Saturday, 28 July 2007

Questions for Pagans - Part 1

The learned Mahud has some questions for those of us professing Paganism-the Pagan Inquisition he called it.

I set out to answer them, and realised it would take more than one post.
Here's the first part:

Choosing a Paganism

Is it OK to be just a ‘Pagan?’
As I understand it, it is an umbrella term used much in the same way as ‘Hinduism’ is used to represent a whole range of different beliefs and practices?
If so, is choosing a specific Pagan path essential?

Paganism is indeed an umbrella term, probably covering more ground than does the word Hinduism.

Quite apart from the multitude of pantheons clustered under this term, there are many different theologies/thealogies which are all accepted as ‘Pagan’.

Soft Polytheism, Hard Polytheism, Pantheism, Panentheism, ‘Dualism’ (not the generally accepted term for taking body and soul or good and evil as two different things, but a word meaning ‘worship of two deities’),Henotheism , Agnosticism and Atheism are all accepted ways of understanding Deity under the Pagan banner.

Nature affirming Pagan

Are you a Pagan because you are drawn or feel a connection with nature?
Do city dwelling Pagans find it difficult to practice in the City?

I believe that most Pagans feel very connected to Nature-it may be the only thing all the Pagan ‘-isms’ have in common!

Put it this way- I’ve never yet come across a Nature-hating Pagan, although there are plenty of Urban Pagans around. They see Mankind as one aspect of Nature, and cities as no more divorced from that Nature than is a beaver’s dam.

I live and work in a city. Although my house is set in a fairly large garden, which has become Sacred Ground, I work on the third floor of a large building in an urban office park. The trick is to be able to feel the Spiritus Mundi even through several meters of concrete and steel.

Even though many may hold Esbats, Sabbats and other celebrations indoors- especially in the UK with its foul weather – I find most Urban Pagani like to gather outdoors every once in a while. Usually in fair-sized groups .These days, this may have more than a little to do with the threat of violence which comes free with every city-dweller’s lifestyle. We know all about it in Joburg.

Living with a community of Pagans

Is it easy finding a community of like-minded Pagans?
Are there any local Pagan communities where you live, and was it easy to integrate into your community? Perhaps it took a while to find a community that met your needs?
Do you find your community to be a group of loving people who deeply care for others, esp’ outcasts in society?
Is there a kind of leadership? Or are some members considered to be more authoritative than others without any rigid kind of leadership structure.
Is everyone encouraged to play an active role in the community, and look after those members that need more care and attention?
Perhaps you are a solitary Pagan, or your only connecting with Pagans on the internet, how does that work for you?

I started out as part of a small coven, moved to become a solitary practitioner, and now practice mostly on my own or with my partner.

I’ve been a part of a larger group occasionally, but in common with what seems to be a great number of Pagans, I prefer to do my own thing.

That way, I can go up on my lines completely, or spend a longer than average time in a particular meditation or adoration, or take off on an unexpected tangent and no one else is put out . The Spirit moves us frequently- and if it doesn’t move us all at once, there can be problems.

I can also schedule my Esbats and Sabbats to fit my working life.For example, I prefer for reasons of symmetry to celebrate the Great Sabbats (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain) on the point of the year exactly half way between the Solstice and Equinox, while most of my coreligionists here keep to the more traditional dates near the start of the month.

There are indeed local covens, clans and loose associations of practitioners all over the place in South Africa-some of them quite nearby-but closer still are the communities which assemble only in cyberspace, for chat and exchange of ideas and sometimes (as now) for some real Pagan Activism.I’m on the executive board at the South African Pagan Alliance, and we’ve made some huge strides while never meeting in person, most of us.

The Internet is your friend as a Pagan-there are some excellent communites out there, as well as the usual duds and dangerous spaces. Age and reputation are usually a reliable guide to their character.

As to supportiveness, I’ve found Pagan communities in cyber and meat space to be good there.Thinking about it, your average Pagan is not run-of-the-mill, not designed to fit in to regular society particularly well-that’s why we’re Pagans in the first place!

But lifestyles out of the ordinary, especially eco-friendly or different sexual orientations (including polyamory) are not only tolerated but usually well-supported among us.

There are exceptions of course-I’m thinking now of some radically heterosexual groups who frankly don’t deal well with GLBT folk, but they’re most definitely a minority.
We also have our share of racist groups- again, not too many, but they do exist. Mostly these people are easy to spot and thus avoid.

As to leadership- err, bit of a thorny issue there.

To be honest, most Pagani don’t take too kindly to authority in most shapes and forms- again, that’s part of what makes them Pagans in the first place.
We have our Elders, beloved and otherwise, mostly by them having been around a long time and having something to say.

However, ‘Witch Wars’ are more common than most of us would like- which cycles right back to why many of us choose to remain solitary.

We’re a bit like cats, you know.

How do non-Pagans react upon learning you are Pagan?

I’ve had so few problems with people knowing that I’m a Pagan that I’m sometimes taken aback when I hear about others who don’t have this going for them.

But it happens. Discrimination is outlawed in South Africa-but as I’m sure no one is surprised to hear, goes on all the time.

I seem to have skipped it, though. Must be my winning personality and charm. Right.I think it’s probably got more to do with me not giving a damn for most peoples’ opinions. I also have a healthy dose of humour about myself-I’m one of the most unintentionally comical people I know. Or is that tragic? Who cares-it works well. Laughter is a Divine reaction to realising that you’re God, after all.