So there’s been yet another internet dust-up between non-theist and polytheist pagans over who is and is not a “real” pagan. And while in the past I may have engaged to defend my own non-theist position, this time around I find myself not caring.
If you’re interested, I point you to this rather brilliant post by John Halstead at Humanistic Paganism (or really all the posts at that blog):
As for me, I don’t care if Mr. Random Internet Pagan number 4537 thinks that my paganism isn’t real, or that I am a vile blasphemer for not believing in gods. There will always be someone who disagrees with you, and, in matters of religion, this disagreement can easily turn hateful, and I want no part of that.
I don’t find my paganism on the pages of Facebook. I find it in the land beneath me. On my lunch break yesterday, I sat under a willow tree by the riverbank. Sunbeams filtered through the leaves, casting interplays of light and dappled shade onto the grass. A light breeze moved the branches, making them sigh and whisper, the sound mingling with the tinkling flow of the river washing over the stones on its banks, and the choir of birds, each singing their own song, calling for mates or territory. Because the riverbank area is common land, there were cows grazing, occasionally lowing softly to each other. Being in the centre of town as well, there was the sound of traffic buzzing past, and people talking, out enjoying the sunshine.
All these sounds combining to produce the song of the land, the Oran Mor.
And I sat, feeling the warmth of the sun above me and the softness of the earth beneath me. Everything, from the grass to the rocks to the clouds overhead seemed to tingle with life and vitality. The edges of “me” blurred until all there was was this moment, this connection, one life in many forms.
This is how I perceive the sacred. No gods required, just this.
To me, “pagan” means “of the land”, as its Latin derivation suggests. To be truly of the land, to know it and love it and connect with it, is to be pagan. If that means reifying bits of it as gods and doing elaborate rituals, that’s your prerogative. If that simply means sitting under a tree and letting the infinite now carry you beyond yourself, then that is pagan too. And nobody can take that from me.
Truthfully, since coming back from Ireland, I have removed all trace of gods, even as archetypes or personifications of natural forces, from my practice. Not consciously, but they have just fallen away, an old crutch no longer needed. I still love the old stories, of course, and have a deep respect for the power of myth, but my daily paganism is of the sun, the land, the river, the trees, the moon, the stars and the stones.
And it feels deeper. Less structured perhaps, less formalised, less “religious”, but more real, more from the heart and blood and bone. I am here. The earth is here. That is pagan enough for me.