“Towards an American Paganism”

YouTuber Ceisiwr Serith proposes the novel concept of a distinctly American Pagan religion:

American Pagans aren’t just Pagans who are living in America; they are Pagans who are American. What does this mean? Ancient Pagan cultures were theocracies, but America is a secular nation. How do we reconcile that?

The solution is that there is already a “secular religion” in place in America. In large part it is drawn from classical sources — the goddess Liberty, the fasces on government buildings, and so on. In part it is drawn from universal sources — celebrations of particular days with parades, bonfires, parties, and such. And in part it is formed from elements that are, if not uniquely American, then strongly American — historical documents as possessing spiritual value, speeches, elections as ritual, etc. This religion, although not generally recognized as one, provides a meaning to our lives as citizens, and a source of unity, as surely as the state religion of ancient Rome.

But it isn’t specifically a religion, at least not on the surface. It is, however, something that is shared by all Americans, no matter what other religions they may practice. It is a religionless religion, one that binds rather than separates. It is one in which ancient deities are honored, and new ones produced, which are seen as allegories, and thus there is no danger in non-Pagans honoring them.

But a number of us are asking, what if we did worship these deities? What if we took part in the secular rituals — the parades, and the speeches, and the parties — but saw in them a non-secular meaning? What if we saw the gods and goddesses associated with America as actual deities, without acting like we were the ones who knew their real meaning? What if we celebrated American holidays and events in a Pagan way? These are fascinating and important questions; in their answers may lie the key to what a truly American Paganism would look like.

This form of Paganism isn’t jingoistic. It doesn’t have a loyalty to our government or its policies. Rather, it has to do with America’s ideals, and points out how they’re yet to be achieved. And yet, America is always getting closer to them; they’re being unfolded. That’s what’s being emphasized.

These pages, then, are mostly pieces of a puzzle which is still being worked on. We don’t know how big the puzzle is, its shape, or even if it really exists. But we’re taking a shot at it anyways. Come join us, and welcome aboard.

More here, including links to an American Calendar and an Exegesis of the Declaration of Independence.

There’s actually some historical precedent for the notion of a secular, civic religion “worshipping” quasi-theistic personifications of patriotic and ethical ideals, via the short-lived but ambitious and imaginative Cult of Reason established during the French Revolution.

Above: a woman representing the “Goddess of Reason” is feted at the then-former Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, which had – along with many other French churches – been officially converted into a Temple of Reason during late 1793. The Christian altar was dismantled, the words “To Philosophy” were carved over the cathedral’s doors, and much merriment was made.

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