Friday, February 24, 2012

Identity

I'm conflicted about how to use the term "pagan." Historically, it was a Latin word referring to rural people and was used by the Roman military to refer to civilians. Up until the 20th century, it had been used for the previous 16 centuries as a pejorative label for anyone who wasn't Christian.

During the 20th century, believers in polytheistic traditions began to refer to themselves as pagan. However, I'm concerned that this word could become a term reserved for use only amongst those to whom it applies. Like other words that have taken that peculiar etymological journey, it could end up becoming an albatross around our cultural neck.

I have to admit, it is the easiest way to get a monotheist to understand my spirituality. At the same time, it limits me. By telling someone that "I'm a pagan" pigeon-holes me as just another rebellious Gen-X slacker who can't commit to the status quo. There's no ideal to the word. It doesn't express anything.

On the other hand, what else do I have? Polytheists don't typically apply labels to themselves. Sure, there are specific traditions such as Wicca, but I'm hard pressed to name any others. How can I identify myself to others in as expressive and succinct a term as Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew? "Pagan" is how my beliefs are easily summarized and conveyed to another person through language.

Personally, I've come to think of myself as a Viridian. Hence this site's name. For me, Viridian describes a symbol of life via the color. Green is easily associated with nature, and, as a polytheist, nature is associated with animism. Animistic belief holds that everything is sacred bringing us back to the sanctity of life which is symbolized for me by the color green. A nice neat circle -- which is why the ouroboros is also one of my favorite symbols.