There are 4 kinds of Neopagan. Which one are you?

Photo by Dan Farrell on Unsplash

This is a tongue-in-cheek article, but I’m aware some people will find it dramatic, and judge me, because in their eyes, I’m never allowed to say anything that isn’t flattery towards them. I’m prepared for the thin-skinned “uwu” crowd who can’t handle anything to come after me once again. So if you’re one of them, whichever way you judge me, you’re right. I won’t argue. You’re absolutely right. Anything else I can help you with, karen?

Now, in hopes that the people who only came here to try and silence me have given up already after the first paragraph… Let’s move on to what truly matters:

Why do I feel so confident that there are only 4 kinds of Neopagan in the world?

Well, first of all, I am no outsider looking in. This is a “been there done that” kind of situation. If you’re curious, I was #3 on the list. Yes, I joined Neopaganism for a while. In fact I took an interest in the movement twice — first as a young teen, second as a young adult. I gave up eventually both times, but I’m pretty confident there won’t be a 3rd attempt.

Here’s a summary of what happened: the first time, I gave up practising the occult as an experiment, because I wanted to see if I could stay away from spiritual influence at all (I was born a psychic medium, can’t help it, didn’t choose it. Please read my bio). It turns out I was indeed able to block and banish everything (including the actually helpful spirits) for 10 years. This took a toll on my health, so I went back on my decision, and attempted connection with the spirits a second time. The second time I gave up Neopaganism, it felt a lot more definite and less open-ended, since it came from a place of disappointment. This is why I don’t think I’ll come back.

My disappointment with Neopaganism wasn’t the resentful or “petty” kind of disappointment. I know there are people who will die thinking I’m a petty person, regardless of what I say, but I’m speaking to the open-minded here. There’s no pettiness in my heart, and I’m sorry some (mis)perceive me that way. I’m just disappointed with the Neopagan movement because its deepest roots and motivations do not align with mine. Simple as that. Kind of similar to when you quit a religion because you’re no longer vibing, but you don’t necessarily want to destroy the entire religion, or cut ties with everyone you met through it. Sometimes you just outgrow things. It doesn’t have to be dramatic.

Anyway, long story short:

Am I categorising neopagans with less-than-flattering labels? Yes. Does that leave a sour taste in my mouth? Also yes. Does that mean I’m resentful and petty? No. I’m just being honest. It’s human nature to look for religion during times of hardship. THEREFORE, when we look for something to believe in, we AREN’T being the best version of ourselves. Either we’re traumatised, or fearful, or hopeless, etc. “Oh, I’ll join a religion now because I’m super satisfied with life, all my choices are perfect, and I have nothing to learn”, said no-one ever. So if the labels below have negative undertones, deal with it. I’m just describing things the way they are. It’s true in every belief system ever. The list would be equally “negative” if my experience had been Christian, or Hindu, or you-name-it.

We join religions in order to better ourselves. We don’t do it just to validate what’s already good and perfect within ourselves. So keep in mind I’m not attacking you, if the shoe fits. I’m just delivering a hard to swallow pill, and it’s hard to swallow for me too. But if I don’t open this pandora box, nobody will. I’m no better or superior, I’m just self-aware. If you want comfort zones and surface level piece-of-cake reading, you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Last but not least, this article is an opinion piece, and it reflects nothing more than my personal perspective. I’m always curious about other people’s differing experiences. Disagree all you want, just don’t try to silence me. Let’s keep it civil. We can all coexist.

Without further ado, here are the 4 categories of Neopagan in my experience (aka 4 problems that lead people to look for Neopaganism as a way of coping with life):

1. In it for the image (aka the “witchy boho chic influencer” Neopagan)

Photo by Sierra Koder on Unsplash

(Sorry, I tried hard to find a more diverse stock photo, but could only find white women; White female-presenting people)

Maybe you’re wondering, “is it here you’ll find Wicca?” — The answer is “no”. Well, more accurately, yes AND no.

Someone’s level of seriousness in the practice has nothing to do with what kind of witchcraft or polytheism or whatever they’re into. Sure, I’ve seen Wicca members fit into this category, but I’ve also seen Celtic Reconstructionists, Heathens, Chaos magicians, etc. No sect is “immune”.

Usually the Neopagan who is in it for the image is the kind of person who struggles with body image, had super strict parents who wouldn’t let them experiment with fashion and decor as a teenager, etc. There could be exceptions, but this is usually the case. An obsession with aesthetics tends to come from a past frustration with wanting to look a certain way but not being able/allowed it.

I’m sure we all have been through similar problems in life. I’m not saying “if you care about aesthetics at all, you’re in this category”, eh, no. Please don’t misconstrue it. I’m talking about the Neopagans who focus SOLELY on this kind of trauma, and give it the utmost importance. Don’t wear the shoe if it isn’t yours. If you just went through periods of low body confidence once in a blue moon in life, you’re NOT here.

Do I hate this crowd? No. I don’t hate any of the 4, in fact. I’m just saying they exist, these are their “origin stories” if you will, and it’s all good. If anything, the shallow Neopagans who prioritise looks are the ones I am most friendly with. I’m not exactly one of them, but I don’t seem to ruffle their feathers too much or vice-versa. We get on well. Perhaps it’s the fact they tend to be self-aware and admit they don’t take this “witchy” thing too seriously anyway, it’s just a bit of fun and not their entire personalities, etc.

And as you may already know, I get on well with people who aren’t in denial.

There’s nothing wrong with trying things out on a surface level before you deep dive. If you’re into that, perhaps this is your Neopagan clique. (And by the way, the super devout know-it-alls don’t have their shit together anyway. At least the “in it for the image” crowd keeps an open mind, and I commend them for that).

If you fit in here, know that you’re valid. And please give me your IG handle, I wanna follow!

2. Family heritage bypasser (aka “I’m a druid coz surely someone in my family way back then knew a druid” Neopagan)

Photo by Autumn Martin on Unsplash

I said “bypasser” because that’s exactly what they do: they look back on their family tree, then bypass anything they don’t wanna admit is part of their heritage (like, for instance, a ton of devout Christian great-grandparents), whilst cherrypicking the nearest common witchy denominator from the Middle Ages or before, and wearing that connection as a badge of honour. As if it wasn’t a weak link, and as if all it took for you to “return to your pagan origins” was to wake up one day and daydream this utopia into existence. Zero hard work, zero self-awareness or deconstruction of inherited bigotry etc involved. Just make a wish and it’s done.

There is an uncomfortable amount of denial involved in the process, but sure, I can still turn a blind eye to that as long as the “family heritage bypasser” I’m dealing with is a nice person.

And what do I mean by a nice person?

Well… Let’s say there are 2 different kinds of person in this category: the harmless and the harmful. The former is the only one I think is valid.

Love it or hate it, “blood” is a legit excuse for reconnecting with a long-lost tradition. I know it isn’t some people’s cup of tea, but it’s valid. It is one possible way, and the harmless people in this category understand that. The harmful, on the other hand, get a lot more radical and start preaching that it’s “the only way”. They’ll go out of their way to make a newcomer feel unwelcome if there’s no lineage relationship.

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s the difference between a traditionalist and a nazi. And I’m using the second term loosely here, since it also extends to the “Celtic” wannabes (and every other sect), not just the Germanic.

In case you’re in this category, be super careful about your dark triad traits (narcissism, callousness, machiavellianism — we all have them, but they must be kept in check). If you’re high in those traits, for whatever reason, address that in therapy asap. I’m not asking. If you don’t, fate will eventually force you to. I’m just warning you for free, I don’t wanna know what choice you make. No you’re not entitled to mentorship, all you’ll get from me is this article.

The difference between a valid and an invalid “family heritage bypasser” is, although both have a tendency to daydream and idealise things a bit too much, the harmless ones have their dark triad traits under control. They understand that having the blood is just one tiny baby step towards their goal; hard work and patience to rescue/reconstruct/truly master the arts they’re interested in is what will get them there. They understand that nobody is entitled by birth to anything. And therefore, when they see a beginner who doesn’t have “the blood”, they don’t feel intimidated or insecure that someone will outshine them and “illegitimately” steal their place. When you raise the standards for your OWN belonging, you also raise them for everyone else, and it’s without even trying. I’m just saying.

Although I’m calling these people “bypassers”, which is admittedly tongue-in-cheek, I don’t mean it as a bitchy remark. I mean it more as a (somewhat sassy) reminder that these people need to come back to Earth every now and then. Sure it’s nice to daydream and be an idealist, but there’s more to life. And even within these areas of life you daydream about (like, for instance, spiritual interests), it doesn’t hurt to try and be a bit more down-to-earth too. Sometimes the only obstacle in your way to actually reconstruct your preferred tradition, is your unwillingness to admit your OWN darkness.

When you start projecting and accusing others of “not taking heritage seriously enough”, aren’t you making the same mistake? Because, let’s be honest, in order to take heritage “seriously enough”, you need to first of all stop cherrypicking.

It’s fine to have a favourite group of ancestors you get on well with. I get it. But don’t just pretend all the other ancestors you have (and don’t like as much) simply don’t exist. They exist. Chances are you inherited a lot from them against your will. And that’s why we address internalised stuff.

Because, again, let me repeat: when you acknowledge that blood isn’t everything, you’re also taking a huge burden off your own shoulders. You’re acknowledging that the fact you’re related to some people you dislike doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s just blood. It’s just a tiny baby step in whichever direction, desirable or not.

3. Traumatised by the Church (aka “I don’t want Atheism but the locally available religions aren’t good enough for me” Neopagan)

Photo by Tom PREJEANT on Unsplash

Gone are the days when the Inquisition existed… You wish.

A lot of people, to this day, are traumatised by the church. Not the Bible — the Bible has a good message, and Jesus was a nice fella — the church. Specifically the church. This organisation made of human beings, who are sometimes evil. I have nothing against Christianity itself. I’m just opposing insensitive people who abuse their power.

Although people are no longer tortured and interrogated by the church, or burned at the stake, or [insert Medieval barbarity here], other problems continue and we don’t talk about them enough. Like, for instance, the bigotry against the LGBT+, the sexist anti-choice movement, the racist “missions of charity” to 3rd world countries where animistic traditions are still widespread and the church intends to stigmatise them… And I’ve just cited the very tip of the iceberg. The church (and this includes non-Catholic churches too) is run by bigots ever since the Middle Ages. And it’s been adopting the same façade of do-gooder to hide this bigotry ever since too. It’s tiring. It’s in desperate need of an update. It’s no longer fooling us.

As you can tell, I was “that kind” of Neopagan. I still nurture the same feelings, to some extent.

Churches, or anything Christian-adjacent, aren’t good enough for me. I’m not saying this from a high horse; I’m saying this from the position of not wanting to associate with a group of people who defend bigotry. Simple as that. Even if I fully agreed with the Bible (and I don’t — although I don’t think it’s a bad book at all. It’s just not my cup of tea), I still wouldn’t associate with the rest of Jesus’ fan club. Because chances are even Jesus himself wouldn’t wanna associate with them. I mean… they keep upholding Old Testament values that Jesus was VOCALLY against.

This is all to say that I understand church trauma, perfectly well. I carry it myself. I’m by no means “roasting” Neopagans who have the same trauma. Again: I’m just saying they exist, and this is their origin story. And I’d include myself in it if I were still a Neopagan. I’ve moved on from it though, I’m a Buddhist now. But feel free to include “past me” anyway.

It’s not a problem to rebel against the church, and call it your religion. That’s valid (truly!). The problem only starts when you go from one extreme (church conservatism) to the other (extreme lack of rules or hierarchy), because EVERY extreme is problematic. The Neopagan community is only rife with narcissists, sex addicts, drug addicts and other “overly indulgent” people today because some of the people who were traumatised by the church thought it was a good idea to allow absolutely everything.

That was a bit of a cautionary tale. Not every “traumatised by the church” Neopagan is going to be a total degenerate indistinguishable from chimps in the wild. Only some do, IF they forget that limits and consent must be a thing. So if you fit in here, be careful not to fall in that trap. Trust me: no matter your level of hatred for the church, you DO NOT WANT the polar opposite of the church.

4. Mentally unstable but make it magical (aka “I’m not okay and I’ll pretend faith can replace a psychologist” Neopagan)

Photo by Fernando @cferdophotography on Unsplash

Let me repeat this once again, first of all: we all have ups and downs in life. We all go through shit. A lot of us go through trauma, at least once in life. It happens.

Am I saying that unless you have flawless mental health, you belong in this category? Lol. What do you think? Come on, you’re intelligent enough.

What I am actually saying here is, although everyone goes through shit, there is one parcel of the Neopagan population who make a mental health problem central to their practice. Is that not you? Then you ain’t it. “Oh but my mental health isn’t perfect, Meron”. Doesn’t matter. Read the previous paragraph until it sticks. Thank you. Next.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, aye. Some Neopagans try to find an answer to their mental health issues through faith alone. Not all do, just some.

This is a group I sympathise with a lot, although I don’t think I belong in it. But I sympathise anyway, because I can understand not having access to proper treatment, or good therapists who will actually be helpful. Psychological and/or psychiatric help is a privilege in some places, and people must make do with what’s easily accessible to them instead. Sometimes, even people with privilege (like myself) have a hard time looking for a good therapist because the system itself is flawed. I’ve dedicated an entire blog post to that very issue, and you can read it here.

So the last thing I’d ever think of doing is bully a group of people who are already quite traumatised. I have my heart in the right place, although it may not seem like it because I’m a bit brutal.

I worry about the mentally unstable people who turn to Neopaganism (or any religion in fact) as a “magical remedy” for their mental health issues. I truly wish they would open their eyes and see the pitfall they’re about to put themselves into. And in case they’re reading here, I hope they find the help they need.

In fact, I wish everyone could find the help they need — including myself. I have my fair share of “stuff” to deal with too. I’m by no means perfect. But especially this crowd in particular, BECAUSE they’re relying entirely on religion (whereas we, outsiders, might have other coping strategies and know better than to put all eggs in the same basket). And that’s proven to fail as a remedy, again and again, throughout human History.

There is some correlation between spirituality and a “search for hope” so to speak, but that’s different from, say, spirituality replacing meds for a chemical imbalance in your brain, or replacing an answer for your very non-spiritual problems. Now in the 21st century, with current technology and research, we understand that distinction better than we ever could.

Perhaps not every “mentally unstable but make it magical” Neopagan truly understands that mental health and religion are two different things with two different purposes. It could depend on their level of education and opportunities in life, so I’ll give them that. But I’m under the impression that especially here in “1st world” countries, this kind of Neopagan is actually fully aware of that difference. And nonetheless, they choose, voluntarily, to outsource their entire burden to some spiritual institution. These are the ones I hope one day open their eyes and realise they’re getting in their own way. I don’t know if it’s cultural, or generational, or due to stigma around “therapy” (which existed until the 1990s, at least here in Ireland) or what… But it has to stop.

Spirituality is interesting in order to speculate about unanswered stuff (truly unanswered — not just things you didn’t care to pay attention to at school, by the way), and explore phenomena EXTERNAL to you. Mental health is completely INTERNAL. If you mix them up, you’re in danger of actually worsening whatever condition you have. That’s why I always advise people to first deal with their “stuff”, and only after look for their chosen faith. Prioritise mental health, even if all you’ve got is a friendly cousin to talk to or something. Still better than diving head first into religion. I cannot stress that enough.

And if in the end you still find that your faith helps you feel better, that’s great! Super valid. Just make sure you aren’t leaning entirely on that.

I’ve personally dealt with only 4 kinds of Neopagan…

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

…And they’re all in it for legitimate reasons, but somehow keep stumbling on these reasons forever, without advancing much further in what should be an effort to reconnect with old gods. Their proposal is beautiful, but they seem to get in their own way every time, and I’m a bit tired of this inertia. I mean, if they don’t feel ready to get out of these vicious cycles just yet, okay. There’s no rush. I, personally, do. That’s why I had to move on.

If Neopaganism had more “substance” today, I’d still be inclined to stay on this path. I mean, it’s quite convenient for me because the spirits who chose me are Picts. They fit right in with the whole Celtic theme. The amount of explaining I’d have to do when chatting about faith to curious strangers would be way less. It’s come to the point where I now have “standard” answers to questions like “but aren’t all Buddhists passive” and “is spirit work allowed” — no and yes, respectively. Don’t even get me started on the debates around appropriation (which always end with “give me a more local alternative that still aligns with these values here, and I’ll happily convert”. Still waiting).

I don’t intend on bashing Neopagans, or their many communities. All I think is it’s still a very young movement. The problems I outlined are perfectly understandable. In a few centuries, perhaps the movement will focus more on personal development and less on politics, just like every religion ever. Buddhism started that way, on a political stance against the radicalism and social inequality created by Hindu people in power. Today our leaders no longer even mention that. It’s not that it became unimportant — it’s just that politics is politics, and religion is religion. Both valid, but different. Just like mental health and religion, or apples and oranges.

It takes time to go from this initial stage of development, towards something that digs deeper into the real subject matter of religion (faith). I commend the pioneers working on that, within the Neopagan movement. I just don’t think it’s my calling. I’ve found my calling elsewhere — actively working with spirits, and delivering any helpful messages they might have. And for that, I need the foundations of a religion to already be in place. But that’s just me. Best of luck on this reconstructionist journey, if you’re in it.

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Meron Nic Cruithne

Meron Nic Cruithne

222 Followers

Psychic and spirit worker based in Ireland, friend of the Picts. I don't read minds. I don't change minds. I don't sugarcoat. Take my message or leave it.