Paul Kershaw, ©2002
Problem: The word “pagan,” as well as “Neopagan,” “Wiccan,” and even “witch,” continue to be hotly contended, causing feelings of divisiveness among the community of modern practitioners of alternative religions. These debates, in my opinion, distract from the matter of coming together as a group with the idea of unity and mutual support. Also, the mainstream media continues to dwell on paganism for its shock value, showing marginal interest in treating the community fairly or even-handedly as a viable spiritual choice.
Proposed Solution: Those who wish the debates to cease frequently say things like, “It’s just a word.” That’s correct: It is. The proposed solution is to just create a new word, one with a clear definition and a professed coiner. That way, the word can represent the whole of the community in question — including those feeling alienated by the “pagan” debates — and won’t easily fall victim to the same semantic erosion and disagreement. Furthermore, because it’s not a traditionally shocking word, those who wish to explore the concept will not bring in negative baggage. Media sources won’t be tempted to dwell on inappropriate misconceptions about “pagans.”
“With that in mind, I present the following word and definition. If you like it, please feel free to use it openly, and share it. If you don’t like it, then, for goodness sake, don’t use it.”
“Proposed word: Canar
N. (kIn ‘Ar; ‘kAn Ir) A practitioner of a religion based on or heavily influenced by Wicca, Reconstructionism, any form of reclaiming, or Postmodernist/parody religions — in short, any of several religions which have increased in popularity as a result of waning faith in Christianity and Secular Humanism as satisfactory philosophies. As such, it includes modern forms of JudeoChristian mysticism and “New Age,” and does not include traditional religionists, such as Hindus and Buddhists: For the most part, canars have made a conscious choice to explore alternatives to Christianity and Judaism, rather than inheriting non-JudeoChristian religions as part of their cultural upbringing. Adj. canaric (kIn ‘Ar Ik).”
- As a member of ADF, I am a canar.
- ADF is one of many canaric Druid organizations.
- Wicca is one of many canaric religions.
- I met up with three canar friends hanging around outside Isle of Avalon.
- Hare Krishna is, by and large, a canaric version of Hinduism.
- The Wiccan Rede reflects a widely held canaric ethos based on the libertarian attitude that actions which do not bring harm should not be restricted.
- The Wiccan Rede embodies canaric ethics.
(Cf. “The Pope embodies Christian belief.”)
- Canars, Druids, and Asatruar have many similarities. (Cf. “Mammals, dogs, and cats have many similarities.”)
Use it widely. It is intended as a non-derogatory and fully owned alternative to “pagan.” By “owned” I mean that this document is meant to be used to settle any arguments that may arise as to who is or isn’t canar.
Is this serious, or an elaborate intellectual protest? Both. I do hope my word catches on, and gains currency, but it’s more important to me if people see that the “pagan” debate is divisive, insensitive, and injurious, and find ways to set it aside. I will continue to use “pagan” myself in contexts where it seems necessary, but will also encourage others to use “canar” if it suits them.
Written September 19, 2002, edited September 26, 2002, by Paul Kershaw (Brighn among his canar friends). This document may be distributed without modification freely.