Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Grounding my thoughts

This is the second of my Yule-resolution posts: writing at/near the full moon on topics about being Pagan publicly, rather than musings on the holidays. (I wish I could find some kind of metaphorical connection to last night's eclipse for this topic, but nothing's coming. On the other hand, I can feel a poem on the word "adumbrate" struggling towards consciousness.)

When I told people I was in Divinity School, I often felt as if I needed to qualify that statement by immediately saying I wasn't there for ministry. Now, when I tell classmates and professors that I'm a Pagan, I often feel a similar disclaimer following: that I'm not interested in studying only Paganism.

The first reason is that there are people out there who do it better than I could hope to: Sarah Pike and Chas Clifton are the first ones that spring to mind, but there are many, and they're excellent. They've got the mix of clarity and closeness that I find elusive. This work is already being done, and done well. I don't feel that I could add a lot to this discussion. And, to be truly honest, it does not interest me as much as learning how multiple religions collide and combine in the American public sphere.

I do feel that I can add a lot as a Pagan scholar studying non-Pagan religions and the interactions between faiths in America. (Of course, this work is also being done--I just think I can add more here than in the field of Pagan studies.)

I feel that it's important in some hard-to-define way that Pagans look back at the religions that look at us. That we act, speak, and think from a Pagan perspective (no, I don't have a good idea what that involves yet) when we perform our research or present our ideas. That we turn the gaze back towards a culture that wants to condemn, ignore, or exoticize us, and take our own stand. What would a Pagan study of Christian theologies look like? (If there are already some out there, by all means let me know--my head's stuffed full of coursework reading right now.)

Along those lines, I started drafting up some "Notes Toward a Pagan Anthropology" last week. Partially, this was a response to ideas about 'false consciousness' in religion--a concept I find very patronizing and prone to abuse. But it is also a way for me to spell out not the theoretical, but the moral grounds for why I want to do my work in the way I want to do it. It's still pretty crude, though I may post sections of it later on. Right now, it involves a constellation of Pagan ideas that should inform the way I work: immanent divinity, polytheism, feminism, interconnection, the fae/spirits/what have you, anti-eschatology, and embodiment. This isn't a matter of setting a research agenda that will blind me to other elements: it is a process of understanding why I do this work, why I believe it's important, and how I can make sure that I act ethically while in the middle of the hustle and bustle of research. More on that at another time.


Post a Comment

<< Home