Monday, May 20, 2013

I talked a bit the other week about (some) Christians taking things for granted. I think that's one of the things I experience issues with personally as a Pagan in comparison to some more popular religions: the resources to which you have access. I don't complain much, and I'm not really complaining now... These are just small irritations that many other religious people don't find they need to worry about so much.

Book-wise, we do tend to lack serious academic works. Ronald Hutton is our champion in this area, of course. If you're a reconstructionist you have more luck in this area, but with some exceptions, the writer tends not to be a member of said religion, and some of the older works can be a bit insulting to the adherents, as if monotheism was the inevitable end product of the evolution of spirituality. Not that the author being non-Pagan is a particular issue in many cases - so long as they're respectful - I'm merely thinking of centuries and centuries of Christian studies. Compared theological Christian works, we come up short. (Trouble is, I suppose, far too few Christians actually delve into those centuries of Christian thought. C'est dommage.) On the less academic side of things we're more well-represented; one could complain that most of them are flakey nonsenses, but Christianity has its share of those as well, so that's OK.

Related, there's sacred texts. Oh, yes, you're bound to be able to get your hands on a copy of Works and Days for a few dollars without too much trouble, but say you wanted a presentation copy, or something small and beautiful to slip in your pocket. Maybe a gilt-edged, leather-bound copy of the Havamal, or the Homeric Hymns. You'll have no trouble finding a tiny copy of the New Testament, or a huge copy of the bible in whatever language or translation you like to pass down through your family. You'll have a shit of a time trying to do the same for most Pagan texts. When you travel, you'll find a copy of the bible in your bedside drawer but it's a rare hotel that will provide a holy book that is relevant. You have to bring your own along to swear on in court or other places. - But, really, it's the lack of beautiful editions that bothers me most. I really want that tiny little gilt-edged Havamal.

I think most of us make do quite well with altar tools. Many are relevant to other religions also, and there are any number of websites that will sell chalices, hammers, or athames. A nice offering dish is a bit harder to come by.... one might end up scouring junk sales and so on. But it's easy enough to make your own with that sort of thing, too. 

On the other hand, finding a place to worship can be more difficult. Now I'm not one for group worship much myself, but when one is out and about, or perhaps travelling, it would be nice to be able to stop in somewhere for some peace and quiet worship or to pay one's respects. It's a way of touching base, particularly if one does not have a travel altar or similar. Christians can find a church in any city, usually even in their personal denomination. And what churches! There are some beautiful, spectacular cathedrals around. I spent an entire day in Canterbury Cathedral and adored it for its own sake, and can't help wondering wistfully how much more I might have enjoyed it if it was erected to my own gods. As an animist, I think old buildings have a soul of their own, and I think of many great churches as monuments to the dead as much as anything else (they are, after all, buried underneath the floor), so I can enjoy them quite well, but even so. A nice glade, even. A park is all very well, but there is no peace or privacy. Having a small garden for Pagan worship in a city, maybe with a few shrines to various pantheons.... I think that would be lovely.

And apps! My kingdom for a nice little altar app, maybe with a bowl of water and a deity statue and a candle or something to mess around with.... you know? Finding religious apps is difficult. Most of them are Christian or Muslim: there's copies of the bible and koran, social prayer apps, personal prayer apps, devotional thoughts of the day, etc. When you search "Paganism", the top results include Muslim and Christian apps. Most of the Pagan ones are spell books or sparkly wallpapers. The only one I really quite like is Daily Asatru. I feel like I go on about this a lot... I don't know... I love my smartphone, and how I can organise my life through it, so bits and pieces that are faith-related, that I can take with me every day, would be pretty cool.

A lot of this is just a numbers game. We don't have this or that because we're too few, or too new. Maybe financially there's no reason to invest in a public place for Pagan worship, or whatever else. Maybe you're not inclined as a hotelier to buy copies of this text or that if no one has ever enquired about them. And that's fine. It's worse when you ask about something and the person in charge, rather than discussing logical reasons why support for your religion is lacking in an area, acts like your religion isn't legitimate or does not take you seriously. 

There are a lot of much more complicated issues to do with having an uncommon religion that reach into every day life. Do you raise your child in your religion? Would you even feel safe doing so? If the child mentioned your religion in certain company would that be OK, or would you feel incredibly uncomfortable? If you start up a Pagan business like a bookstore, or indeed a public worship space, will it be vandalised? If you're in hospital and need to talk to a chaplain, is there one available who understands your religion? Will your wishes be respected regarding your funeral? Can you find a person of your religion to perform services, like marriage? So these things are pretty minor in comparison. But they are day-to-day things, and their lack is something I've become accustomed to in the same way that someone might take the church down the street or the bible in their hotel room for granted.


  1. Did you ever find a nicely bound version of the havamal? I would really like to have one but can't find much

  2. I am also looking for a beautifully decorative bound Havamal!