Musing about an interesting blog post
So someone I hadn't previously known about posted a blog post this morning entitled "Why I'm Not Pagan" and I've been chewing on it all day. He makes a very interesting argument, basically saying he doesn't use the word pagan b/c it's not precise. The word originated as an insult, and has been reclaimed by a group of folks doing stuff that he's not doing, even though he honors and respects that paganism was what got him started on his path. He's someone doing a type of Celtic Reconstructionism (though I think he doesn't use the word "recon" either for a variety of reasons; mostly I think because he's seen lots of recon folks doing more eclectic stuff than he feels comfortable using in his practices).
I get where he's coming from and I'm thinking about how this applies to what I'm doing myself. I actually *love* the term pagan, almost as much as I love calling myself a heathen. And yes, some of that is absolutely about reclaiming labels that used to be insulting (heck, I loved calling myself a dyke when I was exclusively dating girls. Now I call myself the more generic and still historically insulting "queer"). Yes, I'm a brat, and I'd rather take the power out of an insult by calling myself it in an empowering way first. Other words I have a harder time reclaiming - you'll never hear me call myself a kike for example... we pick and choose, we who are reclaiming-oriented word geeks... I'm sure some of this has to do with adult/chosen/found identities as opposed to birth identities... I dunno. I didn't grow up being called "pagan" as an insult; the word has less gut-level personal/familial/historical sting for me.
But pagan... see part of it is that, as I was trying to figure out my spiritual orientation when I was younger, pagan was a word that felt right to me - kinda generic tree-hugger. Non-specific. Cuz while the word "witch" worked for me, "wicca" never fit theologically. For me, in a way, the word "pagan" is kinda like "queer". Like, if I call myself queer, you may make some assumptions about what I like to do in bed (you prolly look at me, see I'm generally female-looking, assume my queerness means at least sometimes I boink or at least find attractive other vaguely female-shaped people). And you might be able to squint and if you know the community, fold in there an assumption about the possibility of my openness to bdsm or other types of less mainstream sexual expression. But I'm not actually giving you a whole lot of info. And others who are also part of sexual minorities (including ones that I am not a member of/don't share sexual interests with me) can go, yeah we're all part of some fuzzy alternative sexuality community. There are times that's totally a huge mistake, and folks get assumed-at in bad ways, identities get swallowed or erased. And I certainly know lots of folks who choose not to identify with the idea of a broad-based sexual identity community for really important reasons, like the part where historically parts of the LGBT communities have totally and epically failed around awareness of racism, classism, and ableism to name a few. But there's the start of solidarity, kinship, and at least a little bit of potential for ally-building in the word queer. The word "pagan" for me is kinda like that.
I am a member of more than one religion. I am an actively practicing Jew, Heathen, and am about to initiate into traditional Santeria. I have a handful of other things I do too, though I generally think of the other stuff as spirit technology, the way I make and maintain friendships and relationships with folks who don't generally hang out inside a living human-shaped corporeal form, and what I do for a living as opposed to as additional religions or traditions (my faery work, hoodoo, the shamanistic healing modalities I work with, espiritismo, etc). And really at the end of the day what I do is fling myself out into the wild wide world and see where the flinging takes me. The traditions are delicious to me though, and I love having communities with whom I can practice my faith, share my faith, get support and camraderie and help.
As I was just telling browngirl, part of why I *do* use the term pagan is because there isn't really a one-word way to say "I believe in all the gods and powers that are, were, or ever might be, I just don't hang out with all of them. But the ones I do hang out with run me in circles, and really my job on this planet is to try and be part of the overall movement towards helping/healing/cooperation. May the healing and useful powerful old ways not be forgotten, and the humans and cultures who originally figured this stuff out be honored, respected and remembered too. Also I like hanging out outside and drumming, singing, and dancing make me happy". So yeah. "Pagan" seems as close to a one-word label as I'm likely to get on that one...
But "pagan" may be the label I will default use for myself; it is not a label that applies to my primary traditions. "Heathenry" is not necessarily "Paganism". Santeria and Judaism are definitely NOT pagan traditions. But I think of *myself* as a pagan anyway. The word originates from the Latin and means something to the effect of "country-dweller", or basically "ignorant hick". In old Christian circles, the implication was that you were too country to know better. I *like* being kinda country, honestly. My private, deep deep personal spirituality is about seeing the wonder around me, connecting to all-that-is, trying my best to be a conscious part of the helping team (as opposed to the not-helping team, whatever that means, whoever they may be). The rest is fancy words and hand waving. Don't get me wrong, I loves me some fancy words and hand waving! But at my heart, I got my hands in the dirt and my head in the clouds. And if that's not pagan, I'm not sure what is.
Chewy chewy stuff. Hey - read the blog post and tell me what you think!