The word 'pagan' used as an umbrella term to include Wicca, Witchcraft, and other earth-based or goddess-centered traditions--as well as Asatru, Kemetic religions, and other Reconstructionist faiths is a heated point of contention in the Beliefnet community. On this issue we defer to the wisdom of our users, and ultimately agree in spirit with this rhetorical question: "Would B-net really be as entertaining if no one ever argued?"

To join one of the many conversations that have emerged on the topic, click on the name following the member's quote.

"I'm not a hippy"

"'Pagan' is usually associated with Wicca these days. Wicca (current popular Wicca, at least) is further away from my religion that Christianity, to be blunt.... and the perception of Wicca foisted on the general public (by groups of Wiccans) is of an ancient God/Goddess worshipping hippy sect.... I don't worship a god and goddess, I'm not a hippy, I'm not a political subversive, and I'm not part of any counter-cultural movement. I refuse to be associated with such because some people think we're all 'branches of the same tree.' We're not. We're not even the same *kind* of tree. #%@!, we're not even in the same forest, most of the time."

"Well, Eric, I'm not a 'hippy' either, I'm not a political subversive (my co-priestess is a Republican), and I'm not part of a counter-cultural movement, either. Oh, and I'm also a WICCAN. I suggest you stop buying into stereotypes. I mean, if this is how you've decided all Pagans are, then you've decided to despise the term based on a caricature."

Common Stereotypes

"I agree that the word pagan has been misrepresented in the modern world, and I will quickly correct anyone that assumes that I mean Wiccan when I tell them that I am Pagan. Instead I explain to them that Wicca is only one version of Paganism just as a Protestant is Christian. I chose to accept the academic definition of the word 'pagan' as an umbrella term because it is the closest thing out there to defining my faith."

"I sometimes think labels are more to define what you are NOT than what you are. Sensitivity to their use is part of the growing curve in assimilating the various belief systems. Even in a seemingly homogenous group (like, say- Christians) there's a lot of in-fighting over the very definition of 'Christianity'. Get a Catholic and some flavor of Protestant together, ask 'em, and stand back. The fur will eventually fly. Sell tickets. :-)"

"Pagan" vs. "Heathen"

"To many people, Pagan=neo-Pagan, or even so far as Pagan=Wiccan. And many others, mostly Wiccan-esque Eclectics, simply refer to their religion as Paganism, which further muddies the waters. ('Is Paganism a religion? Is it a group of religions?').... many of us have moved away from whole-hearted acceptance of the term, either fully retreating to terms like Heathen (which is perhaps more accurate for the northern European pre-Christian religions anyway), or merely pulling back to conditional usage of the term Pagan.

You want Recons to accept the usage of the term Pagan? Then continue with the reclaimation of the word. Continue to correct people who use it incorrectly, both newbies, elders, and the world at large. But if a term is not representative of us, don't expect us to meekly accept us, because we won't--any more than Wiccans will meekly accept the label of 'Satanist.'

Who Owns Words?

"Anyone ever think about the word 'Hinduism?' It was a name given to the religions (religions, not sects) of India by the British. Man, even 'India' wasn't what the natives called their land... it was called 'Bharata'.... Some things are named something whether people like it or not. 'Paganism' has been used for centuries and it isn't going to fade away yet. Either use it, or don't... but don't be suprised if you are called 'pagan' even if you don't use the term yourself."

"A wolf never called themselves 'Wolves.' We call them that. But they're wolves, and they're mammals, vertebrates, chordata, and animalia. Just because mammals, vertebrates, chordata and animalia mean little by themselves, as they get more and more abstract as you go along, you get more and more specific as you work your way down to the individual species and individuals."

Common Ground?

"What about the foundation on which ALL of these religions, Hellenic / Egyptian / Roman / Etc. Paganism are built on? The basis that sets us apart from Christianity. Is there a name for this foundation, without specifying religious sect, other than Pagan? Not that I know of, so I find it ironic that Recons try to reject the very basis of the ancient religions that they are trying to reconstruct. Why not try to clarify the misconceptions rather than attack the word itself?

I feel it is unfair to attack the only term that I (and others) have been able to connect with. Even if it is a term forced upon us by the Christianized Roman Empire thousands of years ago.
--Sincerely, Your Twentieth Century All-American Multi-Cultural Mutt Pagan/Witch," StarHM

"With all due respect, it sounds like the recons view us 'neos' as some kind of zit on the arse of modern spirituality.... Having just received a healthy dose of recon-backlash because of some neo-oriented statements I made, I'm tempted to view those recons who 'want nothing to do' with us as preaching a gospel of exclusivity that rivals Christian fundamentalism.... Can't we hold different beliefs and still maintain an open dialogue?

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