There are times I really struggle to find things to write about….and then out of the blue, a topic will just fall from the sky. Well, sort of. I was wandering through Facebook and came across a status from author and blogger Cat Treadwell. It went along these lines: If you could provide an image of what being a Pagan was like to a non-Pagan, what would you want that to convey?? So, with some interest in this…I decided to pick up the concept and give it a shot.
Ever built an archetype before? A construct of something you wanted to convey a concept of “average, every day” whatever?? Yeah, it sounds easy, but it certainly is not. What would I want a non-Pagan to see as the typical Pagan? I would look for someone who is strong in what they are and what they believe. Lauren N., John Beckett, Ember, Cat, Chris Godwin, Cyn, Jon Drum, Byron….all strong people, strong personalities – the type of strength I would want to convey in what a Pagan is. Rachel, Morgan, Joanna – their wonderful, beautiful approaches to all aspects of ritual. Kristoffer Hughes, Frank M., Gabrielle, Lorraine, Kathleen, Jacob…Pagans that can find humor and mirth in everyday life like no one else I know. Damh, Shauna, Bran, and so many other musicians and artists that I have been so blessed to meet and befriend – all examples of how their Paganism and personalities shine through in their artistic endeavors. David T., Richard, Art, Patrick M. – the storytellers, who can spin a tale, recite a poem, and stir the coals within your heart. How do I take these folks, and so many others and spin them into an archetypal Pagan?
Or do I even want to? Honestly, the only true way to experience the aspects that each embodies in this mythical, archetype of a Pagan is to spend time with each of them. To experience who they are, what they believe, and how the lines between all of that get blurred to make these beautiful people that I am lucky enough to have met, talked with, and experienced. And some of them are truly whirlwind experiences that cannot be described.
So how in the Nine Hells can I build this archetypal Pagan? What meaning and message and imagery would I want to convey to this equally mythical non-Pagan? Pagans, clothed and unclothed, looking wild in their unflinching embrace of Nature and a multitude of Gods and Spirits. Naked and frolicking in the woods. Partying with the animals into the wee hours of the dark-skies of the morning…. No. That is not fair imagery. It is a stereotype. And one designed to be as unfair to Pagans anywhere.
How about an image from earlier this year? The ADF Imbolc Retreat in the south Texas hill-country? I pulled up to the location in my F150 pickup truck. There were cars, SUVs, and trucks of various types, makes and years. Just like any parking lot outside a local mall anywhere in the United States. People came to the evening ritual in what would be described as their “ritual garb” or in some quarters as their Ren Faire gear. But others came to the rituals in their t-shirts and jeans. Wearing work boots, tennis shoes, flip-flops, and even barefoot.
As much as I would like to be able to walk down the street – point to someone and proclaim them as a Pagan because of the way they dress, the way they act, the color of their hair or….whatever. I just can’t. Because Pagan folk look just like anyone else. And like anyone else that has a sense of belief – Pagans believe in what they believe. And the vast differences between what precisely they believe in, and what they don’t is just as different as the clothing they wear every day of the week.
So what is a “typical” Pagan? Is there a secret handshake? Some twinkle in the eye? Some secret code?? Most of the people I know believe in a multitude of Gods, Goddesses, Spirits – and have a strong reverence for their Ancestors. I can’t really say that any of them are truly typical. They are unique people, all with their individual strengths and faults. And I would not want a single thing about any of them changed whatsoever. I cherish the individual connections I have with each of them. Taken together, they are an interesting (at least to me) rabble of differing opinions, perspectives, and directives.
Is there a typical Pagan among them? Some prototype that I can use to measure others against? No. And why in the Nine Hells would I want to measure any of them against another? I remember faux competitions like that from my time in the Southern Baptist wing of the Christian community. Who was more “on fire for Jesus”? Who had the stronger connection to Jesus, God or the Holy Spirit?? I am sorry, but I do not handle faith in that manner. And honestly, I do not think any of my friends do either. Spiritual belief is not some contests that happen on Sundays. If you are looking for that, there are NFL games on the TV every Sunday; perhaps that is what you were seeking.
A typical Pagan? Sadly, I do not think I can produce one of those. But come spend some time with me, I will be happy to introduce you to some really exceptional people that just happen to be Pagan. To my mythical non-Pagan individual, if you want to know what your typical Pagan is like….just like anyone else. There is no special dress code. No special handshake. No secret knock that you need to perform at the door. Your average Pagan is no different than anyone else. What makes them Pagan is individual to each of them. And like any human being on this planet, getting to know them as individual human beings will be the truest measuring stick that you have in determining who they are.