There is incredible diversity in this umbrella religion we call “Paganism” – to the extent that some doubt we can be called a single religion at all. I find the ways people classify the types of Pagans to be more interesting than a debate over who gets to use the term and who doesn’t.
“Given the commonality of the basic Gardnerian liturgical pattern, it is useful to propose a typology based on how closely the various Pagan groups resemble the Gardnerians, resemblances created because it was the “Gardnerian magnet”, as Chas Clifton labeled it, that set off the Pagan Renaissance in the 1960s. … Given that, let us visualize a circular target. At its center are the “orthodox” Gardnerians of America … The next ring out is for the “liberal” Gardnerians… The third ring is for Witches whose practice follows Gardnerian practice in almost every detail, although these Witches do not claim a lineage going back to Gardner… The fourth ring is thus for generic, eclectic, or non-Gardnerian Witches, who now constitute roughly 90 percent of all the Witches in America and Canada. … the fifth ring is for Pagan religions that do not define themselves as being a form of Witchcraft… A sixth ring is needed for the Ceremonial Magicians… The next ring out would logically be for all the varieties of indigenous religions that have influenced or are of interest to Pagans, but these religions are in the bailiwick of mainstream religious studies; so this seems to be a logical place to stop.”
“Imagine that the Pagan community has not one, but multiple “centers”. Imagine each of these “centers” defines Pagan identity and authenticity differently.”
“The Pagan identity of earth-centered Pagans is defined by their relationship to their natural environment. Authenticity for these Pagans is defined by one’s ability to connect with the more-than-human world.”
“The Pagan identity of Self-centered Pagans is defined by spiritual practices which aim at development of the individual, spiritually or psychologically. Paganism is, for some Self-centered Pagans, a form of therapy or self-help. Authenticity is determined by one’s relationship with one’s Self, with that larger sense of Self which extends beyond the boundaries of one’s ego and one’s individual person.”
“The Pagan identity of deity-centered Pagans is defined by a dedication to one or more deities. Authenticity is determined by one’s relationship with those deities and/or one’s relationship with the reconstructed practices of ancient pagans who worshiped those deities.”
“For community-centered Pagans, the community is that which transcends the individual. The relationship between community-centered Pagans and the community is ideally characterized by love. … The unique challenge presented by community-centered Paganism arises from the conflict between individual and group needs. Thus, love is a core virtue of community-centered Paganism, since love is what enables us to identify the needs of others as our own.”
Though I like the idea of the four centres of Paganism, I want to use “inner centred” or something like that due to the problems involved in using Self-centred in a discussion.
And an article I always give to people before/during theology discussions:
“Red: …the gods are personal, named, individual entities, with whom one can communicate almost as one would with human beings. They may or may not be humanlike.”
“Blue: Deity exists. … It is so great, so subtle, so all-encompassing, that we cannot hope to comprehend more than a tiny fraction of it. Being ourselves human, we relate best to things that are humanlike, and so we have ‘the gods’: humanlike metaphors or masks which we place upon the faceless Face of the Ultimate…”
“Yellow: The gods exist only as constructs within the human mind and imagination. They are Truths – valid ways of making sense out of human thought and experience… – but they are not Facts. … It doesn’t matter that the gods aren’t factual; they’re true, and that’s what’s important.”
“Now, let’s arrange these endpoints in the shape of a triangle, with Red at the top, and Blue and Yellow at the left and right of the base. Many people’s beliefs don’t fall precisely on one of these endpoints, but somewhere along one of the edges, or even in the middle. A person’s beliefs may change from moment to moment, or may remain fixed for years.”
“If you identify with one or two of these centers but not another, that’s fine – and you have plenty of company. If you identify with any of these centers, I want you in the Big Tent of Paganism. I enjoy theological discussions and debates (so long as they remain respectful) – they help me refine my own ideas about the gods. But in the end the nature of the gods or God/dess or the All or however you see Divinity remains a mystery.”
And, finally, the (inevitable, but welcome) call for respect despite our many differences:
“Project Pagan Enough (known as PPE) began in 2010 as a means to bring a live-and-let-live mentality to the pagan community. To cease the in-fighting and further a sense of community and camaraderie between those who claim the moniker Pagan. …Project Pagan Enough is also a challenge to engage with those you disagree with in an academic, tactful conversation. Get to know the other person and their reasoning for saying or believing as they do. Educate both yourself and the other person in a respectful manner. Share knowledge and regard someone’s individual path as being different from your own while being the same in the desire to seek the divine.”