Creating a Pagan Social Identity

Reading this particular article has got me to thinking about my identity as a Pagan and as a social creature. Who am I, how do I identify as a woman, as a Pagan, as a wife and mother, and as a part of a greater whole with others.

One of the things which I admire (and yes, am a bit envious of) is the strong cultural connection people have when they are part of other religious groups. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Hindus – they have one thing in common (amongst all the rest but I’m not looking at that today). Each contains within it a history of traditions, customs, and a social identity that extends beyond the religion itself.

Many pagans, on the other hand, tend to strive against these bonding social identifiers, working instead to forge identities as individuals. It is not for nothing that so many Pagans are seen as being anarchists, going against the social norms.

Cornelis de Vos - Triumph of Bacchus

Triumph of Bacchus

As I get older, I am becoming more outspoken in stating that this is not who or what I am as a Pagan Woman.

I need something to connect me to others though, to say to the world and to myself “THIS is who I am!” And the first outward sign we have to identify who the members of a social group might be, their beliefs and values, is via the clothes they wear. Women from so many different faiths wear coverings over their hair, for a variety of reason. Muslim women, Jewish women, Mennonite and Amish women. Once a Catholic woman would not have dreamed of entering a church without covering her head, something you still see with older Italian Catholic women.

A Muslim woman wearing hijab

Muslim woman wearing hijab

Snood

Jewish woman wearing a Sheitel with a snood on top of it

As I find myself focusing more and more on this spiritual and religious side of Paganism, I find that I too want this social identity with other Pagan women. And I may have found it.

Through reading the above linked story at Pantheos about Pagan women wearing veils or head coverings, I have discovered a whole new (to me) Pagan idea – Modest Pagans!

I now want to explore these ideas further, so if you know of any good links with information feel free to add them in the comments section.

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7 thoughts on “Creating a Pagan Social Identity

  1. I had a lot of mixed feelings about that particular article. I can see veiling if your god/goddess calls you to do so, but the idea of a “modest” pagan is very strange to me. I don’t see modesty as being a particular pagan trait. I feel that as a whole, pagans embrace their ability to not be constrained by the more monotheistic tone of our culture and veiling is an issue that hits at least me, right in the gut, as a sign of oppression. (I know that for the most part that is irrational, but the association with Islam and Christian convents is extremely strong for me). I guess I’m still processing all of the ideas that she brought up. It was an interesting article and I would definitely be willing to hear more thoughts on all of the different implications that you also bring up. As pagans do we need a social identity? Doesn’t the coven structure/overall community sort of provide the group feel that you seem to be bringing up? Why do we need these outward signs? Even when I wasn’t in a coven, I was definitely a part of a group that had a strong social pagan identity. Maybe I’ve just never experienced this need in the pagan community. Who else might be searching for this and is it an eclectic need for a group or will this crop up in more traditional groups as well? Hmmmm….thanks for the interesting read!

    • @bluestarowl- While you may not see modesty as a distinctly neo-pagan trait, please bear in mind that many pagan women women,in antiquity, covered their heads for a variety of reasons. Monotheism has no more of a “claim” to modesty, moderation, churches, temples, or basic rules of proper behavior than any other “new” faith. Many of the same rules one would find in Christianity are a simple Delphic Maxim away.

      As far as a social identity; I know I am a Hellenic Polytheist and, often, I feel a need to have an identity WITHIN the pagan community as I am constantly bombarded with the assumption that I am Wiccan, exceedingly liberal, a knee-jerk anti-monotheist reactionary, and a whole host of other things that I am not. What’s worse, I consider many of these traits to be rather horrid and I do not want to be associated with them.

      “The pagan community” as a whole does not represent my interests either religiously, as a black woman, as a woman living in a ‘traditional’ gender roles marriage as a theurgist,, or as an amateur philosopher/classicist with Aristotelian leanings. In all, the “community” doesn’t really provide anything for me beyond having a place to potentially find people I CAN connect with.

      As more pagan women consider veiling for modesty, I find myself jumping for joy behind the thought; because we are precious gems and head covering isn’t about hiding being a woman, but in finding just how powerful being a woman is and moderating that power. This is my opinion on it anyway.

      @Nanlt- Thank you for the wonderful read and I can definitely relate to your feelings in regards to finding an identity within the pagan community. I believe there is a facebook group devoted to head covering pagan women, but since I am not a member of facebook I don’t have all of the information. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  2. Two additions to my above post.

    After writing this, I did some Shamanic journeying work to ask why I am being shown so much information at this time about Pagan veiling/ head covering. I asked this same question last night before going to sleep and was taking the same place – to see the Norns. I asked why I was coming across the information and was told quite clearly that veiling is something I will be asked to do when I dedicate myself to them. I then was taken to speak to Odin who told me the same thing.

    Now, in 20 years of being a witch and a Pagan I have worked with a lot of Gods. Herne is my Patron God and Modron my Patron Goddess at this time. But I cannot say that I have ever dedicated myself specifically to either.

    I then went to visit friend Kay Gillard’s site where she posts web casts on Shamanism and personal power, and what do I find myself at but her post from last week on Appearance and Power.

    So — well, watch this space.

  3. Although I’m not a woman, I have to say that finding a religious community in any tradition is a bit of a challenge these days. Mostly I find it difficult to join a community without being absorbed by it. Perfection would be to have the foundation of a religious “family” without the pressure of it consuming all parts of my life. Well, its Ostara here, so cheers to new beginnings!!
    uniwitch.wordpress.com

  4. Pingback: I drew 2 amulets | Writings of a Pagan Witch

  5. Pingback: My Pagan History | Writings of a Pagan Witch

  6. Pingback: The Call to Cover | Writings of a Pagan Witch

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