My Perspective on Transactional and Transformative Paganism

(cross-posted from

IMG_7076Another round of being on the road finds me blogging from a hotel room. And essentially setting this one on a time delay release. That all sounds so foreign to my brain. While I like traveling, doing it all the time just does not sit well with my usual frame of mind. It is really alright though…because I will be home or not far from it for most of the Summer. Anyways, enough of my suitcase woes. 🙂

A while back – during another journey of suitcase-time – at Pantheacon, I attended Pantheacon this year. Probably the last time for a couple of years. Three years in a row put enough of a dent in my finances. While there, I attended Kristoffer Hughes’ presentation entitled “When the Last Leaf Falls”. It was a wonderful presentation circling the topic of gracefully helping those who pass away in the last bits of their time here, as well as helping those who stay behind when the individual passes on. It was quite a lovely talk – and will likely spur a few more blog posts as I continue to come back to my notes and think deeper about what was said. However, one thing really stuck out enough for me to write a side-note on it:  transactional Paganism.

For a short while, I had a huge question mark next to this, as I continued to really think quizzical about this concept. Eventually, I decided to look up the concept of “transactional belief” and wound up at a Christian-oriented blog, which I will not link here. The post was titled as “Five Signs You Have a Transactional Relationship with God” and followed along these five points:

  1. You’re busy all the time. Essentially, the point was that life in this manner is broken into the stuff that is Spiritual in nature, and stuff that is not. And that it is far more important to do the stuff that is Spiritual.
  2. You think God demands excellence in all things. Fairly straight-forward.
  3. You overuse self-conscious spiritual language. In this instance, the notation was that everyday conversation included statements like “Spirit-filled, and “Christ-oriented.”
  4. You wonder if God is punishing you when something bad happens. Again, fairly-straight-forward.
  5. You hide feelings about yourself that you’re afraid to admit to God or close friends. Essentially, this is about being able to view one’s self in the light of being a “normal” person regardless of past “transgressions”.

A lot of that wound up being some interesting points I can see in my own personal approach to my everyday Spirituality and Life. I am not really busy all the time, at least not within my Spirituality. In my everyday life at work, I am extremely busy. But I am one person tasked with the work of four. Every day is a struggle to keep my head above water. In my daily Spiritual life, I am provided with tasks to accomplish on behalf of Crow from time to time. I am tasked with the perspective of being a Protector, but while I keep a daily vigilance over all that is required of me – It is not enough to take up every moment of my daily life. Furthermore, I do not really see a need to separate my mundane and Spiritual lives. I see both bleeding over into the other – as well as informing the other to one degree or another.

Excellence. Crow expects me to try my best, but I am not rejected outright if I wind up flat on my face from the effort. Rather, I am encouraged to try again, and again, and again. I have my own faults within life, and I don’t believe the Gods are expecting us to be anything beyond the best that we can do. And self-conscious Spiritually language?? Well, if me constantly muttering “Gods-be-damned” when I screw something up, then maybe so. As for the last two…Gods help me…

Now, when I think of “transactional Paganism” I think more along the lines of expecting something from the Gods for our efforts. Sort of like the way that most shallow-minded Christians seek the answer to their prayers from God.

Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket…    –Captain Malcolm Reynolds

You know these types of prayers. Where God is treated as an Automated Teller Machine for individual wants, needs, and desires. For me, this is where I tend to see the concept of transactional Paganism. A trade of this action for that reward. I am not sure about any of you, but I decided to serve Crow because I wanted to. The knowledge that gets shared with me is really nice, and I appreciate it, but it is not what I expected going into this relationship. And devotion to a God or Goddess is exactly that – a relationship. And in that manner, the love, kindness, and caring I received from Crow can be considered to be a form of transactional relationship.

Kristoffer also mentioned that we can benefit more from transformational Paganism within our community. Where our actions, words, and even gestures towards others can provide a momentary relief for those who are experiencing the last days of a loved one or their own last moments before their leaf falls. Those gestures, words, and actions can help provide the appropriate dignity for others – a dignity that is sorely missing in today’s medicalized version of death.

Perhaps, we can also look at our own roles in transformational Paganism in our own daily practices, and routines. Instead of being offended by the openly spiritual motions, words, and gestures of others that pray openly to a monotheistic God within a triune setting – perhaps if we noted that we didn’t follow their beliefs, but we’re happy to say a few words with them or sit silently as they pray out loud before a meal. We might make a difference in their own day, provide them with a little dignity concerning their own piety, and an example of what being open to other faiths might look like.

Sure, maybe I am an over-idealized hippy that believes that the world can find some common ground if we all just tried. But you know what? I am ok with being labeled that way. Because it is not far from the truth. And honestly, I would rather acknowledge the dignity of another individual’s beliefs – even when they are diametrical opposed to my own – than to show my rear-end and dig the animosity trench a little deeper and wider.


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