Jokes: Taking The Pagan Faith Seriously
We’ve all heard the phrase, “An It Harm None, Do What Thou Will.”
We’ve all heard the statements about how “no one has a monopoly on truth.”
Or the phrase that really ruffles my feathers: “If it’s what you believe, then it’s true for you.”
I feel like these three statements cannot live in harmony with one another. “An it harm none, do what thou will.” Okay, but how do we define harm? Do we mean physical harm or spiritual harm or both? On spiritual harm, if you speak to a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, or anyone else, harm is probably going to be defined differently. If that becomes the case, then which one is truth? And this argument might seem shady, but just because I might believe that one plus one equal three, doesn’t make it any less two.
Maybe no one has a monopoly on truth, but I’m will to take it to the next level and say that no one has the complete truth. And if no one had the complete truth, then there needs to be conversations about what “truth” means to each of us so we can expand our definitions.
The outside world thinks we’re a joke. They hear that we call ourselves “pagan” or a “witch” or some other term, and people not in the know are automatically going to think about mainstream media, which has, historically, not been kind to us. People will think about Charmed, Harry Potter, The Craft, or some other TV show or movie that deals with “witches” or “pagans.” And that’s if we’re lucky. Some may have heard about paganism through movies like Popculture Paganism: Neovampirism, Wicca and The Occult which are created by Christian propagandists as a scare tactic of a people against us.
I’ve been a studying pagan since I was 16, and I’ve considered myself a Kemetic since 18. My parents believed my faith was a phase, but I think, at this point 12 years later, they realize that my faith is strong and not changing. And in that time, I have made a few observations.
1) The Pagan Community isn’t talking
I think there’s a few reasons why this is the case. We, generally, do no believe in proselytizing, but I often wonder if many of us have the definition mixed up with communication. It’s okay to explain to people and engage people in conversation about what your truth means. If you fully and completely believe in your truth, then you should be able to communicate that truth to others.
I by no means believe that you should go out on a street corner and preach to the masses (unless you really feel the need to, then sure), but if someone confronts you with their truth, then you should be able to explain, calmly, what your truth is. I’m finding more and more people saying, “Whatever path you’re is cool, but it’s not my path.” And that’s fine, but when someone is trying to get you on their path with their truth, then we need to be able to explain what our truth is. It tells that other person that we’re grounded in our belief, that we aren’t hiding from it, and that we aren’t the scary, devil worshipers they think we are.
2) The Pagan Community’s dogmas appear jumbled and confusing
“What do you believe?”
“Oh, I’m a Pagan.”
Saying that you’re a Pagan isn’t any more defining than saying you’re a Christian. Christians have a wide range of beliefs from taking the Bible literally to Jesus isn’t the son of God (for example, I sometimes attend Jubilee Community Church when Erin and I go to Asheville for a weekend. They have a church in Columbia, SC, as well, now. They read from the Bible. Every. Service. But they also call corners at the start of every service. The minister is Asheville was methodist, and the church in Columbia is associated with the United Church of Christ. Both follow the teachings of Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality. He was Catholic. They’re both Christian even though they have some “pagan elements.”)
There, honestly, isn’t a set dogma in the Pagan community. You can’t even say that we’re “earth centered” anymore. Not everyone “calls corners.” Not everyone believes in multiple gods and goddesses. There isn’t a specific pantheon. There isn’t necessarily a name for a Goddess or God. Some have a central authority figure, some are in small covens with a Priest or Priestess, some have no place to go and like it that way.
When going to a mainstream bookstore, the Pagan religious books are listed as “New Age,” which makes people believe that our beliefs are new and therefore not valid or “true.” They often times cover very similar topics, explaining very little about the why but explaining the how over and over again.
We, as Pagans, generally do not have a centralized religious text with which to refer to. When someone asks us, “Well, why is the south represented by fire? Why is east or north called first??” We have to be able to explain our answers because we can’t say, “That’s what X-Book says.”
Which brings me to my third point, the one that really gets to me.
3) Some, not all, Pagans believe blindly.
I have, over the years, come across many different pagans who have no idea why they believe what they believe other than that’s what said-author wrote in said-book. They know Athena is the goddess of wisdom, but not any of Her myths, or Her family. They might worship Isis, but know nothing about Aset or how there’s debate on if Isis and Aset are the same deity, since Isis wasn’t around until the Romans got involved. I’ve read books advocating for using the names of Gods and Goddesses in spell work without having any background information about any of them other than the basic “God/dess of _______.”
And while I don’t personally believe that the Gods will answer prayers for people who don’t have an actual relationship with them (because who wants to help someone who does nothing but take, take, take?), I don’t have problems with people praying to different Gods or Goddesses as long they know who they are praying to enough to explain it to someone who asks.
Now, people may say, “Well, a lot of Christians believe blindly and can’t back up what they say with Bible references or anything.” And I respond to that by saying that that’s not okay either.
You need to know, and if you don’t know, you need to find out. If you don’t want to find out, then there’s a problem.
Everyone starts somewhere, and I’m not talking to those people. I’m talking to those that start there and never move forward. I’m talking about the people that can explain the how but not the why. If we don’t know the why then I’m not sure we’ll be able to be taken seriously. Ever.