The nine ‘creeds’ of Heathenism and Paganism
An inside definition of Heathenism
These rules try to fill up the unbearable emptiness accepted by those who define themselves as Heathens or Pagans and obstinately refuse to define what they mean by it.
During the discussions that led to this text, some suggested a tenth rule: “Pagans have the sense of humor.” Below the joke, there is something true since Heathens do need some humor to be able to stand in between two contradictory forces. Rationalists despise them because Pagans claim believing in at least one God. Those who follow the ‘main religions’ heartedly hate them because the very existence of modern Pagans tells that these main religions have been teaching wrong things for hundreds of years.
Since the following will be quite stern, let us start with a bit of self-irony. Modern Heathens are often young rebels who think that Paganism is freedom. No, Paganism has its own rules, and this is why I decided to call these rules ‘creeds’, as fanatical believers would do. Well, the ‘no-dogma creed’ is here to make precise what we mean by a ‘Heathen creed’.
I tried to build a positive definition of Paganism, instead of the more classical ones that simply oppose Pagans to other religions. In particular, I want to oppose the Christian definition that calls Heathens all religions older than Christianity. I also tried to find definitions that could be acceptable by all Pagans even though they are of so many different kinds. Since I need nine features to define them, it is obvious that these features may be partly shared with some non Pagan religions. I even know some Christians who are so deeply heathenly inside, that they fit with all my definitions: They are then far from the main flow of their religion, and they have to be discrete about their beliefs in order to avoid being called heretics.
Obviously, this is a somewhat ideal view of Paganism. Some of the features I point out, for example, tolerance, are not well illustrated by all Pagans. Some will accuse others to practice empty rituals etc. This happens always when power is at stake – especially tiny bits of power. For instance intolerance (and need to convert ‘unbelievers’) cannot be the basis of a Pagan faith.
Note finally that these ‘creeds’ have been written long before the warming of the climate would make ecology so popular. We do not fight in favor of a political ecology but in favor of a religious ecology for which a grove is the most beautiful of the temples.
‘The no dogma creed’: “Words like dogma, creed, canons, etc. received a very strong meaning, implying that some coercion can possibly be exerted to enforce them and to prevent debate against them. Rather than creeds in this sense, we propose a Pagan use of the word creed, looked upon as being earnest rules to live by, and based on a personal commitment taken in front of the Gods. Each branch of Paganism is kneaded with its own version of such earnest and serious rules. However, a common important rule being that of tolerance towards the creeds of the other religions (when they are themselves tolerant to the Pagan creeds), this tolerant attitude can be seen, wrongly, as accepting any kind of attitude.”
Note that this rule excludes the religions that claim having been revealed by an all-powerful God or his prophets since they all have creeds that may be enforced. It excludes as well any religion claiming to know ‘the’ Truth and which relentlessly tries to propagate this truth. Heathens however accept to teach who asks for being taught.
‘Creed of the creation of the universe’: “There is no universal God-creator, but many myths of the creation of the universe or of Humanity. For example, many Inuit and Indian myths describe the creation of the trees or of the fishes, as being another story than the one of humans. Some of these myths name the creator, without dubbing him/her as ‘God’. From the outside, these myths look as mere legends but, for the believers, they contain their share of mystical truth, they raise a spiritual emotion.”
‘Creed of the re-creation of the traditions’: “Any today Pagan is obviously living in our modern world, like it or not, and it would be absurd to blindly apply a tradition which is, besides, very imperfectly known. However, Pagans usually feel rooted in an old Pagan tradition. They thus try to introduce into the modern world archaic spiritual values by adapting them as well as possible to the constraints of our society.”
This ‘creed’ obviously includes the Gardnerian Wicca. It can however exclude the ‘new apostles’ who create their own religion, including those who call themselves Wiccans.
‘Creed of experience opposed to appearance’: “To be Pagan is experiencing another way of living, rather than speaking or gesturing. Gesture and word have no value unless they are embedded in a life experience which is, for some Pagans, a spiritual life.”
This ‘creed’ excludes also many who will give up their Heathenism they will find disappointing, for instance because magic does not always work.
‘Creed of essence and existence’: “This is a significant consequence of the ‘creed of experience opposed to appearance’. Creeds, beliefs, rituals have no significance if they are not part of our every day life, i.e., part of our way to experience the world. To speak like a philosopher: Our essence is our existence, but our existence is the place where our essence is framed.”
‘Creed of ecology’: “Pagans are very conscious of belonging to the natural environment, which they always respect and protect, and even sometimes venerate or deify."
‘Creed of the relations with the Gods’: “Pagans acknowledge a large variety of relationships between the believers and their Gods. This relationship goes from an intimate contact with the divinities, for the most mystical ones, to sheer unbelief in any divinities, who are then looked upon as abstract entities. However, the basis of Paganism is feeling the existence of sacred entities, not oneself, or of which the Pagan acknowledge being a tiny part. They open their hearts to these sacred entities or even identify themselves to them without becoming themselves a sacred entity.
Whatever the intensity of their mysticism, the Pagans respect the way others relate to their Gods (or to their ‘non Gods’). This respect of a broad spectrum of attitudes can lead to social behaviors similar to religious indifference, but the resemblance is superficial. In particular, a Heathen should not be defined nor as an atheist nor as believer in a particular God.”
Note that this ‘creed’ does not exclude any specific form of religious belief as long it shows no dogmatism. In particular, Monotheism may be a possible, if rare, form of Heathenism.
‘Creed of true reality’: “The world around us includes obviously many aspects. Pagans refuse to be limited to the purely rational (or rationalist) aspects of reality. By the means of mysticism and/or magic, they try to include in their lives some of the irrational (or non scientific, or ‘non ordinary’) aspects of reality.
In practice, a person who accepts nothing but the irrational aspects of reality is considered as insane by our society. From their side, Pagans consider that pure rationalism, as it tends to propagate presently, is a kind of social madness. The ‘true’ reality of a Pagan merges as much as possible rational and irrational aspects of the reality we live into.”
‘Creed of time’: “This is the application to Time of the creed of ‘true reality’. Sacred time and historical/scientific, 'ordinary' time have their own realities, and to oppose them is certainly absurd. Our bodies and intelligence tell us that we live inside the 'ordinary reality' time, while our hearts know the importance of sacred time.”