The Pagan Community is Disorganised Interfaith

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.

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6 thoughts on “The Pagan Community is Disorganised Interfaith

  1. Great post! I agree entirely with the mmain thrust of your arguemnet here. I do have one quibble though, that being your link to the warlock asylum’s critique of the PIE theory. I posted some comments there, so I won’t re-hash them here, but suffice it to say that I found their analysis… problematic from a scientific perspective. YOu are very right to question some of the foundations of the PIE theory, but I found the post at the link you gave to be disturbingly analogous to the denial of darwinian evolution (another very sound theory with a sad history of connection to racism). Check out this link… It gives a very good interdisciplinary re-analysis of the origins of the PIE languages which you may find helpful.

    http://www.continuitas.org/index.html

    Thanks, and keep up the great posts!

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    • That would be an apt analogous comparison, except that it isn’t. The allegations of racism in Darwin’s own theories are dubious, as they are largely based on later writers who misunderstood Origin of Species (which first used the term “race” to refer to “races of cabbage” –indicating that use of “race” to refer to “varieties” did not carry, in 1850s, the same baggage it carried even thirty or forty years later), and furthermore, in his 1871 book, The Descent of Man, Darwin became one of the first writers to accept that there was no significant biological differences between the races of man.

      The thing that leads me to question PIE theory of language is that it entirely relies on down-playing the influences of Babylonian, Kemetic, and Sanskrit language influences (amongst others) in favour of the idea of a practically mythic caste of people speaking something even older than Sanskrit and that managed to lay down the bedrock of it and other languages in the Indo-European group. While I agree that many of the comments in that post were coming from a poor understanding of how these things work, I disagree that there is sufficient evidence of a linguistic equivalent of darwinius mascillae of the Indo-European language group.

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  2. From a social science viewpoint I agree with the socio-political/cultural definition of pagan you made in another post. What’s important-
    I know what *my* kind of paganism is, and can recognize other folks who are likeminded by their worldview, values, practices. My community- means other people I can count on when I need them- unfortunately very few of them are pagan-ID’d. I’d like that to change but I’m not keeping my hopes too high.

    On a sidenote- I have trouble taking seriously anything that claims to be scholarly on a website devoted to the Neconomicon (and how “spiritual” it is) H.P. Lovecraft was racist too. I am aware of some shifty motivations for some (esp. 19th c.) Indo-European studies people- though frankly there are shifty motivations lurking behind most fields of scholarship. That is why I try to be careful to keep in mind that biases of the author.

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    • Which post of mine are you referring to? I’ve refined the definition of “pagan” I feel is most-correct ,and that I generally use, about a dozen times over. :-O. I think, generally, “pagan as a religious Other” is probably the most accurate way to describe the pagan community, at this point.

      As for that other blogger, I’m going with the defense of “even a stopped watch is relevant twice a day”. Yeah, there are issues there, and I certainly noticed them right away, but the initial argument in the post (not necessarily the comments ) that blogger made was pretty solid, and it’s certainly possible to take that position further. Yeah, a better source would be ni e, but at the same time, I dunno, I don’t think their relationship with the Necronomicon is at the top of the list of what makes their info seem less credible.

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  3. Wicca probably has more in common with Freemasonry and esoteric Christianity than
    say, Heathenry. I’m seeing more “hedge/kitchen” witches whose beliefs/practices seem more Northern-European folk-based. The majority of Wiccanate paganism though is very New Age- Orientalism (whether 19th or 20th century) esoteric Christianity & Judaism, “western mystery tradition” Jungian psychology are the influences underlying their worldviews. I can tell it’s particularly alienating for folks of Mediterranean traditions- it seems like most pagans who worship Greek, Egyptian and Mesopotamian deities interpret them with the above overlays.

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  4. @caelesti

    Peace and Blessings! Let me just make one clarification about my intent in writing the article was largely due, not to what I interpret as a “racist” intent, but why is it this pressing need to impose a “theory” as fact. PIE is totatlly hypothetical! That’s fine.

    However, before it is even proven, it is being used in reference works. This is when “science” becomes nothing more than religion. I suspect ultimately, we are still suffering from “operation paperclip,,” ad due to such, people with this agenda was able to gain powerful positions in the field of “science” in order to push their own agenda. Regardless of the argument, the ide of taking an unproven, non-existent languiage, and making it a source of reference in dictionaries and sources of eytomological works is science posing as religion. First, prove the existence of the language, then put it in reference material.

    another thing that I must answer is that our site is not dedicated to the works of Lovecraft. We use the term “neconomicon” as a base term for the magical text, the Simon Necronomicon, which other than its name, is much more to do with ancient Mesopotamian magic than Lovecraft. This is not to debate who and what Lovecraft was or is.

    My only argument here is that science is no longer science, but a new form of religion. This idea of aking theories and presenting them as factual material is quite deceptive. First, PIE is a way of changing history by creating a false one. For example, the word necro originates from the Greek nek, which, according to PIE supporters comes from anotehr word. Untrue! In history we know thatthe Greeks studied Egyptian knowledge. In Eygpt is the goddess Nekbet, a vulture goddess associated with death. Drop the suffif and you have nek. However, supporters of PIE miss this history. This is why i saw it is racist. The other reason is how this theory came about. it was purposed by Sanskrit was found to be a more complex language than Greek, so why does it have to be a “European language” that is the motehr tongue to all these languages. Now you meant otell me out of all the great civilizations that preceded this one, the Greeks, Olmecs, Ancient China, Babylonians, India, and Egypt, none of these civlizations proposed such a language?!!!!!1 But its ironic thatthe same people who do are linguists of European descent and you cant see behind this veil?!!!!!

    we know thatthisis new age racism because the effort in this theory has to be validated so much so that it is being taught in colleges and put in reference material before it is proven. THAT’S NOT SCIENCE! SCIENCE IS THE STUDY OF FACTS! NOT A THEORY! I shouldn’t even have to explain myself. Where are the real occult scientists!

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