A New Look at the Pagan Umbrella

Who is Pagan exactly? It’s a question we’ve struggled with for decades. Often this questioned is answered by how people identify themselves. But Cara Schulz has taken a different approach. She looked around and tried to find which essential common factors existed in the Pagans she knew. And she came up with an intriguing theory.

Maybe she’s wrong. Maybe she’s right. Maybe you like the theory. Maybe you hate it. But you have to admit it’s fascinating to consider in all its implications.

Let me make four statements about Pagans, in general, and see if you agree with them.

Pagans …
Celebrate the Wheel of the Year and subscribe to left leaning politics.
or
Don’t celebrate the Wheel of the Year and subscribe to left leaning politics, but they probably aren’t very involved in the Pagan community.
or
Can even be atheists IF they subscribe to left leaning (especially environmental) politics.
or
If you Celebrate the Wheel of the Year, but don’t subscribe to Left leaning politics, you are on the fringe of the community, but still included.

When a subset of atheists (and I have nothing against them at all) are under a religious umbrella, you get the idea that religion is not the most important unifying feature of a group. The people who are active and thrive within the community are those celebrate the Wheel and are culturally left.

However, you are not part of the Pagan community if you …
Don’t celebrate the Wheel of the Year and don’t subscribe to left leaning politics.

Take a minute to consider this theory. Think about all the Pagans you know. Don’t think of how they identify, but how they really are. How many of them fit this reality map? Is it possible that though this may not be how we want to be, is this the way we really are?

Seriously take a moment to let this sink in. Let it marinate a minute. Go back and read Cara’s original post and the comments attached.

Now if this theory is valid, if it holds water, if this dog will hunt, then that brings up some important points to my way of thinking:

Most cultures attached to religions are dependent upon and secondary to the religion. If Paganism is primarily cultural/social/political, then in honest interfaith dialogue is Paganism as an identity useless?

If you identify as primarily religious, and secondarily a cultural Pagan, does that put you on the fringe of the Pagan community?

Is our cultural emphasis, rather than religious emphasis, the key factor in Paganism steadfastly remaining an amorphous, undefined community?

We talk about orthopraxy being preferable to the dogmatism that can come from orthodoxy, but is it time to recognize that the myth of orthopraxy (i.e. the Wheel of the Year) can be just as dogmatic?

Is more useful for us to abandon the shallow, inaccurate “Pagan umbrella” and chose rather to represent ourselves more authentically? Is the umbrella more honest and powerful than separate allies working towards agreed goals?

Does taking honest stock of our differences and recognizing them openly make us weaker, or stronger?

I’m trying to reason out the answers to these questions. I will likely find new questions. What I do know is that this image disturbs me, and it mostly disturbs me because I think it might be right.

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About Star Foster

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


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