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Author Topic: What are some of the religions that are considered Pagan?  (Read 5367 times)
Darkhawk
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« Reply #15: March 09, 2011, 10:08:31 pm »

Although those are "neopagan" which are revivals or amalgations.

In common usage I'm familiar with "pagan" = "neopagan".

(In my experience, when "pagan" doesn't mean "neopagan" it means "We, the superior Christian West, look down on those benighted tribal people who have yet to learn our superior ways.")
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« Reply #16: March 09, 2011, 10:26:39 pm »

In common usage I'm familiar with "pagan" = "neopagan".

(In my experience, when "pagan" doesn't mean "neopagan" it means "We, the superior Christian West, look down on those benighted tribal people who have yet to learn our superior ways.")

When referring to "pagans" in any other sense than modern - and that's with a capital P - I solely mean ancient Indo-European cultures (and maybe some associated ones around the Mediterranean). For my own personal use (and I'd never use this in a scholarly paper) "pagan" just means "pre-Christian religion". That's only because I look to them as my spiritual ancestors; I doubt most of them would self-identify as such if I explained what I meant. Grin

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« Reply #17: March 09, 2011, 11:09:39 pm »

When referring to "pagans" in any other sense than modern - and that's with a capital P - I solely mean ancient Indo-European cultures (and maybe some associated ones around the Mediterranean). For my own personal use (and I'd never use this in a scholarly paper) "pagan" just means "pre-Christian religion". That's only because I look to them as my spiritual ancestors; I doubt most of them would self-identify as such if I explained what I meant. Grin



Although paganism isn't really limited to that area. The Africans, Austrailians, and Americans had their pantheons (and missionaries trying to convert them). There are some reconstruction movements towards Aztec mythology, but I don't know about the others.
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« Reply #18: March 09, 2011, 11:30:24 pm »

When referring to "pagans" in any other sense than modern - and that's with a capital P - I solely mean ancient Indo-European cultures (and maybe some associated ones around the Mediterranean). For my own personal use (and I'd never use this in a scholarly paper) "pagan" just means "pre-Christian religion". That's only because I look to them as my spiritual ancestors; I doubt most of them would self-identify as such if I explained what I meant. Grin
Yeah, I'm kind of wondering why you included such a restriction in your definition. I hope there is a clear reasoning because as I've found to bee all too common in many pagan social situations folks often end up thinking that because I don't fit into their mold of "pagan" that I don't or shouldn't belong... just how it often ends up feeling.
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Ellen M.
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« Reply #19: March 09, 2011, 11:39:23 pm »

Although paganism isn't really limited to that area. The Africans, Austrailians, and Americans had their pantheons (and missionaries trying to convert them). There are some reconstruction movements towards Aztec mythology, but I don't know about the others.

I certainly know that other cultures had pantheons, but for many reasons (including the colonialist ones Darkhawk mentioned above) using "paganism" as a catchall term in that sense leads to, imo, more trouble than worth. I'm fairly certain that at least in American anthropology, using "pagan" as a term for any culture - with the exception of those who self-identify as such today - is troubling. It doesn't really mean anything, and though I've reclaimed the term and get warm fuzzy feelings from thinking of my religion being somehow linked (however distantly) to religions in the past, the truth is "pagan" is just too darn vague. All pre-Christian cultures weren't alike; all cultures did not and do not conceive of their deities the same. (One of the things I'm learning from my Native American class, for example, is that almost no native peoples that we've studied even had a codified pantheon - and yet anthropologists and studiers of religion keep trying to find that same pantheon structure we've come to expect from Greece and Rome.)

Another issue is that in Asia at least, there is no pre/post Christian timeline; religions like Hinduism and Shinto, while having undergone significant change over the past thousands of years to be sure, still have practices and beliefs that are downright ancient. If one calls those ancient practices "pagan", then one might also call the modern practices "pagan" as well, and I know at least some Hindus have balked at having that term applied to them. It has picked up nasty connotations over the years, after all.
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« Reply #20: March 09, 2011, 11:54:29 pm »

Yeah, I'm kind of wondering why you included such a restriction in your definition. I hope there is a clear reasoning because as I've found to bee all too common in many pagan social situations folks often end up thinking that because I don't fit into their mold of "pagan" that I don't or shouldn't belong... just how it often ends up feeling.

Lemme see if I can be clear! Cheesy

To me, a pagan is anyone who self-identifies is such. That's it. When I'm talking about ancient peoples, this is obviously an issue since most people wouldn't have used that term to identify. I know a lot of folk etymologies say that "pagan" started basically as "those dumb hicks in the backwoods who haven't converted yet" and later went on to mean "godless/infidels/heretics/etc". It seems only recently that "pagan" has taken on positive connotations (and then only to a select group - in my neck of the woods at least, "pagan" is considered about as strong an antonym for "spiritual" as possible). Even though I have only good feelings for the word, Ye Olde People aren't around to make that decision for themselves.

I choose to use "pagan" - little p, not the big-P Pagan of today - to refer mostly just to I-E cultures because those are what I know best (and the word itself came from an I-E culture) and I don't want to imply that ALL pre-Christian traditions are somehow the same or linked JUST because they were all hanging out before Christianity. Like I said in my previous post to Fravashi, you'd be surprised (or maybe not!) of the number of students in my Native American Religions class who are expecting all NA religions to have one singular pantheon and work like the Greeks'. I would no more call a Native American "pagan" than I would a Hindu or a Shinto because I know that practitioners today have balked at the term. (And for good reason - how many people have used "pagan" to refer to those religions in anything resembling a positive manner?)

I don't mean to imply by extension that Pagans today are limited to being I-E in scope; self-identification trumps all, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm not trying to define "Pagan/pagan" for anyone but myself. And this is the first time I've really tried to articulate this, so if something is unclear or doesn't make sense, please point it out so I can clarify and/or take a hard look at what I've said. I definitely didn't mean to make you feel like I was singling out folks who don't use I-E sources, and I'm sorry if that's how I came off!

Ultimately I know "pagan" is a pretty useless term. The biggest issue is taking a term with practically no set definition and applying it retrospectively to cultures who no longer exist, either having died out/been conquered or merged and transformed into something else. I also know this is a huge debate and sticking point for people on this board and in the broader Pagan community in general, so just to reiterate, if you use the term Pagan for yourself, you're a Pagan to me.
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« Reply #21: March 10, 2011, 12:29:30 am »


Ultimately I know "pagan" is a pretty useless term. The biggest issue is taking a term with practically no set definition and applying it retrospectively to cultures who no longer exist, either having died out/been conquered or merged and transformed into something else. I also know this is a huge debate and sticking point for people on this board and in the broader Pagan community in general, so just to reiterate, if you use the term Pagan for yourself, you're a Pagan to me.
Well it's good to know I've got at least one in my pocket. Thanks heaps for the explanation.
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Darkhawk
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« Reply #22: March 10, 2011, 11:14:05 am »

When referring to "pagans" in any other sense than modern - and that's with a capital P - I solely mean ancient Indo-European cultures (and maybe some associated ones around the Mediterranean).

Yeah, I recognise that I've seen that too, in sort of the casual usage that you're indicating.  (It kinda slipped my mind. :} )
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« Reply #23: March 12, 2011, 12:22:40 pm »

Lemme see if I can be clear! Cheesy

To me, a pagan is anyone who self-identifies is such. That's it. When I'm talking about ancient peoples, this is obviously an issue since most people wouldn't have used that term to identify. I know a lot of folk etymologies say that "pagan" started basically as "those dumb hicks in the backwoods who haven't converted yet" and later went on to mean "godless/infidels/heretics/etc". It seems only recently that "pagan" has taken on positive connotations (and then only to a select group - in my neck of the woods at least, "pagan" is considered about as strong an antonym for "spiritual" as possible). Even though I have only good feelings for the word, Ye Olde People aren't around to make that decision for themselves.

I choose to use "pagan" - little p, not the big-P Pagan of today - to refer mostly just to I-E cultures because those are what I know best (and the word itself came from an I-E culture) and I don't want to imply that ALL pre-Christian traditions are somehow the same or linked JUST because they were all hanging out before Christianity. Like I said in my previous post to Fravashi, you'd be surprised (or maybe not!) of the number of students in my Native American Religions class who are expecting all NA religions to have one singular pantheon and work like the Greeks'. I would no more call a Native American "pagan" than I would a Hindu or a Shinto because I know that practitioners today have balked at the term. (And for good reason - how many people have used "pagan" to refer to those religions in anything resembling a positive manner?)

I don't mean to imply by extension that Pagans today are limited to being I-E in scope; self-identification trumps all, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm not trying to define "Pagan/pagan" for anyone but myself. And this is the first time I've really tried to articulate this, so if something is unclear or doesn't make sense, please point it out so I can clarify and/or take a hard look at what I've said. I definitely didn't mean to make you feel like I was singling out folks who don't use I-E sources, and I'm sorry if that's how I came off!

Well, I think it makes sense to apply the term to any religion which was displaced by Christianity or Islam, so I would probably apply it to I.E. and Middle Eastern cultures. I think including other cultures as pagan (like the surviving Shamanic traditions or Chinese folk religion)  serves only one purpose; to illustrate that there are still adherents of indigenous traditions which predate world religions but were later largely displaced by them.
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