The pagan community is not a movement of a single religion in the way that early Christianity was. True, one could easily argue that even early Christianity was not a unified thing, and last I checked, there were at least three major schools of pre-Nicean Christianity, but the fact remains that early Christians, even from two different schools regarded as wildly different, when compared to eachother, still share more common ground than when one compares two different religions under the “pagan umbrella”.
The pagan community is not a “family of religions” in the way that the Abrahamic religions or Dharmic religions are. Some religions under the pagan umbrella are clearly related, but others have not been since the Proto-Indo-European times, an anthropological theory that I’ve been growing sceptical of since reading a post from another blogger that details its history in racism. It’s fairly easy to see a relationship between Traditional Wicca, Wiccanate Neopaganism, Reclaiming, and (at least within certain lineages) Feri. It’s harder to see a clear relationship between that “family” of religions and, say, Heathenry, Gaelic Polytheism, or Brythonic Polytheism. It’s still harder to see a relationship between the Wiccanate family of religions and Mediterranean polytheistic religions, unless one wants to stretch the definition of “relationship” so thin as to assume that the “Astarte” the average Wiccanate Neopagan calls to is necessarily the same “Astarte” that Semetic reconstructionists worship –which is pretty much equivalent to saying “George Foreman named his son after himself”, which is technically true but also fails to acknowledge his four other sons, also named after himself; even Hesiod wrote that there are “two Eris“, and while he said nothing of the sort about Eros, Theoi Project, and others seem to be of the opinion that he did —clearly some ancients had no problem with more than one deity or other entity sharing a name. Sure, there is room to argue whether or not those two people are, indeed, addressing the same goddess, and it may seem a natural assumption to some that they are both doing so, but chances are equally great, if not moreso, that the Semetic recon and the Wiccanate Neopagan are going to describe two completely different goddesses and completely different ranges of experience of their goddesses.
At this point, it’s clear that the pagan community is comprised of completely different religions that may not necessarily have ANYTHING in common with each-other.
This is the very definition of interfaith — unrelated religions coexisting, or at least attempting to do so, in relatively close proximity to eachother. Yet so many pagans, especially those who benefit from Wiccanate privilege, feel damned certain that these religions share more “common ground” than incense and the occasional name. This is a huge problem, and is ultimately the source of so many of the friction in the pagan community for the last thirty years or so: By assuming that there is “common ground” amongst all pagans (at least beyond any of the experiences shared simply by being of a minority religion), there is a diversity that is erased —a diversity that many pagans claim, in no uncertain terms, to be a defining point and a strength of the pagan community.
On one hand, it’s very natural for the human mind to recognise patterns, repeated instances of the same or similar structures, on the other it’s easily argued that the desire to see patterns and similarities is so strong that many people will assume they see it even when it isn’t there. The human mind can, indeed, pull the wool over one’s own eyes and convince oneself of things that aren’t necessarily so. Just as discernment should be used to judge real spiritual experiences from hallucinations and general mind-trickery, so should we employ these skills when judging patterns and similarities in our lives.
Apparently some pagans get very upset to learn that there are recons and other polytheists recognise that there are clear differences between our religions and other pagan religions. It upsets them because they previously assumed that there was just oodles of “common ground” between all religions under the umbrella of “paganism”. I can’t help but agree that this clear desire to see “common ground” when there are only superficial similarities, at best, is just New Age fluff and cultural imperialism. Indeed, it’s really not much different from early missionaries repurposing local deities as “saints” and local customes to fit into a Christian mould, stores like from PSVL stating that at a discussion on Wiccanate privilege, e was told e was somehow wrong and that Pantheacon was an intrafaith event.
To be an “intrafaith” event, at the very least, all those in attendence should represent a different religion from the same family –Christian Intrafaith might have Baptists and Quakers: Both religions share a mythology and sacred texts, and many of the same rituals but the interpretation of these aspects will differ between each sect. A Catholic intrafaith gathering would members of the Roman Catholic church from all over the world. Hindu intrafaith would have dozens of sects and folk practitioners present. A hypothetical “intrafaith” of Dharmic religions would feature at least Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains.
Pantheacon, and other large pagan gatherings, do no such thing. Nor have they really ever. There’s a dominant maority of Wiccanate Neopagams, but there are other dozens of others, many of which are clearly unrelated, at least when seen through a discerning eye.
No, what gos on at Pantheacon and similar spaces is Interfaith in action –just a poorly organised version of it.