Not that long ago, I wrote a blog post about not being the kind of Druid you think I might be or some such nonsense. The basics boiled down to not being what people conjure up in their minds when it comes to the concept of what a Druid is. Given that, I’m not likely what you expect a Pagan to be either, and yet I am. When you mention to people what they think a Pagan is, the typical response is some kind of drug-crazed, hippy-type, who sleeps with whoever and whatever they damn well please. They have a pack of tarot cards jammed into one of their pants pockets, and have adopted some crazy-assed name like “moonbeam” or something.
Ok, I fit some of these silly stereotypes, just not that well. I’m not drug-crazed, unless you count the hard-core coffee addiction, and the occasional snort of whiskey when my diabetes doc isn’t looking. I am what people would “420 friendly” even though I don’t smoke the stuff. I’m just not out to condemn those that do partake. And then there’s my childhood nickname of “Elf” that has stuck with me into my fifties. Yeah, I might be related to Moonbeam in some fashion. But the reality is that is about as close as I seem to get to many of the other Pagans I have met.
Most of what I am relating to here are really horrible stereotypes. The truth is that you will find Pagans in many walks of Life. For instance, when I was in the military, I was a very open Pagan. My superiors knew about my beliefs. Some of them were quite the assholes about it, and that may have contributed a bit towards my dismissal from the Air Force over a missed formation. Most of the Pagans that I encountered in the military ranks were junior enlisted. There were only a handful of Non-Commissioned Officers (including myself) that I encountered. But there was one Commissioned Officer, a Major in Army Intelligence. Now Commissioned Officers do not frequently mesh with enlisted folks, and when they do, its typically with higher Non-Commissioned Officers – mostly because of the similar ages. This Major was also in a career field that is fairly sensitive, so his religious preferences were fairly well carved in such a way to not led any speculation to Paganism. The point here is that this Major came from a much different part of the military ranks as most of the Pagans I encountered. And its not that different out in the civilian world either.
Many Pagans seem to come from fairly lower ranks within the economic stratum of everyday life. The keyword here is “seem”. I have met Pagans from all levels of economic stratum in society. However, sometimes it seems that most of the Pagans that are out there struggle to make ends meet. An interesting observation in pre-corona virus days, and one that is indeed difficult to fully explain. At least to the naked eye. However, its not really all that inconceivable to find Pagans that are fairly well off, financially. I would hate to say that Paganism only seems to fully reveal itself to people in the lower economic stratum in our global society. I’m sure it would provide a fascinating study, by someone other than me, for a university dissertation. For the moment, I will postulate that it only seems that Paganism is largely made up for folks from a middle-to-lower economic stratum in society as a whole. Seemingly, it makes sense since the economic stratum is skewed heavily towards the lower income and economic stratum by a wide and varying level of factors and variables. But like I said….a study for some future Pagan academic.
More men than women in Paganism? I would say its about an even split, until you start looking into specific aspects of Paganism. Then, you can find some very extreme disparate data points between the sexes. Add to that folks of transgender status, folks who do not identify by any gender, those who identify in dual genders – and any other combination and thought you can come up with – and this particular data point becomes a very messy perspective to handle. No wonder the federal government has been slow to add a fourth gender category to the gender assignment category within the Federal Department of Education. Certainly, it has proven to be a near herculean task for colleges and universities to deal with the male, female and unreported categories, particularly in environments with open enrollment standards. I still stick to the 40/40/?? split….
So, I started this out with pointing out that I am probably not the type of Pagan you envision. Honestly, let me dress like I usually do – a Grateful Dead tshirt, torn up jeans, tennis shoes and my Grand Teton Association hat…and I just look like a tired, burned-out stoner hippy type. I could literally blend in with many other individuals of my age (mid 50s) on a casual Saturday in the park. Stick me with a group of Pagans…and I sort of stick out like a sore thumb. I’m older. I’m more out-of-shape. And I don’t really have a flair for the dramatic. Aside from my Awen pendant or my Ying/Yang wolf necklace…you would be pretty hard-pressed to identify me as a Pagan in that crowd. How am I not what you might have expected? Well, if you had seen me at the Austin WitchFest…you would know what I am talking about.
Now for the bigger question. What does it matter? Really? Because when it gets right down to the brass-tacks in the Witch’s brass bra in the dead of Winter….it really doesn’t matter. Paganism has never been about how much better you dress than someone else. Or how much you can out-Pagan the other Pagans. If that’s your idea of Paganism, well – more power to you. You will have a difficult time associating with me as a Pagan. And to be honest, that’s fine. I’ll still treat you as a Pagan because you said you are. I have no reason to doubt you. Furthermore, I have no desire to do so. My idea of Paganism deals with my experiences with the World around me – not judging others on their own experiences. I’m here on my Pagan walk, not yours. You can; however, invite me to walk for a bit on your Path with you through the forest. I’ll be more than happy to do so. Not because I’m validating you as a Pagan. Rather, I find you an interesting person and would love to walk through the forest and talk for a bit. Maybe even exchange Emails so we can continue the conversation later in private. Paganism, to me, isn’t about judging you – its about finding a connection between us that we can turn into a tighter, more constructive bond. And in this day and age…we can all use a friend that looks out for us.