This page contains the working (and work-in-progress) definitions of your editor and host Pax as he writes in and administrates this blog.
After 18 years of active study and practice, I think that the many self-definitions I have seen of Paganism were so concerned with who we are (or are not), or have been concerned with demonstrating to the outside community that we are good and law abiding people, that they have neglected what we are and helped to lead to some confusion within and without the Pagan Movement. Not that there aren’t some good self definitions out there, like the Pagan Pride Project’s definition…
What is a Pagan?The following definition is for the purposes of the Pagan Pride Project. Others may define themselves or their group in different ways, and that’s OK. Some groups that fit the categories we list may not call themselves Pagan, and that’s ok too – that’s why we say that first and foremost the definition of a Pagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan. But the following was created in order to have a functional definition to help educate the public about the spiritual paths we cover:
A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:
- Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
- Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
- Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
- Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
- Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.
Now that’s a good start, but their definition was designed for working with the general public in community outreach. Wikipedia’s entry on Paganism(6:19 12/11/2009), especially the Classifications Section is in some respects helpful. There is also an interesting discussion of this complicated term over at ReligiousTolerance.org. Well they all have reasons, good ones as a matter of fact, for defining Paganism.
Here is a working (and work in progress) definition of Paganism made available for this project.
Paganism is a religious, spiritual, and social interfaith movement made up of several interrelating and overlapping religious and regional communities. These spiritual and religious communities are a complex network of individuals and groups, including….
- New Religious Movements grounded in the Western Mystical and Occult Tradition. (Golden Dawn, OTO, Thelema, Society of Inner Light, among other Traditions)
- New Religious Movements inspired by the Western Occult and Mystical Tradition and the indigenous religions and folklore of Europe. (Druidry, Wicca, Feri, Other Traditions of Western Religious Witchcraft, Queer Spirituality, and some segments of the Men’s and Women’s Spirituality movements)
- Those who seek, either inspired by ethnic heritage or profound spiritual experiences, to reestablish and revive and recreate the indigenous religions of Europe. (Celtic Reconstruction, Druidry, Heathenry, Hellenismos, Romuva and other Traditions)
- Those who have chosen to use a number of spiritual techniques and technologies found across time and in many cultures to access the spirit world in a direct and personal respectful manner. (Neo-Shamanism)
- Those who seek, inspired by ethnic or cultural heritage or profound spiritual experiences, to reestablish and revive and/or recreate the religions of the Ancient Mediterranean, the Fertile Crescent, or other Ancient peoples. (Aztec, Canaanite, Hellenismos, Khemetic, and numerous other traditions)
- Those who are respectfully taking an active and welcomed part in the indigenous religions of other countries/peoples which are active in the West; where there is overlap into the rest of Paganism. (Brujeria, Buddhism, Candomblé, Hinduism, Santeria, Umbanda, Voudoun, and other traditions)
Within the Pagan faiths there are certain common religious themes differentiating them from other Religions prevalent in their areas (in general) that emerge.
- In general, a personal rejection of the dominant Monotheisms in favor of an active engagement with varying degrees and combinations of Duotheism, Henotheism, Polytheism, Pantheism, and Panentheism.
- The Pagan religions are often more concerned with an individuals Orthopraxy (correct practice) than an individuals Orthodoxy (correct belief) in the practice of their Tradition. Indeed across the Pagan Movement there are a wide variety of theological/belief approaches present even within the same Tradition.
- The general, although not universal, acceptance of what might be termed Individual Religious Drift, where one enters into the Pagan movement as a member/participant in one Tradition and then moves, with generally little stress or strife for those involved, into a new Tradition.
- The acceptance that as long as one is Orthopraxic within them one can actively be a worshiper/participant in more than one Pagan Tradition. (this particular point is one that can be contentious depending on both the particular Pagan faith involved and view of this point can differ within those faiths)
- With some exceptions, Contemporary Paganism is a “Western” cultural phenomenon. Taking place in Europe and those countries with strong cultural and historic ties to European ones, and largely among populations of European descent.
Within the interfaith movement that is Paganism there are also some very compelling shared interests. Not only some of the obvious ones like Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Speech. There is also the widespread concern of Being In Right Relationship, not only with ones Deities, and ones Faith Community, and with ones larger Community, but also with the Spirits… of our Ancestors or the Spirits of the Earth and the World around us.
For the different Pagan faiths and paths there seems to be an overall theme of individual and group development into being a better person(s) (personal growth and perhaps enlightenment, although it is not necessarily phrased as such) by practicing certain rites, and developing our relationships with the Divine (or the essence of All That Is) and with the Spirits of the World Around Us (Land Spirits or Ancestors or Elementals, etc…), and living a number intertwining and overlapping virtues and values.
These virtues and Values include things like Courage, and Honor, Truthfulness, Hospitality, and Piety among many others. These shared and similar values are extremely important to Pagans and are a tremendous source of connection, strength, and community within the Pagan Movement.
Through following our beliefs, and living our values, I think we Pagans end up building our relationships with others in our own communities and groups and faiths and our regional communities. This theme of growth and development leads us quite naturally into engagement with other branches of Paganism, and from there into engagement with the rest of Society.
There are many religions and philosophies that overlap and intertwine within and with the Pagan movement. Including Neo-Paganism, Polytheism, Polytheistic Reconstructionism, Pantheism, Wicca, Druids, Heathens, Thelema, …and many others.
For more direct information about these beliefs, and others, you can check out the Online Resources Page for a fuller survey of many of the faiths and philosophies involved in and related to and influencing, or intertwined with, modern Paganism.
“Main Entry: family values
Function: noun pluralDate: 1916
: values especially of a traditional or conservative kind which are held to promote the sound functioning of the family and to strengthen the fabric of society”
~www.m-w.com accessed 11:18 am Jan/19/2010
There is a rich irony in this.
It was this very use and definition by some religious and cultural groups in the U.S., wielding phrases like “values” and “family values” and often “Christian values” like clubs to put forth their own ideas and agendas with the implication that THEIR values and ethics and interpretations of virtues were the only right and correct ones and that those of other groups in society, of other religions, and even of the many dissenting voices within THEIR own religious Traditions were in error; it was this sort of usage of “values” that led to the creation of the IPVBPM events and of this site!
Yet, even within the faiths of Contemporary Paganism, we see within each of the broad faith groups a spectrum of Conservatism to Liberalism in both Thea/Theological and Social and Political attitudes and beliefs. So what are we discussing when we discuss our values?
Well lets take a look at some useful quotes…
“A personal and cultural value is a relative ethic value, an assumption upon which implementation can be extrapolated. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based. Values are considered subjective, vary across people and cultures and are in many ways aligned with belief and belief systems. Types of values include ethical/moral values, doctrinal/ideological (religious, political) values, social values, and aesthetic values. It is debated whether some values are intrinsic.”
“Value theory encompasses a range of approaches to understanding how, why, and to what degree humans should value things, whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. This investigation began in ancient philosophy, where it is called axiology or ethics. Early philosophical investigations sought to understand good and evil, and the concept of “the good”. Today much of value theory is scientifically empirical, recording what people do value and attempting to understand why they value it in the context of psychology, sociology, and economics.”
Well, that helps with Values but what about Ethics and Virtues, which are related to Values?
“Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ἀρετή) is moral excellence. A virtue is a character trait or quality valued as being good. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting individual and collective well being.”
So, when we are discussing the Values of Paganism, we are speaking to the deep philosophical and moral pillars of our beliefs; Values, Ethics, and Virtues, the living of a good and moral life as a Contemporary Pagan and of the importance in our lives of these ideas and ideals, and of how we carry these things with us out into our lives in the larger everyday world outside of our rituals and festivals.