“Baby Pagan.” “Baby Witch.” “Baby Druid.” I have been watching the start of the outrage over these types of terms beginning here on various forums on the internet. The back and forth, at times, seems nearly comical. One side accuses the other of not being serious over the terminology. The other side makes accusations of “gate-keeping.” Both points only enrage the other side further. I’ve watched Pagans that I generally consider to be level-headed suddenly erupt into throwing insults like hand grenades at the other side. Me, and others, stand on the sidelines and take in what is occurring.
Stuff like this makes me wonder if the wider Pagan community can ever get things together enough to present a cohesive perspective to non-Pagans. Apparently not over things like this. Arguing over whether a term should be considered an offensive slur or not. Suddenly, we start to divide into sides, and arm ourselves for mortal combat. All over a simple point of terminology.
I sort of understand. There are racially insensitive terms that should never be uttered, which can cause a similar type of scrum. However, I must really question whether adding the term “baby” in front of Pagan, Druid, Witch, Heathen, or what have you, really rises to that level. Or does it?
On the one hand, the term “baby” seems to imply that those who have this label hung around their necks are simply newbies to the entire scene. They simply haven’t accumulated a lot of knowledge or experience about aspects of their newly chosen Path yet. Certainly, there are better reference points for these folks, such as neophyte. But honestly, not everyone uses such terminology in their everyday vernacular. Referring to someone as a “baby” whatever provides a quicker expression that displays a faster understanding of these newbies.
On the other hand, the implication is that these newbies need to have their information and knowledge spoon-fed to them. A further implication is that these “baby” whatevers will never learn to accumulate knowledge on their own, making them into what some might see as a useless whatever Path they are on. This seemingly references these folks as seekers on the Path that are not worth spending time on, simply because they don’t know any better.
I can see both sides of that coin quite easily. Being a completely unknowledge neophyte in my earlier days on my Path, I can easily relate to the position that those seekers are in. I completely understand how lost such a seeker can feel when faced with others who know so much more. Even deeper, I can relate to how embarrassing one can feel in front of those with that wide ranger of knowledge who treat you like a pariah just because you don’t know. Been there. Done that. I used to make the t-shirts down at the t-shirt shop for sales for the next coven bake-off. Not only is it a lonely place to be, it can turn people away from a Path that could be completely useful and helpful in their life. I would hate to be the person that is responsible for pushing someone away from their Path, just because I had a need to feel elitist to them. I mean, fuck, we’ve all started on the same points in our Paths. The knowledge and experience that I have now – well over thirty years of it, doesn’t mean I was born on third base. It took a lot of effort, time, and learning to get here from the batter’s box.
On the other side, I’ve been around those Pagans that think this is a giant Harry Potter story that we live as Pagans, Druids, Witches, Heathens, and what not. Yes, being around those folks that believe that the Norse Gods are just like the Marvel movie characters can grate on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. But I also remind myself that everyone’s Pagan Path is different. Its not up to me to determine what MUST work for everyone else. Rather, I need to be focused on how I walk my own Path. I must focus on the quality of my own connection to the world around me. What works for me doesn’t mean it’s the only way to get things to work for someone else. To bring that around to a strong part of what I believe in my own Path: everyone must determine what is “quality” for themselves. Individual Spirituality means that we might follow a similar Path, but it doesn’t mean that we walk the same way on that Path. I might stop to take in the magnificent beauty of a distant waterfall on a cliff at the opposite side of the valley. You may stop to watch the bids flit from branch to branch. Or you may kneel at the side of the forest path to take in the spectacular beauty of a group of flowers in their magnificent coloring. We are all doing the things in each of those scenarios that bring meaning and beauty to our individual Paths. Each are meaningful to the individuals practicing those observational differences. None of those observational moments is wrong for the individual utilizing it.
Back to the “baby” debate. We are arguing about terminology and what it means to each of us. Every single individual will approach the terminology in a different way. We will all come to our own conclusions about the “rightness” and “wrongness” of the terminology within our own observations, perspectives, and opinions. However, can we agree that not everyone is going to see it all the same way? Can we agree that no one MUST agree to our own individual compiling of that information into our own belief? Do we really have to divide up into battle groups and assail one another in public forums for having a difference of opinion?
Personally, what I see is another symptom of how our modern society has chosen to approach differences of opinions, based on our political approaches. Since the George W. Bush era, here in American politics, we have divvied ourselves into rival factions and waged societal war against one another. Over time, this has been bandied into where we stand today. We seek to establish sides and arguments into everything we do. Coke or Pepsi? Coffee or tea? McDonalds or Burger King or Wendy’s or what have you? So, why not separate into sides to decide the correctness or wrongness of such an inane term as “baby” whatever to describe new people coming to Paganism? Think back on when you started on your Pagan path. Would you have continued, if you saw or heard people arguing over the right and wrong of a term like this? How serious would you have been able to take your Path if this was one of the first things you encountered? I know I probably would have turned away and giving up completely on my own personal Spirituality. That would have made me feel rather empty inside, and possibly have hardened my heart to a Path that has done so much to enrich my life, and teach me so much about myself.
Besides, the term “baby” whatever – that’s just a convenient label for those to find footing in describing others. If that’s what they need, so be it. I think its ridiculous to ascribe a rightness or wrongness to the term, and then wage war with others over a difference of opinion. Besides, there are other terms that can be utilized, Neophyte, Beginner, and Seeker among so many others. Me? I tend to refer to these newbie Pagans as “People.” To describe where they are on their Path…all I can offer is what I tell these newbies that I encounter – you’re where I was when I started down this Path. I hope you’re excited about learning and experiencing. I was when I started too. And I look back on that time in my Path with great fondness. I made mistakes, just like you will. I had successes, just like you will. I envy you what you are going to experience. Even the difficult times. Just remember, there are experienced folks on your Path that can help point you in the right way. They won’t solve the problems for you. That would rob you of an experience that will be a part of you growing on this Path. But if you stumble and fall down…there are Pagans like me who will help you stand back up and be your cheerleader to continue moving forward when you feel ready. Until that moment, we can sit here on the Path and talk together. 😊