I’m not an expert on Paganism.
If you’ve spent any time here on Bishop In The Grove you’ll know that being an expert on Paganism wasn’t why I got into blogging.
I blog in order to be a better student.
I ask a lot of questions. I point out the things that are curious to me or that strike me as interesting, and I invite my readers to become my teachers. I call things into question because I believe that doing so allows me to be more present in my religious and spiritual life. I think it’s a healthy thing for a religious community, as well.
When I was in my early 20’s I was a member of an Episcopal church in Tennessee. Episcopalianism was the tradition I was raised in, and this church was one I came to after a long period of spiritual drought. It wasn’t long before I was an active member of the community, attending Sunday “adult forums,” and weekday prayer services (which I often led and attended alone).
A few years into my involvement with the community I was asked to help teach the Sunday school classes for the upper-grade high school kids. Their teacher had up and left, and they needed a replacement quickly.
I was a little hesitant at first. I hadn’t been raised in a house where the kids memorize bible verses, or that emphasized a strict adherence to some religious code of conduct. My parents were musicians, and my stepdad didn’t care much for God at all. But the dean of the Cathedral thought I’d be a good fit, that the kids would relate to me, and that I could communicate to them, as he might have said, the love of Christ.
On my first day of teaching I came into class, tattoos showing, and began a dialogue with them that would go on every Sunday for weeks, months; a dialogue that was not really concerned with the syllabus, or even with the Bible. I invited them into a dialogue that encouraged them to make inquiries of the most basic tenets of the faith. I asked them to think for themselves, to seek out their own connection with the divine, and to do so in the way that made the most sense to them.
I acknowledged their own authority in matters of the heart, the mind, and the spirit.
This is my ethic here on Bishop In The Grove as well. I have my opinions, my perspectives, and my preferences, as well as a whole host of experiences which inform my writing, but I don’t pretend to be an expert on all-things-Pagan any more than I pretended to be an expert on Christianity. I trust that you have insights, too, and that your insights are valuable.
I bring this story up today because I’ve been invited to be a part of a roundtable discussion about Paganism on HuffPost Live, which is described on their website as,
“A live-streaming network that uses the HuffPost universe — the stories, editors, reporters, bloggers, and community — as its real-time script.”
I’ll be joining Patrick McCollum, Amy Blackthorn and others today, Wednesday the 31st at 6PM EST (UPDATE: LINK TO SHOW ARCHIVE) to share our perspectives on and experiences with being Pagan for the general public. I’m honored to be invited, and — as I was before first stepping in front of that Sunday school class — a little hesitant to be seen as an authority.
I’m but one voice in a crowd of many.
Since this appearance will likely direct a lot of new readers to my blog, I thought it might be valuable to present them with a more rich, diverse explanation of Paganism than what one Pagan (me) might be able to do. I’d like, in classic BITG style, to open up the comment section of this post to you. I’d like for you to share a bit about what Paganism looks like from where you stand.
This is my way of extending the floor to a much larger group of Pagans, and this is your chance to provide someone who knows very little about Paganism with your own, personal testimony about what your religious or spiritual path means to you.
Do you identify as a Pagan? If so, how do you live that out in your life? What do you believe? What do you practice?
If you don’t identify as a Pagan, perhaps choosing to be understood as a polytheist or to be known by your specific tradition, what does your tradition look like? What are the central principles which you live by?
The floor is yours, friends. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Pagan, but more specifically, I am a TechnoWitch. The “tradition” of TechnoCraft reveres the
exchange of information, essentially the point of many technologies, as
one of the highest forms of righteous action. Through it we can seek
to create change both within (via self-reflection; essentially sharing
information with ourselves) and in the world around us. It is,
therefore, connected strongly to deities of change and transformation
that people have worshiped in various cultures. Further, light (and by
extension, darkness) are often used as metaphorical vehicles and the
solar calendar of solstices and equinoxes are held in high esteem.
(I place “tradition” in quotation marks because, to my knowledge, I’m the only person doing things this way.)
Thank you, Dash. I really appreciate this explanation of your tradition — with or without quotation marks! It sounds like a really well thought through, personally relevant path. I’d be curious to know more about which deities of change and transformation are connected to your TechoCraft.
Tricksters and Mothers are the ones that I reach for most often. To date, I don’t feel as if I’ve had a truly numinous experience with respect to any specific deity, nor do I have the same sort of “personal relationship” with them that others both inside and outside the Pagan community do.
Specifically, on my altar you can find depictions of Eris and Columbia. Eris and I have had a relationship of sorts since I was in high school. I’ve always seen her as connected to technology and the technology of change and less to the strife and bloodshed that she was connected to by the ancients. I’ve used the term Erisian to describe myself, too.
Columbia and I have only recently begun to work together over the last few years. My love of politics and of political action translates nicely into working with her as the genus loci for the nation and as a goddess, if a younger one.
Many pagan religions have good bones but lack depth which is why, to me, there’s so much discord around the same core issues. I think there’s a lot of very solid ground on rituals, and habits, but many pagan religions and paganism as a whole lacks philosophy which makes it weak as religions go and why ultimately it never fully served my needs.
I respect that, Amanda, and thanks for sharing your perspective here. Can I ask – have you found something that works better for you?
I’m a atheist but Buddhist philosophy works very well for me. When I was trying to practice paganism and cultivate a view for myself, I never felt fulfilled by the mythology or the rituals, because I understood and lived the symbology so actively already it seemed garish at that point. What I really wanted was bits of wisdom with which to mull over, I really liked Asatru and the Havamal for that but still it felt like there was a lot missing in the way of philosophy.
Buddhism isn’t really a religion so much as a complex livable philosophy and texts like the Dhammapada and the ability to have actual full conversations about principles really impresses me. For example, in Paganism, even deep talks about the morality of magic, fall short because often the end up as a “Well, do whatever you want, just don’t make paganism look bad while you’re doing it.” That seems shallow to me, not in a vain sense but that it doesn’t really answer anything.
But in Buddhism, I can say have a discussion on whether or not morality is a consideration for living a wholesome or good life and have the conversation be very robust pulling in psychology, dhamma, real live experiences, sociology, etc. It seems so much more alive and willing to be discussed.
It’s a bit of a ramble but I hope I’m being coherent.
I don’t think it’s a ramble at all, Amanda. I really appreciate the clarification.
These things you speak of in your last paragraph — discussion about whether or not morality is a consideration for living a wholesome or good life, or even what a “wholeseome” or “good” life looks like — are very valuable to me. Interestingly, I just had a conversation yesterday about feeling a need for more discussion about values and virtues, but being uncertain about how to have conversation within the Pagan community. There’s a sense that a discussion on morality might slip quickly into a kind of moralism, even thought it doesn’t need to.
There’s a book you might be interested in called, “The Other Side of Virtue” by Brendan Myers. He dives in and faces the challenge of discussing virtue within a Pagan context.
Thank you for your honest, and for explaining your perspective. I’m glad you’ve found something that resonates fo you, and hope you continue to be a part of the dialogue here!
This. This exactly and I have respect for Myers so I’m happy to hear about this book. What role does morality play in Wicca, Reconstructionism, Eclectic worship etc? If a faith is moral neutral where should one go to define morality? Is it necessary that religion have a comment on morality or if it’s up the individual, how can a community find common ground? What’s the role of morality in human interaction? How important is it and what do pagan leaders and members feel the current state of affairs are in these areas? How does a pagan religion feel about humanity in general? Do the stories that pagan’s often pull from say anything about how one might live a life that is valuable?
These questions excite me as I feel the main role of religion IS to give people a foundation to answer these questions and then live a life exploring them. I would be happy to be pagan again – the Solar and Lunar observances were great introspection and I haven’t really abandoned them – but I want to see more from movement.
In most CR faiths morality is quite prevelent . we follow the Brehon laws and a code of Honor and Conduct the Celtic Triads within Sinnsreachd and ADF faiths follow a simular Code /ways .I will agree Wiccan morality is a bit vague and Recon is a methodology not a faith .Most within the recon movement also follow a recon derived faith that does contain some form of a moral code and teachings . Kilm
I bought that book ages ago and never worked my way through it. Perhaps it’s time to do so.
I own paganbookclub.com (there’s nothing there) because I’m a dirty, dirty cyber squatter. Perhaps we can use that and your goals for a conversation regarding virtue and values to produce something meaningful?
Let me know if you’re interested, Teo.
Teo ,Amanda , a pagan warrior path and /or ADF warrior path deals with virtues as well , the Code of Honor and Conduct . To one such as myself this is central to how i live , conduct myself in my daily life.That is a major part of what drew me to it . Kilm
I am a Pagan. Nature is my teacher, my lover, the source of my greatest inspirations along with every sorrow. Nature embodies itself as a Goddess to me. One that is both inherent within all things , yet fully unique unto Herself. In my specific practice, I’m a student of the Anderson Feri tradition, which finds value in poetry, practice, and pushing the boundaries of what many perceive as difficult and unnerving. We seek to unite all our disparate parts in the aim of becoming fully integrated human beings.
The principles I live by are primarily service, compassion, and being an “eternal student.” I love life regardless of whether its warm and fuzzy or harsh and painful.
Thank you, David.
I consider myself a Pagan, but I’m really more of a Hard Polytheist. I
have a huge, long name which I utilize to describe the facets of my
spirituality, but I fall under the “Pagan” umbrella for convenience. I
don’t fall into any one tradition, save perhaps the tradition of
pre-Christian Europe as best as I can recreate it in my own personal
life. I utilize reconstructionist techniques and practices for my
personal work, supplemented and built upon with UPG/PCPG. But I am
solitary, and at present (and since I broke with the Christian
traditions when I was younger, almost fifteen years ago now) I don’t
have plans or incentive to do much more than solitary practice with the
occasional networking. I am not, nor have I ever been, a practitioner of Wicca or, even, of high magic. I capitalize “Pagan”, and hate the term “Neo” in front of either “Pagan” or “Wiccan”.
At present, I focus on the aspects of European Paganism that I am descended from. This at present includes Anglo-Saxon and Roman practices, veneration of those deities, ancestor work, and spirit work (totemism/working with wights, etc). Interest in low magic has been making a resurgence, although I’ve never really experienced much of it. My altar contains representations of different energies (fetishes) and no current representations of a deity. The concepts of Wyrd, Orlog, and Hamingja are central to me.
Teo, thank you for everything you do here. You encourage compassionate dialogue, and you return in order to make comments and share experiences. It’s always a pleasure to come here, even if I am quiet and lurk more than most. It is always refreshing to see someone willing to engage with your audience in the way you do.
Thank you, Marc, for being a part of the dialogue here. I’m glad you value what happens on the blog, and I appreciate you sharing your perspective and practice with us. You can remain as quiet as you’d like, but know that your voice is important to me.
I’m William, and I am a pagan. As a long time ADF participant, my paganism takes shape in my life by building and maintaining relationships with a multiplicity of gods, my ancestors, and the spirits of the land here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. My practice and how I live my life in the greater, secular community is directly informed by my religion.
Choices on food (hunted meats, local organic fruits and veggies, living according to the land and the cycles of the earth), community outreach (polytheism as a modality of community building and tolerant acceptance), and going through a complex, religiously diverse, secular world are all inspired from my practice.
Personally, modern relevance for ancient tradition is my work. Many people who currently identify as pagan embrace this work in a way that leads to a sort of fantasy, escapism… ungrounded in the here and now. Reconstructionism practices take the relationship with the old ways and keeps them rooted in the past, instead of examining the ways of the past, and making them relevant in a larger, modernized, global community.
It is my intention that pagan folk can come together in community, supporting and celebrating differences, while maintaining their separate traditions of their individual practice.
Thanks for this, William. I appreciate your insights, and I have a feeling there are some unwritten posts tucked inside your comment!
William , i too am an ADF member , a Celt centered grove , also follow a CR path . This ia what i like about Sinnsreachd we take CR concept along w/ a tribal outlook and apply it to the modern world . Kilm
I identify as Pagan, more specifically, ADF Druid. I studied the dedicants path a few years ago and I am currently going through it again to help bolster my spirituality. To a lesser extent, I also identify as a domestic witch. For me, witchcraft and spirituality are very separate. This is one thing I found very difficult when I was first looking into Pagan paths; it seemed like everything I found on Wicca centered around magic. The purpose of the magic that I do is to create a home that is a safe and welcoming harbor from the harshness of the “outside world.”
The appeal of Druidry was that dialogue of how to deepen one’s spirituality and personal morality through the virtues and how to apply them to my daily life. The study, reading and writing all were very helpful to me in figuring out the whys and what fors of my path.
I am solitary, and because of the conservative Christian make-up of the community I live in, I am also in the broom closet. Although, I think my neighbors have figured it out.
This isn’t as eloquent as some of the posts I’ve seen, but I hope it is helpful.
I don’t know where I am in regards to the term ‘Pagan’ lately. I don’t outright reject the term, nor am I opposed to being identified as such; ultimately, though, ‘polytheist’ is a term that I can get behind more wholeheartedly. Like a lot of reconstructionist types, there are too many associations with the word ‘Pagan’ that just don’t seem to apply to me. For a more specific term I could go with suomenusko- the current common term for Finnish reconstructionist Paganism, a practitioner of which is a suomenuskoinen- but in the English speaking world it’s a bit of an awkward term.
I am a Pagan. I draw inspirations and practices from all roots, but overall my faith is very personal to me, in only a way that I can understand. The reason I was originally drawn to Paganism was because, from my observation, it brought together faith and science in a really beautiful and harmonious way, focusing on nature and an ever-present conscience in the universe. It made sense to me, and became what freed me from a very oppressive upbringing. I could never understand how people could disrespect those who were different, or deem animals or plants to be without a soul. A shift in religious perspective is what ultimately made me recognize how to treat others, and I grow towards becoming a better person because of it.
I don’t necessarily call myself a Pagan, though I attend pagan festivals, have a lot of pagan friends, and do what might be considered pagan rituals, both individual and group. I’m not even sure of the actual meaning of “Pagan” in the parlance of modern time, so maybe I hesitate in identifying with that word.
I came to the “polythestic path” through yoga. I connected with the gods and goddesses of that tradition, but then broadened my horizons to the Greek, Egyptian and Babylonian/Hebrew myths, traditions and rituals. I started to see the similarities rather than the differences. I found the Hermetic Society, where discussions are had and presentations are given once a month, on different topics in different traditions. There are
Wiccans, Druids, Masons, Jews, Christians, Gnostics, and Yogis, all
together and finding common ground. All learning from each others’
experiences and traditions and research. It is nerd out central and I
absolutely love it! I also continue to practice yoga and teach (or
offer guidance through) yoga, and sing kirtan (names of the divine)
in both Sanskrit and Hebrew.
Nature has always been an inspiration and a teacher. This connects with pagan traditions,where many rituals honor the elements, animals, trees, etc. This just seems obvious to me. I have Native American blood, so maybe this is part of it. I feel more comfortable in the woods than in a steel
building. I prefer roughing it in the rain than staying in a luxury
hotel. I feel happiest in my skin when dancing around a fire with 5
drums and people of all shapes, sizes, genders and sexual identities.
I don’t know what this makes me. A pagan? A hippie? A seeker? I
just know I love the friends I have found through the pagan
community; I love the rituals that connect me to spirit and the
Earth, the Light and beyond; I feel more myself than ever before
through the myriad of traditions I continue to study, immerse myself
in, and experience. For that I am grateful and bow to the god,
goddesses, spirits and humans who have carved the path before me…
I’m a Celtic , CR leaning Druid /Sinnsreachd . Basicaly a Celtic Hard Polythiest , a member of ADF as well.During my long and twisted pagan journey i along the way found the Warrior ways , so in that i follow a strong code of honor and conduct . This is also found in ADF teachings as is a Warrior Guild , to which i also belong . Sinnsreachd , in Gealic means ways of our ancestors . Involves a tribal Celtic mindset and way of life The pantheon i follow is the Tuatha de Dannonn, Family of Danu…………the most common Celtic Gods .I personaly got ito a Celtic Pagan faith mainly due to my own ancestry.A pagan path i could relate to from an ancestral , very personal point of view.i was already quite into my Scottish/Irish heritage , after becoming disallusioned w/ the faith of my birth and much soul searching i found the faith of my Celtic Pagan Ancestry.At 57 yrs of age i have been pagan for over 25 yrs . This religion is a good fit for me …………where i feel and home and belong . Kilm
Feel at home , sorry typo
As a default term I use the term pagan, because it’s something people know. Then I have to clarify how I am not ye standard neo-pagan wiccanesque person, which is when I explain I am a polytheist.
Anyone who is within the greater community and would understand it get the full definition: Kemetic Orthodox and Heathen, serving the lwa, working as a hedgewitch, and periodically pestered by Hekate.
I don’t associate much with the local pagan community where I am (Connecticut) save for the Heathens, because I just don’t feel that much of a connection to what they are doing. It’s a shame since I would like to be able to network more and trade ideas. But it seems like if I were to find people more in line with the kind of work I do I would have to hunt under a lot of rocks.
I identify as Pagan atheist in my head.
I’m attracted by some aspects of various pagan paths, particularly those focused on re-integrating humans with the cycles of the natural world though ritual and practice, but at the same time find most modern pagan traditions too theistic and/or anthropocentric for my taste. I like the term ‘bio-regional animist’ a lot, although many who use it seem to focus on magical practice and spirit practice in ways which I do not; so that doesn’t quite fit either.
Jay Griffiths has written of wildflowers or the so-called ‘weeds’ of the commons as “sweet heathens”. I guess that’s how I see myself and my path … a weed growing in the cracks between things. I think there are a lot of people like that out there; nameless and unlabelled practicers and paths –flourishing quietly. Ordinary and yet extraordinary.
I am Wiccan have been for about 30 yrs. I totally enjoy reading your blog. You give me a lot to thing about. How do I live my life? That’s a very good question. I am a chef by profession….I think the chef who trained me years ago deserves the a lot of credit (other than my parents of course) as to how I live my life. He always said to me “no matter what you do in life….lead by example. Be the best YOU that you can be and people will see that”. So I just am the best ME I can be and try to lead by example. I don’t preach I don’t give advice unless directly asked for it…I have never played the “my god is better than yours” game with anyone. Like honey attracts more bees than vinegar I say be yourself…lead by example, it will attract more people to you and to be more open to your spiritual path. I am not out of the broom closet so to speak to everyone…but the people I have chosen to come out to have all been very surprised and said “I knew you were different but I wasn’t sure exactly in what way” and everyone has been very accepting and positive. I personally thing that, like with other spiritual paths, if you come on way too strong, you are going to turn people off. This is just my opinion of course lol I don’t have all the answers for everyone, I just know what has worked for me. Blessings to you always.
I am a Shaiva Hindu of a quite liberal tradition(don’t let anyone tell you they don’t exist). Much as I have experienced with many pagans, we are primarily concerned with our relationship with the gods-particularly Lord Shiva, in our specific case- and with our relationship with nature. We do, also concern ourselves with absorbtion into the ultimate divinity(to remove our jargon).
My wife and many of my friends, however, are pagans, and I feel a great sympathy and comradarie with them/you. I believe we have much to learn from each other, and ultimately I feel we are cut from the same cloth, really. I guess that explains why I am a regular reader. I very much appreciate the perspective of a druid and others!
I identify as pagan, but only as a useful shorthand – I would use the term polytheist, but I’m not, I’m a henotheist (similar to a monolater – I only worship one god, while acknowledging others exist). I follow Odin (and only Odin). The Havamal is a useful book, but should not be relied on – the gods can, and do, lie. Things that are appropriate for the gods are not appropriate for mortals, and so forth. Magic is a tool, and as such should not be worshiped And just because someone is a god doesn’t mean they should be worshiped either – there are plenty of them out there who are right bastards. I also don’t think that those divine beings of cosmic consciousness give a flying damn about humanity except as an interesting diversion occasionally (like a person with an ant farm). Sometimes they step on us, and very rarely we overwhelm them with numbers and throw them down.
The Here-and-Now is the most important thing to be focused on. Do good things, help people if you can, share if you can, but family comes first.
Not a new reader, but… I’ve recently made the switch from “pagan” to “feral reconstructionist”, so that work I do now with most pagans is interfaith. I use feral because what was once a domestic and state religion is no longer so, and I find myself with the same religious bones, the same instincts, but I’m having to survive in the wild.
I think there’s a very dire need to bring reconstructionism home, because a lot of the rhetoric sounds eerily similar–to me, at least–to that of the world-rejecting religions. But replace “heaven” with “Gotland” or “Kemet”, you know? There’s a very real escapism there calling itself historical accuracy, and it really grinds my gears sometimes.
I also now identify, with equal emphasis as the above, as a rain and weather cultist. But again, my local weather patterns and seasonal changes, not some idealized philosophical model of your typical Northern European “wheel”.
” a lot of the rhetoric sounds eerily similar–to me, at least–to that of the world-rejecting religions”
Yes well put. This above is one of the main things that puts me off identifying as ‘pagan’.
I think resconstructionism tendency to look for a hard truth, in a historical place, sounds too much like other kinds of religious conservatism for me. If a certain local/mythos floats your boat that is great, but putting up walls with it seems the wrong way to go.
There are truths there, but not Truths. (I don’t believe in capital T Truth anyways.) The thing about history is that it’s subjective– that’s why it’s not an “-onomy”. But I disagree with your claim about walls… they’re necessary and healthy when built correctly. Walls help define the self, order the world/build perspective, and limit access to your time and energy by other people and things which, left unchallenged, can quickly become abuse.
2010 Marked my 40th year of journeying along these pathways.
Over that time I have considered calling myself by several labels, in the attempt to give a name to what I have been approaching all these years, without much success in the way of finding anything which felt right. Too many of the groups I’ve encountered which DO organize have too much a provincial, insular orientation for my taste; others had too little desire for formalizing the way they are sort-of organized for their own future’s sake; while too many are simple cliques gathered around a dominant personality rather than a true Pagan organization.
What originally started out to be collating all my studies to date into something of a personal BOS in 1974 never got to be one. A recurring assortment of ethereal clue-sticks, divine clue-by-fours, and enough serendipity to make one permanently suspicious of the phenomenon, has been a regular part of my life since then. What I once thought was going to be strictly a personal record has since then evolved, expanded, been re-potted, seen sections ripped out and cast aside, split-up, re-organized, recombined differently, and filled my home with books, more books, drawers of card files, and a to-be-read pile of potential avalanche proportions.
After the second time this insane writing project underwent major revisions because of the greater understanding I had come to in some areas, it dawned on me what it was becoming, and since then I have been consciously working towards that end — and not just to try avoiding some of the more painful kinds of divine calls for attention to be paid to a neglected specific.
What I learned was that what I had been (am now, and will continue) working on might be termed ‘the foundational documents for a Pan Pathway Neopagan Tradition’ — a church, or temple, or whatever it ends up becoming — in which all of the many kinds of Pathways that are common to Human Beings of most cultures can be knit together (not fused, not welded, not bound by iron) in a way which should provide for the inherent differences among groups of people, yet be a united body for those matters when it really counts. To be, in part, that long-sought “intentional extended family” many of us are seeking.
I have since then struck upon the tentative descriptive label for this as an : “Intentional Neopagan Humanist Religion.” To organize a self-perpetuating body which has openness, flexibility, and can build an assortment of group traditions at the center to hold every different aspect of itself to each of the others in the long haul.
There are now written down some basic tenets, and principles. There is a basic framework, revised and improved several times already. There are outlines, copious notes, drafts of texts, and a single, confused, lonely writer.
I’ve long felt that there would be other people involved in this, Co-Founders if you will. Well, I KNEW there would have to be if it were really meant to come into existence (hah, hah, hah! as they say). I’ve been rather reluctant to expose the insanity of my ‘writing project’ to the view of the world, but leaving the piles of work behind to be taken-up by someone with plans for personal ambition, or merely taken to the dump after I’ve died will not produce any good results at all.
I am most assuredly NOT soliciting followers as I don’t have a ‘leadership’ type of personality. My life experiences have left me a person who is INSTANTLY suspicious when complimented about anything. I also find “Brass Hats” abhorrent when the need is for “Real Officers.” But I would like to finally find some other people who also see something of what I can of the future possibilities of modern Paganism on our world.
This cannot succeed if it is the product of ONLY ONE MIND. There are so many things I have not even realized should be in it, or even guessed at, merely because no one has been involved to challenge what I’ve been thinking, to offer alternative perspectives, to provide the viewpoints of other human genders (physical and emotional, etc.) better than my poor imaginings of what they might be.
I do not intend to ‘draft’ anybody, they will have to self-select if this project is of interest to them.