I am not talking about American pagans or Americans who follow a pagan practice. Rather I am pondering the existence of a truly American Pagan religion, as in something found originating in America even if it borrows from other cultures. Mind you I am well aware of the dangers of cultural appropriation thus I am seeking something that can be identified as purely American. This goes along with my previous article I wrote yesterday asking if there is such a thing as an American culture.
The reason I settled on an American Paganism is simple, I am an American. I find the idea of cultural earth religions fascinating. There is an other danger to outsiders. The risk of sounding more than Imperialistic but rather American Exceptionalism. AS in the belief, racist rooted as it is, American culture is superior to others. I do not adhere to that. I believe it is valid and I respect my American culture tremendously. I adhere to the core values of America, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I desire to pursue those ideals while spreading them to as many others as possible. The good parts of America, the ideology, is why so many come here from elsewhere. It is the American Dream.
So is it possible to follow a truly American paganism? I do not mean deifying the Founding Fathers, eek that would be beyond unsavory for me. However I am looking more at a Pagan belief that seeks to follow the ideals of American society I find admirable, which is the aforementioned liberty and justice for all.
I want to be clear this is not an essay writing about the American Cult of Patriotism. Although it is going to have similarities to that Patriotic spirit, it focuses more on the spiritual ideals rather on the abstract belief in superiority.
I found a YouTube video on finding an American Pagan pantheon that I found fascinating. Here I found inspiration to seek my own spirituality that I believe will satisfy my desire to celebrate the good parts of American culture while working towards improving the bad parts. This ideology is something I can get behind. But how far do I go? Rather how far does this idea go?
When I search Google for American Paganism I come across articles lambasting the decline of American morality as we decline into Pagan culture. This is less than helpful. Again here is the first problem, terminology. American pagan verses American Pagan. Notice the placement of the capital P. The first is any American who considers themselves as pagan. The latter is a distinct Paganism that is rooted in American Liberty Cult.
I looked first at the Statue of Liberty. She represents an ancient Goddess Americans have embraced. An American Pagan Pantheon would most certainly contain her as a central figure. Our Cult of Patriotism already uses her quite regularly in American imagery. However her representation in Americanism is somewhat unique in her appearances in classical and historical contexts.
I love the idea of honoring Liberty as a American Goddess. Not as an exclusively American goddess but rather as one who is revered in a land entirely devoted, at least in concept, to her ideal. You cannot ignore the scars of Imperialism and Slavery that exist on this country. However I believe you can work within that to recognize when there are ways to improve.
Make no mistake I am not talking about stealing from or taking from Native cultures to form a practice that is rooted in theft and oppression. What I am looking for is a practice that honors the deities America was founded upon, not the Christian deity though. I am also seeking to explore the implications of American symbolism within folklore. Americanism itself is quite fascinating as most of our mythology revolves around the Wild West but not all of it is such. We recognize the tall tales as myths. We also recognize much of the ideas we were raised in were rooted in Imperialism. Thus I have to tread lightly.
Before I go any further here is the video I found.
Feel free to check out the video for a better understanding of what I am considering. I am not saying I personally want to explore this American Paganism. However I feel like it does feel more appropriate for me to find a religions practice that is truly American rather than treading upon an existing cultures religious views. I found Wicca didn’t work for me as it was too English. I have a working relationship with the Goddess Brigid but I do not feel compelled to Irish Paganism. I do not want to pick and choose the parts of other cultures I like rather what I want is to explore spirituality within my own culture. Since my culture is American I decided to search for and see if I could discovery a uniquely American form of Paganism. While I found merely the foundations of which I could work, I am reinvigorated in a way I haven’t been in a while. I am still figuring out what this will look like though.
I also want to be careful not to turn it into American Exceptionalism. The Cult of Patriotism runs rampant in American culture and I want to avoid that. Still, I find it fascinating to think we had our very own pagan culture brewing beneath our feet this whole time. I love it. I don’t know what it will mean to me but as of right now I am excited.