Pagan Paths

Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.

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Hate and tolerance

When I first placed myself under the Pagan banner and started coming out, I had already gotten a good couple of coming outs about my sexuality under my belt. The process of tap-dancing around the subject, broaching it casually and then saying the actual word was not unknown to me. Not one to back down from any challenge, I have held some sort of presentation or talk about Paganism in front of my school classes since highschool. I was always more of a 'lets-get-this-over-with-so-we-can-all-go-back-to-our-lives'-kind of girl.

Because I have always been outspoken about my religion, I have lost the company of a good few I would have loved to call friends. Because of this, I tend to come out as a lesbian and a Pagan in the first five meetings with a person. That way, we both know the score and it saves me a lot of heartache. So far, people have been incredibly understanding about both. Highschool was a bit of a mess but mostly about the gay thing. The Pagan thing, they didn't understand, didn't know how to tease me with and thus ignored. When I got older, 99 percent of the reactions ranged from excited to intrigued. That one percent of negative feedback is completely neglectable to me.

I am incredibly sad to say that most flack I have ever gotten about my religious believes has come from the Pagan community itself. When I was Neo-Wiccan, I was 'fluffy', when I was a Technopagan, I was 'disrespecting nature' and 'angering the Goddess' for accepting technology in ritual. When I was a Hedge Witch, I 'didn't know enough about herbs' to be one. When I was an Eclectic Religious Witch, I was 'lazy' and 'a pick-and-choosing thief'. Now I'm Hellenic, I'm 'elitist' and 'in disrespect of nature' again. Honestly, I can't win. Whatever I do, for the majority of Pagans, I will never be 'Pagan enough'.

For those wondering, I have been a practicing Pagan for twelve years, thirteen if you count my 'year and a day'. I started at thirteen. I was young but not stupid and what I was looking for was religion, not spirituality. From there on, I progressed a lot in the search for something to bring me closer to my faith, to a point where I honored the Gods I knew to be there in a way that worked for me. I was always aware that the way I believed was my way, and there was no one who was obligated to believe the way I did. As such, I have bit my tongue on more occasions than I can count. But I believe in temperance. I believe that everyone has his or her opinion and is entitled to it. It's our divine right; not even the Gods can make us do something we don't want to do. Then why is the Pagan community trying to make me?

The Pagan community at large preaches tolerance a lot but because it's a religion of individuals, tolerance is a hard thing to practice. There is a deep seeded hatred against Christianity in our collective hearts. It's clearer within some than in others but it's there. I guess it's because some came from a Christian background, because some blame Christianity for the oppression of Paganism, because Christians killed nine million Witches or because Christians are preventing us from practicing our faith. Of course, all of that is a matter of perspective, some based on falsehoods.

The early Christians were persecuted. They were hunted and sometimes killed for their faith in a 'false God'. The odds of any of the millions killed in the Burning Times being Witches, as we understand the term, is incredibly small and the only ones preventing us from practicing our religion are we. Of course, no one's experiences are invalid. I am simply saying that there is another side to every single coin.

Within Hellenismos, there is a raging hatred against Christianity, and a disdain and anger towards Neo-Paganism, that keeps me from seeking out others of my faith. I understand where it comes from; in Greece, probably 98 percent of believers are Orthodox Christians. Being a minority of, maybe, a couple of thousand against a religious majority like that is a frightening thing. Losing your job, your friends, your family over your religious choices... I think it would harden me too. As for Neo-Paganism; there are times when I, too, want to bang my head into the wall a couple of times when I hang around message boards or Pagan festivals too long. Yet, there is beauty in these paths as well. And even if I thought that someone's path would lead to their doom or the doom of the world; who am I to interfere in their rightful pursuit of truth?

The thing is, I don't see how replacing 'One True God(s)' with another 'One True God(s)' is going to change anything. The persecution might switch for a couple of thousand years but after that, it's the same thing all over again. I wish we could all let go of 'One True'. Then there would just be God and Gods and we could finally stop trying to carve out a place for our religion from someone else's hands and focus on creating a space for ourselves separate from the religion of others. There really is no going forward if we do it by making everyone else look bad. It keeps our eyes on the past and stands in the way of moving forward, of coming into our own.

Tolerance is, and should be, a verb, a noun and an adjective. It's something active, not passive. It's a continual work in progress within ourselves. It cancels out our hate, our fear, our judgement and our ego. It's a worthy struggle and can be a glue, a bridge, between Pagans, as well as between Pagans and non-Pagans. If we let it.

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Elani Temperance is a twenty-seven year old woman, who lives with her partner in The Netherlands. She has been Pagan for a little over twelve years and has explored Neo-Wicca, Technopaganism, Hedge Witchery and Eclectic Religious Witchcraft before progressing to Hellenismos. Although her home practice is fully Hellenic, she has an online Neo-Pagan magazine called 'Little Witch magazine' (www.littlewitchmagazine.com) in which she and several co-writers try to cover the whole gamut of Neo-Paganism. Baring the Aegis is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BaringTheAegis

Comments

  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer Monday, 20 August 2012

    Thank you.

  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley Monday, 20 August 2012

    Absolutely fantastic post, Elani! I too have received the most derision from within the rank of Paganism, which has always boggled my mind. Thanks for writing this.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Monday, 20 August 2012

    Great post! It just goes to show you, a world filled with 100% Pagans still wouldn't be a utopia.

  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer Monday, 20 August 2012

    Amazing post, Elani. Your wisdom is beyond your years. :D

    Interestingly, I've had the same kind of experience...except, with Tarot "enthusiasts". I've even been boycotted, blackballed, bullied and harassed. Here's the funny thing: it wasn't until I started blogging for PaganSpace (Tarot Eye) that I started to feel "at home" among an line community! I was embraced and encouraged, for which I'm grateful.

    And my fellow bloggers here? So smart, wise and entertaining! I am blessed to be able to learn from colleagues like you. Keep up the good work!

  • Tammy
    Tammy Monday, 20 August 2012

    I enjoyed your post! you are wise beyond your years. I share in your frustration about labels. When I discovered the Olde Ways and was searching for answers, I joined a chat group so I could learn. I got blasted because I mentioned that I was still attending church while deciding where my path was leading. I've discovered that among all groups, not just religious, that there are going to be zealots and people who think their way is the only way. I beg to differ, it's my firm belief that all paths lead to the Source, God(dess), whatever works for you.

    Thanks for sharing your words. Bright Blessings on your Path.

  • Brynn Sillyman
    Brynn Sillyman Saturday, 11 May 2013

    I created an account here just so I could comment on this article, which I saw on my FB feed. I'm glad you're saying this too!

    Me, I agree with Aleister Crowley and many other spiritual teachers that all religions/mysticisms/w/e are in their quiddity identical, and that labels are ultimately meaningless. I am a Catholic, a Yogi, a Cleric of Ganymede, a Goetic Wizard- fuck it, as Crowley might say, a "Grande Poo-bah Mahatma Guru Sri Paramahansa Shivaji!" It doesn't really matter what you call me. I'm not much one for separating systems- I'm one of those people who celebrates Holy Thursday (Catholic) and Passover (Jewish) together. I'm not much one for saying one God(s) is better than another or bashing others' beliefs unless it actively harms and discriminates against others, to which I have said, "Hey that's not cool", which I've got some flack for.

    I do enjoy all sorts of religion and can understand separating the cultus of it, the specific rituals, to be what you might think is best. But who is anyone to foist that on another unless they have agreed to come together as one body and celebrate a ritual together in a certain way? Like we do in theatre all the time.

    Yet somehow people get their heads all up their butts about this. And, like you, I've found that most of them are Pagan, and that indeed they have this seething hatred against Abrahamic type religions, or even anything "monist". (My predominantly Hindu leanings in expressing Oneness led someone to call me a "monist" derisively and that is how I found out what that word even was.) Man, I have had so many Pagans jump all down my throat about how I wasn't doing this or that right, and almost every single one of them, except for the... what others would derisively call "New Age hippies"... don't think I can be both Pagan and Catholic. In fact most of those ones dislike me for it.

    I have experienced several Christians who have told me I was going to Hell, but they didn't know I was Pagan. I just have a tendency to get into debates over some vocal clerics' hatred of homosexuality. They are just as lost, and for the same sorts of reasons. They're too stuck in their egos and their hermeneutic boxes.

    Everyone I know IRL? I don't hide my religiospirituality or my sexuality from them, although I don't generally bring up the latter unless they ask and/or would make a great new polyamorous pansexual partner for me. But of course everyone tends to talk about what they like, so religiospirituality comes up fairly quickly- but you know what? Everyone I know, and most of them are Christian, think it's cool. There are a few atheists, most of whom are "live and let live" or "well myths are cool" and only one or two who think I'm stupid over it but are still my friend. All my extremely Christian friends are like, "oooOOOoo, are you a witch!?" "Actually, that's not my preferred label-" "Brynn's a witch! oooOOOoo can you tell my fortune??" "... :) okay" I even did it for my boss.

    Of course, I live in Los Angeles. Here, pretty much everyone is totally laid back and super cool and agreeable, and a lot of them have at least semi-Hindu leanings like myself what with all that Namaste-ing we do ;)

  • Brynn Sillyman
    Brynn Sillyman Saturday, 11 May 2013

    (And after I post, I see one of these exact pagans I spoke of in the sidebar to the right with an article titled, "You're doing it wrong." But it's now an invalid link. Because he does everything better than everyone else.)

  • Tammy
    Tammy Saturday, 11 May 2013

    I too get annoyed by being labeled. I am many things - Pagan, Wiccan, Catholic, Witch, and whatever else interests me. all that being said, I consider myself a spiritual person as opposed to a religious person. I don't participate in discussions about religion or politics. People are going to believe what they want and why waste my time in discussion with close minded individuals. I wish them peace and move on.

    Being raised in a devout catholic family, ritual and heritage is a big part of the whole picture for me. Those experiences are part and parcel of who I am becoming. So, I celebrate everyone's path, show them respect, and do my own thing.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article!

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