Hail Columbia! A Call to Pagan-Americans!

Hail to Columbia! Spirit of Liberty! Guardian of our country’s Highest Ideals! Muse of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and the men and women who founded the United States! Inciter of just rebellion and champion of justice!

M’Colleague had a great idea. While I was planning to write about what Freedom means to Pagans, he wanted to know what it actually means to be Pagan-American. I thought about that for a minute and was stumped that I didn’t have a really clear idea of what “Pagan-American” means. He pointed out this exchange over at The Wild Hunt as an example:

Phaedra Bonewits: The second image is one we used to use a lot in the ’90s, but not so much now: when asking for your religious rights, wrap yourself in the American flag.

Baruch Dreamstalker: Good second point, Phaedra, we still wrap ourselves in the flag in the sense of citing Constitutional concepts as reasons why we should be allowed this headstone or that chaplain. Schultz gives us the harder assignment of articulating why our equal participation is good for America. Lots of folks of my generation lost that knack during the Vietnam War, to the extent that recapturing it virtually amounts to a spiritual exercise.

So I’m asking folks what they think it means? What makes Pagans valuable to America? What do we bring to the table? How do we exemplify American values? Looking back on the contributions that Jews and Catholics have made to our collective American identity, how do Pagans enrich the American identity?

You can post a short response below, or if you get wordy feel free to shoot it to me in an e-mail at sfoster@patheos.com. I’ll have a few responses going up this afternoon.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!

About Star Foster

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Donegan/1192591623 Jess Donegan

    Pagans bring diversity and tolerance to the table.  We’d have to if we wanted to remain in a community where no on has a unifying value except not Abrahamic.  Pagans help to reinforce what rights every American should have by demanding them.

    A pagan is like the idealized American in their focus on rugged individualism and determination to live life how they see best or how their gods see best.

    Like America we are a group with loosely linked ideals better identified by what we are not than what we we are.  We are to some degree both opt in terms.  We value free speech and free thought and honor that right for ourselves and for others.  We are about shifting the terms of a problem, argument or debate, and I think often America when at it’s best is about that too.  New ideas and different angles to look at and the right to explore them is really what America and paganism are both about in some ways.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Donegan/1192591623 Jess Donegan

    Pagans bring diversity and tolerance to the table.  We’d have to if we wanted to remain in a community where no on has a unifying value except not Abrahamic.  Pagans help to reinforce what rights every American should have by demanding them.

    A pagan is like the idealized American in their focus on rugged individualism and determination to live life how they see best or how their gods see best.

    Like America we are a group with loosely linked ideals better identified by what we are not than what we we are.  We are to some degree both opt in terms.  We value free speech and free thought and honor that right for ourselves and for others.  We are about shifting the terms of a problem, argument or debate, and I think often America when at it’s best is about that too.  New ideas and different angles to look at and the right to explore them is really what America and paganism are both about in some ways.  

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

    What I appreciate most about the pagan community is that we’re good at saying, “Your beliefs and practices aren’t the same as mine and may even offend me, but that’s okay, and I don’t insist that you have to like or observe my beliefs and practices.” Despite what the dominionists say, there’s plenty of room for all of us.

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

    What I appreciate most about the pagan community is that we’re good at saying, “Your beliefs and practices aren’t the same as mine and may even offend me, but that’s okay, and I don’t insist that you have to like or observe my beliefs and practices.” Despite what the dominionists say, there’s plenty of room for all of us.

  • http://www.teobishop.com Teo Bishop

    Wonderful questions! My response:

    What We Are: One Pagan-American Response (http://wp.me/p1AO5F-IZ)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove Teo Bishop

    I’m glad you brought this subject up, Star.

    Rather than answering your questions directly, which proved to be difficult as I have neither the historical context nor the broadest perspective on the matter, I chose to affirm what I see as the attributes that unite us as Pagans. Some may have grown tired of this discussion, but it seems to be a relevant one to continue having if we’re seeking to assert what “we” are, or what value “we” present to the culture at large.

    I believe that all people enrich their nation by being fully who they are, and by engaging with others in an honest, open and respectful fashion (much as you did during your interview on the Catholic broadcast). This post is my attempt at furthering the conversation with that spirit in mind.

    Blessings,
    Teo

    What We Are: One Pagan-American Response (http://wp.me/p1AO5F-IZ)

  • Patriceflanigan

    We remind Americans that freedom of thought and freedom of choice are valued in this country. We offer spiritual people ( who are often without a church/synagogue) a place to belong and we remind American’s that our planet needs cared for by those who are in a position to care.

  • Patriceflanigan

    We remind Americans that freedom of thought and freedom of choice are valued in this country. We offer spiritual people ( who are often without a church/synagogue) a place to belong and we remind American’s that our planet needs cared for by those who are in a position to care.

  • Brannen

    As the beloved next to me immediately spoke out as I finished reading your post to her, “I’m resentful that we’d need to justify ourselves, to present the Return on Investment before we can be extended basic rights.”

  • Brannen

    As the beloved next to me immediately spoke out as I finished reading your post to her, “I’m resentful that we’d need to justify ourselves, to present the Return on Investment before we can be extended basic rights.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1546700084 Valerie Herron

    Pagan-Americans bring a lot to the table. We show that those within a religion or spiritual path can think for themselves and think critically. Our luminaries show that one can simultaneously seek spiritual transcendence while still fighting hard for earthly concerns, such as egalitarianism; global human rights; and environmentalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1546700084 Valerie Herron

    Pagan-Americans bring a lot to the table. We show that those within a religion or spiritual path can think for themselves and think critically. Our luminaries show that one can simultaneously seek spiritual transcendence while still fighting hard for earthly concerns, such as egalitarianism; global human rights; and environmentalism.

  • http://PaganCenteredPodcast.com Dave of Pagan Centered Podcast

    Being a first-generation Pagan and being American (from the sense of being an immigrant) aren’t all dissimilar from one another.  Being a Pagan-American means being willing to abandon everything we’ve learned and everyone we know in pursuit of a better life and new possibilities.  Being Pagan-American means embracing a live-and-let-live philosophy even if it’s simply by means of avoiding those we disagree with to avoid creating unnecessary drama – there’s more than enough space for all of us.  While we may not agree with one-anothers’ philosophies, ideals or practices, we all made the same sacrifices to get here.  Our past will always have its mark upon us, but we do not let our past limit us.  

    Being a Pagan-American means being stewards of the land we borrow from the next generation, whether it is by something a simple as speaking against needless leveling of forests to living a sustainable lifestyle.  Being a Pagan-American is about acknowledging the freedom of others, embracing your freedom and doing something because it’s truly what you want to do, not merely because of peer pressure or because someone told you to.  Being Pagan-American means embracing and expressing one’s individualism even if that means coming up with labels for what one is becomes excessively difficult as a result.  We don’t act out of fear of needing to explain ourselves, we only truly fear divine forces and hope that how we act is worthy of their blessing (or at least their apathy).
    However being a Pagan-American also (or a nth-generation Pagan-American) means being ever vigilant to outside threats whether it is our armed warriors serving America or our courtroom warriors serving Paganism.  If we relax too much, what we have fought for and built to establish for ourselves will simply be destroyed either by external forces, infighting, unsustainable inefficiencies or paranoia against using the infrastructure we and our predecessors have built for us.

  • http://PaganCenteredPodcast.com Dave of Pagan Centered Podcast

    Being a first-generation Pagan and being American (from the sense of being an immigrant) aren’t all dissimilar from one another.  Being a Pagan-American means being willing to abandon everything we’ve learned and everyone we know in pursuit of a better life and new possibilities.  Being Pagan-American means embracing a live-and-let-live philosophy even if it’s simply by means of avoiding those we disagree with to avoid creating unnecessary drama – there’s more than enough space for all of us.  While we may not agree with one-anothers’ philosophies, ideals or practices, we all made the same sacrifices to get here.  Our past will always have its mark upon us, but we do not let our past limit us.  

    Being a Pagan-American means being stewards of the land we borrow from the next generation, whether it is by something a simple as speaking against needless leveling of forests to living a sustainable lifestyle.  Being a Pagan-American is about acknowledging the freedom of others, embracing your freedom and doing something because it’s truly what you want to do, not merely because of peer pressure or because someone told you to.  Being Pagan-American means embracing and expressing one’s individualism even if that means coming up with labels for what one is becomes excessively difficult as a result.  We don’t act out of fear of needing to explain ourselves, we only truly fear divine forces and hope that how we act is worthy of their blessing (or at least their apathy).
    However being a Pagan-American also (or a nth-generation Pagan-American) means being ever vigilant to outside threats whether it is our armed warriors serving America or our courtroom warriors serving Paganism.  If we relax too much, what we have fought for and built to establish for ourselves will simply be destroyed either by external forces, infighting, unsustainable inefficiencies or paranoia against using the infrastructure we and our predecessors have built for us.

  • http://PaganCenteredPodcast.com Dave of Pagan Centered Podcast

    Being a first-generation Pagan and being American (from the sense of being an immigrant – though I am not one myself I have researched my family ancestry) aren’t all dissimilar from one another.  Being a Pagan-American means being willing to abandon everything we’ve learned and everyone we know in pursuit of a better life and new possibilities.  Being Pagan-American means embracing a live-and-let-live philosophy even if it’s simply by means of avoiding those we disagree with to avoid creating unnecessary drama – there’s more than enough space for all of us.  While we may not agree with one-anothers’ philosophies, ideals or practices, we all made the same sacrifices to get here.  Our past will always have its mark upon us, but we do not let our past limit us.  

    Being a Pagan-American means being stewards of the land we borrow from the next generation, whether it is by something a simple as speaking against needless leveling of forests to living a sustainable lifestyle.  Being a Pagan-American is about acknowledging the freedom of others, embracing your freedom and doing something because it’s truly what you want to do, not merely because of peer pressure or because someone told you to.  Being Pagan-American means embracing and expressing one’s individualism even if that means coming up with labels for what one is becomes excessively difficult as a result.  We don’t act out of fear of needing to explain ourselves, we only truly fear divine forces and hope that how we act is worthy of their blessing (or at least their apathy).

    However being a Pagan-American also (or a nth-generation Pagan-American) means being ever vigilant to outside threats whether it is our armed warriors serving America or our courtroom warriors serving Paganism.  If we relax too much, what we have fought for and built to establish for ourselves will simply be destroyed either by external forces, infighting, unsustainable inefficiencies or paranoia against using the infrastructure we and our predecessors have built for us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000890023627 Re DuVernay

    I agree very strongly with James Bulls and Jess Donegan on this one.

    I think the biggest thing that Pagans bring to the table is the promotion of pluralism. America is supposed to be “The Great Melting Pot” and in order for that to be true, we must be able to except those who are different from us. Especially in our current era where so many people seem to be acting against our nations great legacy of diversity, it is extremely valuable to have as many people as we can speaking out in favor of the variety that made our nation great to begin with!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000890023627 Re DuVernay

    I agree very strongly with James Bulls and Jess Donegan on this one.

    I think the biggest thing that Pagans bring to the table is the promotion of pluralism. America is supposed to be “The Great Melting Pot” and in order for that to be true, we must be able to except those who are different from us. Especially in our current era where so many people seem to be acting against our nations great legacy of diversity, it is extremely valuable to have as many people as we can speaking out in favor of the variety that made our nation great to begin with!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been chatting w/ Columbia lately:  http://hecatedemeter.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/195/

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    I’ve been chatting w/ Columbia lately:  http://hecatedemeter.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/195/

  • Sabina Magliocco

    Pagan Americans keep alive the ideals of the framers of the Constitution, who modeled their new country on ancient pagan democracies and believed in individual freedom, separation of church and state. 

    As several respondents already commented, modern Pagans also offer ways of connecting to the land, protecting our natural resources, and living in harmony with other species.  The Emersonian idea of the sacredness of nature is a key part of the American ethos; Pagans are its contemporary embodiment.

    Finally, Paganism manifests the idea of the perfectable human being — the human being as equal to, and even able to become, a deity.  This is another value that is central to the American worldview.

  • Sabina Magliocco

    Pagan Americans keep alive the ideals of the framers of the Constitution, who modeled their new country on ancient pagan democracies and believed in individual freedom, separation of church and state. 

    As several respondents already commented, modern Pagans also offer ways of connecting to the land, protecting our natural resources, and living in harmony with other species.  The Emersonian idea of the sacredness of nature is a key part of the American ethos; Pagans are its contemporary embodiment.

    Finally, Paganism manifests the idea of the perfectable human being — the human being as equal to, and even able to become, a deity.  This is another value that is central to the American worldview.

  • Lonnie Murray

    Our roots and our Nations are one in the same.   Indeed our democracy doesn’t come from the Bible, but rather was inspired by Athenian and Roman democracy.   For that matter, Jefferson was well aware of Native American tribes that voted in tribal councils.Futhermore, the Deism movement was in many ways the precursor to the Neopagan movement.  The Rotunda at the University of Virginia was even inspired by an Athenian temple, and it was not unusual for our founders to build shrines with statues of ancient gods. (Admittedly though this was mainly an aesthetic not for actual worship per se).   It’s no accident then that Nature appears three times in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independance. 

    The heirs of the elightenment were arguably the Romantics and Transcendentalists.   While the Neopagan movement was deeply tied into these two movements in Europe and the United States, they were also connected to human rights and an awakening environmental consiousness.    In the United States, Transcendentalists like Walt Whitman “America’s Poet”, spoke equally about the rights of women, the end of slavery, and the importance of Nature as a source of Spiritual inspiration.   In europe, most all of the Neopagan groups originated in some way with Romantics like Wordsworth who said “I’d rather be Pagan…”  and also played an important role in protecting the Lake District. In many ways, modern American Neopaganism began with Gleb Botkin, the son of the Tsar’s personal physician, who fled Russia when his father was killed during the communist revolution.   On of his first acts in reaching the United States in the 1930′s was to establish his “Church of Aprhrodite” and had to fight for the right to do so in front of the New York Supreme court (and won).  This is a powerful story that illustrates that Neopaganism is deeply tied up in the American story of fightiing oppression (religious or otherwise) and that our freedom is bound up in the freedom of all minorities in the United States. I’d argue that our importance to America is the same as it has always been.  We don’t see human rights, the environment and spirituality as seperate.  We’re also radicals in the sense that we’ve never been mainstream but always taken an important role in shaping society. In our time it may be protecting the religious freedom of soldiers, energy reform, or helping protect biodiversity.  It may be also bridging the gap between a mystical and magical view of the universe and the materialistic views of science.   Who knows?  I’m sure though that Pagans will continue to play a vital role in shaping our democracy, just as the Athenians did before us.

    • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      These are all concepts from the ancient Greeks and Romans (as often as not, we still use their words for them): Democracy, Liberty, Free Speech (parrhesia), Constitutional government, the Republican form of government, Equality (isonomia).

      The ancient Pagans also practiced freedom of religion on a scale difficult to even imagine today, with dozens of religions coexisting side by side.

  • Lonnie Murray

    Our roots and our Nations are one in the same.   Indeed our democracy doesn’t come from the Bible, but rather was inspired by Athenian and Roman democracy.   For that matter, Jefferson was well aware of Native American tribes that voted in tribal councils.Futhermore, the Deism movement was in many ways the precursor to the Neopagan movement.  The Rotunda at the University of Virginia was even inspired by an Athenian temple, and it was not unusual for our founders to build shrines with statues of ancient gods. (Admittedly though this was mainly an aesthetic not for actual worship per se).   It’s no accident then that Nature appears three times in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independance. 

    The heirs of the elightenment were arguably the Romantics and Transcendentalists.   While the Neopagan movement was deeply tied into these two movements in Europe and the United States, they were also connected to human rights and an awakening environmental consiousness.    In the United States, Transcendentalists like Walt Whitman “America’s Poet”, spoke equally about the rights of women, the end of slavery, and the importance of Nature as a source of Spiritual inspiration.   In europe, most all of the Neopagan groups originated in some way with Romantics like Wordsworth who said “I’d rather be Pagan…”  and also played an important role in protecting the Lake District. In many ways, modern American Neopaganism began with Gleb Botkin, the son of the Tsar’s personal physician, who fled Russia when his father was killed during the communist revolution.   On of his first acts in reaching the United States in the 1930′s was to establish his “Church of Aprhrodite” and had to fight for the right to do so in front of the New York Supreme court (and won).  This is a powerful story that illustrates that Neopaganism is deeply tied up in the American story of fightiing oppression (religious or otherwise) and that our freedom is bound up in the freedom of all minorities in the United States. I’d argue that our importance to America is the same as it has always been.  We don’t see human rights, the environment and spirituality as seperate.  We’re also radicals in the sense that we’ve never been mainstream but always taken an important role in shaping society. In our time it may be protecting the religious freedom of soldiers, energy reform, or helping protect biodiversity.  It may be also bridging the gap between a mystical and magical view of the universe and the materialistic views of science.   Who knows?  I’m sure though that Pagans will continue to play a vital role in shaping our democracy, just as the Athenians did before us.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      These are all concepts from the ancient Greeks and Romans (as often as not, we still use their words for them): Democracy, Liberty, Free Speech (parrhesia), Constitutional government, the Republican form of government, Equality (isonomia).

      The ancient Pagans also practiced freedom of religion on a scale difficult to even imagine today, with dozens of religions coexisting side by side.

  • http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com Greyhawk Grognard

    Is it just me, or does Columbia look like Madeline Kahn?

  • Guest

    Is it just me, or does Columbia look like Madeline Kahn?


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