Genderqueer is to Trans as Polytheist is to Pagan

genderqueerMy kid is transitioning, but he’s not trans. He’s genderqueer. He doesn’t mind being called “trans,” because it’s accurate, but he identifies as something different.

For some, this is a brain breaker. I don’t blame them or vilify them for that. One has to be flexible with definitions in order to approach these (seemingly) subtle, nuanced uses of identity language, and we aren’t often taught how to be flexible in this way. One also has to be completely willing to respect another person’s authority and sovereignty over their own self-identification.

This is where it gets really tricky for some of us.

In response to my last post, When Pagan Discourse Becomes Reality TV, Daniel Grey, author of the blog Sage and Starshine, wrote the following comment. When I read it, something in my brain opened up. Daniel draws a great comparison between the plight of a genderqueer person and that of a polytheist distancing themselves from “Pagan”:

Teo, I admit that I didn’t give this story much more than a passing glance when it first broke. I don’t know Star, nor do I read her blog, so when I heard that she no longer identified as Pagan I couldn’t see how that was possibly my business. The negative reactions I’ve seen – confusion, hurt, betrayal, even anger – have left me feeling sorely uncomfortable. My stomach’s been in a twist today as I’ve read my Twitter feed and skimmed a few blog responses, and I think I’ve finally pinned down what’s been bothering me.

I’m genderqueer – I’m not sure if you knew that, Teo, especially since we started conversing after I adopted my male monicker for most of my online Pagan life. I feel comfortable as a Daniel, but that’s not the only label that fits me. I still go by my birth name irl; I still use female pronouns with many folks; I have actually become more comfortable presenting as femme and have experienced less gender dysphoria since embracing the “Daniel” part of me. However, I still have dysphoria. I’m still not cis. And at a certain point, all I can do is shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know what a woman is exactly, only that I’m not that.”

But what is a woman? What is the definition of a woman? We know it’s not biologic, or physical, or genetic. We know it’s not just being socialized as a girl. There are as many definitions of “woman” as there are individual who identify as such – and there are plenty of definitions that include people like me. I have the body. I have the upbringing. I pass as woman. But I’m not.

When we’re talking about people – especially the squishy, wibbly-wobbly bits like gender, or religion – then this is how definitions work. There’s a polyvalent logic which says that gender is not binary, that religion doesn’t have to be black or white. Things are complicated and paradoxical and incredibly, ultimately personal. Just because someone similar to myself embraces the label “woman” with open arms and finds that label wonderfully affirming doesn’t negate my own experiences of not-woman-ness. Just because I do call myself Pagan and consider the term very open and loose (and not at all equivalent to “just Wicca”) doesn’t mean that I don’t respect folks who have declined the label for their own use.

What bothers me most about the fact there’s even a controversy around Star’s statements is that whether or not one agrees with her definition of Pagan is, in my opinion, completely irrelevant. Part of the core of my social justice philosophy is that people deserve to have their personal agency respected and protected. It doesn’t matter if I disagree with what they do with that agency (until they start interfering with someone else’s agency) – what matters is that it’s theirs. We have the right to protect our own sovereignty and have that respected. And if someone doesn’t respect that… well, that’s really, really problematic.

These questions that Daniel asks — what is a woman? what is the definition of a woman? — have come up in Pagan circles over the past several years. They make some people very uncomfortable. Substitute “Pagan” for “woman,” and you’re looking at the conversations that have been spreading across the Pagan blogosphere all week.

With my kid, I have no problem accepting genderqueer. It’s how he identifies, and I love him. I also recognize that his decision is an invitation into dialogue. His self-identification calls me into a place of contemplation about my own identity, about the presumptions we all make about gender, and about our cultural rigidity around labels.

He does that all through a very natural and organic act of self-identification, and I enter into that contemplative place because it feels like the compassionate thing to do.

I wonder –

What is it that makes people uncomfortable about this flexibility of definition, either around gender or religion? What is it that leads us to want to firm up our identities, or to hold court around the identities of others? If we find ourself getting defensive, is it because we feel personally threatened by another’s fluidity, or is it because we recognize that this other in our midst is threatening the societal structures and institutions we’ve come to accept as the “norm”?

How can Pagans think about/approach/relate to these polytheists who don’t identify as Pagan? Can we, as I do with my kid, who I love completely, choose to see their act of self-identification as an invitation into deeper contemplation, or will we feel threatened?





54 responses to “Genderqueer is to Trans as Polytheist is to Pagan”

  1. Sovak Avatar

    I would like to add a few thoughts to this post if I may?
    1) Pagan is originally a derogatory term used by the Abrahmic religions, specifically Christians. It has, and still is, used by them in derogatory remarks. It is used to describe someone who is not of their faith (monotheistic) but specifically polytheistic.
    2) If you are using “pagan” to describe yourself based on the definition above then you technically would be correct. However, when the conception and birthing of the neo-witch movement occurred the word “pagan” was taken up with earnest to give a tangible boundry to others and themselves in which to function.
    3) With the current conception and birthing of polytheists (no matter what brand) the word “pagan” no longer truly applies from its current use. Keep in mind a polytheist is not a witch, but a witch is a polytheist )even if they focus on one god/ess (patron/ness). And within the rising polytheist world there are witches that work with those deities (celtic, norse, egyptian, etc). We should be adapting our thinking to them as the “shaman” type of our community.
    4) As the polytheist community grows and develops it will become increasingly vital that we use or create words that describe who we are – not only the community itself but as individuals within it. For example, the GLBT community is the “parent” category, but bear, lipstick lesbian, fey, whatever are the subsets within that parent category, but they in no way intrude upon the other or override the parent category. So we can call ourselves “Polytheists” and have subsets under that (Norse, Celtic, Wiccan, Asatru). We even have the ability to create new words just to suit our needs. This is a fantastic opportunity for dialogue among our people and an opportunity to understand/respect each other so we may be united against the Abrahmic religions which you all know are going to pitch a fit (or worse as history has taught us).
    5) Additionally, part of what is necessary for our growth is the removal of our prior religious upbringings that keep us shackled in certain ways. For example, the illogical belief that being GLBT is a choice, or that heterosexuals are more worthy of the Gods and Goddesses because there are no stories (as in great numbers compared to the heterosexuals) of the Gods and Goddesses getting it on with their own gender, or other GLBT bent.

  2. Amanda Cook Avatar
    Amanda Cook

    Don’t know if this thread is still being read, but I thought I’d throw my two cents in.

    I think this is all just an extension of a simple human dichotomy: As we are more individualistic, we feel more isolated. Humans crave companionship through a sense of community and belonging, and so we seek out those of like mind. As the group broadens to encompass more people, it accurately defines less and less of it’s membership, and through frustration, people return to individuality. Behold the fascinating cycle of Order and Entropy.

    When religion is no longer solidly anchored to a specific culture or ethnicity, secular social order paired with individuality of personal philosophy becomes the spiritual norm. In the same way, as gender expression and sexual preference is no longer strictly anchored to our roles in society, the labels decay and fall into obscurity. I’m a Kinsey person myself (I joke that my number is pi, but realistically I’m a 4), but I look forward to the point when sexuality isn’t even a specific identifier anymore; a culture of sexual/gender “nones”, just as we are increasingly a culture of religious “nones”. It’s not that we don’t have or want any of these things, just that they are individualized and don’t follow any particular established construct.

    Really, I think that’s all that’s happening to the pagan community – for lack of a better term, as increasingly neither word accurately applies to everyone. We’re simply evolving into our own baseline of “nones” who are loosely joined by alternative spirituality paired with ideas like social justice, responsible ecology, separation of church and state, and freedom of personal expression.

  3. Eran Rathan Avatar

    I have to go with the ineffable wisdom of Terry Pratchett:

    “She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.” and “It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.”

    Labels, in my mind, are simply boxes that people use to file other people in so they don’t have to think as much, and belong more on goods than people.

  4. Crystal Blanton Avatar
    Crystal Blanton

    I want to first start by saying that I am an eclectic. I think that will help my post make some sense. I feel like people often assume that eclectic practice is (for one) all looked at the same and (for two) there is no rhyme or reason besides throwing in things. I find that disheartening because for most of us that are from blended culture, our ethnic practice will often combine with our spiritual practice. I say this because there was a string of comments that made mention of not being able to teach eclectic Wicca and it slowly dying. It is more complex than that… I come from an eclectic tradition and I also teach my culture.
    Here is one of the reasons I mention this in this post, part of the issue with what came from this week’s reveal was not about Star’s right to self define. I believe in that concept whole heartedly. What starts to happen is this splitting of community based on personal biases that blame, defame and judge other’s practices as if they are the problem in this whole thing. I have seen in in every thread. While someone may not know, or understand my personal practice, it is rooted in my culture and come from my ancestors. There is no black and white in this.
    So we can’t have it both ways, we can’t be flexible with other’s right to choose because Paganism is “too loose and undefined” and yet those who identify with Pagan are wrong and watering down history. It just doesn’t work for me.
    What this week has reconfirmed for me is the real need for people to learn to communicate better, allow color in black and white definitions and to remember that the ability to define self is not one sided.

  5. Daniel Grey Avatar

    Thanks for the comments on my comment, Eric. 🙂 There are some labels which lean more towards the objective end of things and some which are more subjective, and the more subjective things are the more personal gnosis comes into play. At the end of the day I have /no idea/ how you’re seeing and experiencing the world, so I have to take your word for it. To do otherwise seems to be implying that I know you better than you do, or that you’re somehow incapable of evaluating those experiences yourself.

  6. Daniel Grey Avatar

    Finally, more than ten hours after you posted this, I get a chance to reply. 45 comments to the conversation already – wow! I don’t think I’ll be able to get through them all tonight, but I thought I’d leave at least a general response before tackling the rest in the morning. (I apologize for any incoherence on my part. It’s been a day full of both good and bad stress and I think it’s actually past my bedtime.)

    First of all, thank you for quoting me and thank you for being a good dad. The support and love of parents can never be overstated, and your kid is lucky – dare I say blessed? – to have someone who cares for them so thoroughly.

    Second, I’ve been mulling over the analogy you used in the title of this post. Genderqueer : Trans as Polytheist : Pagan. (At least, I think that’s how the shorthand goes. Analogies weren’t part of the SATs when I took them! 😉 ) While on the one hand I’m not sure how close this analogy fits (with the understanding you didn’t likely mean for it to be a 100% match), I also see a lot of good comparisons.

    For example, I know that for many people the term “genderqueer” falls neatly under the “trans* umbrella” of non-cis gender identities and expressions. I know there are genderqueer folk who gladly think of themselves as trans* as well, and you better believe I will dust off my metaphorical boxing gloves and go to town on anyone who tells them their experiences aren’t real, valid, authentic, or trans* enough. (As though there’s some objective meter angst-and-oppression-o-meter that we can use to determine that!)

    However, I feel like there’s something about my /own experience of a genderqueer identity/ which makes claiming the “trans*” label feel… inauthentic. At least without a bunch of qualifiers. Of course there are trans*folk like me who don’t hate their bodies, don’t have crippling body dysphoria, aren’t intending to transition via SRS or hormones, don’t want a name change, don’t care the first thing about passing – of course the trans* experience is /explosive/ with diversity and depth beyond any one person’s ability to comprehend. Still, I wonder if /I/ am not-cis-enough to “count” as trans*. I look at the narratives my trans* siblings and friends share and I wonder if it is fair, either to them or to me, if I use the same label for myself. (Sometimes I do and have referred to myself broadly as part of “the trans* community”, but often that was for the sake of quick explanations and in environments where others already knew what I was talking about without me having to rehash everything from square one.)

    As someone who has also contemplated whether “Pagan” is useful or not, I see similarities. What /is/ “Pagan enough”? What counts? Who’s counting? Is it content, form, context, intention, motive, what?

    Words are important. Words matter. And I believe they are important and they matter not because definitions are set in stone in order to Mean Something, but rather they Mean Something /because/ they are glimpses into the wild and woolly subjective inner landscapes we carry around with us, and we use the the best words we can to explain these landscapes to other travelers in hopes of being understood.

    As you said about your child’s gender identity, I also hope that labels are the /first/ step in dialogue rather than the last. “Pagan” is hardly sufficient to explain my religious beliefs, and neither is “genderqueer.”

  7. Daniel SnowKestral Avatar
    Daniel SnowKestral

    I am not sure if my thoughts, listed here, will clarify or bring needed insight into this discussion–I realize, too, I can only speak to the place from which I identify. And, too, maybe my words are not relateable to the central point of this discussion. Here I go, nonetheless!

    Being Gay, neither “masculine” or “feminine” in any senses of the meanings, I feel like a very “in-between” young, gay man. I often use the term Fey because I am naturally flamboyant, though not in a self-conscious,contrived sort-of-way. Rather, I am just plain old me in the Fey-Spirited respect. I am also a very creative person, and this adds a bit to how I identify, too. Gay, in a sense, falls short of defining who I am on a myriad of levels.

    In addition, being of Indigenous Heritage (I am Ojibwe-Cree & Blackfeet), I greatly identify as a Two-Spirit (Agokwe), too. I feel much more comfortable around trees and animals than I do many people, and I often prefer solitude. This goes for being a very primalistic sort of “Pagan.” Or shall I say, moreso, a Fairy Faither.

    How I indentify is not how anyone else identifies…for every person alive there is an unfolding, existential process or realization that goes beyond general, homogenizing labels. They help to an extent, but can end up getting in the way of the particularizing process of a pluralistic, individual reality. Particular voices can be easily drowned out, making an identifying, overall label arbitrary (label essentialism).

    As I come to know myself, I also realize I am more of a mystery to myself, as well. Hence, a deepened contemplation and meditation regarding “Fey,” “Fey-Spirit,” and “Two Spirit,” are where I feel at home–and, to which, I am consistently defining as I live my life.
    You are an especially wonderful father, Teo. 🙂

  8. Michelle Avatar

    After reading through the past couple of entries and today’s comments, I have a few cents to add to the conversation. There’s several comments I wanted to specifically respond to, but I think I’ll just respond to them in one big general post. I haven’t followed Star’s blog, so I’m not invested in what she chooses to identify with… but I can see, for people that have followed her and see her as a leader in the Pagan community, it can feel like a loss, and cause other people to question their own identities, and what the heck “Pagan” means. Similarly, if Teo announced tomorrow that he no longer considered himself a druid, I imagine many readers might feel the same.

    Someone brought up the term “feminist” earlier, and I think that term is a good analogy to this situation. Personally, I think that anyone who supports women’s equality “should” identity as feminists… on one hand, it’s not my place to dictate how anyone self-identifies, but it frustrates me when people won’t identify as feminist because of perceptions/stigma that “feminist” means angry, radical man-hating butch-lesbians (or anything other amalgam of stereotypes/misperceptions). To me, being a feminist just means you advocate women’s rights and equality, and when people don’t identify with the term, but do agree with those goals, they are detracting from the feminist movement as a whole. Similarly, I can see how people who want the term pagan to be widely inclusive may feel that when individuals who are polytheistic don’t identify as pagan, they are detracting from the pagan “movement” and narrowing the definition of what it means to be pagan… particularly if it’s perceived to be because individuals don’t want to be stereotyped as hippy-dippy eclectic wiccans who are playing pretend or misappropriating different cultural heritages (once again, using an amalgam of stereotypes/misperceptions).

    That said, I’ve personally had a number of changing religious identifications… in the past I’ve identified as Catholic, Christian, Wiccan, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic…. right now, the best way I can describe myself is as a Universalist with agnostic/pantheistic/panentheistic/druidic leanings (I’m spiritually indecisive). I don’t know if I will ever identify myself as Pagan (or if others in the pagan community think that I should or should not). My current path to exploring druidry (druidism?) was via Celtic Christianity and OBOD-style druidry… and while I’ve come to accept that I’m a bit of a square peg that really doesn’t fit well in Christian hole (my faith in Catholicism had far more to do with the paganistic aspects of the religion–I was always the sort of person who prayed to Mary or the saints instead of Jesus, and identified more with the cultural-historical-traditional aspects of folk Catholicism more than the actually doctrine we were supposed to profess in church), I’m not sure if I fit into the Pagan hole any better. I’m exploring ADF-style druidry right now, but I’m not sure if that’s a good fit for me either–while there’s some elements that resonate with me, I’m definitely NOT a hard polytheist, and I’m not really sure I’m a soft polytheist either… Of course, my beliefs are always subject to change, so who knows.

    A few things I’ve read in other comments that I would like to add my two cents too– I’ve seen it mentioned a few times that there are a number of polytheistic religions that don’t fit under the umbrella of paganism, such as Shintoism, Native/Aboriginal/First Nations spirituality, and Hinduism–but I think that is debatable. While I do understand that some followers of these religions would not identify as Pagan because they are following a specific cultural/ethnic religious tradition, and consider the term “Pagan” to mean neo-pagan constructions/cultural appropriation of ethnic religious traditions that have largely lost… I think that some do embrace identification or affinity with the pagan community. In particular, the parallels between druidism, vedism, and hinduism would make it odd to identify these traditions as completely separate and unrelated.

    Also, someone mentioned the example of hinduism in conjunction with animal sacrifice? That seems an odd thing to me, because my understanding is that reverence for animals/seeing animals as tacred/vegetarianism are all important aspects of hinduism (or at least some subsets of hinduism). Perhaps a better example would be, American Hindus are still following the Hindu the tradition even when they jettison concepts that they feel are outdated, such as the caste system?

    I think there’s a continuum between faithfully following every historical tradition, practicing aspects of traditional religion with modern modifications/reconstruction, following an eclectic smorgasbord of multiple traditions, and completely making up your own religion… there are no clear boundaries between each of these… no one is fully authentic to the practices of people a couple thousand years ago, but neither is anyone completely inventing a practice of their own.

    Also, a lot has been said about paganism being associated with Wicca, because that is the most predominant version of paganism/neo-paganism. I should say that in retrospect, my high school dabbling in Wicca had more to do with wanting to play pretend at being a “witch” than genuine religious belief or practice… and quite honestly, I feel pretty silly about that phase, and can understand why people would want to distance their genuine religious beliefs from that sort of thing. That said, it was part of what led me to learning about Celtic mythology and deities, and druids–and the fact that a lot of that mythology and tradition resonated deeply with me is why I’m now exploring druidry.

  9. Morag Spinner Avatar
    Morag Spinner

    I honestly think it’s because we’re taught from a very young age to not respect other people’s agency — first by not having our own respected, which we then internalize and turn against other folks.

    Star’s announcement was her clearly stating her boundaries, her exercising her agency, and peoples’ refusal to respect her boundaries or her choices is, honestly, sort of par for the course considering the culture we live in.

    We live in a culture of domination, disrespect, abuse, kyriarchy, power-over, and privilege. No matter how awesome a parent one might be (and I do believe you’re an awesome parent, Teo), one can’t protect a child completely from cultural influences — those start early, and they dig deep roots.

    I was raised by a mother who is undoubtedly feminist and completely Buddhist. And yet I still have to deprogram myself from the culture at large — a culture that blends secular Christianity with misogyny, racism, colonialism, queer- and transphobia, ableism, etc etc etc. I have to get rid of my own internalized self-hatred — hatred of myself for being queer, assigned female at birth, mixed-race (though I will admit, my bio-sire’s own internalized self-hatred and racism contributed more strongly to that part).

    I had to learn about respecting other peoples’ agency. I had to learn about respecting my own. I had to learn about boundaries, and consent, and deprogramming myself from all those messages of the kyriarchy.

    So is it really any surprise that people can’t respect the agency of a blogger they don’t know from Eve, if we have so much trouble trying to respect our own agency or the agency of the people we love?

    This isn’t something one just acquires overnight; it takes years of hard work. I wasn’t even aware I needed to do that work until a few years ago. Now, it’s a constant struggle — to figure out what my boundaries are, to name them, to respect myself, to let that respect ripple outwards to my loved ones, and then to people I don’t know yet.

    It’s incredibly difficult to remind myself to do this every day, to remind myself that I am not my programming and I can rise above it — instead of falling into old habits, old behaviours.

    It’s worth it, though, because it’s the first step towards building a culture of consent, respect, love, and equality. And I don’t know about y’all, but that’s a culture I’d really like to see get built.

  10. Burninghirm Avatar

    I started writing this when there were 9 comments, I see
    most of what I have written is contained in the posts that were made since, I
    am still going to post it and maybe it will help clear the mist, y’all have
    some good ideas brewing here.

    As a minister, I will try to answer, from my point of view,
    the question: “how one might take a
    ministerial approach to the experience Dash is having.”

    We are all first Humans, so says the DNA and that’s my
    marker. Everything else is a negotiation between how you see yourself, how you communicate
    that to me and my perceptions of you. I need to bring an open heart and open
    mind to the discussion and you need to bring truth and clarity. The reverse is also
    true for your knowledge of my identity and we must NOT allow other’s confusion
    and fear to upset us.

    If you have spent time working on yourself and have come to understand
    your faith as “X” and others see it as “F”, my counsel would be to state your
    truth and the reasons why you have reached your position, and let someone that responds
    in a way that upsets you, have some space, they need to come to terms with the
    fact that you have changed something they thought of as set in their world and
    that distresses people. Questioning yourself is how you grow and that is or
    should be your first priority. It really does not matter what others name you ,
    it is how you name yourself and present that to others. You cannot control
    other’s ideas, actions, thoughts, or speech, you can only and should only be able
    to control yours. If you believe otherwise, you need to have some conversations
    beyond this, (My Core Beliefs) feel free to convince and cajole, but do not
    force or demand acceptance, as it only strengthens the opposition.

    I have had to live this for many years, I am a Christian,
    Gnostic, and still a Christian. I also have studied and been initiated in a few
    esoteric traditions and consider myself a ritualist and adept. The mainstream Christian
    community views me as a Heretic, Sinner, Demonspawn, back slider and other FUN epithets.
    Very few have maintained cordial relations. The “Pagan” community has most often
    viewed me as Witch Burner, Scum, Xtian, EVIL, hater, and more FUN epithets. I
    know what I am and how I approach the divine, I know what I love and what I
    want to learn, those are what drive me, not how you see me and I will welcome
    the chance to sit and converse with you over your favorite beverage about them.
    I have also found that if you approach a community as authentic, honest and
    open as you can be, you will eventually receive the same, and while you may not
    find a “home” you can find a place to rest.

  11. Alison Leigh Lilly Avatar

    Honestly… I think the controversy around Star’s decision not to be Pagan doesn’t have much to do with the actual definition at all, however loosey-goosey. I think there’s controversy because she has actively cultivated controversy in her online life. She has attacked others more than once for “not really being Pagan,” and when she isn’t attacking them for not really being Pagan, she’s attacking them for supposedly trying to dictate what Pagan “really” means. (I’ve talked on numerous occasions about my complex relationship with the term “Pagan,” and so have many others, without generating the kind of firestorm that’s sprung up over the past few days.) The fact that Star has finally thrown her hands up and decided not to try to claim the Pagan label anymore is not only not all that surprising, but for some of us, it’s actually a bit of a relief and a ray of hope that maybe some of that controversy will die down and we can get back to talking about all the things we have in common and all the things we love about our own unique traditions.

    I’m not very familiar with the subtleties of difference between words like “genderqueer” and “trans” but my impression is that, if anything, genderqueer is to trans as Pagan is to polytheism. In other words, Pagan is the more “queer” and complex term that embraces a huge diversity of meaning as well as the flexibility and fluidity of meaning that we’ve come to associate with the modern Pagan community. Whereas “polytheism” (especially as it seems to be used in this polytheist-not-Pagan context) is a very specific theological construct. Folks who identify as polytheist-but-not-Pagan often seem to be trying to distance themselves from the perception of being loosey-goosey about their meaning, because they perceive that fluidity and flexibility as “New Age,” “Wiccan” or too eclectic. (This is my impression, anyway, based on what they’ve said about their reasons, and I’m not just talking about Star here.)

    So while I totally appreciate and agree with what Daniel is saying, I don’t think the situation is comparable except in the broadest sense. Yes, I think the controversy over Star is silly and overblown. Yes, we should totally be down with however people want to self-identify. But when we’re talking about community identity (as opposed to self-identity), we’re going to have to grapple with community processes of meaning-making, not just the individual and their identity preferences. Folks who don’t keep some perspective when it coms to participating in community processes of meaning-making (which are always going to be messy and, to some extent, ultimately dissatisfying) are always going to end up generating controversy no matter what side of the fence their self-identity ends up on.

    1. Daniel Grey Avatar

      I can’t really comment on your experiences with Star, but I would like to address your distinction between self-identity and community identity. I think where you and I might disagree (and I may completely be wrong, please correct me if so!) is whether or not there’s some core experience that unites “Pagans” as a group. If there’s a community where all individuals therein experience /something/ together – I’m thinking of socioeconomic brackets, members of particular organizations with specific entry requirements, even identities like “schoolteacher” or “parent” – then maybe I can see a bit of added importance to the idea of a “community identity.” At the very least, there may be generally a lot less argument around who does or does not fall into that group. But when we’re dealing with identities that /don’t/ have one singular shared experience that the /entire/ group shares – I think in terms of gender and some spiritual or religious expressions – then I have to disagree with you. No one else can make a woman, or a man, or a Pagan. We might have similar experiences or find people who see and experience the world like we do, but overall, do you feel that you or anyone else can define terms as nebulous as “woman” or “Pagan”? (This is a sincere question, since they do seem so nebulous to me, but I realize that for others these labels are very concrete.)

    2. Ruadhán J McElroy Avatar

      Honestly… I think the controversy around Star’s decision not to be Pagan doesn’t have much to do with the actual definition at all, however loosey-goosey. I think there’s controversy because she has actively cultivated controversy in her online life. She has attacked others more than once for “not really being Pagan,” and when she isn’t attacking them for not really being Pagan, she’s attacking them for supposedly trying to dictate what Pagan “really” means. (I’ve talked on numerous occasions about my complex relationship with the term “Pagan,” and so have many others, without generating the kind of firestorm that’s sprung up over the past few days.) The fact that Star has finally thrown her hands up and decided not to try to claim the Pagan label anymore is not only not all that surprising…

      Exactly. Hell, she’d made at least three threats to “leave paganism” in less that two years (two of which I can easily source), and now I’m wishing a couple friends of mine and I had taken her seriously –cos after she made her exit from Patheos, promising us she was going to “focus on something other than paganism for a while”, then barely a month later started with begging, in hopes of making pagan blogging a full time job, I said to a few people “I’ll bet $50 that in three months, six tops, she’s finally going to decide that she’s not pagan anymore.” One said, “No way, I’ve got $50 that says she’ll wait at least a year.” the other friend said, “No way, she thrives on this drama, I’ve got $100 that says in a year she’ll still be pagan, without any interruption outside another empty threat or two.”

      I could have made $150. I am SO pissed off.

  12. Amber Roth Avatar

    I think part of the problem is that people generally are looking for a group to belong in, and this is partially why we hold court around the identity of others. We feel a need to prove ourselves to other people, to be accepted by them or to be able to prove those we disagree with wrong. While everyone generally has their own opinions and take on life, most still have a role model or a chosen leader. For some, this is as simple as a prolific blogger. They see them out there, they agree with them, so in a small way they decide to follow them. Pretty normal, right?

    But while there are strong ideas in the Pagan community, we are still in a growing stage, and sometimes I wonder if we will always be in that stage because such is the way of human nature…but that’s another talk. But this also means that there are a lot of people that while they may feel strongly…they may not have that confidence all on their own. So they rely on the strength of those that they look up to, almost to a “higher than human” level. So when these people show their ability to crack, or make mistakes, or show a larger part of their humanity, I think it’s only natural for those same people to get really upset and involved.

    There’s a saying that we often point out flaws in others that we, ourselves, often hold. I think that can point back to why this can be considered a big deal and dredge up all sorts of emotions. So I think both statements are right when you ask what it means when we get defensive. Some will feel threatened because of the fluidity, while others see a direct threat. But I think it all boils down to something very simple. It poses the question “What if I’ve been wrong this whole time?”

    Maybe if we stop wondering about the imagined horrors of “What if I’ve been wrong” and enjoy the ride of learning new perspectives and then deciding where we stand on them as individuals we will stop being embraced by the feeling of being threatened, and ask it to sit patiently while we talk.

  13. Stifyn Emrys Avatar

    On a purely linguistic level, it seems to me that polytheism, like Wicca, Druidry, etc., is a subset of Paganism. I’m not sure the same relationship exists between the term genderqueer and trans.

    1. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

      Vehemently disagree. Native Americans, Shintoist, and certain kinds of Hindu are all polytheists yet many would not be called “Pagan” or be classified as Pagan, except perhaps by the Christian definition.

      1. JasonMankey Avatar

        I think when we use the term “Paganism” in the United States
        and Great Britain we are generally using it to signify something related to the Western Magical Tradition and the pagan traditions that preceded it. Most of us celebrate Celtic and Norse seasonal holidays, we use language (and some ritual) that can be traced back to Freemasonry and English Romantic Poetry. We are familiar with Greek myths, etc etc. There’s a difference between Paganism (Big P) and paganism (little p).

        And Teo, you don’t read “Raise the Horns?” Sadness. (Kidding, mostly.)

        1. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

          Exactly, and people like myself don’t do *any* of those things. So why do people try to force folks like myself into the label? I have a theory, and I plan on exploring it more in the future, is that we feel comfortable forcing these labels on people on account of being familiar with their myths and that because the Gods are used in the Pagan community at large many people feel that a Hellenic Wiccan and a Hellenic Recon should both go in the same “broad” category even though they are wildly different, even more different from one another than Islam is from Christianity. I’m not a pagan (country-dweller) and I bear the label of Pagan out of utility and practicality as my own practice, beliefs, mores, and attitudes do not match or fit the culture very well.

          1. JasonMankey Avatar

            As the various currents and spiritualities that make up the Modern Pagan Movement become more and more their own things I think they’ll be some readjustments in terms. Perhaps in 100 years Druidry will just be its own thing, or Wicca, etc etc.

            But I also think the differences can be rather nebulous. I’m a Traditional Witch, I do Greek Recon rituals, I go to eclectic circles, etc. I do a lot of different Pagan type stuff, and I find that in all of those circles I share the same language and much of the same experience. It’s hard for me not to think of all of those folks as Pagan (and yes some of the Recon people don’t like the term). There are major differences between a Recon ritual and eclectic Wiccan circle, and yes, some people would probably wind-up a bit lost, but I’ve known lots of people over the years who enjoy both worlds.

            Conor, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you do?

          2. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            Yes, and I know people who do Shinto type rituals but that doesn’t make Shinto Pagan. Just because *you* do something it doesn’t mean that it belongs to your group. It extends beyond praxis, it extends to world-view, it extends to the focus. Hellenismos is home-based, the Pagan community is individually focused. for example. This aren’t just differences in “tradition” these are differences which are wide-worlds apart. Frankly, to say that it has any resemblance to the general standard of Pagan practice is a tad blind.

            As for what I do, I do a lot of stuff. I read, I smoke hookah, I play video games, I study. If you were asking what my religion is, I am a Hellenist. To the out-groups I tend to call myself a Hellenic Polytheist (i.e., Christians, Atheists, the community at large) to in-groups (i.e. people who will likely know what I mean) I prefer to use the word Hellenismos or Hellenic Revivalist, which switches upon my personal fancy.

          3. JasonMankey Avatar

            I know lots of people who proudly call themselves Pagan and participate in Hellenic Rituals, very authentic rituals. Obviously there has to be some resemblance to the
            “general standard of Pagan” or they wouldn’t inhabit both worlds to such a degree. I sort of understand your point, but some people are comfortable claiming that a Hellenic path is a Modern Pagan one. Even the most serious Reconstructionists don’t do things exactly like they were done 2500 years ago. When was the last time you sacrificed a goat with male genitalia intact to honor Pan?

            The “Pagan community is individually focused” and “Hellenismos is home-based?” Those are some broad generalizations. Talk to your average Kitchen Witch and tell me she’s not “home-based.”

          4. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            There is literally almost no resemblance to the modern standard Pagan rituals. They have in common 1) libations/offerings and 2) Gods. In addition, define Authentic, because I know of folks who are under the impression that various neo-Druidic groups are “Authentic”. Your claim of authenticity means nothing to me unless you can tell me how the ritual went, don’t interpret that aggressively, interpret that simply. I distrust the average Pagan calling something “authentic” That is about where it ends as far as I can tell. In addition, as a counter to your point, look at where Heathenism is heading, slowly but surely. Disassociation from the Pagan community.

            Furthermore, you misunderstand what I mean by “home-based”. Especially if what I googled on kitchen-witch is correct. By home-based I mean the family takes a huge precedence over the individual, and even that statement can’t begin to describe the entirety of the world-view. To explain it fully would take a bit more time and energy than I can put in right now.

            As for your statement of “When was the last time you sacrificed a goat with male genitalia intact to honor Pan?” as being an argument for followers of Hellenismos being “automatically” Pagan, Firstly, you make the assumption that all of us have some desire to stay in the past. We are all cognizant that if the Hellenic religion had survived into the modern age, things would have changed and changed with certain life-style influences. Are American Hindus not Hindus because they don’t do animal-sacrifice? Does that make them “less Hindu?” Does their decision not to do such sacrifices force them automatically into the Pagan crowd? The answer is no, in case you are wondering.

          5. Guest Avatar

            You are making this far too argumentative and for reasons I don’t quite understand. I’m going to move on after this post because I’m not argumentative, I ha

          6. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            “Arguing” in the non-aggressive and productive sense is a useful tool to help people flesh out an issue or further define the issue. This stands in opposition to “debating” in which the goal is to persuade the audience to your side while dissuading them from your opponent’s side. I’m doing the former, this is a very loosely defined thing which needs thrashing out and fleshing out. In addition your comment was unneeded and did not contribute anything.

          7. Teo Bishop Avatar

            I think it’s important that no one be made to feel that what they write here is “unneeded.” That’s a sure fire way to make someone put someone in the defense and make them feel unwelcome.
            This should be a space where people are encouraged to speak their mind. I’m also not inclined to make this a space for argument, and I’d rather see us dialogue. In my mind, dialogue is done by seeking to understand one another, rather than trying to prove one’s point.
            When in doubt, be nice. It’s a simple choice, and it can go a long way to creating a safe space for exploring ideas. (And this last part is a good reminder for all of us.)

          8. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            “Arguing” in a non-aggressive fashion is a very effective piece of dialogue “Arguing” in the modern connotation is ineffective and destructive. If anyone thought I was doing the latter over the former then it simply exhibits one of the many reasons why it feels impossible to really try to speak with members of the Pagan community.

          9. JasonMankey Avatar

            You are making this far too argumentative and for reasons I don’t quite understand. I’m going to move on after this post because I’m not argumentative. I also have a pretty long list of writings if you want to gauge my level of intelligence. All you have to do is google my name.

            I’ve basically agreed with you on several points. Yes, I see a day when many of the things we currently call “Pagan” divert from one another. People will build up ideas, beliefs, rituals, that will eventually make the differences between Wiccan and Druid pretty telling. Obvious Recon groups will fall into this, the serious ones do things far outside the ritual forms most people associate with Modern Paganism.

            You are entitled to call yourself whatever you want, and I respect that, but if someone is convinced that they aren’t a part of the Pagan Community, it’s hard for the rest of us to see that when they read Pagan blogs, worship Pagan Gods, and go to Pagan events. Modern Paganism has always been an attempt to reconstruct the past as the practitioner might understand it. The first Witches thought they were doing something that was centuries old.

            I wish you luck on your path.

          10. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            1) See response below

            2) This isn’t a question of your intelligence
            3) You didn’t respond to the points I made
            4) I loosely associate with the Pagan sub-culture, though I’m gradually moving towards the decision to “cut ties” so to speak.

            5) They aren’t “Pagan Gods” unless you count the “Lord and Lady” they are Hellenic, Kemetic, Hindu, Shinto, Gods. You wouldn’t call a Native American’s Gods “Pagan Gods”, don’t do it to others. It is that mentality that anything “Pagandom” gets its hands on is “Pagan” is what is causing so many people to axe the Pagan community.

          11. Lo Avatar

            I see all the mountains of dissenting comments on your blog post didn’t sway your view one inch, did it. Very disappointing that you aren’t even open to reconsidering your opinion on the matter.

          12. Andrew Edward Maxson Avatar

            “There is literally almost no resemblance to the modern standard Pagan rituals. They have in common 1) libations/offerings and 2) Gods.”
            It is interesting to me that you see “literally almost no resemblance” between your rituals and mine (I’m Gardnerian). I use Hellenismos rituals as examples in my coven teachings to show how they are extremely similar in concept and practice to what we use in British Traditional Wicca. Gerald Gardner, of course, borrowed from nearly everyone. 🙂

            Your generalization about “family-based” vs. “individual” does not hold true for me either. My Gardnerian practice is entirely family-based, “family” being my chosen family of other Gardnerians. I of course cannot decide for my children or other relatives what religious path they follow.

            What I am seeing in many of these discussion/arguments over several blogs are people who have a dislike of or disagreement with what they perceive other Pagan denominations do, and seem quite desperate to distance themselves from those “others”. But I think these are merely internal differences. From the outside, I doubt a casual observer is going to be able to distinguish between Hellenismos, British Traditional, Heathen, or American Eclectic anymore than the same casual outside observer could distinguish between Eastern Orthodox, Southern Baptist, and Mormon.

          13. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            Andrew, perhaps I made too sweeping of a generalization and did not specify. By family, I mean family, your kin-folks be they adopted or not, be they of the same faith or not, they play a vital role. While “selected” families are a very important part of spirituality for all people (that is the inner-most community, like a theatre troupe) the literal system of relatives is a very big part of Hellenismos.

            Also, while you are partly correct, I think that if you were to break the differences down you’d see something very different. Perhaps you would like to link me to something to show me? I may have the wrong idea about BTW, but if it is what I’m thinking it is the differences are quite pronounced and I strongly feel that a casual observer would be able to tell the difference.

            In my various research and studies, I’d say the standard Hellenic ritual has a lot in common with Shinto rituals, though for the sake of fairness I can find stuff in Shinto that has parallels in BTW. Furthermore, it also bares some resemblance to Catholic rituals.

            In the end, my statement was probably too broad, as many rituals have the same Procession-Purification-Offering-Thanks-Closing pattern.

  14. Kauko Avatar

    Relating the Pagan- Polytheist question to GLBTetc things, my own experience as a gay man has had a similar relationship to the bear community. For over a decade now, all of my gay male friends have been people who identify as bears, I occasionally go with them to bear events, and my own physical appearance puts me firmly in the bear-type category. And yet, I just can’t accept the label ‘bear’ for myself; I can’t identify with it. People around me would likely just think of me as such, but if pressed I will emphatically deny that I am a bear, or any other animal, for that matter.

  15. Eric Devries Avatar

    I switched from Pagan to Polytheistic a few months ago my view being that if Pagan includes all things even if they are contradictory then it has no meaning. I think words should matter and for me that one no longer does. Apparently I have to preface my polytheism with ‘hard’ because even though polytheistic means believing in multiple Gods many who identify as that do not. I have a lot of trouble pretending like I don’t find this all deeply silly. In practice i’m still an eclectic neopagan but if I say i’m Pagan i’m including myself in a group that includes white supremacists, athiests and everything else under the sun. It feels dishonest to me, I won’t do it. Some people tell me this is the growing pains of a young community, I just find it ridiculous.

    Teo, you are an awesome dad, much respect.

  16. Rob Henderson Avatar

    Thanks for this perspective on it. The intensity of the reactions around Star’s posts have struck me as unusual, even by the standards I expect from online posts.

    1. Ruadhán J McElroy Avatar

      Has is really been that much different from the reactions to Drew Jacob’s similar declaration that was made on his blog a couple years ago?

  17. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

    I think the discomfort, confusion and outrage stems from the fact that Eclectics and the broader community has to face the fact that their behavior, attitudes, and social mores are driving people away and causing them to dump the “Pagan” label. I’ll be honest with you, I do not consider myself “Pagan” in any meaningful sense and rather, I associate with people who identify as “Pagan” for a variety of reasons, but the term is not one I’m married to, and I hardly ever use it in reference to self other than when I’m trying to appeal to people’s sense of community for whatever reason. Why? Same reason that despite being for gender equality, I do not call myself a feminist. I may interact with feminist, I may talk to and hang around feminist at times, but their sub-culture is not one I want to heavily associate with. I don’t like the sub-culture much, but I may like people within the sub-culture

    Here is the thick of it, we don’t force Hindus to call themselves Pagans, but some might. We don’t force Shintoist, Native American Tribal Religions, or Taoists to call themselves Pagans, but some *might*. The decision of many Polytheistic persons to not identify as Pagan is the first-wakings up of a fact. Paganism is *NOT* a religion, it is a sub-cultural grouping, it will not operate as a religion, it will operate as a sub-culture and thus relies on people self-identifying as Pagan in order to have members. It isn’t like Christianity in which people are automatically Christian if they agree with the central tenants, it is something which is defined person to person. One Shintoist may be Pagan, another not Pagan.It is self-identification, plain and simple.

    The realization that their “religious” label (Pagan) is becoming a sub-cultural label which people can *choose to drop, regardless of religion* makes people uncomfortable.

    I predict we will see much more dropping of the label as recons grow organized and large enough to sustain themselves and to get their name out without using the Pagan label. You are already seeing the tendency in Heathenry/Asatru groups, it’ll happen with others too once they get large enough.

    1. dashifen Avatar

      Where does that leave people like me who do not have nor (at this time) seek to have a formalized tradition?

      I use the term Pagan because to claim any other label would seem to be appropriating the work of others and to imply that I somehow do things the way they do. Similar, in some respects, to how someone might use the term Jewish to describe their religious and cultural identity but not really be practicing Judaism.

      1. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

        I’m not quite sure. That is a dilemma for your group to solve, but I heavily suspect that people like you will either end up banding together and solving your differences like reformed Jews and make up the “Eclectic Pagan” tradition of the Pagan tent, where, judging from your posts, will likely leave you being the odd man out, I’m not sure though. Overall, I suspect Eclecticism isn’t sustainable, and even Eclectics will eventually “loosely” join some sort of organization or tradition, or they will remain Eclectic and die and thus take their tradition with them (since you can’t really *teach* Eclecticism can you?)

        To put it a bit more simply, I predict Eclectics will become the Non-Denominational Christians of the Pagan world. They will share a few core attributes, band together for worship, and will survive and carry on in a way. If they don’t do that, they will die out.

        1. dashifen Avatar

          But, I’m not eclectic. I work with the Hellenic pantheon with one specific exception, but I am not a member of any of the Hellenic recon trads.

          I think, though, that as long as Paganism is a place where anyone is free to join (and free to leave) you’re always going to have non-denominational Pagans and I think the term Pagan is always going to be a blanket term (to use Wikipedia’s phrasing) encompassing them and a variety of others.

          1. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            I use Eclectic in the sense of “practices taken from multiple religions/traditions especially those taken from New Age and Wiccan sources, though not exclusively these,” Anyone whose praxis is influenced by a variety of religions is Eclectic by my definition.

            Furthermore, if my definition does not fit you, I suggest you check out an organization called Hellenion. hellenion[dot]org is the URL address.

          2. dashifen Avatar

            I’m familiar with Hellenion. It’s not for me for a variety of reasons which, frankly, might lend credence to your labeling of me as an eclectic. Thank you for the clarification!

          3. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            Not a problem, reading some of your other posts makes me ponder if you are over-thinking things. I ran into an issue that I soon found out was not important and a direct result of me “over-thinking” these sorts of things. What you are going to see is that many Polytheists who drop the Pagan label are still going to associate with the larger Pagan community because of the fact that the Pagan community still has resources that they need, and still has networking that they require. Then you have the Neo-Druidic organizations like ADF who are distinctly Polytheistic and growing quickly. I suspect that ADF will come to exert a considerable influence over the general Pagan community in the future. Polytheism will not leave the general Pagan community. And those Eclectic Polytheists are going to wither and die if they try to divorce themselves from the Pagan community completely since they’ll be eating dinner alone so to speak, always, and constantly. They’ll have to either keep ties or figure out ways to cope with perpetual isolation in my opinion.

          4. Rob Henderson Avatar

            Conor – so you advice to those who don’t feel that the Pagan community includes them is that they should choose being in a bad relationship over not having a relationship?

          5. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            Depends on if any other groups will “take” them. You are making a false equivalency here too. A personal relationship is nothing like the relationship with a community. It is better for *most* people to belong to a group where theological and praxic differences arise than to be in a seat of one. A bad relationship is easily fixed, you dump the relationship, recuperate, and find a new one, there are literally billions of other options for the person. The issue of community is different in the fact that no other community may exist. Can you hoof it alone? Is there another group which you fit in better with who will tolerate you? If the answer is yes to either then it is best to move on. I have found though, that many people who think they can hoof it alone can’t, and eventually go back to some ill-fitting group or wind up changing their views.

            Furthermore, I think it should be noted that most polytheists *do* have some other group to go to. You find American Shintoist starting to associate with Pagan groups because they are so small and need a community, if there were more American Shintoists you’d find that they’d be far less inclined to associate with Pagans. Eclectic Polytheists are going to have to make due, but those with a defined religion are a lot better off.

          6. Rob Henderson Avatar

            From my experience, a relationship with a community certainly does have enough in common with personal relationships to make the comparison apt. I’ve certainly had great difficulty finding someone new after a break-up, and I’ve had to go seven years without now because of that. (Billions of other options? You really think it’s viable for me to date women in foreign countries?)

            Here’s hoping that the SDF and other groups tending to the needs of solitaries will ensure that nobody has to feel invalidated, or feel that they have to settle, just because they can’t find the right group in their area.

          7. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            It could be potentially viable, I don’t know you so I cast the widest possible net. If you want to reduce it to your state or province or whatever, then by all means, go ahead.

            Also, I’d quickly call SDF a community. An online one, but one none-the less. Online need be no less “real” than real life, though some may find one more or less fulfilling than the other.

            As an aside note, I’m glad that SDF exists and will likely serve the needs of many Eclectic sort. It certainly helped me realize that my place probably isn’t in ADF and I’ve since refocused my efforts. I’m glad to see people benefiting from it though, and I sincerely hope that it and ADF continue to grow and pick up steam

          8. Eric Riley Avatar

            I’m with you Dashifen. (and I prefer Neo-Classical)

          9. SauleKarklas Avatar

            I am with you Dash. I think of Pagan as a loose blanket term that is useful. I call myself Pagan at times as I find it helpful when talking to the “uninitiated” who don’t realize that “Druid” is a real thing not just a role playing game character class. But I have never felt it solid enough as a definition to stand on its own. Like in your case you area a Hellenic Pagan that follows . I am a Druidic Pagan that follows my groves traditions (which are related to both OBOD and ADF but not really either, which I believe by Conor’s def would make me loosely a druidic eclectic pagan). On the whole I think peoples distaste for blanket terms or if you will need to put everything in boxes is not a good trend in the world (which inspires me to respond in general to this post as so I will).

        2. Teo Bishop Avatar

          I wonder, Conor, how one might take a ministerial approach to the experience Dash is having. As I’ve seen in many of his posts, this situation is one of great emotional import. These kinds of things can lead to personal crises, which a minister of any stripe (Pagan or otherwise) might need to respond to.

          Can you imagine how one might reach out in compassion to someone struggling with issues of identity, particularly if they feel their identity is threatened?

          1. Conor O'Bryan Warren Avatar

            I can imagine certainly, but the issue is very matter-of-fact in my opinion. I wouldn’t tell someone who comes from a Pentecostal background who is coming asking questions and saying “You know, I don’t really agree with these people very much anymore, but I want to stay because I’ve been with them for so long” I’d say, well, I know you want to stay, but perhaps it is time to sit down and think about other avenues. Leaving a religious/cultural grouping is tough, ceasing to identify is tough, but the Eclectic case is unique in the fact that no unifying body has started to exist.

            Furthermore, I’m not very good at translating compassion or warmth into text. If someone was earnestly coming at me for advice or thoughts and the situation called for it, I’d request a Skype call. My ability to respond effectively is not one which I can translate to writing. I write matter-of-fact and coldly, I realize that, but that is my generic style. I’m a person to person kind of guy.

          2. Amber Roth Avatar

            I see a lot of this in the Native community actually…where dealing with matters can be akin to beating a bear with a cobra (no good way to approach it and no way to come out unscathed). While it’s not the same, we have many times where blood quantification comes into question, or a whole slew of other problems.

            While I’ve gotten a lot of differing answers, something rings in all the good ones. If after you’ve analyzed it with your mind, what does your heart still tell you? Just because you differ with what others around you are doing, doesn’t mean you are less connected with Spirit (or the Gods). Everyone is connected in their own way and you should nurture what connection you have. What if Crazy Horse never listened to his visions because he was too hung up on his blood, or what others thought? Similarly, what if any of our Pagan leaders decided to not listen to their own vision of how things should be, or what they should do in their own spirituality?

            I don’t think there is a right answer. I’m sure there will be times where the life lesson to be learned is not always the one an individual may think it is. But as long as you are being honest with yourself, and doing what you feel is right, the best that you can at the time…don’t let others disagreeing with you hold you down. Let it give cause for discussion and growth, but not hold you down. 🙂

          3. Rob Henderson Avatar

            Being a Pagan minister >8) my general advice to anyone is not to put too much of your self-identity into the beliefs and actions of other people. You can’t control those, so why should they define you?

  18. dashifen Avatar

    For me, it’s not a matter of being uncomfortable with the flexibility or even with others’ choice to be in- or outside a specific definition, it’s a matter of being uncomfortable of what that flexibility means with respect to my own identity.

    I’m Pagan. I have been for almost two decades. However, recently as more and more people that I would personally have thought of as Pagan and with whom I share a great similarity of belief correct that understanding (as is their right to do so) it makes me wonder about whether or not the understanding of Pagan from their point of view should begin to change mine.

    I think there is a lot we can learn from non-Pagan polytheists and we can completely love and respect them for their choices. That doesn’t, however, preclude personal soul-searching relating to our own.

  19. Kelley Harrell Avatar
    Kelley Harrell

    People are afraid of what doesn’t fit into a container with clearly defined boundaries. I’ve always experienced they are more afraid of what is undefined than of definition they don’t agree with.

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