Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham
According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.
The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.
From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”
The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?
Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?
Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870
Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml
Until next time,