hi! i really loved your thorough response to that post (although you're probably sick of hearing about it) but just had a general question for clarity. why arent African Diasporic religions considered pagan? this may come from my limited and western understanding of paganism, but i thought pagan meant anything that wasn't christian. so i'd love if you could help me understand better. thanks so much in advance!
Hey @casual–witchcraft! This is a great question!
So, the European/Christian-informed view is that anything non-Christian is Pagan. However, except among Neo-Pagans, this term is highly pejorative. It has been used to degrade many Indigenous religious practices around the world. As a result, many traditional religions bristle at having this Christian-invented term imposed on them. This is why practitioners of Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, and most African and Indigenous religions don’t use the word Pagan to describe themselves. We don’t need to: we have our own words, cultures, languages.
When we say Pagan today, what we mean are European-derived non-Christian faiths, such as Wicca, Druidry, Heathenism (though some Heathens I know don’t identify as Pagans), and Western occultism. Together, they roughly share a similar worldview and symbology that is related to a variety of European cultures. They tend to be polytheistic. They are primarily reconstructed religions that came into (re)existence in the 20th century (see Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon for more info on that). These religions tend to be both solitarily practiced and group practiced, but solitary has become the dominate mode. Most Pagans learn Paganism through books.
African religions and Afro-Diasporic religions - such as Lukumi, Palo, Vodou, Candomble, Umbanda, Quimbanda, and 21 Divisions - do not share these roots, worldviews, or symbology. They also tend to be monotheistic (technically, henomonotheism - the idea that there is one Supreme God and many Spirits who work under her/him/them). These religions have existed in unbroken lines for hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years. These religions are exclusively communally based. They cannot be practiced alone and entrance to them requires permission from both the deities *and* the community. They cannot be learned through books, only through direct experience in the community.
Afro-Diasporic religions tend not to be exclusivist, so some people are both Afro-Diasporic practitioners *and* Pagans. We don’t look down on Pagans at all - we respect Paganism as a separate category of religions. But it’s just that: separate. We emphasize not mixing practices (ie, you don’t call Yemaya into a Wiccan circle, and we don’t call The Horned God into a bembé).
Hope this clears it up!