Neo-Paganism: Is It An Oxymoron?
Article ID: 12786
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Crick [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 18th. 2009
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I'm not quite sure that I understand the Neo Pagan movement as such or what it is supposed to represent. For one thing I feel that the term Neo Pagan is in all reality an oxymoron. The reason for these thoughts is that paganism has been around in one form or another since the beginning of time and has continued to exist on into present times. Regardless of when one began upon the path of paganism, whether it was five thousand years ago or yesterday, everyone is initially new to the path.
But the practice of paganism itself has always been with us.
It is not a Neo belief system. Granted there was a deliberate attempt over a period of two thousand years to suppress and eliminate pagan practices, but such an attempt, which is still ongoing, was and still is only partially successful. And for the most part it was amongst those of European descent that such an attack on pagan beliefs has had the most success.
There are many folks from Africa, South America and even in the western civilizations that continued to engage their pagan beliefs and practices in spite of the religious terrorism that has spread so rapidly around the world.
The Native American people are a prime example of such enduring folks. They suffered greatly at the hands of invading religious fanatics but still managed to retain and continue to practice their pagan based beliefs. They have my deepest respect for displaying such fortitude in the face of such over-whelming attempts at suppression by those of the so-called organized religions.
The term, Neo Paganism is somewhat confusing in that as a description it fails to recognize those who have embraced their pagan based beliefs in spite of the onslaught of persecution.
Those of the Voudon, Santeria, Bushmen, Yoruba, Macumba and so forth have never allowed themselves to be diverted from their core beliefs. And they continue to practice their particular forms of paganism as they have for eons. They could hardly be considered Neo pagans. And so does this mean that they don’t count as pagans?
And so what is the goal of Neo Paganism? Is it to create two separate classes of pagans, consisting of those who have always been, such as those mentioned above, in one group and those who were formerly members of what is known as the organized religions, but now call themselves pagan, in yet another group?
One should hope not, for that would be an act of arrogance and an attempt at elitism and considering how much egotism is evident amongst members of the Neo Pagan movement, one would think that such an attempt would be self defeating from the start. As it is, such divisions don’t seem to be an issue amongst those who are simply pagan.
And what a terrible loss it would be to ignore the practices and teachings of those who have quietly followed their pagan based beliefs for so many centuries. If this were to become the case then Neo Pagans will have accomplished what the suppressors have been attempting to do, since their own inception as a religious belief, and that is wiping out the beliefs and practices of true paganism. By analogy, Neo pagans would be re-inventing the wheel in favor of tried and true methods and practices.
Prior to the advent of the so-called organized religions, everyone in the world was essentially a pagan. And so what does the term Neo Pagan represent?
Could it be that such a misleading description represents a social function?
I ask this because many of those who call themselves Neo Pagans put very little effort into developing their innate abilities. Very few seek out and try to understand the Great mysteries of life, which is an inherent pursuit of pagan religious/spiritual practices. Some of course will read a couple of 101 books and feel as if they have accomplished something of great import.
But in all reality, few who call themselves Neo Pagan will actually make paganism a core function of their lives. For many it is the social interaction and acceptance that they cannot find in other aspects of society that they adhere to.
And yet this is yet another example of hypocrisy inherent in neo paganism, for paganism is supposed to be about individualism. However if this were the reality of Neo Paganism there would be considerably less posturing and a majority of those 30 something’s who constantly insist to others of their ilk that they are true masters of the Craft would fall silent. For such claims are absurd considering that these folks are fairly new to paganism themselves.
True paganism is about a lifestyle, which incorporates nature-based beliefs as an integral part of that lifestyle.
As it is, folks today are far more interested in the myriad creature comforts that our species thrives off of to be too bothered with living their lives as one with nature. And yet these are the same folks that Neo Paganism for the most part, consists of. And thus the observation that perhaps Neo Paganism is more about social acceptance then any actual pagan lifestyle is not too far fetched within the realm of possibilities.
Perhaps then this is the difference between Neo Paganism and just being simply an “old school” pagan.
It would appear that yet another difference between Neo pagans and those who simply are pagan is the amount of energy wasted by the former as compared to the latter.
Neo pagans tend to spend a great deal of energy trying to convince others of their self-importance. A great deal of energy is also wasted by this very same group through disputing these me, me, me topics. And so a seesaw effect takes place and thus little if any real value is realized.
Neo Pagans even have their own lexicon when it comes to such situations.
The seesaw tiffs, which are so common amongst Neo Pagans, are inappropriately called “Witch Wars”. One can just envision legions of witches battling each other as lightning bolts go flashing across the sky, or “not“. If you are one who is simply an “old school” pagan you probably just shake your head at such a waste of foolish energy and go about your life quietly, observing the laws of nature and living as one with those laws.
Those Neo Pagans who thrive on contentious situations are called “Trolls”. And those Neo Pagans who ask questions, those others new to paganism see as not worthy of answer due to their own inflated self-images, are called “Fluffy Bunnies”.
One thing sure about Neo Paganism, there is no lack of descriptive sarcasm towards others, who like themselves are new to paganism. What I wonder, creates such insecurities within people who are new to an ancient belief system such as paganism?
Many neo pagans frequently claim that their path is about individualism, and yet as soon as someone expresses an individual opinion that is not “politically correct”, the wolf pack begins the attack.
Should neo paganism be seen as a hypocritical term?
The last observation I would like to make is the overwhelming need to be recognized by a Christian dominated government as being a legitimate belief system.
Some Neo pagan associated groups such as the Wiccan’s expend a great deal of time and effort towards this superfluous quest.
I personally believe that empowerment of any religious/spiritual belief, is found within ones individual spiritual quest and personal beliefs and not through man-made laws.
The Christian religion has stated publicly for eons that they are the only “true” religion in the world and yet there are over 400 documented religions/spiritual paths on record. Does this make the Christian claim legitimate just because they say so? Those who are simply pagan don’t’ bother to waste their time and energy with such concerns. Those who are of the established pagan paths that have always been, simply stay true to their beliefs and practices. Why can’t those who call themselves Neo Pagan, simply follow suit?
Why is it that there has to be a separatist term such as “Neo Pagan” to begin with?
Paganism has never gone away, only some of the folks who once were pagan, went away.
Now that these folks are returning does not mean that paganism is returning, it has always been here for those who sought it out.
And if I may reiterate, at some point everyone who embraces paganism is new at some point. Would the Sumerians tolerate the term “Neo Pagan” just because an older civilization practiced paganism before them? The term “Neo Paganism” simply serves as a way to draw attention to oneself. There are no real benefits as far as the actual tenets of paganism goes.
This is not to say that there are no Neo Pagans who don’t put in the years of study and who don’t incorporate true pagan concepts into their daily lives. There are in fact such folks; it’s just that they are in the minority of the so-called Neo pagan movement.
If folks choose to be pagan, that is fine, for it is a personal decision related to ones spiritual pursuits.
But perhaps when making such a decision, one should devote their time to the actual tenets of paganism. Such as developing ones inherent abilities and seeking true spiritual growth from within. Seeking validation through others is not one of the tenets pertaining to paganism. Such a concept is a Neo addition to paganism. So are creating facades such as being a pseudo master. Within old school paganism, the members of each particular path know very well those who could be considered masters. This knowledge is based upon the years of devotion and study such folks have devoted themselves to. Unlike in neo paganism, such credentials are not based upon claims by self-absorbed egotists.
Every gathering is the sum of its members, and if one were to subscribe to such an adage the term Neo pagan would not be one that I personally would want to be associated with. Simply being pagan is enough, for individuals have nothing to prove to anyone else but himself or herself…
Location: Manheim, Pennsylvania
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