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Neo-Pagan: Combining the Past and the Present

Author: MoonFire Anera
Posted: February 8th. 2009
Times Viewed: 4,627

Let’s consider this for a few minutes. There are many in the large and assorted pagan community who shun the “neo-pagan” path as the shallow, under-developed side of Wicca and various other pagan religions. Some even call it “Wicca Lite”! But what does the term actually mean?

I was under the impression that “neo-pagan” wasn’t a term coined by the neo-pagans themselves but that it was coined by “older” or “more traditional” witches or pagans. Why the reason? Well, those particular persons probably wanted a definite difference in labels. “They’re not a pagan, they’re a neo-pagan.” To be truthful, is there really such a huge difference? “Neo” just means “new.” As old as paganism is (and, if you differentiate it from “shamanism”, which is the oldest religion) , it’s been around just as long as humanity has, perhaps longer.

Paganism has only been “defined” (as being non-Christian) since the time of the Roman Empire. And Wicca, though it has its roots and many of its practices from deep, old religions, has only been as widespread and well known as it is for the past fifty years. So is it wrong to call much of Wicca “neo-pagan”? Why not?

Comparatively, Wicca is very young. Not only that, but many Wiccans don’t practice it the way its old champion (Gardner) did; what are these practices but new? What about the incorporation of many pantheons from far-off cultures, the practices of other, magic-based religions, such as Santeria and Voudon? When you make something for yourself, isn’t that “neo” by itself?

Indeed, isn’t the whole point of Wicca to worship and celebrate as you see fit? That’s also the general spirit of the pagan community, or at least I have seen it to be so. We never (or at least, try not to) judge at first glance; we judge when people explain something from their own point of view. My point of view is that there are many new beliefs that are “neo-pagan.” How can you judge such a concept when it means something different to everyone? And people base their perceptions either on their own experiences or on those of others.

There isn’t any real problem with it. The ‘perceived’ problem is how these new Wiccans, or new pagans, have an attitude that is deemed, by many, to be inappropriate. Most of the time, these people are just excited. A lot of them are teenagers, like myself, and not a whole lot of those have been raised into paganism.

Teenagers get excited about everything. As a teenager, you make up your mind, explore what that actually means, and then maybe change your mind. When you’re an adult, you may go in another direction completely, whether it’s because what you did before was “immature” or because your opinions or beliefs have simply changed. It happens, and it’s a part of discovering yourself, because you’re discovering the world like that.

Neo-paganism itself isn’t a bad thing, and a lot of older Wiccans, no matter how new to the Craft they are or not, dislike the zeal and fervor, of course bordering on fanaticism, of younger generations.

A lot of that attitude is just the need to share. People, teenagers especially, can be a little insecure about something new they’re trying, or at least don’t want to do it alone. They want to know that they’re “doing it right” or at least have someone to talk about the topic with. It doesn’t matter what the thing is, it could be writing a story or learning math. It’s just the same thing with religion. Another part of the attitude is the need to show off. We all know our strengths, and teenagers like to share them.

Some people who help others (as a tutor, for example) want to show off, at least a little, so they find a proper outlet for it. It’s hard for a teenager to “show off” their magical know-how, however much know-how there is, with older, more experienced people around. Naturally, they try to convert everyone. This way, they have someone to talk to and someone to be just a little bit above. It’s something most teenagers grow out of, but I bet you had something you were like that about when you were a teenager. Go ahead; think about it.

Now, what are you proud of?

I’m personally proud of my writing skills (which are superb for being a junior in high school, especially in my area) , my minor drawing skills (which aren’t the best, but are at least pleasing to the eyes) , and my stubbornness (which has gotten me through quite a lot of problems) . What are you proud of? You’re going to be proud of something.

If you’re a parent, aren’t you proud of your kids? What do your kids do? I have a sister who could read music at the age of seven. My mother keeps pushing her to play more instruments, do more stuff. She’s in a performing arts school, and she wants to either get into Berkeley or Juilliard. You push your child’s abilities, don’t you? I know that for my age, I live in a very involved family.

My parents, too, are a bit out of the way for pagans – they identify with the term “Elementalist”, and they don’t do rituals because “they’re more work than they’re worth.” We celebrated Yule last year – we each opened 2 presents. My parents are teaching the rest of us (who live in the house) the basics of magic, and, of course, my mother is keeping tight tabs on all of us (who are teenagers, anyways) .

Just because someone’s a teenager or just because someone’s new doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. It doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing, and it doesn’t mean that their input isn’t valid or valuable. Just like so many people have been critical of solitaries because they don’t “have a group” or someone else to say, “yes, that’s right” or “no, we should do it this way”, people have been equally critical of “neo-pagan.”

Maybe you don’t identify with “pagan” because that makes you think of old things and the Roman Empire, or maybe you do because it makes you feel close to the past.

Maybe you don’t identify with “Witch” because it makes you think of Burning Times, or maybe you do because it makes you think of fairies (which you may or may not believe in) .

Maybe you don’t identify with “Wiccan” because it sounds like a cult, or maybe you do because it makes you feel like you know what you’re about and you connect with it that way.

Maybe you identify with “neo-pagan” because it sounds individual, or you don’t because it sounds elitist.

Either way, isn’t the term “neo-pagan” just as valid?


MoonFire Anera

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