What Pagan Means to Me

Wheel of the Year

Wheel of the Year (Photo credit: nearlywildlife)

So I have a funny yet kind of “sad” story regarding my trip up to Vancouver that I can and will share with you. On my way up, we had to obviously stop at the border for them to check the passengers, luggage and other stuff. When the Border Guard got to me, oh boy, I sure did not see what was coming next – I visualized it entirely different. He asked me the standard, “What’s your business in Canada?” and I was honest and said, “I’m here visiting a friend“.

Then he asks how we met, how long we knew each other, wanted to know my friends full name and unfortunately I had a brain-fart on his surname and “Oh boy!” did I get a little flack for that. I didn’t find him intimating or anything and he was just doing his job; I can’t fault him for that – but when my religious orientation came up that got really awkward for me. I really didn’t want to tell him but after being badgered so long I just said what I was and he said, “Oh! Yeah? I know what those are. I’m a history buff,” as if that should have been a comfort.

English: Seated Buddha Amitabha statue, west s...

English: Seated Buddha Amitabha statue, west side of Borobudur, ca. 1863-1866. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a few more questions he reluctantly let me go, but one thing was still bothering me about the entirety of the conversation. And that is…the fact he thought when I initially said, “I’m Pagan.” he was thinking of the literal definition not what you (some of you at least) and me  think of as being modern “Paganism” today. I thought someone who claims to be a History buff would keep up-to-date of changing “trends” like this. My brother is a History Buff and I know he does.

Now, not trying to rant here or give the poor man a bad time. No, no I just wanted to give you that short blurb so you’d have some back story for what the man inspired. So technically, him doing his job was/is a very good thing indeed. So as I was saying earlier, the man seemed under the impression that my use of the word “Pagan” alone didn’t describe very much to him. That’s because he was going by the literal definition of what people “thought” it was, which is;

1. A person who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim.

2. A person deemed savaged or uncivilized and morally deficient.

3. Worshipper of False gods.

Non-believer and Heathen were also often used.

The Viking

The Viking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, the word “Pagan“, as I mentioned earlier in my story, has evolved greatly. It has evolved so much it has literally become an “Umbrella Word” encompassing any and all Pagan, Heathen, Hellenic, Hinduism, Polytheistic considered religions of all shapes and sizes and others that are non-Christian Jewish and/or Muslim. While it’s true not all of us think of ourselves maybe as being “Pagan” or falling into that category, it still nicely covers a range of religions out there in a single and simple, easy-to-use, single-word “Pagan“.

So when it comes to what the new definition or modernized understanding of what being “Pagan” means, how is it defined? Well, allow me to take a stab at it, if I hit the nail on the head let me know and if I’m off about it, same deal. Also, if you think you can offer a better definition make-up, by all means give it a whirl:

1. Any collective, group of individuals, person that falls under being considered Pagan based on their beliefs (those not being the obvious of “Is neither Christian, Jewish or Muslim).

2. A collective, group, or individual who observes a polytheistic religion in some way shape or form or cares to associate themselves with such.

You only get two cause I got two. 😛

Why is it important though to know these two different definitions for this one word? Well if my “Cautionary Tale” about what happened with me and the Border Guard didn’t help, than allow me to play the role of Captain Obvious – so you can be respectful of someone’s privacy, their beliefs and most definitely NOT insult them. Those are three of the best reasons. heh How do you like that? I go the magic number without shooting for it! 🙂

English: The Priestess

English: The Priestess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed the post, I know it was informal – been doing those since I’m here in Vancouver for fun and a change of pace. If you like it and would like to see me do it more often, let me know please in a comment. Would be much appreciated thank you! Thank you for reading and until next time…

~Merry part & merry may we meet again, brightest blessings and more be yours, Namaste~


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. James John Bell
    Dec 26, 2012 @ 14:17:47

    Gwen, interesting story, your definition would imply that Hinduism is a pagan religion because they worship multiple gods and are not christian, muslim, or jewish, for example the Hindu gods Brahman (creator), Vishnu (preserver) and Shaiva (destroyer). Is Hinduism then a ‘pagan religion’ or is there another way to define pagans so they’re not assumed to include Hindu? Interesting post.

    • Lady Gwendolynn
      Dec 28, 2012 @ 18:54:16

      By all rights, the old definition plus the modern definition, if someone is Hindu and worships the traditional Gods and Goddesses, they would be considered Pagan. However, if there is another term they prefer, than I’m sure people, especially those like myself, would be more than happy to oblige in referring to them as they so like. Kind of like when people call me “Witch” or something, I kindly just explain to them I’m not and that the term does not resonate with me and I most definitely am not a witch and would prefer it if they call me “Pagan” instead. Would be nice someday if someone actually used the word for what I actually am without realizing it. That’s what I’m hoping for someday. lol

    • William Knox
      Dec 28, 2012 @ 20:06:50

      Mr. Bell, I agree with Lady Gwendolynn that most Hindus could easily be placed under the umbrella of Contemporary Paganism. While it is true that on the surface there appear to be many Hindu gods, the general philosophical approach of most Hindus is, to put it simply, “All are One”.

      I’m sure it would be possible to define Pagans without including Hindus but given that nearly all Pagan traditions share the same fundamental beliefs as most Hindu traditions vis-à-vis the nature of Divinity, why we would seek to differentiate ourselves in the first place?

      Gandhi once said “I am a Muslim and a Hindu and a Christian and a Jew and so are all of you.” Were he alive today, I feel certain he would include Pagan in his list. There may indeed be better ways for Pagans to label ourselves but ultimately I am quite satisfied with the current system. We are, after all, members of the same spiritual family whether we acknowledge this fact or not.

  2. William Knox
    Dec 28, 2012 @ 18:10:53

    Namaste. There is nothing wrong with informal posts. They can be just as informative and indeed relevant as more in-depth examinations and I for one encourage you to continue with their usage. Your definition of what it means to be labeled a contemporary Pagan from an academic standpoint is accurate and well written, needing no modification, in my opinion. The fact that the guard did not understand what it means to be Pagan in this modern era does not surprise me; indeed I frequently encounter many Contemporary Pagans who are themselves not fully cognizant of such details.

    I find I am more concerned with the border guard asking questions about your religious preference in the first place as I do not believe queries of that nature serve to enhance national security, for any nation. One cannot hold every adherent of a specific religious group responsible for the actions of extremist terrorists who also choose to label themselves members of that same group. In an ideal world, the Muslim who recognizes the validity of Sharia law should not be considered a greater security risk than the Christians, Jews or Pagans standing in the same line. Of course, the world we live in is far from ideal, socially speaking at any rate, and I fear that prejudice and ignorance will continue to guide the hands of many for the foreseeable future. Blessed be )O(

    • Lady Gwendolynn
      Dec 28, 2012 @ 19:26:32

      Hail, well met & Namaste,
      oh good! I’m very glad I’m not off but “nail on the head”. I wasn’t sure since I’d never seen anyone actually share a modern understanding of what the term “Pagan” means now. Big relief though.

      When it comes to the Border Guard asking about my religion, that’s my bad. No one told me what I should have said instead because I was coming up to see a very good friend, as I so mentioned before, that I’ve known for 6 years now and we did not meet by normal conventional means. We met online on a Pagan forum we both used to be members of (stayed in touch after as well). I am aware meeting people from online to “in-person” has some people on edge and there have been some horror stories. Believe me when I say though, I would not have gone on this venture had I not trusted my friend or my intuition said, “Hell no”. Also I’ve met 2 other online friends prior, in-person. Am I crazy? Probably; but I trust my intuition and I trust the forces that guide me.

      That aside though, the Border Guard was a little insistent only because when I mentioned how we met, not knowing better, and I mentioned “Pagan” he didn’t understand, wanted better clarification, again, because he didn’t understand what I meant when I said “Pagan Forum”. I could do without the fact it felt like he was treating me like I was a child as if I didn’t know better despite my age, but I know he was only doing his job and was worried about another “Horror Story” happening to someone else. So I can’t blame or hold that against him.
      It really surprised me though and I thought it was widespread knowledge about the modern definition of Paganism. Now I know better and I have a better idea what to do next time I’m at the Border getting asked personal questions.

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