PALO VISTA, Calif. - The Inter-traditional Pagan Council of America (IPCA) issued a statement this morning condemning factional infighting within and among various Pagan traditions.
"The face of Paganism to non-Pagans is becoming increasingly one of discord and petty bickering over insubstantial matters," IPCA Vise President David Raith said in a statement. "We therefore thought it prudent to issue a statement on behalf of our organization, which represents thousands of Pagans practicing myriad traditions across this great country."
Raith described his group's statement as an "anti-manifesto." Instead of seeking to define Paganism, it invites individual Pagans to define their own paths according to three principles: free will, conscience and understanding. This, Raith declared, is the "three-fold law of liberty and respect" that "transcends any single path within Paganism and, indeed, is applicable beyond the Pagan milieu."
IPCA president Marta Villalobos, reached by telephone at her home in Ash Valley, Calif., confirmed the statement's authenticity and provided some background about why her group chose to issue the statement at this time.
"A number of people within the Pagan community have become so fiercely attached to labels that they have become proprietary about them," Villalobos said. "One group says, 'Only Wiccans can be Pagan.' Another says, 'Pagans must worship deities but cannot, under any circumstances, worship this or that deity.' Such trends are deeply troubling in light of well-known historical developments that proved, ultimately, very damaging to Pagan and Pagan-friendly individuals."
Villalobos pointed to the development of Christianity. As Christianity grew from a minority path to become the official religion of the Roman Empire and its political successors, she said, creeds were adopted and became increasingly complex. The more complex they became, the more they were used to isolate political enemies of the church hierarchy by labeling them as heretics and apostates. "These creeds," she said, "became an excuse to consolidate political power and marginalize anyone who did not agree with the 'established' and 'accepted' political position of the day."
IPCA officials say they are concerned modern Paganism may find itself in the early stages of this same destructive process, and seeks to educate the public about the damage it can cause.
The first principle, according to the IPCA statement, is the principle of self-identification.
"Imagine if we were to tell a gay man he couldn't call himself gay because he didn't fit into some pre-existing stereotype," Villalobos said. "Or what if we told a racially mixed individual she must identify with one race and not the other? Actually, we do this all the time. We presume to force people to fit our own stereotypes, whether or not they identify with the traditions we assign them. We are, in effect, saying, 'I know better who you are than you do.' " And that is simply wrong."
The IPCA statement came a day after the Pagan Force For Traditional Thought (PFFTT) issued put forth what it termed a "Pagan manifesto" that contained (among other things) the following creedal statements in the style of a medieval Papal bull.
- "Any person who does not worship the gods yet calls himself 'Pagan,' let him be anathema."
- "Any person who acknowledges any teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Mohammad or any other figure associated or affiliated with any monotheistic faith, let him be anathema."
- "Any person who shows reverence to deities from more than one pantheon, let him be anathema."
- "Any person who puts nature above the gods, let him be anathema."
- "Any person who knows not the difference between a pentacle and a pentagram, or between deosil and widdershins, let him be anathema."
- "Any person who mixes peanut butter and milk chocolate, let him be anathema."
PFFTT also touted the success of its online virtual cage match between the goddesses Ishtar and Oestre, which pitted the followers of two long-revered goddesses against one another in a no-holds-barred "battle royal for bragging rights to March 31." A hue-and-cry was raised when Ishtar was awarded the victory based upon PFFTT officials' lingering fondness for the 1980s box office bomb named for the goddess. (They were, admittedly, huge fans of Warren Beatty.)
Although IPCA did not respond specifically to PFFTT's "manifesto," it did declare the reverence for Ishtar and Oestre to be "infinitely more important" than some "contrived and provocative feud over proprietary rights to a holiday celebrated predominantly by Christians. And for those who don't worship either goddess, well, that's OK, too!" ...
It should be clear by now that there is no IPCA (the initials were inspired by a series of books by novelist Kiersten White), and there certainly is no PFFTT (though some folks seem intent upon living up to that acronym when it comes to anything that doesn't conform with their particular philosophy or theology). David Raith and Marta Villalobos are, likewise, fictional characters.
This is, of course, April Fool's Day. But instead of simply posting some quick, funny comment, I decided to write about something a little more meaningful. IPCA may be a fictional organization, but if it existed, I'd certainly join it. The message of self-identification is important. Of course, it doesn't apply to people who falsely self-identify for personal gain, but when people genuinely self-identify as Pagan, Christo-Pagan, Secular Pagan, atheist, gay, lesbian or whatever, their right to do so should be respected. And that's no April Fool's joke.