Pagans Are A Conquered People

By James Lindenschmidt

We Pagans are a conquered people. Our people have been systematically tortured, murdered, domesticated, and exploited. Our tribes have been displaced and scattered; we now live in tiny, redundant, inefficient and resource-hungry enclosure-cages creating an illusion of self-sufficiency and rugged individualism, while plugged in to the matrix with its feeding-tubes and thought-machine programs. Our traditions of dwelling with nature have been mutated, assimilated into the dominant culture of exploitation and resource extraction. Our gods have been relegated from vibrant, living beings and companions in relationship with us to mere characters in old, forgotten stories. Our magic and wonder have been dismissed as superstition, while the hegemony of the laboratory masquerades as wisdom, replacing Truth with mere facts. Our sacred connections to the land and its ecosystems have been severed, made so abstract that only a tiny handful of us could survive away from the infrastructures of civilization for more than a few days, or only a few hours in adverse conditions.

We Pagans are a conquered people. The conquest of Paganism is so complete, so fundamental, that it’s obscured from our view: many of us couldn’t even identify our conquerors. Today, while we sort our recycling bins, putting the refuse-relics of our consumerism into the proper containers for “disposal,” our culture argues about whether or not Climate Change is real, whether planetary rates of extinction are happening 10,000 times faster or only 1,000 times faster than the natural extinction rate. We get online, sipping our lattes, and we argue about whether a vegan diet or a paleo diet is healthier for people or the planet.

We Pagans are a conquered people. We don’t even know who we are anymore. Getting Pagans together is like herding cats: we joke, we celebrate our diversity, and gossip about our witch wars. There are many types of Neopagans today, and all of us have been conquered. It doesn’t matter what kind of Pagan you are, which specific tradition, subculture, or set of Pagan values you embrace, we Pagans are a conquered people.

What kind of Pagan are you? Not that it matters….

Are you a Druid? The Druids were wiped out by Romans, though there have been attempts to revive the traditions. At best, we are guessing at what the Druids were, and the ways of modern Druids — connecting to the land, being in relationship, guarding the stories of the tribe, and questing Awen — are in opposition to the mainstream culture. We are no longer aware of our direct relationship with the land and its ecosystems. There is only property to be exploited, to be conquered and “improved” for private gain subject only to the laws of free-market mythology. The Awen of direct experience, of intimate relationship and engagement, is being replaced by vicarious, secondary experience. Rather than gather by the thousands to wander in the wilderness, we gather in stadiums to watch other people run on artificial grass, elite athletes clad in kevlar armor. Rather than commune directly with the wild divinity in nature, we gather in megachurches to listen to other people sing & tell us about God, passing around a collection basket. The “tree wit” of Druidry lingers, but we must learn to see it.

Are you a Heathen or an Ásatrúar? In most places you will be seen as a racist, a white supremacist, or simply as deluded. The hagiographers say that Olaf The Saint, one of my ancestors, was responsible for converting Norway over to Christianity. The Gods of the Northern tradition endure, even if we must look deeper than portrayals of Thor as a blonde, hot-tempered hottie who is merely a quaint albeit archaic member of an elite group, aloof from humanity, who fight the evil space-aliens bent on their own agenda of colonization.

Are you a Polytheist? Two thousand years of hegemonic monotheism means that you are not likely to be taken seriously in most places in the Western world when you speak of your gods, and your relationships with them. No longer is the question of many gods up for debate; instead it is which god is real, with the rest being imaginary with frauds or infidels for worshipers. And even this is among those who acknowledge the possibility of divinity at all — for many others, talk of divinity is madness and delusion.

Do you work with magick? Your work will be derided as superstition, under the epistemological monopoly of science. Indeed, a favorite tactic of modern, fundamentalist pseudoskeptics is to reduce an idea or a concept to mere “magical thinking” so that it can be dismissed entirely as folly.

Are you a Goddess-worshiper? You are a threat to patriarchy, by even having the audacity to suggest that the feminine can be on the same plane as the masculine, and that a divine feminine is even possible. There is no room for the Sacred Feminine in Father, Son, & Holy Ghost, in Allah and His Prophet, in YHVH, much less in the “human resources” departments responsible for writing smaller paychecks to its female employees.

Are you an Animist? A Pantheist or Panentheist? Then you live in a place, on a planet, that has been systematically disenchanted, desacralized, and despoiled, a place that almost certainly bears little or no resemblance to what the place looked like a few short centuries ago before Capital got its clutches onto it, extracting all the resources it could for private profit without regard to the intraspecies genocide it left in its wake. Anyone who spends enough time out in nature has heard its call, its lament, crying out to anyone, anyone who will listen, in a language not audible to domesticated ears.

Are you a Reconstructionist? The reason you have to reconstruct your spiritual path is because it was wiped out in the first place. That these old, Pagan ways of being are not glaringly obvious even to a child in our culture is perhaps the biggest indicator that we Pagans are a conquered people. Some ancestral wisdom has been lost forever, wiped out by a mere few hundred years of colonialist hegemony, and its reconstruction will require another few thousand years of indigenous human experience as part of their ecosystems.

Are you a Witch or a Wiccan? Untold thousands of Witches were burned at the stake for over a century, one of the most widespread examples of genocide in human history. This genocide was not limited to one nation-state or one single power-structure, as one of the first historical examples of a unified, global assertion of power. The ways of the Witch are beyond forgotten, they were deliberately and systematically stamped out under direct threat of death and torture, replaced by other mechanistic social orders ripe for exploitation.

The smell of smoke lingers

Image in the public domain.
Image in the public domain.

Even today, the smell of smoke lingers. To those who learn to be attentive, to quieten the mind and pull one’s awareness away from the thousandfold distractions of modern life, the past will whisper its stories into the ears of the present. We must look at our history to discover all the layers of our identity. Who are the Pagans? What stories from the past helped to shape who we are today? I am convinced that our history reveals a very strong characterization of our tribe & our subcultural identity in the 21st Century. We Pagans are a conquered people, and we have largely become so within the past 500 years.

The Pagan ways-of-being were much more intuitive and apparent to people living 500 years ago, before the Scientific Revolution, the birth of Capitalism, and the beginnings of European Colonialism. Modernity itself rose from the ashes of the Pagan ethos as it was systematically and globally incinerated from popular consciousness on thousands of pyres and stakes of the victims of the witch hunts.

Indeed, even today the smell of smoke from The Burning Times lingers. This period in history remains the paradox of our age: at the same moment that the prevailing worldview was turning to those core values that we fetishize — the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the rise of science as the best (indeed the only) epistemology, the rise of capitalism and its notion of property and profit as the fundamental organizing principle of society and the planet’s resources — there occurred some of the most brutal examples of repression and genocide ever witnessed, a brutality that was unprecedented in its scope and scale:

In this “century of geniuses”—Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, Shakespeare, Pascal, Descartes—a century that saw the triumph of the Copernican Revolution, the birth of modern science, and the development of philosophical and scientific rationalism, witchcraft became one of the favorite subjects of debate for the European intellectual elites. Judges, lawyers, statesmen, philosophers, scientists, theologians all became preoccupied with the “problem,” wrote pamphlets and demonologies, agreed that this was the most nefarious crime, and called for its punishment.
—Silvia Federici, Caliban & The Witch, (New York: Autonomedia, 2004) p. 168.

This past, once we clear the irritation of the acrid smoke from our eyes, will begin to speak. As we learn to listen, we begin to understand that this time is best described as a turn from Pagan values, resulting in the wholesale slaughter of entire populations who embrace these values, the marginalization of Pagans within the new power structures created at this time, and the demonization of these values within our consciousness.

The new power structures used fear both as a means of social control and to engineer this shift in values. They cultivated fear of the witch-hunters and the Inquisition, who could exercise nearly complete power-over in the most horrendous and unspeakable ways, and ultimately fear of that which they claimed to be eradicating: witches, demons, devils, and magic. Pagan ways weren’t quaint practices or ignorant superstitions that faded away because now we know better. They were deliberately and systematically repressed until they were all but stamped out. We must now reconstruct them.

In this culture of fear, our Pagan values were nearly lost. Today, the signs of this loss reveal themselves to souls attentive to the world’s condition. The first hint is a vaporous sense that is hard to put a finger on: something is fundamentally wrong with the world, with the way the world is organized, with the flows of power structures in the world. As we look deeper, they become more apparent.

Eight signs

Fallujah, Iraq (Nov. 8, 2004) - An air strike is called in on a suspected insurgent hideout at the edge of Fallujah, Iraq by U.S. Marines. Image in the public domain.
Fallujah, Iraq (Nov. 8, 2004) – An air strike is called in on a suspected insurgent hideout at the edge of Fallujah, Iraq by U.S. Marines. Image in the public domain.

First, there is always war. From the massive mobilizations and armaments of World War II, to the development, use, and threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, to the wars against hidden threats such as communism and terrorism, to the resource wars seeking to control supplies of oil across the globe, to the political and economic dominance of the military industrial complex, to the War on Drugs, to the War on Poverty. War, war, war. No sane person wants it, yet it is all around us, organizing much of society.

Systematic deceit is not linked to either "side" of the dominant power structure. Above, At the UN, Colin Powell holds a model vial of anthrax, while arguing that Iraq is likely to possess WMDs. Image in the public domain. Below, on January 22, 2009, Barack Obama signs an executive order to close down the illegal Guantanamo Bay prison, which remains open to this day.
Systematic deceit is not linked to either “side” of the dominant power structure. Above, At the UN, Colin Powell holds a model vial of anthrax, while arguing that Iraq is likely to possess WMDs. Below, on January 22, 2009, Barack Obama signs an executive order to close down the illegal Guantanamo Bay prison, which remains open to this day.

Second, there is habitual, widespread, and systematic deceit by those in power. These are most easily spotted in the various antics of the US government, but it is hardly a new phenomenon. From the destruction of the USS Maine in Cuban waters leading up to the Spanish-American war, to the Reichstag Fire preceding Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany, to the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the illegal “detainees” of Guantanamo Bay following the attacks of 9/11, to the Watergate scandal, to the empty rhetoric-posturing in any political “debate” preceding an election, it is clear that those in power do not say what they mean, much less do what they say. Indeed, it is fundamental to the preservation of their power that they don’t. This is not a problem of either side of the US power structure; both Democrats and Republicans systematically operate from this place of deceit, and for both parties the main goal is to preserve, consolidate, and expand their power bases, each serving the larger power structure in slightly different but related ways.

Friday, Day 14 of Occupy Wall Street - photos from the camp in Zuccotti Park. Photo by David Shankbone, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Friday, Day 14 of Occupy Wall Street – photos from the camp in Zuccotti Park. Photo by David Shankbone, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Third, there is an unprecedented stratification of wealth that continues to widen the gap between rich and poor, for individuals, businesses, corporations, and nations. As the saying goes, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. An economy exists to help regulate the use and distribution of wealth, which can only be created through labor and enclosure of natural resources. Awareness of these injustices reached a crescendo in 2011 in the various Occupy movements, and continues today with Strike Debt and countless other movements.

Fourth, humanity’s relationship with food is completely out-of-balance. In some places of the world, people starve, barely eking out adequate sustenance for survival. In other places, food is not a way to sustain life, a gift of nature of which humanity is a part, but rather a mere sensual pleasure, packaged in plastic, with a myriad of choices as to which flavor variety will suit one’s whim that day — indeed thrice daily. As a result, nearly a billion people struggle with getting enough food (to say nothing of adequate nutrition), while nearly 2 billion people are overweight or obese. There are many causes for obesity, and the problem isn’t this simple, but the poor almost never get adequate nutrition whether they are consuming too many calories or too few. In addition, because of the way food is produced on our planet, there is alarmingly little quality topsoil left, and it is deteriorating 10-40x faster than it can be replenished. The aquifers of the earth are running dry, due to both irrigation and the bottled water industries, to say nothing of fracking.

Fifth, healthcare is nearly impossible to navigate for many people in the world. In some parts of the world, there are not enough doctors, healers, educators, and above all, resources; in another part of the world, healthcare has become so profit-driven with costs so inflated that it is inaccessible to millions. The system is bogged down by the allopathic medicine machine — insurance companies driven by profit, actuarial tables, and entire departments of workers whose sole purpose is to find specific ways to deny coverage for its patients; pharmaceutical companies who hoard knowledge of health techniques through patents, who overcharge patients in certain countries so that it is more profitable, who advertise their drugs in mass media, promoting the idea that wellness can only come through chemistry, and reinforce that it is OK to profit from the suffering and misfortune of others. The witches used to be the healers. Every community had them. These healers were attuned to local ecosystems, and knew how to make medicines of all kinds. The community supported them. People didn’t lose their homes and everything they owned when they got sick.

Sixth, and related to the pharmaceutical industry, there is rampant mental dis-ease in the west. Depression, angst, and eating disorders (anorexia & bulemia on one side, emotional binge eating on the other) are everywhere one turns. Usage of psychotropic drugs are at an all-time high, including mandatory prescriptions for “difficult” (which usually means unusual or hard-to-control) children in public schools. This problem of overmedication stems from and reinforces the notion of “compulsory neurotypicality” explored by Sean Donahue, which “decreed only a narrow band of neurological experience and expression permissible, and demonized or pathologized variation from the norm.” Furthermore, these drugs are widely advertised on television, creating a sense of never-having-enough. No longer are commodified neurotransmitters and neurotransmitter modifiers tools to chemically assist people in navigating the emotional and psychological pain they are experiencing, but instead have become “happy pills” for millions of people, sold to exploit our culture’s deepening sense of unease and malaise.

Seventh, the problem of wageslavery is fundamental to western culture. There are a few who derive happiness from their jobs, but the vast majority of people would immediately quit their jobs if earning money was unnecessary. It’s one thing to expect people to contribute to society — including the unpleasant jobs that no one really wants to do — to the best of their ability, but how many jobs are truly essential to a healthy, well-managed society? Does society really need a fast-food restaurant on every corner, providing two-dozen underpaid jobs each, in order for people or the neighborhood, much less the ecosystems it extracts resources from, to thrive? Do marketing executives truly make the world a better place? Are corporate lawyers responsible for maintaining a smoothly-functioning society? In short, no. There are far more work-hours of labor performed each week than are necessary to maintain a healthy society. Our time performing these tasks should leave plenty of leftover time for adequate self-care and wherever our personal liberty takes us. It’s more difficult to enjoy and pursue one’s liberty when you have a work schedule during most of your waking hours. This is the opposite of liberty, or our culture’s promise of the pursuit of happiness, as Marcuse reminded us in 1966:

“I hesitate to use the word — freedom — because it is precisely in the name of freedom that crimes against humanity are being perpetrated. This situation is certainly not new in history: poverty and exploitation were products of economic freedom; time and again, people were liberated all over the globe by their lords and masters, and their new liberty turned out to be submission, not to the rule of law but to the rule of the law of the others. What started as subjection by force soon became “voluntary servitude,” collaboration in reproducing a society which made servitude increasingly rewarding and palatable. The reproduction, bigger and better, of the same ways of life came to mean, ever more clearly and consciously, the closing of those other possible ways of life which could do away with the serfs and the masters, with the productivity of repression.”
—Herbert Marcuse, “Political Preface 1966,” Eros & Civilization (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966) xiii-xiv.

Circular crop fields in Kansas, characteristic of center pivot irrigation. This file is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA.
Does this look natural to you? These are circular crop fields in Kansas, characteristic of center pivot irrigation. This file is in the public domain.

Eighth, unprecedented weather patterns rage across the planet. The Earth’s environment — in terms of its ability to support human life — is rapidly deteriorating. The “global warming” debate rages on in yet another dualism, where each side thinks the other is somewhere between mad and stupid. Limiting this discussion to one parameter (temperature, ie, warming) or even a few (broadening it to include “climate change”) does not look at humanity’s relationship with the ecosystem. It is clear that humans are affecting the ecosystems of the world in a profound way; all one has to do is fly over the US and look down to observe the effects industrialized human activity has had. Everything is in muted colors or artificial, mechanical, geometric patterns attached the natural landscapes. Humanity is beginning to see the effects of a few centuries of industrialization, which accelerated the desertification of the planet by way of human domestication for the past 10,000 years or so. These effects have been all-too-easy to deny because they have taken longer than one lifetime to manifest.

How did this happen?

I could go on. Many do; indeed the present (not to mention the future) seems quite bleak.

What happened? Where are the ideals of scientific progress, of Enlightenment notions of “perpetual peace” and “equality and justice for all”? After 500 years of ostensibly chasing these noble goals of the “century of genius” — the triumph of the Copernican Revolution, the birth of modern science, the dawn of Capitalism, the first experiment with modern republics and “representative democracies,” the Bill of Rights — these ideals have not fulfilled their promise.

The complex web of problems we see today is an extension of this history of Paganism over the past 500 years, a history that can be characterized primarily as a move away from Pagan values. There is a disconnect between these core Pagan values and our daily experiences within our present, 21st century world, a disconnect which produces not only the global crises outlined above, but also a spiritual and psychic conflict and crisis within each observant, thinking Pagan whose life is all-too-rarely in harmony with these values. We Pagans are a conquered people indeed. But even worse, we have been assimilated, which means we directly participate in our own suppression. This is both the horror and the genius of colonialism.

We Pagans are a conquered people. But many questions remain, and indeed will be explored in future columns in these pages. Among them:

  • What exactly are the Pagan values that have been lost?
  • If Pagans are a conquered people, then who are the conquerors?
  • What benefit are Pagans getting from this relationship of conquest? What should we do about it? Should we resist, and if so, what are the most effective modes of resistance?
  • Will Pagans be courageous enough to decolonize themselves?

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30 thoughts on “Pagans Are A Conquered People

  1. I find the term “decolonize ourselves” an interesting one. It puts a little more responsibility on ourselves. While our conquering was not our fault, it is our duty to climb out of this hole we were thrown in. No amount of whining will do this, nor will anyone pull us out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The challenge will be to try and excavate what was valuable in the distant past (many people are working on that already, as they have an instinct, an inkling of what a good life would be like), while we manage to incorporate the few good assets of our age into a new society, a way of life. The fact alone that I can read this essay and relate to like-minded people across the world, is amazing. And I hope this development will someday be the downfall of stifling structures and exploitation.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There has to be some way to balance the greatest of modernity’s gifts while also freeing ourselves of its curse. I am nowhere near intelligent enough to figure it out.


      1. It will be a joint effort by millions of people to figure it out, truly a paradigm shift. But how this new world would work and look like, I have no idea.


  3. As depressing as the thought of having assimilated into the culture that is repressing us is, there is so much truth to the statement. I spend so much time caught in storms of cognitive dissonance as what I believe comes into direct conflict with the events of daily life in America. It takes immense willpower to free yourself from the system, the temptation is to take the easy path and simply be carried along.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We begin by finding common ground with surviving animistic traditions around the world and learning from peoples who either did not lose their way or did not entirely lose their practices in the process of colonization. We humbly unify with them knowing that our liberation is dependent upon our unity. The problem is that, because our decolonization starts here, we immediately have to deal with how colonization benefits us as Westerners having various race and class privileges that separate us from animistic practitioners around the world. Are we really willing to look at and dismantle this so we can humbly accept as our teachers the knowledge-bearers from traditional and ancient cultures to help us forge a new way forward, both together and in our own movement?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said. Pagans may be a colonized people, but there are cultures which are actively resisting the ongoing process of colonization at this very moment.

      This is why cultural appropriation is a big deal: if pagans appropriate from surviving traditional cultures, they aren’t just being politically incorrect, they are choosing the colonizer’s side on the battlefield and thereby severely restricting the possibility of their own decolonization.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. But I worry about the extent to which the term “cultural appropriation” is used when i comes to spiritual practices. I see people of many different cultural backgrounds legitimately called to spiritual practices outside of those that their ancestors practiced and believe that engaging in this way can be done from a place of deep respect for both the practices and the people who have maintained them. I also believe that learning at least the technologies of surviving animistic traditions (full possession, etc.) is crucial for decolonizing our minds and spirits. It’s a complicated subject, I think.


      2. I don’t think there’s a problem with folks joining traditions that are different from their ethnic or cultural background. If one is genuinely called to a deity, one is called. I do however, think many in the Pagan community have issues discerning the difference between a true calling to a specific Deity/tradition and intellectual and emotional attraction to the aesthetics of a given Deity/Religion. I see it all the time in my own tradition, people are awed by the visual power of a Lucumi throne, or the drumming, There is a visceral power in those spaces that is very present and powerful so folks assume that that what they feel is a call when it’s not that deep.

        Appropriation becomes an issue though, when people join a religious tradition then want to change core practices or theology to fit their personal bias as in this example:

        Or when folks want to claim priesthood without undergoing the correct initiation process (because they’ve set up an altar to ____and that makes them clergy in their minds) which is especially important in ATRs and other lineage based traditions.

        Or want to steal, dumb down, or just invent rituals and spiritual tools based on a specific religious tradition,without a full understanding of the religious significance or use of them, mainly to make $$$ and feed their ego. And do so with no regard for the safety of their followers who may be clueless as to any risks involved on a physical or spiritual level

        Or want to ignore the struggles of those people who fought to maintain their traditional practices under horrifying conditions.

        The above IMHO are a few examples of cultural appropriation

        Someone genuinely pursuing their souls calling is not cultural appropriation.


      3. Thank you both (Khi Armand and RMD) for the responses, and sorry for the late reply. I agree with both of you that cultural appropriation is a complicated subject, and that there are ways that people can join traditions/cultures that are not those of their ancestors.

        I think that it involves forming an actual relationship with that tradition/culture, so that said culture actually becomes part of one’s cultural “background” (I’m using that term a little more loosely, in the sense of “present context” as well as one’s childhood/upbringing, if that makes sense).

        What exactly constitutes “appropriation” is complicated: the three of us can probably all agree on condemning the most egregious examples, but most of the time, it’s not quite so clear cut.

        My original comment, though a bit hastily written, was intended in the spirit of what RMD wrote: “want to ignore the struggles of those people who fought to maintain their traditional practices under horrifying conditions.”

        Unfortunately, I think that many pagans do have problems with discernment and with historical understanding, and so ignorance of cultural context (and hence siding with the colonizer) tends to be more common than is desirable.


  5. I’m still trying to figure out the implications for myself as an animist witch in Europe. There used to be a great rise of esoteric, highly constructed belief systems that I learned of from personal experience. People tried to assimilate cultural values from (mostly) Eastern countries while forgetting about their own cultural heritage. Especially in Germany, the third reich left a huge gap and because of the tendency of the nazis to pervert and assimilate anything fitting into their ideology you cannot really have a discussion about Germanic tribes without getting weird looks. The past needed to be remembered. We remembered so hard that we forgot that there was a past before the past. There used to be women that lived with trees, trees that used to be sacred beings, not ressources. People lived within the forest which was providing space and food. The Christianization, the witch trials – I can still feel their repercussions meandering through my concsiousness while I’m figuring out how to follow my own magical path that is interconnected with those of others. Thank you for this essay.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Nope, wrong, sorry, incorrect, you do not pass go, you do not get $200.

    My best attempt at a critique point by point in a short time span:

    (Understand, I am speaking of time before the Victorian era, but it’s not like Victorian imperialists were killing off Western Pagans) There is a vast difference between what happened to the indigenous populations of the Americas & Australia and what happened in the Eurasian continent and Africa when the conversions happened. Eurasian and African polytheists were not Genocided in these conversions. You can not even begin to compare what happened to the conquests by the European powers in the Americas and other areas like Australia to Christian conversions in Eurasia, period. What happened in the Americas and AUS was land theft, genocide, ‘re-education’, destruction of languages, sterilizations, doing whatever the conquerers could to destroy the local peoples and cultures. The average white Neopagan in the West does not have ancestors who went through anything close to these kinds of sufferings, REAL sufferings. The average Neopagan is not being forced to assimilate like indigenous people are, and if you want to learn about assimilation maybe some of you Pagan Liberals should learn about how remaining Armenians in Turkey had to survive and pretend they were Turkish after the genocides a hundred years ago, Google is your friend. BTW, these Armenians were also Christian.

    Druids? The Romans were most certainly still polytheist when they invaded Britain and Gual. Goddess worship? We never had proof of a matriarchal prehistory, period. Magic? Are you aware of how much it was advanced by Christian and Muslim cultures, and that witch hunts occurred across all cultures? That many members of magic communities use translated grimoires from Christian or even Muslim cultures? Wiccans? There were no Wiccans during the so-called burning times, those were mostly people accused of bad magic and were actual Christians.

    Yes, capitalism sucks, but there is nothing about religion that can not be commodified by it, indeed, we have little publications like The Baffler who published the anthology Commodify Your Dissent decades ago discussing these types of cultural criticisms, but while the focus was not on religion, you should still read the book and publication anyway.

    There are no ‘pagan values’, the non-Abrahamic world is too diverse for such generalizations.

    War-Existed since prehistory. Heard of that little story about the Trojan War?
    Corruption, Hunger, & Stratification of Wealth-Existed long before capitalism, and I am afraid to break it to you but the Egyptian Pyramids were not built out of love for democracy.
    Obesity-This is a metabolic problem in which calories only make a small part of the equation, and is not to be blamed on fat people stuffing themselves in the face, and fat people are more likely to have low paying, physically stressful jobs than rich thin ones. Stop blaming the disabled for their problems.
    Healthcare-We never had healthcare equality either.
    BigPharma-But what does this have to do with religion? But I think the same about most true activist politics that doesn’t confuse social justice with whatever private practice you may or may not be doing.
    Wageslavery-Same as above, but you should also understand exploitation of workers is not solely a Western problem, much less other social problems.
    Global Warming-True, Big corporate multinationals bad. But this is, like so much else, not up to Pagans alone to solve this.

    In short, you might be well meaning, but it was executed badly, very badly, and need to brush up on history before making such analogies.


    1. The author at no point makes a comparison between those who suffered genocide and those who were conquered. There are certainly degrees of conquered states, but no writer at Gods&Radicals would make the assertion that a white Pagan (and please remember–many Pagans are not white!) has claims to identical ancestral trauma as an indigenous person (an argument often seem amongst Volkish Heathens).

      May I recommend reading some of the other essays on this site, as well as the Pagan Anti-Capitalist primer for context? We’re anti-colonialist thoroughly, and I fear you may have mistaken us for for more mainstream critiques, particularly as you call us Pagan Liberals. You’re unlikely to find any Liberals here.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hi Eva,

        Thanks for reading. I don’t want to get into a point-by-point rebuttal of what you write. Suffice to say that we are coming from different points of view.

        For me the essence of it is when you say “There are no ‘pagan values’, the non-Abrahamic world is too diverse for such generalizations.” I see your point here, and my point is not to collapse the non-Abrahamic world into a single category erasing all the differences.

        On the contrary, the diversity our broad community should be celebrating was collapsed starting about 500 years ago when a series of new, related ideas appeared on the world stage. Capitalism is one; colonialism, Enlightenment thought, the birth of Science — all of which can be described as manifestations of “mechanistic thinking” as described by Carolyn Merchant in The Death Of Nature — were new to the world stage and quickly replaced ALL of the other perspectives. These are the Pagan Values to which I refer, and you are quite right that I need to do a better job at articulating what I mean by them (watch future articles which will cover this). No matter the specific differences between traditions, we all have this history in common. As Rhyd wrote on The Wild Hunt today, it is important that we remember these stories.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘the ways of modern Druids — connecting to the land, being in relationship, guarding the stories of the tribe, and questing Awen — are in opposition to the mainstream culture.’

    I’d wholly agree with this. Any turn from capitalism’s commodification of nature to seeking the sacred in land, tribe and Awen is in opposition to main stream culture and capitalism.

    It’s very interesting to see the old ways coming together with contemporary political theory on this site (ie. Marcuse). And there are some very interesting ideas developing within the collective.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for putting this together, so well, in one place. I find the overall viewpoint not depressing as some have said, but an honest appraisal of where we are. From here we can honestly see what we can do.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. i will probably get banned again but i find this comparison way too naive in its unawareness of the reality of colonialization, not just the words and ideas. very few pagans i have met grew up in a conquered people’s culture. most are main stream north americans, and have their status within the dominant anglo culture. i keep harping on this, partly because i am a harper–har har, but because i have experienced repeat ostracization over issues that are ethnic and not pagan. in other words people like acadiens and scottish gaels(moi) are from cultures that suffered genocide. these genocides fundamentally shaped those cultures, they still fundamentally shape how we have to deal with the world.( i could give many examples but today i met a guy from anglo ontario who was upset that the acadien market gives no reciepts, and were avoidning taxes, well acadien culture has been half or all underground for two hundred and fifty years due to repeat persecution, and people do things differently, and those differences look criminal to main stream anglos, scottish gaels don’t talk to the police, the red coats were still persecuting when i was a twenty something, so you don’t talk to them for fear that anything they find out will turn up used against you,and it was. that’s living on the other side of the guns. few modern pagans have lived on the other side of the guns. i was told at univeristy that coming from a north nova scotia high school i could not possibly handle university and encouraged to leave, i switched majors, i was kicked out of the nova scotia legislature in public viewing hours:”because you cape bretoners are just looking for a place to sleep”, i was run out of town a few times by gangs when doing itinerant labour, and in pagan circles i am still seething that shauna aurora knight called me a troll and made false allegtions of harrassment for e mailing her(to a publically posted e mail address on her publiclly web page) becuase of a similar article that i criticized)) this isn’t a choice. or at least my only choice would be to shut up and obey my betters like i am supposed to. however well meaning , conflating the same decolonialization ideas to main stream anglo north americans that are the unavoidable reality of many minorities(and black people natives and other visible minorities have it much worse). in other words these ideas are a religious/sociological parrellel to cultural appropriation. and yes both my cultural ancestors have significant pagan traditions that still exist, under ground. i think using the language of decolonialization about pagans is significantly premature, before the decolonialization of those physically colonized is finished first. using that model is in fact showing a fundamental lack of respect for those who were physically colonized.


    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this…. I agree with you that comparing someone of European heritage with the plight of colonized people of color is dangerous…. my intent was not to erase differences between them, but rather to point out that most people, regardless of their culture, have been negatively affected by capitalism, even those of us who enjoy some amount of privilege in the capitalist system. These ideas were further explored, with more nuance (I hope), in a later article:


  10. You are right that Pagans are a conquered people, but the “Eight Signs” do not follow. Pagan cultures often had perpetual war, stratification of wealth into classes of people including slaves, famines, food problems weather changes, etc. Using Pagan subjugation to justify modern political agendas is a losing argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My point was not to imply a causality between pagan subjugation and modern political agendas, but to point out that these signs are markers of a cultural shift related to the shift in values imposed by capitalism. Slavery, famine, etc. have indeed existed longer than the shift in values 500 years ago, but they’ve all gotten much, much worse in both scope and depth under capitalism. The signs are indicators of such. For more detail and nuance on these ideas and the shift in values, I’d suggest Federici’s Caliban & The Witch, or perhaps Carolyn Merchant’s The Death of Nature.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t understand how adding sexism to the leftist socialist agenda makes it any more relevant to Pagan cultures. It only adds to the MODERN cultural agenda advocacy.


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