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Top of the week to you!

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This week is starting off with a whole bunch of Internet happenings.

First, it seems that my RSS Email subscribers haven’t been receiving my blog posts since mid-December. Sorry everyone.

Here’s what you missed:

Star says goodbye to “Pagan”

Star Foster

Star Foster

Star Foster is no longer identifying as Pagan.

For some, this news may hold little relevance. People identify as they choose, right? But Star has held a rather prominent position in the Pagan media, and she’s done a lot to champion the voices of many Pagan writers (including myself). She’s done much to initiate conversation (sometimes heated) within the Pagan community, and she’s continuing that tradition with this announcement.

I posted a link to Star’s coming out on Facebook, and now there is a HUGE discussion going on around the post. I encourage you to pop over and read through the comments and respond there. I would summarize them here, but as of writing this post there are nearly 100 comments. It’s tremendous.

The timing of Star’s announcement, and the subsequent dialogue popping up on my FB post, is rather interesting. Heather Greene has posted the first in a two-part series on The Wild Hunt about “Pagan solidarity,” asking whether or not Pagans can support one another as a community, and if it is important to be a united body. In her second post she’ll be unpacking whether or not this kind of unity leads to religious institutionalism.

I wonder if the idea of “Pagan solidarity” is even approachable if the identity of “Pagan” is becoming less tenable. I may blog about this in the coming days on The Wild Hunt, but first I’d like to see how this conversation continues to evolve.

The Solitary Druid Fellowship, and Devotionals

SDF Square LogoLastly, the work at the Solitary Druid Fellowship is going splendidly. The first High Day ritual was a great success, with about 450 people receiving the first SDF liturgy, and many joining in a dialogue about their experiences.

You can read about people’s experiences with the liturgy, and see the group interpretations of the SDF omen in our crowd-sourced Google doc.

There is also a new service provided by SDF – daily devotionals. The first morning devotional was published over the weekend, and more are coming soon. One solitary participant in SDF has already used the devotional and written about it on her blog.

I’m happy to see that people are using this shared liturgical practice to enrich their personal religious lives!

That’s all for today. Happy reading, everyone!

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  • Nicole Youngman

    You know, I am beginning to think this whole argument over the term “Pagan” is more of a cyberspace thing than anything else. None of the Pagans I know irl are talking/caring about this at ALL.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Interesting, Nicole. I wonder if people feel free to express themselves about it online when they normally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so in person.

    • William Hood

      Probably because the people who deny the Pagan label aren’t among the Pagans you know IRL, for the obvious reason that they don’t consider themselves Pagan. It’s like saying, “None of the Christians I know IRL are discussing this Trothmoot Loki kerfuffle, so it must simply be an online thing.” There are a LOT of people who deny the Pagan label but practice religions that many would consider Pagan, but they’re typically busy doing things within their own communities rather than invading a Pagan get together in order to argue. Or bothering to argue about it on the internet, for that matter.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

      I’ve actually told several people during the past few years that I’m more comfortable self-describing as a Polytheist instead of a Pagan. All that this really proves is that I don’t know you IRL. >8)

    • Patrick

      I agree completely, Nicole. To be frank, I find this blog the least interesting when it’s focused narrowly on interacting with other bloggers (including Star Foster). I don’t want that to sound too negative – I do find it interesting otherwise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/byron.coles Byron Tyler Coles

    About a week or so ago I cam across a blog post about another “pagan” who discussed her evolution in titles. I have noticed that we are clearly linked as a community based upon the ripple effect that has just occurred. This ripple will inevitably make others question their own identity possibly giving way to yet another label. I think something we should take from our ancestors is the use of no religious title (i.e. Druid, Christian, Hindu, High Priestess of the Triple Moon Yemaya, Green Tara, Druidic Bard Coven kind of stuff) and just be. We are a community at the end of the day, HUMAN, may we find peace with that being enough one day.

  • Crystal Blanton

    I find it quite disheartening that this is news. I think it is people’s attempt at making conversations in the Pagan community that further divide and create turmoil. People are using this as an excuse to talk down about other Pagans and I am not for that at all. I respect Stars decision, it is hers to make. When it becomes some media thing for other people, that becomes a concern for me. People make personal choices about their paths all the time, why is it now news that sparks people to draw lines in the sand? So sad to me…..

    • http://profiles.google.com/thorncoyle T Thorn Coyle

      I wish more people were weighing in on this instead: http://miniver.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-pagan-sensibility.html

      • Crystal Blanton

        Incredible post from Jonathan and I agree with it whole heartedly. We really need to be thinking in community building ways, versus any other tactics. Community is complicated and yet very necessary. Thanks Thorn.

  • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

    I’m unable to comment on your personal FB page, as we are not friends, but a lot of those comments ring true. So many people can offer so many interesting insights, but I feel that I’m generally aside Mr. Corrigan’s general viewpoint.

    But at any way, good luck to her. I personally feel that a constant splitting/Protestantizing of the same family of communities is ultimately detrimental to the whole. It’s a reason why I still tend to call myself a Pagan first. Maybe I am just Doing It Wrong.

    • William Hood

      It isn’t really a splitting though, we’re all ALREADY practicing different religions. Denying the Pagan label is simply reflecting reality for some people. I wish people would quit comparing it to different denominations of Christianity, because the analogy isn’t apt. It’s like comparing the difference between all monotheistic religions to the differences in Christian denominations.

      • http://aquapunk.net/ Lo

        Of course the majority feels its entitled to dictate what the minority does! And of course it gets upset when it finds out that the minorities aren’t all that interested in being spoken for.

        • William Hood

          Heh, yes, well, there’s that… ;-)

        • Soliwo

          I am not sure who the majority is in this case. I doubt whether the ‘hard polytheists’ or the humanist/naturalists for one. I am guessing the majority will find themselves in the middle. And sometimes I feel that they are now being criticised for not choosing sides.

          • http://aquapunk.net/ Lo

            The “majority” in terms of pagandom is definitely not the non-witchy hard polytheist crowd. They are the majority, and unfortunately, they are also the only ones I ever hear complaining when others abandon or question the pagan label. When I say “majority”, I don’t necessarily mean their actual number– I’m talking power/influence/voice.

          • Soliwo

            You’re right in that the soft polytheists probably have the most to gain to keep ‘paganism’ together. I just feel that everyone seem to distinguish themselves as a minority, both the hard polytheist and the naturalist. I am not sure if I fall to either category or maybe both, and I also do not feel part of a majority. I am a selective reader so I have no way of finding out who is the most influential out there.

            I love reading the blogs of both The Alergic Pagan and The House of Vines and A Forest Door. And also Drew’s Rogue Priest. The only blogs I guess I don’t read are the ones than are of the witchy kind. I tend to value blogs on their own merits not on to which category/sub-community they belong. As such, I do not have a problem with people who refrain from using the pagan label.

          • http://aquapunk.net/ Lo

            Think of it in these terms: who has the most to gain from maintaining the status quo? That’s who your influential majority is.

          • Soliwo

            Interestingly put. Yes. I agree, mostly. Generally the majority does prefer the status quo of the term ‘Paganism’. Yet I do not like it, and do not think it is useful when this status quo is portrayed as arisen out of plain laziness or an unwillingness to a stand. They do take sides, their own individual side. Personally I like the term pagan and I do find it useful particular in combination with some other adjective. My practice is in part re-constructionist, but I do not think that is a very nice word for what I am. I see reconstructionism as a methodology not as something that determines my religious identity. ‘Polytheist’ I think is useful too, but as Dave as also said, this word now seems to be reserved for literalists only.

            I think not much has changed really. The main difference is that naturalists are better organized and represented in the blogosphere and this has given the impression that these people form a majority within paganism. And I guess this is a good thing. It is just that I prefer my community not the be centred around the faith-question, but on shared religious practice. Ofcourse some likemindedness is required but I do not think it is helpful to create too strong an a priori boundary.

          • Lo

            That’s great, you do what you need to do to make things make sense.

            I’m a polytheist with a recon bent who has no community of like practitioners, who came from a strong Wiccish background, so mine is the voice of a somewhat outsider. I have no particular allegiances to anyone or any group, so I speak freely on my support of decentralization (of many things, not just this).

            And no, things aren’t changing so long as people talk and gripe more than they act. My hope is that “scandals” like these widen the dialogue for those who aren’t completely happy with what they currently have and can’t pinpoint why because they don’t have the language to describe it.

            (Same Lo– my work computer seems to have a hard time with javascript on occasion.)

      • Dave

        “Denying the Pagan label is simply reflecting reality for some people.”

        This argument, I understand. If you practice a different religion I don’t see how calling yourself Pagan would do anyone any good. What I’m still curious about is what the heck is Paganism anyway?

        • William Hood

          For clarity’s sake, I practice a form of Heathenry. I also didn’t come to Heathenry by way of Paganism, which is becoming more and more common in my experience. In fact, Paganism actually turned me away from searching in that direction, so if I hadn’t found Heathenry on its own, I might never have come across the “right path.”

          I’ve never considered myself Pagan nor a part of the Pagan Community, although I have had exposure with it because, well, it’s impossible not to if you are a member of a religion that Pagans assume is “one of theirs.” So this issue isn’t only an internal matter of Pagans dropping the label, it also involves those who have never picked the label up in the first place.

          I say all of that just to make my experiences and where I’m coming from clear. So when you ask, “What I’m still curious about is what the heck is Paganism anyway?” my initial reaction is to think, “That’s a good question, you guys have fun figuring that out.” Because from my perspective it’s like a Muslim asking me what the heck is a Muslim, anyway. That question, and its resulting never-ending morass of argument, does not concern me outside of the issue of being subsumed under the label when I’ve never had any attachment to it.

          Now, this begs the question, “If you don’t care to accurately define ‘Pagan,’ then how can you say definitively that you aren’t ‘Pagan?’” This brings me full circle to the post you replied to: it’s the inverse of the “if it quacks like a duck” principle. If it doesn’t quack like a duck, nor walk like a duck, nor smell like a duck, than it isn’t a duck. So if i’m looking for a community of ducks, I’m not going to find it in such a place. To take it out of the realm of analogy, if I go to Pagan events and talk to Pagan people and I don’t see anything in it for me, then I have no reason to consider myself “Pagan,” regardless of how it is defined on paper.

          This attitude of mine is typically met with, “well if you don’t feel at home in Paganism, it’s your own responsibility to make yourself a place in it” or “well we should work together to rehabilitate the label/community to include people like you or your religion.” But those responses are missing the point: I don’t WANT a place under the Pagan label or in the Pagan community. I never have, for reasons pointed out in my experiences above. I don’t feel bitter, angry, or upset in any other way for not fitting into Paganism, nor do I feel entitled to the label and therefore a desire to fight for it. I instead feel happy that I DO have a community I belong to, the Heathen community. So I simply end up feeling baffled that Pagans are reading me and my motivations so wrong and arguing themselves blue in the face to get my consent to include me under a label I just haven’t ever had an interest in.

          This reply isn’t really specifically in response to you, Dave, but my post and your reply sort of sent me down this path of explaining my general place on this whole issue. Hope it wasn’t too boring!

          • Dave

            No, that’s very interesting. I kind of suspected that might be the case with some folks, especially Heathens. Incidentally, I’m not a Pagan myself, not religiously anyway.

            I’m pagan, in the non-JCI sense and culturally Pagan to the extent I hang out with Pagans (at least in cyberspace) and I may participate in a ritual here or there in my own way. But that’s about it.

            My curiosity about “Pagan” is kind of as someone with one foot in the community and most the rest of himself outside.

          • William Hood

            I think you’re second paragraph is descriptive of some people who reject the term “Pagan” as a religious identity. It even somewhat describes me, although every time I get sucked into this subject I tend to come out of it feeling like I need to ignore the Pagan community for a while and recuperate. But there are always some great people who come to the discussion in good faith, like David Dashifen Kees, Teo, or you. That’s pretty much the only reason I haven’t taken more of a hard-line stance than I have.

          • Dave

            Thanks for the vote of confidence. I feel the same way. Especially about needing to ignore Pagans sometimes.

  • http://aquapunk.net/ Lo

    Hopefully this will open up the dialogue about what being “pagan” even means and give people more meaningful options beyond what’s become a rather catch-all “none of the above” label. And moreover, how can anyone possibly come to expect some kind of community solidarity to evolve out of a “none of the above” group? It really has always been about the witches, Wiccans, and eclectic neo-Pagans more than anyone else. Some just happen to be realizing that there are better, albeit smaller, communities for them elsewhere. Others see this as division, chaos–tantamount to acts of violence, even, from some opinions I’ve read–but I see it as growth. The chief contribution of the non-identifying recons, polytheists, and cultural traditionalists has always, to my mind, been towards building up the reputation of the majority within Greater Pagandom. Why would anyone demand practitioners to always give more to the community than they get in return?

    Living in service to oneself and one’s gods builds better relationships and understanding in the long run, not guilt, erasure, and subsuption.

  • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

    A stray thought.

    “Pagan,” “heathen,” and “witch” are centuries-old pejorative terms that modern groups have attempted to “reclaim.” That puts pagans, heathens, and witches alike behind the eight-ball — just using the term puts off most outsiders who automatically understand the pejorative meaning and usually don’t wait around for the explanation. It’s not a handicap that an Erisian would have, for instance, nor even a Dianist.

    Since I’ve started to use the term “druid,” I’ve noticed a lot less negative reaction from the uninitiated. Even the Christian Fundies pause for a moment, uncertain whether I should be tolerated or condemned.

    • Dave

      It’s funny, and this may be a cultural difference, but I’m less comfortable with “druid” than I am with any of the others you mentioned. For me it’s less about the contemporary Druids not matching up with the ancient druids (I don’t care about recon-ism, per se) but about being taken seriously.

      When I hear the word “druid” I think of silly board games and pretending to be a knight or a wizard. Nothing wrong with that, just doesn’t seem like making a strong case for one’s self in the “this is my sincere religious conviction” department.

      • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

        Curious — you say “cultural difference” — what culture?

        • Dave

          That’s kind of complicated to explain. I guess you could think of us more as a sub-culture, technically, than a culture onto ourselves. We were nomadic however, so I’m not sure what the “over-culture” would be. In any case we didn’t have a name for ourselves and we were FAR too small to be studied academically. More like a renegade extended family than a fully organized society, I suppose. One might say a cult, there was definitely an oppressive aspect to the culture.

          In any case, when I said cultural differences I meant the difference between “nomadic” and “settled”. One of my strongest first impressions of settled culture was that it was very creative since life in one place was so boring. Thus you get imagining yourself to be a druid, knight, etc in a fantasy game. Since then that’s what I’ve always associated the term with, for better or for worse. I never heard the other terms used before I found Pagandom.

      • Soliwo

        I agree. Robes, wands, Merlyn, etc. And when I take the name seriously … well I am not a priest or a clergymen. I associate druid with a specific priestly caste.

        Plus despite awesome stories about female druidesses, I also associate the word with beards. And I do not have one ;)

  • Dave

    In my experience when people call themselves polytheist-but-not-Pagan what they almost always mean, with few exceptions, is that they don’t consider Pagans to be “true” or “actual” polytheists. Usually this is accompanied by the assertion that in order to be a “true” or “actual” polytheist one must adhere to a particular school of thought regarding the ultimate nature of the gods. Without exception, in my experience, the school of thought that must be adhered to is so called “hard” polytheism, or the belief in literal, supernatural beings.

    The problem with that is that many Pagans DO believe in the gods in those terms and many polytheists DON’T believe in the gods in those terms. I fail to see how that clears things up. Now, if you want to say that you’re such and such specific tradition and you worship differently I could see that as a legitimate argument for not being Pagan. I don’t know if I consider myself big “P” Pagan most of the time, so I’m not unsympathetic to “not being Pagan”. I just hate the tendency for many to say, “I’m not Pagan because I’m polytheist”. There are Pagan “hard” polytheists and there are “not-necessarily-hard” polytheists who are – actual – polytheists.

    But then I grew up in a de facto polytheist culture, so what do I know?

    • http://aquapunk.net/ Lo

      Well, here’s a polytheist that doesn’t think that way to add to your anecdotal evidence. And my anecdotal evidence has it that polytheists do no such thing– in fact, all of the ones that I know who have dropped the label have done so simply because of the all-too-common association that pagan = Wiccish, and then usually because of the fervent hostility toward upsetting the status quo (which includes leaving). Anyways, I’ve never seen anyone make such a case as you claim.

      • Dave

        My intention was to convey my own experience, including my frustrations, rather than describe the community in it’s entirety. Sorry if that wasn’t clear, I know I used strong language.

        Anyone who says that “actual” or “real” polytheism is solely synonymous with “hard’ polytheism denies the reality of my polytheism. That’s been the standard expectation, in my experience. If that hasn’t been your experience of the polytheist community not only do I believe you but I’d love for you to point me in their direction.

        As it stands I’ve seen “hard” polytheists say they wouldn’t worship with anyone who wasn’t a “hard” polytheist. That sounds suspiciously familiar and reminiscent of any pagan culture I ever heard of it’s not.

        • Lo

          No, I realize that, which is why I specifically couched mine in terms of anecdote (personal experience, not scientifically sound). I will admit to my exposure being very limited compared to many others, but I like to think I’ve at least got a general idea of trends within the community.

          Personally, I hang out at The Cauldron forum where there’s a general preference for historical and scientific accuracy when possible so there’s less tolerance for emotionally-driven drama and the like.

          • Dave

            Oh, ok. I think I misunderstood what you meant. In the interest of full disclosure the “polytheist community” I have experience with is the online “hard” polytheist blogosphere. Probably a strong indication why I’ve had the experiences that I have.

            Thanks for the suggestion.