This day and age Pagans are still seen as that ‘curious lot’ of people who may indeed be practicing witchcraft. At times I will pretend to be a God-fearing woman to save myself from the quizzical faces after mentioning a personal belief in the Goddess. Could it be that even the word “Pagan” brings out some sort of stigma in common people? Of course! It is the same with any other socially charged words like Christian or Jew or Muslim.
The history of the word ‘pagan’ is wrought with references to non-believers, heathens, and--my personal favorite--hedonists. In the very beginning, it simply referred to people from the countryside and was used as a way to delineate where someone might have originated. In ancient Rome it developed into a derogatory term to group and shame the people who would not convert to another religion.
Despite its history and the obvious societal changes since those times, the word Pagan is still used in a judgmental way. Unfortunately, it is no longer referring to a non-cohesive group of non-conformists; today ‘Pagan’ can refer to a very cohesive group of polytheists. When a group of people use ‘Pagan’ as a put-down it can hurt even the most devout nature-worshippers.
In fact, I imagine that ignorant judgments can hurt any person who is openly devoted to their spiritual path. As a community we can learn to rise above the hurt and become examples worth revering rather than despising. For the more politically involved Pagans it is definitely time for us to draw a line in the sand. We have a right to believe and practice our spirituality. Standing up for those rights could mean demanding respect in the workplace, at home, and with our families. For the less activist Pagans, this could include volunteering for community service in areas we enjoy, or warmly inviting people to experience their first drum circle under the full moon. Perhaps we could start a reading club and introduce Pagan books or offer some tarot readings to those in need.
It’s not that we have to prove anything to anyone...ever. Only it would be wonderful if our love of nature could extend to the very people who harm us. This is not an easy task. I have been wrongly accused, suspended from school, dumped, derided and even bullied for being Pagan because of others’ misconceptions. It is hard for me, even now, to send love and light to the people that caused me so much pain for my belief; at the same time it frees me.
When I am able to realize that many actions are not intended harms, but are instead reactions to a person’s irrational fears, then I can lift my anger and release my pain. I feel lighter and I can recall that not a single one of us has the true answer. We are all on this carousel of life together and we are all wearing blindfolds.
Let us help each other see by untying one knot at a time.
With hope for the future Pagans,
Lady Jessicå, the Moonmaiden