Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Pagan All the Way Down, or: The Original People

 

 

It doesn't take much reading in ethnology to notice that many tribal ethnonyms—the names by which a people knows itself—tend to mean “the People,” with an extended sense of the “Real People,” the “True People,” the “Original People."

Well, that's how I see pagans.

Pagans are the Original People, by definition. Up until a few thousand years ago, we were all there were. Until recently, all non-pagan religions grew out of pagan soil. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, it's pagans all the way down.

(Of course, back in pagan times, we didn't know that we were pagan; we just were. In this, we're like Native Americans. Encounter with others always imbues a new sense of self.)

Now there are more non-pagans in the world than pagans, but that doesn't change history. We were here first; we're still here; we'll always be here.

Savor this delicious corollary: human beings are inherently, instinctively pagan. Left to our own devices to figure the world out for ourselves, what we come up with is (by definition) pagan. To be human is to be born pagan; anything else you have to be made into.

Therefore, even those of us who (like myself) were raised in the ways of the un-Original people, by our embrace of the Old Ways, thereby rejoin our birthright status of being one of the Original People.

The implications here are dizzying, paradoxical. No matter how much paganisms may change, they're still Original.

A danger inherent in this way of looking at things, of course, is the potential to view non-pagans as somehow less than human. That way always lies danger.

But non-pagans were born pagan too, just like us; they've just, in a sense, forgotten who they are.

Happy are we who remember. For our part, let us not forget that being pagan doesn't make us somehow better than other people.

It only makes us more so.

 

 

Above: Raising gandau (ancestral effigies), Bumburet Valley (Pakistan), 2008

Numbering some 4000, the Kalasha are the only Indo-European-speaking people who have practiced their traditional religion continuously since antiquity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tagged in: thede Tribe true people