Explaining a Pagan Theology

One of my long-time listeners of the Podcast – Jonah (who has graciously allowed me to use his first name) – asked me if I was going to jump in and add my two cents on a question posited at The Wild Hunt. I read TWH – maybe – twice in a month, and then I typically skim through the blog post titles. I know there are plenty of people that enjoy all the material that gets posted there – and I believe its a wonderful service for those that use it – but unless someone directs me to something specific there, I have no idea what’s being said, one way or the other. So, to answer Jonah’s query, I trotted over and read a post asking people to quantify a “Pagan Theology” that they would relate to a “Pagan noobie” – or essentially (twisted into a different vernacular) how would I explain the idea of a universal Pagan Theology to someone who had very little background in the perspective – what I essentially consider as being “someone curious about the idea of a universal theology in Paganism.”

I took a few hours to walk around my neighborhood – both for exercise and as a chance to clear my head on the concept. It was a lovely walk too. The squirrels that live in the clump of trees near the Middle School came out and chittered at me. I stopped and fed them (as I typically do) with some of the squirrel food I set out in my backyard. I even managed to cajole one of them to within three feet of me with the promise of a large piece of yellow corn. As always, the walk proved to be refreshing and quite an enjoyable time frame for me. And what? Oh! How did I answer the question concerning the explanation of a universal Pagan theology in terminology and symbology that would be useful to an absolutely beginner??

I really could not come up with an answer. There’s a handful of points that I realized were roadblocks, detritus in the overall Path, and just positions I could not find myself taking. First off, I don’t really worry about the position of theology. Theology – and I am basing loosely from the definitive measures laid out by the Merriam-Webster dictionary – is about the study of a religious faith, practice and/or experience. I’m not studying any of that. My perspective on religion comes from experiencing it – not studying it. So, trying to convey the way I see my religious belief system to a line of thought that I don’t even put myself on to…becomes a little bit of a roadblock. Second, while I firmly believe in the Gods – beyond that statement, I just don’t find a need to sit back and attempt to explain or defend that belief to anyone. After all, its my own personal perspective – I’m in no way saying that anyone else should be following me down that Path whatsoever. If someone does, its because they have had similar experiences and come to similar conclusions, which circles back to my perspective on experience leading my own personal Path. Third, if someone is looking for an explanation – there are many, many writers out there who have done a far better job at explaining things than I have. I can point folks to Cat Treadwell, Philip Carr-Gomm, and Margot Adler (among others) for a far better explanation than I could dare to provide.

A few folks would suggest that my positioning here is a “cop-out” – and I would suppose that it is just that. But I also have to be honest with myself — and with the ghostly seeker that I have had set before me, seeking an explanation of what and why I believe a certain way. I could just as easily sit down and try to handle the explanation. And botch it up very badly, trying to reach for concepts and terms that I cannot readily explain in language. Feelings, perceptions, vague premonitions — its difficult to give this substantive form. To attempt to put this into a terminology that I am comfortable with is one thing. To immediately turn from that difficult process, and try to explain it in terms, concepts and symbols to a stranger whose own interpretations could be wildly off the mark from my own….now you’re akin me to built an Atlas V rocket with a sheet of paper and some leftover screws from the IKEA furniture you brought home last week.

In short, I admit – I do not have the appropriate skill set to explain my personal understanding of my personal belief system, much less that of a supposed “universal” Pagan theology. Some might view that as a failure on my part – but I don’t. I view it as understanding the limits of my capacity and abilities to be lucid on the provided topic.

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4 thoughts on “Explaining a Pagan Theology

  1. My answer to the question of a universal Pagan theology is: It does not exist. I agree with you, Tommy, that Paganism is (or should be) driven by personal experience, not dogmatic teaching.

    1. You and I think quite a lot alike VG….for me, dogma is the “truth” for myself. Applying it to someone else…that’s like Aidan says on the Secrets in Plain Sight….its like underwear, what is good for me is not necessarily good or appropriate for anyone else. –Tommy

  2. Yep, I’m right there with ya on that one too Tommy. There’s really no good way to sum up a “Universal Pagan Theology” in terms that everyone who walks a pagan path is going to agree with. We all pretty much have to experience it ourselves and draw our own conclusions.

    1. “We all pretty much have to experience it ourselves and draw our own conclusions.”

      That’s right on target for me. Whenever someone asks about my beliefs – I always point out that I follow the concept of experiencing it. Sort of like the difference between listening to a recording of a Jimi Hendrix concert versus actually being there. You’ll feel something when listening to the recording, but to REALLY know the power of that moment, you had to be there to get the full thing (and sadly, it was all a little before my time)…

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