Pagans at the Parliament



Nature/Religion (part 3)

Sitting in the Sydney airport, waiting to return to the land that my animal soul comprehends on a deep and resonant level, I wish to type up one more thought. After teaching a group of Tasmanians yesterday, a few of us went for a short hike amongst the tree ferns, myrtles and eucalypts. Dotted here and there in this particular preserve were signs about the local aboriginals. One of my hosts commented that this particular group was not considered aboriginal by the other local groups. “Ah”, I thought, “one cannot get away from this anywhere.”  When asked why, he replied that since people from this particular grouping had intermarried at various points with white settlers (who were brutal settlers, in the beginning), they were no longer considered aboriginal. The subtext is, of course, that they were tainted and no longer pure.

In these conversations about which Pagans are “indigenous” and which are “neo-Pagans” how long is it before indigenous comes to equal authentic and authentic comes to equal pure and pure comes to equal superior?

Yes, definition is often problematic, and identity even more so. I do not need to lay claim to indigenousness. I practice Paganism and magic. I have a nature based (though not strictly earth-based) religion. I have heritage and training, it is true, but more importantly, I have practice, I have my body, I have meditation, I have the sun, the stars, the trees, the water, and you. Leave me to my practice and worship, please. I’m fine with being a 21st century person practicing a religion with ancient ancestry and contemporary innovation. As a person who lives on this land and in this time, among these cities and farms and wild places, how can I really do anything else?

For right now, I will call myself Pagan: one who connects with the non-Dual and the many Gods, with this sweet earth and with the stars far beyond my eye’s ability to reach.

- T. Thorn Coyle

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6 Comments for Nature/Religion (part 3)

Freeman Presson | December 14, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Terrific. I can stop trying to figure out how to get my ideas in order and just link to this.

Chas S. Clifton | December 15, 2009 at 12:20 am

“Indigenous” only makes sense in relationship to the “non-indigenous,” who are generally the guilty party/bad guys in that binary relationship.

Land issues are almost always at the bottom of it.

I have been musing on the same issue.

Peg Aloi | December 15, 2009 at 3:02 am

A very wise assessment of the implications of the wider discussion.

It’s odd to me that all these years after Wiccans first started feeling the need to strut their heritage or legacy by creating stories of being initiated into fictional family traditions (or publishing charming but spurious dreck like WEST COUNTRY WICCA that purported to contain ’secrets’ of so-called fam-trad Wicca), that modern pagans are still trying to one-up each other with these claims of superiority. It seems to stem from a desire to assert control and authority, and to draw attention to oneself, to be witchier than thou. It’s sad.

Riverbend | December 15, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Thanks for your thoughts Thorn–I particularly like your comments about being rooted in San Francisco. I feel the same way about New Orleans, though I didn’t grow up here (even as the rain continues to come down today, and the streets are once again flooding).

I ran across the concept of “reinhabiting” recently in an article about environmentalist Catholic nuns that really speaks to this idea–making a conscious decision to stay in place and do your work there no matter how damaged the area is. I’m trying to find out more about it.

Erynn | December 17, 2009 at 7:37 am

Gary Snyder has been talking about the concept of “reinhabitation” for many years now.

Lady Jake | December 17, 2009 at 8:23 am

Well said, all three installments!

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