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Author Topic: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.  (Read 3314 times)

Elani Temperance

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Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #30 on: September 23, 2013, 02:08:27 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122681
I am not sure I completely understand. I do know you are very well read and have an excellent website and blog so I do respect you opinion but I still think there can be something gained by looking at what pagans have in common. The clear problem are no specific aspects that all three agree on yet there are at least three things that are very common in pagan religion. So one pagan might believe in nature and polytheism, another in magic and nature, another in polytheism and magic, another only in polytheism, another in magic, nature and polytheism. This sort of format allows us to say something about paganism without excluding anyone ( the exception so far of FlameKeeping which I am not yet familiar with). This then gives us some positive attributes to paganism which can be discussed or explained.

I am going to butt in for a moment to ask, respectfully and without any snark, how a 'one, two, or three out of thee' score system will define Paganism in a way that is more constructive than the working definition we have now. Hinduism fits this new definition, Native American traditions fit this definition, heck; Christianity could fit this definition...

Also, how will religions that barely pass that test (Hellenism, my religion, for example, which only ticks the Gods and Goddesses box) be defined better by a system where 'it scores one out of three, just like witchcraft (which only ticks 'magic' for many) and shamanism (which only ricks 'nature' for many), and is thus Pagan'? You would still need a 'and self-identifies as Pagan' clause because the definition is so broad... And honestly, ticking just one of the boxes makes me feel like I'm barely scraping along at the fringes of Paganism, while the working definition makes me feel included and welcome. Just... Something to consider, I guess.
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Asch

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #31 on: September 23, 2013, 04:28:54 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122681
I am not sure I completely understand. I do know you are very well read and have an excellent website and blog so I do respect you opinion but I still think there can be something gained by looking at what pagans have in common. The clear problem are no specific aspects that all three agree on yet there are at least three things that are very common in pagan religion. So one pagan might believe in nature and polytheism, another in magic and nature, another in polytheism and magic, another only in polytheism, another in magic, nature and polytheism. This sort of format allows us to say something about paganism without excluding anyone ( the exception so far of FlameKeeping which I am not yet familiar with). This then gives us some positive attributes to paganism which can be discussed or explained.

No, see, 'cause it does exclude groups. So it's not especially useful for paganism as a whole.

Now, if you want to talk about a subset of religions that meet TC's broad and useful definition of pagan, then you could look at your three boxes (which frankly is pretty dang stereotypical and shortsighted) as a starting point.

Recon religions as noted are wibbly on magic in some cases and aren't necessarily nature revering as our ancestors were just as hard on their environments as we are they just had tools and technologies that didn't do as much damage as quickly as ours.

In other words, try again.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2013, 04:29:59 am by Asch »

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #32 on: September 23, 2013, 07:44:24 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122681
So one pagan might believe in nature and polytheism, another in magic and nature, another in polytheism and magic, another only in polytheism, another in magic, nature and polytheism. This sort of format allows us to say something about paganism without excluding anyone ( the exception so far of FlameKeeping which I am not yet familiar with). This then gives us some positive attributes to paganism which can be discussed or explained.

 
I'm with Elani - I don't see how this does much good. And more to the point, it does something *bad*.

I am pretty smack dab in the middle of the "Yeah, that's a common Pagan thing" on a bunch of possible spectra: my ritual year is based on the natural/agricultural year (and I live in a place where that maps very closely to the 'traditional' year structure.) I do magic. I am polytheistic, and believe in many Gods and honour more than one in my own practice.

But I have also had conversations - over and over again - with dear friends, with people I respect and trust and value, who I've learned from and with and done awesome things with, who do not share those things with me, and who are still very clearly Pagan. (Who define themselves that way, and who are interested in, and committed to Pagan events, projects, community building, and much more.)

And I have no interest in a definition that leaves them out. Not even as an intellectual exercise.

Because I've had a bunch of conversations with them where this kind of "Well, this meets 3 points of Pagan definition" gets very frustrating for them, because they feel they are being held to some standard of Paganism that leaves them out. That ignores them. That doesn't care what they think. Which is in fact hurtful to them - and damaging to the community at large, because it tends to make them want to go away and hide.

(And that makes it harder for me to talk to them, and learn from them, and do awesome stuff with them. So it's bad for me, too. And for a whole lot of people.)

I do think it's possible to have some conversation about the *topics* - the "Here are at least six ways Pagans may view/interact with the Gods" is a meaningful topic. But doing it as a counting game hurts real people.

And my Paganism? It is not cool with hurting real people purely for an academic discussion.
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RandallS

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #33 on: September 23, 2013, 08:11:47 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122577
I do not think you should change the definition. I am only trying to understand what paganism as a belief system is.

It's NOT a belief system. It is many different religions, many of which do not care much about the beliefs of their "followers" -- because the religions are orthopraxic (caring about correct actions/activities that please their gods) instead of orthodoxic (caring about correct beliefs like Christianity and Islam do).

Quote
If things have nothing in common then why even group them together? I just find it hard to believe that pagans do not have things in common.

They generally have some things in common, if nothing else those things in common to most religions (like belief in gods, spirits, and the supernatural). Some large subgroups of Pagan religions share much more in common within their subgroup (Wicca-like Pagan religions, for example, share a lot with others in their group of Pagan religions and they are the most common in the US and Europe, number of members-wise).

Why have the Pagan group of religions if they do not share many beliefs/practices in common?  One reason: they share a lot in common about how they are seen by others in North America and Europe. Another reason: it's an umbrella term like "monotheist" (which includes religions as different as most forms of Christianity and some forms of Hinduism -- which two examples share about as much in common belief/practice wise as the average Pagan religions do).

Quote
When I read the posts there are themes which recur and at least seem to be important to pagan beliefs.

This is because many (if not the majority of) Pagans on this board (like most Pagans in North America and Europe) are members of a Wicca-like Pagan religion. Wicca-like religions share many beliefs and practices -- much like the various forms of Christianity do.
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HeartShadow

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #34 on: September 23, 2013, 08:16:48 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122658
I am sorry I do not know anything about the FlameKeeping religion. I went to the site that was linked and still do not understand what it is. I would like to know more about it and how it is connected with paganism.

 
FlameKeeping is a pantheistic religious philosophy.  I sometimes refer to it as religious humanism (as opposed to secular humanism).

Everything is part of the Divine, everything is sacred, and we are the eyes and hands of the Divine.

Magic - optional and completely to the side.  You can do magic if you want, you can think it's all a load of bunk, anywhere along that line, it's simply not relevant.

Nature - well, it's sacred, but so's everything else, so that doesn't mean much.  It's not MORE important than anything else, it's not central.  It's more of a "don't foul the nest" sort of thing.

Gods - again, to the side.  Believe in one, none, five million and three, whatever.

So by your definition, this is not pagan.  Not remotely.  In fact, two of your three boxes are specifically AVOIDED, and nature is .. well, it's kinda hard to avoid if you do crazy things like eat and breathe.

ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #35 on: September 23, 2013, 08:50:41 am »
Quote from: Elani Temperance;122687
I am going to butt in for a moment to ask, respectfully and without any snark, how a 'one, two, or three out of thee' score system will define Paganism in a way that is more constructive than the working definition we have now. Hinduism fits this new definition, Native American traditions fit this definition, heck; Christianity could fit this definition...

Also, how will religions that barely pass that test (Hellenism, my religion, for example, which only ticks the Gods and Goddesses box) be defined better by a system where 'it scores one out of three, just like witchcraft (which only ticks 'magic' for many) and shamanism (which only ricks 'nature' for many), and is thus Pagan'? You would still need a 'and self-identifies as Pagan' clause because the definition is so broad... And honestly, ticking just one of the boxes makes me feel like I'm barely scraping along at the fringes of Paganism, while the working definition makes me feel included and welcome. Just... Something to consider, I guess.

 
My intention was not to define paganism at all but rather to look at what paganism is rather that what it is not. The number of boxes you check off has nothing to do with how pagan something is. I was going to explain the terms nature, goddesses and gods and magic further but have not had a chance. I guess I was hoping for a more positive start with discussions about the terms. I tried not to write to much at first but that may have been just a reflection of my inexperience posting on forums.

 The word magic refers to the mysteries of life as well as an actual action. Science helps explain what might be called the known world, the part of nature we currently understand. There is much to the world we cannot explain which are the mysteries of life and it seems to me that paganism celebrates this aspect of the universe as much as it celebrates what is known. Maybe there are another set of common features rather that what I have set forward which would be better. I just feel that pagans should be able to identify what they are as much as what they are not even if that is a difficult task.

ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #36 on: September 23, 2013, 09:00:12 am »
Quote from: Asch;122691
No, see, 'cause it does exclude groups. So it's not especially useful for paganism as a whole.

Now, if you want to talk about a subset of religions that meet TC's broad and useful definition of pagan, then you could look at your three boxes (which frankly is pretty dang stereotypical and shortsighted) as a starting point.



In other words, try again.

 
The only religion I am aware of that was excluded was FireKeeping which I am not familiar with. I have no problem that you disagree with me and if you have better examples that are common with pagans then I would like to hear them. To say that the aspects of nature, goddesses and gods, as well as magic is stereotypical is I suppose correct if you mean they are basic ideas. To say they are shortsighted does not make sense. From what I have learn so far they seem very common to many pagans beliefs with the exception of possibly this forum. The worship of goddesses and gods seems prevalent in many of the European derived pagan religions. Now whether this means the belief in them as symbols or actual beings in our world is some of the variations which people see their beliefs.

ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #37 on: September 23, 2013, 09:08:28 am »
Quote from: Jenett;122703
I'm with Elani - I don't see how this does much good. And more to the point, it does something *bad*.

I am pretty smack dab in the middle of the "Yeah, that's a common Pagan thing" on a bunch of possible spectra: my ritual year is based on the natural/agricultural year (and I live in a place where that maps very closely to the 'traditional' year structure.) I do magic. I am polytheistic, and believe in many Gods and honour more than one in my own practice.

But I have also had conversations - over and over again - with dear friends, with people I respect and trust and value, who I've learned from and with and done awesome things with, who do not share those things with me, and who are still very clearly Pagan. (Who define themselves that way, and who are interested in, and committed to Pagan events, projects, community building, and much more.)

And I have no interest in a definition that leaves them out. Not even as an intellectual exercise.

Because I've had a bunch of conversations with them where this kind of "Well, this meets 3 points of Pagan definition" gets very frustrating for them, because they feel they are being held to some standard of Paganism that leaves them out. That ignores them. That doesn't care what they think. Which is in fact hurtful to them - and damaging to the community at large, because it tends to make them want to go away and hide.

(And that makes it harder for me to talk to them, and learn from them, and do awesome stuff with them. So it's bad for me, too. And for a whole lot of people.)

I do think it's possible to have some conversation about the *topics* - the "Here are at least six ways Pagans may view/interact with the Gods" is a meaningful topic. But doing it as a counting game hurts real people.

And my Paganism? It is not cool with hurting real people purely for an academic discussion.

 
Then help me understand. What do they believe in which makes them feel connected to paganism yet as nothing to do with nature , belief in goddesses and gods whether symbolically or definitively, or embracing the mysteries of the world. Remember I am not saying you need all three things to be called pagan. If you know a better combination I would like to hear it and if it does not have to be just three things. I am only trying describe paganism in positive characteristics of what it is rather than just what it is not. This is not just academic this is about what we do believe in.

Do you think I am trying to hurt people?

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #38 on: September 23, 2013, 09:21:03 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122713
Then help me understand. What do they believe in which makes them feel connected to paganism yet as nothing to do with nature , belief in goddesses and gods whether symbolically or definitively, or embracing the mysteries of the world.


Their religions are filed in the junk drawer, just like the other pagan religions.

There is absolutely no belief involved.  As long as you treat "belief" as if it is relevant to pagan categorisation you will not understand this, especially since "belief" is not very important within many individual pagan religions.

Quote
Do you think I am trying to hurt people?

 
It doesn't matter whether or not that's what you're trying to accomplish, when you continue to try to do a hurtful thing even after people tell you that it is hurtful.
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we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

HeartShadow

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #39 on: September 23, 2013, 09:22:34 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122710
My intention was not to define paganism at all but rather to look at what paganism is rather that what it is not. The number of boxes you check off has nothing to do with how pagan something is. I was going to explain the terms nature, goddesses and gods and magic further but have not had a chance. I guess I was hoping for a more positive start with discussions about the terms. I tried not to write to much at first but that may have been just a reflection of my inexperience posting on forums.

 The word magic refers to the mysteries of life as well as an actual action. Science helps explain what might be called the known world, the part of nature we currently understand. There is much to the world we cannot explain which are the mysteries of life and it seems to me that paganism celebrates this aspect of the universe as much as it celebrates what is known. Maybe there are another set of common features rather that what I have set forward which would be better. I just feel that pagans should be able to identify what they are as much as what they are not even if that is a difficult task.

 
waaaaait a minute.  Magic means WHAT?????

d'you think maybe you should've told us that you were using a completely non-standard definition of magic earlier?

Also, "mysteries of life" is vague enough to include ... everyone.  ooh, a baby!  let's celebrate that!  look, we're pagan!

ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #40 on: September 23, 2013, 09:31:46 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;122715
waaaaait a minute.  Magic means WHAT?????

d'you think maybe you should've told us that you were using a completely non-standard definition of magic earlier?

Also, "mysteries of life" is vague enough to include ... everyone.  ooh, a baby!  let's celebrate that!  look, we're pagan!

 
I modified the term because the first term did not work. If the new term is better that is fine. I was only trying to understand what common thing were important to pagans. It was never meant as an absolute answer. I am only trying to understand in positive terms what paganism is.  Thank you for your comment.

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #41 on: September 23, 2013, 09:34:49 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122719
I am only trying to understand in positive terms what paganism is.

 
You can't come up with a positive-form definition for something that is "the box of things that don't go in other boxes".

If you want positive-form definitions, you're actually going to have to ask people about their religions.
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ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #42 on: September 23, 2013, 09:38:01 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;122714
Their religions are filed in the junk drawer, just like the other pagan religions.

There is absolutely no belief involved.  As long as you treat "belief" as if it is relevant to pagan categorisation you will not understand this, especially since "belief" is not very important within many individual pagan religions.


 
It doesn't matter whether or not that's what you're trying to accomplish, when you continue to try to do a hurtful thing even after people tell you that it is hurtful.

 
I do understand that paganism is more about practice that beliefs but to have a practice do you not need to believe in something? In honoring goddesses and gods do you not need to believe in them or some concept of them first. If you honor nature or celebrate it do you not need to believe in nature? I understand the emphasis is on practice rather that belief but it is hard to imagine paganism without beliefs.

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #43 on: September 23, 2013, 09:40:01 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122721
I do understand that paganism is more about practice that beliefs


No.  Many pagan religions are more about practice than beliefs.

"Paganism", on the other hand, is a loose association of unrelated religions, and has neither practices nor beliefs.
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Aster Breo

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Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #44 on: September 23, 2013, 09:42:47 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122710
My intention was not to define paganism at all but rather to look at what paganism is rather that what it is not.

But, as had already been said repeatedly, paganism is not *A* thing.  And since it's not a single thing, it can't accurately be described as what it IS. Because it isn't anything in particular.
 
Maybe some historical context will help you understand why you're getting the reaction you're getting.  

You're not the first person to try to come up with a "better" definition of paganism. Those of us who have been around for a while have seen many, MANY attempts to define paganism more narrowly or precisely or positively than the standard TC definition.  Most of those attempts have focused on nature and/or magic.  And every one of them not only ended in failure, but also managed to upset, hurt, exclude, and alienate some people.

Because, really, the only thing you can say with any certainty about all pagans is that we all self-identify as pagan.  Even the part about not being JCI doesn't always hold true, because there are people who identify as Christo-pagan.

You keep saying that there must be something we all have in common besides calling ourselves pagan, and that it's important to define ourselves by what we are, rather than what we're not.  But you haven't explained why you're so sure there's common ground or why that's important.

And, well, I *can* define myself by what I am, not just what I'm not -- but my list of what I am is not going to be the same as other people's lists.  It's not even exactly the same as the lists of the three people with whom I'm currently working on building a shared practice.

Plus, as Jenett pointed out, while some of the things on my list are about beliefs, other things are about how I practice. I might believe exactly the same things as someone else, but my practice is different. Or I might do exactly the same things as someone else, while having differing beliefs. And that's ok. I could even have no beliefs or no practice, and still consider myself pagan.

Because paganism isn't one thing, no matter how much anyone wants it to be.

Honestly, nobody who has posted in this thread is trying to be difficult or obstructionist.  But we're trying to tell you:  This discussion has already happened many times without ever yielding a better definition -- a definition that didn't exclude anyone who considers themself pagan -- than the one we already use.  

And, personally, I'm ok with that
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