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.)


Lone Star Ma said...

I'm afraid I never quite managed to change my link to your blog from its old name, but I like both.

Anonymous said...

This Friend speaks my mind - except for the word-play, art history, and studying. In their places, add for me: I'm hoping to find a festival or two I can enjoy for short periods of time; being in/with Nature is my worship; mysticism (although I realize that is presumed as a Quaker); and I like & use the capital P.

Thank you, Hystery!


Hystery said...


I use the capital P too because it is polite and I figure that my reasons for not using it are so tediously difficult to explain (and not terribly important in the first place) that to fail to do so would just be a burden.

Also, mysticism rocks. I love mysticism. I was just thinking about this the other day. The cool thing about mysticism is that it is lovely and cross-cultural.

Thanks for posting a comment! :-)

Avril Silk said...

Good grief. Are you my long lost twin?

Hystery said...


It is always good to connect with people who share some of my perspectives. It makes me feel slightly less insane or at least gives me company in my oddness.

By the way, I think I should note that I normally break my writing into paragraphs. Why I didn't do so in this blog post is anyone's guess. Perhaps I was writing in stream of consciousness style. I might have been feeling artistic and devil-may-care. It was a long time ago so I don't remember, but I offer apologies to all who read it.

Finally Spring

My kids and I planted bulbs today.  What a difference one week makes!  The spring warmth has brought everyone outdoors.  People are walking ...