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Thread: Defining "Pagan"

  1. #1

    Defining "Pagan"

    Greetings!

    I thought it would be interesting to start a thread about defining Paganism - a topic which seems rather controversial if you ask me!

    I personally believe that a Pagan is someone who calls him or herself a Pagan. The rest is personal interpretation.

    I believe that such individuality is one of our strengths as Pagans - we can be completely different from one another, yet still accept each other for who we are without claiming that our way is the "one true right way". Of course, as with any system of belief there are those who will claim that "you are not a real Pagan if you don't do this, or that, the way I say it should be done", but then again, there's people like that in practically every religion (such intolerance is one of the reasons I left Christianity. Though many Christians seem to be wonderful accepting people, many whom I encountered were the complete opposite...).

    Does anyone agree with my definition of Paganism? Do you believe that a Pagan is someone who calls him/herself a Pagan?

    How do you define a Pagan?

  2. #2
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    I agree. My opinion would be a repetition of what you said.

    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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    One with the Force ChainLightning's Avatar
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    Well, yeah. Within reason.




    "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it." - Ayn Rand

    "Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." - Marcus Aurelius

    "The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice." - Mark Twain

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  4. #4
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    [quote author=Orion Guardian-Elm link=topic=669.msg9762#msg9762 date=1288820931]

    Does anyone agree with my definition of Paganism? Do you believe that a Pagan is someone who calls him/herself a Pagan?

    How do you define a Pagan?
    [/quote]

    IMO:
    A pagan is someone that acknowledges themselves as such and follows one (or a combination of more than one) of many distinct spiritual paths (or creates their own) under the Pagan umbrella which often incorporates the practice of some form of earth-centered and/or polytheistic, religious or spiritual path(s) that generally (but not always) incorporates the use of ritual and/or magic(k) that may either be inspired by a reconstruction of, or an eclectic mix of one or multiple pre-Christian pagan faiths and other pagan religions such as Buddhism, Hindu, etc.


    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  5. #5

    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    [quote author=thalassa link=topic=669.msg9770#msg9770 date=1288822729]
    IMO:
    A pagan is someone that acknowledges themselves as such and follows one (or a combination of more than one) of many distinct spiritual paths (or creates their own) under the Pagan umbrella which often incorporates the practice of some form of earth-centered and/or polytheistic, religious or spiritual path(s) that generally (but not always) incorporates the use of ritual and/or magic(k) that may either be inspired by a reconstruction of, or an eclectic mix of one or multiple pre-Christian pagan faiths and other pagan religions such as Buddhism, Hindu, etc.
    [/quote]

    I would definately agree that most Pagans fall under one of the above categories, though I have encountered a number of Pagans before who do not actually consider themselves religious nor spiritual, rather seeing their practice of Paganism as more of a lifestyle. There are also a number of atheistic, or secular Pagans: www.spiralgoddess.com/SecularPaganism.html

    I do consider myself religious personally, and I am theistic, however for a while I was probably what could have been considered an atheistic Pagan. I have also been in an Eclectic Pagan group with a number of irreligious Pagan witches in the past.

  6. #6

    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    [quote author=B. de Corbin link=topic=669.msg9764#msg9764 date=1288821256]
    I agree. My opinion would be a repetition of what you said.


    [/quote]

    Thanks ;D

  7. #7
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    [quote author=Orion Guardian-Elm link=topic=669.msg9785#msg9785 date=1288827740]
    I do consider myself religious personally, and I am theistic, however for a while I was probably what could have been considered an atheistic Pagan. I have also been in an Eclectic Pagan group with a number of irreligious Pagan witches in the past.
    [/quote]

    I don't consider being atheistic or non-religious/spiritual to not fit into that...in my experience those individuals fill the idea of deity in the literal sense with some form of pantheistic belief, or other equivalent (including myself).
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  8. #8
    Bronze Member magusphredde's Avatar
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    I am a Jimist ... I believe in me ... I am responsible for what I do ... And if I don't like what I do I send myself to my room for a time out ...
    I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them ... John Bernard Books


    Indian Chief 'Two Eagles' was asked by a white government official; "You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done."

    The Chief nodded in agreement.

    The official continued; "Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?"

    The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute and then calmly replied.. "When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine Man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex."

    Then the chief leaned back and smiled; "Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."




  9. #9
    Magnificent Bastard ThorsSon's Avatar
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    The word "pagan" is from the root word "paganis," which is Latin for "country dweller."... so... originally, the word was very much the equivalent of "hick," "redneck," "hillbilly," and the like. However, when Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of Rome, the cities were the first to convert, leaving the country dwellers behind, worshiping the old gods. As such, the paganis, still holding on to the old gods, became synonymous with "not Christian." Over the years, the word has come to encapsulate anyone not of Abrahamic faith (ie, not Christian, Jewish or Muslim). There are those that further constrain the word to exclude certain other faiths... but, in all honesty, "pagan" is a derivative of "paganis" which means "country dweller," and came to mean "Not Christian." Now, that initial change of meaning, was directed toward those who followed the Roman gods, much as the word Heathen was directed at those who follow the Germanic gods... so.. technically, I would define "pagan" as a follower of the Roman gods... but, more modernly, I would define it as any follower of a non-Abrahamic religion.

    signed,
    The Redneck (paganis) Heathen
    "Don't ever miss a good opportunity to shut up." - Harvey Davis "Gramps"

  10. #10
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    Re: Defining "Pagan"

    Really? I have to disagree with the consensus here.

    The thing is, Paganism is most often used as a shortened term for the Neopagan Movement. And really? Outside of our small community, it recalls the painful history of colonialism. Imho, it reeks of trying to get older, more established religions on the bandwagon with this New Religious Movement. Defining Paganism relative to the Abrahamic Tradition binds us to forever be defined by Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and their derivatives. As a result, except for some of the more "leading edge" of Cultural Anthropologists many in the discipline take our Neopagan Movement to be simply a revival within Christianity.

    And Really? When you look at the history of Wicca, all of this is a revival of medieval christian mysticism under a different banner. Chaos Magic went a different direction than Wicca when branching off of Thelema, but that shared source is a part of why I feel comfortable here.

    As much as I dislike this blog for what I perceive as alarmist tendencies, the writer does occasionally have access to real info. http://wildhunt.org/blog/2009/12/aft...hos-a-nrm.html
    The thing is, when Neopagans interact with the world's other religions where they haven't heard of us all, they use a different term - "European Indigenous Traditions" - which points to what the real root is. We can build from there to include pre-Christian Middle Eastern religions, as would include Kemetic, Babylonian, and Mesopotamian Reconstructionists.

    Buddism, Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism, Native American Religions, and the Australian Aborigines Tradition all existed before our little movement. Roman Popes used the word "Pagan" as a slur against anyone who wasn't Jewish or Christian. Occasionally, Heretics earned the title of "pagan," as a way to demoralize them and rally the troops. During the Crusades, the label was applied to Islam.

    If we wish to reclaim the word "Pagan", that's our business. But to try lump the rest of the world's religions on that bandwagon with us, without really consulting any of their practitioners but a few immigrants to the US and Europe? That strikes me as the worst sort of arrogance, which also shows a deep-seeded resentment against Christianity.
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