Technology and Modern Paganism
This is one of the blogging topics I found a while back – not sure where; I just copied it into a post and saved the draft – but in going back through some of the older drafts, I thought it was a fun sort of thing to explore. Some of the topics were:
- Internet and pagans: Blessing or Curse?
- websites & e-lists
* How does modern tech blend with ancient religion?
* How does modern tech clash with ancient religion?
* How has religion evolved around technology?
In researching for this post, I learned that ‘technopagan’ is a lipstick color. Color me confused when I Googled ‘technopagan’ images only to find a ton of pouty blue lips!
It seems like the term ‘techno-pagan’ has fallen out of use. Same with ‘neo-pagan’, really. I honestly never hear either term unless it’s in jest (or I am watching old episodes of Buff the Vampire Slayer). There was a time (probably then!) that the internet was the main source of information for new Pagans to learn and connect with each other and the larger Pagan Community, and both of those terms were fairly common. They meant something different than they do today. Then, it was a distinction between what was ‘old style’ Paganism – covens and closed groups and apprenticeships and initiations and lots of secrecy. Techno/Neo Paganism was open and loud and visible and unapologetic. Though I didn’t (and still don’t) consider myself to be a techno/neo Pagan, I definitely am part of the generation that came into Paganism in the technological reformation era.
I’m in my 30’s, and grew up in the ‘dawning age’ of the internet. I remember it being very cool to be in chat rooms that were Pagan-focused. Even though the other people in the chat room were also young and new to the Craft, and lots of nonsense was probably spouted as ‘wisdom’, it was very exhilarating. I would honestly attribute the modern rise and resurgence of Pagan-based religions to the internet because of that ability to connect and share. I can remember going to the library, and finding only one or two books that even mentioned Wicca or Druidry – and most of those cast it in a negative light, or presented it as fantasy or fiction. The internet really did bring people together and make the sharing of information so easy. Even now, I think that’s probably still the main way that most Pagans connect with each other and learn.
Of course, you can’t have a blessing without a curse; the Universe tends to balance itself out that way. With the rise of Pagan information-sharing and ease of accessibility also comes the looky-loos and Mary Sues. There’s probably a place for them as well, but when you’re an honest Seeker, it can be hard to find credible information. Because of the ease of putting your own thoughts and practices into public view, there’s a lot of just plain bad information out there. Some of it is factually or traditionally wrong, some of it it based in fiction or fantasy, some of it is made-up, and some of it is predatory. Couple that with Teachers who get burned out or just plain burned by ‘students’ who aren’t really motivated to learn, and I’m sure it’s very frustrating for anyone new to the Craft to find their way.
There’s also a certain population of unscrupulous people who are looking for sheer power, without understanding the responsibility and care that goes with it, to contend with; and those who seek to either discredit us, or worse, disparage or villianize Pagan practitioners. Much of that has faded away in recent years, only to see a resurgence when there’s a crime that mimics someone’s ‘idea’ of witchcraft. But even with those occasional issues, here in the big ol’ Bible Belt, we can host Pagan Pride events without getting negative media coverage. That’s definitely progress, and I think technopagans and that generation can take credit for that. Over the years though, it seems to me that ‘being Pagan’ has somewhat lost its popularity, which is a good thing (in my opinion). Even with the rise of popular TV shows like The Secret Circle and Witches of East End (and to a lesser extent, Salem), the shine or shock of being ‘a witch’ is gone. That makes it nice for actual Pagans who get weary of explaining the difference between the fiction of the TV show and what we actually do. With every year that passes, there’s a little more distance between what we do and the public perception of what we do – at least until the next popular show or movie comes out.
As for websites, discussion groups and lists and Facebook, I find that they can be great tools. I obviously contribute to the ‘blogosphere’, and have participated in community-wide projects like the Pagan Blog Project, Pagan Blog Prompts and the Pagan Insights Project. I think those are great ways for the Pagan Community to connect and share how their personal path and particular practice looks and feels to others. I think that’s an amazing thing, not only for ‘seasoned’ practitioners, but for newbies as well. YouTube has a pretty strong Pagan presence – they’re mostly young people, and those new to the Craft, but there are some really good channels out there. Before the internet, it was HARD to find other Pagans, period, much less those who were willing to openly share their path or beliefs or show you things like their Shadow Book or altar. Rituals were confined to books, but now, you can find videos of sample rituals to guide you. I thin that’s great for the non-traditional learner, or for those with a language barrier. The internet also makes it easier to organize events like Pagan Pride Day or to help spread awareness or generate change (like having a pentacle recognized as a religious symbol for the headstones of fallen soldiers). Without the ability to quickly spread information, that might not have happened. Overall, I do think the internet and ‘techno pagans’ have been a good thing.
How does modern tech blend/clash with ancient religion… that’s a fun question! I think that anything ancient, in order to survive, needs change. Change breathes new life into an old thing – revives it, makes it function in the fast-paced world we live in today. I definitely think that there’s the capacity to lose sight of the roots of Paganism and the ancient religions that Modern Paganism is based on, but those conscientious about their path will find ways to integrate and honor the Old Ways. I think that anything heartfelt and sincere has a place.
As for blending, I admit to being a techno-junkie. I blog; I love my social media; I store a lot of Pagan-related information on my computer. I use my printer to create pages for my Shadow Book, and for creating articles and information for my local Teaching Circle classes (which are starting again this week – yay!). I am connected via social media with my local Circle, with the larger local Pagan community, and am also in groups that are open to the worldwide Pagan community as well as some that are specifically focused (like tarot practice and a devotional group honoring Brigid). I keep a WitchVox account, and try to be an agent of positive change in my local community. I tend to be very busy, and having that connection always available to me when I have time to focus on it is incredible. I think that’s also how religion has evolved around technology. Almost every major religion and many religious groups utilize some form of technology to organize, and many also use it to teach or share resources. In our fast-paced and busy lives, to keep that connection, religion has had to change – how religion is available to the public has had to change. Being able to access more than just what I can create on my own 24/7 means that at any time, when I feel the need for it, I can either learn about something new, or talk about something I need to figure out or get off my chest. I consider ‘religion’ the path between deity/spirit and the person… why wouldn’t that connection take the form of whatever makes the most sense to the people seeking the path?
If you have thoughts about this topic, please feel free to comment, or post your own blog and link me to it! I think it’s an interesting discussion, and would love to hear more.