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Author Topic: Just not feeling "Pagan" lately...  (Read 5300 times)
Mandi
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« Topic Start: March 13, 2007, 11:18:54 am »

Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel you are being defined by someone who you have already stopped accepting influence from?  (I don't deny the past influence, only that I've stopped defining myself based upon it) I don't adhere to your moral system, or your dogma, but I will use the word that you use to describe me.

I'm kind of feeling this way about the term Pagan lately.  While it's used as an umbrella term (yada yada yada) for many earth based, non JCI faiths; and the usage of the term was (correct me if I'm way out there...) from a Christian perspective. 

So why am I defining my belief system from a Christian/ Roman perspective?  I am neither Christian, nor am I Roman.  It's sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror through someone else's glasses.  My edges are blurry and undefined, but I don't think it's for lack of having edges.  Maybe I'm just not looking at them right?

The other side of this being, I don't know what else I would call myself.  I don't really know who I would be talking to when explaining myself, since by habit I don't really go into it.  All the same, being unprepared for the question is an uncomfortable place to be.

"A polytheist, dedicated to a single patroness, pursuing a small spectrum of indigenous beliefs with a focus on Aztec and Plains Indian traditions, and a family interest in the Matakeeset tribe" is likely to loose all but the most interested listener, and even then would be met with *hold on, back up, wait a second, explain that???*

So what's an outside the box to do?
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Because for every truth there are half a million lies
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Till he learns to let his hair down far enough to climb outside.
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« Reply #1: March 13, 2007, 11:55:24 am »

Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel you are being defined by someone who you have already stopped accepting influence from?  (I don't deny the past influence, only that I've stopped defining myself based upon it) I don't adhere to your moral system, or your dogma, but I will use the word that you use to describe me.

I'm kind of feeling this way about the term Pagan lately.  While it's used as an umbrella term (yada yada yada) for many earth based, non JCI faiths; and the usage of the term was (correct me if I'm way out there...) from a Christian perspective. 

So why am I defining my belief system from a Christian/ Roman perspective?  I am neither Christian, nor am I Roman.  It's sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror through someone else's glasses.  My edges are blurry and undefined, but I don't think it's for lack of having edges.  Maybe I'm just not looking at them right?

The other side of this being, I don't know what else I would call myself.  I don't really know who I would be talking to when explaining myself, since by habit I don't really go into it.  All the same, being unprepared for the question is an uncomfortable place to be.

"A polytheist, dedicated to a single patroness, pursuing a small spectrum of indigenous beliefs with a focus on Aztec and Plains Indian traditions, and a family interest in the Matakeeset tribe" is likely to loose all but the most interested listener, and even then would be met with *hold on, back up, wait a second, explain that???*

So what's an outside the box to do?

I've been feeling this way a lot lately- mostly from working on my path, I think. I don't like calling it a "pagan" path- it grates on me, and I think your reason is why. Why should I define it by someone else's vocabulary? Why should it be defined by what it's not instead of what it is?

I think, for now, my basic generic answer is going to be "polytheistic" instead of "pagan", though it's not much better. But at least it's (simply) defining what I am, instead of what I'm not.
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« Reply #2: March 13, 2007, 05:27:23 pm »

I've been feeling this way a lot lately- mostly from working on my path, I think. I don't like calling it a "pagan" path- it grates on me, and I think your reason is why. Why should I define it by someone else's vocabulary? Why should it be defined by what it's not instead of what it is?

While it is easy for someone to define their particular Pagan religion or personal spirituality by what it is instead of what it is not, we have never been able to come up with a definition of an umbrella term (like "Pagan") that includes all religions normally thought of as Pagan and excludes those who say they are not Pagan that doesn't include a hefty dose of "not this" -- and we have made many attempts to do so over the years.

Personally, I'd rather have an accurate term that has a lot of "not this" in its definition than an inaccurate term that doesn't.
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« Reply #3: March 13, 2007, 08:29:20 pm »

So why am I defining my belief system from a Christian/ Roman perspective?  I am neither Christian, nor am I Roman.  It's sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror through someone else's glasses.  My edges are blurry and undefined, but I don't think it's for lack of having edges.  Maybe I'm just not looking at them right?

So what's an outside the box to do?

An outside of the box person would call themselves whatever they felt like calling themselves.

I gotta say, though, it sounds like what is going on here is wanting to put yourself into another box, by insisting on having a different label just to be different.  Maybe there's too many different types of Pagans and you want to put distance between yourself and "those other guys".  Or maybe you want to divorce yourself even more from Christianity by going to the extreme of eschewing words of their invention. 

I went for a few years calling myself an Omniversalist, thinking that I had made the word up and therefore that it was my word.  Until someone else wrote to me saying that they called themselves that too and their meaning for it was quite different from the meaning I put into it, although the definition itself was similar.  I think someone on this board has pointed out fairly recently that there is more to a word's meaning than its definition, such as popular usage, etymology, history of the word's use, etc. And maybe that's exactly your point.

I don't know.  Personally, I think that splitting hairs about a word's meaning and letting that word affect how you feel about yourself and your religious path is self-defeating.  Words are for convenience, to help convey meaning, and it is how we use words, how we put them together, what is between the lines that gives it meaning.  If you feel that the word Pagan doesn't describe you, you have the right to change it. It may or may not change you and your spiritual path.  Because words have power, the words you choose should be chosen carefully.

And people define words. Words only define you if you allow those words to have power over you.

As for me, if it isn't broke, I won't fix it. 
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« Reply #4: March 14, 2007, 10:56:42 am »

An outside of the box person would call themselves whatever they felt like calling themselves.

I gotta say, though, it sounds like what is going on here is wanting to put yourself into another box, by insisting on having a different label just to be different.  Maybe there's too many different types of Pagans and you want to put distance between yourself and "those other guys".  Or maybe you want to divorce yourself even more from Christianity by going to the extreme of eschewing words of their invention. 

But sometimes, being "in the box" is a good place to be--that is, a box of your own making.  If it is important to you to note that you are different (and it's important to me because too many people misunderstand me when I talk about my religion before I can explain), then trying to find a label is an important step to self-identity and self-affirmation.

Personally, I think that splitting hairs about a word's meaning and letting that word affect how you feel about yourself and your religious path is self-defeating.  Words are for convenience, to help convey meaning, and it is how we use words, how we put them together, what is between the lines that gives it meaning.  If you feel that the word Pagan doesn't describe you, you have the right to change it. It may or may not change you and your spiritual path.  Because words have power, the words you choose should be chosen carefully.

And people define words. Words only define you if you allow those words to have power over you.

I believe that words have great power as well--heck, my whole path is based around them--and I agree with being careful choosing them words you want to use.  I don't think splitting hairs about meaning, and letting words affect how you feel about yourself and your path, is necessarily self-defeating.  Again, words are important, and they can affect you very positively as well as negatively.  I think it's important to find the right words for self-definition, words that empower you and make you feel confident that you know what and who you are. 
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Mandi
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« Reply #5: March 14, 2007, 11:06:40 am »

I don't so much feel like I'm trying to separate from other paths contained by the umbrella, so much as I'm starting to think the umbrella doesn't do justice to the things contained within it.

I think a thread on a board talking about religious education being needed in American schools was what got me thinking on this.  If they are going to dictate all non JCI religions, outside of Eastern and maybe African religions to be Pagan, and someone is dividing the year into blocks of curriculum; then the religions dictated 'Pagan' will be sharing a limited time frame, and will likely be addressed as if they were of the same genre.  Even when they are completely different.  There's so much more to faith classification than what a faith is not. 

What exactly would dictate a religion to be pagan rather than African, American Indigenous, European Indigenous, Mithraic? 

Which leaves me wondering if Pagan refers more to a Wiccan-esque  belief system, which I don't follow, so perhaps to call myself Pagan, is a bit misleading.  Don't get me wrong, I'd still rather not elaborate to most people what it is that I do believe, since without some background, isn't exactly what you would call love and light.  Part time tree hugger, cutter downer, thrower at others...  The girl that bites...  Huh

I don't have a problem with feeling separate from Christianity, (even when I was trying to be Christian, I already felt separation) or their terms, just that there were words that came before the word pagan, that might better define.  Looking through the census of Hiennas, in the late 1800's, Native Americans living in town were given new names, Hope, Faith, Sara, often with the surname Peegan, Peagan, Paegen; regardless of the names they had been born with.  It was used as a qualifier meaning *other* not one of us.  Which in a world with so many distinct religions doesn't make sense.  There is no singular "us" to work from, that can't be swept away with a perspective change. 
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I'm gonna tell my son to join a circus so that death is cheap
And games are just another way of life
And I'm gonna tell my son to be a prophet of mistakes
Because for every truth there are half a million lies
And I'm gonna lock my son up in a tower
Till he learns to let his hair down far enough to climb outside.
-LIz Pahir
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« Reply #6: March 14, 2007, 04:15:31 pm »

What exactly would dictate a religion to be pagan rather than African, American Indigenous, European Indigenous, Mithraic? 

I've said this before, but I think one of the term "Pagan"'s major connotations -- *not* "denotations," as in "is/should be included in a formal definition," but rather "associations, implications" -- is a sense of *European/near Eastern.*    "Pagan" is a Latin term, and when historians use it, it's almost always in the context of the historical non-JCI religions of Europe and the Near East; I have a few academic books sitting on the shelf with titles like Christians and Pagans, which are about the various religious conflicts within the Roman Empire.  That's one of the reasons why many African and African-derived faiths prefer terms like "African Traditional Religions" and "African Diasporic Religions" -- they get the point across without lumping these religions within a European paradigm.  So, I think "Pagan" is a useful term for those faiths which are reconstructing, are derived from, are influenced by, or make consistent reference to those historical non-JCI religions of Europe and the Near East. 

I think trying to make "Pagan" into some kind of term with universal application is going to cause some problems, not the least of which is that if you start trying to push the word too far outside that Europe/Near Eastern boundary, it starts looking a bit like ethnocentrism, or even cultural imperialism -- trying to define other people's stuff in terms of European cultural associations.  There is no reason whatsoever why Hindus, for example, should be called "Pagans," unless you're a) a Victorian imperialist, or b) trying to push some kind of universality for the term, which, as an impulse, isn't too far away from a).  "Hinduism" is a term that's at least as widely understood as "Pagan," so why confuse the issue?  If you say "Pagan," most people in the West who aren't familiar with modern Paganisms or aren't Christian fundies are going to get an image of ancient Greeks and Romans, or maybe Vikings or Egyptians; it makes sense, then, to use the term for those religions which fall into within that (still very broad) historical/cultural sphere, and to those modern religions which are influenced by them.   
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« Reply #7: March 15, 2007, 08:35:08 am »

Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel you are being defined by someone who you have already stopped accepting influence from?  (I don't deny the past influence, only that I've stopped defining myself based upon it) I don't adhere to your moral system, or your dogma, but I will use the word that you use to describe me.

I'm kind of feeling this way about the term Pagan lately.  While it's used as an umbrella term (yada yada yada) for many earth based, non JCI faiths; and the usage of the term was (correct me if I'm way out there...) from a Christian perspective. 

So why am I defining my belief system from a Christian/ Roman perspective?  I am neither Christian, nor am I Roman.  It's sort of like looking at yourself in the mirror through someone else's glasses.  My edges are blurry and undefined, but I don't think it's for lack of having edges.  Maybe I'm just not looking at them right?

The other side of this being, I don't know what else I would call myself.  I don't really know who I would be talking to when explaining myself, since by habit I don't really go into it.  All the same, being unprepared for the question is an uncomfortable place to be.

"A polytheist, dedicated to a single patroness, pursuing a small spectrum of indigenous beliefs with a focus on Aztec and Plains Indian traditions, and a family interest in the Matakeeset tribe" is likely to loose all but the most interested listener, and even then would be met with *hold on, back up, wait a second, explain that???*

So what's an outside the box to do?


I have been describing myself as an "Eclectic Cosmologist" for about a decade now. If I am pressed to define my beliefs I simply reply that I believe "One Truth, Infinite Expression."

People who are truly interested open up and we share; the idle conversationalist  usually gets that "glazed eyes look" and moves along.

Is there a phrase or a specific belief that is core to your path?

If so, what about doing some linguistic research and create your own personal description?

If it appeals to your sense of humor and doesn't feel blasphemous or feel like you are somehow demeaning your own path, perhaps it would be worth your time and effort to translate "Out of Boxian" into a language you are comfortable with and tell people that is your path or belief.




 
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« Reply #8: March 16, 2007, 12:27:49 am »

If it appeals to your sense of humor and doesn't feel blasphemous or feel like you are somehow demeaning your own path, perhaps it would be worth your time and effort to translate "Out of Boxian" into a language you are comfortable with and tell people that is your path or belief.


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« Reply #9: March 20, 2007, 11:56:54 am »

I tend to use the word Pagan when I just want to get the message "Not Christian, Not Atheist" across.  In my past experience, if someone is really curious they will ask me what Pagan means.  I tell them it means a lot of things, name off a few subsets, and then give them a more specific description of what I believe personally. 

The term Pagan is a useful one, possibly because it seems increasingly difficult to nail down.  While I am only vaguely Pagan myself, it helps me to gauge a person's interest in continuing the discussion.  Don't worry about putting yourself "in a box".  Even saying one is Christian requires some explanation, as you could be Catholic, Protestant, Evangelist, Spiritualist, Mormon...  The list goes on, and even these specific denominations have wildly differing subsets. 

Use whatever term you feel comfortable with, but remember that no matter what you say anybody who is really interested will need more than just a name to understand what you believe.
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