Sunday, June 11, 2006

Let's drop 'Neopagan'

Back in the 1970s, when Tim (now Oberon) Zell was editing Green Egg (America's leading Pagan zine at the time), "Neopagan" or "Neo-Pagan" was a cutting-edge term for a collection of religious movements from Wicca to Egyptian Reconstructionism.

More recently, the British Pagan scholar Graham Harvey has suggested dropping the term on the grounds that after fifty or more years, we are not so "neo" anymore.

In academia, it is more and more replaced with "contemporary Paganism(s)," as in the Consultation on Contemporary Pagan Studies in the American Academy of Religion. (A "consultation" is a type of program unit.)

Meanwhile, various conservative Catholic writers seem to be re-discovering "pagan" and "neo-pagan" as a term of abuse, starting at the Vatican.

Here the pope's astronomer refers to "creationism" as "a kind of paganism." I think that is because the Vatican accepts evolution; therefore, creationism is non-Christian, or pagan and superstitious.

G.K. Chesterton, patron saint of all rightwing Catholic writers, referred to the Nazis as pagan and in fact used the term neo-Pagan (as modern "anti-Christian") at least forty years before Green Egg came along.

Here's a Catholic blogger doing the same thing. He seems to equate Sir Edmund Hilary's "neo-paganism" with merely being worldly and irreligious.

So they are not talking about us directly because we are not really on their radar yet.

In Pagan Theology, Michael York (who does not capitalize the term) argues for both the existence of Pagan religion as a category, whether ancient or contemporary, as well as for Pagan elements (pilgrimages, veneration of shrines, etc.) in the bookish religions. In a future post, I can discuss his definition. But buy the book anyway.

To me, "Pagan" has value as a term defining polytheistic, nondualistic religions whether ancient or present-day. Eventually even the pope will realize that.

But Roman Catholics aside, I find Graham Harvey's argument convincing.

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Blogger Hecate said...

I once had a guy who was doing some work on my house ask me, "Are you a Pagan or a witch?" I answered "Both," because to me Paganism is the broad category, Neo-Paganism is a branch of that broad category, and Wicca is a branch of Neo-Paganism." However, one of the things I love is how impossible it is to categorize Pagans. Eris must enjoy it as well!

3:52 PM  
Blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hm. If Sir Edmund Hilary is neo-pagan, maybe I should rethink my position on the word. He'd be better than average company...

7:01 PM  

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