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Author Topic: Special Topic: Why We're Touchy About Defining Paganism  (Read 47623 times)
Senior Newbie
Last Login:December 27, 2009, 08:55:41 am
Australia Australia

Religion: Ecclectic earth and energy based spirituality
Posts: 6

dear goddess the pressure

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« Reply #17: April 19, 2007, 06:39:41 am »

Everyone would like a "positive" definition of Paganism, but people have been trying for many years and every such attempt to define Paganism by what it is (instead of what it is not) has failed either because it is so broad that it includes nearly every religion on the planet or because it excludes religions normally considered Pagan both by their members and by others. Such definitions are worse than a working "negative" definition.

I suppose that the greatest difficulty in finding a "positive" definition for the word pagan is that the word itself is thought to have originated as a slur. Paganus (the latin origin of pagan,) an adjective; originally meant rural, rustic or of the country, and as a noun meant country dweller or villager (English Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press 2007) of which i guess the modern correlary would be country bumpkin or maybe hillbilly. However as the rise of Christianity took place, the development of the word as we use it today came about. It is thought possibly to be in apporximately the 4th century with the rise of serfdom that the word began to take on a spiritual meaning, referring to country dwellers who had not kept pace with the "civilised" world in their conversion to christianity. This is reflected in The Georgics written 29 b.c. by the latin poet Virgil. Or perhaps the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for "civilian, incompetent soldier," which Christians (Tertullian, c.202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (e.g. milites "soldier of Christ," etc.).  (Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved April 19, 2007, from website:

Any way I guess what I am trying to work my way toward is the fact that we are using a word to define ourselves that originated as a negative word, and has retained those negative connotations in a lot of modern day circles. This to me means that we are already fighting an uphill battle, however it's not only a battle of definition, but also one of perception. This said I do not have any light bulb type inspiring ideas about how to solve this problem Huh

The possibility of using terms such as non JCIM based spirituality and including referneces to earth based and also universally based religions is tempting, however it then raises the question of faiths based in mythologies such as egyptian and norse ones etc...

I often find myself grasping at language to define my own faith as I have drawn elements from a number of paths as they resonate within me. So i cannot even take the solace of naming one particular path when I speak to friends I ran into it the other day when talking to my very christian co-worker (who is fantastic to talk about theology with I might add,) who when I said the word wicca immediately said "Oh that's terrible Lynton, that's witchcraft, your consorting with the devil!" Suffice to say that her and I disagree on that point.  Wink

I guess all we need to do is invent a new word to describe ourselves Wink

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