Why is there so much deliberation over what pagans call themselves? Every blog post I read on the interwebs in the last few months seem to be related to the ideas of what it means to be pagan, and what pagans should (or should not) be doing to build a sense of community or solidarity.
It is not without a sense of irony that I contribute another one, although I do not intend to rant or go on for too long, so just a couple of observations.
The latest flare-up seems to stem from Star Foster’s epic flounce that caps off a series of flounces over an extended time period. There is absolutely nothing wrong with dropping a label or acquiring a label (but when you are a representative of a particular category on a faith portal website and go through a crisis of faith, it becomes it’s own beast), but the shitstorm that has followed sure has been mildly interesting. As a Tumblr user I see these sorts of announcements and denouncements happen all the time, but what underpins it all is a disillusionment with the term pagan and what it means to be pagan. Ideas of faith, spirituality and belief are fluctual terms no matter how much people wish to pin the wings down and document it in a quantitative manner. Personal experience and political alignment is healthy when it is reflexive and bendy. Not too bendy, mind you – but I am definitely not a proponent of fundamentalism. I like that there is not too much fundamentalism in paganism, and it amuses me greatly when people try to say my beliefs are THIS or THAT because I identify as both as a pagan, and eclectic, and a witch. But even these marshmallowy boxes are too fixed for some who have dipped their toes in the gooey entrails and that is perfectly fine. If you are offended that someone is turning their back on something that means a lot to you, you need to soothe your butthurt with some ice of truthiness and look into yourself and why you might be finding it all so offensive – it might not have anything to do with the other person at all.
I have sometimes used the prefix “neo” to help clarify my beliefs, but I’ve recently decided that not only is it awkward, it is null and void. We are ALL neo-whatevers, whether we like it or not. The fact is even reconstructionists who are faithfully trying to create an authentic hard polytheist experience are not going to be practicing something that closely resembles what peoples of the ancient past did. All modern practices are produced through a filter of modernity that can’t be ignored or side-swiped. The English language is in flux at this very moment and I like that the terms pagan and witch are both annoyingly difficult to pin down. But I do know what they mean to me, and my place in the community, and that is what matters.
I think where you find yourself with a label of identification like ‘pagan’ is entirely up to you. As long as you’re not saying what something is or isn’t – especially in a public place where you’re just going to embarrass yourself – how you align yourself is a personal choice. Usually it comes down to a series of factors. Does it feel right to you? And do the people who similarly label themselves as such, peeve you off? If the answer is “yes” to the first question and “not so much that it bothers me” then congratulations, welcome to the umbrella. Or tent. Or the wibbly wobbly whatever.
Not all of us are seeking the divine in the material. Not all of us are seeking the transcendent experience. Not all of use want to find the god within. And not all of us believe in a goddess without. Some of use are inspired by the past. Some of us reject the past to make a pile of new shit up. And you know what? The most fun aspect of pagan events is sitting down, passing the bottle of mead around, and having a good old fashioned friendly debate. But if that’s not your bag, and the trinkets at the market stalls don’t tickle your pink bits either, then staying home is okay too.