A while ago Teo Bishop wrote this post about what kind of pagan he is.
It’s a very powerful piece, and I recommend that you take the time to read it.
Really, read it.
First, I’d like to note that in many ways, I am not the same kind of Pagan Teo is.
I’d also like to note that in many ways, I am.
But what gets me is the unspoken question: “Why do you have to elaborate on what kind of Pagan you are?”
The obvious answer is that someone has questioned him about his Paganism. I know it’s happened to me, and it has probably happened to many of you. I’ve been accused of being a closet Christian, of being a bad Pagan for not following the Wiccan Rede, of being a Black Magician, and even of being a pretender because men can’t do magic. That, and when you consider that Paganism isn’t really a readily definable thing, it doesn’t seem that unusual that many Pagans feel they have to describe, define, or even defend what it is that they do.
I’m honestly not sure that Teo is really describing who he is as a Pagan. I think he’s describing who he is as a person.
And perhaps that’s why we have such a hard time describing or defining Paganism. Because we all consider it to be the thing that we do.
And Paganism tends to be negatively defined. As in, it is defined by what it isn’t. And when we start defining it by what it is, people feel left out. (Nature Religion!! Goddess Worship!! Social Justice!!)
I know this is kinda rambly, so let me get where I’m going.
I think that Paganism itself is an identity crisis.
I think that defining as Pagan implies a desire to be fluid and free of certain restrictions and definitions, and simply go our own way.
This can cause problems, because we don’t like to be alone, and so we seek others going the same way as we are. And this can lead to groups that establish new restrictions and definitions. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because we are free to associate with whomever we wish, and a lot of people do want and need those definitions — they just want to be free to pick their own.
But I think that ultimately, the path of Paganism is one of self-discovery and self-invention. And that can be very hard, but it can also be very worth it.