Pagan Religions, Polytheism, and the Problem with Labels

English: Detail of Reconstruction of the Acrop...

Detail of Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areus Pagus in Athens(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately, and even more so since I’ve seen it crop up in a couple of places. I am a Pagan, and I also identify as a Druid and a Heathen, and I attend a local Wiccan group quite often since they do the most organized and best planned Pagan things in the area. I know there are many Pagans who practice more than one path, or identify with more than one religion. And yet, it seems there is a vocal minority who object to this.

Of course, they never say it in so many words. Usually it shows up as people saying “well, you can practice this and (whatever other religion), but you shouldn’t call yourself this religion”. I’ve met a few Heathens who have said I shouldn’t be calling myself a Heathen if I’m also initiated in a Wiccan tradition, or working with a Druid group. Sometimes it comes up in other ways, like a post on a Druid group I’m a part of where the poster felt it wasn’t right to welcome someone to the Druid group who was also an initiated Wiccan.

I understand the need to distance a group from practices that it is often confused with. I understand the desire to represent practices accurately to those who aren’t well-versed in them. However, most of these are Pagan religions that claim to be polytheistic and orthopraxic. As long as I’m worshiping the right deities in the right way when practicing that religion, it shouldn’t matter at all what other deities I honor in the right way when practicing another – as long as there’s no oaths of exclusivity that are involved, of course.

Comments? Thoughts? Ideas on how to do some positive education or change in a community that not only requests you do things the “right way” but has an unspoken idea that this is the “only way”?

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