I’ve been sitting on this piece, the first in a series, for a while. Today I have finally decided to publish it as a companion piece to Daracha’s post about dodgy “faeries” and their equally dodgy festivals. I was originally inspired to write this series of pieces after reading Elizabeth Barrette‘s piece “Granola Wicca: Religion for Fruits, Flakes and Nuts”, which was published in this book. I would usually rather sit on an ants nest before I recommended ANYTHING published by Llewellyn, but this article tickled my fancy.
Reading this article, you might find yourself thinking that I am elitist. That is because, to some extent, I am: after a long stretch in a number of pagan “scenes”, I have learned to be discerning. After a number of bad experiences, I am fussy about who I enter into circle with, for example.
On with the show…
Be involved with the public (or even semi-private, for that matter) pagan scene in Australia for long enough, and you will start to come across the same personalities time and time again. In my experience, these archetypes seem to “cycle” in and out of the community every five years or so. In some cases, these personality types will cause big trouble for anyone who dares to get close enough. For the sake of your sanity, here’s a manual.
Bogan pagans, or Pogans, are a distant cousin of the Redneck Pagans of the United States. There are many theories on why paganism seems to attract an unusually high number of boganesque folk, some of which I aim to unpack at a later date. The most commonly accepted belief is that this religion (or collection of religions) is generally marketed as “anything goes” religions. Hence, many folk find it as a way of finding validation that doesn’t necessarily exist elsewhere in their lives. Sadly, thanks to mass media and mass marketing of paganism (in particular, witchcraft), Pogan numbers seem to be on the rise.
Poganism is usually characterised by:
- An overly enthusiastic approach to pagan paraphernalia – not just altar necessities but vast amounts of cheap jewellery; impractically flowing panne-velvet clothing; mass-produced, tacky or “spiritual” home décor; cheap figurines of cross-eyed wizards, constipated-looking dragons or skanky fairies… sometimes prioritised above general living expenses.
- A limited knowledge on their chosen faith(s). Often pogans will be “just trying it on for size”, reading snippets from the internet and not much else (see also: one-book wiccans and instawitches), and creating strange mish-mashes of pagan traditions and new age ideas. This is often intentional – a wilful ignorance. A prime example of this would be those who still trot out the grossly exaggerated death toll of nine million during the burning times, despite so much evidence that the number was far lower.
- Invented traditions, or confused/contradicting ideas about their chosen tradition/s – sorry, but I will have trouble keeping a straight face if you tell me you come from an unbroken line of seven hundred generations of druids!
- A love of terrible, terrible baby names.
- Smoking, (non-ritual) drinking, swearing or other disrespectful behaviour during ritual.
Pitting an 80’s pop icon against a dragon will never end well.
Just how do you enjoy an event with a high percentage of uber-pogans? Well, begin by avoiding arguments, for the sake of those around you. No matter how tempting it is to react like this:
We’ve already touched on dealing with unpleasant personalities at pagan events here at Galloway and Daracha. I will, however, add this: just… be nice. These people can be infuriating, noisy and opinionated, but their minds have been made up. You can waste a lot of energy if you don’t realise this. The other thing to remember is not to be nasty to people. If you have convinced yourself that you are totally correct and they are totally incorrect, you can come across just as loud, opinionated and unpleasant as the Pogan you’re arguing with. It is not your job to “educate” people. Smile, nod, and walk away if you need to. Do not waste energy trying to unpick their (mostly flawed) arguments or picking fights. Take a deep breath, endure, and then find a good friend to vent to in private later.
The fact of the matter is, there are many festivals out there that now cater for the Pogan in all of us. If you want to minimise your Pogan exposure, look to smaller, more intimate gatherings, and research the larger ones before you go. If a gathering is celebrating many items from my list above, expect a touch of Poganism.