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)”

The Foundations of Modern Paganism, Part 1: Was Gerald Gardner a Jungian?

Jason Mankey and I are both amateur Pagan history nerds.  One thing we often disagree about is the importance of Gerald Gardner in the history of contemporary Paganism.  In a recent post entitled, “Magick & Deity are Two of the Foundations of Modern Paganism“, Jason Mankey argues that “almost all early Modern Paganisms contained two rather noticeable traits: belief in magick and/or deity.”  I would agree, with this caveat: that the term “deity” is undefined.  If you’re going to claim that a belief in deity is one of the foundations of modern Paganism, then it’s important to be clear what you mean by “deity”. Continue reading “The Foundations of Modern Paganism, Part 1: Was Gerald Gardner a Jungian?”

How Wonder Woman Both Perpetuates and Challenges Christian Dualism

I went to see Wonder Woman last night … for the second time.  It’s not what I would call a “great movie”, but it is great fun.  (And I have a bit of a crush on Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.)  If you want to a read a good review of the film from a Pagan perspective, check out Heather Greene’s article at The Wild Hunt, “Of gods and love: a discussion of DC’s new film Wonder Woman.”

Christian Revisionism in Wonder Woman

I have very few criticisms of the film, but one thing that jumped out at me was the characterization of the villain, Ares, the god of war.  Ares’ backstory comes near the beginning of the film.  We are told that Zeus created mankind righteous and good. But Ares, the God of War, grew envious of his father’s new creation and “poisoned their hearts with jealousy and suspicion,” encouraging them to war. That’s when Zeus created the Amazon women to influence men’s hearts with love and restore peace on earth. It worked, but only for a time, and Ares waged a war against the gods, killing them one by one, until Zeus used the last of his power to defeat Ares.

This might not be obvious to someone who is still steeped in a Christian paradigm, but to a Pagan like me, this is obviously a Christianization of Greek myth, with Zeus taking the role of the Christian God and Ares taking the role of Satan — making Wonder Woman a female Jesus.  Similar Christian revisionism can be seen in the movie Clash of the Titans and the animated movie Hercules, in which Zeus and Hades (god of the underworld) take on parallel roles. Continue reading “How Wonder Woman Both Perpetuates and Challenges Christian Dualism”

What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy

American Gods is a novel by Neil Gaiman, which has now been made into a (really good) TV series on Starz.  The premise of American Gods is that the people who came to the American continent–including conquerors, slaves, and immigrants–brought with them their gods … literally.  The gods now walk around disguised as human beings.  But the old gods have weakened as belief in them disappeared, and they now battle with new gods, gods of the internet and credit cards and super highways. Continue reading “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy”

Literal Minded Atheism

Yeah, we do it too.

Yesterday, I posted an essay about literal-minded polytheism.  It’s likely to upset some polytheists (especially those who don’t read beyond the title), because they will read it as an attack on their belief.  Actually, what I had intended in the article was to bracket the question of whether or not the gods are “real” and talk about the criteria we use to call something “real.”  My thesis was that some polytheists (not all, by any means) have a very “disenchanted” way of talking about reality.  By “disenchanted,” I mean they define what is real in terms of it’s level of disconnection from everything else.

But of course, the same could–and should–be said about many atheists as well.  Disenchanted discourse is not limited to theists.  In the same way that theists insist that their gods are “really, really real,” atheists insist that the gods are “really, really not real.”  And what both sides seem to have in mind is a very objective–and hence, disenchanted–definition of reality.  The assumption that both theists and atheists make in these arguments is that objective reality–reality in which the observer is separated from the observed–is somehow more real than subjective reality.

Continue reading “Literal Minded Atheism”

Literal Gods Are for the Literal Minded: Re-Enchanting the Gods

“Really, really real”

Here and there in the tiny echo chamber that is the Pagan blog-o-sphere, I am once again hearing repeated the false dichotomy of archetypes vs. “real gods.”  As in, “My gods aren’t just archetypes. They are real…literal, distinct, independent gods.”

With the recent premiere of the series American Gods (which is awesome, by the way), I anticipate we’re going to be hearing a lot more talk like this–especially considering the influence the publication of the book American Gods had on the growth of Pagan polytheism.

Continue reading “Literal Gods Are for the Literal Minded: Re-Enchanting the Gods”

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