Skip to main content

I'm a ...Pagan?

Ave,

So, I was chatting with a fellow Alchemist and dear brother of mine, who was pointing me toward the Feri tradition, an American-born Witchcraft tradition that incorporates elements of Huna and Hoodoo (Which is bloody awesome. Because I incorporate those elements too.) Seems like something I should know about, and I'd never heard of it until he brought it up in one of our recent correspondences. Doing some research for it led me to a blog called The Wild Hunt, which I've read once or twice, but haven't followed closely.

It would appear that I'm the only magician on the planet who doesn't follow it closely. The writing is quite good. Reading it gave me pause, as it's directed at Pagans, and I'm not a Pagan.

Right?

Or am I? Hmm. I'm an Alchemist and a conjurer. I worship the One that is All and is None, as we all do one way or another, and I am a devoted Sacerdos Saturni. I work with the Christian Trinity and Saints/Heroic Dead, and with the ancient Planetary Gods. What do you call someone who works within the Current with eyes open? Is this Pagan?

Wikipedia says that the widest definition of Pagan is one not adhering to the Abrahamic faiths. When one gets deep enough into esoteric practice and study, one becomes aware that the stream at root of all these differing religions (as Fra RO puts it in this excellent post) is the same stream, manifesting differently according to culture and time. Does the word Pagan even have any meaning, at this juncture? Do magicians still define themselves based on their views about modern Christianity? I mean....Jesu, as Horus, son Of Jupiter/Jehovah/Jove, as Dionysus (or brother to Dionysus, more accurately in my opinion)...all of it is interlinked. Lillith has her place in Judaism and Christianity, even Astaroth has a place in the modern religion. The Christians appropriated entire pantheons, for heavens sake, and the dominant Roman culture before them had done much the same.  What do these labels even mean, now?

I don't think of myself as Pagan. Strange. I also don't think of myself as Christian/Jewish/Islamic; my "religion" is my devotional and alchemical practice. Also....it has to be said. I was at Pantheacon and literally saw only 3 other black people both days I was there. I felt out of place at Pantheacon (although I thoroughly enjoyed it!). Unfortunate that that matters, but it does, if only for the sake of not feeling "othered". Intensely ironic as well, when seeing all the ATR/Diaspora traditions being celebrated. It was great to see that, though. I'm not one of those who think you need to be Black to work our traditions. That's silliness. You need only be respectful and Human....but I digress.  I've never felt that the Pagan community was speaking to me, or for me. Again, strange. My dearest friends are for the most part avowed Pagans, and I'm a huge fan of the Pagan community.  Am I a part of this community, though? I suppose I can dance there, the same as I dance at the churches and the like. Definitely be in good company.

I'm beginning to think Paganism is a poor label--it seems silly to define yourself based on your opposition to Christianity. Why should that define you? I feel this label should be done away with, and that it is without real meaning. A Witch isn't a non-Christian; she should be defined by what she actively does, not what she doesn't do. A Witch is a Witch. Defining yourself by what you are not--a Christian--puts you in the position of validating Christianity as the standard. Words have power, and language has power; Pagans having to fight to be recognized by the military and prison-systems and the like is an effect of this sort of language, that makes Pagans "other", compared to the "normal" Christians. Why would you accept the label another religious culture gave you, anyway? Especially one that has no respect for you--just doesn't make sense to me.

Sometimes it's cool to be the "other", but obsession with that is some teenage shit. Better to be equal than be other. I know Pagans who wear all kinds of crazy shit in public, reveling in the "otherness" that makes them feel superior to the asshats who tortured them when they were younger. Time to grow up. While you are reveling in otherness, other religious understandings are reveling in actual social power. Perhaps instead of defining these traditions in their juxtaposition to Christianity, they should be defined by the nature of their worship and understanding--worship of the Old Gods? Perhaps something could be stolen from Lovecraft?

...just kidding about that. Still, I think this label is a dangerous one to keep. Not that my opinion is all that important, about it, haha. Just thought I'd throw it out there, and inquire about what other people think about all this.

AIT

Comments

  1. Care VH Fr,

    thanks for this post and the topics rauised within it. These are themes I have been exploring for all my life, and I agree in principle the word 'Pagan'is not really the best. I know some Christians who are more 'Pagan'than most 'Pagans'in respect to earth, respect and connection. I know poeple who are obviously 'Pagan'not use the word for various reasons, including those you outline here. However, the horse seems to have well and truly bolted and the label 'Pagan'is most likely here to stay.

    I agree, a lot of people who revel being 'the other' are drawn to using the 'Pagan'tag. This will most likely change a bit as Paganism becomes even more accepted and mainstream. Names and labels are important, and I find ''esoteric the best term for me :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Welcome to the fold! I will get you a silver pentacle the size of a grown man's fist, and a silly hat to wear in public to identify you as ONE OF US, now. In all seriousness I've been having thoughts a little the opposite way. ;) When you are really working the Work the lines can indeed blur.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This gets a solid +1. I never could identify properly as Pagan; the label doesn't seem to work and neither do the associations (Sure, I'm friendly with some of the Norse pantheon, but that doesn't make me a Heathen). But I don't think of Iesus as a god--I don't even properly have a place for him in my practice, so I can't legitimately lay claim to Christian, either. I do not follow the Christ--I deal directly with the One to varying degrees. I do not even have a proper name for my practices.

    This Pagan/Christian thing is a really particularly _stupid_ binary. These kinds of overly-simple, either/or false choice sets are only reflections of how our whole society tends to think; they are not even remotely resembling our reality.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Andras Corben-Arthen of the EarthSpirit community in western Massachusetts has pointed out to me several times that "real paganism" is a way of life. Around the world, where non-Abrahamic religions are practiced, the worship of the gods is woven into the fabric of daily life, rather than compartmentalized in Churches, Temples or Mosques as it is in the developed world. In such cultures, there are songs for different kinds of work in "real paganism" and "real heathenism, and specific clothes, and art patterns, and bits of folk religious activity that have nothing to do with Neo-Pagan circle ceremony as practiced in America. It's a cultural mind-body skill-set and attitude, rather than a mindset temporarily adopted.

    I hang out with pagans in part because I tend to learn more about magic from them, than from mainstream folks. Yet many of the members of the pagan community are a little weirded out by how non-other I appear to be. I don't have long hair, I don't wear large silver jewelry, and I don't sport enormous tattoos or elaborate piercings. On the other hand, I'm much better at manifesting what I want than many of the ones in my community are, and increasingly I'm being asked for advice about becoming more successful at magic, particularly divination (which I seem ot have a knack for).

    It's odd — it's almost like there's an increasing split between Pagans as a religion, and magic. There used to be a more viable and obvious connection between the two, but it's more tenuous than it used to be.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Fra Jow,

    Haha, right on! I'm in! Does the pentacle come with an honorary crushed-velvet robe? ;-)

    I was thinking about you while working this out in my head. You're practice is eclectic, you are swimming deeply in the stream. You are beyond serious and devoted...and I feel that our practices directly coincide. So, if you're Pagan then I'm in, I hope. I think you're pagan the same way I am, hahaha.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Fra Peregrin

    Thank you for the insightful comment!I do like the term "esoteric" as well....but esoteric What?

    ReplyDelete
  7. @andrewbwatt

    I definitely get that--I hang around Pagan folk because they're great people, and we have many similar interests. Most of my finest friends are Pagans--I just find the label tricky.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I consider my self a Pagan not as an "other" but as an "everything". Meaning I find truth in most traditions that can be worked and added to my system. I can find power and deity in everything from a tree to a golden crucifix. Pagan to me means an openness to the world not a closed off I'm not Christan/Islamic/Jewish.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I can def see how labeling yourself as Pagan could be problematic and I'm v. disappointed to hear how . . .well, white Pantheacon was. I had thought it would be more diverse coming from the East Coast and how I perceive Cali esp given that a lot of the trads discussed there are from, well, not white places.

    I personally identify as Pagan. It just makes sense for me. The part I like best about being Pagan is that I can see the gods as fallible. They make mistakes, they are sometimes short sighted and sometimes maybe don't know all the answers (but likely know more than we do). I find that a lot more soothing than anything these.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Natura Spiritus

    Interesting; you have an eclectic practice that could be defined any number of ways, and you've made the word "Pagan" fit by broadening it's meaning, it seems. Which I completely understand, assuming my observation is even correct.

    Or perhaps this is the meaning the word has for the Pagan community, outside of the standard definition? I know how the world at large defines being Pagan, but am finding through these comments that Pagans themselves have a quite different idea of what the word means. Very interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Deb

    The magical scene itself is very diverse out there; it's just Pantheacon that wasn't, haha. I'm wondering if perhaps the Pagan marketing is part of it. I've reached out to some of my "ethnic" fellows, and not a one considers him/herself a Pagan. These are conjurers, brujos, etc. It's very much perceived as something specifically for Wiccan practitioners and their culture, at least by most of the black and brown folks that I know. Oh! Wait, I do know one woman who considers herself Pagan (at least, I think she does. A lovely young Puerto-Rican artist), but she's also Wiccan.

    I like your understanding of what Paganism is; it has an experiential quality. Based on what you do and qualities attendant to your practice. It would be awesome if the general understanding was the same. Perhaps it's getting the old "magician" treatment...if I tell people I'm a magician, they think I'm pulling napkins out of my sleeves. The public definition is completely divorced from the historical and practical definition of the word. Probably doesn't help that those bastard illusionist insist on calling themselves magicians. Hmm. Perhaps something should be done about that...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Or we should start learning some napkin magic tricks and profit. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hahaha, now, that's practical thinking. Probably be nice to have the extra stuffing when Winter comes around...

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am not a fan of the term "pagan." That people use it as a self-identity is odd to me. None of the ancient religions were pagan. If you called a 2nd Century Greek a pagan, he'd be pissed as hell. The term "pagan" is a derogatory term that was adopted by Christians, but used before Christianity to refer to backwards people--the equivalent of a "country bumpkin" or "hill-billy."

    It was used by Christians as a derogatory term for the non Judeo-Christian religions (yes, people historically Islam was considered pagan by Christians for a while in addition to being infidels and heathen). Historically only Julian uses the term "pagan" in a more positive manner, but because he is addressing a hypocrisy in the adoption of Paidaea culture by Christians.

    Of course, this spins off to issue of how truly confused neo-pagans are about "paganism" in the first place, but that's a bit off-topic.

    If one wanted a label for what people call "pagan" these days it would be henotheist, or to identify according to culture i.e "I am a Hellenist, I am a Graceo-Egyptian" etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. @Conjureman Ali: Given the amorphous nature of modern Neo-Paganism, using sub-labels or concrete labels would require people actually identifying between pantheons, understanding the way syncretism worked in older Western (and beyond) religious structures, and identifying with one particular pantheon. Typically, this happens in Reconstructionist or Traditionalist structures more than it tends to occur amongst mainstream Neo-Paganism. A part of that culture seems to be very concerned with rejecting concrete labels and recognizing everyone that worships the Old Gods, or the Earth, as "one thing." This is both part of what creates tensions between different neo-Pagan groups, and what allows for such huge crowds to be drawn such as at Pantheacon.

    @AIT: P-Con has become more consumer oriented over the years. That consumerism is part of the problem, I think. First, it's easier to sell someone information on "how to be the Other" (buy a cloak, a wand, some robes, and a fuck-off huge Pentacle), than it is to give them accurate, and useful information. Second, most individuals come to Neo-Paganism with a Christian background, and genuinely bear some ill feelings toward their experiences. They wouldn't be leaving the church if this was not the case; and I think it's important not to diminish or take that motivating spirit away from them. It will help them towards reconciling their background and experiences much later. But rejection almost always comes before the process of reconciliation. While it's a shame plenty of folks never reconcile with their past, or the spiritual traditions they were brought up around, it isn't exactly surprising. It's not like Voltaire stopped being an atheist before he died, and his criticisms of the abuses of the faith remain valid today.

    As for labels: I have too goddamn many. I figure one word is as good as any other, in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Pagan Puerto Rican, reporting.

    Actually, I know a few folks who now choose to call themselves "polytheists" rather than pagans, and I've started to join them in that. My friend P. Sufenas says that he ends up having a lot more interesting and constructive conversations with people when he describes himself that way, whereas "pagan" tends to shut conversation down. I'm in favor of anything that gets people asking questions and having discussions. I think, being a very anthropological sort of term, people understand that it's a broad category that can include many faiths.

    Although I still don't think most Afro-Latino groups would choose to describe themselves that way. (Because of course they're all Christian, how could you think otherwise!) Their own individual identities probably serve them best. Same for Heathens and Hellenics. But where a broad descriptor is needed, I think polytheism does fine for the rest of us. Especially for syncretic folks.

    For people who identify as witches, however, I think matters are more complicated. Particularly for someone practicing European witchcraft, it only makes sense to define yourself in opposition to Christianity. Partly because Christianity has already done it for you. And also because I think there are some elements of ritual taboo that are integral to these systems. (Some interesting comparisons have been made to Tantra in this respect.)

    ReplyDelete
  17. @Jack I think you're right-on about the consumerism. It's useful to have a broad umbrella to attract folk to big events as well, no doubt. I've done the rejection-reconciliation roundabout, and while I agree that it's a solid motivator, I think it gets a bit cartoonish if it lingers too long. Especially when it leads to people acting in a fashion similar to why they left Christianity in the first, place, ha. When I first made my break, I was a complete ass as far as Christianity and it's vocal adherents went. Derisive and arrogant, in the way smart young folk can be. I see it in grown-ass men, and it just seems silly to me to hold on to. There are roads and links between the Christian/Pagan practices that leave one the poorer if ignored or not understood, and having contempt for the entire Christian tradition makes that more likely, in my opinion. I don't know; I think it's dangerous to hold onto that rejection as a defining part of one's spiritual practice. Just my opinion.

    @VVF

    Hahaha...yeah, you're the One. I didn't wanna just say "VVF", in case I'd misunderstood the nature of your personal practice. =)

    I like polytheist. Descriptive, without being defined by it's opposite. Now, I hadn't considered the possibility of ritual taboo driving folk holding on to the "opposition" standpoint. Although....you'd think they'd have to still self-identify as Christian for that to work. Or, I would think that, haha. In tantra they do things that are taboo culturally for power; a Christian practicing Witchcraft could certainly use that, but if you aren't a Christian is it taboo anymore?

    ReplyDelete
  18. @VVF

    Also, solid about the Afro-Latino (and African-American) groups and thinking themselves "Christian". They'd be horrified if someone suggested they were otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I know what you mean. Labels are a funny thing, especially in the Great Work. I often reflect about how impossible it is for anyone who is eagerly pursuing the Great Work to avoid any one part that makes up the whole -- be those parts "Pagan", Christian, Jewish, Rosicrucian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Gnostic, Thelemic, the list goes on indefinitely. Most Wiccans I've met, for instance, don't know about the Golden Dawn, Thelema, or OTO, yet those 3 things have more to do with their practices than any of the legends in their books do. When you look honestly at Golden Dawn, you have Egyptian Mysteries, Qabalah, Hermetics, Esoteric Christianity, so on and so forth. Golden Dawn's template, IMO, gives rise to many practices in Wicca and Neo-Paganism, and therefore nothing is "pure" and undiluted, and therefore nothing is inherently "non-Christian" or inherently "Christian" either. It just is what it is.

    I have often changed my "religious views" on Facebook because the more time goes on, the less one title seems to fit, or the more I feel the need to start adding too many damn words "Uhh, I'm a Hermetic Neo-Platonic Esoteric Gnostic Thelemic Christian.", and that cluster fuck of words obviously doesn't do my path justice, either.

    I recently settled with the word "Gnostic", simply alluding to the personal and experiential nature of my spiritual path in seeking my own Gnosis, and even that word comes with some stigma and history that make it insufficient and inaccurate as well.

    As another commenter mentioned, if you're really doing the work, the lines become blurred. And indeed they do! Who can claim to practice a "pure" spiritual/religious/magickal path? Therefore how can a number of these titles be useful, most specifically one designated you by an "opposing" group? I hate, for instance, when it is assumed that when I walk into a Gnostic Mass at OTO I must be vehemently opposed to Christianity, or if I walk into many a church I must be vehemently opposed to any other religious faith or tradition. The same often goes with titles, as they all seem to recall a certain stigma that probably falls completely short of what you really are, believe, and most importantly, DO.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @AIT Yes your observations are correct. However I also have a special inkling toward the word as my last name is pagan in Italian.

    @Jack Agreed!

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Although....you'd think they'd have to still self-identify as Christian for that to work. Or, I would think that, haha. In tantra they do things that are taboo culturally for power; a Christian practicing Witchcraft could certainly use that, but if you aren't a Christian is it taboo anymore?"

    Sure it is. I think most of us have grown up understanding that Christianity is meant to be the bedrock of Western civilization - to reject that can sometimes be tantamount to rejecting society. And a witch often stands outside of society.

    Certainly, many historical witches/cunning folk/Benandanti have identified as Christians. Certainly the ones who utilized Christian magic, and certainly the ones who helped to identify/combat other witches. (If you were on the side of society, then you were on the side of Christ. If only by default.) But, liminal creatures that we are, I don't think it's as easy as putting ourselves in one box or the other. Considering how much historical witchcraft is unambiguously Satanic/Luciferian (or simply pagan), I don't think Christian society would allow such practitioners the privilege of calling themselves Christian. And even from a CM standpoint, making pacts with spirits - rather than commanding them by God's authority - is traditionally considered unChristian. And if there's anything witches love, it's making pacts with spirits.

    Also, it's safer now than it was then to consider other options/identities/self-characterizations.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm with Fr. S.e.A. in that I always end up with a huge clusterfuck of adjectives that don't really mean anything useful. If people ask, I generally just leave it at "it's complicated" unless I know in advance that they have similar interests.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I agree, the label "pagan" is difficult, and I think we need a new understanding of it's meaning. I recently wrote a blog post about this, I think you will enjoy. )O(

    ReplyDelete
  24. About Pagan 1:
    In the 21st century one is no longer burned for defining oneself as a non-Christian, yet hundreds of Pagan religions are still silenced, distorted and derided by the mainstream media and in churches, just like they were in the Dark Ages.

    ReplyDelete
  25. About Pagan 2:
    When separated all the Heathens, Asatru, Wiccans, Druids, Kemetics, African Diaspora, Tribal, and other Pagans are very few. When united under the umbrella name of Pagans, the numbers become politically serious, and change seems possible. Who knows, twenty years from now it could be considered rude to make horror movies out of distorting religions like Wicca or Voudon, or people might think twice before judging other people’s identities. LOL. It could happen.

    ReplyDelete
  26. About Pagan 3:
    Christopher: with much respect, thanks for your posts, Primero Dios, que Zambi te cutare. You are Pagan, there’s no doubt; but if you ever need to be Christian, there's a nganga for that, no problema. LOL. Thanks a million, brother. Luz y fuerza.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Quick overview of Simple Spagyric Technique

The following is a simple rundown for creating Spagyric tinctures and Elixirs, from the manuscript 'Book of the Blossoming Flower." I wrote it so that there would be a baseline, unobfuscated understanding of how to make Spagyric products with extremely basic tools. I posted something similar earlier, but without explaining much as far as how the steps relate to the classic alchemical progression. So, here we are!
Making a Spagyric Tincture
1.Take up your plant, and on the Day/Hour corresponding to the energy you wish to refine (Planet, Element, or Sign.) Chop the plant into fine pieces on your cutting board, beginning the Mortificatio stage. Sunrise on the Day corresponding to a planet is best-for astrological forces. I had success capturing the Astrological powers by beginning the work when the Sign is in the Ascendant, preferably during an Elemental Tide that corresponds to the Triplicity the Sign is associated with. For Elemental powers, I have found that beginning the work …

Bullshit Siddhis

Nsala malongo,
So.....powers. They exist. You work your alchemy, and they start popping up.
It isn't what you expect.
It's not like the comics.
Subtle things happen. You get a little something here, a big something there. Some of them appear useless at first.
Some years ago, after work in the upper cinnabar field, I gained the dubiously awesome ability to see a sort of spirit double floating around people. At first I was BEYOND stoked, and thought I was well on my way toward ascension from my normal state into a vicious and powerful spiritual overlord, as was foretold. By me. When I was like, fourteen.
Then, after the wonder wore off, I realized that this was absolutely useless. The double gave me no information about the person, no power to manipulate myself or the other. It was just there. So. Countless hours of heat and concentration, and the end result was this?

Of course it *was* useful in the long-run, as a mark of my developing spiritual sight. And continuing to wor…

Palo Mayombe

Ave,

I've been engaged in a deep study of Frater Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's work Palo Mayombe, and have been steadily amazed at the deep understandings within it. For a long time I've known some small measure of what Palo is--that it is a worship-centered religion, that it is necromantically powerful. I've also known what it isn't-- Palo is not just black magic, it isn't a club an African/Afro-Latino sorcerer wields to beat people over the head. That being said, engaging in metaphysical contests with it's practitioners is generally un-wise....they don't mess about. Palo Mayombe is a fierce religion, but it Is a religion.

What I didn't know was the true depths of it's Wisdom and alchemical understanding. That's right,alchemical understanding. Palo Mayombe isn't a simple practice. It's a multi-layered and living religious and alchemical practice, and it's grasp of the forces of life are unparalleled. It's spiritual technolo…