Wrestling with Definitions: Pagansim as Connection or Reconnecting

Hello Friends and Fellow Spiritual Travelers!!

So In response to a comment I left over at Druid Journal on the first post of a series talking about Defining Paganism, writer and blogger Jeff Lilly left some kind words over on my Definitions Page!

Hey Pax! I really like these definitions, in their structure and substance, and I think they square well with what I’m driving at in my series of posts. In fact, I think you’ve covered the ground pretty exhaustively. In my posts, I’ll go into more of the linguistic theory behind word meaning and why “pagan” is such a tricky word to pin down, but I’m basically going to arrive at what you have here: a web of overlapping, interlinking archetypes. Awesome!

The thing is that those definitions ~especially the one for Paganism~ are STILL a work in progress, and I’ve been moving recently towards adding to the definition of Paganism, and I’d love some constructive or appreciative input/commentary!

So I recently heard about this new book God Is Not One, by Stephen Prothero…

There was a recent story about it on The Wild Hunt, with a follow-up article and some deeply fascinating comment stream discussions,  and a fabulous review over at Pagan Godspell.

It was Ruby Sara’s review that started me thinking about defining Paganism, again.  Especially this part….

Prothero’s unifying conceit for the eight religions explicated in the book is that each has four elements – a problem that the religion perceives, a solution to the problem, techniques for implementing the solution, and exemplars to demonstrate how to effectively go about it.  Prothero admits that this formula of “problem/solution/technique/exemplar” is simplistic, but it is fairly functional…though an excellent topic of debate would be whether all religions can be said to being with a problem – do the various Pagan religions, for instance, address problems?

Not only would I say that the Pagan religions address problems, I would like to put forth that in one way or another we strive to address the SAME problem and that that is a unifying feature of our diverse theologies and practices and group cultures!

It seems to me that the central problem that our many Paganisms address is one of Disconnection.

Disconnection from one another, disconnection between our true selves and the influence of our over-culture, disconnection from the Natural and Spiritual World(s) around us, disconnection from our Ancestors and from our Ancestral Cultures, disconnection from the Spirits and Gods present and/or manifest in the World around us…

The commonly found solution for this problem is to engage in Active Relationship.

Engaging in active and participatory and respectful and reciprocal relationships with our friends and family, engaging in the holy work of sort out our personal bull****, learning about and being conscious of the physical and spiritual World around us, finding ways to relate to or honor our Ancestral spirits and the honored and beloved dead, and learning about and begining to build relationships with the Spirits and the Gods/The Divine/The Ground of All Being.

The technique most often used to engage in Active Relationship is “Ritual”.

It is not enough to think about ones Active Relationships, at some point you actually have to start DOING something, no matter what species of Paganism you practice at some point YOU are the one who has to try addressing the Big Divine Whatyamacallit of your particular Paganism… even if it’s only on a private level in your household, and maybe you go to public rites and festival rites organized by others… but at some point in every form of Paganism to actually start being a Pagan you have got to use the language of ritual to begin and build and have most of your most important religious and spiritual relationships.  The quotation marks represent the fact that what that actual ritual is can vary widely and wildly depending upon which of the Pagan paths you practice and what subgroup of your faith you are involved in.

Our exemplars are ___________ .

There are as many exemplars as there are Pagan paths, and in somecases they have been known to crossover between Pagan faiths.

Anyhow that’s what’s been on my mind lately…



2 thoughts on “Wrestling with Definitions: Pagansim as Connection or Reconnecting

  1. I really like this focus on connection/disconnection that you’re developing here. I think in many ways this is the central problem that all religious and spiritual traditions grapple with at the very beginning of their origination and development – whether it’s early Christianity struggling with the disconnect that arises from an ethnically-defined “chosen” people bogged down by increasingly-elaborate ritual, or the early Buddhist practitioners responding to and expanding upon a tradition shaped too heavily by caste and priesthood, or the cult of Osiris speaking to the needs of the common people, and not just the god-king, for a meaningful continuation of existence after death. Any religious tradition that lasts for any length of time runs the risk of becoming stilted and suffocated by its own traditions, and its practitioners and followers begin to feel isolated and disconnected as a result…. Paganism is a response to the disconnection unique to our time and culture(s), and I think we can learn a lot about the contemporary sources of our disconnection by looking at the themes of connection that run through today’s Paganism (as well as understanding past spiritual traditions a bit better by keeping in mind that they, too, were responding to the excesses of disconnection and alienation in their own ways). The word “religion” after all is related to the Latin for “to bind” – it evokes both connection, a bond, and potentially a restriction.

    1. Pax

      Ali, fabulous observations and please look for a post/response since I started to craft a reply but it quickly morphed into more of a post/musing all its own!


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