Friday, January 9, 2009

What Do We Want To Call PAGANISM? How About A FANDOM?

Over at Chas S. Clifton's Letter from Hardscrabble Creek, there's an intriguing discussion about just what, exactly, we ought to call Paganism--Pagans are not a Community nor a Tribe -- Not Yet. Clifton's discussion itself takes off from another intriguing discussion over at Jason Pitzl-Waters' The Wild Hunt about folks coming into and later departing--Outgrowing Paganism?

It's obvious that a lot of us Pagans are both interested in these things and thinking about them. It matters what we call ourselves. And it matters when good folks are stopping by for a visit with Paganism, then journeying on to another spirituality or world view. At least to those of us who still regard ourselves as Pagans and good folks and wonder about matters of hospitality.

The most talked about terms from Clifton's blog post are: community, tribe, movement, and network. All of these are useful terms for talking about some features of Paganism. I've certainly used them all at one time or another. And I've certainly felt little qualms and hesitations and I-wish-there-was-a-more-suitable-term when I've used them.

So, yes, I've been one of those Pagans who've mulled over what we ought to call ourselves and what others do call us. Seeking a good, useful, and pretty accurate description.

My term of choice, one that gets at a bunch of the postmodern characteristics of Paganism that make these other terms a bit shaky when we contrast what the terms suggest versus what we know from experience and often can't quite pin down with words is--FANDOM.

Paganism is a Fandom. As a Fandom, I think that Paganism is itself made up of a bunch of sub-Fandoms, all of them orbiting around a shared focus, but each of them somewhat different and each one distinctive.

The image I have is of dwarf planets, asteroids, the Kuiper Belt, centaurs, comets and the Oort Cloud within the greater Solar System. All of them orbiting the Sun. All of them having some characteristics and qualities in common. Each of them going, gracefully or obstinately, its own way.

That's Paganism described as a Fandom.

I think that talking about Paganism as a Fandom does account for the relative newness of Paganism within popular culture, the coming/hanging out/departing, the not-quiteness or just-aboutness of Paganims that lots of us feel and some of us talk about, the enthusiasm for Paganism and the quick loss of it, the efforts to refine and historicize and hit a target and experiment and yet not experiment, the widespread hope or need for outside--often entertainment subculture based--affirmation and legitimacy, the ongoing spellwork and divination to grow taller and stronger, the sometimes brittle ties, the self-helping, the Witch wars, the collecting of magical and metaphysical stuff, the obtuse humor, the nerdiness, the techno-magic, and lots more.

A Fandom.

Trouble is, calling yourself a Fandom when you also consider yourself a spirituality and/or a religion undercuts the gravitas of the spiritual/religion claim. Fandoms are, in our pop culture, held to be on the light side. Not something that deity-minded folks would embrace vis a vis their spirituality or religion.

Contrast: I belong to Pagan Fandom to I belong to Pagan Religion/Spirituality. It sounds do lightweight and flossy to claim to be merely a Fan!

But I think that Paganism looked at as a Fandom does work from the psychological, the sociological, the cultural, and the metaphysical angles. Better than most of the other terms that we tend to use.

For a useful description of--Fandom (from the noun fan and the affix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest--try Wikipedia at:

Pagans are not a Community nor a Tribe -- Not Yet

Outgrowing Paganism?

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1 comment:

SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

Oh, I think you're right on the money here, especially in terms of its sociology and dynamics, but it's hardly a compliment. It certainly explains a lot of the nonsense. Sometimes one has to start with an acknowledgement of where one is beofre one can grow into something better.