So I was making my semi-regular reading exploration on WitchVox, when I came across this article. Me being the critic that I am, I wanted to make a couple of comments on some of it’s content; less because I have a problem with the article itself (on the contrary, it’s fine), but because – to me – some of the points made in this article exemplify some of my problems within the NeoPagan community.
“Not too long ago, a close friend asked me, “So what do you want for…. What do you call Christmas?”… It’s not as though we have a hard and fast, universally pagan-accepted divinity to attach it to… Many of us, though, still say “Christmas”. Is it cultural bias, momentum, commonality for the sake of communication, or simple political-correctness?”
Or, it’s an acknowledgement that the Christian holiday of Christmas (hey, look, I said it in it’s entirety and didn’t spontaneously combust! See, it can be done!) occurs on December 25th. In her initial anecdote, by all means, tell the friend the name of the holiday relevant to whatever tradition you practice; Saturnalia, Yule, whatever. But in her expanded idea of using the term Christmas, the point is completely moot: I refer to my holiday (i.e. the NeoPagan one) as Yule/the Winter Solstice/Alban Eiler. To me, these holidays, each ascribed to a different religion, happen to occur at the same time (usually).
But perhaps the bigger problem here is the fact that a lot of NeoPagans apparently feel this overwhelming urge to continually point out that ‘Christmas is just a stolen/appropriated use of old pagan celebrations’. I’ll admit, I’m not above pulling the old ‘Jesus-is-a-cheap-imitation-of-Mithras’ argument out if I’m being severely irritated by a fundamentalist Christian. But on the whole? It’s the simple fact that virtually all religious mythos are re-tellings and re-interpretations of other religions. Sure, it’s annoying that Christianity took pagan mythology, used it indiscriminately, and then turned around and denigrated paganism as an entirely ‘incorrect’. However, again, this is the nature of the beast (humanity); each ‘successive’ mythos/ideology/culture basically steals the ideas of it’s predecessor, and then identifies it’s re-telling as the superior/’right’ one.
So. I don’t say “Christmas” because I’m being politically correct, I say it when I am referring to the Christian ‘holy’ day occurring on the 25th of December. And, at the same time, I don’t unnecessarily enter into arguments about ‘whose’ holiday it really is, because I don’t see the point. It comes back to the same old point; those people who will listen would prefer to have the topic approached in a mature, discoursive manner (not “your religion is a rip-off of my religion!!!”), and those who won’t listen… well, there’s no point arguing with people like that.
Onto the second point; why do I perpetually feel that hard-polytheists are a significant minority in the NeoPagan community? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against soft-polytheism (though I do if you identify yourself as a Celtic Reconstructionist/Kemetic Reconstructionist/etc, and still refuse to acknowledge that the archaic pagan view was not one of ‘archetypes’). I just think it’s kind of weird that people self-identify as polytheists, but, when it comes down to it, a lot of these people don’t actualy believe in any Gods.
“…how does one choose and isolate a single path? Do I choose Wicca or Romany? Should I choose Egyptian Deities, Assyrian Entities, or East-Asian Archetypes?”
(Let’s not even go into the fact that the author just identified a racial/cultural group [the Romany] as a religion).
This is the other part of this weird non-belief that seems to increasingly characterise non-mainstream religion; that so many people CHOOSE what they ‘believe’. Last time I checked, belief is generally inherent. It may be latent, it’s manifestation may be altered through knowledge, new experience, etc., but the belief has always existed, in some form. This is a pretty contentious stance, but one I maintain. I freely admit that I’m suspicious of people who suddenly ‘convert’ from absolute ‘belief’ in monotheism (or atheism, or anything, really) to an equally adamant ‘belief’ in something else.
Maybe it’s just my perspective, having always possessed an inherent belief (or, rather, knowledge) in polytheistic deities, but it always seems a bit strange that people use the term ‘belief’ for something that they can change at a whim. I’m not saying it’s not possible to have some kind of epiphany and realise that you weren’t really sure, but this sudden decision to ‘believe’ something else? I’m just skeptical. Well, I’m skeptical in general, but I’m particularly skeptical about this.
Thoughts? Hope this wasn’t a ranty diatribe, I’m tired and at work. Nothing like the retail industry to bring out the negativity and irritation. 😛