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Author Topic: Celtic: Can I Call Myself Pagan?  (Read 855 times)

Nymree

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Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« on: October 06, 2020, 12:34:18 pm »
This is an interesting topic, because it brings up that difficult question of how to define paganism.

In recent days, I’ve realised that I’m no longer interested in seeking a specific tradition, such as Druidry or Wicca. I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that what I’m seeking is a more private, personal spirituality, in which I can quietly figure things out on my own and through reading. This would be a lot more self-led, with the idea that respect and an awareness of cultural sensitivity are all-important.

With this, I’m starting to wonder if I can, or should, even claim to be pagan. One issue, is that I’ve never been part of a tradition, had training or initiation, or become part of any community outside moots. Up to this point, I was terming myself either ‘eclectic pagan’ or ‘Druidry aspirant’, but no one in the pagan community has officially gone, ‘yep, this person is part of my tradition and I can acknowledge her as such’. This gives me a bit of a feeling of liminality, because I’m now moving away from solid religious structures or organisations such as ADF or OBOD training, which I initially thought I would seek but ended up not doing so, and moving towards a more self-led practice and learning.

My practice, as it stands, is really hard to define in terms of tradition. It’s not exactly eclectic – I follow the traditional Cornish year, which has lots of counterparts to the traditional Irish festivals often followed in the Wheel of the Year. I’m polytheistic, in that I acknowledge and work with many gods, but not necessarily from a pantheon established in a culture and historical religion. For example, when I want to pray to the ocean, I just literally call it ‘Ocean God’, or ‘Keynvor’ (the Cornish word for ‘ocean’), because Cornwall doesn't have a surviving pantheon of gods and goddesses (that I know of). I honour the hill near my village, as ‘Hill Goddess’. I’m also an animist, and pray to tree spirits, not only because my mum does that (she’s not pagan) but because it feels right to do so. My practice is usually rooted in Cornish culture where I can, and I hope to reach out to Welsh myths and legends eventually, but if I do so I can only imagine it will be in a solitary setting.

The only terms I could think of to describe this are ‘eclectic solitary paganism’ or ‘Celtic paganism’ more broadly, though I definitely don’t claim any authentic Celtic religious practice or knowledge. The most comfortable term for me is ‘solitary pagan spirituality’, because I can be vague and at the same time avoid any claims to a religion or authenticity. It’s strange, because I pray every day, meditate, make offerings, follow the festivals, interact with my gods and the spirits, and ancestors, but I don’t feel a pull anymore to seek further teachings from others in the pagan community. Not that I don't have things to learn, or that others can't teach me, but that what I'm looking for now is more of a personal, self-developed thing. I feel quite comfortable with this.

I am worried, however, that what I’ve described here couldn’t comfortably be defined as paganism. I feel as if I’m treading a line, because I’m consciously avoiding being defined as ‘reconstructionist’ or ‘druid’, as I’m neither of those, and I’m not really an eclectic because I’m drawing specifically from Brythonic pagan sources alongside intuition. I also worry that if I fully leave a pagan identity and term this ‘spirituality’, I might confuse some people – I’ll still follow all the above things, and even say ‘[an it harm none] so mote it be’ after prayers, which as far as I know is a Wiccanate prayer form. Would that then be appropriating paganism, because I would not be a pagan, while using pagan terms and cultural artefacts? It’s all very confusing and interesting.

I may one day pursue the ADF courses, or align more with Hedge Druidry, but at the moment I’m perfectly content with this minimalism. I want to avoid being rude or insulting, by claiming an identity that others in the community may not recognise, and I of course don’t want to sound like pursuing those traditions and paths aren’t worthy or valid. I’ve just discovered that I’m looking for something else.

One thing that might be valuable to note is how the Pagan Federation define 'paganism' on their website:
'A polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.' Would that make a spirituality, avoiding religious loyalities specifically, not pagan? I'm not particularly attached to any one idea, I just want to find an inoffensive means of self-expression.

Any thoughts, or just an interesting debate on defining ‘Paganism’, all welcome.

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2020, 01:25:05 pm »
I am worried, however, that what I’ve described here couldn’t comfortably be defined as paganism.

I feel like what you describe there is comparable to the overwhelming majority of pagans I've encountered over the course of my life.  Since the 90s at least, membership/affiliation with a tradition or organization is minority, much to the resentment of a wide variety of gatekeepers (only some of whom have a legitimate point).

Quote
One thing that might be valuable to note is how the Pagan Federation define 'paganism' on their website:
'A polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.'

Ooooh, we haven't had the "is paganism intrinsically nature-oriented/nature-worshipping" throwdown in years, who's in?  (For the record, the Pagan Federation is wrongety wrong wrong wrong but it's a popular wrongness even though it erases most of the reconstructions entirely.)
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2020, 06:19:49 pm »
Ooooh, we haven't had the "is paganism intrinsically nature-oriented/nature-worshipping" throwdown in years, who's in? 

Pick me! Pick me! (I'm on the 'no, not really,' side.)

Anon100

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2020, 06:01:08 pm »
Pick me! Pick me! (I'm on the 'no, not really,' side.)

Aww, but it's my first one. Although I'm admitedly on the fence with - well it sort of depends on which aspect of which branch.

I'm all for the life as a lego box way of thinking. No matter what the original instructions we always end up using blocks from all different items and getting some wonders from the mix.

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2020, 07:03:05 pm »
Pick me! Pick me! (I'm on the 'no, not really,' side.)

I should probably clarify: that's 'no' to 'is paganism nature-centered/,' rather than to 'can I call myself pagan?'

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2020, 12:20:57 pm »
In recent days, I’ve realised that I’m no longer interested in seeking a specific tradition, such as Druidry or Wicca. I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that what I’m seeking is a more private, personal spirituality, in which I can quietly figure things out on my own and through reading. This would be a lot more self-led, with the idea that respect and an awareness of cultural sensitivity are all-important.

With this, I’m starting to wonder if I can, or should, even claim to be pagan.

No reason why you can't. There've always been people who weren't part of a specific tradition, since before there was an actual modern pagan movement. Bootstrapping one's own paganism is itself traditional!

Quote
One issue, is that I’ve never been part of a tradition, had training or initiation, or become part of any community outside moots. Up to this point, I was terming myself either ‘eclectic pagan’ or ‘Druidry aspirant’, but no one in the pagan community has officially gone, ‘yep, this person is part of my tradition and I can acknowledge her as such’.

I am the leader (Host) of a pagan community (TC), and I officially go, 'yep, Nymree is a part of my pagan community, and I can acknowledge her as such.' Not, it's true, 'part of my tradition', but by most of the articulated standards for what constitutes a tradition, I don't have one.

Quote
This gives me a bit of a feeling of liminality, because I’m now moving away from solid religious structures or organisations such as ADF or OBOD training, which I initially thought I would seek but ended up not doing so, and moving towards a more self-led practice and learning.

Sounds to me like what I call 'self-taught syndrome' - this is when someone who is self-taught and practices solitary is comfortable and confident with their practice when they're just thinking about themself and their practice, but when they start thinking about how it fits into the broader pagan world, have a crisis of doubt about whether the quality of teaching they've 'received' measures up to others' training.

IME (which is long: even if you only count from when I began interacting with the local community and had my own bout with 'self-taught syndrome', that's almost 30 years), those self-taughts invariably are at least as well-trained, and often better, because they had the gumption to go ahead and do it themselves, rather than waiting for someone else to teach them. (It's often said, 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear' - sometimes, that teacher is themself.)

Quote
My practice, as it stands, is really hard to define in terms of tradition. It’s not exactly eclectic – I follow the traditional Cornish year, which has lots of counterparts to the traditional Irish festivals often followed in the Wheel of the Year. I’m polytheistic, in that I acknowledge and work with many gods, but not necessarily from a pantheon established in a culture and historical religion. <snip> I’m also an animist, and pray to tree spirits....

... I pray every day, meditate, make offerings, follow the festivals, interact with my gods and the spirits, and ancestors, but I don’t feel a pull anymore to seek further teachings from others in the pagan community. Not that I don't have things to learn, or that others can't teach me, but that what I'm looking for now is more of a personal, self-developed thing. I feel quite comfortable with this.

I am worried, however, that what I’ve described here couldn’t comfortably be defined as paganism. I feel as if I’m treading a line, because I’m consciously avoiding being defined as ‘reconstructionist’ or ‘druid’, as I’m neither of those, and I’m not really an eclectic because I’m drawing specifically from Brythonic pagan sources alongside intuition. I also worry that if I fully leave a pagan identity and term this ‘spirituality’, I might confuse some people – I’ll still follow all the above things, and even say ‘[an it harm none] so mote it be’ after prayers, which as far as I know is a Wiccanate prayer form. Would that then be appropriating paganism, because I would not be a pagan, while using pagan terms and cultural artefacts? It’s all very confusing and interesting.

'Eclectic' doesn't mean 'drawing from a wide variety of sources', it just means 'drawing from more than one source' - in particular, it frequently (almost traditionally) means the combination of one or more 'clusters' of source with the eclectic's personal perspective/intuition. In your case, that's Brythonic and especially Cornish material, plus some Wiccish (and I imagine Druish) stuff to provide structure, plus animism, shaped into functional practice by your own needs, gut feelings, etc. Sounds pretty eclectic to me!

Quote
I want to avoid being rude or insulting, by claiming an identity that others in the community may not recognise, and I of course don’t want to sound like pursuing those traditions and paths aren’t worthy or valid.

If they refuse to recognize you as pagan, just because you're not the same sort of pagan they are (or not of a sort they've heard of), you're not the one being rude or insulting; they are, by not only assuming that they've heard of every sort of paganism, but further assuming that they have the authority to declare who is and isn't part of paganisms they themselves are not part of. Just as the Wiccans don't get to say who is or isn't part of Druidry, and vice-versa, neither of them have the authority to say that someone who isn't claiming to be a Wiccan or a Druid isn't pagan.

Bear in mind that paganism is not a religion, nor a set of related religions. It's only incidentally a set of religions at all, because what it really is, is a sociocultural movement. This is why it includes things as divergent as Discordianism, (British) Traditional Wicca, and Canaanite Polytheism. There are some meta-religious commonalities - f'ex, a thing that used to be commonly said about the movement as a whole was that it was about 'creating religion for oneself' - but even those aren't universal.

When I saw the thread title, and that Sefiru had posted to it, I thought for sure she'd have linked to a certain thread, and was surprised she hadn't. So I will: here is the most current iteration of a longstanding TC trope, the ever-growing (intermittently, anyway, whenever it's revived, such as now) 'You Can't Be Pagan If...' list.

Quote
Any thoughts, or just an interesting debate on defining ‘Paganism’, all welcome.

If there is sufficient interest in having this discussion, we can set up a Special Topic Discussion for the purpose. (That's the traditional place to have that kind of debate, but we haven't done it - either 'defining paganism' or 'is paganism nature-based?' - in over ten years, back on the archive board.)

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Aster Breo

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2020, 11:45:30 am »



When I saw the thread title, and that Sefiru had posted to it, I thought for sure she'd have linked to a certain thread, and was surprised she hadn't. So I will: here is the most current iteration of a longstanding TC trope, the ever-growing (intermittently, anyway, whenever it's revived, such as now) 'You Can't Be Pagan If...' list.


I had the same thought! Thanks for posting that, Sunflower. Such fond memories.

Personally, I'm a fan of the long-time TC definition of "pagan" as someone who is not a member of a JCI (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) religion and who self-identifies as pagan. Though, I'm not sure how folks like Christo-pagans and similar paths fit into the first part of the definition.

So, I guess it boils down to:  Do you consider yourself pagan? If so, you're pagan.

Nobody else should care.

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Sefiru

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2020, 06:34:56 pm »
When I saw the thread title, and that Sefiru had posted to it, I thought for sure she'd have linked to a certain thread, and was surprised she hadn't. So I will: here is the most current iteration of a longstanding TC trope, the ever-growing (intermittently, anyway, whenever it's revived, such as now) 'You Can't Be Pagan If...' list.

I knew I forgot something, LOL.

EclecticWheel

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2020, 06:00:51 am »
This is an interesting topic, because it brings up that difficult question of how to define paganism.

I would also consider the original post as eclectic, and I suppose I've wondered the same things about myself and the identity of my own practice.

I've begun to call myself a neo-pagan to those whom I can link to some of the information in this thread, or to others who identify as neo-pagan.

It is a broad term, but my theology is broad, too, and eclectic.  I have no initiation from any human groups.

I believe I underwent some sort of spiritual passage directly from my spirits about ten years ago, and that passage became a core source of inspiration in my practice.  The spirits became my teachers, and my own curiosity and pondering has likewise inspired me to learn more.

While it can be hard to pin down, I think if I share enough about my spirituality with an informed person, they can recognize a neo-pagan, do-it-yourself variety of religiosity in my practice.  That is grounds for calling it neo-pagan in my admittedly humble opinion on this issue.

If you're feeling comfortable in a functioning spiritual system, I think that is commendable.  I have finally polished mine into something functional but also flexible and adaptable to further development, and teachable.

There will be naysayers, and they may even point to real dangers in eclectic spirituality, but there are dangers and pitfalls in mainstream religions, too.  I have found that at ecauldron we can talk about the obstacles in eclecticism without dismissing it as a valid option altogether.

What I mean to convey in this reflection is that, while your eclecticism looks much different from my eclecticism, in the abstract I can recognize my own concerns in your questions about your religious identity, and even part of my method of personal religion building, in what you describe.

This makes what we are doing a recognizable approach within the neo-pagan world, even if we used different sources and different intuitive assumptions and came to be practicing different religions with different worldviews.  We are a recognizable religious approach.

While it is not necessary to locate one's personal religion on anyone else's map, I understand it can be reassuring to have a reference point, somewhere to begin comparing to other traditions or practices, and it may even be useful should you be seeking out compatible spiritual communities.

If it means anything, I would recognize your approach as neo-pagan if you declared it.
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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2020, 06:23:04 am »
Personally, I'm a fan of the long-time TC definition of "pagan" as someone who is not a member of a JCI (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) religion and who self-identifies as pagan. Though, I'm not sure how folks like Christo-pagans and similar paths fit into the first part of the definition.

In some spaces I have frequented those calling themselves Christopagans are usually progressive, but orthodox mainline Christians who practice some variety of magic alongside their liturgical variety of Christianity.

Personally, that is not how I would define Christopaganism, but since it is so used, I prefer calling myself "Christo-Eclectic."

What I mean is that I worship Jesus in a neo-pagan narrative, as a mortal who became a god.  I could even say he is my lord, or savior from despair, or a Christ, an anointed king.  (I do not view him as a sacrifice for my sins or a Savior in that sense.)

This narrative is not Christian, Jewish, or Islamic.  My approach to gods in practice is basically a variety of polytheism.

My approach to theology and ritual is eclectic and my focus of devotion is often Jesus or Mary (but not always), and I see no reason as a neo-pagan why I should not worship the gods of my choice, or otherwise worship who I choose, and, within reason, work with the source material of my choosing in an eclectic way, as long as I do so in a reasonable, sensitive, moral, wholesome way.

I'd apply similar reasoning to the spirituality described in the original post and recognize it as belonging to the eclectic category of neo-paganism.
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

PerditaPickle

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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2020, 05:48:00 pm »
(I'm on the 'no, not really,' side.)

It is for me (nature based, that is) but I recognise that it isn't for everyone. And that's valid, and both are paganism if the practitioners consider themselves pagan.
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Re: Can I Call Myself Pagan?
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2020, 06:22:32 pm »
I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that what I’m seeking is a more private, personal spirituality, in which I can quietly figure things out on my own and through reading.

This is very similar to how I've been coming at things.

I’ve never been part of a tradition, had training or initiation, or become part of any community outside moots. Up to this point, I was terming myself either ‘eclectic pagan’ or ‘Druidry aspirant’, but no one in the pagan community has officially gone, ‘yep, this person is part of my tradition and I can acknowledge her as such’. This gives me a bit of a feeling of liminality, because I’m now moving away from solid religious structures or organisations such as ADF or OBOD training, which I initially thought I would seek but ended up not doing so, and moving towards a more self-led practice and learning.

This is similar too.  For me, I looked into ADF and OBOD early on and neither of them resonated with me at all, so I reconciled myself to being solitary.  After a bit more research I decided to stick with Druidry, largely (I've come to refer to myself as 'Druidish') - a big part of my decision to stick with it was that I learned it's very broad, as practitioners can be polytheistic or monotheistic, or like myself they may approach it more as a philosophy or spirituality rather than as a religion.

My practice, as it stands, is really hard to define in terms of tradition. It’s not exactly eclectic – I follow the traditional Cornish year, which has lots of counterparts to the traditional Irish festivals often followed in the Wheel of the Year. I’m polytheistic, in that I acknowledge and work with many gods, but not necessarily from a pantheon established in a culture and historical religion. For example, when I want to pray to the ocean, I just literally call it ‘Ocean God’, or ‘Keynvor’ (the Cornish word for ‘ocean’), because Cornwall doesn't have a surviving pantheon of gods and goddesses (that I know of). I honour the hill near my village, as ‘Hill Goddess’. I’m also an animist, and pray to tree spirits, not only because my mum does that (she’s not pagan) but because it feels right to do so. My practice is usually rooted in Cornish culture where I can, and I hope to reach out to Welsh myths and legends eventually, but if I do so I can only imagine it will be in a solitary setting.

That, to me, sounds really interesting and perfectly valid, which could absolutely be termed paganism (with whatever slightly more specific label you ultimately decide upon).

One thing that might be valuable to note is how the Pagan Federation define 'paganism' on their website:
'A polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.'

I've mentioned that my paganism is nature oriented, but I nevertheless have some issues with the term 'pantheism'.  And I'm also not polytheistic, in fact I sometimes refer to myself as non-theistic (which is different, for me, than atheism - I suppose I could use the term agnostic, but that carries different implications for me of withholding judgement, rather than having already decided about something (but anyway, these are non-relevant semantics really)).

(My issues with the term pantheism may come out of a lingering discomfort about my birth religion of Christianity, and some definitions of the word pantheism which seem to associate this with notions of a monotheistic god which I'm not comfortable about.)

Anyway I feel that I've hopefully contributed (despite a bit of rambling...) to the theme that there's numerous different ways to view these questions?
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