Lately, I’ve been thinking about the words ‘pagan’ and ‘paganism’ and whether they’re as useful as they appear to be.
Let me explain. The working definition of pagan in the online community I frequent (shameless plug – visit The Cauldron) is “a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and which self-identifies as Pagan”. It’s an umbrella of sorts, covering anyone that fits within its scope. Be you Reconstructionist or Darkfluff, if you do not follow Judaism, Christianity, or Islam and self-identify as Pagan then you are Pagan.
The first part of the working definition is easy to work with – one knows when one doesn’t follow an Abrahamic faith. There are a number of religions that are outside of the BIG THREE and even the ONE TWOO WAYers of the human race acknowledge they exist (although they don’t necessarily like it).
The second part, though, is trickier. To be pagan, one must self-identify as such. This means all those people around me at Paganicon may not be pagan, unless they think they are. Hell, someone on the same path I am may not consider themselves pagan and, well, that means they aren’t…even if I consider myself to be.
(It’s no wonder that so many people don’t grok the idea of paganism!)
The pagan umbrella is tricky, in my opinion, because people make assumptions about the status and beliefs of others and those assumptions lead to the logical place (ASS-u-Me). Not all pagans are goddess-centered, or revere nature, or believe in a three-fold-law…but events that are designed for pagans may be based around such things even when they don’t apply. On top of that, people who do believe such things may not consider themselves to be pagan – in addition to the Heathens and Asatruar that reject the label, I also know two Wiccans who do the same. There’s just no way to be certain without asking…and asking takes effort and time.
I’m now trying to figure out if my “Kemetic God-Slave Reluctant Mystic Believing-in-the-Fluidity-of-Morality” self is pagan. One would think that I am (after all, I’m participating in this Pagan Blog Project thing!) but I honestly don’t know if it fits me. I also don’t know if it matters enough to me, personally, to identify as anything beyond the WORDS I slammed together here.
*shrug* Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. Or not.