I am highly disappointed in myself. It’s turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day here in Moriconium, and I am plagued by a nagging guilt that I am not out there making the most of it. A perfect day to hop on the bus and go somewhere wild (well, as close to wild as Dorset gets): to feel the salt breeze upon my face, to wander pensively along the banks of a stream, perhaps even to hug a tree. Instead I’ve sat on the sofa in my underpants all afternoon, eating crisps and watching Wales play a crap game against Italy.
This moring was slightly more productive, albeit only in a manner of speaking. I started writing a short piece on pagan views of sexuality, in response to something that Brochfael wrote on CF. Unfortunately, however, it swiftly got out of control and veered widely off-topic into a rambling denunciation of What I Think is Wrong in Paganism Today. I was vaguely tempted to post it anyway, knowing that it would probably get a few giggles, but on re-reading I noted that some of the things I wrote bordered uncomfortably on the sociopathic even by my own (admittedly rather low) standards.
Discretion being the better part of valour, then (and sensing that I really need to do more work on my anger issues), I have instead condensed it down into a rather more temperate List of Things I Don’t Get about Paganism. It’s far from comprehensive, obviously. I’ve missed off some of the more obvious things, like a cavalier disregard for historical and linguistic facts, as they’re not things I “don’t get”: I’m fully aware that they’re due to the unfortunate truth that people are stupid.
Things I Don’t Get about Paganism
- Nudity outside ritual. No, seriously, what’s that all about? Obviously we can lay the blame squarely at Dion Byngham’s door, but it just seems rather incongruous and lacking any actual theological justification. Am I right in suspecting that it’s simply an excuse for the more exhibitionist to wave their tackle about? When you get right down to it, are so many pagan gatherings “clothing-optional” solely so that the more self-aggrandising (there is indeed a pun here) PE teacher types can strut about like the cock of the walk?
- “Magickal” names. Just why?
- Bad prose. I know it’s not a specifically pagan thing, of course, but so much pagan writing is dire. Take the website of my local band of megalith-botherers: it’s barely literate. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the hideously over-wrought prose of Emma Restall Orr, whose persistent verbal tics render her work utterly unreadable for me. While we’re at it, can we please place a moratorium on the use of the verb “to craft” when we actually mean “to make” or “to create”?
- The propensity to schism. Actually, I think I do get why the pagan community is so Balkanised in the UK at least: everybody wants to be an archdruid.
- “Ritual” wear. We are, I believe, the only religion in the world where congregants are expected to dress up in homemade robes in order to worship. I know Christians have their Sunday Best, but it’s hardly comparable.
- The sheer aesthetic poverty. Bo’s already covered this one amply and I see no reason to add to his discussion.
- Tie-dye. When is paganism going to realise that the 1960s ended forty fucking years ago? This is not Height-Ashbury in the Summer of Love. It’s a British field in the middle of a damp August.
- Relativism. Sooner or later, paganism is going to have to decide once and for all: is it a religion (or, better, a group of religions) or a pick and mix approach to self-actualisation? When are we going to stop sitting around nodding gnomically and accepting everybody’s “truth” as equally valid. It is the mark of a mature religion to be able to turn to someone and tell them they’re talking bollocks.
I could go on, but those are the main things that are a source of genuine puzzlement to me. Why do these things occur at all? Answers on a postcard, please!