The Endless Judgmentalism of Paganism

The Endless Judgmentalism of Paganism January 15, 2020

It feels a bit judge-y to be judgmental about judgmentalism, honestly. Yet I am feeling this nowadays, and sometimes I get disheartened about the lack of respect towards and in the Pagan community. Recently, a blog has been shared by someone who was trying to be witty and pithy about being a witch for a week. I read it, didn’t think much about it, because honestly, the tone was very careless, and I knew she was going more for the “aren’t I clever?” vibe. My first instinct is to pay it no mind, because words are important and where you direct your energy is important is well. I am extremely protective of my energy, both mental and spiritual, so I felt it best to not send any more her way. She didn’t really experience what it’s like to be a witch, and just dipped her toe in, so it’s her loss if she didn’t want to learn more.

Photo via Canstock

As soon as I relegated it to the back of my mind, I felt my body stiffen, because I knew the inevitable backlash would occur. And sure enough, it did. Rolling in like thunder, all across my media feed. How dare she? What does she know? Grumble, grumble. You all gave her many clicks, and kept passing it along, to the point that it now looks like a successful article. Did you mean to do that? No, but in your haste to prove how she was wrong, you did.

I’m not saying don’t be outraged. I am saying: choose your battles wisely. It’s almost comical how rote this process is, so take this moment (if you have read this far) to do a bit of self-examination. She showed a lack of respect towards witches, but do you show a lack of respect to anyone who doesn’t trod your path? I can’t tell you how many times people complain to me about others in the Pagan community about being dismissive about other’s knowledge, practice or questions. I’ve seen many sniff haughtily as they ask “How do you identify yourself?” as if we are comparing the different houses in Harry Potter. I’ve seen many cling to their traditions like a security blanket, available only to a special few people.

Let me be plain: None of us have all the answers. We can always learn more. None of us have the best and only practices in the Universe. We need to welcome people to the community, not look down on them, not judge their paths or practices, or dismiss what they do. Are there people who are in Paganism and witchcraft for the “coolness” factor? Are there inauthentic people in the community? Are there people with mental illness using magic and witchcraft to distract them from their own issues? Sure, but you don’t need to alienate them on top of everything else. You don’t get to decide for them. If what someone says or does truly doesn’t resonate, just keep it moving. No sense arguing, or trying to prove yourself as superior. We are all in this together, so have respect for others, even if they aren’t in agreement with your personal practice. What works for me may not work for you, but isn’t that the beauty of our own individual practices?

As for me, I love learning about people’s practices, methods, and seeing their altars. I have no idea about the Orishas really, but I will always listen to my friends who follow them. When did we stop being part of this widely, beautifully varied and multi-layered world, and part of a homogeneous Pagan blob? Is it truly “my way or the highway”? When I post about what I do, or if I advise someone, I strive to say, “This is what works for me.” My goal is to get YOU to do YOUR work, set with YOUR intentions. It’s not for you to do things exactly my way, every single time.

Instead, how about trying to inspire people? Or trying to understand why they do what they do? When did we get all righteous and indignant?

The reason I practice witchcraft and am a Pagan is because it is part of my personal practice. It works for me, and I am not out to prove anything to anyone. I feel in complete alignment with what I do, and it makes me and my life very happy. It’s a joy for me to discuss other practices and what works for people and what doesn’t, because it truly is a journey.

Ask yourself: Are you trying to prove something, or is your self-worth crying out for attention? Then that work needs to be done by you, and not have that energy foisted on someone else. Can we not all get along? Think how much better our community would be if we took those moments of connection and magical moments we feel at festivals and conferences, and translated that to our online presence and life.

So, back to that article. If you found yourself getting extremely angry and distraught about it, I urge you to take a few moments and examine your social media usage, your own life and practices. While you are busy saying “how dare she?” the rest of us are out here doing the work. With the planet being destroyed on a daily basis, that seems more important right now. So mote it be.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gwyn

    I love your article and take your wisdomto heart. I also value diversity in witchcraft and Paganism nor do I care how other people practice their path or follow their deities. There is room for all, no matter how we come to the table. However, I do not regret writing a rebuttal in regard to the article in question. Did it give the author’s article more traction? Probably. But I submit, it is also possible that so many voices (hopefully)may cause the writer and publisher to pause in the future. Even if they do not, I felt the need to express my opinion as you have yours, just as I’ve also addressed the issue of the planet’s destruction today. And in spite of what you may think, I do agree with you on choosing battles wisely. Many blessings.

  • kenofken

    It may or may not be worth responding to this writer as we have, but as Pagans we have no obligation to “turn the other cheek” or to show any respect or consideration at all for ignorant fools who go out of their way to insult our paths.

    “Doing the work” and standing up for yourself are not mutually exclusive.

  • kenofken

    Just as a point of perspective, do you think Muslims or LGBT folks would just let it ride if she had given them the same treatment? Do you think they should just keep quiet and “do the work” if that happens?

  • Gwyn

    Definitely not. Which is why I believe a response (mine and other Patheos Pagan writers, general comments, social media) was more than warranted in this situation. I can agree with Lisa on several points in her article while still maintaining my own position as well.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I saw that too. she was an atheist. consider the source.

  • Mark Green

    There are atheist Pagans. She just wasn’t one of them.

  • Lisa Wagoner

    Duly noted. Thanks for commenting!

  • Lisa Wagoner

    Thanks for commenting!

  • Lisa Wagoner

    I consider you to be a wonderful writer, Gwyn. It wasn’t just Patheos, just the community in general lately. I have been feeling frustrated. Thank you for your support and commenting, much appreciated.

  • Lisa Wagoner

    Good point, thanks for commenting.

  • Lisa Wagoner

    Your comment is appreciated.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I am starting to understand why people disrespect Pagans. Most of them have some unusual (read as ignorant) ideas on what being a Pagan entails. The other day some Pagan told me that we are not responsible for climate change because of some outdated science in the 1920s. thats just pathetic. Thus, we get kicked in the teeth and wonder what we did to deserve this. Atheist Pagans? Hmm, sounds like people are just ripping up the dictionary and making up stuff now.

  • alan kempster

    its all very nice lass,being good with words,preach,or write your blog? neither

  • Raven Belote

    After reading all the rebuttals on Patheos Pagan about this article, so far, I’ve found different points of view to consider, and digest.
    I think its good that we have this, and
    that we aren’t all the same.
    Thanks for taking the time to add your point of view, too.
    It was very well written, and presented.

  • Willow Rose

    Thank you for your reasoned comments. I believe both options, speaking out or scrolling by are valid. I, too, was offended by the article . . . which I never would have seen had a friend not shared it on her social media. So there is that—the added traction this story received because of it’s controversial nature. I began dashing off notes for a post on the Agora (here on Patheos), but the demands of life intervened and when there was finally time, my fire had burned out. I searched social media for a way to communicate directly to the author, because yes, it should be brought to her attention that she wouldn’t dare speak of another religion so flippantly and with such disrespect, but then, I practice witchcraft minus religion, so that argument was weak. In that respect, had she written about trying to become a concert pianist, or a stand up comedian, or a any of a million other secular endeavors in one short week, the humor in her utter failure would be seen.

  • Lisa Wagoner

    Thanks for commenting. Much appreciated!

  • Lisa Wagoner

    Thank you so much for commenting!