Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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The Wonderful World of the Many

We talk about “Christianity,” as if there actually were such a thing.

But of course there isn't.

You'd think that pagans, of all people, would know better.

A Wiccan, an Ásatrúar, and an Ecclectic walk into a bar. Question: what do they have in common with each other?

Answer: Not much. And yet, in some sense, they still perceive one another (even if under duress, in the case of the Ásatrúar) as sharing a common identity. But their religions are different. It really doesn't make any sense to talk about a single, monolithic “Paganism.” There simply isn't, never has been, and never will be such an animal. It's really much more accurate to talk about “paganisms.”

So: a Catholic, a Jehovah's Witness, and a Quaker walk into a bar. (Here it's probably the JW that's under duress.) Same deal. It really makes more sense to talk about “Christianities.” And “Judaisms.” And “Islams.”

Other religions are no more unified than ours, even monotheist ones. Like ours, they're really better described as families of related religions. In my glibber moments, I've occasionally quipped that the disunity of the monotheisms is proof of polytheism. That's just for laughs, though. I'd never seriously attempt to defend such a thesis. In a bar fight, say.

Nonetheless, Manyness is the nature of things. It's how the world is, was, and always will be.

And that's just as it should be. Nature abhors a monoculture.

Alain Daniélou once observed that “one of the great virtues of the old religions is that they deal with the world as it really is, and not as they wish it were.”

Welcome to the Wonderful World of the Many.


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Patrick
    Patrick Wednesday, 12 March 2014

    Christian missiologist Andrew Walls once asked if the proverbial Martian came to earth and visited (I forget his exact examples, but something along the lines of) a 3rd c. Syrian monk, a Texas fundamentalist megachurch, and an African independent charismatic church, could you convince him that he was visiting three examples of the same religion?

  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling Thursday, 13 March 2014

    You could say the same with the following scenario: "A Unitarian Universalist, and a Unitarian Universalist, and another Unitarian Universalist walk into a bar. What do they have in common? Nothing." While I see humor in this and in your two examples above I'm not convinced that such a cynical view is completely true even though I see some truth within your thesis.

    I think the Wiccan, Asatruar, and Eclectic CAN find some commonality. The Jehovah's Witness will often choose to NOT find common ground, but Jehovah's Witnesses are often NOT considered Christian by mainstream Christians. I have seen people of different Christian denominations freely work together and I've seen their differences dissolved just like I've seen Pagans of various colors gather at festivals and enjoy rituals together. I think it depends on intentions and attitude. If you want to see division you'll see division if you want to see interconnection you'll look for those webs that bind us together.

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