Kenny Klein: Tales Of The Rambling Wren.
Follow Kenny from the levees of New Orleans to the whirling chaos that is the Pagan festival circuit and beyond. Musings, rants, and just plain Pagan talk.
Running From the Word Pagan
If you are active in the Pagan blogosphere, you're probably aware of Star Foster's proclamation that she is no longer Pagan. You may also have read Jason Mankey's response. I thought I'd chime in. And yes, this is going to be a words-have-meaning-and-magic kind of post. I promise next week I'll write something about bunnies and happy fairies (OK, really, I'll write about Mardi Gras).
Between Star Foster and Jason, I think what I feel is, as I have maybe said before, we have a problem with the word Pagan. Yes, here comes the back-when-I-first-became-Pagan reference, as you knew it would... back-when-I-fist-became-Pagan, there was a very specific meaning to the word. Pagans were ployrtheists, worshiping perhaps a Goddess and a God, or perhaps many Goddesses and Gods (or in deference to the VERY uneasy peace made in the '80s between Wiccans and Dianics, perhaps several Goddesses). Pagans worshiped in a ritual format. pagans usually, often, identified with a tradition of worship: Wiccan, Druid, Dianic, Feri... the list goes on.
It was not safe to be Pagan. It was dangerous. There was a keen perception that you could lose your job, or your children, if you were openly Pagan. So generally speaking, Pagans were very heartfelt about being Pagan. It was a risk Pagans took out of love. Love for the Gods we served, love for the community we found ourselves in. It was an imperfect community, but in many ways, it was a community that stuck together, for both love and protection.
And here we are in the present. As my blogs here and the responses to them have shown, there is a huge effort to make Pagan mean pretty much anything. Pagans worship Jesus, Pagans believe in Gods from The Hobbit, Pagans are atheistic, Pagans are Pagan because they own a drum.
Please, I have no problem with people worshiping Jesus, owning a drum, reading the Hobbit or believing or not believing as they like. It's your right as an American to believe in whatever you like. But when you believe whatever you like and define yourself as Pagan, it causes the term Pagan to have less and less meaning. By insisting that Pagans can worship Jesus or hobbits or nothing, we chip away at the word Pagan until we have nothing left but two empty syllables. What does Pagan end up meaning?
Then we see another problem: how do we build a Pagan community if everyone in the community believes something different? (Or nothing...different)? What is the bond that unites us? Do we build a community of people who believe vastly different things but call these things Pagan, just because they can? If I go to a Pagan event, say a Pagan festival, I like to have a respectful discussion of ritual, or of my Gods/Goddesses, or of the Wheel Of The Year, with people who understand and are conversant on these ideas, these tenets I hold very dear. But what happens when I go to a Pagan festival and try to discuss these things, and I'm told they have nothing to do with Paganism? At least, the Paganism others there hold. Suddenly I have very little reason to be at a Pagan event. I can hang out in the local cafe and find people who believe in all sorts of things, and who don't know what the Wheel Of The Year is. Why travel to Brushwood or Wisteria to have this conversation?
I think what Star Foster may be feeling is this confusion, this demeaning, of what Pagan means. She says she will no longer refer to herself as Pagan, but as a Polytheist... in my world, that's what Pagan means. But in the new world of Pagan-means-anything, apparently it doesn't. Well I've identified as Pagan for over thirty years now. It's been the basis of my beliefs my entire adult life. But I need to get behind Star here: if Pagan means anything, if Pagan means everyone, how am I a Pagan?
Please login first in order for you to submit comments