Approaching a Pagan Orthodoxy

We have all heard this said at some time or another amongst Pagans, “Getting Pagans to agree on something is like herding cats!”.

This amusing quip was perhaps meant at first as a good-natured joke, but I believe that is has become an unfortunate truth within our community. Wiccans quibble with Recons, Recons quibble with each other, Thelemites argue with Discordians and the list continues ad infititum. While I myself believe that there is a serious need for intellectual debate over controversial subjects, and that our differences must be discussed, defended and challenged, I also believe that we must know, as a spirituality, to set our differences aside and gather together for strength and support.

What we need is simply this: A Pagan Orthodoxy. Now, I know what you are thinking, and before you begin gathering the Bell Book and Candle to banish my heresy. . .hear me out.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines Orthodox as:

1or·tho·dox            Listen to the pronunciation of 1orthodox
Middle English orthodoxe, from Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French orthodoxe, from Late Latin orthodoxus, from Late Greek orthodoxos, from Greek orth- + doxa opinion — more at doxology
15th century
1 a: conforming to established doctrine especially in religion
So what, you may ask, should the established doctrine be? And what purpose would this established doctrine serve? Well, I am no Pope, and I do not believe that I have the right to speak for all Pagans, so determining what the Orthodox Pagan Doctrine(s) should be is a task better left for discussion at this point, but I believe that I can share my vision of what I think the doctrines should be, and what purposes they could be made to serve.
Let us begin with revealing a proposed “statement of faith” for lack of a better term.
I am a Pagan,
I believe the Earth to be our Mother,
I believe Nature to be inherently Divine,
I believe that as a Pagan, it is my duty to always view the Earth and all of
Nature in this manner,
I believe that the Divine is immanent in all things; there is no seperation between Nature and the Divine.
There is no part of me that is not of the Gods.
My spiritual pursuit shall be to grow a deeper and more passionate connection to the Land that surrounds me, and to work according to my means and abilities to protect and benefit the Earth in it’s entirety.
All who hold the Earth to be Divine, Sentient and worthy of devotion are my spiritual kinsfolk.
I will help my spiritual kinsfolk, regardless of tradition or difference in belief.
Now, the above creed is open to revision and discussion, it is merely my first stab at attempting to get us independant folk to agree on something. A house divided cannot stand, and a house that cannot stand will not last.
As far as the purpose a Pagan Orthodoxy would serve, the possibilities are endless. Would it not be wonderful to be able to attend Groves and Temples that are as easily accessible to lay-people as any street-corner Baptist Church or Lutheran Chapel? Would it not be wonderful to be able to visit a Pagan Temple whilst on vacation to get a boost of moral and commune with like-minded people? I think it would be.
If we had an Orthodoxy that we agreed upon, it could serve as a skeleton for non-sectarian, Earth-oriented religious services to be built around. Attendees would have no need to be Third Degree High Grand Poobahs of Whatsit to be able to attend or understand the service. These Temples could act as focal points for the local Pagan communities, where people could get handfasted, rites of passages could be celebrated, picnics and fundraisers could be held, and people could gather to engage in social and environmental activism and ministry.
I believe it would be wonderful for there to be a Pagan foodbank, a Pagan battered womens and childrens shelter, no-kill animal shelters, clothing donations and housing assistance, all provided by Pagans to the rest of the community, Pagan and non-Pagan alike.
Now, while I love to debate Pagan topics and beliefs, let us begin applying these passions many, if not all of us hold. Let us show society that we are relevant and we have something to offer. Our people are just as compassionate, and our belief system just as powerful for social good as the Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Evangelicals!
If we had this proposed Pagan Orthodoxy, it would not be a rigid structure that forced all to conform to one way of thought within Earth-based religions, rather it would be a positive affirmation of the things we can agree on. What I propose is building a set of agreed upon rituals and services that speak to Pagan belief in general that these temples can perform on a weekly basis. These services would retain their Orthodoxy, allowing whatever Path that operates the temple to hold their own tradition-specific rituals seperately yet alongside and in addition to the Orthodox rituals.
I know this is a big dream, and my desire is to engage the entire Pagan community and all it’s intellectuals and spiritual leaders in the formation of this. What I hope to see in the next year is a Pagan Council of Nicea, a symposium of Pagan spiritual leaders who shall gather and work these ideas out, come to an agreement and begin implementing them. Nothing is impossible save what is perceived to be so!
Bjorn Odinsson Thompson

8 Responses to “Approaching a Pagan Orthodoxy”

  1. In some aspects, the UU church performs this function.

    In Heathenry, I’d like to see emphasis on Kindred development and less on internet religion. In fact, that’s exactly my focus right now, searching for like-minded Heathens in my area. I understand your desire for a pan-pagan orthodoxy, but as I grow in Heathenry, I find less and less to admire among neo-pagans and more to admire among Heathens.

  2. Julian the Blessèd tried imposing an order on Paganism and making a church parallel to that of the Christians. He died in battle before that vision became a reality.

    I can’t see Pagan Orthodoxy, but I can see a Pagan Alliance. Leaders coming together to build a better tomorrow . . . beautiful idea. 🙂

  3. Some great ideas here, especially the idea of creating structures of mutual aid such as foodbanks, shelters, and so forth. That would definitely be the sign of a maturing movement.

    I like your first stab at the coalitional proclamation (although I would hesitate to call it orthodoxy ; you are attempting to creatively redefine it, but words do not lose their social connotations so easily), although where I balked was at the part that said that it is my duty to “hold all of Nature in this manner.” This is because I do not believe that all natural phenomena are of the Gods, and some are of the Giants, and I cannot affirm Thursar behavior. I don’t expect everyone to join me in this, but I wonder if there is a way of phrasing it to include those who are dualists like myself who make important distinctions in evaluating phenomena including natural phenomena. I certainly experience the divine in nature, but I also know that rape, cannibalism, and other heinous crimes can occur in the animal kingdom, behaviors I cannot get behind, so the word “all” makes me wonder…

    But with that nitpicking aside, I do agree with the general thrust of your statement, and would like to see how far you can take this in the larger community.

    Thank you for the thoughtful post.

  4. For me, Orthodoxy is more a place to start from rather than a place you end up. For pagans, an orthodoxy would have a few simple statements to start from, and debate from, and maybe even dissent from, but always the starting places are the same, and the dissents always in response to those starting places. You are a NOT a pagan if your religious conclusions do not start from the orthodox premises. Study a little Judaism for more perspective on how this happens.

  5. nakedwoadwarrior Says:

    Good point here Clint, I agree that Orthodoxy should be a starting point, the foundation as it were. However Paganism is seriously lacking such a thing, which is why I believe we are so disorganized and discordant amongst ourselves. I would prefer a positive orthodoxy, rather than one based on negative statements such as “you are not. . .if. . .”. Rather, I would love to see Pagans come together and truly get a non-sectarian “Statement of Faith” put together that we could agree on, then we could branch out from there.

  6. Michelle Camacho Says:

    Man if only this could happen I would be the first to attend such gathering. My heart is saddened by the fact that most people see us a ” flakes” and “weirdos”. We are loving caring people who believe in different things and follow a different spiritual path. I hope that I day this dream will come true. Blessed Be

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