Being Pagan can mean your beliefs aren’t always easy to explain, even to other Pagans. Your beliefs and practices may span several Pagan traditions. You may have a private faith practice far different from your group practice. The complex plurality of Pagan religions can be unfathomable to outsiders.
Take me for instance. My personal private practice is based on Celtic Reconstructionism and Hellenismos, but I’m also active in a Wiccan coven. These are three different Pagan religious traditions, yet I find no contradiction in my practice. Just as I am a member of a city, county, state and federal government, so I have a personal, community and global faith practice.
After reading Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Circle of Stones, I began to work with the Irish Celtic pantheon. Devotions to Lugh, Danu, Bile, Brighid, and the Dagda occupied my spiritual life. However, it was with Manannan mac Lir I formed a close relationship. Uncle Manny is wise, strong and my harbinger of change. It didn’t really occur to me that the way I was interacting with Irish dieties was derived from Celtic Reconstructionism; it was simply what felt right.
As I continued to explore Pagan religions I became involved in Hellenismos, or Greek Reconstructionism. Drew Campbell’s Old Stones, New Temples was an invaluable resource. I tentatively approached the Gods of Olympus, finding some ambivalent, some hostile, some repugnant and some intoxicating. Rather unexpectedly I formed a strong connection with Hephaistos who grudgingly took me under his wing.
My relationship with Hephaistos, the way I interact with him and my devotions to him are very different from my experience with Manannan. I would never offer Manannan olive oil and red wine as I do Hephaistos. They’re from different cultures and I as I love them I respect that.
Over the years my spiritual family has grown to include Baba Yaga, Selu, Diancecht, Bona Dea and Inanna among others. Each God unique, requiring respect and culturally appropriate offerings.
My personal faith practice is rich and satisfying, but it’s not to be shared. I don’t think I could participate in a group ritual to Manannan. My relationship to him is too intensely personal. It would feel wrong.
I do enjoy group ritual though and I find deep meaning in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. The Horned God of Witchcraft is a powerful and deep energy that has marked my life with mystery and passion. So although my private practice is not based on Wicca, I find great joy and meaning in practicing Wicca in a traditional coven.
Beyond my local community, such as when I blog, my faith takes on yet another transformation. I embrace many Pagan religions and practices, whether or not I practice them. I read the Eddas, I learn about the Great Work of Ceremonial Magick and I defend the practices of Voodou and Santeria. Without pretending all Pagan religions and practices are the same, or even compatible, I respect and embrace all of them as vibrant explorations of the meaning of life. I become Pagan with a capital P, embracing the diversity of our traditions as a whole and identifying with the wider community.
All of my faith identities are real and meaningful, my private practice is no more or less important than my public stance, and neither invalidate the beauty and mystery I encounter when standing in a moonlit circle with Witches before a Wiccan altar.
So next time someone asks you what kind of Pagan you are, maybe you should consider how many kinds of Pagan you are. The plurality of Paganism extends beyond the Gods we worship to the number of faiths we carry in our heart simultaneously, and extends back to the home altars and state rituals of the classical world.