Redefining: Paganism

As I have had this blog for awhile, I realize that there are few topics  where I have change my views or grown in understanding. Therefore, from to time to time, I will be updating and correcting  or adding to some of my older posts.

This is a update  of my original post defining  Pagan/Paganism.

First off, we should start by acknowledging that there is no agree upon definition of Pagan or Paganism.  Though many  might think this lack of clarity is unique to Pagans, disagreement on religious terms are quite common within traditions and the academic world. For instance, the definition of a Christian or ritual is still unclear in religious studies.

Being that there is tons of debates and infighting around the words Pagan and Paganism, some people  refuse to define them at all. Settling instead by describing Paganism simply as a ” Umbrella or blanket term for various religions.” While, this description can be useful in certain incidences, it is not much help as a formal definition for students, professors, writers and lecturers whose audiences may need more insight. My personal suggestion for defining Paganism especially in formal writing  is to do your own research, form your own opinion,  offer a definition that fits your topic, audience and  your understanding but  be ready to defend your findings. Also, be flexible as your definition may be different given the topic, your experience or setting. For instance, a general and most inclusive definition may work for a big tent Paganism event while a nature based one may be more suitable for a ecology paper or a feminist one for a Women’s group.

Below are some definitions of Paganism ( all of which are acceptable in some circles and rejected in others)

Paganism is or a Pagan is a follower of…

* A nature, earth, universe based religion

* A polytheistic religion

* A Non monotheistic religion

* A Non- Christian religion

* A Non- Abrahamic religion

* A folk or ethnic religion

* A historical ethnic religion

* A magic based religion

* Cyber Pagan tradition

* An umbrella term for religions who deem themselves Pagans

Original meanings of Pagan/paganism

* Citizen

* Poor, Rural folk

* Country dweller

* ” Of the land”

Use as Slur

( none of these things are inherently bad but the term was meant as a bad thing for these groups or as a means of  lumping groups together incorrectly)

* as a label for Non-Christian

* as a label for  those not saved or doomed

* as a term meaning Satan Worshiper

* as a label for Black/Brown/Indigenous religions

* as a label for Jewish people.

One this blog, Paganism will usually refer to nature based, folk and magical traditions. I do talk about Hinduism and Buddhism however I prefer the term Asian, Eastern or Karmic religions for those traditions ( though I feel those who follow these traditions can call themselves whatever they please). I do not use Paganism as a blank term for all non- Abrahamic religions as some still view Pagan as a slur. Also, many religions have their own and more appropriate designations.

I also think Pagan is a reclaimed word and not everyone should have access to it. It is usually a word for religions and people who are outsiders or marginalized and is used to reclaim their roots or power.


2 thoughts on “Redefining: Paganism

  1. Larissa Lee says:

    To be fair, there are branches with specific names in Buddhism and Hinduism, too. And in Christianity (try calling a Catholic or a Baptist a plain Christian… they correct you in a heartbeat!).

    Paganism *is* an umbrella term, in that sense. Compare it to Christianity. You can be a Christian by following certain beliefs and practices, but then you can be more specifically a Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, etc. by adding even more specific aspects of religion into your own.

    A Pagan can be so many things, but the only hard-and-fast beliefs held by 99% of them are [a] nature positivity (not always worship) and [b] non-Christianity. Then you get into Druids, Wiccans, Hellenismos, Asatru, etc. with their specific practices and religious structures. Some venerate their ancestors, others focus on animal totems, and more focus on the seasonal cycles. It depends on the path a Pagan claims; some claim none, instead exploring and expanding their personal spirituality through experimentation and experience.

    Almost no one (at least in the US) uses the word “Pagan” to refer simply to non-Christians; usually, they mean the occult practitioners, nature worshippers, and generally outside of the mainstream paths.

  2. Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Thanks for
    providing this information.

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