A call for sanity

Pagan Pride. Image from Leodis Pagan Circle.

Pagan Pride. Image from Leodis Pagan Circle.

I said I wouldn’t get into this, but…

Once again, various corners of Pagan internet spaces have been riven with infighting, insults and gossip. Polytheists versus atheists, archetypalists versus literalists, reconstructionists versus revivalists, and it’s getting silly.

In fact, no, it’s not getting silly, it’s getting damaging. Look, we’re a small enough minority as it is without splitting ourselves even further into smaller and smaller groups (shades of Monty Python and the Judean People’s Front) who all hate each other.

While some Pagans are busy drawing battle lines, declaring war and building walls to keep out anyone who doesn’t fit their doctrinal purity (an idea anathema to Paganism in the ancient world and one which as Ronald Hutton said “evokes the smell of disinfectant and the sound of jackboots”), we forget that we have bigger problems.

Pagans are still persecuted, and I don’t just mean the Yazidis in the Middle East being slaughtered by ISIS, or the children killed in Africa for “witchcraft”. I mean the people in the UK and US who lose their jobs once they are outed as Wiccan, the parents who lose custody in divorce cases because of their beliefs, the families whose homes and businesses are attacked with bricks and petrol bombs for their religion.

And on top of this we have devastating climate change, deforestation, extinction, overpopulation: things that earth-centred Pagans should be on the frontlines fighting.

To tackle any of these issues we need to be united. What makes us Pagan isn’t what we believe, or how many gods (if any) we worship, or what race we are, or how we practice. What makes us Pagan is simply that we declare ourselves to be.

That means polytheists, atheists, Wiccans, Asatru, Druids, conservatives, liberals, whatever. We’re all Pagan. More than that, we’re all human.

So, please, can we stop throwing insults, threats and curses (magical and profane) at each other, recognise that what unites us is more important than what divides us, and stand together against the real issues we all face instead of creating imaginary ones of our own.



About Wrycrow

Queer nerdy Pagan librarian, training with Druid College UK.
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37 Responses to A call for sanity

  1. G. B. Marian says:

    Reblogged this on In The Desert Of Seth and commented:
    I’m getting pretty sick of all the petty squabbling and in-fighting myself. If someone calls him or herself a Pagan, then I accept them as one. I might not agree with their views or practices, and I might not even like them personally for whatever reason. But I still accept them as a fellow Pagan; this umbrella’s big enough for all of us.

    • Ryan says:

      There’s a lot of us out there fed up with it, but the ones who shout the loudest tend to be the fundamentalists on both sides.

      I agree, you don’t have to think the same as someone, or even like them, but we can still all be Pagan together!

  2. We need not think alike to love alike. I hope we can be united as Pagans. Thanks for this post.

  3. Lorn West says:

    I am sorry to disagree, but people just can’t claim to be a pagan, there are some standards that should be made. One of the causes for the infighting is the fact that Eclectic Wicca has distorted the concept of Paganism to a outside view of craziness. People are taking non-pagan concepts and throwing a wicca label to it, and that shouldn’t be accepted as pagan.

    When they tried to remake the American council of witches they sought to rewrite the 13 principals so that “Jedism” would fall under the pagan umbrella. I find that idea insulting to paganism.

    Yes we do need to work together more than what we are doing. We are small in numbers, but we need to weed out those that don’t fit in. And I have to remember that pagans are very prideful individuals, trying to get all the Pagans together is like trying to herd 100 cats, good luck.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi, thanks for dropping by and don’t be sorry to disagree – constructive disagreement and dialogue is great!

      Wicca is, as you know, only a sub-set of Paganism and not the whole picture. Eclectic Wicca and Llewellyn Wicca is very much its own thing, but by any definition is surely still Pagan?

      Individual traditions within Paganism, such as Gardnerian Wicca or ADF Druidry, of course have their own rules, and that’s fine, but those rules are internal, for members of that tradition only. Nobody has the right to say to someone of a different tradition that they’re doing it wrong – they’re just doing it differently.

      As for Jediism, I see that as kind of like Discordianism or even Reformed Druidry – something that started out as a joke but became, for some people, a real way of life. The “Force” is almost a Pantheistic idea, so if Jedis are not themselves Pagan (though someone could be both) then it rubs up pretty closely to it. I’m not familiar with the American Council of Witches (UK-based myself) so I can’t comment on how or why they decided to rewrite their principles to include it.

      I worry about the idea of “weeding out those that don’t fit in”. Who gets to decide who “fits in” and who doesn’t? Some hardcore Polytheists and reconstructionists I’ve come across would throw out all agnostics/atheists, all Pantheists, all Druids and all Wiccans too!

      Thankfully, there is no Pagan Pope who can hand out decrees of excommunication to people who have differing views.

      Without a central doctrine of what is and is not “Pagan” enough to count, all we have is whether people meaningfully identify with the word. As far as I’m concerned, if you call yourself Pagan, you are.

      As to your last point, I totally agree. Herding cats is about right, good job I’m not trying to get all Pagans together! I’m just a bloke with a blog, that’s all.

    • Shoshana says:

      I so agree. I don’t think that just declaring yourself pagan is enough, whatever happened to studying, learning a tradition and working in a training coven? Absolutely people should be able to practice their own thing, but only when they have a basic grounding in pagan belief and practise. I actually saw a self proclaimed wicca, who watched a documentary on wicca, express disbelief that the religion was started in the 1940s by , and I quote “some old bloke from the west country” yes, that would be Gerald Gardner…….such a fundamental lack if knowledge of your own chosen path is ungorgiveable imho, and I would certainly object to that person calling themselves wiccan

      • Ryan says:

        Just to clarify, I’m totally not against training and learning, that’s why I’m with ADF, who provide excellent training and emphasise real scholarship and knowledge. I agree that a Wiccan who doesn’t know Gardner is a bit silly, but people like that need to be educated, not shunned.

  4. Silentus says:

    I know this sounds insulting, but you see the same thing amongst Christian churches and Catholic churches. People are going to be elitists and jerks to those who do not share the exact same thoughts and beliefs as themselves.

  5. yanaakm says:

    Reblogged this on My Crazy Path and commented:
    United in positivity is the best way. Blessed be!

  6. Bob Knows says:

    Your plea to “stand together against the real issues we all face instead of creating imaginary ones of our own” would be more credible if the first issue you mention was not a created imaginary political fraud, “devastating climate change.” Yes, it is time to get real. So do it. Lose the imaginary issues. We love mother earth, but we don’t pander to bullshit.

  7. Im going to make this required reading for everyone who attends my philosophy circles. Every single pagan NEEDS to read this. We have so much important work to do, and we will Never achieve the future of Magick if we dont stop squabbling over who does magick “right”. All people of Magick are MY and OUR FAMILY. Lets act like it!

    • Ryan says:

      Wow, thanks! Honestly, there are far more eloquent and thoughtful writers than me who have tackled this issue in depth. I recommend John Halstead and John Beckett who blog at Patheos Pagan for a really well-considered take on things.

  8. Ja'den Luifius says:

    I agree with this post wholeheartedly I am very tired of the infighting, name throwing and just the general divides that are clearly forming in the Pagan Community and sadly I have witnessed such behaviour of such invidiuals first hand both in person and on the Internet, we definitely need to come together as a people regardless of our personal beliefs as there is so much at stake to be divided. I have shared this pages link on my personal Facebook as well as my local moot. Thank you for taking the time to write it and I hope that you are always well xxx.

    • Ryan says:

      Thanks, and thanks for sharing the post too.

      I think (I hope) that it’s only a loud minority of people who get stuck into the infighting, and the vast majority of us Pagans just want to get on with our lives!

  9. John the Wizard says:

    I have little to do with on-line communities, so this disharmony comes as a bit of a surprise to me. I’m saddened to hear that we, as a community, are finding things which separate us rather than unite us. A long time ago I battled to have Paganism accepted as a recognised spiritual beliefs system by the government. Part of that fight was to oust those calling themselves satanists and ‘our Pagan cousins’, which caused a lot of this kind of strife. However, after extensive research, I was adamant that satanists followed an essentially Christian doctrine and the argument could not be denied. And, indeed, Paganism was accepted as legitimate not long after. But that was the only exception I could identify. We should celebrate all of our different ways of belief and being, as that is the true freedom Paganism brings. And there is still a great way to go before we can be said to hold equal status, so we all need to be proud of our common bonds, it strengthens us, after all.
    Blessed be,
    John the Wizard

    • Ryan says:

      Online communities are a double-edged sword. For people who don’t have a physical Pagan community locally, or who are still “in the closet”, they can be a blessing. However, the anonymity and culture of the internet can also breed anger and hatred.

      Thank you for your work with getting Paganism recognised as a valid spirituality. Without people like you, my generation of Pagans probably wouldn’t be here.

      Satanists are an interesting case. For the most part, they are essentially a parody/inversion of Christianity, and don’t tend (at least the ones I’ve met) to think of themselves as Pagan, but I totally support their right to practice Satanism. I’m actually quite fond of the Satanic Temple in the US and the work they’re doing on Church-State separation and rights for minority religions.

      “We should celebrate all of our different ways of belief and being, as that is the true freedom Paganism brings”. Well said, and far more eloquent than I!

  10. I was a dedicated Pagan from the age of 22 to 33. My main teacher was Scott Cunningham, but I learned from many others. Then I started reading some of Silver Ravenwolf books and got literally trashed for it. Now while Silver may be off on some things, she is still a recognized High Priestess.

    But if YOU even talked about Silver….then you were considered a non-pagan.

    I am basically still a tree hugging, nature loving Pagan, but I do not worship any pantheon, I am basically an Atheist towards the gods and goddesses. I honestly believe we have no need for them, as we are the actual Gods and Goddesses.

    But I left Paganism because I was so sick and tired of the trash talking. It was getting like the Christians and I have no patience for that crap.

    The biggest rule from what I remember is to love….to love all, no matter what. Even if you disagree with a fellow Pagan, you are supposed to do it in love.

    But many call themselves Pagans and really are not. They are what I term as fluffly bunnies. They just want to have the title but not do the real work it takes to become a true Pagan. I have seen far too many fools, standing on the street corner, decrying how they are a witch or a warlock, dressed all in black, huge pentagrams hanging about their neck, thinking that is all that is needed to be a witch. Well they got no clue really. Heck you talk to them and most of them do not even know how to really bless salt and water….or anything else such as the various ways of drawing a Pentagram.

    But you know what? I am happy with me. I am pleased with me. If Pagans want to devolve into what Christians and other theists are doing? Oh well. As long as they stay away from me…cause I will be nice to you….til you are not nice to me, then I become one mean assed wolf, who will shred you to ribbons.

    • Ryan says:

      Sounds like you have a good attitude. “Love all, no matter what” is a pretty good guideline if you ask me. And sometimes walking away from a situation is the best thing to do.

      I’m also agnostic/atheist towards the gods and goddesses myself, and I totally think there is room for people like us in the Pagan world. Check out “Humanistic Paganism” and “Atheopaganism” for a good intro.

  11. Leeby Geeby says:

    Well said. I am saddened to hear about all this infighting. Maybe use of the term Pagan is a little perjorative because of the historical connotation of persecution and identification with the other that is most commonly associated with it. It reminds me of the kind of infighting that occured in the punk scene that I was a part of when I was younger, often identity and community was formed on the basis of a sense of persecution, but it just served to repeat the same kind of otherisation that was foisted upon it by society. So in the end it became hypocritical — more of a fashion statement than a force for change. I hope some voices of reason can shine through and create more harmony — perhaps not so much with an idea of restoring what has been lost but uniting to tackle those serious ecological issues.

    • Ryan says:

      It is always a shame when these things happen, but I think its a curse of internet anonymity. Your point about the term “Pagan” is an interesting one, it was originally pejorative when the Romans coined it (I think it basically meant “rustic” – a little like “hick” today) but the Pagan movement has done such a good job reclaiming it, I’d be sad to see it go.

      The similarity to the Punk scene made me laugh a bit, it’s also like that in the Metal scene.

      • Leeby Geeby says:

        Yeah, that’s a good point about anonymity, I didn’t consider that. Yeah, unfortunately despite whatever amazing amount of reclamation has the term still carries a self-ascribed stigma that is likely to remain inescapably embedded within the language. Like the term punk it always carries a certain archetypal association. As long as people understand the perceptual weight carried by such terms and how it shapes their self-perception and the perceptions of others, that’s fine. Thankfully it’s more socially acceptable to apply these labels, but for those whose path is to evoke a more radical shift in perceptions to keep their ethos meaningful as a source of progressive wisdom the shift in language is really necessary. In order to evolve, certain political or spiritual movements have had to reinvent themselves by reframing their terms of reference, to overcome their own internal ideological limitations, but also as a measure of accountability to modern sensitivities about the way they have been perceived historically. This is not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Some like to drink it black with no milk or sugar, and that’s totally cool. There are times when you just wanna say well if the shoe fots then i’ll wear it, as occasion demands. But usually when I self describe in relation to my personal spiritual ethos I would say I’m influenced by paganism, but I encourage an acceptance of all forms of Earth-centered spirituality. Consistent with my path I like to keep my options open enough to incorporate any meaningful transformative notions that come my way.

  12. Judith says:

    Beautifully and eloquently put, but it seems to happen to all religions/groups/interests of humans, I think it’s called ego. Or the need to be ‘right’

  13. The problem is that everyone is trying to be gathered under this umbrella term of pagan which basically is a term that categorises according to what something is not.

    The best bet is to stop this and let each variety be who they are instead of fighting over who is actually pagan. This is why I do not use the term as an identifying term for myself or my people. Then nobody thinks that we are some kind of Wiccan or some kind of anything else. We get to define who we are. The whole thing boils down to people trying to call themselves the same thing and then trying to lay claim the authority to dictate what that thing is. That is the insanity.

    • Ryan says:

      You have a good point about the “umbrella”, but I wonder if there are times when using an umbrella term might be useful? Not as a way to pretend we have no differences, but as a way to gain legal recognition and protections, or come together as one “block” to make a difference.

      Of course, nobody (and that includes me) has the right to define what “Pagan” means. That would be insane!

  14. Therasia says:

    Of course in-fighting doesn’t help us as Pagans, but in my last eleven years of exposure to local Pagan communities the only real “in-fighting” I’ve seen is when a small group or an individual has done or said something that is against everything a decent Pagan should stand for and thus the responsible party was eventually ousted (as the majority of the community, if not the entire community, no longer wanted to be associated with people of such low moral character). I have witnessed other instances that didn’t fall under this sort of situation, but it also wasn’t in my local community, but in another’s. Whatever the case, I seek peace. Whether that’s peace between everyone, or for peace of mind. There’s enough negativity in the world already, there’s no need to subject myself or my loved ones to it any longer than absolutely necessary.

    • Ryan says:

      This current case of online infighting has more to do with a loud minority trying to enforce an orthodoxy, or police what other Pagans believe and practice in order to be “allowed” to be Pagan. Morals and ethics, while important, have not been part of this debate. It’s been about literal belief vs metaphorical belief, and it’s all got a bit out of hand.

      You’re right, peace is the best answer. And that includes the peace of accepting that other people believe different things, and that’s OK.

  15. the Kite says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this post. I consider it important to all of us to actively encourage psychodiversity in order to give us all more options, and if you’ll indulge me I offer a sidelight on this point via a post of mine. Hope it makes sense to you in this context: http://www.thekitescradle.com/these-arent-the-druids-youre-looking-for/

    • Ryan says:

      Thanks, I love the phrase “psychodiversity”, it’s a great way of describing things.

      I love your blog to (I’ve bookmarked it to read more later) nice Star Wars reference in the title by the way!

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