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On Being A Neo-Pagan Fundamentalist

Just to be clear - I'm speaking for myself here, not for the First Kingdom Church of Asphodel.
Members of Asphodel believe all manner of different things.
In no way do they -- or should they -- all agree with this.

Yes. I am most certainly a Neo-Pagan Fundamentalist.

Before everyone screams and runs away, please allow me to define what that means. So far, in modern Pagan writings, no one else has used this term except as a joke, so I'm going to define it now once and for all, quite seriously. I am not defining this term by way of, or in comparison of, any Christian or Jewish or Muslim fundamentalism. Being a Pagan fundamentalist is very much its own thing. That being said, here are the absolute fundamental tenets of this brand of Pagan faith. You may or may not practice these; you may or may not agree with them; but I'm much more interested that you simply understand them.

Part of why I feel brave about doing this is that I doubt that anyone beyond myself and a few of my friends really wants the label of Pagan fundamentalist. In fact, I suspect that there are quite a few people out there who fit this list and still don't want the label. That's OK. I'll take it off your hands and keep your secret. And if you don't fit this list, you can always use it as a rebuttal for anyone who accuses you with this ambivalent title.

1. The first, and most important tenet, is that a Neo-Pagan fundamentalist actually believes in the existence of every single deity that s/he worships. Deities are not merely theoretical archetypes, nor vague energy forms that can be ordered about by the human mind, nor merely parts of our own deep selves. They do not depend on human attention and worship to exist, although the lack of it may weaken their connection to the world. They have their own lives and personalities when we are not interacting with them, and yes, they are more powerful than we are. God/desses are worthy of awe and worship. Yes, worship, with all that entails. They can see bigger and further than we can, and they understand things that our meat brains are not capable of, and they cannot be manipulated by us.

(And yes, Jehovah exists too. We don't have to worship him, but we admit that he's out there. Pretending that he doesn't exist out of spite sounds like something that some of his more intolerant followers do.)

2. A Pagan fundamentalist is a strict polytheist. Not only do deities all exist, but they are not all merely faces of the same big deity, or even the same sort of deities. They are all part of Godhead in the same way that we are all part of Humanity, but they are not interchangeable, any more than you are interchangeable with that guy over there. On a cosmic level, you may be one with that guy over there, but if I owe you ten bucks and I give it to that guy over there, and plead our Oneness as One Being of Humanity, you are not going to be impressed. Similarly, Venus is not Freya or Oshun; Pan is not Horus or Frey; and so forth. Deities are different entities with different abilities, preferences, and standards for their worshipers, and to understand and attempt to fulfill these standards is a mark of respect for them. Conversely, to address one as another or to ignore what we know of their standards and preferences is severe disrespect, and may possibly create offenses.

There are, of course, grey areas. Some deities may actually be the same - the Norns and the Moerae have hinted that they are the same ladies in different costumes - and sometimes you run into different deities who have had some of the same experiences, myths, titles, etc. but still seem to be separate entities - Inanna and Ishtar come to mind. There is also the issue of the Really Big Gods - the pre-human ones who are larger than all the "human-like" gods, such as the Green Man, the Mother, the Hunter, etc. who seem to predate humanity and are further away and more distant in personality. But these grey areas could fill an entire book. Suffice it to say that for practical purposes, a Pagan fundamentalist deems it appropriate to treat all deities as separate beings unless specifically told otherwise by the deities in question.

(As a corollary to #2, there is also that the Otherworlds are real as well, although what we know of them may be riddled with misinformation and assumptions.)

3. Magic is real, and a Pagan fundamentalist knows that. S/he may or may not choose to use it, but s/he accepts it as real. However - and this is a big "however" - to a Pagan fundamentalist, Paganism is a religion first and a magical system second, perhaps even third.

4. To a Pagan fundamentalist, Paganism is not a cool hobby, or thing which one partakes in on ones' occasional weekends. It permeates every part of life. The values implied by Paganism - which may vary a good deal depending on their specific tradition - pervade our entire lives. They affect where we put our resources of time and money. They affect how we create our families and tribes. They affect how we respond to other human beings. They affect how we have sex and take out the garbage. If they don't, they ought to. It's part of how we do things. The point is not that we all have the exact same values and ethics; we don't. Traditions vary. It's that whatever they may be, they are not just theorized about when convenient. They are lived, fiercely and thoroughly and daily, even when they are terribly inconvenient, even when they make our lives that much more difficult.

There are some values and ethics that, yes, I believe that all Pagan fundamentalists ought to have in common.... but I could be wrong on that front. Besides, that would take several more pages to go into, and I need to move on with regard to this list.

5. A Pagan fundamentalist is rabidly tolerant, on principle. By that I mean that we do not criticize people for their religious choices, or criticize other religions for the acts of some of their followers. That means no indulging in that fave Wiccan hobby, Christian-bashing. Nope, none of that. Yes, there are obnoxious and vicious people in the world. But a Pagan fundamentalist knows three things about other people's religious choices, and s/he knows them down to the bone. They are:

A) All people have lessons to learn in this lifetime that are specific to them. You cannot tell anyone else what their lessons are, or where they are supposed to be right now in their lives. They might even be needing to learn lessons about things like intolerance and hate, and perhaps they can only properly do that, for whatever reason, by experiencing it from the inside for however long it takes for them to get the lesson. In fact, a strong call to a particular faith - even a destructive faith - is a good bet that there's a lesson to be learned there for that person. They may move on after they've learned it, they may stay and try to teach others, but it's their life and their lesson. You can't decide for them that this current spiritual choice is not where they're supposed to be right now, this moment.

B) If someone is actually being drawn to a particular faith for reasons of learning a lesson, you attempting to tell them that they shouldn't be there is guaranteed to fail. In fact, it may even drive them closer, as the karmic pull of the lesson increases in response to outside interference. (If you actually want to do something useful, don't berate them or denigrate their choices. Call up the Lords of Karma (or some equivalent) and make an offering that they might hurry up these folks' karmic lessonings. It might, at least, make them take their minds off of you.) When faced with intolerance, the best reaction is to remember that this is, for them, a phase that is necessary for some reason. Imagine if the Universe decided to inflict that lesson on you, close up, and created the conditions to make you into someone who would be fearful enough to embrace it. Imagine the conditions that would do that to you. Maybe it will give you a little compassion.

C) You are a Pagan - and indeed a Pagan fundamentalist - for the same reasons that they are where they are. The only way to teach anyone anything about spirituality that is going to stick is to be a model of behavior, not a ranting pedant. Be good in your own path ... because your own path is not for everyone, or even most people. It's for the people who are supposed to be on it, and who they are and aren't is not for you to say. Be a model for those who are sent by the Gods to see you, and don't worry about the rest of them.

This is the starting point of this attitude. It's not that of the majority of Pagans, and given point number 5, it likely never will be. However, those of us who are on this path are the small minority of diehards for whom this is the way we do things. You can be a Pagan fundamentalist and be a Wiccan, an Egyptian Pagan, a Druid, or whatever else; there are traditions which are specifically inimical to some of the above tenets and don't mix well with it, but most well.

So there it is. Pass it on. The only way a definition gets defined is if it gets heard. And if this makes you uncomfortable, good. Sometimes it's been when I was most uncomfortable, and forced myself to look at the source of that discomfort, that I learned the most about myself.

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