[PBP2013] Realness

This is a lot of talk about what makes one a “real” pagan, and then there’s diluting bullshit like “Project Pagan Enough” wherein anyone and everyone can pat themselves on the back and become a pagan without actually doing things that pagans do, cos bygummit, you decided to become a pagan, and that’s enough! ^_^;

The thing about reclaiming slurs for sociopolitical purposes, like the word “pagan”, is that if the meaning becomes too watered-down, the movement itself becomes utterly meaningless, and as far as I’m concerned, “Project Pagan Enough” is to the inherent realness of the pagan community as homeopathic dilutions are to alternative medicine. In a nutshell, homeopathic dilutions defy all logic of how healing substances work; the idea is to take a substance that is believed to have healing potential, and dilute it, then take that solution and dilute it, the take that solution and dilute it, and then take THAT solution and dilute it, and so on until it’s watered-down enough to achieve “maximum potency”. At this point, you basically have the contents of a bottle of spring water (as there are trace elements of just about everything in water procured from a natural source), except it’s sold at what amounts to hundreds of times the price (I’ve seen prices at anywhere between $3 to $10 for a tiny vial of only one or two millilitres) cos if you fall for it, you get the placebo effect, and after that’s run its course, either your virus has run its course, or you get suckered into buying more for your chronic condition, cos you’re a moron with more dollars than sense. And that’s the kind of playgan attitude fostered by shit like “project pagan enough” and similar stupid blog banner projects. You’ve substituted a feel-good happy-graphic for realness.

Now, let’s fair, I think Project Pagan Enough began with good intentions —but you know what roads get paved with good intentions, right? And those good intentions are that we shouldn’t chastise each-other for doing things differently, it’s completely possible for, say, recons and eclectics to share nominally “pagan” space and both have full rights to that space, and so on. Unfortunately, as the Tumblrsphere has taught us, this opens up a slippery-slope to all fluffandnonsense that wants the attention and shock-value that the term “pagan” brings, but without any of the actions and deeds that actually fosters realness behind that label.

And that’s the thing about realness: You can take away the label, or at least change it dramatically, and you’ll still know what you are because you do the things that make you what you are. You’ll have that foundation of real ritual actions, real duties to the gods and spirits and ancestors and the megaorganism that is the planet, and real beliefs in something not only bigger than yourself, but very, sometimes painfully real. The label, while important for communication, is not all that you have to connect yourself to something more than a word. Realness appreciates efficient terminology, but the words don’t make you real.

It’s the kids who don’t do rituals, who don’t believe in deities or spirits, who don’t even give two tugs of a dead dog’s dong about recycling and composting their rubbish that need a convenient word to feel real, and make them believe that they’re connected to something, not fully cognisant of the fact that when the word goes away, so do their playdates and message boards because it’s nothing more than the desire to call oneself by that word that makes them feel a part of the community.

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13 thoughts on “[PBP2013] Realness

  1. I’ve got no problem with the New-Agey type neopagans–they want to believe whatever, that’s their business. But I think that when you are basically making everything up as you go along based on what feels good or sounds cool, then there’s no standard against which one’s practices can be judged or checked. Which results in the type of stuff you talk about here.

    Which is why Wicca never worked for me. How do I research and learn about a God and Goddess that didn’t technically exist 80 years ago? I’m all for personal practice–the which has yielded quite a lot of personal understanding–but without a firm foundation for one’s practice, you’re gonna wind up with people worshiping Superman and calling themselves “Pagan Enough.”

    (The other difference between me and them is I feel no need to justify myself or my practices. “Project Secure Enough”)

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    • (The other difference between me and them is I feel no need to justify myself or my practices. “Project Secure Enough”)

      That’s the crux of it all, isn’t it? When you’re doing something real, most people don’t feel the need to justify it as “good enough”. True, not everyone is secure enough in themselves to just let realness need no justification, but I’ve been around a while, seen many places and faces, and it’s true what your parents (likely) said: If you know you’re right in what you’re doing for yourself, and you have a foundation to stand on, you don’t need to feel compelled to justify yourself to others.

      …and like I said, I read the “mission statement” for Project Pagan Enough. I do believe that perhaps the person who decided to start it had the best intentions, and maybe they still do have the best intentions, but the thing is, words mean things. Some people who claim the label “pagan” for themselves simply aren’t, they just like the attention that calling themselves that gives them, so they make some vague allusions to the word meaning something “deep and personal to [themselves]”, and claim to be “pagan enough”, and slap that happy-graphic on their blog or other website, as if it actually justifies their claims. I’m all for engaging with people who are differently-pagan, but without a line in the sand to say where the paganus ends and the Abrahamists and secularists (at the very least) begin, then the word doesn’t mean anything. You might as well just say “people”.

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      • It smacks of be nice to each other. That isn’t healthy. It’s all very well and good to be nice, but you need strong critical thinking, especially in religions where talking to dragons and nymphs and ancient dolphins from Atlantis is not thought of as crazy. Plus in these religions, being nice isn’t all that, they need to learn to argue healthily.

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        • Oh yes. There’s a time and place for niceness and civility, and while critical thinking doesn’t mean that manners have to go out the door, being polite and civil doesn’t mean that one has to accept everything under the moon as “pagan”.

          Plus in these religions, being nice isn’t all that, they need to learn to argue healthily.

          I agree. I understand that the anti-fluffy movement on the Internet got a little nasty for a couple years in the mid-Naughties (’00s, of course ;-), but as best as I can tell, the “fluffy” still outnumbers the critical thinking tenfold. There’s nothing wrong with telling people “no, you’re not really X”, and usually it’s better to approach that with a sense of diplomacy, but amongst a group of people whose religions and philosophies tend to embrace and value the idea of a lack of universal truths, why is it suddenly more important to a lot of people to play nice than to use some discernment and call a fig a fig and a trough a trough and actually be real? Fake niceness is preferable to real religion to a lot of people, lately.

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      • I was referring to the writings of Gardner, who claimed to have come across the New Forest Coven in 1939 (74 years ago). Sure, you could go back to Charles Leland’s “Aradia, Or the Gospel of the Witches” which discusses Diana and Lucifer, but no horned god. But that’s not technically Wicca, is it?

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        • I know. But the BTW Wiccans are actually Polytheist, and their Gods have secret names, which you can find via Sacred Texts. And those Gods are older then 74 years.

          i”m not oathbound, but(makes face) I don’t feel write typing it either.

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          • I can accept the argument that an ancient God, whose cultus has completely died out, can have new cultus established for them–It’s what most of us do anyway.

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