This past weekend I was surfing the ‘net, just looking for tidbits of information here and there, when I came across this site I had never seen before.
It wasn’t anything new and exciting; in fact, it wasn’t all that eye-catching. It was basically a fact sheet on Paganism that someone had typed up and posted on the web.
But what caught my eye and held my fascination was one of the first questions asked:
“What is Paganism? How is it different from paganism?”
I gotta admit it, folks…I nearly fell off my chair when I saw this.
I’ve been practicing the Craft for 25+ years, and this is the first time I ever saw anything that attempted to make a distinction between little “p” paganism and BIG “P” Paganism.
Immediately the wheels in my brain began to turn, and I started thinking about what an interesting comparative analysis this could make…I’ve been spouting off about the similarities I often find between the Deaf Community and the Pagan Community, and along comes yet another topic for such an analogy.
After all, Goddess knows we have been discussing the little “d” deaf vs. BIG “D” Deaf issue for ages, and it continues to be a hot topic even today.
I read on, my curiosity piqued…just what is the difference?
To begin with, the fact sheet defined paganism (with a small p) as:
“Some people believe paganism to be a religion within itself; others see it as a belief system…that can be incorporated into religions like Wicca or Druidism; others see it as a broad category including many religions. The fact that we are re-creating religion for ourselves after centuries of suppression makes us very eclectic and very concerned for the “rightness” of a particular thing for the individual. So when you see some people calling it a religion and others not, when you see it capitalized in some instances and not in others, don’t be confused – we’re all still basically talking about the same thing.”
ALT.PAGAN – Frequently Asked Questions
The fact that we are re-creating religion for ourselves after centuries of suppression makes us very eclectic and very concerned with the “rightness” of a particular thing for the individual.
This statement has really gotten me thinking…not only in pagan terms, but in deaf terms as well.
Are we, as deaf people, now re-creating that sense of deafness for ourselves after centuries of suppression? Or for that matter – creating it anew? Is it this re-creation that we refer to as “Deafhood?”
And has that process of creating and re-creating made us “very eclectic and very concerned with the rightness of a particular thing for the individual?”
There is no question that the deaf community is just as eclectic as the pagan community. We are indeed a pretty broad category.
However, I am not totally certain that we – as deaf people – have fully accepted that fact; have come to truly embrace that sense of eclecticism.
But then, I’m not totally sure that the pagan community has either.
As for being concerned about the “rightness” of a particular thing for the individual, I definitely see that…both with paganism, and with deafness.
I think both deaf people and pagan folks struggle with trying to define that “rightness”… with attempting to find a common middle ground that everyone within the community can agree on; while at the same time recognizing and respecting that sense of individuality which makes it darn near impossible to come up with the one single right answer that is going to satisfy everyone.
After all, as the definition above explains – some people believe this, some people believe that, and other folks see it as an entirely different matter.
Okay…now that I’ve gotten a sense of what little p means, let’s see what this fact sheet has to say about BIG P:
“Paganism (with a capital P) is one strand of neopaganism which strives to allow each person to draw from whatever religious and cultural traditions are meaningful for the individual. The practices of Paganism derive from those of Wicca, but are not identical with those of Wicca. Some people view Paganism as a non-initiatory form of Wicca, or Wicca as an initiatory form of Paganism. Some say that Witches are the clergy of Paganism. (On the other hand, some Witches violently disagree with that viewpoint. As with most things in this FAQ, there is no answer with which everyone can completely agree.)
So if I understand this sheet correctly…if I am just talking about “the collective,” so to speak, referencing this…well, whatever the heck you wanna call it – religion? belief system? category? … then I use the little p.
On the other hand, if I am referring precisely to the actual practice of specific beliefs – generally defined as being of a pagan ideology – as a true religion or spiritual path, then I biggie up the P.
Personally, I have always capitalize the P in both Paganism and Pagan, because I do in fact see Paganism as a religious practice in the same sense as I do Christianity or Judaism or Islam. When I checked various resources, including my copy of The Encylopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, I find most of them think and do the same.
However, I did find two interesting articles that made arguments against using the capital P when discussing paganism or referring to one as a pagan – basically related to the whole concept of whether or not it can and should be recognized as a true religion in and of itself, by which it can be viewed as a proper noun, and has thus earned those “Big Letter” rights.
But what I really find fascinating about this whole capitalization issue is that in both circumstances – deaf and pagan – it all seems to center around what you believe and how you both believe and practice it.
And those beliefs and practices serve to identify you, and that identification is reflected in whether you choose to capitalize…or not to capitalize.
Visit any of the many sites in the Deaf Blogosphere and the whole issue of capitalizing the d is bound to come up sooner or later. There are those who strictly capitalize Deaf, period…there are those who use little d only…and there are those who will tell you “it depends.”
But if we apply the logic of this fact sheet, one could argue that the “little d deaf” could apply to any and all views of deafness – just as “little p pagan” could apply to any and all views of paganism. Thus let’s just use those itty bitty letters and let it be all inclusive.
After all, we’re all still basically talking about the same thing…right?
We’re all still basically talking about the struggles of dealing with a world that generally doesn’t understand us, and often doesn’t seem to care. We’re all still basically talking about the struggles of accessibility, advocacy, awareness and acceptance.
And many of those struggles apply just as much to pagans as they do to deafies.
On the other hand…apply the logic of the “Big P Pagan” and then we are promoting that concept of allowing each person to draw from whatever methods, perspectives, beliefs, traditions, you-name-it that are meaningful for that individual.
Well heck…if you want to support this philosophy, then let’s just go out and capitalize each and every one of us – Deaf or Pagan – and quit squabbling with one another.
And if we do dispute on certain matters, well…as the fact sheet pointed out “there is no answer for which everyone can completely agree.”
While much of the world is out there trying to mind its “p’s and q’s,” I’ll be grappling with my p’s and d’s.
Oops…should I be capitalizing those???
Note: to those wanting more information about the “little d/BIG D” issue with the word deaf, I encourage you to check out this blog, which does a great job of explaining it…
As for visiting some of those sites in the “Deaf Blogosphere,” I have a couple of them listed under my Deaf Blogs and Deaf Links. Deaf Read is a blog listing of some of the more popular Deaf blogs on the internet, and can be a good place to start.