Essays, Opinions

The Bad Pagan

“Hi. My name is Janet, and I’m a bad Pagan.”

I’m starting to think this is how I should introduce myself in emails and at local gatherings. It would save a lot of hassle and assumptions, and might make for a decent conversation starter. Or, at the very least, it would serve as a way of filtering out the idiots.

I can see it now:

Me: Hi. I’m Janet, and I’m a bad Pagan.
Peanut Gallery: Hi Janet. Wait. What? What do you mean “bad Pagan” – is that “bad Pagan, no cookie?”
Me: No. But you tell me what makes a Pagan, and I’ll tell you why I’m a bad one.
Peanut Gallery: Ok. Well, Pagans worship the God and the Goddess.
Me: Which ones?
Peanut Gallery: um…

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t introduce myself that way. It’d go down hill quickly. Likely in ways that irritated me, confused them, and led to the entire group deciding they didn’t want me to come back. Not that I’d necessarily want to come back after a conversation like that.

Let me enumerate the ways I’m a “bad Pagan,” because I think they say something about the so-called Pagan community.

  • I not only have a college degree, I have a job in my field which more than pays for my basic living expenses.
  • I have no problems with donating some of that income to groups I approve of, even Pagan ones. Further, I have no problem with Pagan groups asking for money, because, honestly, some things require money.
  • I don’t complain about the cost of festivals; I don’t spend my gas money to get home in the merchant area when I go to festivals and then wander around complaining that I might not be able to make my rent.
  • Under almost all circumstances, I use my real name.
  • Politically, I’m generally Libertarian – fiscally conservative, socially somewhat liberal, as long as neither one requires more taxes from me.
  • I do not believe that welfare, socialized medicine, social security, or any number of other government programs are good ideas that will solve everything.
    I do not believe that corporations are evil, that making a profit on your work is spiritually corrupt, or that war is necessarily bad (not that it’s necessarily good either, mind you).
  • I don’t believe that the first solution to every problem is magick. I do magick. I do pray. But to assume that this is the best solution for every problem strikes me as an admission of a lack of problem solving skills. As the song says, “Baby, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail” (Crazy Ex-girlfriend by Miranda Lambert)
    I listen to country music. Other stuff too, but country and classical mostly.
  • I eat meat. Because it’s tasty, and because I hate tofu. And the meat I eat isn’t often organic.
  • I don’t own guns, but at some point I will, and I’m an excellent shot.
  • I haven’t been hunting (too dangerous, according to my dad), but I have butchered cows and chickens, and I have eaten quite a variety of wild game.
  • I’m polyamorus, but being poly has almost nothing to do with my religion, and my religion has almost nothing to do with the fact that I’m poly.
  • I’m a polytheist; not only that, I’m a polytheist who isn’t a recon.
  • I’ve studied with a feminist Dianic group. And found it to be a good thing for me, and very enlightening, once you get past the revisionist history.
  • I don’t believe that everyone is out to get ‘us’ – for the most part, the people I see who have issues with their community have issues because they act like idiots too.
    I believe that most cases where people appear to be out to get us, it’s really that they’re out to get everyone, or they’re incompetent, or both.
  • I don’t dress up for ritual. While I’ve done ritual skyclad, my normal ritual attire is my jammies (largely because jammies are comfortable, and the time I usually have to make time for ritual is right before bed).
  • In fact, I don’t dress up to Pagan gatherings, nor would most people know my religion when they see me somewhere in public.
  • I don’t have an altar full of tools. There are things on all of my altars, but they’re symbols, not necessities.
  • I don’t celebrate all 8 of the quarters and cross quarters. I catch most of the full moons, and a lot of the dark moons, largely because of my two patrons, but if I miss one, oh well.
  • I can (and have) used curses when necessary, to good effect.

The problem with being a bad Pagan is that most Pagans have a stereotypical image in their heads of a good Pagan; when you don’t match that image in substantial ways, they assume you can’t really be Pagan. Which is sad, given how many Pagans seem to think that this religion is all about doing whatever you want. “I want to be unique, just like everyone else!” they scream.

Of course, there’s also the generalizations. “Well, we all know that Pagans do X.” No. We don’t all know it; frankly, any time you use that sort of language, even in non-Pagan contexts, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. About the only things that all Pagans do are things that all humans do – eat, sleep, breathe, go to the bathroom…the assessment that everyone else is just like you, believes the same things you do, worships the same God, Goddess, or Gods you do is an act of extreme hubris.

I’m sure there are other bad Pagans out there. There have to be. And I think together, we’d make a pretty interesting group, and get a lot of interesting things accomplished. But much like hunting unicorns, I suspect that tracking down enough of them to have an actual stable mini-community will be impossible. And it’s generally easier for us all to just avoid the general community, rather than put up with the on-going drama

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