding aspects of myth and ritual. That’s beautiful, but that’s only a tiny percent of what’s known about the ancient Celtic cultures. The social structures are just as important, and we found that they are an exceptional foundation for a modern community.

In the Old Belief reconstruction is a method, a process that is used to fill in gaps in what’s known. It’s something that people who enjoy research do, and it benefits the community. But it isn’t something we expect all our members to do. Most people come for the practices and ceremonies that have already been reconstructed by others.

In the end, we don’t really know what the Celts did, but we do know they were as syncretic as everyone else, so is setting yourself apart from other Celtic Pagans just trying to be different to stand out? Be a special snowflake?

It’s an effort to be as honest with the community as we can be. People can define Paganism however they want, but the fact is that when we call ourselves Pagan and focus on a Pagan-identified audience, we get a lot of disappointed guests. None of my students feel like they are part of the Pagan community, and most of our community members don’t, so why would we lie and say we’re part of it?

I let the community steer me on this one. A few years back I assembled a document that exhaustively described all the branches of Celtic religion from the Iron Age to today. I included everything, even Celtic Christianity and Romano-Celtic syncretism. I asked the students to discuss where in this document our tradition, the Old Belief, would fall. They came up with some really astute observations that helped us define ourselves. They told me we didn’t fit with the “Pagan” groups. So really, it was a matter of community consensus.

Isn’t this just semantics? Does the label really matter? Why not just be a team player?

I feel we’re being a great team player by wearing our own team’s jersey.

Do you feel you have inherently different values than the Pagan community? If so, in what way?

I do sometimes feel that way. Paganism is very much rooted in a modern worldview. That works great for understanding a modern movement like Wicca or OBOD. It doesn’t work well for understanding a different culture, especially an ancient one.

Whenever we look at anything that is “ancient Celtic,” we’re looking at it as outsiders. People often forget that. It takes a serious effort to try to get your head inside the culture. But it is possible, and it’s amazing how much your perspective changes when you learn a bit of the language, live some of the social customs, and really put effort into it.

I’ll give an example. I once shared a traditional Scottish prayer with a small class of mostly Pagans. The prayer refers to the sun as “a queenly maiden blooming.” One of the people present told me she didn’t think of the sun as female, she thought of it as male. Another person told me she didn’t like the prayer because the sun should be older, because older women are beautiful too.

Those are all valid perspectives, but both of them evaluated the Celtic lore in terms of how it matches the person’s existing modern worldview. I suggested the opposite: re-evaluate your worldview based on the Celtic one. It’s uncomfortable, but you learn more about yourself and the Celts if you try to see things their way. I suggested they both talk about the sun as if she’s a young woman for a few weeks and see if it brought any insights.

You say you found your temple began to thrive once it left the Pagan community. Are you certain that is what made the difference?

We continue to keep a close relationship with the Pagan community. We still attend the Twin Cities Pagan Pride every year, for example. So we can see side-by-side how much interest we get there versus how much interest we get at Irish Fair.

I can say for certain that we get more interest from non-Pagans than Pagans. None of my students are Pagan and at this point I’d say less than half of our Temple community considers themselves Pagan.

Do you think your community would be where it is today if it had remained involved in the Pagan community?

We have remained involved. We understand that we have some things in common with Pagans and we like to support our fellow polytheists. That won’t change anytime soon.

But I know that most of our growth has come from outside the Pagan community. If we had stayed within the Pagan community we would not have the accomplishments that we have today.

In your opinion, would identifying and interacting with the Pagan community do your temple harm today, in terms of cohesiveness, politics, drama, membership, harmony, engagement, etc?

Those are two different questions. If we identified as Pagan, it would be dishonest. It would misrepresent who we are and what we do. Pagans would come expecting us to be like ADF or a Celtic Reconstructionist group, and then they wouldn’t get what they expected. Anytime a group misrepresents itself it does harm.

But interacting with the Pagan community? I have absolutely no qualms about that. I love the Pagan community, and I delight in its events, its style, and the many friends I have there.

As far as cohesiveness and drama, that has never been a concern with our relationship with the Pagan community. Any well-run organization handles its politics internally. If a group is concerned that their membership will fall apart because they go to a Pagan event, they should really re-evaluate how they’re running their own organization. Don’t blame the Pagans!

Do you worry that your separation from the Pagan community cuts you off from Pagan support systems, such as legal aid?

Do Muslims worry that they won’t get legal aid from Pagan support systems? Most of our members don’t identify as Pagan, and our integrity has to come first. If our community needed legal aid we would turn to one of the organizations that other non-Pagans turn to, such as the ACLU.

I’m really glad that Pagans have legal defense funds to protect them. But keeping access to those resources is one of the worst reasons to say you’re a member of a religion.

About Star Foster

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

    Two questions I wish you’d asked:

    (a) How does your community’s adherence to an Old Belief jive with your recent article promoting “Expostmodernism” as the future of religious traditions? You state that OBOD and Wicca are rooted in a “modern worldview” which makes them different from your Old Belief. How do you reconcile your attempt to reconstruct ancient social structures with your reliance on contemporary digital media technologies that drastically revolutionize those very structures?

    (b) If you do not consider yourself Pagan, why do you write for the “Pagan Portal” here on Patheos? You note, correctly, that Muslims do not rely on Pagan community infrastructure for legal aid, but nor do they (or Hindus, or Christians, or Buddhists, etc.) rely on Pagan social media infrastructure for intra- or interfaith dialogue. If you feel it’s dishonest to call yourself and your community “Pagan,” do you feel that it’s also dishonest to implicitly align yourself with Pagans through the use of explicitly Pagan media outlets? If your community were to create and utilize its own social media infrastructure to encourage discourse among and with traditions similar to yours, what would you call it? And how, specifically, would it differ from the form and structure of current “Pagan” media outlets?

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

      Perhaps you should interview him yourself?

      Drew writes for the Pagan portal because I asked him to. He has no interest in writing for a Pagan audience, but as a Pagan I find what he writes fascinating, even when I disagree with it.

      If that’s dishonest, then I fear I’ve promoted many non-Pagan-identifying writers dishonestly.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

        Star, I don’t mean to step on toes here, or even to suggest that he should stop writing for Patheos. I’m just wondering how he personally reconciles these issues.

        If someone asked me to write for a Christian blog on an interfaith website… I would have to politely decline. Even though I have many Christian readers and enjoy interfaith dialogue with them, and I also read several Christian blogs for precisely the same reason, it wouldn’t make sense for me to write for a Christian blog because, when it comes right down to it, I’m not a Christian. So I’m wondering how Drew reconciles these issues. If enough people feel the “Pagan” label doesn’t suit them, what implications does this have for the future of interfaith sites like this one?

        I know that you find his writing fascinating. But honestly, I feel like your comment is a bit defensive. I think these are questions that deserve to be asked, and I’m really interested in Drew’s answers.

        And maybe you’re right, maybe I could interview Drew myself. Except that he has yet to respond directly to any of my questions even in a comment thread such as this one. Plus, he would have little to gain from an interview with me, since I don’t manage a large and widely-read interfaith blog. You, on the other hand, do. On my personal blog, I can invite guest posts from anyone I like, of any religious tradition, if I find their perspective fascinating and valuable (and in the past, I have). On a site like this one… I think the role of self-identity and community-definition are a little more complicated, and should be examined more closely when it comes to who is invited to write a regular column, especially because of the interfaith purpose of the site. Is the purpose of the Pagan Portal to promote writers that you personally find interesting, or to give the communities that identify with and support Pagan traditions a place where their voices can be heard? These do not have to be contradictory, obviously, but I think some clarification on these issues is becoming increasingly necessary, especially considering how often issues of Pagan identity come up on “pan-Pagan” blogs such as this one and The Wild Hunt. I’m sorry if those questions are uncomfortable for you.

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

          A. Perhaps Drew is overwhelmed. He hasn’t responded to a lot of people.

          B. The answer to your question lies in the diverse responses Patheos has published regarding this issue.

          C. Perhaps you won’t find people “defensive” if you yourself don’t take the offense.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            I’m sorry if asking questions is offensive.

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

            Alison, I’m afraid I don’t understand why you’re being passive-aggressive. If you can’t see that you’re behaving in an aggressive fashion far out of proportion to the tone of civilized conversation then nothing I can say will satisfy you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            Star, Can you help me out by pointing to the specific places where my questions crossed the line? This might just be a flaw of online digital media, but I think we must be talking past each other.

            These questions were not meant to be attacks. They are sincere, real questions about some of Drew’s answers in his interview, that I hoped might eventually elicit answers from Drew himself (since the post you originally shared by him was an answer to similar questions in a previous comment thread). I admit, I don’t agree with him on a large number of issues, and I’m not going to pretend that my questions don’t stem from my disagreements. But I’m not sure why disagreement = passive-aggressive. I’m not sure why my disagreements should disqualify me from asking those questions.

            Can you help me out? If you let me know specifically what is wrong with my responses, I can try to frame them better in the future to avoid this kind of misunderstanding.

          • http://twitter.com/Athallia Athallia

            I don’t think Allison was trying to be offensive. Since I read his blog post about not being pagan I’ve been wondering about why he’s writing for a pagan blog. The interview just deepened my confusion as to his presence here, other than because you like his writing of course. I’m sure others feel the same, Allison just happened to be the first to point out the pink elephant in the room. 

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

            I’m not the only one who likes his writing. He was recommended to me by other Pagans, and he is in my opinion a succesful addition to Patheos. At the end of the day the contributors to the Pagan portal are my call, and I will at times make decisions that will make some folks angry. Such is life in an inclusive and tolerant group of religions.

        • http://twitter.com/Rogue_Priest Drew Jacob

          Hi Alison, 

          I’ve responded to your comment above and, to the best of my knowledge, have always responded to your comments in other posts as well. With the response my most recent post received I have not been able to reply to each comment personally, but I do try to read through them and respond here and there.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

        It is not dishonest Star, You and our community in general are open to a wide range of beliefs and opinions. This is a good thing. It is just important to keep in mind that non Pagans who you publish don’t necessarily reflect any significant pool of opinion within the Pagan community. This recent debate looks allot like the very few igniting a conversation that has little relevance to most of the Pagan community. These discussions are important, should continue and are a credit to your openness and sense of fairness. We all just need to take a deep breath and view them for what they are. 

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

          Thanks Peter!

          Actually, they are becoming an increasingly significant pool. Their growth is really only being measured anectdotally and informally, but Recons/Heathens/polytheists are growing by leaps and bounds. Part of this issue is that although they are growing, their concerns still aren’t being heard.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

            In the over all scheme, they are still a small percentage, yet they seem to be the fastest growing demographic in Paganism. Yes we should be concerned that they feel heard and honored. My point is that there is no large movement to discard the term Pagan. Even among the referenced demographic there is no agreement on rejecting the term. It is an interesting debate, it should continue, yet people need to take a deep breath and realize that our ability to accommodate debate initiated by a minority is positive and not necessarily reflective of any strong trend within the community.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            I think P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s recent post (“The (Perceived) Problem with ‘Pagan’“) was really an excellent reflection on this issue that you bring up here, Peter. It seems to me that the very fact that we’re having these discussions is indicative that, regardless of how they may feel about the specific terms in use, there is definitely a group of people who (a) feel as though they’re not being represented, and (b) are still very interested in reaching out to have a broader community discourse.

            What I’m not clear about is what really does distinguish people who feel comfortable with the name “Pagan” and those who don’t. Almost all of Drew’s examples in this interview on how his practices and beliefs differ from Pagans, for instance, left me only more confused. For example, I worship a Celtic solar goddess, and I consider myself a Pagan. I’m not surprised that other Pagans have a mythology that embraces the sun as male, and after all, even within ancient Celtic culture there were both male and female solar deities…. So I still don’t understand how this is an example of those women being “Pagan” and Drew not being one. And one thing that I’ve seen almost no one address is the fact that this entire current debate stemmed from Drew’s previous post about what he calls “expostmodernism,” in which he promoted the use of new media (that have an undeniable influence over social and cultural structures) while at the same time claiming that his community is not Pagan because they subscribe to ancient beliefs and social structures. Star may have seen my questions as offensive attacks, but I sincerely want to know how Drew reconciles these two things, especially if he’s using Pagan’s “modern worldview” as one of his primary reasons that he is not a Pagan.

            Everyone has the right to name themselves and identify their communities however they wish, and I’m definitely not trying to force anyone, least of all Drew, to adopt the name Pagan if they don’t want to! But I do want to challenge the notion that what Drew thinks of as “Pagan” is actually what those of us who identify with that term mean by it. It seems to me that the Pagan community is wonderfully diverse and complex and, as you say, mostly okay with its identity as such. And if that’s the case, then that leads me to wonder: why do some people feel left out (but not turned off enough by “Pagan” that they’re happy to just go on their own way and let the issue rest)? And what can we do to encourage outreach and conversation, without having it devolve into old fashioned “witch wars”?

          • Erin

            Hello Peter,

            I think you are misunderstanding the stance.  We are a small percentage yet growing yes, but not -within- the Pagan community- separate from it.  The point is -not- to discard the term pagan, at least not from the recon/heathen/polytheist perspective, but rather to acknowledge the (Recon) Polytheist as a distinct umbrella term of its own, separate and apart from the Pagan umbrella term.  Have your label and culture, by all means, and power and joy to you in that!  And we’d like to have ours, in power and joy, as well, since we feel different from the Neopagan community.  Peace between us, but acknowledged distinction, please.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            Erin,

            You’ve helped clarify things for me with your response – but I think it still leaves open two important questions (for me, at least): Firstly, the issue initially raised by Star was not whether or not Recon/Polytheist was a distinct umbrella, but whether or not “Pagan” as a general use term was doing damage to those of us who do use it. I think (though I could be wrong) that part of the Recon/Polytheist desire to differentiate themselves from Pagans stems from the view that “Pagan” does do damage in some way… so I’d like to hear more clarification on that from people who don’t identify as Pagan.

            Secondly, I’d like to hear more about exactly how the Recon/Polytheist Umbrella differs from the Pagan Umbrella. Like I mentioned in my comment above, none of the specific examples that Drew used in this interview leave me any clearer as to what the actual differences are between his community and another, Pagan-identifying community… other than the fact that they just don’t use the word. That’s completely fine – I had a similar experience with the word “Witch” just not suiting me – but it leaves me wondering what it is about the term itself that is causing the dissension. The only things I’ve heard from non-Pagan-identifying Recons/Polytheists is that they feel “Pagan” means “Wiccan”… but that doesn’t seem satisfactory to me, since there are so many people who aren’t Wiccan who still identify as Pagan. One place where I think we can start to step on each other’s toes is when those of us non-Wiccan Pagans feel as though our understanding of the word “Pagan” is being discounted or shrugged off as irrelevant. How do you and other Recon/Polytheist folks work with the issues that come up when someone who calls herself “Pagan” has nearly indistinguishable practices and beliefs from those who reject the name “Pagan”? Is it all semantics, or are there real differences – and if there are, what are they? That’s what I’m most curious about. If Recon/Polytheists want their voices heard as a growing group distinct from Paganism, then what is their distinctive voice and how is it different from Paganism?

          • Rua Lupa

            Perhaps some sort of phylum of Paganism can be arranged? Just like how differing species are under the same family but are taxonomicaly recognized as different. I can see that as a valid goal to recognize each other but see how we differ on the grand scale and still be under the taxonomic kingdom of Paganism. Have scholars already done this by any chance?

                                I- Polytheism
            i.e. Paganism –
                                I- Duothesim
            etc.
            (just an example, this could be argued to be arranged differently)

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            In the over all scheme, they are still a small percentage

            Source?

            Also:  Even if we are to assume you’re correct in your assumption of numbers, your implications that this somehow makes our voices and concerns irrelevant (or at least merely “less relevant”) is absolutely fallacious:  Indeed, as a gay man, I also see the VERY SAME kind of reasoning imposed to deny certain rights to same-sex couples.  As a man of TS history, I see even gays and lesbians using the same kind of reasoning to deny TS/TG-Inclusive ENDA phrasing.  Congratulations!  You are part of the problem!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

        The problem is that many of your readers, myself included, were under the impression until very recently that Drew Jacobs, as a contributor to the Pagan Portal, was a himself Pagan. The fact that he is not does not make his writing any less interesting; however, the fact that “he has no interest in writing for a Pagan audience” makes me wonder why you have asked him to do so, and why he has agreed to do so.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

          Addendum: I went back and found Drew’s initial post covering the “not a Pagan but asked to write for the Pagan Portal” issue. Duly noted.

    • http://twitter.com/Rogue_Priest Drew Jacob

      Hi Alison. Those are great questions. Here are my answers. 

      (a) Our organization, the Old Belief Society, has not mastered the use of digital media. I think we have a long way to go with making our group more accessible, and being more accessible will only enhance traditional structures like altrama (apprenticeship). On the other hand, we do a phenomenal job of providing support for spirituality as a personal journey, which is very ExPoMod and also in line with the Old Belief. 

      (b) When Star requested that I blog for Patheos, I told her I don’t consider myself Pagan. She told me that she still felt my writing would be of interest to a Pagan audience. As I’ve said, I do try to maintain a close relationship with the Pagan community, and I don’t feel out of place here. As long as Pagans find my writing interesting I’m happy to keep blogging here.

    • Elle

      I don’t know if this is relevant… These posts come so fast and furiously and are so very interesting – really vibrant group here…but I also have a Pagan group – with a very focused agenda… too long and probably way too boring for this blog but with similarities to what Drew described in his guest blog and several subsequent responses to same. Ancient Path is a non-Wiccan group – based on the “Old Beliefs” etc. etc. We also do not embrace the new reconstructionist or “neo” trads which have been around for longer than even I thought originally, but not long enough to suit our Ancient Path purposes. 

      My career took me to Europe for almost 22 non-consecutive years and every time I was there I connected more closely with what they refer to as Ancient Paths, Old religion, original religion, pre Christian religion… there must have been a dozen labels in a dozen languages and I was much drawn by the simplicity and history and roots of what they espoused. So much so that I sought out like minded folks when I returned ( and retired) to the USA (much to my eternal sorrow I confess) and found none in my corner of the deep south. Plenty of pagans mind you, plenty of Wiccan groups (mostly dead or dying) and their many traditions and Paths – but none quite as I was seeking. So, I started my own. 

      It grew in starts and fits, one group failed (Specifically a “sisterhood”), one sputtered out like an ancient lamp because no one could wrap their mind around being a Non – wiccan group and were horrified at the thought of releasing themselves from the yoke of specific ritual etc. … All this over the course of 6 years. 

      In the meanwhile, I made fast friends with Dr, Mark Newell and his Wife and our mutual friend Holli Emore. After hanging out with Mark  who is a retired Anthropologist/Archeology professor and medical researcher, author, screen writer, pretty fair artist and really brilliant man for a year or so  - and sucking Holli (Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary)into allowing me to teach her group a little Ritual drama and listening to both of them intently when I am in their wonderful company – I finally hit upon a winning formula and (so far), Goddess be praised, it has worked. 

      But we still call ourselves “Pagans”… at least those of us who ARE Pagans lump ourselves into that phylum. *Our group is not closed to other traditions or non-Pagans so long as they understand clearly that we are really into the study and perpetuation of ancient paths, pre-Christian ritual and rite, etc. etc. 

      To be clear, I have no objection that Drew and his flock do not use Pagan to describe themselves – I mean when you think about it, who cares? it’s what they are comfortable with, it’s what they feel best defines them and it is very clear, they do not want to be identified as “Pagans”. It’s a free country.

      In truth, there is some  safety and advantage in not defining yourself as Pagan – I mean, when you actually have the opportunity to connect (as Star did for her interview via Skype) with Non – Pagans it is rare that the air doesn’t get sucked out of the room the minute you say, “I’m Pagan”. So when you don’t have to say that – you might, just might, be a tintsy, wintsy more acceptable in the the eyes of others and of course, it gives you that little game edge of allowing the folks you are talking to to think ( without you saying a word) that there must be something wrong with the term or the people (or belief system) behind the term that you don’t identify yourself, your group or any part of what you are about,  as “Pagan” even though everything you believe in, study and discover screams “Pagan” in the literal  sense of the word. The Key here is “literal”.

      Drew has effectively taken the intellectual step to define his group as what ever he feels works best for him and for his goals (although I was not quite sure about what those might be). And he’s not the only one – There are loads of folks doing that these days: I have met more “Christian Pagans”, “Christian Witches”, polytheistic/monotheistic (yep, in one body) these days than you can shake a stick at. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of “New Pagan” religions popping up and each one attempts to define themselves as different or better or what ever to help set them apart from the old tried and true Pagan trads. and those, my friends, are so many and so confusing that it boggles the mind. 

      I feel a duty to insert here that before you put poison pen to paper to let me know that you are a “Christian Witch” or any of those other appellations and it’s working fine for you – don’t waste your time. I support you in what ever floats your boat! I could care less what you want to believe. You have a right under the Freedom of Religion act to combine and create any combination of belief system you want to. If you believe with all your heart, this is for you – then by all means, cling to it. I don’t think all of this helps lend credibility to Pagans, the religion or the doctrine, dogma or reason to exist but by the Gods, I support your right to make up any religion you want. 

      And for those who don’t think we have to have “credibility” to maintain Paganism – that’s OK with me as well – when it is brought home to me in a careless remark or vicious debate – I am reminded of all of the above. 

      As for me – I don’t seek the safety of manipulation of definitions of my own faith and I will continue to work hard on keeping Paganism alive and well as “Paganism” – the “well” part is very important to me.. and until this becomes a “Pagan Only” planet , which, thank the very funny Gods, it will never be (I love our religious diversity) our “face” and our “credibility” and the health of our religion is very important to me. We co-exist as Goddess planned for us, with all kinds of people on this earth – I make it my business to get to know (and understand) them as well as I can. I am Pagan, that’s what we are about. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

    Two questions I wish you’d asked:

    (a) How does your community’s adherence to an Old Belief jive with your recent article promoting “Expostmodernism” as the future of religious traditions? You state that OBOD and Wicca are rooted in a “modern worldview” which makes them different from your Old Belief. How do you reconcile your attempt to reconstruct ancient social structures with your reliance on contemporary digital media technologies that drastically revolutionize those very structures?

    (b) If you do not consider yourself Pagan, why do you write for the “Pagan Portal” here on Patheos? You note, correctly, that Muslims do not rely on Pagan community infrastructure for legal aid, but nor do they (or Hindus, or Christians, or Buddhists, etc.) rely on Pagan social media infrastructure for intra- or interfaith dialogue. If you feel it’s dishonest to call yourself and your community “Pagan,” do you feel that it’s also dishonest to implicitly align yourself with Pagans through the use of explicitly Pagan media outlets? If your community were to create and utilize its own social media infrastructure to encourage discourse among and with traditions similar to yours, what would you call it? And how, specifically, would it differ from the form and structure of current “Pagan” media outlets?

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

      Perhaps you should interview him yourself?

      Drew writes for the Pagan portal because I asked him to. He has no interest in writing for a Pagan audience, but as a Pagan I find what he writes fascinating, even when I disagree with it.

      If that’s dishonest, then I fear I’ve promoted many non-Pagan-identifying writers dishonestly.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

        Star, I don’t mean to step on toes here, or even to suggest that he should stop writing for Patheos. I’m just wondering how he personally reconciles these issues.

        If someone asked me to write for a Christian blog on an interfaith website… I would have to politely decline. Even though I have many Christian readers and enjoy interfaith dialogue with them, and I also read several Christian blogs for precisely the same reason, it wouldn’t make sense for me to write for a Christian blog because, when it comes right down to it, I’m not a Christian. So I’m wondering how Drew reconciles these issues. If enough people feel the “Pagan” label doesn’t suit them, what implications does this have for the future of interfaith sites like this one?

        I know that you find his writing fascinating. But honestly, I feel like your comment is a bit defensive. I think these are questions that deserve to be asked, and I’m really interested in Drew’s answers.

        And maybe you’re right, maybe I could interview Drew myself. Except that he has yet to respond directly to any of my questions even in a comment thread such as this one. Plus, he would have little to gain from an interview with me, since I don’t manage a large and widely-read interfaith blog. You, on the other hand, do. On my personal blog, I can invite guest posts from anyone I like, of any religious tradition, if I find their perspective fascinating and valuable (and in the past, I have). On a site like this one… I think the role of self-identity and community-definition are a little more complicated, and should be examined more closely when it comes to who is invited to write a regular column, especially because of the interfaith purpose of the site. Is the purpose of the Pagan Portal to promote writers that you personally find interesting, or to give the communities that identify with and support Pagan traditions a place where their voices can be heard? These do not have to be contradictory, obviously, but I think some clarification on these issues is becoming increasingly necessary, especially considering how often issues of Pagan identity come up on “pan-Pagan” blogs such as this one and The Wild Hunt. I’m sorry if those questions are uncomfortable for you.

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

          A. Perhaps Drew is overwhelmed. He hasn’t responded to a lot of people.

          B. The answer to your question lies in the diverse responses Patheos has published regarding this issue.

          C. Perhaps you won’t find people “defensive” if you yourself don’t take the offense.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            I’m sorry if asking questions is offensive.

            ETA: I also want to note that I never accused anyone of dishonesty, and my questions were directed at Drew, not you, Star. Drew was the one who used the word “dishonest” to describe his reasons for not identifying as Pagan. I am interested in knowing how he distinguishes honesty from dishonesty in these particular instances. Again, I’m not sure why that is offensive. My questions were meant to seek clarification on issues that I’m honestly confused about. You don’t have to feel personally responsible for offering justifications for Drew’s ideas and opinions – I’d rather just hear from Drew himself. (And I’m willing to wait until he’s feeling less swamped. ;) )

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

            Alison, I’m afraid I don’t understand why you’re being passive-aggressive. If you can’t see that you’re behaving in an aggressive fashion far out of proportion to the tone of civilized conversation then nothing I can say will satisfy you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            Star, Can you help me out by pointing to the specific places where my questions crossed the line? This might just be a flaw of online digital media, but I think we must be talking past each other.

            These questions were not meant to be attacks. They are sincere, real questions about some of Drew’s answers in his interview, that I hoped might eventually elicit answers from Drew himself (since the post you originally shared by him was an answer to similar questions in a previous comment thread). I admit, I don’t agree with him on a large number of issues, and I’m not going to pretend that my questions don’t stem from my disagreements. But I’m not sure why disagreement = passive-aggressive. I’m not sure why my disagreements should disqualify me from asking those questions.

            Can you help me out? If you let me know specifically what is wrong with my responses, I can try to frame them better in the future to avoid this kind of misunderstanding.

          • http://twitter.com/Athallia Athallia

            I don’t think Allison was trying to be offensive. Since I read his blog post about not being pagan I’ve been wondering about why he’s writing for a pagan blog. The interview just deepened my confusion as to his presence here, other than because you like his writing of course. I’m sure others feel the same, Allison just happened to be the first to point out the pink elephant in the room. 

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

            I’m not the only one who likes his writing. He was recommended to me by other Pagans, and he is in my opinion a succesful addition to Patheos. At the end of the day the contributors to the Pagan portal are my call, and I will at times make decisions that will make some folks angry. Such is life in an inclusive and tolerant group of religions.

        • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

          Hi Alison, 

          I’ve responded to your comment above and, to the best of my knowledge, have always responded to your comments in other posts as well. With the response my most recent post received I have not been able to reply to each comment personally, but I do try to read through them and respond here and there.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

        It is not dishonest Star, You and our community in general are open to a wide range of beliefs and opinions. This is a good thing. It is just important to keep in mind that non Pagans who you publish don’t necessarily reflect any significant pool of opinion within the Pagan community. This recent debate looks allot like the very few igniting a conversation that has little relevance to most of the Pagan community. These discussions are important, should continue and are a credit to your openness and sense of fairness. We all just need to take a deep breath and view them for what they are. 

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

          Thanks Peter!

          Actually, they are becoming an increasingly significant pool. Their growth is really only being measured anectdotally and informally, but Recons/Heathens/polytheists are growing by leaps and bounds. Part of this issue is that although they are growing, their concerns still aren’t being heard.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1542692508 Peter Dybing

            In the over all scheme, they are still a small percentage, yet they seem to be the fastest growing demographic in Paganism. Yes we should be concerned that they feel heard and honored. My point is that there is no large movement to discard the term Pagan. Even among the referenced demographic there is no agreement on rejecting the term. It is an interesting debate, it should continue, yet people need to take a deep breath and realize that our ability to accommodate debate initiated by a minority is positive and not necessarily reflective of any strong trend within the community.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            I think P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s recent post (“The (Perceived) Problem with ‘Pagan’“) was really an excellent reflection on this issue that you bring up here, Peter. It seems to me that the very fact that we’re having these discussions is indicative that, regardless of how they may feel about the specific terms in use, there is definitely a group of people who (a) feel as though they’re not being represented, and (b) are still very interested in reaching out to have a broader community discourse.

            What I’m not clear about is what really does distinguish people who feel comfortable with the name “Pagan” and those who don’t. Almost all of Drew’s examples in this interview on how his practices and beliefs differ from Pagans, for instance, left me only more confused. For example, I worship a Celtic solar goddess, and I consider myself a Pagan. I’m not surprised that other Pagans have a mythology that embraces the sun as male, and after all, even within ancient Celtic culture there were both male and female solar deities…. So I still don’t understand how this is an example of those women being “Pagan” and Drew not being one. And one thing that I’ve seen almost no one address is the fact that this entire current debate stemmed from Drew’s previous post about what he calls “expostmodernism,” in which he promoted the use of new media (that have an undeniable influence over social and cultural structures) while at the same time claiming that his community is not Pagan because they subscribe to ancient beliefs and social structures. Star may have seen my questions as offensive attacks, but I sincerely want to know how Drew reconciles these two things, especially if he’s using Pagan’s “modern worldview” as one of his primary reasons that he is not a Pagan.

            Everyone has the right to name themselves and identify their communities however they wish, and I’m definitely not trying to force anyone, least of all Drew, to adopt the name Pagan if they don’t want to! But I do want to challenge the notion that what Drew thinks of as “Pagan” is actually what those of us who identify with that term mean by it. It seems to me that the Pagan community is wonderfully diverse and complex and, as you say, mostly okay with its identity as such. And if that’s the case, then that leads me to wonder: why do some people feel left out (but not turned off enough by “Pagan” that they’re happy to just go on their own way and let the issue rest)? And what can we do to encourage outreach and conversation, without having it devolve into old fashioned “witch wars”?

          • Erin

            Hello Peter,

            I think you are misunderstanding the stance.  We are a small percentage yet growing yes, but not -within- the Pagan community- separate from it.  The point is -not- to discard the term pagan, at least not from the recon/heathen/polytheist perspective, but rather to acknowledge the (Recon) Polytheist as a distinct umbrella term of its own, separate and apart from the Pagan umbrella term.  Have your label and culture, by all means, and power and joy to you in that!  And we’d like to have ours, in power and joy, as well, since we feel different from the Neopagan community.  Peace between us, but acknowledged distinction, please.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501005243 Alison Leigh Lilly

            Erin,

            You’ve helped clarify things for me with your response – but I think it still leaves open two important questions (for me, at least): Firstly, the issue initially raised by Star was not whether or not Recon/Polytheist was a distinct umbrella, but whether or not “Pagan” as a general use term was doing damage to those of us who do use it. I think (though I could be wrong) that part of the Recon/Polytheist desire to differentiate themselves from Pagans stems from the view that “Pagan” does do damage in some way… so I’d like to hear more clarification on that from people who don’t identify as Pagan.

            Secondly, I’d like to hear more about exactly how the Recon/Polytheist Umbrella differs from the Pagan Umbrella. Like I mentioned in my comment above, none of the specific examples that Drew used in this interview leave me any clearer as to what the actual differences are between his community and another, Pagan-identifying community… other than the fact that they just don’t use the word. That’s completely fine – I had a similar experience with the word “Witch” just not suiting me – but it leaves me wondering what it is about the term itself that is causing the dissension. The only things I’ve heard from non-Pagan-identifying Recons/Polytheists is that they feel “Pagan” means “Wiccan”… but that doesn’t seem satisfactory to me, since there are so many people who aren’t Wiccan who still identify as Pagan. One place where I think we can start to step on each other’s toes is when those of us non-Wiccan Pagans feel as though our understanding of the word “Pagan” is being discounted or shrugged off as irrelevant. How do you and other Recon/Polytheist folks work with the issues that come up when someone who calls herself “Pagan” has nearly indistinguishable practices and beliefs from those who reject the name “Pagan”? Is it all semantics, or are there real differences – and if there are, what are they? That’s what I’m most curious about. If Recon/Polytheists want their voices heard as a growing group distinct from Paganism, then what is their distinctive voice and how is it different from Paganism?

          • Rua Lupa

            Perhaps some sort of phylum of Paganism can be arranged? Just like how differing species are under the same family but are taxonomicaly recognized as different. I can see that as a valid goal to recognize each other but see how we differ on the grand scale and still be under the taxonomic kingdom of Paganism. Have scholars already done this by any chance?

                                I- Polytheism
            i.e. Paganism –
                                I- Duothesim
            etc.
            (just an example, this could be argued to be arranged differently)

          • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            In the over all scheme, they are still a small percentage

            Source?

            Also:  Even if we are to assume you’re correct in your assumption of numbers, your implications that this somehow makes our voices and concerns irrelevant (or at least merely “less relevant”) is absolutely fallacious:  Indeed, as a gay man, I also see the VERY SAME kind of reasoning imposed to deny certain rights to same-sex couples.  As a man of TS history, I see even gays and lesbians using the same kind of reasoning to deny TS/TG-Inclusive ENDA phrasing.  Congratulations!  You are part of the problem!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

        The problem is that many of your readers, myself included, were under the impression until very recently that Drew Jacobs, as a contributor to the Pagan Portal, was a himself Pagan. The fact that he is not does not make his writing any less interesting; however, the fact that “he has no interest in writing for a Pagan audience” makes me wonder why you have asked him to do so, and why he has agreed to do so.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

          Addendum: I went back and found Drew’s initial post covering the “not a Pagan but asked to write for the Pagan Portal” issue. Duly noted.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Hi Alison. Those are great questions. Here are my answers. 

      (a) Our organization, the Old Belief Society, has not mastered the use of digital media. I think we have a long way to go with making our group more accessible, and being more accessible will only enhance traditional structures like altrama (apprenticeship). On the other hand, we do a phenomenal job of providing support for spirituality as a personal journey, which is very ExPoMod and also in line with the Old Belief. 

      (b) When Star requested that I blog for Patheos, I told her I don’t consider myself Pagan. She told me that she still felt my writing would be of interest to a Pagan audience. As I’ve said, I do try to maintain a close relationship with the Pagan community, and I don’t feel out of place here. As long as Pagans find my writing interesting I’m happy to keep blogging here.

    • Elle

      I don’t know if this is relevant… These posts come so fast and furiously and are so very interesting – really vibrant group here…but I also have a Pagan group – with a very focused agenda… too long and probably way too boring for this blog but with similarities to what Drew described in his guest blog and several subsequent responses to same. Ancient Path is a non-Wiccan group – based on the “Old Beliefs” etc. etc. We also do not embrace the new reconstructionist or “neo” trads which have been around for longer than even I thought originally, but not long enough to suit our Ancient Path purposes. 

      My career took me to Europe for almost 22 non-consecutive years and every time I was there I connected more closely with what they refer to as Ancient Paths, Old religion, original religion, pre Christian religion… there must have been a dozen labels in a dozen languages and I was much drawn by the simplicity and history and roots of what they espoused. So much so that I sought out like minded folks when I returned ( and retired) to the USA (much to my eternal sorrow I confess) and found none in my corner of the deep south. Plenty of pagans mind you, plenty of Wiccan groups (mostly dead or dying) and their many traditions and Paths – but none quite as I was seeking. So, I started my own. 

      It grew in starts and fits, one group failed (Specifically a “sisterhood”), one sputtered out like an ancient lamp because no one could wrap their mind around being a Non – wiccan group and were horrified at the thought of releasing themselves from the yoke of specific ritual etc. … All this over the course of 6 years. 

      In the meanwhile, I made fast friends with Dr, Mark Newell and his Wife and our mutual friend Holli Emore. After hanging out with Mark  who is a retired Anthropologist/Archeology professor and medical researcher, author, screen writer, pretty fair artist and really brilliant man for a year or so  - and sucking Holli (Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary)into allowing me to teach her group a little Ritual drama and listening to both of them intently when I am in their wonderful company – I finally hit upon a winning formula and (so far), Goddess be praised, it has worked. 

      But we still call ourselves “Pagans”… at least those of us who ARE Pagans lump ourselves into that phylum. *Our group is not closed to other traditions or non-Pagans so long as they understand clearly that we are really into the study and perpetuation of ancient paths, pre-Christian ritual and rite, etc. etc. 

      To be clear, I have no objection that Drew and his flock do not use Pagan to describe themselves – I mean when you think about it, who cares? it’s what they are comfortable with, it’s what they feel best defines them and it is very clear, they do not want to be identified as “Pagans”. It’s a free country.

      In truth, there is some  safety and advantage in not defining yourself as Pagan – I mean, when you actually have the opportunity to connect (as Star did for her interview via Skype) with Non – Pagans it is rare that the air doesn’t get sucked out of the room the minute you say, “I’m Pagan”. So when you don’t have to say that – you might, just might, be a tintsy, wintsy more acceptable in the the eyes of others and of course, it gives you that little game edge of allowing the folks you are talking to to think ( without you saying a word) that there must be something wrong with the term or the people (or belief system) behind the term that you don’t identify yourself, your group or any part of what you are about,  as “Pagan” even though everything you believe in, study and discover screams “Pagan” in the literal  sense of the word. The Key here is “literal”.

      Drew has effectively taken the intellectual step to define his group as what ever he feels works best for him and for his goals (although I was not quite sure about what those might be). And he’s not the only one – There are loads of folks doing that these days: I have met more “Christian Pagans”, “Christian Witches”, polytheistic/monotheistic (yep, in one body) these days than you can shake a stick at. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of “New Pagan” religions popping up and each one attempts to define themselves as different or better or what ever to help set them apart from the old tried and true Pagan trads. and those, my friends, are so many and so confusing that it boggles the mind. 

      I feel a duty to insert here that before you put poison pen to paper to let me know that you are a “Christian Witch” or any of those other appellations and it’s working fine for you – don’t waste your time. I support you in what ever floats your boat! I could care less what you want to believe. You have a right under the Freedom of Religion act to combine and create any combination of belief system you want to. If you believe with all your heart, this is for you – then by all means, cling to it. I don’t think all of this helps lend credibility to Pagans, the religion or the doctrine, dogma or reason to exist but by the Gods, I support your right to make up any religion you want. 

      And for those who don’t think we have to have “credibility” to maintain Paganism – that’s OK with me as well – when it is brought home to me in a careless remark or vicious debate – I am reminded of all of the above. 

      As for me – I don’t seek the safety of manipulation of definitions of my own faith and I will continue to work hard on keeping Paganism alive and well as “Paganism” – the “well” part is very important to me.. and until this becomes a “Pagan Only” planet , which, thank the very funny Gods, it will never be (I love our religious diversity) our “face” and our “credibility” and the health of our religion is very important to me. We co-exist as Goddess planned for us, with all kinds of people on this earth – I make it my business to get to know (and understand) them as well as I can. I am Pagan, that’s what we are about. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/chieftainbranwen Stephanie ‘Branwen’ Rogers

    I feel like Drew and groups similar to his are getting a lot of flack that isn’t justified. His answers here are level, with great consideration and affection for those other beliefs around him, and have conviction. 

    He and his group don’t identify as Pagan. But they are still working with Pagans and I imagine if asked they are as interested as any Pagan with seeing minority religions in America get an even playing field. Which seems to be the undercurrent of this debate, if polytheist and other groups that we would consider “Pagan” don’t embrace the term it some how means they aren’t also moving forward or using energy towards righting the religious inequality that happens here. I don’t believe this is so. What is so, is that no one likes being defined by other people. Just as Pagan’s don’t like being defined as not having faith from Christians, or worst Devil worshippers. Those who have taken the time to define themselves and their path don’t like it when others wish to sweep that work under the rug and slap a label on. 
    Excellent interview, excellent discussion. Props to Drew for being the only other person I’ve ever seen embrace that reconstruction is a method for some. And also, why the hell is there so many amazing people and groups in the middle of the country? I don’t want to live there but I would love to visit. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/chieftainbranwen Stephanie ‘Branwen’ Rogers

    I feel like Drew and groups similar to his are getting a lot of flack that isn’t justified. His answers here are level, with great consideration and affection for those other beliefs around him, and have conviction. 

    He and his group don’t identify as Pagan. But they are still working with Pagans and I imagine if asked they are as interested as any Pagan with seeing minority religions in America get an even playing field. Which seems to be the undercurrent of this debate, if polytheist and other groups that we would consider “Pagan” don’t embrace the term it some how means they aren’t also moving forward or using energy towards righting the religious inequality that happens here. I don’t believe this is so. What is so, is that no one likes being defined by other people. Just as Pagan’s don’t like being defined as not having faith from Christians, or worst Devil worshippers. Those who have taken the time to define themselves and their path don’t like it when others wish to sweep that work under the rug and slap a label on. 
    Excellent interview, excellent discussion. Props to Drew for being the only other person I’ve ever seen embrace that reconstruction is a method for some. And also, why the hell is there so many amazing people and groups in the middle of the country? I don’t want to live there but I would love to visit. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/V7AZR2KXQF6VMZ72KOVYZ4S4BY Shiroise

    Drew I have read the interview you pointed me to but it tells me very little. You just keep saying over and over that you and your people are “not Pagan.”
    Now of course you are perfectly entitled to say that. But if you don’t demonstrate something solid to show why you’re not Pagan, you will continue to be viewed as Pagan – especially by a lot of Pagans.

    In the interview you linked to -
    http://www.patheos.com/community/paganportal/2011/05/29/interview-with-drew-jacob/

    the only things you say apart from saying simply that you’re not Pagan, are -
    1.  Paganism is very much rooted in a modern worldview.

    Not so. Paganism is modern yes, and it flourishes in the modern world. Some of it is activated by modern needs for example people living in a highly techno society needed closer links with Nature.
    But take away the ancient inspirations for Paganism and we wouldn’t have Paganism at all. Paganism goes back to very ancient traditions. The Descent for example is 1,000s of years old. So are the sacrificial gods, and the polytheism which Drew holds and that is very Pagan.

    2. The only other bit I could find which was specific apart from you repeating simply that you’re not Pagan, was the myth of the Celtic Sun Goddess.

    You’re right that many newcomers to Paganism find this surprising. This is not about Paganism but about the political dominance of Roman/ Greek myths over the centuries of European history since Rome fell. The English, and other imperial cultures which ran Europe adopted Rome as their model, as its heirs. As a result Celtic cultures were suppressed so the idea of Sky God and Earth Mother was dominant and the Celtic polytheistic tradition which included a female Sun deity was lost in obscure literature.

    What you’re describing is just the surprise of people ignorant of culture outside the Roman Greek traditions and its imperialistic heirs. But this is also a teaching/ learning experience in any Pagan House or Temple that includes Celtic mythos.

    Now I notice that you avoided answering any of the points I made before. I’m not going to insist you try. But let’s at least look at what being Pagan means. That is central.

    Paganism, in terms of its modern, positive, religious or philosophical community meaning, is not complicated. All it means is that a Pagan “loves the Earth.
    Just that.

    To many that means the Earth Mother, or some idea of the feminine principle, or Goddess. But not necessarily. There are Pagan atheists, agnostics. There are Pagans who venerate only a male divinity. Or venerate nature spirits (animism). Or ancestors.

    To many Paganism means Green politics. Or it might mean care about picking up litter, or using eco products in the home. Something that recognises that we humans have an impact on the Earth, our planet, and a responsibility about that.

    But however a Pagan interprets it, as the Earth Mother, as picking up rubbish, as Green politics, tree veneration, herbalism, using eco-products, etc there will be some sense in which the Pagan “loves the Earth.
    Together with the respect, or love for the Earth goes a love for life, and especially a love for, or respect for the body. So teachings of sin and guilt are outside Paganism.
    Many would say that ‘immanence’ is at the core of Paganism. Either both immanence and transcendence, or immanence alone. Which is fancy thealogical talk for loving the Earth and the body.

    Now if you say that your people do NOT “love the Earth” in any sense, fair enough. If you are a group who cares nothing for the planet, to whom dropping litter is fine, and eco products are an annoying fuss about nothing, then yes I’d understand you’re not Pagan. If you feel nothing about cutting down trees in a forest, if a tree is nothing but useful wood to you, then yes I’d see you as not Pagan.
    If you deny the body and value making it hurt, or you teach your people to restrict bodily pleasure without reasons of kindness, or good health, then yes I’d see you as outside Paganism.
    But you haven’t said anything like this.

    All you’ve said is that you have formal courtesy about your altar; long apprenticeships; use of a Celtic language; your own interpretation of festivals; rituals not based on the Circle or the quarters; and you try not to mix material from other cultures outside Celtic traditions.
    There is NOTHING there that goes outside Paganism. I can think of plenty of Pagans who fit that portrait, especially Druid orders.

    As I said before if you say that your people are not interested in the wellbeing of the Earth, or else you teach sin and guilt, then yes you’re not Pagan. But being polytheist and Celtic is not the same as “not Pagan.” Polytheism and Celtic spirituality is entirely Pagan.

    On the other hand you’re certainly not Wicca. You’d have some arguments with Druids on some points but not so you couldn’t be seen as Druids.

    I’m interested to know why the aversion to being Pagan?
    It’s such a simple matter, so flexible and inclusive.

    • http://twitter.com/Rogue_Priest Drew Jacob

      Hi Shiroise,

      The very first question Star asked is what makes us different from Reconstructionists. I think my answer is pretty specific. In my  original post I listed a lot of specific differences between our religion and Wiccan-influenced Neopaganism.

      But you’re focusing entirely on our beliefs. As I’ve said over and over, the reason we’re not Pagan is because our community, collectively, does not identify that way. We don’t feel like part of the Pagan community at all. 

      This is not a theory, it’s our heartfelt experience. We have seen firsthand that self-identified Pagans don’t really like what we do or how we do it. People who have never heard of Paganism but love Irish culture tend to love what we do. So, as I’ve said numerous times:

      Calling ourselves Pagan feels like we are lying about who we are.

      There’s no way I can be more specific than that.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/V7AZR2KXQF6VMZ72KOVYZ4S4BY Shiroise

    Drew I have read the interview you pointed me to but it tells me very little. You just keep saying over and over that you and your people are “not Pagan.”
    Now of course you are perfectly entitled to say that. But if you don’t demonstrate something solid to show why you’re not Pagan, you will continue to be viewed as Pagan – especially by a lot of Pagans.

    In the interview you linked to -
    http://www.patheos.com/community/paganportal/2011/05/29/interview-with-drew-jacob/

    the only things you say apart from saying simply that you’re not Pagan, are -
    1.  Paganism is very much rooted in a modern worldview.

    Not so. Paganism is modern yes, and it flourishes in the modern world. Some of it is activated by modern needs for example people living in a highly techno society needed closer links with Nature.
    But take away the ancient inspirations for Paganism and we wouldn’t have Paganism at all. Paganism goes back to very ancient traditions. The Descent for example is 1,000s of years old. So are the sacrificial gods, and the polytheism which Drew holds and that is very Pagan.

    2. The only other bit I could find which was specific apart from you repeating simply that you’re not Pagan, was the myth of the Celtic Sun Goddess.

    You’re right that many newcomers to Paganism find this surprising. This is not about Paganism but about the political dominance of Roman/ Greek myths over the centuries of European history since Rome fell. The English, and other imperial cultures which ran Europe adopted Rome as their model, as its heirs. As a result Celtic cultures were suppressed so the idea of Sky God and Earth Mother was dominant and the Celtic polytheistic tradition which included a female Sun deity was lost in obscure literature.

    What you’re describing is just the surprise of people ignorant of culture outside the Roman Greek traditions and its imperialistic heirs. But this is also a teaching/ learning experience in any Pagan House or Temple that includes Celtic mythos.

    Now I notice that you avoided answering any of the points I made before. I’m not going to insist you try. But let’s at least look at what being Pagan means. That is central.

    Paganism, in terms of its modern, positive, religious or philosophical community meaning, is not complicated. All it means is that a Pagan “loves the Earth.
    Just that.

    To many that means the Earth Mother, or some idea of the feminine principle, or Goddess. But not necessarily. There are Pagan atheists, agnostics. There are Pagans who venerate only a male divinity. Or venerate nature spirits (animism). Or ancestors.

    To many Paganism means Green politics. Or it might mean care about picking up litter, or using eco products in the home. Something that recognises that we humans have an impact on the Earth, our planet, and a responsibility about that.

    But however a Pagan interprets it, as the Earth Mother, as picking up rubbish, as Green politics, tree veneration, herbalism, using eco-products, etc there will be some sense in which the Pagan “loves the Earth.
    Together with the respect, or love for the Earth goes a love for life, and especially a love for, or respect for the body. So teachings of sin and guilt are outside Paganism.
    Many would say that ‘immanence’ is at the core of Paganism. Either both immanence and transcendence, or immanence alone. Which is fancy thealogical talk for loving the Earth and the body.

    Now if you say that your people do NOT “love the Earth” in any sense, fair enough. If you are a group who cares nothing for the planet, to whom dropping litter is fine, and eco products are an annoying fuss about nothing, then yes I’d understand you’re not Pagan. If you feel nothing about cutting down trees in a forest, if a tree is nothing but useful wood to you, then yes I’d see you as not Pagan.
    If you deny the body and value making it hurt, or you teach your people to restrict bodily pleasure without reasons of kindness, or good health, then yes I’d see you as outside Paganism.
    But you haven’t said anything like this.

    All you’ve said is that you have formal courtesy about your altar; long apprenticeships; use of a Celtic language; your own interpretation of festivals; rituals not based on the Circle or the quarters; and you try not to mix material from other cultures outside Celtic traditions.
    There is NOTHING there that goes outside Paganism. I can think of plenty of Pagans who fit that portrait, especially Druid orders.

    As I said before if you say that your people are not interested in the wellbeing of the Earth, or else you teach sin and guilt, then yes you’re not Pagan. But being polytheist and Celtic is not the same as “not Pagan.” Polytheism and Celtic spirituality is entirely Pagan.

    On the other hand you’re certainly not Wicca. You’d have some arguments with Druids on some points but not so you couldn’t be seen as Druids.

    I’m interested to know why the aversion to being Pagan?
    It’s such a simple matter, so flexible and inclusive.

    • http://roguepriest.net/ Drew Jacob

      Hi Shiroise,

      The very first question Star asked is what makes us different from Reconstructionists. I think my answer is pretty specific. In my  original post I listed a lot of specific differences between our religion and Wiccan-influenced Neopaganism.

      But you’re focusing entirely on our beliefs. As I’ve said over and over, the reason we’re not Pagan is because our community, collectively, does not identify that way. We don’t feel like part of the Pagan community at all. 

      This is not a theory, it’s our heartfelt experience. We have seen firsthand that self-identified Pagans don’t really like what we do or how we do it. People who have never heard of Paganism but love Irish culture tend to love what we do. So, as I’ve said numerous times:

      Calling ourselves Pagan feels like we are lying about who we are.

      There’s no way I can be more specific than that.

  • Elle

    Star – I saw your skype interview and i wish you’d been given more time. you held your own well – but the expression on the other panelists faces often looked like someone had expelled gas at the table… It was comical at times… but you were really well spoken for the time you were given. 

    I also enjoyed reading your interview Drew Jacob – a very smart, erudite young man. I was a little confused about just where he stands as far as (any) religion goes, but he seems to be very sure where he’s heading with his flock and in the end, that’s all that matters. 

    I guess he can interpret “Pagans” and “Paganism” any way he pleases. In the strictest definition of the word – it doesn’t define anyone or any ideology very well: It is derived from the Latin pagus, whence pagani (i. e. those who live in the country), a name given to the country folk who remained heathen after the cities had become Christian. But, it is a fine old word and has come to define those of us who are Pagan in a broad and very colorful descriptive. Until such time as someone comes up with something better, I am happy to embrace it. 

    I have a group very similar to Drews – I teach the Ancient Celt histories,archeology, anthropology and what little rite and ritual we have been able to glean from the scant evidence left to us by our ancestors. I have to admit I’ve had some very weighty help with this in the persons of Dr. Mark Newell and Holli Emore. Dr. Newell is an Archeologist and Anthropologist and he specializes in Celtic History (the lucky man is a transplant from Wales!) and he is a grand master in the Ancient Path tradition. Holli Emore is the Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary and an expert in ancient religion, particularly Egyptian, North African and eastern religions. Both have been an incredible source of information for my members and my classes. 

    Not everyone in our group will end up “Pagan” – but at least we give them something beside the traditional neo-Pagan, Wiccan or re-constructionist directions. We stick mostly to the general direction that Drew has choosen – with one difference – we who are Pagan, embrace it like a dog on a bone. Everyone else will get what they want to get out of our sessions and discussion groups. 

    So far, we have been wildly successful. We have kept our group small and manageable. This give everyone a voice and some face time with me and with each other. We also do a few social events throughout the year – I remind them that sharing a meal together was the original social event… They embrace that task right willingly!

    I have to say – I was very sad to see the comments about your interview dissolving into bickering  in some cases. That seems to be the hardest thing in the world to keep at a dull roar when there are strong opinions about anything – but I would suggest that everyone pick your battles carefully… You and Star have a good thing going – keep it up!

    I’ll come back and visit when we get our Ezine, “The Quill & Cauldron” up and running! It will be accessible worldwide and won’t cost a dime for now (unless you wish to advertise in it). The Q&C is a quarterly and the first issue will be available 1 July 2011. If you have anything you’d like to see in print, stories, announcements, articles (such as the one above) photo’s etc. please submit them to:thequill.submit@quillandcauldron.com

    We’re also launching a Pagan Blog radio spot soon.. and we’d live to give Star (and anyone else) a voice as a guest speaker when we’re ready to go.  

    Thanks for allowing me into your world – it’s a great website!   

  • Elle

    Star – I saw your skype interview and i wish you’d been given more time. you held your own well – but the expression on the other panelists faces often looked like someone had expelled gas at the table… It was comical at times… but you were really well spoken for the time you were given. 

    I also enjoyed reading your interview Drew Jacob – a very smart, erudite young man. I was a little confused about just where he stands as far as (any) religion goes, but he seems to be very sure where he’s heading with his flock and in the end, that’s all that matters. 

    I guess he can interpret “Pagans” and “Paganism” any way he pleases. In the strictest definition of the word – it doesn’t define anyone or any ideology very well: It is derived from the Latin pagus, whence pagani (i. e. those who live in the country), a name given to the country folk who remained heathen after the cities had become Christian. But, it is a fine old word and has come to define those of us who are Pagan in a broad and very colorful descriptive. Until such time as someone comes up with something better, I am happy to embrace it. 

    I have a group very similar to Drews – I teach the Ancient Celt histories,archeology, anthropology and what little rite and ritual we have been able to glean from the scant evidence left to us by our ancestors. I have to admit I’ve had some very weighty help with this in the persons of Dr. Mark Newell and Holli Emore. Dr. Newell is an Archeologist and Anthropologist and he specializes in Celtic History (the lucky man is a transplant from Wales!) and he is a grand master in the Ancient Path tradition. Holli Emore is the Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary and an expert in ancient religion, particularly Egyptian, North African and eastern religions. Both have been an incredible source of information for my members and my classes. 

    Not everyone in our group will end up “Pagan” – but at least we give them something beside the traditional neo-Pagan, Wiccan or re-constructionist directions. We stick mostly to the general direction that Drew has choosen – with one difference – we who are Pagan, embrace it like a dog on a bone. Everyone else will get what they want to get out of our sessions and discussion groups. 

    So far, we have been wildly successful. We have kept our group small and manageable. This give everyone a voice and some face time with me and with each other. We also do a few social events throughout the year – I remind them that sharing a meal together was the original social event… They embrace that task right willingly!

    I have to say – I was very sad to see the comments about your interview dissolving into bickering  in some cases. That seems to be the hardest thing in the world to keep at a dull roar when there are strong opinions about anything – but I would suggest that everyone pick your battles carefully… You and Star have a good thing going – keep it up!

    I’ll come back and visit when we get our Ezine, “The Quill & Cauldron” up and running! It will be accessible worldwide and won’t cost a dime for now (unless you wish to advertise in it). The Q&C is a quarterly and the first issue will be available 1 July 2011. If you have anything you’d like to see in print, stories, announcements, articles (such as the one above) photo’s etc. please submit them to:thequill.submit@quillandcauldron.com

    We’re also launching a Pagan Blog radio spot soon.. and we’d live to give Star (and anyone else) a voice as a guest speaker when we’re ready to go.  

    Thanks for allowing me into your world – it’s a great website!   


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