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Author Topic: What is a Pagan?  (Read 17564 times)
sneekywren
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« Reply #15: March 13, 2007, 08:51:51 pm »

A few Pagan religions might be that, but most are not -- and quite frankly many would not want to be. All religions aren't really one.

Randall, sorry you misunderstand me, or perhaps I'm just being a bit of a flutterby and not really being clear about my thoughts. I'm not suggesting that this is what Paganism should be.. I'm just exploring some ideas and connections that haven't fully developed in my mind. And these are things that are very specific to my own way of viewing the world. I'll be clearer next time.
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sneekywren
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« Reply #16: March 13, 2007, 08:54:55 pm »

Perhaps part of the problem is that Paganism isn't a single religion or even a group of closely related religions that share many beliefs and practices in common. It's a broad group of often very different religions that sometimes have very little in common besides considering themselves to be a Pagan religion (and the few things almost all religions -- Pagan or non-Pagan -- have in common). 

Therefore there are no underlying "Pagan fundamentals of religion." Instead you have the fundamentals of the Wiccan religion, another set of fundamentals of the Asatruar, another set of fundamentals of the Hellenic Pagans, another set of fundamentals of the Druids, another set of fundamentals of the Celtic Recons, etc. etc. And some of these sets of fundamentals are not only different from each other but are at odds with each other.

I am not suggesting that there are "Pagan fundamentals of religion", nor did I say that. I was talking about the fundamentals that have been laid down to my through books and through my teachers, and through my own ideas.  It feels important question these. I use the word 'Pagan' because I can't get more specific than that. My own 'fundamentals' are a total mish-mash.
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« Reply #17: March 13, 2007, 09:01:26 pm »

I was talking about the fundamentals that have been laid down to my through books and through my teachers, and through my own ideas.

What Pagan religion(s) were these books (and teachers) teaching?
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sneekywren
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« Reply #18: March 13, 2007, 09:09:58 pm »

What Pagan religion(s) were these books (and teachers) teaching?

Books.. pretty much everything. I just devour them with curiosity. Maybe that's why I'm trying to unpick everything I've ever learnt. I've poked my nose into too many pies. It maybe would have been easier if I'd stuck to one tradition and I'd be sorted. But I've never found any path that I'm wholly comfortable in.
The one (kind of) exception to that is Druidry, which is what I'm learning with a teacher...and this is the path that seems to have had the most influence on me. It's certainly the one that makes the most sense to me personally.
Apart from that, I find a great deal of inspiration in chaos magic, qabalah, hindu mysticism and kitchen witchcraft. My understanding of qabalah is minimal at the moment... I'm just finding my feet but I love what I've been learning.
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« Reply #19: March 14, 2007, 02:13:11 am »

I think that may actually be the only thing we all have in common, and trying to come up with one basic definition seems a little like herding cats. For example, my path is god-based rather than earth-based, which makes me different from one of my RL Pagan friends; I don't use magic often, which makes me different from another one of my friends, but more similar to the first one...and it gets more complicated from there, like Venn diagrams from hell.
Venn diagrams from hell - I like that.  I think that's a big part of why the topic keeps coming up - while there's little or nothing that's common to all Pagans, those overlapping areas make it seem like there should be a way to describe Paganism collectively.  Certainly it's a factor in why we all want to use the label.

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« Reply #20: March 14, 2007, 11:54:29 am »

A person who consents to use the umbrella term.

Since paganism can be inclusive of any faith that isn't JCI; and earth based no longer seems to be criteria for calling a path Pagan any person not of a JCI faith can choose to call themselves Pagan.

There is no single principle that all termed "pagan" faiths share, other than their usage of the term to dictate themselves not of another group of faiths.

All faiths not of JCI leanings, are not necessarily by nature pagan.  In it's uses, for example in the colonization of America, Pagan was somewhat derogatory.  Native Americans integrating into the lifestyle of the colonists (Cape Cod) were given a new name, with a variant of Pagan as as last name.  (Peegan, Paegen, Peagen)

The question I find myself asking, is that if Plymouth was Pautuxet before being renamed, is the rose by another name still a rose?  Does it loose something to being called something else?  Does the historical screw up of so many names - Yanno, being called Iannough (he knew some English and said to the settlers, while pointing to himself, I Yanno)  make a long term smear on the face of history?

Somewhat like the "all insects are bugs, but not all bugs are insects" analogy; there are some members of the umbrella that push it to it's limits and demonstrate that maybe an all inclusive term isn't what we really need. 
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« Reply #21: March 15, 2007, 02:20:14 am »

I mean, what is the one thing that we all have in common, apart from simply using this silly label?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately and my answer was, at first: pretty much nothing. We are defined by what we are not (not Judeo Christian, not Islamic) and...that's pretty much it, on the face of things. I think that there is a desire for community and so those of us who define ourselves as pagan and do not have other places to fellowship end up forming rag-tag communities and coming together. But the more I think about it, the more I see one thing that many of us do share. It's a bit hard for me to put it into words, but I will try.

I would guess that most modern pagans came to their religion or path after a good deal of learning and research into many other pagan paths out there. Most of the pagans I have known or communicated with who have been in the community for any real length of time have at least a passing familiarity with most of the "major" neo-pagan and reconstructionist faiths. Most of the people outside of the community know little to nothing about neo-paganism. If I try to talk about my faith with someone outside of the pagan community, I usually have to begin at the very beginning and explain the basics and then answer the questions that inevitably follow and then try to clear up any misconceptions the person might have and while it can be a really fun and educational experience for both parties, sometimes you just want to engage with someone who has the foundational knowledge necessary to get into a deeper discussion.

So really, after pondering this for a while, I am starting to think that it isn't religious or spiritual characteristics we share but rather a common vocabulary, a basic body of knowledge that many, if not most pagans have encountered or will encounter as they learn more about pagan/neo-pagan spirituality.

Of course, this is still a great big generalization and will not apply to everyone.
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« Reply #22: March 20, 2007, 08:35:39 pm »

I mean, what is the one thing that we all have in common, apart from simply using this silly label?

Quite obviously our highly refined and exquisitely grand and gorgeous tastes in that particular Forum of Forums in which we gather to gently discourse, disuss if you will, ohh so many of those myriad topics of interest which we, each and all, hold in common, being guided, of course, by the tactful and considerate hosts and hostesses, whose abundant knowledge and expertise, witty use of the double entendre, uplifting humor, and astonishing insight delight and entertain us all. I speak of none other than this forum of the intellect and for the soul - The Cauldron!

-Tj
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« Reply #23: March 20, 2007, 09:14:12 pm »

All faiths not of JCI leanings, are not necessarily by nature pagan.  In it's uses, for example in the colonization of America, Pagan was somewhat derogatory.  Native Americans integrating into the lifestyle of the colonists (Cape Cod) were given a new name, with a variant of Pagan as as last name.  (Peegan, Paegen, Peagen)

The connotation of Pagan or Heathen is derogatory in its nature (please see my other posts). But are we who call ourselves Pagans and/or Heathans proud of that lable and, just as importantly,  what have we done to gain the respect of others

Example 1:
It was not all that long ago that Americans were reffered to as "Colonials" by the British upper crust.  It took two World Wars to dis-abuse them of that derogatory lable.  The term "Yank" was also a less than complimentary term applied, more specifiically to the American soldier stationed in Britain during WWII, but that lable was accepted and turned around to something one could point to with pride, for the most part.

Example 2:
It was once considered as a positive trait that an American would take a derogatory term and turn it into a badge of honor.  An example of this being the group of Radio Amatuers being labeled as  "Hams," a less than generous category from the theatre, and wearing it with pride and distinction after having earned the respect of professionals, governments, and people due to their services in times of need (disasters).

Ahh, well that was another time and another place it seems.  Pity.

-Tj
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« Reply #24: March 21, 2007, 12:23:51 am »

But are we who call ourselves Pagans and/or Heathans proud of that lable and, just as importantly,  what have we done to gain the respect of others

Is the respect of others, I’m taking this to be people who are not pagan, important?  Why should we spend time trying to persuade or demonstrate to people who use Pagan as a derogatory term why it shouldn't be?

People have a lot of misconceptions about others, and sometimes those can change, but there are some people who are always going to carry certain beliefs no matter what evidence they are presented with to the contrary.
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« Reply #25: March 21, 2007, 05:33:41 am »

Is the respect of others, I’m taking this to be people who are not pagan, important?

This is a question that one should ask and answer, primmarily, for ones' self.  If one's employer is not Pagan does one wish to obtain that person's respect?  Does the respect of one's peers have ony meaning, reguardless of wether one is Pagan or not?  From these small beginnings one may then expand as to the importance of the respect of others as it may effect one.

Why should we spend time trying to persuade or demonstrate to people who use Pagan as a derogatory term why it shouldn't be?

Consider for a moment the effects of the lack of respect extended toward an other, and that the other is oneself...

People have a lot of misconceptions about others, and sometimes those can change, but there are some people who are always going to carry certain beliefs no matter what evidence they are presented with to the contrary.

Yes, there always will be that small percentage of people with the attitude of "don't confuse me with the facts my mind is made up."  This small percentage, once identified, is not worth expending the effort, IMHO, that would otherwise be more fruitful were it directed towards the much larger number of those who have yet to commit themselves one way or the other.

As an American who firmly believes in the right for all to worship, or not, as they list -and it interferes not with the rights of others, it becomes important not to sway those un-commited others against me or my fellows.

How soon we forget that some Americans and their Houses of Worship were threatened in the wake of 11 Sept.  How did one react to that occurance, if one did anything at all save lip service?

The danger of mis-conceptions are still present.  The danges of persecution are with us still. Can we, as a group, say emphatically that we are in as strong a recognized and respected position as the Mormans? Do we forget that the Mormans were persecuted at one time in their history on their own American soil?  Have we, as a group, forgotten the actuality of the on-going "denial of rights", to use a polite turn of phrase, that is still in existence in certain areas of this Great Nation to Pagans, Heathens and to others?

Gaining the respect of the community that we live within becomes important to the group at large as well as having benefits for the individual. One method of obtaining this respect is by the doing of good deeds.  Participation in blood drives, clean-ups, contributions to food banks, etc.  These exercizes of good will towards one's community tend to reflect back favorably.  One may then progress from "one of those Pagans" to "one of our Pagans."  How then does that reflect upon the Deities or Path one supossedly follows?  Are they not worthy of the respect of others?

-Tj

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« Reply #26: March 21, 2007, 08:47:18 am »

This is a question that one should ask and answer, primmarily, for ones' self.  If one's employer is not Pagan does one wish to obtain that person's respect?

Why would my employer need to know my religion? And if he does, why should I care if he thinks I'm going to his religion's hell for it so long as he follows the law and does not discriminate based on religion in the workplace? (Note for readers, I'm in the US and religious discrimination is illegal in the workplace.)

Quote
How soon we forget that some Americans and their Houses of Worship were threatened in the wake of 11 Sept.  How did one react to that occurance, if one did anything at all save lip service?

And bigots still burn Black churches in the South, unfortunately. Most bigots fall into the "don't confuse me with facts" category where it takes long term herculean efforts to get them to even consider that they might be wrong. Is it worth the effort?  When it works, sure. But most people aren't able to devote the time and energy it takes to try.

Quote
One method of obtaining this respect is by the doing of good deeds.  Participation in blood drives, clean-ups, contributions to food banks, etc.  These exercizes of good will towards one's community tend to reflect back favorably.


Good points and true words. However, this only does good for the Pagan community if the Pagans doing those good deeds are very public about their religion. This is something many people aren't comfortable with -- often for reasons that have nothing to do with persecution or the fear of it. They were not waving their Christianity around when they were Christian and see no reason to do so as a Pagan.
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« Reply #27: March 21, 2007, 09:37:10 am »


So really, after pondering this for a while, I am starting to think that it isn't religious or spiritual characteristics we share but rather a common vocabulary, a basic body of knowledge that many, if not most pagans have encountered or will encounter as they learn more about pagan/neo-pagan spirituality.
Bouncing off of this, because you're onto something here.

That shared vocabulary stems out of that common body of knowledge.

And that body of knowledge is enormous.

Show me a pagan who doesn't have a laundry list of skills and knowledge, both ordinary and esoteric and I'll show you a newbie who hasn't had time to develop that yet.  As a group, we're a voracious bunch of learners.  We tend to be the sort who have that "gotta know" gene.

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« Reply #28: March 21, 2007, 11:55:30 am »

If one's employer is not Pagan does one wish to obtain that person's respect?  Does the respect of one's peers have ony meaning, reguardless of wether one is Pagan or not?  From these small beginnings one may then expand as to the importance of the respect of others as it may effect one.

As Randall mentioned above, discriminating against someone in the US on the basis of religion is illegal, it’s a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  In the state that I live in Pagans actually have more protection under the law than people who are gay. 

At my work I’m known as “Little Miss Morals,” but even with my standards for ethical and professional behavior, does that mean that I’m respected by my boss or subordinates?  Nope, and that doesn’t even take into account my religious beliefs.

Quote
This small percentage, once identified, is not worth expending the effort, IMHO, that would otherwise be more fruitful were it directed towards the much larger number of those who have yet to commit themselves one way or the other.

But why does it matter if non pagans (or even other pagans of different paths) respect you or not?  The path you follow or any relationship you have with your gods is personal, what “non-believers” think about your path should be irrelevant.

Quote
Can we, as a group, say emphatically that we are in as strong a recognized and respected position as the Mormans?

Why does this matter? 

Quote
Have we, as a group, forgotten the actuality of the on-going "denial of rights", to use a polite turn of phrase, that is still in existence in certain areas of this Great Nation to Pagans, Heathens and to others?

If you are worried about being discriminated against for being a Pagan, then don’t tell people.  It’s no one else’s business what your beliefs are, but if you are going to make others aware of what you believe then be prepared to accept the consequences.

Quote
One method of obtaining this respect is by the doing of good deeds.  Participation in blood drives, clean-ups, contributions to food banks, etc.  These exercizes of good will towards one's community tend to reflect back favorably.
 

If I’m going to do “good deeds,” I’m going to do them because they are the right thing to do, not because of how other people are going to view me afterwards.

Quote
How then does that reflect upon the Deities or Path one supossedly follows?  Are they not worthy of the respect of others?

Why should people who are not members of my path respect the deities that I follow?
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« Reply #29: March 21, 2007, 12:41:41 pm »

Bouncing off of this, because you're onto something here.

That shared vocabulary stems out of that common body of knowledge.

And that body of knowledge is enormous.

Show me a pagan who doesn't have a laundry list of skills and knowledge, both ordinary and esoteric and I'll show you a newbie who hasn't had time to develop that yet.  As a group, we're a voracious bunch of learners.  We tend to be the sort who have that "gotta know" gene.



This I can get on board with - I cannot believe I moved again with 3000+ books (and growing, always growing).
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