Making Fauna Pagans
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Article ID: 8963
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,709
Times Read: 23,701
Author: Isaac Bonewits [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 23rd. 2005
Times Viewed: 23,701
Many people in the Neopagan movements use an interesting metaphor (or “clever” putdown) to describe people who are newer to Wicca and Paganism than they are, or who seem to have more sensitive ethical constraints on their magical (or even mundane) behavior than their critics claim to have. These critics call their targets, “Fluffy Bunny Pagans.”
Sometimes the term used is “Bambi™ and Barbie™-Goddess Pagans, ” implying a sickeningly sweet attitude about life in general and the Craft in particular. If someone’s image of the Horned God is Bambi™ and of the Goddess is Barbie™, others could reasonably assume that person is naive and shallow. Of course, I know several Pagans who are proud owners of the (very expensive) Sun Goddess Barbie™ and Moon Priestess Barbie™ dolls…
Inhabitants of the Buffyverse know the overly enthusiastic, naive, and yet often dogmatic “newbie” Wiccans as “Blessed Wanna-Bes” and often declare that the character of Willow is a good example of what a Witch is supposed to be—although I’ve never met a Wiccan or any other kind of witch who could pull off the sorts of spells that Willow did on a regular basis.
Oddly enough, and hard as this may be to believe, all of the people who use such nasty terms were new to Paganism themselves once upon a time. Of course, many Wiccans and other Pagans do get their knowledge about their religious path from just one or two books published by a really big Pagan publisher, not knowing that these are often heavily censored (so as to not freak the mundanes), watered down (so as not to strain the brains of the readers too much), and/or filled with obvious mistakes (so as to save money in the production process). Such “one-book wonders” can be very annoying to the “ten-book wonders” who think they know all there is to know about Paganism.
And yet, and yet… as someone who’s read hundreds of books on Paganism and written a few of them, I have to admit that I’ve met some really annoying Fluffy Bunny Pagans myself—such as the ones who’ve just read a Wicca 101 book and are now going around telling everyone they meet on line what “real” Witchcraft is all about. Or the ones who’ve read a couple of books that have (shallowly) discussed the ethics of magic, so now they think doing magic for any other purpose than feeling good about themselves is “Evil Black Magick!™”
But Fluffy Bunnies are not the most annoying critters in the Pagan woods—many others are just as bad or worse, like the Stinking Badgers who sneer at the Fluffy Bunnies and insist that “Only Pagans who are in touch with the Dark Side (of the Force?) really know what’s going on.” Then there are the Slippery Eels who have learned a reasonable amount about Paganism and use their knowledge mostly to manipulate others and to improve the lies that get them money, sex, and/or prestige.
The Bunnies, the Badgers, and other Pagan Critters can best be understood by the use of value spectrums. These are graphic ways of showing pairs of opposites without slipping into dualism. Consider, for example, a common dualist way of depicting the difference between Left and Right:
Dualistic thinking saturates Western culture to such an extent that most westerners (especially Americans) have trouble thinking of any complex topic without slipping into Black/White, Evil/Good, Left/Right extremes. Unfortunately, reality is seldom that neat and clear. So let’s try looking at the Left-Right distinction using a value spectrum instead:
Clearly the value spectrum gives us a more accurate image of how real people might place themselves within the Left-Right polarity, with the vast majority being some mixture of the two extremes.
So let’s try using value spectrums to help us make some Pagan fauna (or vice versa). Imagine four of them, measuring varying amounts of experience, honesty, trust, and knowledge that a person might have, intersecting in four dimensions like this:
Let’s look at the various critters quickly:
- Fuzzy Sheep—blinking-eyed, open-mouthed, newbies with no experience in Paganism at all.
- Furry Coyotes—winking-eyed, howling-mouthed, tricksters who have seen (and done) it all.
- Sly Foxes—bright and clever folks who know enough to be dangerous.
- Wise Owls— thoughtful and temperate ones who value wisdom over knowledge.
- Golden Geckos—paragons of virtue, always ready to tell others what to do and how to do it.
- Slippery Eels—folks who’ve learned a lot of different ways to bamboozle others.
- Fluffy Bunnies—naive newcomers who think sheer niceness is all they need to be Pagans.
- Stinking Badgers—cynical contrarians who use their knowledge and experience as weapons.
- Tenacious Turtles—thick-shelled, steady learners who just keep moving forward on their paths.
I have to admit to having a soft spot in my heart for Fluffy Bunnies (they can be delicious under the right circumstances). Where am I on this multidimensional map? I think I started out halfway between being a Fuzzy Sheep and a Sly Fox, way back when. My forty years of Pagan experience have taken me from there, through Tenacious Turtlehood, towards the halfway point between being a Wise Owl and a Furry Coyote.
So if we’re going to use animal metaphors for other Pagans, let’s add a few new ones to the menagerie, so we can be equal opportunity offenders—but remember, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badgers!”
Copyright: © 2005 Isaac Bonewits. A shorter version of this was originally published at GaiaOnline.com. Various items such as tshirts, mousepads, lunch boxes, etc., with the Pagan Fauna Chart can be found at the author’s online shop at cafepress.com.
Location: Ashland, Oregon
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