I have noticed, as perhaps you have, that there has been some discussion among Polytheists and Reconstructionists of late about separating themselves from the Pagan monitor and calling themselves something different. I must admit I've had this thought myself. I have in the past bewailed the fact that most people who call themselves Pagans have next to nothing in common with me. I have grumbled about the fact that most Pagans who speak to the media seem to actually be Wiccans who speak for all Pagans saying they "harm none" and "honor the Goddess" and believe in the "law of three" & etc. All of which, such people may be surprised to learn, has nothing to do with most Paganism. And makes my teeth itch.
There was a time I thought long and hard about what I'd like to call myself instead. When being specific I say I am a Hellenic Polytheist. But that is really more specific than I need to be on most occasions. Paganism is Pre-Christian European religion (excepting Northern European which is Heathenry). Pagan is from Latin, which is one of the languages associated with my spiritual ancestry. (The closest word the Greeks had translated to something like Barbarian). My spiritual ancestors were referred to as Pagans in the Theodosian Code which condemned them to centuries of persecution, shouldn't I be called Pagan since I do that thing that Theodosius condemned them for? Victorinus and many other early Christian orators used the term interchangeably with the word for "Greek", the Greek word "ethnos" referring to the ethnic religion and the word gentile which means something like "other people" and replaced the Hebrew word goy, meaning "non-Jew" after they kicked the Jews out of the Bible.
Since I worship the Gods of ancient Greece and follow the philosophers, don't I have the right to claim the word that was used to describe them when folks first started to describe them as something separate from everyone else? So which word should I use? Ethnos, Gentile? Neither of these truly fit because I am not following the religion of my fathers, my ethnic group or my Nation, these are Christian. In reality, I am a Pagan. And as a Pagan, that is what I feel justified in calling myself Pagan despite the fact that other folks, who don't fit my definition, also use the name.
I think what I'd like best is for those people who are not or our spiritual heritage to stop calling themselves Pagans or at least to stop speaking for all Pagans. Wicca and most New Age magico-religious pathworking does not fit under the Pagan definition our ancestors would recognize. The pseudo Native American religion that is fashionable these days also doesn't fit the definition. I don't want to have to come up with a new designation just because some other folks came along and co-opted it. But I know that is never going to happen. So I got over it and I deal.
Really, whatever. It's just a word. The important thing about words is that people know what you mean when you say them. There's all sorts of religions under the "Christian" umbrella and they're always arguing over who is a real Christian. But when someone says they're Christian, we all get the general idea if not the particulars. Same with the Muslims. Sometimes they kill each other over it. I think we can do better than that. In reality, none of us are really Pagan. We're all Neo-Pagan, we're just too lazy to add the Neo bit. Not that it matters because a Neo-Pagan is just a kind of Pagan anyway. I have no problem with these New Age folks using the word Pagan. I just wish they would stop speaking for me and scolding me for not following their revisionist definition of the word.
More like this
Comments, questions, criticism?