Has Neo Paganism Gone Too Far?
Has Neo Paganism gone too far? Have members of the organized religions diluted the real meaning of paganism to serve their own needs? Do the organized religions inadvertently use neo paganism to rid themselves of their mal-contents?
Prior to the advent of neo paganism in the mid 1950’s, paganism for the most part referred to those folks who believed in and maintained a genuine connection with Mother Nature and all she represents. Generally this referred to those folks who practiced a form of witchcraft, shamanism or druidism.
Neo paganism has taken what used to be and in some cases still is and has re-created it into something beyond recognition by those who practice the Old Ways.
Since many who now call themselves pagans were once and in many ways by way of behavior and thought still are, members of one of the organized religions, paganism is now a role p laying venture for many neo pagans.
Anyone who wants to rebel against his or her primary religious beliefs can now simply call himself or herself pagan. Since there is no litmus test so to speak, every borderline sociopath can pretend to be pagan.
The fact is that the gentleman who started Wicca and thus opened the door to neo paganism, claimed to have doctorate degrees from two different universities. These claims were later proven to be patently false. And so one cannot help but wonder if such dubious beginnings to neo paganism set the stage for the bewildering morass that we have today.
I personally have never had the experience of going from one set of religious/spiritual beliefs to another, having lived my entire life as a witch brought up in an Irish family. And yet the more that I see and experience in the environment called neo paganism makes me even more inclined to shun such a label.
For instance the concept of open acceptance and diversity are nothing more then rehashed ideals from the hippie era of the 1960s. Realistically these concepts were never tenets of paganism during the 10, 000 year or so, tenure of paganism prior to the neo pagan beginnings in the mid 1950s. Pagan gatherings from one area did not necessarily get along with pagan gatherings from another area. Even with folks from the same pagan ethnicity, there were different aspects and/or Deity that was recognized dependent on the geographic area in question.
And while such grand ideas sound appealing, they are far too altruistic to have any meaningful role in any group or community. We have to remember that we are dealing with human beings here. One has to only look at the multitude of pseudo masters, the massive egos and the many elitist groups that have sprung up under the banner of neo paganism to see what effect this has had on what was once and for some still is, a belief system based upon the realities of a mystical life. For those who shun the hype and glamour of “Hollywood” neo paganism, and practice paganism for what it really is, such realities extend far beyond just this realm.
Also, I personally don’t believe that such groups as vampires, werewolves, were-kin and what have you were ever intended to be recognized under the description of paganism. Prior to the advent of neo paganism, such entities were feared and shunned by pagans. Pagan history is full of tales and mentions many charms and talismans to protect against such entities. Do neo pagans pretend to know something that old line pagans don’t know?
It is not my place to say that these groups should not exist within their own particular belief systems, but I do believe that it is an oxymoron to include them under the pagan banner. Though, such a contradiction seems acceptable under the neo pagan banner.
And perhaps this is why there is so much uncertainty, disorganization, in-fighting (witch wars) and controversy within the neo pagan community. Even the title “community” is euphuism for a concept, which has yet to take on any valid substance.
Neo paganism is trying to take concepts, which have been in place for thousands of years and are trying to re-invent them to serve the self-serving society that is in place today. Such an attempt is bound to end in failure as so many other fads before it has done.
This is not to say that there are not those who quietly practice paganism for what it really is. Such folks know the real value of study, discipline, and an unending curiosity. For such folks the spiritual rewards are unending. For the discovery of one life mystery leads to the desire to continue such a trek through life. There is no overwhelming need to be accepted by a hostile society that has been inundated with antipathy over the concepts of religion/spirituality.
We are who we are and that is enough. There is no need to proclaim to the world that we are masters of the arts, for we know in our hearts that we are simply students of something much greater then ourselves. There is no need to accept everything and to be diverse in all things, for such concepts are unrealistic and have been unattainable over the entire course of human history.
Life is not all light and love, for such concepts belie the true nature of polarity. Pagans accept the dark along with the light, as these are the ingredients of life. Why subscribe to a fallacy that is unattainable in reality? Realism is the mark of a pagan as it pertains to real life.
Neo paganism is beginning to look like a stage for role players rather then a continuation of any valid belief system.
I say this because this because society today is rapidly becoming more and more insular. Moving further and further away from the ideals and experiences that Mother Earth once provided and to some, still does provide. And it was these very real experiences that paved the way for paganism. What used to be real life is now an artificial creation brought on by the hand of man.
And yet neo paganism seems to be following the same trend in regards to paganism as society is in regards to life. Simply creating a façade of what used to be to satisfy the desires of a spiritually lackadaisical people.
It takes a real effort to engage in the mystical arts, but such effort is hard to find in modern times. And so at the end of the day perhaps neo paganism does in fact have a “role” to play…