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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 20,303,264  

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Reponses: 31

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Question of the Week: 65 - 11/5/2001

What ARE the most "Frequently Asked Questions' About Witches?

What ARE the most "Frequently Asked Questions' About Witches? More importantly, what are the answers? Samhain is the 'out with the old, in with the new' season and so TWV is planning to revamp the FAQ's once again.

As the Pagan communities continue to evolve, so does public perception. We already have some changes in mind: Eliminate the references to Druids and Asatru (THEY self-identify as 'reconstructionist religions' and not as earth-based or Pagan), perhaps remove the 'blood sacrifice and 'wearing black' questions and we will add a 'for more information' link to the Traditions section. NEED FOR FURTHER CLARIFICATION NOTED: We do not necessarily intend to remove any and all references to Druids or Asatru. We have, in fact, asked those who post on the Asatru board at how we can better clarify their religion and whether they even wanted to be included on the site listings. (See: Beliefnet Boards) We may provide either a separate listing for each category or include the 'some of (fill in blank) believe this and some of (fill in blank) believe this'. Thus, while Asatru (if we can up with an FAQ that meets with their general approval) will almost certainly have a separate category listing, Druids might be listed as 'some' in the Pagan category and 'some' in the 'Reconstructionist Religions' category. We are simply trying to treat all Paths, Belief Systems and Religions with equal respect. We knew that this was going to be a difficult undertaking, but are willing to try to address the issue because it is an important one.

Which questions do YOU think should stay and which ones are no longer needed? What changes would you like us to consider in the 'definitions' department? Note: Please bear in mind, that a FAQ is designed to be a very short, concise and GENERAL answer to questions that most people who are unfamiliar with Paganism might ask. We could write books (and many have or will) about the nuances contained within the various Pagans Paths, but FAQs- constructed mainly to bullet point information- are necessarily restricted to a few paragraphs on each question.

 Reponses:   There are 31 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Forgot To Add That We (recons) Usually Take 'pagan' To Mean... Oct 31st. at 5:04:11 am EST

Brannogenos (Z-Hills, Florida US) Age: 15

I forgot to add that we (recons) usually take 'pagan' to mean anything modern, earth-based, wiccan like/or derived, nothing ancient. So many things that are not ancient European religions (and the exact opposite, modern American religions) are described with that term and they're so different that we've abandoned it. So saying what we're reviving is 'pagan' is incorrect. We also don't stamp every non-Abrhamic religion 'pagan', if you ask one of us Shinto, Hinduism, native Asia, American, European, African, and Australian religions are not pagan, they are Shinto, Hindu, native Asian, American, European, African and Austrialian. They don't need to be lumped with all these new religions that have nothing to do with them other then having gotten some ideas and names from them. Thats like putting all things that breath in the same category even though they all breathe different things, different ways, for different purposes, it just looks stupid, because it has no use.

I Would Just As Soon Disentangle Asatru From Neopaganism, Not As In... Oct 31st. at 6:56:46 am EST

Manny Olds (Riverdale Park, Maryland US) Age: 0 - Email

I would just as soon disentangle Asatru from neopaganism, not as in "darken our doors no more" but as in "clearly different religions". Not all heathens agree--some maintain a lot of ties into Wicca and wiccanesque eclectic neopaganism and feel the religions are connected. And even if we do make a clean break someday, we have all the messy transition between now and then.

So I would rather have Asatru in a widely-used and sensible FAQ like the one at WitchVox, described more or less correctly and placed into context, than to have it disappear from there while it is still listed as an example of a "Pagan Trad" in many less responsible fora.

But, please, "religion". We are not just another path between common end points. We are a full, stand alone religion and subculture with our own complete set of paths and traditions. If you want to get an idea of the tone to take, imagine you are describing Hinduism or Shinto to someone who has never heard of it before.

Obligatory references:

* Call Us Heathens!,

* Similarities and Differences Between Heathenry and Wicca,

* The Pentagram and the Hammer,

In Frith,
Manny Olds

But, Please, "religion". We Are Not Just Another Path Between Common End... Oct 31st. at 8:08:34 am EST

Brannogenos (Z-Hills, Florida US) Age: 15

"But, please, "religion". We are not just another path between common end points. We are a full, stand alone religion and subculture with our own complete set of paths and traditions."

The same for Celtic Traditionalism/Reconstructionism/Senistrognata. We are a religion, not a 'path' of paganism, or a tradition of paganism. We are a religion. With its own paths and traditions.

I Also Belive That Druids Are Asatru Are As Pagan As Any... Oct 31st. at 9:31:11 pm EST

Astrid Sunwulf (Sydney, New South Wales AU) Age: 18 - Email

> I also belive that Druids are Asatru are as Pagan as any other path which we > put into this umbrella we term 'Paganism'. They celebrate the ebb and flow of > the seasonal changes, and they do teach reverence for the Earth - how much
> more Earth based can one get? Tearing precious crystals from the Earth (which > are better left where they are found - in the Earth) and dancing with them
> around your neck does not make one 'Earth based'. Druids are Asatru are aware > of the seasonal flow. They embrace and celebrate it. That, in my book, is as > Pagan as you can get.

Um, excuse me, but who are you, an outsider, to determine what we, Asatruar, are and what we should be called? You calling us something _you_ perceive us to be, is, in my books, exactly the same as Christians calling you a Satanist. You aren't (presumably) a Satanist, but that is what they see you as. You calling me a Pagan because that is what you see me as, is just like a Christian calling you a Satanist. To them you are, yet I bet you wish they wouldn't see you as such, and thus it is the same for us. We aren't Pagans, we are Heathens. For you that may be the same thing, just as for Chrisitians, Wicca is the same a Satanism, but for us, Heathenry isn't the same as Paganism. Just because we might recognise the cycles of nature doesn't automatically place us in the same catagory as you. And the only thing 'earth-based' about what I believe is that it takes place here on earth. I would honour an earth deity rather than the earth itself, I have no connection with the earth, I am not earth-based. (Yes, I do believe we should look after the environment and so on, but that is because I have to live here too, but that doesn't make me earth-based)

I and my religion are Heathen and reconstructionist, not Pagan nor Neo-Pagan, therefore, we should not be called Pagan. This F.A.Q. will be for newcomers (presumably), thus it should show the difference between Pagan and Heathen, Neo-Pagan and Reconstructionist, so from the beginning these people will know the differences, rather than going on thinking that we are all the same, and so on.

In FriŢ

Howdy, John! "the Third Question I Would Suggest Would Be, "what Are... Oct 31st. at 11:50:22 pm EST

Tyrsson (College Station, Texas US) Age: 32

Howdy, John!

"The third question I would suggest would be, "What are the principal forms of Neo-Paganism?" Here you could note the principal forms of Neo-Paganism, and (so no one gets bothered more than is inevitable) list them alphabetically (as one previous poster suggested): Asatru, Druidism, Wicca and Witchcraft. This would also be the place to note that some members of some forms of Neo-Paganism dislike being referred to as "Pagan" and prefer others terms (such as Heathen or Reconstructionist) but that you are using the term "Neo-Pagan" not out of disrespect but because you need to refer to these various religions somehow."

Unfortunately, "Neo-Paganism" is a hopeless misnomer, especially when applied to religions such as Asatru. There is simply nothing "neo" about what we are doing. Reconstruction efforts in heathenry date back over 100 years (longer depending on your emphasis). As such, we are not properly identified with the larger Neo-Pagan movement. Certainly there are points of commonality between Asatru and various Pagan religions, but there are far more points of departure.

That said, I would welcome a continuing presence on WitchVox. This forum is a starting place for many on their spiritual journeys. I think accurate information about all Pagan and Heathen religions is a real service for the spiritual seeker. Moreover, WitchVox is a potentially valuable reference for members of the media, law enforcement personel, religious leaders, etc. A complete picture of all our various religions will help in our ongoing struggle for legitimacy in society at large.

I highly recommend that a broad spectrum (within reason) of each religion be represented and that WitchVox consult many different organizations. All too often we see rather one-sided portrayals of Asatru in the media. Reporters consult the AFA or The Troth or some other group without ever learning of other groups whose views are often diametrically opposed on certain key issues. By listing these groups, with a brief explanation of their views, the WitchVox FAQ could go a long way toward a more balanced view of our religion to the outside world.

In frith,

Before You Decide What Information To Include And Exclude From Your Faq... Nov 1st. at 6:27:50 am EST

Michael (aka Thought Caster) (Savannah, Georgia US) Age: 36 - Email

Before you decide what information to include and exclude from your FAQ, ask yourselves two simple questions: 1) "WHO" does this FAQ benefit, and 2) "WHO" is the intended target audience of this section?

Obviously, this section is intended to benefit those of us who find ourselves at the doorstep of this site. New comers to Paganism, or those considering the Pagan Ways, will find this a great starting point. At the same time, you admonish readers to "Feel free to use a copy of this page (with credits) for your local awareness campaigns." This suggests this section is meant, albeit indirectly, for the general public as well as Pagan practitioners of this site.

To that end, deleting questions concerning "blood sacrifice" and "wearing black" would be a mistake, as those questions speak to public bias and misconceptions regarding Paganism. If I were a reporter, or perhaps someone disenfranchised by organized religion seeking an alternative Path, your FAQ section would be one of my first stops in your site. If I didn't find relevant answers to everyday questions regarding Paganism (to ease my mind and settle these issues), I probably wouldn't be inclined to pursue my search further É in YOUR site.

As far as "equal time for equal Traditions" goes, I don't believe your FAQ section would prove to be the definitive source for these inquiries. Barnes and Noble Booksellers, and the myriad of Pagan-related Web sites on the Net would provide those answers -- in greater detail -- than any FAQ section you could develop. Once again, this speaks to the intended target audience issue. I wouldn't discount those particular Traditions as they ARE legitimate, but one must maximize limited space and resources and speak to issues that will affect "the many."

What questions should you add or delete? I believe your WREN'S NEST section provides the answers to this question. As this section addresses current events and current concerns of the general public, and as these issues are already out in public circulation (and making impressions on those who would either judge or pursue our Pagan Ways), why not use this as a starting point? We might argue that equal attention to Druidism is critically important, but if 80% of the CURRENT news releases are propagating myths involving Satanic Rites, blood sacrifice, child molestation, ritualistic murder and Black Magick, then those are the issues that should be dealt with in detail. When is the last time you read an editorial in your local newspaper discussing too much press for Wiccans, and not enough press for the alternative Pagan Ways?

You're doing a great job with this site, and we in Savannah, Georgia encourage you to keep up the good work. Blessed Be, and travel safely in your Circles.

Being One Of Those Aformentioned Beliefnet Reconstructionists, And Also A Frequent Wren's... Nov 1st. at 11:32:17 am EST

Dustin Crewell/Arcadian Stormcrow (Woburn, Massachusetts US) Age: 26 - Email

Being one of those aformentioned beliefnet reconstructionists, and also a frequent Wren's Nest reader, I might as well toss in my thoughts.

I think that a major problem is that there are differing ideas of what "Pagan" means, and that, in an attempt to clarify that vague and fuzzy concept, multiple lines are getting drawn in the sand.

Origins of words aside (such as Tony's comments on Pagan vs. Heathen), a goodly amount of friction comes from people making them assumption that Pagan = neo-Pagan = Wiccan. Academically, "Pagan" is a drastically wide category (see the alt.pagan FAQ for a good breakdown on this) - and, using *that* definition, the Heathens and Reconstructionists do, to some extent, fall into that area. Unfortunately, that academic usage appears to be getting much more rare, with people simply using "Pagan" as a shortened version of "neo-Pagan." When they use the term in that manner, and then make generalized comments based on that usage, people get marginalized, and we get some of the more vicious flame-wars.

The vast majority of news and public exposure out there tends to make this mistake, either due to poor reporting, or people unwilling or unable to articulate the varying shades within the umbrella of Paganism. As such, we get presented as a sort of amorphous, homogenous whole, to both the public and to "newbies." However, we know that this simply isn't right, that there are sometimes drastic differences, and that many of us celebrate exactly that diversity. This schism is partly because we are attempting to preserve our identity without our voices being lost.

As such, I'd actually think that mentioning that diversity would be a good thing. If we can manage to preserve the distinctiveness between groups, then I think that some of the furor would die down, as, in my opinion, most of it comes from a perceieved threat to our identity. The Witches Voice has a tremendous ability to shape the community given how many people use it as a source of information. I think that, if the FAQ reflects the diverse nature of Paganism (in general, not just neo-Paganism), that the rest of the community will clue up about it. That way, the smaller groups won't feel quite so much like they're about to get stepped on.

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