Religion, Spotlight

The Pagan Shoe That Never Fits

Photo by Spencer Finnley

Photo by Spencer Finnley

I’m equal parts humanist and priest. This puts me on a lonely fence where both atheists and believers get to throw stones at me.

I wouldn’t mind some company.

Recently I invited blogger John Halstead to depart Paganism and join me in leaving that label behind. John’s spirituality, like mine, delights in the world as-is: a world both good and bad, with quiet gods who do not rush to help.

When John said he was “embarrassed” by mainline Paganism, I wasn’t the only blogger to jump up (though I was the only one tempting him away from it). John addressed a number of us in a single response post. The verdict? He’s sticking with the Pagan umbrella, even though it doesn’t represent his beliefs.

What remained unclear to me was why.

As I write in a comment to him:

[That] affirmation, which you say “defines what Paganism is all about,” is indeed beautiful. But how is it Pagan? I share those beliefs, and I’m not Pagan; Thoreau shared them, and he wasn’t Pagan either. [Your affirmation] even says that those beautiful beliefs are “human” rather than belonging to any religion — such as Paganism.

And Paganism today adds many beliefs beyond what that affirmation offers, some of which you’ve specifically said you’re uncomfortable with. Why the continued loyalty?

(The affirmation really is beautiful, though. It comes from a reader of mine, Dave, and I strongly recommend you read the whole thing.)

In comments however, John offers his personal reasoning:

I love the term ['pagan'], precisely because it has been used by monotheists to distinguish themselves from those who found divinity in nature in all its diverse forms. I embrace the term… precisely because it is a challenging term.

“For me, the word ['pagan'] cannot be understood outside the context of monotheism. Whatever was meant by the early Christians when they coined the term ‘pagan’, the word came, at least by the 18th century Romantic revival, to have the meaning described by Henry Hatfield… a “this-worldly” view of life, as opposed to Christian dualism.

As Ronald Hutton demonstrates, the NeoPagan revival was inspired by the German and English Romantics, as much as it was by the Western Hermetic Tradition. It was in this sense that Tim Zell used the word when he started calling the the religious movement that coalesced around the Green Egg newsletter ‘NeoPagan’. And it’s in that sense that I use the term now. For me, it calls up thoughts of people like Stephan George, Thomas Taylor, Charles Swinburne, Leigh Hunt, and Harry Byngham more than Enheduanna, Homer, or Julian.

I adore this usage of “pagan,” though I’m not sure the word implies that anymore. For good or bad, the word has been “reclaimed.”

It matters what John and I call our beliefs, because the number of people who share them is growing. Somewhere between humanism and animism lies the future of religion.

And today, it’s fragile.

Spiritual humanists are among the most disunified groups in existence. Most of us sit under umbrellas that don’t really embrace us—Pagan, atheist, secular humanist, Unitarian—and which don’t represent our interests. By calling ourselves these things we make our own lives harder. More seriously, we prevent actual fellowship or organization under a common flag. We keep our beliefs in the margin.

I also wonder what you think. Do any of you find yourselves in this non-faithful, yet spiritual position? What do you call it? Do you still use some larger umbrella term, and how does it help?

I believe these questions matter. Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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52 thoughts on “The Pagan Shoe That Never Fits

  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to John Halstead «   Rogue Priest

  2. nickiofcourse says:

    I dropped carrying a label at all. I’ve been labelled by others. I merely stop at “I do not consider myself religious and I do not afflitiate with any organized group.” Boring, aren’t I? I know how I feel, and I know what I think, and they aren’t things that any book or religion has told me to feel or think. I finally got rid of every thing that didn’t make any sense to me and decided to just be okay with what makes sense. I have have found to be a challenge has to do with the souls who have come here through my very own body- I do not want them to think as I think or feel as I feel simply because I think it or feel it, so I encourage them to explore their own thoughts and ideas and our World Religions book. But while I do that, I just am NOT okay with the idea that they may carry/pick up a belief that they are “right” about something (having to do with religion/spirituality) or that someone else is “wrong”, so I find myself repeating over and over “no one has to agree with you” and “that does not make you ‘right'” etc. But one of my all time favorite things about any of this, but especially about raising the little humans is to encourage them to ask questions. If something – anything! religion or otherwise- does not make sense, keep asking and seeking. Don’t take some pat answer if it doesn’t ring true!
    And of course, we shall each be the change that we wish to see in the world. Or as MJ said “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. Ooh!” <—did you sing it? HA.
    Labels, smabels. There is no way that one label can define any one human being anyway. We are far too big for any one little word to cover.
    Happy Sunday.

    • I’m glad your label-less-ness has worked well for you, Nicki. Personally, I do see a use for labels. They help identify and hold together groups, and some people want to be part of a group. They also help me recognize other people who have similar inclinations to me.

      But they don’t do that job if a person uses a misleading label. I think that, to me, that’s really what that issue is about.

  3. Drew, as you know from our conversations, both real time and by email, I sit on this fence with you. How I talk about who I am and what my own being means to me changes from time to time. As I’ve said before, for several reasons, pagan doesn’t work for me, but when I am among self-identified pagans, I use their language. I have most often over the last decade used the term humanist for myself because I am clear that whatever the divine, the gods, the One, is, it works in and through and is part of who I am as a human being.

    I like the phrase–humanistic mystic. That’s who I am. I am in touch with the Divine, or whatever word best describes something that connects all things together on multiple levels. The mystic-me feels that, knows that in a powerful way, and I have all my life. It’s one of the few experiences that transcends my whole 53 years. And, that is not disconnected (how could it be) from my every day and your every day humanity. That’s who I am today. A humanistic mystic.

    • That’s really beautiful Bob.

      For me, I think a part of what makes a label work is that it has “oomph.” I never liked Celtic Reconstructionist because it is a long, awkward term. Do you ever feel that way about “humanistic mystic”? If you use Pagan language around Pagans, is it because that label is unclear or hard to explain?

  4. Arden says:

    It’s curious, but I feel similarly to “humanist” the way you do “pagan.” I’m not on board with the way secular humanism expresses its tenants, but in *spirit* I am quite humanistic. Ahh, labels!

  5. Disclaimer: I am now an atheist, but there was a time when I had a similar stance as yours, not exactly, but similar. What you are describing sounds like agnostic polytheism to me. In other words, you don’t know whether or not the gods exist, but you worship them anyway.

  6. I would like to spend some time pondering this and then maybe write a response on my own blog. But, yes, basically easily embarrassed by the term pagan and don’t use it. I’m the kind who quickly looks around to see if there’s anyone I know before stepping foot into the local pagan bookstore to seek out the few good gems amongst all the fluff. I’ve been trying to put into words what my view is and this article I wrote (that just went up yesterday on my birthday!) is as close as I’ve gotten to it so far: http://www.buddhachicklife.com/1/post/2012/12/finding-the-enchantment-in-everyday-life.html

  7. I can “resonate” (for a lack of a better term) with this conundrum, but from a little different angle. I have been considered a Christian, by myself and others, since I started walking the path of Faith. Started in middle school, now in my mid-twenties, I have started taking a closer look at the beliefs of the people who claim to walk beside me and have noticed that they differ drastically. I have made attempts at finding people who believe the same things as I, but like has been described there really isn’t a group. I believe in a manifestation of the Judeo-Christian deity, however it’s the details and the dogmas that throw me for a loop. So, I realize I haven’t really added anything meaningful to this conversation, but it’s a weird place to be. Where you like the tenants of a system, but the system itself doesn’t work–what then? I suppose then, I have a bit of a humanism flavor in there as well, but I don’t really know what it all means… so I just keep walking the path that I see fit and hope it makes a difference!

    • Andy, this is really helpful to me. Maybe it puts my problem in perspective by knowing it’s not only the little, marginalized religion I come out of but also the major world religions that have this difficulty. Of course, on some level I knew that but it helps to hear it directly from a fellow seeker.

      I’d love to hear about your own Christianity sometime. Feel free to reply here or email me at drew@roguepriest.net if you want to chat.

      Thank you for posting.

      • Hey Drew. Thanks for affirming my journey, it’s hard to keep going when you don’t really fit in. However, I have come up against a rock of sorts, in that I’m not sure how to describe “my Christianity.”

        At the core of my thoughts/beliefs is the words of the Bible are true as far as operating as a guidepost for life in a general sense.I have found that people take the 2000+ year old words as truth beyond time and place, when that doesn’t make any sense! I feel as if the authors of the writings had a particular place and time that they were speaking to, but there is a common thread that is woven in throughout the entirety of the book itself–probably by design of the men who put them together in the order that they did. It’s a message of humanity, we are “called” to take care of each other rather than be divided over the meaning of words and thoughts of what the deity meant for us to do.

        With that being said, I feel like I am more of a deist, where there is a god out there who set things in motion, and is waiting for us to figure it out, while still interacting with creation. There are messages everywhere, hinting that we got it wrong, and we need to do better! I read through the bible and long for a more natural reading, which is where the lack of community comes from. People read it in a similar way, but there is no application of the reading. I would much rather put my life into a realm of service and help, rather than get caught up in the bickering and in fighting about what XYZ means or whatever! I know that doesn’t really explain anything, but it’s hard to put into words what I feel about the faith tradition that has brought me up.

        • I agree with your reading of the Bible, Andy.

          However, I come at it from a different perspective, because I have little use for the Bible as a guidepost. I may read a few parts of it because they’re pretty poetry (Psalms) or a reader suggested them (Gospels), but I get my life guidance elsewhere.

          Which brings me to a question for you. Given your view on the Bible, why don’t you take guidance from other scriptures?

          • Interestingly enough, I have wondered that same thing. Just this past weekend I was searching for information on the Samurai, and their code–it works too! I think, that for me it’s a social construct that I’m trying to break free of. Kind of like your conversation about the term “pagan,” denoting certain things, and the inability to shed that skin of meaning is often hard to do. Being “brainwashed,” if you will, into the Christian mindset is hard to overcome, however I feel that I am pulling away, or at least pulling up towards something else. It’s just a matter of working on it, and not allowing for social cues to dictate motion!

            • That makes really good sense to me. I find the samurai code very interesting, though not as universal as the great scriptures. The Hagakure, for example, often presents parables that end with sickening morals and commends behavior that is, at best, antisocial. It was certainly framed for a privileged and honor-bound caste of people who answer to honor and duty before compassion and kindness.

              Although it also contains many impressive lessons about dignity, fortitude and inner peace. I find myself in awe of it when I read it, I’ll admit.

              I find it interesting that as a practicing Christian (of sorts) you are trying to break free of the Christian mindset. But I understand where you’re coming from. I really admire your personal journey, Andy.

  8. The problems I have with the term humanism are much bigger than any I might have with paganism. For me … humanism either refers historically to Erasmus, Thomas More and the like … (and especially with the latter I do not want to associate myself with), or etymologically with inter-human relationships. And for me that’s not what religion or spirituality is about, or at least not as a central tenet. So …

    Finally, I have experienced much more embarrassment among humanists than with pagans. For they are just as much humanists (meaning people who call themselves such) that have no clue about the history of term. Usually they are people who have lost their religion and don’t know what else to call themselves. Usually it is Christianity or Christian ethics without Christ. To me the term is much more empty than pagan is. But perhaps ‘humanism’ is much wider used here than in The States. And the ‘humanists’ usually have no religious or spiritual practice at all.

    • Usually [humanism] is Christianity or Christian ethics without Christ.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who notices this. Atheists of any stripe continue to carry the momentum of many aspects of their former religion. Our ethics are shaped in a very Christian world.

    • I don’t have a good term.

      Reaching out to people like John is, to me, part of building the kind of fellowship that might help shape where we can go.

      I definitely don’t consider myself Humanist. As I said, I believe the future of religion lies somewhere between humanism and paganism; to adopt either one of those terms is backwards momentum.

      John, BT Newberg, and Brendan Myers — the three authors I’ve talked to about this — all seem attached to Pagan, however, and BT also uses Humanist.

      So do I need to give in and join the party? Seek my brain trust farther afield? Or simply consider that whatever label we are is “meta” and will comprise people of Pagan, Humanist, and “Other” stripes?

      I don’t know.

      • I will never tell people how to call themselves, but as you wanted to ‘pull away’ John from the term ‘pagan’ I was wondering if you had an alternative on offer.

        Probably every term will prove disappointing or embarrassing unless your group remains so small that those people in the group think very much a like. Christians have it somewhat easy. Even if one is embarrassed by other Christians, being Christian is to accept Christ as saviour. Pagan as a term is more vague, so vague cultural/ political associations and expectations are given more importance than any clear religious creed/content. Of course there still are great divisions in Christianity as well, but the main question in America is usually ‘have you accepted Christ’. I say America, because here in The Netherlands Christians form a minority. The separate groups are so small, that at least politically, they have to unite to promote there interests. The Christian language is still dominant but it has almost no content any more.

        What name might be applicable to the small group you are taking about / to, ignoring all the others that might belong to this Other category? And indeed, do you think we even need a label? I find it rather liberating to see Sannion describe himself to strangers, without any need to refer to a larger group/ crowd. But then …. I also like the idea of community, even if it is, in my case, completely hypothetical.

  9. Great post, Drew.

    I believe it is telling that a great many of the world’s major religious founders did not in fact name the faith tradition they bequeathed to posterity. That job was left, ironically enough, to those outside of the faith, as was the case with Christianity, for example.

    As for your question, for me it is a non-issue. I could spend my time coming up with a label or sifting through various belief systems to figure out which category best fits, like a prefabricated mold. But why should any of us do this, unless we know for sure we follow a specific belief institution? Is it not better to live true to ourselves and let others study and label us? I follow a personal path gleaned via unique experience, and if we are honest with ourselves, we all in fact do.

    The truth is, labels make us comfortable, make it easier to size another up and pre-qualify them before they utter a word. In the same way, it is also the first layer in the brick wall we construct between ourselves and everyone else.

    So the question, “What am I?” The answer is human, just like you, walking roads that occasionally intersect with others.

  10. I’ll hang out on the fence with you – I have rocks thrown at me from all sides as well. ;) I USED to specify that I was eclectic Pagan, and, at the time that was correct. I have beliefs that are all over the place, that come from research, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, and my own dreams and thoughts. But now eclectic Pagan seems to mean a mish-mash of whatever thrown together in a haphazard manner. Very similar things, but not quite the same.

    I think when it comes to people who are deeply spiritual, who seek the deeper and more meaningful paths, labels become ill-fitting and inappropriate because we all come out with something different, unique, and precious. There is no name for our beliefs because we’re all different – no two of us are the same. And that, I think, is as it should be. I don’t believe in a Universal Truth, so I’m quite comfortable with that, although you could call it lazy.

    Language is used to communicate, so however you get the job done, you’re doing it right. Some people I tell “Pagan”, some people I tell “Witch”, some people I tell “Shaman” and some people I tell “Well, it’s complicated…..” ;)

    • Charlene! Thank you for writing this.

      I keep coming back to the idea (being a writer) that language is important. Done right it can unite us, done wrong it divides us. I guess that’s why I think the label matters.

      But with what you said and with what Andrew and Nicki said above, maybe it is just better to let the label develop naturally. In a generation I don’t think people with our beliefs will feel comfortable being called Pagan, but if that’s true I can just let it happen on its own.

      Maybe.

  11. Dave says:

    Wow, it’s incredible how much this could have been written to me as much as to John. The comment “And Paganism today adds many beliefs beyond what that affirmation offers, some of which … you’re uncomfortable with. Why the continued loyalty?” strikes particularly close to home. As I told John, I am a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin but I have big problems with a lot of what she stands for. Lovely people, my people in so many ways, but she’s not my church – and I’ve come to realize that if I am to belong to her I should be able to call her my church, and I can’t.

    I tried Unitarian Universalism. I came away from every service with a sense of serenity, acceptance, and purpose (social justice yo). What I didn’t walk away with was a sense of spirituality, an experience of the numinous, or even a feeling of having just attended religious services. For me I need worship as much as I need an awesome life. Too often religions fail to deliver either, deliver one or both inconsistently, or add on additional baggage that doesn’t make sense to hold on to. For me Pagan was inclusive of both but now I’m not so sure it doesn’t have too much baggage.

    Humanist is probably the strongest competition for my religious identity that Pagan has but that tern has a complicated history and has been essentially claimed in name of secularism and agnosticism/atheism today. If nothing else I’m a polytheist as much as I am a little “h” humanist. I told John that maybe there wasn’t so much difference between naturalist Pagans and polytheist Pagans but maybe I’m further on the outside than I thought. Maybe I don’t belong under the Pagan umbrella at all? Like you I’m still working a lot of this out for myself but it’s certainly interesting food for thought. And if you come up with something do let me know, I suspect I’d be likely to be right there with you.

    • A word you used really speaks to me, Dave. Numinous.

      I think that what “humanism” in the secular sense lacks is the numinous. And I think that many religions, including Pagan religions, err by trying to add something on top of the numinous.

      We don’t need it. We just need to experience and appreciate the numinous. It is what it is.

      I need worship as much as I need an awesome life. Too often religions fail to deliver either, deliver one or both inconsistently, or add on additional baggage that doesn’t make sense to hold on to.

      and

      For me Pagan was inclusive of both but now I’m not so sure it doesn’t have too much baggage.

      Yes! All I can say is: yes.

      Side note:

      I told John that maybe there wasn’t so much difference between naturalist Pagans and polytheist Pagans

      You are absolutely right here. I think I need to do a much less polite open letter outright blasting the polytheists who deem to cockblock naturalism and humanism. Polytheism has not historically mandated a strong belief in the reality of the gods. Faith was not A Thing. Polytheists who get fundamentalisty about believing in real, individual gods need to take their Christian baggage and check it at the door. Disgraceful.

      • I must say, that some of the humanists / naturalists can be rather fundamentalisty too. I remember an article by Brendan Myers, who I usually admire a great deal, indirectly claiming that polytheist paganism (and I mean those pagans who do believe in the reality of the gods) is somehow less intellectual, which it need not be. And I also think it is untrue than any ‘real’ literal belief in the gods can be traced back to Christianity.

        • Brendan and I disagree on quite a few points :)

          About “real” belief, I think you’re misunderstanding what I said. Many ancient polytheists undoubtedly believed the gods were objectively real, individual beings. But we also have records of the ones who believed they were metaphors, the ones who believed they were all faces of a single force or being, and the ones who didn’t believe at all but still made offerings. As far as we can tell, in the Classical world faith was not required.

          The emphasis on faith arrived with Christianity. Prior to then, it was optional.

          • On that, I can agree. :) I just wanted to be clear that the ‘humanists’ aren’t being oppressed by pagans at large. I must say that I am disappointed by the division, as if there are two opposing camps. I think the pagan community is much to individualistic to even have to camps, and most of us probably end up in the middle any way.

            I have come across anti-intellectual attitudes within paganism at large, very often even, but this has been directed at both believers and unbelievers. Some people just want to be confirm in there views and feelings, and rejecting an argument is often interpreted as rejecting the person and his choice.

            • The main people making the “polytheism requires believing in real, individual gods” argument are self-identified polytheists who come out of Reconstructionist or Traditionalist backgrounds, from what I’ve seen. Some of them don’t identify as Pagan at all and instead prefer the term polytheist, which means it hits much closer to home for me.

              In a Reconstructionist context, the emphasis on “hard” polytheism seems to come as a reaction to Wicca with its theory that all gods are one God and all goddesses are one Goddess. Reconstructionists (correctly) note that this is not a traditional idea and was not part of ancient paganism. Many of them want to distance themselves from such concepts, but I think it’s unfortunate that (some of them) have created an equally fallacious concept that polytheism must be “hard” or not at all.

              In my mind, as to some Greek and most Hindu philosophers, polytheism and monism are fully compatible.

              In a Traditionalist context, the reason for the hard polytheism fallacy is not usually that intellectual. It seems to hand in hand with the faith-based, family-centered, let’s-do-a-Pagan-version-of–conservative-Southern-Christianity schtick that colors much of Traditionalism.

        • Well the nice thing is, by definition it kind of avoids definition…

          If I was pressed, I would say it has something to do with the aspects of nature that are either so vast, so surprising, or so hard to contemplate that they create a mood of awe.

          But the vagueness of the term is part of why I like it.

          • Dave says:

            I like that definition and I don’t mind the ambiguity of it.

            I would say that my religion is one which seeks meaning by recognizing ones place in the proverbial grand scheme of things. For me that is perhaps in no other way that that can best be realized on a deep, internal level than in an experience which can only be described as numinous.

            My definition for numinous might be “in the presence of something greater, provoking one to awe, wonder, and sometimes terror.”

            By realizing this experience in the natural world I think that necessitates a relationship between the individual and nature, realized as being both an individual within and in harmony with nature and in relationship to nature as wholly other and transcendent (in the sense of greater than self).

            My religion seeks to address what comprises a good and worthwhile life. For me I need not just to understand, articulate, and act on my values to achieve this. I also need to be in good relationship with others, particularly others like me – humans, and cultivate a sense of purpose which is realized for me in a profound engagement which I can only call flow (where one loses ones sense of self and becomes task focused to the exclusion of much else).

            I would also say that I find great awe in the ability of humanity to achieve amazing things and adapt to our environment in spectacularly clever ways and that our “salvation” if we are to need saving can come from our remarkable ability to “make it work”.

            I think that mythologies of divine rescue or essential human brokenness are dangerously harmful to human well being precisely because they are so very, very wrong. Along those same lines, it is also ludicrous to me that pleasure should be considered some how wrong, bad, or misleading. True moderation is not prohibition, not even close.

            And I still don’t know what to call it, or even if it needs a name necessarily. Still, it would be nice to be able to more or less accurately convey all of that in a non-cumbersome, unqualified word or two. Thanks for your thoughts. This whole series of conversations has been fascinating to me.

            • Paragraph by paragraph, I find myself agreeing more and more. This is eloquent, accurate and very much appreciated, Dave.

              One of the reasons this is such an effective form of religion is your statement: “My religion seeks to address what comprises a good and worthwhile life.” That is the same project that philosophy historically pursues, and by putting that ahead of any doctrine we end up with a highly genuine approach to both the numinous and the individual.

              I like the idea of it having a name, or at least an identity, if only because that would make it easier for other people who feel the same way to find and talk to each other.

              In a sense it is sort of a Western Taoism, but it is more than that, or rather, different than that. It has concepts of the Tao, concepts of Classical polytheism, and a strong call-to-journey element that’s absent from either of those sources.

  12. Lynn says:

    I have never been embarrassed about my beliefs; self identifying as Pagan, in a kind of earthy/down-to-earth way. Except when I took some nice new man/now husband to a goddess temple for a Beltaine ritual. I had been several times and everyone seemed welcoming and nice.

    Unfortunately the focus of this ritual was all about fairies. Yay. And stories by stereotypical weird ass hippies about seeing fairies and taking things WAY too seriously (down to arguing the types of faeries.)

    Needless to say my husband has since dismissed all pagans as weirdos. And unfortunately I have too.

    I hate when they dress up like they’re on a Harry Potter movie set. I hate when they have names like “Lord Dragonbloodhawk” and “Lady So-and-so Moonraven.” I hate the superstition and the auras and basically everyone who completely dismisses science. And most of all I hate that my beliefs are portrayed like LARPers at a Dungeons & Dragons game.

    I know there are many reasonable, rational pagans who have thoughtful input…. but they are drowned out by the “weirdos.”

    / rant ended.

    • Thank you Lynn. These are all the things that turned me off when I first joined the Pagan community, and that I bore for years knowing I would be called close-minded if I spoke up. I don’t think these aspects serve Paganism beyond the egos of the people indulging in them.

  13. I dropped the pagan label a while back because it is confusing. It means so many different things, with its meaning changing each time you engage with a different person. If you are talking with a polytheist you have define it in the terms they understand; If you are talking with a christian, you have to define again, and differently, in terms they understand. And on and on and on. It is very wearying. I arguably can fit under that umbrella still, but rather than use the word pagan, I say naturalist, and saegoah. The latter when people want to know more details. I love being a Saegoah because it is open ended, it’s foundation clear yet allows folks of all sorts of backgrounds and outlooks to share in its foundation and way forward. I know of those of muslim and christian backgrounds, who still stand firmly in that sphere, but can now engage in this one in a very clear way. One discussion began as a question on what my stance was in terms of Allah, and I turned that into sharing what we can agree on as good and work together on that. Which the questioner found very refreshing and satisfying for a change – something that I can see in paganism, but is often not the case. It excludes many Abrahamic beliefs when that need not be so and much can be gained from connecting in the commonalities. With this outlook, paganism is potentially very different from a religious umbrella. It can be a philosophy that is incorporated into many religions instead. I don’t really know where I am going with this, but this is what is currently running through my head on my views of paganism and how I related to it.

  14. Pingback: Beholding the Numinous «   Rogue Priest

  15. Ryan says:

    I’m only just starting out exploring ‘spirituality’ more seriously and I feel like I’m running up against the same brick wall. I am an atheist, and a scientific-rational, Richard Dawkins type one at that, but I do feel the need for more transcendence and find that in nature, in celebrating the seasons, in meditation and in ritual. I, too, cannot feel comfortable using the term ‘pagan’. In the UK, this term tends to mean weird hippy-trippy types at Glastonbury who call themselves Stomchild Moonblossom and practice homeopathy, or otherwise the daft druid guys in white robes at stonehenge, led by a bloke who says he is the renicarnation of King Arthur. I would call myself a druid (of the OBOD kind), but again, there’s the same problem, and it opens you up to getting flack from both sides. ‘Saegoah’ is good, and the philosophy behind it is excellent, but as a newly-coined term does have the problem of having to explain what it means to people, whereas I think a label should be pretty much self-evident. I’m at a loss!

    • That’s why I start out with ‘naturalist’ which most people get right away, only explaining if they are further interested. Would that be something that works for you?

    • I’ve met someone who finds that meeting people who have no preconceptions of what Ehoah is makes explaining what being a Saegoah is better for them. It can easily be explained that Saegoah means that you are seeking to live harmoniously within Nature – that’s it really. Short and straight forward.

  16. Sundancer says:

    Where to start….I have been lost all of my life in a religion of which there is no answer. I can sit in the woods on the property and enjoy nature by day but at night is when it comes alive. I can see the transference of light between the plants. I can feel these emanations inside myself and feel them energize me as I lay among them.

    I have heard the whispers all my life yet rarely understand the context of them. Walking thru a graveyard is a battle to hear above the babble. I believe the planet itself is some sort of living entity and at times it too can scream.

    Why do animals of all sorts follow me. I can walk thru the woods and pause, only to have several wild animals show themselves to me with no fear. My neighbors, who are farmers, will call and ask me to go thru the woods to find there lost animals. I take a walk thru the woods and they follow me home. I can understand this with my animals but it happens time again with everyone.

    Is this religion or am I just strange, weird or….what?

    Not many know of this but I did show my wife of many years that she too could see the lights…on people, animals and especially plants. Have I brainwashed her into seeing something that is not there?

    My youngest daughter can come here and walk thru the pastures and end up with a sizable procession of horses, cattle and goats following her. You cannot even imagine the bellowing and bleating when she finally goes thru a gate that they cannot get past. She does not live with us, being a grown woman with children of her own, and was not here when we acquired any of the animals involved.

    Is this religion? Is this a blessing of a god/s/ess?

  17. Pingback: Comentário acerca do “Sobre a Antiga Religião” de Varg Vikernes | Parahyba Pagã

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  19. Terry says:

    I feel like I am in the same boat.

    I was raised Pagan and so I have a hard time letting go of that label and by Pagan I mean I was raised to worship and have reverence for The Goddess.

    I go back and forth on labels but I do believe its important for me to know where I stand on spirituality both so I can have the right place for my self and to explain myself to other people.

    I know I am not a Humanist, in fact I cannot stand most humans. I am very misanthropic actually. I sometimes have been known to use the Spiritual Atheist label because I do not believe in God or the supernatural and I am not superstitious but I am very spiritual, I have an alter still and I light my candles to practice magic, I spirit dance, I meditate, I contemplate, I visualize, I work with trance and listen to my music and I practice The Sacred Journey which is a teaching I was raised with, I cast the dice and follow the directions in which I am led.

    I do see Natural wonders as amazing, sacred, even holy but animals, some of them, people, not so much. Pagan? Not as I was raised because all natural things are supposedly part of The Goddess and therefore sacred, I just said I do not feel this way at all….Just natural wonders, a river bank, a mountain, a cave, waterfalls, the rain…

    Cats, Turtles, horses, not snakes (yick) and people? :/ (yick) lol

    The Sacred Journey is a system that anyone of any religion or non religion can follow so I could easily be an Atheist but, what is the difference between a Pagan and a nature lover??? and what of my practice of magic and ritual? Yes, these are psychodrama/psychological but so what, I still practice and believe in them regardless of their context.

    Still thinking…..

    • Thanks for this, Terry.

      With respect, have you studied much about humanism? It really doesn’t imply a love of humans. It means more like, well… a spiritual atheist :]

      In any case there is definitely room for a spiritual atheist under the polytheist umbrella. Polytheism does not emphasize belied, it emphasizes practice. Anyone who honors the ancient gods, and practices the cultural traditions that go with a pantheon, is a polytheist… regardless of whether they have deep faith, or believe the gods are psychological, or aren’t sure what they believe the gods are.

      No matter what your path is, I wish you well on it.

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