Parts of the Pagan media sometimes make me just scratch my head. Sometimes it delights me and informs me, but sometimes it just leaves me wondering. This isn’t anything linked to ordinary Pagans I know (and I know one tends to settle with people somewhat like oneself), who are generally too busy living lives, raising families, looking after loved ones, or just getting through life to be plugged into debates about whether we’ve moved from orthopraxy to orthodoxy, or how we should be conducting ourselves at the theoretical table of “world religions”, etc.
Of all the “Pagans” I’ve known, the ones I temperamentally identify with the most would probably be liberal Heathens. Polytheistic, largely engaged in living a household religion, pretty down to earth, and when not down to earth, knowing we could do better. Skeptical and cautious in politics, allergic to manipulators, not particularly impressed by hipsters. My kinda people.
I have heard so many debates over the years about how Paganism doesn’t really exist, and can’t be defined, and can’t be represented, and should or shouldn’t do this or that to be “taken seriously”, and really so much is talkers and analysers building castles of ideas upon a ground which doesn’t seem to be enough for them. But that ground is always going to be dirt, because that is what the rest of us grow stuff in. And if we didn’t want dirt, we wouldn’t have chosen dirt.
Increasingly the talk and analysis seems to have taken on the appearance of professionalism. Maybe that’s a good thing, as some kind of process going somewhere else, I don’t know. I’ve certainly loved the input of historians and archeologists, and various scholars looking at source materials, but that’s not what I mean by taking on the appearance of professionalism. Because on the other hand, it’s ordinary people embedded in the lived experience of their lives and their spirituality that really count. That is where the real stuff of community actually cooks, with or without professional attention, and whether or not anyone has time to think of it in those terms. Professionalism isn’t always the best way to listen to a living process, or recognize it.
A lot of Pagans are quite aware of how varied and divergent we are, and are not bothered, so long as you let us be. We know just how individual our paths are, and that’s fine. We know we have enormous differences of belief and practice, as well as large swathes of commonality, a landscape rather than an organized and defined collective, and we celebrate that, and get on with what’s important to us. Quite a lot of us I think consider that to be a sign not of failure but of religious maturity in a world shaped by secular freedoms. We just don’t make a lot of noise about it.
And if we aren’t professional or entirely respectable, that’s probably because that’s not what’s important to the relationships in our lives, and our relationship to our gods.