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Author Topic: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists  (Read 8000 times)

Haganrix

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I'm a member of the competitionary forum Hellenismos.us. Many people there refuse the terms of pagan or Paganism,  heathen or Heathendom as more than inadaquate. Of course, those words had been invented as christian insults, there should be no doubt. But are we tied to those connotations in a time where many other people feel proud calling themselves heathen or pagan?

I know that many of my fellow Hellenes in the USA and even some other parts of the world also want to distinguish from what in our words is called contemporary paganism. Also for that reason the words referred are refused. There are of course dogmatic differences, especially on the subjects of magic and the nature of the Gods. This seems to make it impossible to form a universal 'Pagan' alliance. Asking for further explanation I also received this:

Quote:
"Certainly the word for pagan or heathen, 'paganus,' appears in some ancient Latin writers such as Livy without an especially negative tone. But this does not alter the fact that with the arrival of the new faith, the word paganus became a decidedly disparaging expression, as used in early Christian apologetics. It derives from pagus, meaning a small town or village, so that paganus refers to the peasant way of thinking: an uncultured, primitive, and superstitious way. In order to promote and glorify the new faith, the apologists had the bad habit of elevating themselves through the denigration of other faiths. There was often a conscious and often systematic disparagement and misrepresentation of almost all the earlier traditions, doctrines, and religions, which were grouped under the contemptuous blanket-term of paganism or heathendom. To this end, the apologists obviously made a premeditated effort to highlight those aspects of the pre-Christian religions and traditions that lacked any normal or primordial character, but were clearly forms that had fallen into decay. Such a polemical procedure lead, in particular, to the characterization of whatever had preceded Christendom, and was hence non-Christian, as necessarily anti-Christian.

One should consider, then, that "paganism" is a fundamentally tendentious and artificial concept that scarcely corresponds to the historical reality of what the pre-Christian world always was in its normal manifestations, apart from a few decadent elements and aspects that derived from the degenerate remains of older cultures.

Once we are clear about this, we come today to a paradoxical realization: that this imaginary paganism that never existed, but was invented by Christian apologists, is now serving as the starting-point for certain so-called pagan circles, and is thus threatening for the first time in history to become a reality--no more and no less than that.
Julius Evola, 1942.
"


Now, and what are your views?
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 12:37:14 pm by RandallS »

Haganrix

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Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2012, 03:14:44 pm »
I'm a member of the competitionary forum Hellenismos.us. Many people there refuse the terms of pagan or Paganism, heathen or Heathendom as more than inadaquate. Of course, those words had been invented as christian insults, there should be no doubt. But are we tied to those connotations in a time where many other people feel proud calling themselves pagan or heathen ?

I know that many of my fellow Hellenes in the USA and even some other parts of the world also want to distinguish from what in our words is called contemporary paganism. Also for that reason the words referred are refused. There are of course dogmatic differences, especially on the subjects of magic and the nature of the Gods. This seems to make it impossible to form a universal 'Pagan' alliance. Asking for further explanation I also received this:

    Quote:
    "Certainly the word for pagan or heathen, 'paganus,' appears in some ancient Latin writers such as Livy without an especially negative tone. But this does not alter the fact that with the arrival of the new faith, the word paganus became a decidedly disparaging expression, as used in early Christian apologetics. It derives from pagus, meaning a small town or village, so that paganus refers to the peasant way of thinking: an uncultured, primitive, and superstitious way. In order to promote and glorify the new faith, the apologists had the bad habit of elevating themselves through the denigration of other faiths. There was often a conscious and often systematic disparagement and misrepresentation of almost all the earlier traditions, doctrines, and religions, which were grouped under the contemptuous blanket-term of paganism or heathendom. To this end, the apologists obviously made a premeditated effort to highlight those aspects of the pre-Christian religions and traditions that lacked any normal or primordial character, but were clearly forms that had fallen into decay. Such a polemical procedure lead, in particular, to the characterization of whatever had preceded Christendom, and was hence non-Christian, as necessarily anti-Christian.

    One should consider, then, that "paganism" is a fundamentally tendentious and artificial concept that scarcely corresponds to the historical reality of what the pre-Christian world always was in its normal manifestations, apart from a few decadent elements and aspects that derived from the degenerate remains of older cultures.

    Once we are clear about this, we come today to a paradoxical realization: that this imaginary paganism that never existed, but was invented by Christian apologists, is now serving as the starting-point for certain so-called pagan circles, and is thus threatening for the first time in history to become a reality--no more and no less than that.
    Julius Evola, 1942.
"


    Now, and what are your views?
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 03:24:37 pm by Haganrix »

Sage

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2012, 03:33:06 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75712
I'm a member of the competitionary forum Hellenismos.us. Many people there refuse the terms of pagan or Paganism, heathen or Heathendom as more than inadaquate. Of course, those words had been invented as christian insults, there should be no doubt. But are we tied to those connotations in a time where many other people feel proud calling themselves pagan or heathen ?

 
Clarification: are you asking if practitioners of Hellenismos should be considered Pagan, or considered among the contemporary/modern/Neo-Pagan movement of religious?
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

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Haganrix

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 03:55:07 pm »
Quote from: Sage;75714
Clarification: are you asking if practitioners of Hellenismos should be considered Pagan, or considered among the contemporary/modern/Neo-Pagan movement of religious?

 

In a way, the question has that ambiguity.

Jezebel

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2012, 04:36:28 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75710

/snip


 
Of Thespiae sort of touched on this.

Maps

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2012, 05:28:21 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75712
Now, and what are your views?

 
I feel that people can ultimately call themselves whatever the heck they want.

I use the term pagan and polytheist to distinguish the fact that while I am a reconstructionist, I am taking a source material and using it to guide my own tradition that is relevant to me, my region, and the things I have access to in this world today. That source material has given rise to nearly countless contemporary folk traditions that have remained relatively unbroken over the centuries as well, and they have the... right of way, so to speak. I'm distancing myself as a matter of respect.

If you're arguing against the reclaiming of a word, then I think that's just silly and futile because it happens all the time, and it's happened with the word "pagan" already. For traditions and peoples who are against being called that because of the negative connotation and all the historical baggage it has, then they have the right to self-disqualify. But if a homogeneous opinion is what you're looking for, you'll never find it. Not even among Hellenic recons and polytheists, I'm afraid.

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2012, 05:40:25 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75717
In a way, the question has that ambiguity.

 
Looks like you double posted in two separate categories so I'll repost this. Of Thespiae talking about the label of 'pagan'.

Personally, I agree with Maps. People can call themselves whatever they want.

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Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2012, 05:52:03 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75710
I'm a member of the competitionary forum Hellenismos.us. Many people there refuse the terms of pagan or Paganism,  heathen or Heathendom as more than inadaquate. Of course, those words had been invented as christian insults, there should be no doubt. But are we tied to those connotations in a time where many other people feel proud calling themselves heathen or pagan?

I know that many of my fellow Hellenes in the USA and even some other parts of the world also want to distinguish from what in our words is called contemporary paganism. Also for that reason the words referred are refused. There are of course dogmatic differences, especially on the subjects of magic and the nature of the Gods. This seems to make it impossible to form a universal 'Pagan' alliance.

-Snip-

Now, and what are your views?

With the question as vague as it is, let me answer this by saying that I call myself Hellenic, not Pagan. Still, until we are large enough to stand on our own, I'll gladly place Hellenismos under the Pagan banner. It's a place to be understood and welcomed, and that is worth a lot. I hope we will one day stand on our own completely, but that day is not now and that's perfectly alright by me.

I have no moral or historical problem with the term 'Pagan', by the way. It is a good a term as any for a collection of religions and practices which have very little in common. Besides, the ancients Hellens weren't the ones who invented the wold 'Hellenismos', and yet I gladly use it to describe a reconstruction practice.
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Egarwaen

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2012, 05:58:22 pm »
Quote from: Maps;75723
If you're arguing against the reclaiming of a word, then I think that's just silly and futile because it happens all the time, and it's happened with the word "pagan" already. For traditions and peoples who are against being called that because of the negative connotation and all the historical baggage it has, then they have the right to self-disqualify. But if a homogeneous opinion is what you're looking for, you'll never find it. Not even among Hellenic recons and polytheists, I'm afraid.

 
I think it is important to remember, though, that Pagan is a broad umbrella term, encompassing everything from outright atheists or humanists through several varities of animist to polytheists of various practices, beliefs, and creeds. It's a label that's unified by what it's not.

Maps

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2012, 06:06:22 pm »
Quote from: Egarwaen;75729
I think it is important to remember, though, that Pagan is a broad umbrella term, encompassing everything from outright atheists or humanists through several varities of animist to polytheists of various practices, beliefs, and creeds. It's a label that's unified by what it's not.

 
According to whom?

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2012, 06:23:07 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75712
I'm a member of the competitionary forum Hellenismos.us. Many people there refuse the terms of pagan or Paganism, heathen or Heathendom as more than inadaquate. Of course, those words had been invented as christian insults,

 
No.  Their usage predates Christianity in that role.  "Not the religion of Rome" became a term for non-Christians when Christianity became the religion of Rome.

I heard that someone at Nova Roma made a joke about this once, and then pointed out that of course in modern usage Roman recons are pagan.
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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2012, 06:25:54 pm »
Quote from: Maps;75731
According to whom?

 
Seems to me that if there are so many personalized definitions of "Pagan" floating around, the only thing that unites any of us is the use of the label "Pagan." For me, since my introduction to modern polytheism came through Ásatrú and not Wicca or more New Agey things, my conception of Paganism has always included ethnic reconstructionisms. Obviously, not all reconstructionsts agree with me and feel the term doesn't describe them at all. I'll respect the choice of labels another person has, even if their understanding of those labels is at conflict with my own.

It's similar in some ways (admittedly very few ways, but it's the best metaphor I've got right now) to my personal experiences with gender identity. I've mentioned before that I'm genderqueer/genderfluid, born XX but with a lot of mental/spiritual leanings also towards "male" and "other." Just writing about my experience and lining it up with others, I know that those experiences would sometimes get filed under the "transgender" label. And from most of what I've heard, "genderqueer" gets filed under the "transgender" umbrella anyway. For a few reasons though, I'm really, really hesitant at claiming "trans*" as a label for myself. There's something about it that just doesn't properly reflect my experiences, and I don't want to claim either its benefits or baggages by being filed in there.

Someone else may look at me and see kinship with my experiences and see me as a fellow trans*person, and I'm okay with that. Things are wibbly-wobbly and fluid, and it doesn't hurt me any. But if given the chance, I'd really prefer my own terminology with my own disclaimers and nuances than going with the bigger label of "transgender."

...I have no idea if that contributes to the conversation, but there you go! I'm gonna go eat my homemade pudding now.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2012, 06:42:38 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75712


    Now, and what are your views?

 
My issue with the term "Pagan" is how... meaningless it can be at times. Pretty much, among all of its definition, the only common thing between "Pagan" religion and practices is that they all are non-Abrahamic - and even that is not quite as clear, if we consider Christopaganism, Christian Witchcraft and similar practices. As such, this term doesn't really say much about my religion - or any other religion - at all.

Another problem with a term, is that it is also often used as a synonym for Neo-Wicca, or for a subculture of a certain kind. As such, it isn't really suitable for Recon practices as well.

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2012, 06:46:09 pm »
Quote from: Haganrix;75710


 
A Reminder:

Haganrix,

You have started two identical topics at roughly the same time.  I have merged them into one thread and deleted one of the opening messages.  Be aware that this falls squarely under the Rude and Annoying Rule.  You are not being warned this time, but be aware of this in the future.

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Maps

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Re: Objections against the terms of Paganism and Heathendom among Hellenists
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2012, 07:07:35 pm »
Quote from: Sage;75734
Seems to me that if there are so many personalized definitions of "Pagan" floating around, the only thing that unites any of us is the use of the label "Pagan." For me, since my introduction to modern polytheism came through Ásatrú and not Wicca or more New Agey things, my conception of Paganism has always included ethnic reconstructionisms. Obviously, not all reconstructionsts agree with me and feel the term doesn't describe them at all. I'll respect the choice of labels another person has, even if their understanding of those labels is at conflict with my own.

It's similar in some ways (admittedly very few ways, but it's the best metaphor I've got right now) to my personal experiences with gender identity. I've mentioned before that I'm genderqueer/genderfluid, born XX but with a lot of mental/spiritual leanings also towards "male" and "other." Just writing about my experience and lining it up with others, I know that those experiences would sometimes get filed under the "transgender" label. And from most of what I've heard, "genderqueer" gets filed under the "transgender" umbrella anyway. For a few reasons though, I'm really, really hesitant at claiming "trans*" as a label for myself. There's something about it that just doesn't properly reflect my experiences, and I don't want to claim either its benefits or baggages by being filed in there.

Someone else may look at me and see kinship with my experiences and see me as a fellow trans*person, and I'm okay with that. Things are wibbly-wobbly and fluid, and it doesn't hurt me any. But if given the chance, I'd really prefer my own terminology with my own disclaimers and nuances than going with the bigger label of "transgender."

...I have no idea if that contributes to the conversation, but there you go! I'm gonna go eat my homemade pudding now.

Yeah, I feel "other" in a ton of areas of my identity where binaries have been constructed, so I've come to accept the fact that the whole damn thing is one giant slippery slope.

The first step to using labels in a meaningful way is to understand that they're all inadequate.

"Pagan" to me, means nothing by itself. But if taken in the context of a whole host of other qualifiers that are all qualifying each other, then we begin to get something that is actually usable. That is if you have use for labels to begin with.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 07:08:42 pm by Maps »

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