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Author Topic: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.  (Read 3361 times)

ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #45 on: September 23, 2013, 09:46:12 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;122722
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.

 
So everyone in this forum feel that paganism is only unrelated religions? This is different than what I have understood but if that's how this forum sees paganism I will adjust my view for this forum. What category is someone who has an emphasis in nature and sees the goddesses and gods more symbolically that as actual beings with physical form?

Elani Temperance

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Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #46 on: September 23, 2013, 09:50:22 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122712
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.

HeartShadow already had the definition of magic thing covered, so I'll leave that as is. I did want to comment on the above, because I think there is a valuable point to make there:

Just because you don't (personally) stumble over non-Wiccan(ish) type of Pagans daily, does not mean non-Wiccan(ish) people do not exist within the spectrum of Paganism. The only person it says something about is you, and the places you frequent. 80% of my (online) time spent with Pagans is with non-Wiccan(ish) Pagans and we are just as Pagan as the Wiccan(ish) crowd.

Not all Pagans practice magic, not all Pagans believe in the existence of Gods, not all Pagans revere nature... And all of us are Pagan none the less.

This might not be your reality, but it is the reality of a lot of people, and I agree when it is said that the 'Pagan==Wiccan(ish)' view is not only stereotypical but, indeed, shortsighted. I don't think you mean to hurt anyone, and you mean incredibly well, but defining Paganism by a few common denominators is an effort in futility... And trust me, we have all tried it.
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ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #47 on: September 23, 2013, 09:53:28 am »
Quote from: Aster Breo;122723
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

 
I see that how I have perceived pagan is different that how this forum sees it. I will try to approach what I am interested in a different way since the way I have chosen created responses I was not expecting. Since describing oneself as pagan in this forum really has no meaning other that I consider myself pagan what is a better term for someone who is strongly oriented in nature with a more symbolic view of the gods and a love of Celtic and Norse folklore and myth? And I am serious about this.

ethelwulf

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #48 on: September 23, 2013, 09:59:13 am »
Quote from: Elani Temperance;122725
HeartShadow already had the definition of magic thing covered, so I'll leave that as is. I did want to comment on the above, because I think there is a valuable point to make there:

Just because you don't (personally) stumble over non-Wiccan(ish) type of Pagans daily, does not mean non-Wiccan(ish) people do not exist within the spectrum of Paganism. The only person it says something about is you, and the places you frequent. 80% of my (online) time spent with Pagans is with non-Wiccan(ish) Pagans and we are just as Pagan as the Wiccan(ish) crowd.

Not all Pagans practice magic, not all Pagans believe in the existence of Gods, not all Pagans revere nature... And all of us are Pagan none the less.

This might not be your reality, but it is the reality of a lot of people, and I agree when it is said that the 'Pagan==Wiccan(ish)' view is not only stereotypical but, indeed, shortsighted. I don't think you mean to hurt anyone, and you mean incredibly well, but defining Paganism by a few common denominators is an effort in futility... And trust me, we have all tried it.

 
I have already abandoned any hope of finding commonality in paganism with this forum, but I do appreciate what you have said. My interest is sincere and sometimes the only way to explore things is to put things out for a discussion to see how other people feel. I am surprised that no one in this forum thought this could be considered but I have learned and will approach things a different way based on the responses I have gotten.

Jenett

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #49 on: September 23, 2013, 10:04:15 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122713
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?

 
Others have already covered both the "Why positive things don't work for an umbrella descriptor" and "It doesn't matter what your intent is here, the thing you are trying to do is hurtful to people (and has been hurtful in the past, and people are rightfully touchy about it.)"

Here's the thing. Trying to come up with a positive description of Pagan is a bit like - as said earlier in this thread - trying to come up with a positive description of a kitchen junk drawer. It is a useful location for things. You can refer to it as a location of things. But the things in that drawer don't have any specified relationship to each other, or anything in common other than "They live in the junk drawer."

My kitchen junk drawer holds the spices I don't use regularly, my corkscrew, a pair of scissors, the bread knife, and the bottle stopper on occasions when it is not in a bottle of wine in the fridge. All you can tell about the combined contents is that I probably drink wine, and I also appear to like cooking (because there's more spices than I want out). Individually, the wine and the spices and the scissors are all quite useful, but in combination? Not the same things.

Let's look at this a bit more in terms of controlled vocabularies, maybe. (I'm a librarian, I do that.) I do get what you're talking about in terms of wanting some shared description to group things. It's like wanting to know where to find things when you go into the library, and have a systematic reason for why it's in Point A rather than Point B. (133.43 vs 299, say.)

Unfortunately, the world is not that tidy. Every library classification system has the functional equivalent of a kitchen junk drawer: the stuff that doesn't quite fit tidily, and the best you can do is say "this stuff uses the same terms about itself, so let's put it together and the people who care about it will sort their way through it." And since librarians and libraries have been trying to sort this out for a couple of centuries at least, that suggests to me that the world, in general, has a bunch of places where this kind of thing happens.

Quote
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.


"Mysteries of the world" is a thing that Pagan religions share, yes, but it's a thing that *all* religions share, somehow (at least to the extent Pagan religions share it). So it's not exactly useful in distinguishing Pagan religions from non-Pagan religions.

Likewise, as others have said, how 'nature' is meaningful in a given Pagan religion varies a lot. There is a bunch of history in the Pagan community about using 'nature based' to mean 'earth Centered' (usually implying either a strong focus on environmentalism or a ritual year tied to the seasons.)

But there are a bunch of Pagan religions that recognise that nature is a thing, but where it's not a huge part of the ritual practices. (Someone who is a Hellenic reconstructionist might honour Demeter and the grain, or Dionysus and the wine, but honour them at times that do not necessarily relate to the actual harvest of those things, for example. Or other examples already given in this thead.)

The same thing is true with views of deity. Some people believe in many distinct Gods. (Polytheism). Some people believe in a single divine force with many aspects or facets. Some people believe that there aren't gods, but they work with archetypes, the power of myth and story, or something else. Some people work with the spirits of place or of nature or of the elements. Some people work with the ancestors (and view them not as deities, but 'people with wisdom', generally.)

And here's the thing: in many cases, you can have people in the same specific small path or group who believe a bunch of those different things, in the same ritual space, and finding meaning in it. There are, as you say, some practices which only make sense if you're willing to at least posit the belief, but for a lot of people, those practices are only part of their entire religious picture.

Can you see how this makes more specific definitions very complicated? Especially once you start talking about different layers. More to the point, there are also other religions (the Afro-Carribean diaspora religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, the First Peoples religions and customs) where there's a lot of potential definitional overlap with modern Paganism if you start being finite in your definitions, but where for a bunch of specific, historical, and cultural reasons, they often would not define themselves as Pagan.

I don't know about you, but I want to respect that.

Here's a question: why do you want a structured definition so badly? What are you hoping it's going to help you do that you can't do without one?
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Jenett

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #50 on: September 23, 2013, 10:15:45 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122726
I see that how I have perceived pagan is different that how this forum sees it. I will try to approach what I am interested in a different way since the way I have chosen created responses I was not expecting. Since describing oneself as pagan in this forum really has no meaning other that I consider myself pagan what is a better term for someone who is strongly oriented in nature with a more symbolic view of the gods and a love of Celtic and Norse folklore and myth? And I am serious about this.

 
The answer here is "embrace the power of 'and'". Each of us contains multitudes, and we use different words at different times depending on what we're talking about.

I am Pagan. I am a priestess. I am a witch. I am a religious witch. I am a polytheist. I am a 3rd degree initiate in the Omphalos Tri-Cellan tradition. (I am a librarian, I am a writer, I am a musician, I am a woman, and so on, too.)

Which description I use depends on where I'm using it. If someone asks me for my broad religious affiliation, I'm likely to say "I'm Pagan" these days. (And I consider myself part of the Pagan community, help to do things that support that community, etc.)

If I am already among Pagans (on this forum), I'm more likely to simply identify as a religious witch: that gives people a baseline on which to work. (I likely include at least a couple of kinds of magical practice, I probably honour Gods, there's a decent chance my ritual year includes the 8 Sabbats, etc.)

(You'll notice something, by the way: while my actual practices fit into the broader definition of Wicca most commonly used, I don't generally use it about myself. I'll often say "Wicca's a good first approximation, but there's some differences" with people for whom that's a useful description.)

The very specific labels (my tradition and degree) mostly don't mean much unless you're familiar with the tradition or my training, and you'll notice I don't use them much directly. (I think this is something like the 3rd time in 12+ years I've mentioned the trad name on this forum. It is a small trad, there's almost nothing online about it, and it's just not useful data for almost everyone in the world.)

For you, it appears that 'reconstructionist' is probably not the right fit. Likewise, neither is polytheist, at least as long as you're focusing on a more symbolic view. You might find 'pantheist' worth poking at. You might try something like Celtic/Norse focused archtypist. You could poke around with some related terms and come up with something new but that was readily understood by others. You could just stick with 'Pagan' and get more specific when you needed to in a specific discussion. (This gets easier with practice: I can do the relevant summary in a sentence or two now when needed.)

It generally does take people a while to figure out the best terms to use as short descriptors unless they're in a path that makes that simpler. It's very normal.
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Elani Temperance

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Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #51 on: September 23, 2013, 10:19:30 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122728
I have already abandoned any hope of finding commonality in paganism with this forum, but I do appreciate what you have said. My interest is sincere and sometimes the only way to explore things is to put things out for a discussion to see how other people feel. I am surprised that no one in this forum thought this could be considered but I have learned and will approach things a different way based on the responses I have gotten.

I think the problem is that we have all tried it and failed miserably ;-) We have failed because this is a minority forum; there is no main group here. Any voice and focal point is appreciated here. I can see how that is different from other forums. It is also why I am not on other forums anymore.

I truly think that you will only find commonalities in Paganism when you come up with these commonalities within a subgroup... and as a consequence, you are going to marginalize everyone outside of this subgroup.

I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor, but you are right, you will never be able to funnel Paganism into a few key words on this forum, because every single one of us respects the people on this forum and their religions too much to force them into a generalized and lacking system.
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Aster Breo

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Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #52 on: September 23, 2013, 10:20:46 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122726
what is a better term for someone who is strongly oriented in nature with a more symbolic view of the gods and a love of Celtic and Norse folklore and myth? And I am serious about this.

Well... there might not be a ready-made label for your particular path or beliefs.  That's why many of us create our paths.  

Since I have different interests and beliefs than yours, I haven't looked for the kind of path you describe, so I'm not a particularly good person to answer that question. Based on what I *am* familiar with, though, you might want to look into ADF Druidry (which is not limited to Celtic cultures). Or into a Wiccan(ish) path that focuses on Celtic and Norse lore, which probably exists but might not have a well-known name.

You'll probably get better suggestions if you post that specific question. Then, other people who share those interests will be able to give better advice.

Also, having the "right" label is very important to some people and not at all important to others.  To me, having the "right term" is only important as a tool to help me find related information.  I learned a long time ago that there isn't a widely recognized label for my particular set of beliefs and practices.  So, I created my own (which was then modified when I joined with a couple of other people with similar beliefs and practices).

But that label isn't really useful at a practical level, because it is not widely known.  That means that I sometimes have to *describe* my path, rather than just giving its name, if I really want someone to understand it.  Usually, though, I don't really care if anyone else has a clear understanding of my path, so, in those situations I just use a generalization like "Celtic polytheist".

It all depends on what you want to communicate and why.
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HeartShadow

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #53 on: September 23, 2013, 10:29:05 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122724
So everyone in this forum feel that paganism is only unrelated religions? This is different than what I have understood but if that's how this forum sees paganism I will adjust my view for this forum. What category is someone who has an emphasis in nature and sees the goddesses and gods more symbolically that as actual beings with physical form?

 
.... *everyone in the forum*?  No, the people who are posting.  I don't speak for other people.

And that's what you KEEP DOING that's causing you trouble.  You keep using words like *everyone* and *all*.  ALL Pagans do, EVERYONE does, EVERYONE believes .... that's the big problem, right there.

You know what YOU do.  You know what you've been told other people do.  You DO NOT KNOW what *everyone* does.  You know what the norm is on the pagan forums YOU GO TO.  Probably, from what you're talking about, they're Wicca-like.

The Cauldron is different in that there is a LARGE number of non-Wicca-like pagans here.  People that have been excluded by these Wicca-like-centric definitions OVER AND OVER to the point that proposing them causes a very bad instinctive reaction.

I mean, I could define you FOR you, but wouldn't you not like it?  Especially if I got it wrong?  And if people did it over and over, wouldn't you get pissed?

I cannot define you.  I cannot define anyone but myself.  And that's the entire point.

Aster Breo

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Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #54 on: September 23, 2013, 10:42:10 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;122734
You know what the norm is on the pagan forums YOU GO TO.  Probably, from what you're talking about, they're Wicca-like.

The Cauldron is different in that there is a LARGE number of non-Wicca-like pagans here.  People that have been excluded by these Wicca-like-centric definitions OVER AND OVER to the point that proposing them causes a very bad instinctive reaction.

This is an important point.

As I understand it, there are several online forums and communities that use the descriptor "pagan" when they're really talking mostly about Wicca and Wicca-like paths.  Just like there are a lot of books out there that do the same thing.   So, it's very easy to get the (mistaken) impression that that's a valid description of ALL pagan paths.  It's a very common misconception.

This forum is different, largely because many of us who are regulars here are not Wiccan or anything like Wiccan.  In fact, lots of Cauldronites came here specifically because they felt excluded by those other forums.

So, I guess one thing lots of pagans do have in common, besides self-identifying as pagan, is a dislike of being incorrectly defined by other people.   ;-)
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Asch

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Re: Observations of a Pagan seeking understand paganism.
« Reply #55 on: September 23, 2013, 12:59:25 pm »
Quote from: ethelwulf;122724
What category is someone who has an emphasis in nature and sees the goddesses and gods more symbolically that as actual beings with physical form?


Erm, well that could be a lot of things. Since you've expressed an interest in Celtic and Norse mythology etc. you could (as was noted) look into ADF Druidry (http://www.adf.org) or any number of other organizations. I would suggest Asatru for Norse specifically but there's not a particular emphasis on nature in Asatru if I recall correctly.

Basically you may need to do much more reading and research to find your label/path. Or, as has also been noted, make your own.

I would recommend starting a thread specifically asking for more information to help you with this. You may also want to check out some of the religious SIGs on the board for more information.

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