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Why Paganism?


Why paganism? Why not?

A flip answer to a serious question, but think about it. Why should it be any more odd to be a Pagan than any other religion?

To go into it a bit more deeply, I became a Wiccan back in high school. In those days (back when I were a lad), information on Wicca was hard to come by. The up sides to that were first that most of what was available was pretty good (Stewart Farrar's What Witches Do, which I still recommend highly to anyone who wants to know what Wicca is really about, was the second book I read), and that Wicca was not the latest fad, so anyone who was interested in it was dedicated to the practice.

So why did I become a Wiccan? Truth be told, because it was weird. I had moved to an area where everyone had been friends since first grade, and there I was, the new kid in eighth grade. The cliques and roles were already in place, and it was very difficult for me to fit in. If I couldn't fit in, then, I could fit out. So I became the school witch. It gave me a role to play which matched nicely the reputation I already had for being a bit odd. As is my bent, I researched carefully, read everything I could get my hands on, wrote and performed rituals, and tried to start a coven. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful in the latter.

While researching, I ran across The Charge of the Goddess (in the appendix to Sybil Leek's The Complete Art of Witchcraft). The poetry spoke to my soul, and I was hooked. I went from a dabbler to a dedicate.

Over the years I continued to research and practice. I continued to develop my weird persona. Most of all, I continued to search for roots. I wanted to go back as far as I could into the history of mankind and bring back gold to lay at people's feet.

Enter ADF. At a Pagan gathering I was attending, Isaac Bonewits spoke about organizing a group which would be based on the best information available about ancient Paganism. I knew I had found a home, a group of people who also cared about roots.

As I worked with ADF and continued to search for roots, I discovered that Wicca was only about 50 years old, and that it was far from the roots I was looking for. I discovered that in both rituals and theology it was so far from ancient Paganism as to constitute a separate and new religion. But I still wanted roots, so I shifted over to Reconstructionism.

I am still a Reconstructionist, still looking for roots. I have continued the search by seeking out the deepest roots we can have any good knowledge of, the religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. These people, who lived about 5000 years ago and are the ancestors of most Europeans, are the closest thing to roots we will get.

Why this story of my life as a Pagan? Because Paganism is in a large extent about stories. Pagans don't have a book of doctrine; they have a collection of stories, of myths. I like to define a myth as "a story which is true whether it happened or not." A myth is a story with meaning, one that calls to something in your soul and says, "yes, this is something that I should know; there is something of truth in this." So my story is a myth. I do not expect it to be a myth for anyone else, but it sure has meaning for me, and perhaps by thinking about it you will find some meaning in it for you: the one answer to the question as to why one would be a Pagan.

Of course, I have left two things out of my answer: ritual, and the gods. Ritual is the cornerstone of Paganism. Christianity is an orthodoxy. It finds its identity in beliefs; to be a Christian is to have certain beliefs. Paganism is an orthopraxy. It finds its identity in actions; to be a Pagan is to perform certain actions. These rituals in some sense express the very nature of the universe, and thus of our nature as well. This is vital to an understanding of Paganism, so let me repeat it. These rituals in some sense express the very nature of the universe, and thus of our nature as well. To perform them is to put oneself in touch with the universe on a very deep level. How can anyone not be moved by such an idea?

The gods are the second most important thing about Paganism. (Think carefully about that statement; the gods are the second most important thing about Paganism.) I know that the gods are real. They have shown themselves to me in many ways. They have spoken to me. They have appeared before my eyes. They have made me sure of their presence in an intimate and certain way that I cannot convey to anyone else. Why Paganism? Because these are mighty gods, worthy of worship, worthy of honor. I have the privilege to be one of those who give that to them.