Mama Afrika: South Africa's Pagan Spirit
North is South, Winter is Summer and widdershins is deosil. The South African experience of Paganism is topsy-turvy compared to our Northern brothers and sisters; but much like the Afrikaans saying, “ŉ boer maak ŉ plan,” Pagan South Africans make do with what they have and make it their own.
The True Meaning in Winning
The results are in, much to the jubilation of the winners and the scorn of critics. On the last day of 2012 the winners of the 2012 South African Blog Awards were announced; an announcement much anticipated by the South African Pagan community who had local blog, Penton Independent Pagan Media, entered into the ‘Best Religious or Spiritual’ category. And there, in black and white, were the results: “winner- http://www.penton.co.za”. In a country that is estimated to be 73% Christian, a Pagan blog won as the best religious/spiritual blog.
The South African Blog Awards were started in 2010 with the aim of showcasing the very best of South Africa’s blogs. In previous years winning entailed attending an awards dinner and presentation with an award, not to mention some serious bragging rights. But things were changed this year in a move that drew criticism from serious and casual bloggers alike. Instead of a panel of judges, the results would hinge on public votes. Gone were grand announcements and an esteemed awards dinner; instead the organisers opted to post the list of winners to the official SA Blog Awards website and nothing more.
So the question has to be asked: just how much of a win is it for Penton Independent Pagan Media really? While there will be no trophy, the true ‘prize’ lies in what this win says about Paganism in South Africa.
One of the largest criticisms of the 2012 SA Blog Awards is that bloggers will be reduced to begging for votes when the focus of the awards should be the content itself. A fair criticism in truth. So if all Penton did was beg for votes according to the critics, what does it say? It says that, compared to the other blogs in the ‘Religious or Spiritual’ category that endorsed various other beliefs, perhaps a Pagan blog had a larger and more loyal readership.
Penton’s win also says a fair amount about how SA Pagans interact. Unlike the dominant monotheistic religions, the bulk of Paganism is comprised of solitary practitioners. With the rise of the internet, solitaries and Pagan groups alike have come to see the value of modern technology in keeping abreast of the latest news and happenings affecting our community, as well as staying connected with fellow Pagans. Penton’s win also shows how Paganism in South Africa, perhaps unlike other religions, is strengthened by taking full advantage of technology and the internet to bring us together as a united collective.
Another criticism heard on social networks is that the winning blogs were ‘unheard of’; a criticism that is somewhat unfair and based on vastly differing opinions. While the winning blogs may have been unheard of to some critics, as they were based on public votes it means that these blogs were certainly not unheard of. And as Penton came out on top with the most votes in its category, it says that the audience of Pagan-orientated articles is rapidly growing compared to the audiences of other faiths.
And naturally there were those critics who were in a state of disbelief, some of whom thought the category winners were ridiculous and laughable. This only shows that, when it comes to Pagan beliefs and practices, we in South Africa still have some ways to go in acceptance by the general public.
As Pagans, we may still be in the minority, but what this win for a Pagan blog has shown is that, as a community, we are growing and all our work over the years has not been in vain.
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