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Pagan versus Neopagan

Discussion in 'Paganism DIR' started by DRyelle, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. DRyelle

    DRyelle Novelista

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    9
    I realize that "neo" means "new" and that historians and anthropologists have applied the prefix to mean that there is no concrete connection to what we presently practice and what was practiced in the past. Nevertheless, I hate the term neopagan and feel like it's extremely "fluffy bunny" and has all sorts of negative connotations, right up there with "new age".

    I am a Pagan with a capital P, just like Christians are such with a capital C. My subdivision is Isian worship and I dare anyone to defy me with lowercase letters! (I bet if you tried to tell a fundamentalist that they were a "christian" and their subdivision was "catholic", they'd have a hairy spelling fit!)


    (I guess the point of this post, besides ranting, was, "How do the rest of you feel?")
     
  2. Kemble

    Kemble Active Member

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    403
    Religion:
    Temple of the Vampire
    "Paganism" is one large umbrella, mostly derogatory in reference to ancient religious streams of thought. Honestly the distinction rests mostly in academia, and a little bit in terms of practice. Neopaganism is a modern, mainly western cooption of ancient pantheons. Paganism encompasses the rhythms of the ancient communal, socio-cultural rites, institutions, customs, and rituals around a regional religious tradition (say ancient Greek); i.e. the real deal. You'll rarely be able to fully recreate the latter (lost contexts never recoverable through archaeology plus the fact that we'll probably never truly think and live like an ancient Greek did embedded in their 300BC cultural milieu), so most contemporary paganism as a religious movement is a modern invention and rightfully with the prefix Neo-. Some have begun to incorporate academic archaeology to get as close to the original religion of choice as possible, while the majority are really (offensively yet) best described as Christianity in drag.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  3. Heathen Hammer

    Heathen Hammer Nope, you're still wrong

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    3,137
    Some times it seems that age has a great amount of gravitas when it comes to religions being discussed. :shrug:
     
  4. Quintessence

    Quintessence The Elementalist Staff Member Premium Member

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    9,421
    Religion:
    Druidic Witch
    I don't see how it is at all "fluffy bunny" when the term is adopted by academics who study Neopaganism for very good reasons. The differences are more substantial than there not being an unbroken link to the past, and I do not tend to use Paganism and Neopaganism interchangeably (or paganism - no proper case - but I'm going to leave that one out of the discussion here). I don't care if other people follow my particular distinctions, but they need to know I do so for the sake of clarity. Neopaganism is a subcategory of Paganism that has qualities distinct from indigenous, tribal, or ancestral forms. Much of that distinctiveness comes from monotheistic baggage or qualities of the modern age that simply didn't exist in indigenous/tribal or ancestral cultures. For example, the strong feminist/environmental twist to Neopaganism in the States is very much a product of contemporary culture and is not particularly Pagan. Within Neopaganism, some are more "neo" than others in terms of exhibiting qualities that break from indigenous/ancestral forms, but I certainly don't find either term derogatory.
     
  5. Kemble

    Kemble Active Member

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    403
    Religion:
    Temple of the Vampire
    Religions are like languages. Some have grown up with a religion as their first language where they simply absorb it from the surrounding neighborhood or atmosphere and don't have to put conscious effort; they can navigate it like natives from the get-go. Others adopt a religion like a second-language, often from reading books. Those folks can study the ideas, texts, et cetera, and come out with a pretty good comfort level in it but there is still a wide divide between the cultural, native folks and the adoptive folks. The adoptive folks will never really achieve native fluency in an ancient religious tradition because they lack the cultural and social contexts that are largely unrecoverable. Much more often they will drape their new religion over the native beliefs they are still comfortable with or unconsciously operating from.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  6. DRyelle

    DRyelle Novelista

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    9
    So would you say that reconstructionists are less likely to be considered Neopagans than, say, an eclectic?
     
  7. Quintessence

    Quintessence The Elementalist Staff Member Premium Member

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    9,421
    Religion:
    Druidic Witch
    I would say reconstructionists are still Neopagan in that they are re-creating or reviving Pagan religions that died out centuries ago and is inevitably disconnected from its original geographic and cultural context. Reconstructionist concern about issues of authenticity sometimes makes them have more in common with the ancestral forms of Paganism, but there's considerable variation in how reconstructionists approach the issue of authenticity so it is not a guarantee. There are also things that are inevitably lost when you remove a practice from its original context. For example, many Pagan gods are strongly connected with a particular geographic area, and attempting to relate to them outside of that area is variously challenging to impossible.

    That said, I would observe that I've noticed at least some reconstructionists don't like being called Pagan, Neo or otherwise, period. They view it as a term outsiders stuck on their way of life that is pejorative. I can't fault them for that viewpoint, as there are times that bothers me as well.
     
  8. DRyelle

    DRyelle Novelista

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    9
    In other words, there's no escaping the terminology due to the disconnect, correct? That's why you will never hear "Neochristian" and "Neojewish", because they can claim an unbroken line of practice/ritual/belief.
     
  9. Quintessence

    Quintessence The Elementalist Staff Member Premium Member

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    9,421
    Religion:
    Druidic Witch
    Well, language evolves, as do the things the words are attempting to describe. It's a moving target attempting to describe another moving target. The "neo" application is also a reference to the fact that we're a new religious movement, not just the disconnect. It's entirely possible that in a dozen generations, scholars/academics/historians will come up with a different set of terms, as will the Neopagan community itself. At present, the labeling structure within Neopaganism is dizzyingly non-standardized and fluid, probably because as a religious movement, we aren't organized or centered around a founder and encompass an almost absurd amount of diversity. The best we can do is set some standards for ourselves and become skilled at communicating those to others, because the clip at which the language and religious movement are evolving is just nuts. What, it was not even a couple decades ago that it was perfectly okay to use the term "Wicca" and "Witchcraft" as synonyms? Now, many will jump down your throat for doing that. If something feels strange with how someone uses a term, I'd recommend asking for clarification before going spastic on them.
     
  10. The Sum of Awe

    The Sum of Awe Realitarian

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    13,902
    Religion:
    Stoicism
    Hmm, I thought Neopaganism was more of the New Agey stuff and ancient religion revivalism and Paganism was just nature centric and pantheon friendly.
     
  11. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Persona Polytheist / Proud Ergi Staff Member Premium Member

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    Religion:
    Old Way Made New
    But, to be fair, that's exactly what old tribes would do all the time as they interacted with each other, traded ideas, etc. Most native religions didn't have the strict standardization that Abrahamic religions introduced, and so there would, from what I understand, be large variances between villages and tribes.

    Consider Artemis: multi-breasted goddess of fertility, as in Turkey, or the maiden huntress (with only two breasts), as in Greece?
     
  12. Siddhartha Plotinus

    Siddhartha Plotinus New Member

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    20
    I believe you're right in the sense that "neo" makes it out to be a different religion to the old one. But then again, it very well can be, such as Wicca, which is Neopaganism.

    Pagan = Worships the old gods in the same way as the ancient peoples did. Uses literature and interpretations according to the ancient peoples. Etc, etc, ancient peoples.

    Neopaganism = New age interpretations of the old ways that would probably have gotten them glares and scoffs, possibly killed, because they are so far from the actual definitions and interpretations of said gods and practices of the ancient peoples.

    You can be one or the other, or a mixture of both which is neither or. That's my opinion.
     
  13. Heim

    Heim Active Member

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    257
    I believe 'neopagan' specifically implies all the recent religious traditions in one way or another based on ancient polytheistic belief systems.

    Pagan is a very broad term with a multitude of meanings: an adherent to a polytheistic religion, a person not belonging to an Abrahamic religion, etc.

    And then there is the whole question of Heathenism versus 'Paganism/Neopaganism.

    It might be interesting to add that in my native language (Dutch) 'pagans' and 'neopagans' are referred to as 'heidenen'. Still the word 'heiden' officially means non-believer.
     
  14. Quintessence

    Quintessence The Elementalist Staff Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    9,421
    Religion:
    Druidic Witch
    "Pagan" is still used colloquially to designate atheism as well. Or to designate "outsider" belief systems in general. Or as a snarl word, to designate people to hate. These usages I lump under "pagan" in improper case, because while I might not like these definitions, I'm not going to lie to myself and say they're illegitimate. People can and do use the word that way, but they're not referring to Paganism proper, as a religion or religious movement, much less Neopaganism specifically. Every so often some bone-headed politician uses "pagan" as a snarl word and the Neopagan blogosphere explodes in fiery politically correct wrath. I usually just laugh.
     
  15. Nayana

    Nayana Wide load

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    I really just use Pagan. Neopagan is fine as well in my opinion. I think it's when people get involved in deeper conversations that the terms "neopagan" and "pagan" are used a bit more to identify older forms of paganism and their more modern reconstructed form, from paganism which has taken parts of many paths and constructed their own individual path.

    To be honest, the terms are used so loosely and broadly I am not particularly fussed. One can argue many points on this. By my own logic I follow a type of Neopaganism as I do not adhere to a deity of any particular pagan path at the moment, mine is more nature worship and any god/ess of that is of nature I feel connected to, to varying degrees. Or am I an eclectic pagan?

    It also seems that Paganism even in ancient times was subject to change and the people would build upon their beliefs, so one could also argue that it's just Paganism. I mean when did the era of "neopagan" begin? There have been some revival movements for the past few hundred years. Also eventually the newer parts of paganism will become old one day too, so I'm not sure what happens after.
     
  16. keebles

    keebles New Member

    Messages:
    2
    I have found in reading several different book on the subject was helpful in the easing of the confusion. Basically they all said that as the world evolves and grows people perception on things become different. Peoples morals are different than what they where when our ancestors came before us. Neo-paganism is practically a rivised pagan concept that fits the morals of today. Back then they had no problem with sacrificing animal and such but if you would do that today you would be considered crazy and would problem get locked up for animal crulty or something like that. Neopaganism pretty much takes the what our society consider "immoral or not right" and removes that and also a lot of pagan groups back in the day were very secretive about there rituals so we don"t know for sure what they did just a general idea of it. I really don't know how to explain it anymore but I can only suggest that you read up on it. For me I really don't think there is much difference other that it is "new." I chose to practice paganism becuase it does not limit me on what I can or cannot do it is just a belief system generated around the morals that I have been brought up with. There is no right or wrong way to worship just as long as you harm none.
     
  17. keebles

    keebles New Member

    Messages:
    2
    by the way the term pagan means "from the earth" and was taken up by the christains/Islams/Jews to classify non-christains/Islams/Jews
     
  18. Freedomelf

    Freedomelf Active Member

    Messages:
    369
    Since we are all from the earth, I tend to think of Pagans as everyone. Some people reject their Pagan heritage and some develop it into different channels and worship in different ways. We are all united under the skin, since our roots go far back before any currently fashionable religion.
     
  19. A Disgruntled Scotsman

    A Disgruntled Scotsman Member

    Messages:
    32
    Religion:
    Paganism
    I use the following definitions:

    Pagan - a native tradition (typically polytheistic and/or animistic etc) which has continued uninterrupted from ancient times. I'd class Shinto & NA beliefs (those that are still practised at least) as Pagan religions/paths.

    Neo-Pagan - 1) revival movements of older (typically polytheistic and/or animistic) religions that have become extinct in the past which seek to reintroduce these old religions to modern society e.g. Hellenismos or Religio Romana.

    2) Newly begun nature-based religions which have a non-Abrahamic god as their/a main deity e.g. Wicca.
     
  20. dgirl1986

    dgirl1986 Big Chesticles!

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    3,151
    Religion:
    Humanist Atheist
    I think a lot of terms have negative connotations because of what people outside of that group or whatever have placed on it. If neopagan is what I am then so be it. If I am a bit new agey then so be it. I am not too fussed with the connotations but more what it really is.
     
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