Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)

Note: What follows arose out of a discussion in the comments to a recent post entitled, Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions, in which I described my growing disinterest in most Pagan discussions and the change in the questions that most concern me now. One of the commenters, Phil Anderson, challenged me to continue to be “a purveyor of sense and reason in the paganosphere”. His comment prompted a long response from me, which I have edited and reproduced here. Where important for context, I have reproduced parts of Anderson’s comment here.


For a long time, I believed that a naturalistic* version of Paganism was the most genuine expression of contemporary Paganism. When I came to Neo-Paganism, I thought it was naturalistic at its core, and I thought the supernaturalism I saw was aberrant. It seemed to me to be an unfortunate consequence of a historical accident, the infiltration of occultism into the neopagan revival via Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. And there are several academics whose work support this notion, including Robert Ellwood & Harry Partin, Joanne Pearson, and Wouter Hanegraaff. I thought these strands–the occultist and the neo-pagan–could be separated, and so I set about trying to unwind them. Continue reading “Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)”

Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan

1. It’s not like in the books.

Like a lot of other Pagans, I read a lot of books about Pagans before I ever actually met another Pagan in the flesh.  My first sources for my image of the contemporary Pagan came from Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (1999), Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (1979, 1986, 1996, 2006), and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (1979, 1989, 1999).  The first was academic, the second journalistic, and the third rhapsodic.  As a result, my pre-formed image of Pagans was somewhat idealized.   (I once heard Margot Adler admit in an interview that the Paganism she and Starthawk described in their respective books as more of an ideal than a reality.)  I have since learned that the best way to learn about a religion is not by reading a book about it, but by going and seeing the real thing. Continue reading “Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan”

Pagan with a small “p”

Pagan-Adjacent?

I recently met someone who described himself as “Pagan-adjacent”, which I thought was an interesting self-designation.  He was a (self-described) “angry atheist” who followed atheism to its logical end and was left wanting. He intuited that there was something else–something bigger and/or deeper–but no one seemed to be writing or talking about it. Then he discovered David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, which he experienced as revolutionary.

He told me that he knows “in his bones” that “the sacred is in the soil and the wind,” but he is turned off by a lot of what he sees in the Pagan community.  By way of example, he told me about an encounter with a Pagan group where he heard one person talking about how great the divination app on her phone was.  I know what he is talking about.  What has a divination app to do with the sacred soil?

I’ve felt pretty much the same way for 15 years, for as long as I have been calling myself “Pagan” in fact.  I came to the Pagan community because I thought here was where I would find that something bigger and deeper.  But almost everywhere I look, I see the small and shallow.  Almost everywhere I look, I see Pagans reproducing the disenchantment of the mainstream culture. Continue reading “Pagan with a small “p””

5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up

Paganism is at a turning point.  It’s been 50 years since contemporary Paganism got its start.  It’s time for Paganism to grow up.

Stages of Faith

Note that I didn’t say that it’s time for Pagans to grow up.  Different people are at different point in their life’s journey.  Childhood and adolescence are important stages of development.  There are stages in a person’s religious or spiritual development as well.  And, as much as most of us would have liked to skip adolescence, it’s not possible to skip stages.  The same is true of spiritual adolescence. Continue reading “5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up”

Nothing to see here folks. Paganism is fine, really, just fine.

Paganism is not dying.  Paganism is NOT dying.  PAGANISM IS NOT DYING!

Why don’t you believe me?

People who are telling you otherwise (like He Who Shall Not Be Named at Patheos) just want attention.  Attention whores!

Believe me, Paganism is fine.  It’s just fine.  I mean, it’s okay.  Really. Continue reading “Nothing to see here folks. Paganism is fine, really, just fine.”

Eight Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day

For many contemporary Pagans, Paganism takes the form of a nature religion or earth-centered spirituality. According to Religious Studies scholar, Michael York, a nature religion is one that has “a this-worldly focus and deep reverence for the earth as something sacred and something to be cherished.” Not surprisingly then, Earth Day (April 22 this year) is a holy day for many Pagans. Here are some ways that we Pagans can celebrate Earth Day. Continue reading “Eight Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day”

The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism

This post is part 2 of a 3-part series.  In the first part, I discussed how I had come to realize the ego-centrism of my earlier view of the Pagan community.

Celebrating Nature, Working Magic, and Honoring Deities

Imagine that the Pagan community has not one, but multiple “centers”.  Imagine each of these “centers” defines Pagan identity and authenticity differently.  To begin with there is what I will call “earth-centered Paganism”.  I realize this is a problematic term, because “earth” is a cultural construct and means different things to different people, but it remains a useful category, I think.  Earth-centered Paganism would include those Paganisms concerned primarily with ecology, those more local forms of Paganism that I would call “backyard Paganism” or are sometimes called “dirt worship”, and many forms of (neo-)animism which view humans as non-privileged part of an interconnected more-than-human community of beings.  The Pagan identity of earth-centered Pagans is defined by their relationship to their natural environment.  Authenticity for these Pagans is defined by one’s ability to connect with the more-than-human world.  Of course, there are many whose spirituality might be called “earth-centered” by this definition, but who reject the label “Pagan”.  Some of the rejection of the Pagan label by those who might otherwise be called Pagan is due to the association of the label with the other two groups (with whom they do not identify). Continue reading “The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism”

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