I considered calling this blog post the Great Divide because I see this as a very prominent attitude that I see cropping up in the “pagan community” in which that which is deemed “pagan” is all conclusively made the equivalent of witchcraft/occult and that witchcraft/occult=worship of the ancient gods, or “Old Gods,” which I think stresses some of the differences between what these particular folks of this sort of feeling consider real pagans and what I believe as a polytheist. It is that paganism is a calling for the special folks out there, those who interact with spirits and have some kind innate ability or focus that requires a lot of work, difficulties and set apartness on the part of those who are involved. It is an attitude that if you are not intensely devoted and working your tail off in spiritual activities then you are just playing at it. This sums up my impression that is behind what is being said in this article here. Not that I don’t disagree with her assessment in accordance to witchcraft or occult learning, in such cases you should expect that you will have certain requirements and I don’t blame her for being frustrated. All that irritates me is the conclusive way she links this as being paganism…doesn’t serve for much of an umbrella term in this capacity and with folks given this kind of attitude.
Now this author’s article would have made more sense if she titled her piece and made the point of talking specifically about witchcraft/occult rather than general paganism. Because I would agree that if you are interested in that type of thing there are a lot of ins and outs that will be required to be learnt by your mentor as there typically aren’t what would be considered lay-people among witch circles, and if you approach someone and don’t do what you are required to do well darn tootin they are going to get pissy about it. Even though possessing a hierarchal organization it is rather expected that those who are involved are continuously working on their magical education. However the entire tone of the article, and not one that isn’t pretty uncommon in the general pagan community, is that this is what paganism is and if you aren’t willing to study and work work work, take time and effort to commune with spirits and make personal sacrifices, then you are not a real pagan. This is my problem because this attitude makes no room for the lay-person that is a part of every religion.
In polytheism not everyone has aspired or aspires to be a priest or prophet/seer or garner any kind of deeply devoted relationship to a particular deity. There are people who believe in the gods, who just want, when pointed in the right direction, to worship to the gods that they love, and leave it at that. I personally have no problem with someone learning the basics for ritual and go about heartfelt worship of the gods between episodes of True Blood. Now if they are going to talk as an authority on the religion then I would expect them to study their ass off and to be actually knowledgeable and conversational about it, but a casual layperson offering worship when appropriate I have no issue with, and this often made up and makes up a sizeable population of polytheists. Not everyone feels the need to do more than this. What I do in my relationship with Apollon for instance is particular to me. I feel it is necessary and put a lot of work into what I do and have made many sacrifices myself, but I wouldn’t say that someone who doesn’t do this but worships Apollon is playing at worshiping Apollon. To me that is degrading to those with a genuine desire to worship him and as an insult to him that I would dare to say who can and cannot worship him.
So while there may not be much room for the casual layperson in witchcraft and occult circles, there should be more than enough room for a layperson in paganism if there is room for them in polytheism.