The Kind of Pagan I Am

Get it?
A pair a’Docs
  • I’m the kind of Pagan who hasn’t gotten rid of his Bibles.
  • I don’t think there is a single Truth any more than I think there’s only one god, but I do think there’s something which unites everything in the universe. And I’d like to imagine that this connecting force is sentient, but I don’t know that for certain.
  • I’ve built connections on the internet with other Pagans, and some of those connections have felt like “community.” But I’ve never really sustained an on-ground community with other Pagans. I think this may contribute to why it feels difficult to clearly identify at times just how I’m a Pagan. I don’t have a community of people who mirror that for me.
  • I find it difficult to have discussion about practice without having some kind of acknowledgement of belief. It feels false to me to think of the two as separate. I think they’re inherently woven together. For some belief comes first. For other practice.

I don’t know which of those people I am.

  • I feel like the best way for me to learn something new is to be a teacher, and the best way for me to teach is to be a student. This has been how I’ve approached the development of my Paganism.
  • I want to be having more conversations about morals and ethics than do many of my fellow Pagans, it seems. Discussions of morality don’t scare me, because I don’t think that morality needs to be connected to Divine Judgement. I think discussions of morality are incredibly useful for the development of a healthy society.
  • I don’t think that everything is subjective. Sometimes I want to draw a line in the proverbial sand and say — “no, that’s wrong.”

And yet I also think that drawing that is wrong.

  • Someone told me once that Goddess spirituality was born from this deep yearning for the Sacred Feminine; a principle which was absent in Western Christianity. She said,

“We just wanted a Mother.”

Her words made me remember that as a Christian I delighted in the phrase “Mother Jesus.” The idea really fucked with my perspective, and I loved that feeling of being shaken into a new way of seeing the divine.

But I’ve never really felt the kind of pull to the Goddess that I hear other Pagans talk about. I took God for granted, and I never really thought of God as a father, even if I did refer to God as “he” (which I stopped doing in my 20’s).

  • I’ve tried to make my Paganism into a religion, but I don’t think it actually functions well as a religion. It’s not defined enough. It’s not clear enough about what it is. It’s a framework — a loose framework — and maybe even a way of being, but I don’t think it’s a religion.
  • I think that polytheist reconstructionists are doing religion.
  • I have a religious nature, but the way in which I engage with religion is to get inside of it and take it apart. And I want for it to push back against me and challenge me.

I don’t know if Paganism is inherently challenging. At least, not the kind of Paganism that defaults to “whatever works for you.”

That said, I often default to that perspective because I don’t want to be judgmental. I think that you can benefit from the strengths of pluralism and still push yourself to think deeper about your assumptions, but I don’t know how many others in the Pagan community want to be challenged in that way.

  • I’m a Pagan who’s in the middle of rediscovering the impact that Jesus has had on his life. I’m also a Pagan who’s still exploring what Druidry means to him.

I’m a Pagan of paradoxes, and for now I think I’m ok with that.


Photo by Camera Eye Photography





16 responses to “The Kind of Pagan I Am”

  1. Griffin Avatar

    If any religion is for the common person, it should be paganism. All this academic elitism seems foolish, if you think about it. I believe it’s inherited thorough a Christian influence – a religion must have labels, guidelines, hierarchy…foolishness. Even reconstructionists – they’re reconstructing from people that were originally just taking the lead from nature.

    Sadly it’s here to stay, because people perceiving themselves as in authority (or rather, confusing bureaucratic authority with religious authority) won’t put their energy into truly creating a spirituality of peers. Those of us that try fight the tide, and eventually often walk away.

    Measure a person by words and actions and life lived. Yes, it’s harder than having a (made up) hierarchy tell you who to listen to, but it’s real.

  2. Benn MacSteven Avatar

    I tend to think that the word “religion” gets a bad rap, I like the old Latin meaning “reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety”, with a heavy emphasis on the “careful pondering” part. Over time I have come to really cherish my uncertainty and my paradox, as they help me connect with others who feel exactly the same. I have also found that when I loose touch with my paradox and uncertainty I end up knocked of my high horse by the gods who watch over and love me!

    Your point about ethics being a rare subject among pagans is spot on. I find it hardly surprising that this reluctance to commit to an ethical truth is one of the criticisms leveled at pagans most often by Christians. In fact I had a Christian tell me once, “Yours is the religion of anything goes, and I’m not into that.” I enjoy talking and pondering ethics and morality as I think they are a central element to my life as Druid. And I, of course, feel that *my* ethics are spot on! 😉 I try to approach ethical dilemmas with strength and compassion for those who disagree with me; not always an easy task. But I *always* learn something.

    From my perspective pagans shy away from ethics precisely because they have been judged harshly by others in the past. I understand this. But it is a step to far (obviously) to then decide that all actions are equal in the spirit of non-judgement. Perhaps some more discussion on ethics would be stimulating to us, your loyal readers?

  3. C.A. Young Avatar
    C.A. Young

    I know that you’ve stepped away from ADF, but that idea that a paganism is best when it “pushes back” is part of why I ended up there. That balance of individuality with the concept of virtue ethics and the emphasis on scholarship is sort of a good blend of work and comfort for me.

    I’m starting to think that the work of finding the right place to experience that push-pull may be an important part of the religious process for folks.

    (And hey, I still have a couple of Bibles too. And a Qur’an. And other stuff. High five.)

  4. Aine O'Brien Avatar
    Aine O’Brien

    Excellent post, and I can relate to almost everything you wrote. I have pondered this a lot over the years and the only thing I know (right now) is that there are many truths, not just one – or perhaps there is a great truth taught in many different ways to many different people.

    I think that spiritual people are being guided, even if they don’t recognize the voice of the spirits and believe in things like coincidence and chance. Perhaps when they feel the knowing, they believe they must have read about it in a book once. That’s how subtle the guidance is at first and only grows stronger and clearer with our acceptance and belief. I am now at the “there are no coincidences” phase, and know without a doubt that I am guided towards people, places and situations. My magical work is completed channeled. And my spiritual path has been a journey well planned, including all the stops along the way.

  5. Celestine Angel Avatar

    You sound like the kind of Pagan I would enjoy having a conversation with.

  6. Nick Ritter Avatar
    Nick Ritter

    “I think that polytheist reconstructionists are doing religion.”

    Bless you, sir.

  7. Corie :) Avatar
    Corie 🙂

    Teo, I can definitely relate to what you are saying, especially in talking about the morals and values of being pagan and the lines that are drawn along with judging others. I’ve been in covens and have judged others, but I have also learned to look deep inside myself as well. I tend to call it a spiritual adventure because I took a break from my tradition to learn other types of paganism/traditions so that I may teach what they taught me. I do feel lost and alone at times. I feel as though I am looking in and I want to so much be a part of things, yet circumstances do not permit me to do so. And this is when I know that my journey is not ended and I have so much more to learn and experience. I think that it is the same for you as well.

  8. Sam Webster Avatar
    Sam Webster

    Well, you are still young. You have but barely touched Paganism: not being in deep community, not being challenged by Paganism, not knowing the sentience that pervades world, not engaging with those who see Paganism as a moral system or who challenge its assumptions. When you come further in, these things are easy to find. Perhaps you are still trying to find Christianity in Paganism? I’m sure you will find those who are looking for it with you, but many of us who have been at this for decades have been working to remove the Christianity from Paganism. Maybe you are trying to reform Christianity? Make it pluralistic or a simply a respectable citizen of the world? It will be interesting to watch you mature and see which way you turn. Regardless of which you take: go deeper. . .

  9. Kenneth Apple Avatar
    Kenneth Apple

    Boundaries and limitations are strengths. The strength of the marathon runner, or ultra marathon runner, is their adherence to a particular passion. They don’t stretch a lot, or lift big weights, or swim much. Those other things aren’t bad, they don’t hate them, but it’s not what they do. Their specialization is their strength. Sometimes the number of choices we have paralyzes us. Hmmm, I think John Beckett just wrote something about that.

  10. John Beckett Avatar

    Teo, I’m mostly in agreement with you – one of my ready-reference bookshelves has two Bibles and a Qur’an. I’d like to offer a perspective on two of your points.

    In ceremonial magic, the purpose of the sword is to draw boundaries and to cut the False away from the True. The world in general is colorful, but there are times when we need clear, black and white boundaries. Drawing those boundaries is an act of wisdom, not of oppression – as so many in the Pagan community think.

    Other times, though, the question is not about ethics but virtues – not what is right and wrong but what is best, or what is better, or what is least worst.

    Many of the lines the Abrahamic religions draw offend our values. That means their lines are wrong, not that there should be no lines.

    For me, Paganism is inherently challenging. How can I best know the gods? How can I work with them and for them? How can I honor my ancestors, and how can I live so as to become an ancestor worthy of honor?

    And perhaps most importantly, how can I experience the gods, and how can I facilitate that experience for others? My religion has to be intellectually robust, but it can’t only be a religion of the intellect. It must also speak to my heart and soul and body.

    Few things in life are more enjoyable than discussing these questions with other dedicated, knowledgeable Pagans. That’s why I’ve had such a great time at Druid gatherings, and why I was so disappointed with the much larger but less deep festivals I’ve been to.

  11. Áine Órga Avatar

    I can agree with a lot of this. For me, though, the Goddess has been a huge draw, and my primary way to engage with the divine is through the Great Mother. Paradoxes are good, I think – they make us think harder about what we really believe, and they make for an interesting religion or practice!

  12. The Druid in the Swamp Avatar
    The Druid in the Swamp

    I am currently a solitary ADF druid – mainly by choice, but also by circumstance (my local protogrove has been very very hard to track down). In contrast, I was part of a very well established coven for 2 years prior to discovering ADF. My paganism solidified in those two years, because I had a community with which to grow and learn – something I haven’t had yet in ADF. I really do think having a real community of people helps a lot with the growth process. I am learning the academic underpinnings of my paganism now, but the emotional growth happened primarily with that coven, even if I am no longer working with them.

  13. Kate Dennis Avatar
    Kate Dennis

    My Bibles ( and BCP) sit on the shelf next to copies of the Kabbalah, a Quran, the five books of the Torah, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and other sacred texts. Along with books by Buckland, Cunningham, Morrison,Day,Dugan, and Cabot ( to name a few) they comprise my religious/spiritual reference library. I draw my personal spiritual practice from all of them-without apology- because I also believe that the concept of God/dess is much larger than a single faith tradition. I have to work to integrate this information, because there are many challenges to incorporate it into something that fits into my spiritual perspective-which is not “whatever works” but none the less based on synergy.

  14. Owyl Avatar

    You’re not alone.. I can assure you 🙂 there’s more of us out there

  15. gord Avatar

    Have you ever read Path of the Christian Witch by Adelina St. Clair? I read it at random one day and she has a unique perspective on Jesus, Mary and their relation to Paganism.

  16. 12StepWitch Avatar

    Have you ever not been a Pagan in mostly solitary practice?

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