The Green Eclectic











{May 28, 2011}   Religious Affiliation: It’s Complicated
A contrived tag cloud

Blogging about blogs...

There are lots and lots and lots of blogs out there this week addressing the appropriateness of the term Pagan.  It’s a once-again-crescendoing debate, which has its lulls but never seems to die.  If you want to read some of the buzz, the Wild Hunt (as ever) is a good hub for linkage.  My favorite of all the essays I’ve read, I think, is this one by Resa over at Patheos.com: Labeling is Complicated. (Talk about summing up something complex in three words!  Well done, Resa.)

This grand discussion is a macrocosm of what many Pagans go through internally at some (or many) point(s), I think.  I know I certainly have.  I call myself Pagan, but I’m not polytheistic, I don’t believe in magic(k), I don’t assign a gender or genders to the Divine and consequently avoid the words god/goddess, lord/lady, etc.  I don’t have any reconstructionist leanings, there’s no text that holds the necessary dogma, and while I definitely have mentors, I don’t see any way that anyone could be my priest or priestess.

While I use the word eclectic to describe myself, even that’s a bit misleading: it implies to some that I pull my beliefs from other religious traditions.  I don’t, for the most part.  I believe what I believe, what I’ve always believed, as arrived at through observation and experience.  There are the places and events that feel sacred, the moments when you sense things greater than yourself, the eternal patterns of how the world works, and the obvious interconnectedness — the way ecology works not only in natural ecosystems, but also in human relationships.

This of course does not mean that I don’t have a great deal in common with people of a variety of other faiths — there are threads of universal truths which are interwoven through all cultures and belief systems (but which manifest differently depending on the context).  So of course I have bits and pieces in common with people of established traditions: we’re all human, and there’s nothing new under the sun.

So why call myself Pagan?  I’ve wrestled with that, believe me.

While I don’t seemingly fit within any of the defined denominations of Paganism, the more widely agreed upon tenets resonate with me.  A belief in the interconnectedness of all things, of a sacredness in the natural world, and a respect for the eternal cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth… those are observable universal truths for me.

Paganism is also the one religion from which I have overtly adopted my religious traditions.  I observe the Wheel of the Year, though I’ve made it my own in a way that differs from the way it’s practiced by most other Pagans.  And I like that name for it — the Wheel of the Year — because it speaks to the continuity of cycles.  However, I’ve slowly been discarding a number of the other commonly used Pagan terms and definitions associated with it.  I don’t use the word sabbat, preferring instead the world holiday (defined as a day which has special significance).  I don’t generally use the Pagan names of the holidays, except for a common frame of reference when celebrating with other Pagans.  I observe the cross-quarters at the exact midpoint between each equinox and solstice, such that Mid Autumn (what most Pagans term Samhain) will fall on November 7th this year, rather than October 31st.  And I don’t think of that date as the start of the new year… for me that coincides with the Winter Solstice, when we celebrate light returning to the world.

I think I’ll close by quoting the conclusion to Resa’s guest post at Pantheos (which you should go read in its entirety), because it sums things up pretty well for me as well:

If I don’t have some easy shorthand for what I am, it makes it burdensome to try to connect with other people. For me it’s also intellectually dishonest. I would not be the religious practitioner that I am today without the experiences I have had in the neo-pagan community. Pagans welcomed me and taught me and offered love and trust. As much as I don’t want to be mistaken for a circle caster who can’t wear synthetic fabric and can’t use a timepiece, I don’t want to disenfranchise myself from the community that has been my home for many years. For now, I suppose I’ll stick with the Facebook trope: Religious Affiliation– It’s complicated!

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Corvus says:

You are not the only one who starts the year in Yule. Traditionally they did so in Sweden.

How do you find out the exact date of cross-quarter days?



Love y our blog . . . I can so identify with you and Resa . . . I think the reality of paganism, neo-paganism, new age lends itself to vast interpretations . . . somehow we sense a need to belong, yet for those of us who waltz to the beat of our own drum we sometimes feel isolated. As a quick note, my son – who is studying anthropology/archaeology gets really heated up by the term “pagan”. He says it is nothing more than a term the romans used to call country people, the equivalent of being called a “red-neck”.



Well, the way I look at it is that languages are not stagnant, they evolve and change. That said, I’m fine with being called a country-dweller, as that’s what I am at heart. Right now I’m living a fairly (though not quite) rural (enough) existence, but even when I have to live in cities I find ways to connect to the planet, and that’s where I feel most in tune. It’s only an offensive term if you allow it to be or dwell on what other people think of you. Personally, I think country people are great, and so long as what other people think of me isn’t actively affecting my civil rights, they can think what they want (though of course I’d prefer it if people were nice).

Thank you so much for commenting and letting me know that what I’ve written here speaks to you in some way. i really appreciate you taking the time to tell me that. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.



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