N is for Neopagan Narcissism

So this post is going to be a little controversial. I’ve been watching with amazement the arguments going on in the pagan blogosphere over the past few months about defining what paganism is and who is and isn’t a pagan, about what labels people want to use for themselves and so on. Now while deities are an important part of a lot of people’s definitions of paganism, the fact that non theists are beginning to get involved seems to have sent a few polytheists off in a huff. What’s worse is that some of the hard polytheists seem to have decided that not even soft polytheists can be part of their religion. I think they should be ashamed of themselves. Paganism has an attraction to people because there is minimal dogma, its focused more on what we do rather than what we believe, and its supposed to prize tolerance and inclusiveness. If the pagan community degenerates into fundamentalism it will end up destroying itself and that would be a very bad thing when paganism offers us a way forward in changing hearts and minds in the battle to save the earth.

Then we come to embarrassment. This is more prevalent for those who have the least supernatural beliefs…many seem to be embarrassed to call themselves Pagans because of the “woo.” Now I don’t know what “woo” is but it seems to be something along the lines of belief in energies, magic and so on. But I really don’t think that’s what people associate the image of pagan with. Unless they’re monotheistic fundamentalists, most people who think of the word pagan think one thing – hippy! They see pagans as people interested in looking after the earth, in hugging trees and so on. Yes there’s a lot more to paganism than that, but I don’t think we should be embarrassed to call ourselves pagan when the image is of someone who is serious about looking after the beautiful world we live in.

Now, rant mostly over, this post is going to be about how I see paganism. I love John Halstead’s view of paganism as being the interaction of three spheres – earth-centered paganism that focuses on honouring nature, self-centered paganism which focuses on personal growth and our inner lives, and deity-centered paganism which focuses on honouring the gods and spirits. Another definition of paganism I like is Graham Harvey’s, who said a Pagan was “someone who belonged, someone who celebrated where they lived, someone who knew their local shrines, springs, hills, trees and neighbours and could trace their descent from local ancestors.” Paganism to me is about honouring and revering nature, its about being bio-regional – focusing on the local area, local gods and spirits, local ancestors, local plants and animals, its about connecting with the land we live on and with all those we share the place with. Paganism is inspired by pre Judeo-Christian and non Judeo-Christian religions and seeks to learn from these in creating new religions for the modern world…because ultimately that is what we are doing, whether reconstructionist, eclectic or whatever, we are creating new religions not following an ancient one (no matter how much people may protest)…and that is fine. Mankind has created new religions many times and some have lasted millenia while others a few decades. Paganism is about the search for connection with that which is greater than us – whether that be the nature, community, the unconscious or some kind of deity. What ultimately matters in religious terms is – does it help us find and make that connection.

It’s time for the pagan blogosphere community to stop arguing over definitions, start accepting each other, focus on the local and to be proud of being Neopagans!


14 thoughts on “N is for Neopagan Narcissism

  1. You say:

    Paganism has an attraction to people because there is minimal dogma, its focused more on what we do rather than what we believe, and its supposed to prize tolerance and inclusiveness

    But I’ve never seen any indication of this beyond the simple fact of the meta-religion known as Paganism has to be, at least, minimally tolerant of multiple sub-faiths and ritual eccentricities.

    Believe me, they’re certainly “Hippies” and quite non-inclusive of those who don’t follow their worldly far-Left agenda.

  2. Sadly, this is the way most religions will eventually go. The ego loves this stuff and uses any kind of religion or philosophy as a platform to create separation. Us against them… We’re right and they’re wrong… No matter how well-meaning and benevolent a religion starts out, eventually some fundamentalists will cause this kind of trouble. Let us all help each other to overcome this instinct and celebrate our differences and, more importantly, our common ground! Great blog there, I’m so glad I’ve found it, and I’ll keep on following it.

    • Let me say that celebrating our differences, if they’re really differences, is a poor idea that actually precludes, in almost all cases, celebrating our common ground,

      • There will always be differences as well as common ground. Both are sides of the same coin and you can’t have one without the other. Of course this works best if both sides are willing to accept each other’s views. Well, let’s hope that humanity is moving toward this paradigm.

  3. I’ve been part of the pagan community for several years now. I run a blog and pagan Facebook page. Pagans are not as open-minded and all-inclusive as when I first got involved in the community. I see more extremism and fundamentalism every day. It makes me incredibly sad and angry.

  4. Hold on….I missed something in your post. You said “Paganism to me is about honouring and revering nature, its about being bio-regional – focusing on the local area, local gods and spirits, local ancestors, local plants and animals, its about connecting with the land we live on and with all those we share the place with.”

    So if I want to learn about gods, ancestors, plants, and animals in a land that I don’t actually live in does that mean it isn’t “paganism?” Because I personally believe the only country or land we live in is Planet Earth.

    • i think it’s down to interpretation. To me, my paganism focuses on the bioregion I’m in, but that doesn’t mean everyone follows the same thing i.e. its an inclusive open religion so its up to you. as a pantheist I see also see the whole universe as divine. its not particularly clear cut.

    • The Gods are in Nature and Nature is all about Diversity. One should honor the spirits of the Land upon which they live and the ancestors who gave rise to their physical and spiritual nature.
      Just my view anyway.

  5. I think pantheists, atheists, and non-theist pagans need to get over their embarrassment of having to share space with people who hold actual belief and faith in gods and spirits. You’re actually being rude by saying you’re embarrassed, and it’s a common phrase I’ve seen from pretty much every non-theistic pagan.

    The recent kerfuffle started because of some hard polytheists were being right jerks about differing beliefs, but there has been decades of contention between deity centric/faith based pagans and non-theistic pagans. One side usually says something offensive and then refuses to take responsibility for being rude, and everybody starts sniping at each other again… And both sides usually start sniping at each other because they feel their voices aren’t being heard or that they are being pushed out of pagandom. (Like when pantheists say that faithful people are embarrassing, or when polytheists say that non-theists can’t be ~real~ pagans.)

    It’s also worth noting that most polytheists who ID heavily as polytheists /don’t/ identify as pagan or neopagan because they /have/ been pushed out of the community and no longer have anything in common with the values of pagandom. I know I certainly don’t share the values and goals of neopaganism. I certainly am not engaged in a battle to save the earth…

    • That first point is the point I was making but you’ve said it better than me – we shouldn’t be embarrassed if we’re non theists to call ourselves pagans. I wasn’t aware of what was happening decades before that though as i’ve only been watching the arguments over the past few months.

      regarding your last point – again its about tolerance and inclusiveness – we come back to the three centres of paganism – there are some pagans like non theists who will emphasise the earth centered aspect or the self centered aspect, while others like hard polytheists may choose to not have those areas in their faith and instead focus mainly on the deity centre – but either way, all three should still be able to call themselves pagans and come under the neopagan umbrella if they wish to.

  6. Pingback: Dudeism: Take it easy man!!! | Naturalistic Pantheist Musings

  7. (First time commenting!)
    Have mercy on me, for I may not have much to offer on this topic. I’ve been coming to this site for the past several months– almost half a year, I think –and I haven’t noticed much hostility between theists & non-theists in regards to the “pagan umbrella”.
    Then again, this is the ONLY blog spot I visit periodically these days.
    (From this point on, my words may be considered irrelevant)
    As of this moment, I’m 99% YouTube; 1% [here]. So from my experience, the word ‘pagan’ is used more formally and a bit more by-the-book defined. ‘Pagan’ is an old term; an umbrella term. A term to describe those with reverence for this world, the chaotic universe, and/or not of the 3 abrahamic religions. (And I find the term ‘country-dweller’ to be spot on as a brief description of myself and my weekly routines.)
    When it involves both the atheist community and the pagan community, it’s pretty mutual. Like a secular, progressive friendship. (More often than not.)
    But this whole ‘pagan vs. pagan’ topic has left me head-cocked. I’ve never heard of such a thing so I find it a wee bit puzzling. To my recollection, I never once called out a theist– pagan or not –that had done no harm to anyone. And I certainly do not consider them an “embarrassment”. (Unless, of course, they act like militants and/or fundamentalists, only then will go on the offensive.) I’ve spoken with Wiccans, Eclectics, Panatheists, Animists, Druids, Satanists, Ásatrúarmenn, Thelemites, etc. And none of them thought of me as any less of a pagan.
    But, like I said, this is just from my experience so… yeah. It may not mean much.
    But it does feel good to be able to comment on here. 🙂

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