UPDATED-Link Round-Up: Is the Pagan Label/Community Useful?

*EVEN MORE new links added below*

Polytheists are making the argument that their communities thrive better without the Pagan label and community, and it’s generated a boatload of discussion. Here’s a lists of posts discussing this issue, beginning with the post that set the ball, or some might say golden apple, rolling.

*An interview with Drew Jacob, an article by T. Thorn Coyle and column by Eric Scott are forthcoming and will be linked here along with any other relevant responses to this debate.*

Drew Jacob: Why I’m Not Pagan, Interview with Drew Jacob and The Opt-In Approach to Religion

Helio: Polytheist More Enlightening Label

Scott Reimers: It’s Time for Pagans to Stop Being Pagan

T. Thorn Coyle writes Paganism: Some Questions, Paganism: One Working Answer and Can We Share A Common Fire?

Allyson: It’s a Matter of Association

Sannion: I Am A Pagan , Further Thought on the Pagan Identity Crisis and The Canons of the Council of Eugene

Laura LaVoie: Pagans Need United Front

Tess Dawson: My Unrequited Love for Pagans

Ruby Sara: The Troublesome Term Again

Allison Leigh Lilly: Religious Branding

Cora Post: The Iconoclast Explained Pts One, Two and Three

David Salisbury: Vocabulary Is A Privilege

Marcel: Polytheist Has Fewer Preconceived Notions

Vopiscus: A Matter of Values

Resa: Labeling Is Complicated

Cara Schulz: Choosing to Remain Under the Pagan Umbrella

Star Foster: Real World Benefits of Not Being Pagan and Our Conduct Matters, Not Our Labels

Black Pagan: Pagan or pagan?

Bear Fairie: Pagans Applies to Me, Not My Traditions

Alorer: Why I Am A Pagan

Ash Freeman: Who is Welcome Under the Umbrella?

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus: The (Perceived) Problem with Pagan

Teo Bishop: Pagan Is The New Gay

Peter Dybing: Witch Wars Revisited

Lamyka: Pagan Family Comes First

Jason Pitzl-Waters: Paganism, Solidarity and the Way Forward

Nouvelle Noir Goddess: “Pagan” from the view of the African Traditionalist Community

Crystal Blanton: I’m Pagan and I’m Proud

Jon Hanna: Together We Fall, Divided We Stand

Matthew Hunt: Differences are Real and Important


About Star Foster

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

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Hey Star!  I just did a (rather long) post on this over on my blog, in case you’re interested:

    “The (Perceived) Problem with ‘Pagan’”

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Hey Star!  I just did a (rather long) post on this over on my blog, in case you’re interested:

    “The (Perceived) Problem with ‘Pagan’”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1309881889 Lezlie Kinyon

    I am Pagan. Period. I don’t care what the treat of you call each other.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Me too. I’m proud of what it stand for (if not for every person or action under its banner). As an umbrella term, of course it’s horribly imprecise and loaded with all sort of presumptions about what it might mean, but as crazy and disjointed as the pagan landscape is, I still feel very much more at home here than in Christianity, atheism or whatever new umbrella term I might care to coin for myself. Look, if people’s beliefs and practices just don’t resemble or mesh with anything else they see in “paganism” then don’t use the term.

      On the other hand a of what I’m hearing is more like South Park’s Cartman..”screw you guys, I’m going home!”  At some level, people are giving up too easily. By that I mean that people are ceding ground that is rightfully theirs as much as anyone elses. By example, I don’t want to be a part of much of what is done by Americans in America’s name these days. Westboro Baptist, the Tea Party, war as it’s own justification.  I could simply refuse to be called American anymore and go hide in some desert compound. Believe me it’s tempting. The rest of me says “hell no, you guys aren’t all that America is about!”

       Same with paganism. I don’t sign onto everything that goes on under it’s umbrella to be sure. It has its share of lunatics and dishonorable sorts and lots and lots of religious practices which just aren’t what I do. But at the end of the day, in the aggregate I think it’s something worth engaging and defending and putting my own small mark upon. For all of our irreconcilable differences, I think we are all asserting our spiritual freedom to reconnect with old deities and old ways (to varying levels of depth and accuracy, of course). At 40, I still have just enough kid left in me to think that’s pretty damn cool.

      I also think that people have an unrealistic idea about what “leaving” paganism will do for them.  The problems inherent in paganism are timeless human problems. Slapping a new label on yourself and even changing your associations aren’t going to create a new drama or idiot free paradise somewhere. Nobody outruns their problems. Nor will divorcing yourself from “paganism” win you any respect or trust from your enemies in Christendom or popular culture. If you’ve had any run-ins with those folks, you know that they don’t get nuance.

      For all that, I agree that we can all agree that the term “pagan” is one of limited use.  There are relatively few things within that one term that unite all of us. We will rarely have a consensus agenda and it’s probably unrealistic to have regular and meaningful rituals among people of very widely disparate religions.

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

        Except that “what paganism is about” has always been a vague thing, at best.  The earliest form of the term was a pejorative one, a word of derision applied in a similar way that characters in the Harry Potter books may use “muggle”.

        True, not every post linked points this out, but those that have are under no delusions that this will make their religion somehow more “acceptable” to Christians (of course, people with such delusions exist, I’ve conversed with them, but those are clearly not people whose words are being linked to here).  Hell, nobody linked seems deluded enough to suppose that distancing oneself from the term will make them better-accepted.  Hell, Hindus rarely, if ever, self-identify as “pagan”, and both popes in my lifetime have said that they’ve love to see every Hindu converted — obviously eschewing that self-identification doesn’t equate “acceptable to Abrahamists”.  That you even suggest such strikes me as a straw-man argument that really has no place here.

        The reality is that the term “pagan” is of loaded etymology, and of sparse real-life use.  At most, it describes a “scene” that many people of all sorts of religions and spiritual paths may or may not be a part of, and at the least, it describes a vague set of religious topics.  At its best, it is a benign term often adopted as self-identification, and at worst, it is an antiquated put-down for polytheists in the rise of Christianity.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

          All of these problems you mention are valid, but they’re going to be equally true of any term coined in substitution for “paganism.”

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

            Except that said problems won’t be “equally true” of every possible word.

            “Witch” is a loaded word, historically, but not all polytheists practise a form of witchcraft, and some polytheistic traditions have taboos concerning certain forms of magic, especially those that bring harm to another.

            “Polytheist”?  Does not have that history.  Yeah, Sannion points out that even “Hellene” isn’t as unloaded as many modern Hellenes like to think it is, but you’re still operating from fallacious logic that because some words</i. share certain flaws and loaded histories, then all potential terms therefore must, when there’s no real evidence that they do will or should.

            Furthermore, your attachment to this word, and your intriguing apparent desire to fit all sorts of people into it, whether they want the word or not, is ignoring the fact that it’s been repeatedly been brought up (most eloquently by Star herself) that clinging to terminology and communities that one doesn’t have much use for can be kind of toxic.

            Let’s turn around the hypotheticals, and suppose that all these people who are problematic or simply of little use to the various religious communities under the “pagan umbrella” stopped identifying with the term “pagan” — their cultural problems are still there, they’re just making it some other group’s problem, and the word “pagan” still says precious little about what Heathens, Hellenes, Kemetics, Gaels, British, and all sorts of other polytheistic traditions practise and value, and it’s doing Feri and Wicca (and other craft-based paths) no real services nor disservices, either.

            The problem is less, inherently, with words than it is with community, but the vocabulary really isn’t benefitting a lot of communities.

  • LezlieKinyon

    I am Pagan. Period. I don’t care what the treat of you call each other.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

      Me too. I’m proud of what it stand for (if not for every person or action under its banner). As an umbrella term, of course it’s horribly imprecise and loaded with all sort of presumptions about what it might mean, but as crazy and disjointed as the pagan landscape is, I still feel very much more at home here than in Christianity, atheism or whatever new umbrella term I might care to coin for myself. Look, if people’s beliefs and practices just don’t resemble or mesh with anything else they see in “paganism” then don’t use the term.

      On the other hand a of what I’m hearing is more like South Park’s Cartman..”screw you guys, I’m going home!”  At some level, people are giving up too easily. By that I mean that people are ceding ground that is rightfully theirs as much as anyone elses. By example, I don’t want to be a part of much of what is done by Americans in America’s name these days. Westboro Baptist, the Tea Party, war as it’s own justification.  I could simply refuse to be called American anymore and go hide in some desert compound. Believe me it’s tempting. The rest of me says “hell no, you guys aren’t all that America is about!”

       Same with paganism. I don’t sign onto everything that goes on under it’s umbrella to be sure. It has its share of lunatics and dishonorable sorts and lots and lots of religious practices which just aren’t what I do. But at the end of the day, in the aggregate I think it’s something worth engaging and defending and putting my own small mark upon. For all of our irreconcilable differences, I think we are all asserting our spiritual freedom to reconnect with old deities and old ways (to varying levels of depth and accuracy, of course). At 40, I still have just enough kid left in me to think that’s pretty damn cool.

      I also think that people have an unrealistic idea about what “leaving” paganism will do for them.  The problems inherent in paganism are timeless human problems. Slapping a new label on yourself and even changing your associations aren’t going to create a new drama or idiot free paradise somewhere. Nobody outruns their problems. Nor will divorcing yourself from “paganism” win you any respect or trust from your enemies in Christendom or popular culture. If you’ve had any run-ins with those folks, you know that they don’t get nuance.

      For all that, I agree that we can all agree that the term “pagan” is one of limited use.  There are relatively few things within that one term that unite all of us. We will rarely have a consensus agenda and it’s probably unrealistic to have regular and meaningful rituals among people of very widely disparate religions.

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

        Except that “what paganism is about” has always been a vague thing, at best.  The earliest form of the term was a pejorative one, a word of derision applied in a similar way that characters in the Harry Potter books may use “muggle”. Even as recently as the late Victorian, its implications were of silly “romantics” who “wouldn’t survive ancient Greece”. The idea of it as a self-identifier is far too new for it to really “stand for” much.

        True, not every post linked points this out, but those that have are under no delusions that this will make their religion somehow more “acceptable” to Christians (of course, people with such delusions exist, I’ve conversed with them, but those are clearly not people whose words are being linked to here).  Hell, nobody linked seems deluded enough to suppose that distancing oneself from the term will make them better-accepted.  Hell, Hindus rarely, if ever, self-identify as “pagan”, and both popes in my lifetime have said that they’ve love to see every Hindu converted — obviously eschewing that self-identification doesn’t equate “acceptable to Abrahamists”.  That you even suggest such strikes me as a straw-man argument that really has no place here.

        The reality is that the term “pagan” is of loaded etymology, and of sparse real-life use.  At most, it describes a “scene” that many people of all sorts of religions and spiritual paths may or may not be a part of, and at the least, it describes a vague set of religious topics.  At its best, it is a benign term often adopted as self-identification, and at worst, it is an antiquated put-down for polytheists in the rise of Christianity.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PMTLR3IIGKPHZ2YNU3PDXWK4WA Kenneth

          All of these problems you mention are valid, but they’re going to be equally true of any term coined in substitution for “paganism.”

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

            Except that said problems won’t be “equally true” of every possible word.

            “Witch” is a loaded word, historically, but not all polytheists practise a form of witchcraft, and some polytheistic traditions have explicit or implicit taboos concerning certain forms of magic, especially those that bring harm to another.

            “Polytheist”?  Does not have that history.  Yeah, Sannion points out that even “Hellene” isn’t as unloaded as many modern Hellenes like to think it is, but you’re still operating from fallacious logic that because some words share certain flaws and loaded histories, then all potential terms therefore must, when there’s no real evidence that they do will or should.

            Furthermore, your attachment to this word, and your intriguing apparent desire to fit all sorts of people into it, whether they want the word or not, is ignoring the fact that it’s been repeatedly been brought up (most eloquently by Star herself) that clinging to terminology and communities that one doesn’t have much use for can be kind of toxic.

            Let’s turn around the hypotheticals, and suppose that all these people who are problematic or simply of little use to the various religious communities under the “pagan umbrella” stopped identifying with the term “pagan” — their cultural problems are still there, they’re just making it some other group’s problem, and the word “pagan” still says precious little about what Heathens, Hellenes, Kemetics, Gaels, British, and all sorts of other polytheistic traditions practise and value, and it’s doing Feri and Wicca (and other craft-based paths) no real services nor disservices, either.

            The problem is less, inherently, with words than it is with community, but the vocabulary really isn’t benefitting a lot of communities.

  • http://twitter.com/MrsBsConfession MrsB

    Thanks for all the great links. So much to read and consider.

  • http://twitter.com/MrsBsConfession MrsB

    Thanks for all the great links. So much to read and consider.

  • Nydia

    In the end of the day, I think it doesn’t matter which label we use, as long as we walk our paths with dignity and respect to one another. The rest is just a matter of terminlogy and which term we feel more comfortable with to describe ourselves.

    Great post, thanks for the links! :)

  • Nydia

    In the end of the day, I think it doesn’t matter which label we use, as long as we walk our paths with dignity and respect to one another. The rest is just a matter of terminlogy and which term we feel more comfortable with to describe ourselves.

    Great post, thanks for the links! :)

  • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy
  • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy
  • sam webster, m.div, phd(c)

    An excellent and important topic! Below is what I wrote on it in 1999.
    I think it is still relevant:

    “Why I call Myself Pagan”
    http://hermetic.com/webster/why-pagan.html
    )O+
    sam webster, m.div, phd(c)

  • sam webster, m.div, phd(c)

    An excellent and important topic! Below is what I wrote on it in 1999.
    I think it is still relevant:

    “Why I call Myself Pagan”
    http://hermetic.com/webster/why-pagan.html
    )O+
    sam webster, m.div, phd(c)

  • Myrkr

    Myrkr here, I wrote a (brief) post on the whole Pagan Identity issue.

    http://myrkr.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/pagan-identity-crisis-2011/

  • Myrkr

    Myrkr here, I wrote a (brief) post on the whole Pagan Identity issue.

    http://myrkr.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/pagan-identity-crisis-2011/

  • Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

     I posted some musing on the subject here: http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com/
    -Djhutmosu

  • Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

     I posted some musing on the subject here: http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com/
    -Djhutmosu

  • http://kallisti.writingkaye.com Kaye Bohémier

    I am another of the million and one people who has an opinion about this … http://kallisti.writingkaye.com/2011/05/word-pagan-and-abrahamic-privilege.html

    Also, is it just me or do we keep arguing about this every year?

  • http://kallisti.writingkaye.com/ Kaye

    I am another of the million and one people who has an opinion about this … http://kallisti.writingkaye.com/2011/05/word-pagan-and-abrahamic-privilege.html

    Also, is it just me or do we keep arguing about this every year?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2ZNSWRACRDWPG3UVXMIL3USBI M.A.

    Great discussion!
    Some of my own thoughts on the mater can be found at my blog
    Finnchuill  

    http://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/i-pagan/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2ZNSWRACRDWPG3UVXMIL3USBI M.A.

    Great discussion!
    Some of my own thoughts on the mater can be found at my blog
    Finnchuill  

    http://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/i-pagan/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2ZNSWRACRDWPG3UVXMIL3USBI M.A.

    Seems like my first comment disappeared.

    Anyway, great discussion going on!

    My own thoughts can be found at my blog: http://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/i-pagan/

    Finnchuill  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2ZNSWRACRDWPG3UVXMIL3USBI M.A.

    Seems like my first comment disappeared.

    Anyway, great discussion going on!

    My own thoughts can be found at my blog: http://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/i-pagan/

    Finnchuill  

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    All of the great links to blogs are appreciated.

    I use the generic term “Pagan” because most American folks 1.) don’t care, and 2.) think that Polytheist means either without saturated fat or having more than one wife, and 3.) because “indigenous European folkloric traditionalist of Cymri descent” is too darned hard to pronounce.  “Earth Spirituality” and “Nature Religion” works too.

    This whole issue reminds me of Mr. Benjamin Franklin’s comment about hanging together or we’ll all hang separately.  Yes, we spiritually need to be surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, perspective and actions.  Yet we still need to form a community, and to interact in greater society.

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    All of the great links to blogs are appreciated.

    I use the generic term “Pagan” because most American folks 1.) don’t care, and 2.) think that Polytheist means either without saturated fat or having more than one wife, and 3.) because “indigenous European folkloric traditionalist of Cymri descent” is too darned hard to pronounce.  “Earth Spirituality” and “Nature Religion” works too.

    This whole issue reminds me of Mr. Benjamin Franklin’s comment about hanging together or we’ll all hang separately.  Yes, we spiritually need to be surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, perspective and actions.  Yet we still need to form a community, and to interact in greater society.

  • Mark

    I used to consider myself a Pagan, and I stopped because I could no longer intellectually respect the beliefs of that community. Essay at http://www.scribd.com/doc/56488533/Godless-Heathen explains and explores possibility of a reality-based Earth-centered godless religious practice.

  • Mark

    I used to consider myself a Pagan, and I stopped because I could no longer intellectually respect the beliefs of that community. Essay at http://www.scribd.com/doc/56488533/Godless-Heathen explains and explores possibility of a reality-based Earth-centered godless religious practice.


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