Pagans are Normal People

I admit it. Over the last years, I wussed out. I went from being a vocal activist for the religious freedom of myself and others to someone hiding in a corner, watching in horror as the plot to 1984 unfolded in real life before my eyes. I really don’t like to think about my silence. I did have people to protect, at the time, people who aren’t part of my life anymore. That said, I don’t think my 8 year silence was of particular cost to the Pagan community.

While our civil liberties in the US are a shocking mess the cause for Pagan tolerance has gained purchase. It’s not perfect, by any means: if a murder victim happens to have a book on Wicca on the shelf the police always feel some screwed up need to report it, even though the book was probably not the murder weapon. But the language with which Wicca and other neopagan faiths as a trend has become less filled with black cats and imagined goat sacrifices, and veers more towards the truth, even if the truth is sometimes unflattering.

I have read the following descriptions, less than kind, but based on real people rather than on imagined crimes:

  • Fat losers in black T-shirts
  • Tuck in your shirts, and buy sizes that fit properly. That’s all. Really.

  • Angry lesbians
  • Far more stereotype than truth; this mostly comes up when people get worked up over Willow on Buffy.

  • Some trashy guy trying to cop a feel
  • I encounter this in reality far more than I care to. Misogyny and misandry are both unfortunately prevalent among Pagans.

  • Damn hippies
  • Depopularized due to bad behavior at music festivals; repeated on King of the Hill and South Park. Clean up after yourselves, seriously.

I know perfectly well that Pagans as a group are much more complex than that, and that trying to distill ourselves down to any one segment of society is a disservice to us all. I also know that some people like the hippy clothing and the freedom to live as they imagine themselves. I also recall well the phase I went through where I took great delight in making the “normal people” feel uncomfortable and I’m not really clear on when I became one of the normal people, but here I am, with a normal wardrobe to match.

I’ve read and heard firsthand a few arguments – and a few outright screeds – against “normalizing.” After considering, I have to disagree. It is possible to be as eccentric as you like – without making it a “pagan thing.”