Posted by: Andrew G | March 15, 2010

Pagans – Hiding Under Your Bed

Paganism has kind of become a laundry-basket type of word — everything considered soiled or dirty ends up getting thrown in. It is not so much a religion onto itself but a kind of collector for things that aren’t recognized within the big religions of the world. In an even more general sense, the word ‘pagan’ is a description used by in-group members for out-group members. I have a Hindu(ish) friend that, once he learned I was a preacher’s kid, would call me a pagan once in a while (usually when trying to stress some baffling errors in Whitey’s worldviews).

[Side note– the ‘ish’ on the end of words only seems to sound right in Jewish. I remember hearing some comedian talk about his religion, and how it’s hard to take your own religion seriously when the word itself makes you sound so non-committal and wishy-washy.

“Are you a Jew?”

“- Well, I’m Jewish.”

It doesn’t really translate with Christianish, or Wiccanish…]

There is an awful lot of history involved with the words ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ because so many of the world’s cultures  have been branded with the terms. The best approach, in my opinion, is education– evaluation after complete understanding. Here is a very short list of the different pants that have made their way into the laundry-basket (for a more complete list, check this out, or do a search):

Druidry

.

.

.

.

.

.

Wicca

.

.

.

.

.

.

.Norse Traditions (Asatru)

.

.

.

There is a full closet of traditions out there each with a history all its own, but I’m trying to keep this introduction short, because I want to keep some room for what I would call the modern pop-culture pagans.

Everyone is a part of this group. At least in the sense that we are all in the middle of this paganism. If you are reading this on the interweb, then you have some exposure to the pop-pagan.

There is a kind of holy trinity in pop-paganism– Santa, The Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I bring this up because I think each of these characters are important and show the true power in myth. We have made them real (in almost all senses of the word) through collective use. But even more than this, our understanding of them goes through changes as we progress in our lives. Santa has a different importance to the child than to the parent, but both know him well and understand him (well, at least for one short period of time each year).

Earlier I did a little piece on my thoughts on Avatar.  That movie struck some deep and tender strings in the hearts of audiences, even if it was obviously on an unobtainable world (ahem). People came out of the theatre so wanting and wishing to make such experiences come true they were willing to suspend disbelief for a little while after. Movie magic is just as powerful as any ancient storyteller, the tools are just painted a little differently.

Here is an illustration from a North American native, something that whispers in both the ancient and modern ear :

If you take a copy of the Christian Bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible IS the wind and the rain.(source)

For some reason, the word “soon” in this quote strikes a wild resonance in me. Can we come to an understanding if even a word like ‘soon’ can mean very different things to people?

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Responses

  1. So, all this thought on various religions, but what do you incorporate or think?

    • Hey again Sab,

      Well, goal #1 for me was a refresher. I haven’t thought much about religious pursuits for some time.

      Goal #2 was going to be comedy – I thought it would be fun for Lent to learn about how all the world pursues the ‘virtuous life’.

      Goal #3, inspired by another blogger, was to not judge or evaluate or even have an agenda (other than maybe education and fun). This is tricky.

      So, incorporating and thinking may come in time. But right now I’m just wading back into the pool, plucking up the nerve to make a jump and splash.

  2. Got it. Cool.


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