Saturday, August 17, 2013

What's In a Name?

My blog title is "Plainly Pagan." I kind of wish it wasn't because that gives folks the impression that I'm more interested in being Pagan than is actually the case. They might imagine me as "Pagan" as "Pagans" exist in their imaginations and experience rather than as I exist in my own imagination. (I exist outside my imagination too, I hope, although these days I'm never quite sure.) I am "Pagan" inasmuch as I find divinity in the natural world, have a strong thea/olgical tendency toward pantheism, and like to play with myths and metaphors with historical connections to pre-Christian, Neolithic, and Bronze Age literary, art historical, and religious traditions. But I'm not remotely interested in reconstructing these ancient traditions nor am I interested in practicing Neo-Paganism with other folks. My Paganism is a solitary exercise in introspection, playfulness, word-play, art history, religion studies, and archetypal theory. So far as those things are worshipful, then we might call what I do "worship". It looks a great deal more like studying, and I'm fine with that. In recent years, I'm finding that I don't like to call myself Pagan because it leads to immediate confusion. People assume that I'm Pagan. Which I am, but not really. Not the way they expect me to be. This leads to all kinds of uncomfortable exchanges based on their assumptions that I hold beliefs that I do not hold. You know. Pagan beliefs. In gods and goddesses or "the Goddess" or whatnot. They seem to assume ritual work, covens, festivals, and gatherings figure into my life. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but I'm such a very introverted Pagan and a non-theistic one at that, that I can't imagine a Pagan gathering of any kind that would allow me to feel comfortable. Nor am I comfortable with Pagan Goddess-talk. My background is in feminist spirituality and I can't even use the term "Goddess" without wincing. While I value the metaphor as an intellectual device for feminist reclamation within the context of religious history, it is also not-quite-what-I'm-getting-at. Then too it is often spoken in emotional tones, and I'm too temperamentally Old Light Protestant for that to fail to make me squirm. Logical or not, I react to Goddess language in the same awkward, harrumphing way that I respond to evangelicalism and salvation-talk. Awkwardly. Someone might ask of me, "So, if you are so uncomfortable as a Pagan, why do you use the word in your blog title?" And my response is, "Because Plainly and Pagan both begin with a "P" and use clever (enough) word play to indicate spiritual ambiguity. Because I'm (technically) Pagan and a (relatively) plain Quaker which is goofy, and it seems a shame to waste perfectly good goofiness." I suppose I could just entitle my blog "The Rural Neurotic," my sister's term for me, as it is probably more accurate, but what if I removed the "Plainly Pagan" title and no one could find my blog anymore? (I fear being un-noticed almost as much as I fear being noticed.) Also, I hate to give up the Pagan title because that would mean that "they" have won and convinced me that because my Paganism doesn't match with more popular conceptions of Paganism that I don't qualify for the term. Well screw "them." (Also, I don't think that Pagan should begin with an upper case P. Why then, did I use it here? I have no earthly idea.)