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A Label Or A Calling?


Guest Imeera
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Recently I have been looking at many different views on the world, and I have to admit paganism feels like it makes a lot of sense on the surface. But there are so many branches and different views, I feel like I have to pick one like I pick a flavour of ice cream. Preferring one over the other yet not exclusively. Nothing fits like a glove like it seems to with other people I have talked to and heard, I do not agree completely with everything each path presents. Where does the label end and calling begin? Do I even have to label it with a name? Even thinking of saying "I am pagan" doesn't seem right; yet I agree with much it has to present. Am I yet to find a path that calls to me like it does with so others? Or should I give up and say my beliefs are my beliefs; they don't really have a name?

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Or should I give up and say my beliefs are my beliefs; they don't really have a name?

 

that sounds sensible. :)

 

When I began, like many (most?) others, I thought paganism =Wicca. I even joined a lineaged Wiccan coven and took first degree. But the coven did not teach well and I mistook some things for dogma, where dogma does not exist. I was happy wandering around, just talking to other pagans for a couple of years. Then, one day, I realised that much of what I believe was very similar to Heathenry.

 

Over the years, I've studied a few other pagan religions for the novels I write. I think, had I come across them earlier, I could as easily have become Hellenismos or Kemetic. Possibly even Religio Romana. Possibly other religions I have yet to discover. A friend once said to me, "I'm a polytheist first, a Heathen second, and a pagan third." That's one good way of expressing things, but others would disagree and say that this or that form of paganism is a matter of orthopraxy and not orthodoxy. In their eyes, therefore, I would not be Heathen because I will also practice according to other religions.

 

What I'm trying to say (very ineptly) is that, whatever you begin to think, someone will have a different idea. Even if you decide a label is suitable and fits well. So, wherever you end up in terms of your beliefs or practice, there will always be someone else saying you don't qualify.

 

so just relax, and take things as they come. :D

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I would second pretty much everything that MH wrote above. I think human beings in general just place far too much emphasis on the names of things. At the end of the day, names vary from place to place, and from time period to time period; so they invariably say more about the culture that produced them, than about the thing they're meant to describe.

 

In religious terms, I think what matters is the essential Divine in which one believes. The names which one uses to describe the Divine are just temporary terms of convenience really. Of course, we all need to use language to describe the world, but I think it's about the significance which we ascribe to that language. I think it's better to keep one's eyes firmly on the Divine, rather than on ever-evolving terminologies.

 

A similar issue applies to the pagan thing, I think. To call oneself a pagan does help one to feel like one is part of a community ('pagans'), which does bring real reassurance and stability I think. But identifying with this name is neither essential to be among 'pagans', nor essential from a personal-identity point of view (eg. you won't feel totally lost or miserable if you don't identify as a pagan). How you identify yourself is ultimately up to you. It's nobody's else's business. You don't have to justify yourself to others; after all, we all have separate minds/souls, which others can never enter into. It's much better to choose terms which have meaning for you, rather than terms which others want you to choose.

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I also think we can put to much importance on labels, sure they can be helpful but they can also be at the root of much misunderstanding and can keep us away from what is really important.

 

I think if someone finds a path they fully agree with then that person is very lucky. I don't think it happens that way for most people. When I was younger I was so keen to 'have a path' but nothing ever felt completely right, so I would jump from one thing to the next never really learning anything of depth and ending up feeling exhausted. So now I don't bother and what I do practice and believe feels much more natural. I also discovered that when I gave up grasping for a set path to follow I lost the need to have a label.

 

Explore areas of interest and subjects that feel good to you. Use language that you understand and that has meaning for you and not necessarily for someone else. Yet at the same time be willing to learn from others, you may find something from their path that resonates with you. If you find this difficult or overwhelming try to hear the meaning behind the words being spoken. I have found this practice to be of great help to me, who knows, you may also find it helpful in some way.

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I think ones path should always be a calling.... or at least something which draws you, but the label you chose to call yourself is less important. Many Pagans are happy to simply describe themselves as Pagan and others are perfectly happy to give themselves more than one label. I think one knows if the general term "Pagan" fits or not, after that call oneself what one will. It can be fluid over time too.

 

I think I have called myself wiccan in the early days..... but am now happy with the term "Atheistic Pagan", but can see myself calling myself Pantheist one of these days (unless one of the Deities everyone talks about ever decides to talk to me and invite me to their party.... then who knows).

 

Mike

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I actually think that you wouldn't be giving up in the slightest, to say that your beliefs are your beliefs, without a name. Too many people wind up trying to shoehorn themselves into a path that doesn't actually fit but they feel they have to say they are a "something". You're a "you". And if you self identify as a Pagan, then you're a Pagan.

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You are what you want to be - regardless of what anyone else thinks, says or tries to define.

 

For instance - I call myself "pagan" simply out of convenience. I take the word to mean "non-Abrahamic". I also call myself a Hellene. But I'm certainly not into Hellenismos.

 

And in the end, it would not matter if I called myself a "Blurglecruncheon". The words are the descriptions I apply to myself (well, not that last one), usually just to provide some sort of term of reference for others to know more or less where I am coming from.

 

If there is to be a "calling", it will find you. Wait rather than give up. But don't assume that your calling will mirror anyone else's. You still may have no name clearly to attach to it.

 

But then again, what's in a name...?

Edited by Ellinas
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What's in a name? A very good question.

 

Your beliefs are certainly your beliefs and no one else's. And you choose what to call them. But what does that naming process actually entail? A belief system having a name is about identity as much as anything. If you call yourself a _________ (insert your own variety of paganism) because you resonate with a particular path then great. If you are eclectic or possibly just don't want to label yourself according to belief then in a way I think its easier to strip things away and just simply be a human being.

 

There was a thread recently which discussed the associations and implication of using a certain word over another. Names are motifs for the things they pertain to, but we can get drawn into a whole energetic, emotive picture that isnt all of our making by using names and labels for things. And the bits that are of our own making may not be under our conscious mind's control.

 

In the form of Druidism that I practise there is a way of naming things that is personal to ourself. We invent a word or sound for something meaningful that we come across and use that to relate to it in a way that's unique to our self. Hopefully that helps usto connect with the essence of that thing in an unobstructed way.

 

In my tradition one can have one's own core belief separate to Druidism. It's not choosing one thing over another. This is particularly hard for some people to get their head's around when they first come into it. It was for me. However the Druidic path deepens one's sense of self and often one's core belief too. And to me it might as well be called Blurglecrunchism as Druidism.

 

I'd also agree with Ellinas. If you desire to be called but it doesn't come, keep your beacon lit (maybe change the fuel that you use occasionally) and wait!

 

Earthdragon

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When I was younger I was so keen to 'have a path' but nothing ever felt completely right, so I would jump from one thing to the next never really learning anything of depth and ending up feeling exhausted.

 

Gotta say, that perfectly describes my own experience. For me though, the 'paths' were different denominations/varieties of Christianity. Denomination-wise, I tried the C of E, the Quakers, the Swedenborgian Church, and briefly flirted with the Catholic Church. Theologically, I must have held about every position possible within the Western tradition. But the end result was precisely that: exhaustion.

 

The beauty with 'paganism' though is that, alongside groups like the Quakers and the Unitarians, it's probably about the most diverse and tolerant religious tradition that exists. You can do a lot of hopping about between paths, and yet still remain essentially within the 'pagan' rubric. I think its tolerance also acts as an excellent bulwark against exclusive notions of truth. I now see different paths more as different 'interpretations' of the Divine. One may well be called by a specific path, but this is because different paths speak to different people in different ways (due to natural variations in culture/personality), rather than due to the fact that it alone is true.

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I think everyone is on their own path, you 'choose' which way your path turns according to what resonates with you from within. In the main, 'your' path will take you wherever you wish to go.

 

I wouldn't bother too much choosing a faith, if one particular faith resonates with then go with it, be open, be questioning, explore. Use your judgement as wisely as possible. And enjoy your faith.

 

Faith, spiritual belief, imv, should help you understand you and the world around you, it might be obscure to others but frankly that's none if their business anyway

 

Hope that helps xxx

 

Also, what mh says :)

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I rather like the ice cream analogy.

 

I like ice cream, I am an icecreamian.

 

The fact that my favourite flavour is rhubarb and blackberry doesn't mean that you don't like ice cream if your favourite is toffee and mandrake - and we can acknowledge our relationship, even to those who like Mr Whippy!

 

gwyn eich byd

 

Ffred

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Not so sure about Mr Whippy - I've got standards you know! :o_wink2:

 

Seriously I think that's a very good way of putting it. I've found that as I become older I've become less and less worried about labels. If somebody thinks that I don't quite fit into their definition of "Heathen" or "pagan"? Their problem. I'm not going to worry about it.

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Yep.. What they all said already :)

I just call myself pagan. Haven't got into one specific path or group as yet, who knows maybe one day, maybe not. Mainly pagan is just is a label I use for myself. I find I feel a part of some sort of group with that label (a very diverse one) But I don't tend to go about telling people I'm pagan very publicly, I would prefer to discus ideas and beliefs with someone than say 'I'm pagan' and hope they have a vague idea of what that means.

 

Oh having said I'm 'just pagan' I also think of myself as 'pantheist' if I'm getting any more specific.

 

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Reading these comments has made me want an ice cream!

 

I don't really feel that I have to fall into a particular label, but I do subscribe to a lot of heathenry. An awful lot. I am heathen but still don't feel the need to call myself that - everyone here knows that is what and who I am, therefore I don't feel a need to shout about it. :)

 

Waes Hael!

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Nobody has really asked my beliefs beside my mum and one college friend. I can only imagine the hassle of explaining in detail of I didn't give a label, but as I am still green I don't say "I am ..." but rather "I'm interested in..." or "I'm currently looking into..." followed by animism which I believe was practiced in some way in Britain, but that I don't currently know enough to form a hard opinion. This may seem obvious default position from where I am but friends at college seem genuinely surprised when I don't have or express an opinion on something ha ha. I'm that kinda guy.i wish I could say "I am an animist" or something, but I cannot commit because people will ask questions I am not yet ready to answer. Anything I do say is preceded with "It's complicated, but..."

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  • 1 month later...

I tend to take one day at a time - somedays I feel drawn down one path, another day and its totally different.

Be true to yourself and the rest will come - you may never find a dedicated path. I think life is like a walk through the woods in different season, each path you may follow will be a different journey, and no same path will be totally the same on different days.

Just do what feels right for you - trust that little voice inside that says right or wrong.

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