Pagan Identity Crisis 2011

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The year is 2011 and an issue seems to have come to the surface. There’s a whole group of people out there who aren’t sure whether not the term “Pagan” is applicable to them due to past associations with the word.

It’s a valid concern; in colleges, people are being taught the meaning of the term “pagan” is “one who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew.” However, among most of the social world, a Pagan is one who worships one or more deities and that, if they are worshiping a single deity, that deity is not the Abrahamic God. This essentially excludes atheists and agnostics from the group. But even so, let’s continue with the issue.

A number of people associate the word “pagan” with “wiccan”. This is due to the popularization of Wiccans throughout the years and it, for a while, being some sort of faddish religion. Even to the point that Wiccans have debuted onto television shows such as Bones. A lot of people I consider Pagan do not want to be associated with Wiccans for, of the many reasons that exist, they do not have the same ritualistic practices or tendencies.

Now, as someone who associates herself with her own religion, I find myself having an easier time saying to people who I don’t really know that I am a Pagan. For those who don’t know me well and are Pagan and express that they are, I say that I am of a first-generation family tradition. For those who are curious for the name, I give it freely and openly. Though truth be told, most people are interested in explaining their own beliefs than listening to others, so it never has gotten far past giving the name for me.

I equate saying that I’m Pagan with another saying they’re Christian. It doesn’t give a specific sect or tradition, but it is self-explanatory in and of itself. I’m not willing to dance around the word “pagan” because some people, especially non-Pagans, may have misconceptions. I may offer an explanation of what I mean by “pagan”, but I will ultimately back off if they show an unwillingness to change their point of view on the word and do my best not to associate with them.

With that, I apologize to all those who I refer to as Pagan who would rather be called something else. But chances are I’m still going to call you Pagan when I’m trying to offer a sense of similarity between us or referring to you in a group of friends who also fall under the “Pagan” umbrella in my definition.

I now have a second post relating to this topic.

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2 Responses to Pagan Identity Crisis 2011

  1. paosirdjhutmosu says:

    I’d say that you also use “Pagan” because there isn’t really a common word for your specific set of beliefs and practices, since you’ve got your own thing going on, religiously. Since say, Wiccans, Heathens, and Kemetics, for example, do have their specific, (relatively) commonly-understood terms, they can choose to use those first, before Pagan. This is of course not a bad thing, just something I noticed.
    I think one of the common denominators of the Pagan community, such as it can be called that, is drawing upon religio-magical practices and worship of pre-Christian gods. (More specifically, in the areas that had been taken over by Christianity, like Europe and Middle East-North Africa.) The ritual practices can vary wildly, as can individuals understanding of the gods. (One person says the gods are real individual beings, another says that they’re archetypes– though I personally find that a stretch as far as calling someone Pagan, as they start to sound more like atheists or agnostics who likes to wave wands and play with statues of gods.)

  2. Pingback: Dweller of the Two Lands of Paganism / My Piece on Pagan Identity Crisis 2011 « Pa Osir Djhutmosu Si Hat-Hor

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