As you may be aware, there’s been a bit of an argument going on in Pagan circles relating to the nature of the gods. I’ve never encountered a power greater than or outside of myself. I choose to operate in a hard polytheist framework because I trust the experiences of others and choose to believe that their experiences can have value to me both instead of and in addition to any of my own. But, I digress.
Jason Mankey at Raise the Horns sort of stole my thunder on Friday, but I think I’ve got a slightly different take on things than he does. For reference, please check out the following from Galina Krasskova. The step too far is as follows:
“I would go so far as to say Paganism that isn’t Deity centric isn’t Pagan.”
Firstly, let me say that I have no problem with Galina’s point of view with respect to her devotional practice. Hell, I don’t even have a problem with her feeling that it’s better than other practices. I think she probably should feel thusly; most of us do likely think that we have a pretty solid way of operating that works well and we often judge others based on our own point of view.
I do take issue, however, with her saying that things different from her way of being Pagan aren’t Pagan enough. And, as an activist, I think it’s important for us to stand up and say something when things have gotten out of hand. It doesn’t make us popular–it doesn’t even make us right–but standing up for what we believe in is what we do and it’s a necessary process of figuring out where we stand and what we stand for.
The quotation above is a step too far. It reminds me, in some ways, of the concept of being a race traitor, i.e. a person who takes a position that is seen to be against the better interests of his or her racial identity. Krasskova, in her statement above, seems to be making a similar argument; if a person doesn’t focus on a devotional, deity-centric religious practice, then their somehow advocating a position that is against the better interests of a wider Pagan identity.
To be fair, I suspect that Galina and I have a very different perspective on what a Pagan identity should look like. My point of view is more like what John Halstead describes in his post relating to the three centers of Paganism. I would recommend reading that essay in full, but the TL;DR version is that there are three basic areas on which Pagans tend to focus: the self, the earth, and the deities. Indeed, most Pagans include more than one or all three in their practice.
John describes more of what one might find in each of these areas, and in my view, people who operate within each of these areas–and within more than one of them–should be free to call themselves Pagan. Or not! indeed, someone can have a reverence for the earth and an understanding of the interdependence of all things and not call themselves Pagan. Similarly, a ceremonial magician or a devotional polytheist may also operate within a framework that can either Pagan or not depending on their choice and preference.
Regardless of our own personal views, it behooves us to remain civil in our disagreements and I think we’ve lost that within the community–whatever shape it takes–in recent weeks. As an activist, it’s hard to take a stand. It’s harder, sometimes, to take a stand against those with whom we share so much; those within our family, if you will. But, perhaps that difficulty makes it all that much more necessary.
My fear, if we leave statements like these alone to hang in cyberspace, that others entering our community in the future my find them and take them to be a statement of fact rather than opinion. That they may feel belittled or othered by these words. Indeed, I feel othered by them considering I suspect my devotion is less ardent than Galina’s and wonder where, in her view of what is and is not Pagan, I may stand.
But, in the end, that doesn’t matter. What has mattered, and what I hope continues to matter, to us in the greater Pagan community is that those within it choose to be a part of it. I have a great love for my Pagan brothers and sisters–the devotional hard polytheist and the Wiccan ceremonial magician–and my faith and my understanding of myself is deepened by my encounters with the diversity within our faith.