I came to Neo-Paganism for the freedom. The ability to integrate whatever I wanted into an existing framework. I only realized a lot later that that framework was (Neo-) Wiccan, not Neo-Pagan. No matter how much people keep trying to sell--or simply see--Neo-Paganism as Wicca, it's not. The best definition of (Neo-)Paganism I have ever heard--and still use today--is the following one, by The Cauldron:

 "Pagan religion is a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and self-identifies as Pagan."

(Neo-)Paganism can't be described as 'earth-based'. It can't be described as 'reconstructing'. It can't be described as anything else besides the above. Because (Neo-) Paganism is very, very broad. These terms describe one or more Traditions under the (Neo-)Pagan umbrella but they don't cover all--not by a long shot. And this is exactly why I keep struggling with the (Neo-)Pagan umbrella; it can only be defined by saying what it is not, instead of saying what it is. Because most of what it is, we borrowed from somewhere else.

I think I transitioned to Hellenismos, in large part, because I looked for something authentically Pagan. Something pre-Christian, or something from which I could scrape the Christian coating added to it, if I scratched at it long enough with my fingernails.

I read a blog post once that I can't find anymore. In it, the Pagan author said that (s)he recently realized that the second most used tag on his or her blog was 'Christianity'--and it annoyed him or her to no end. I understand. This post is the second time I'm using the tag and the first time, I really had to ponder if I wanted to use it. It would be the same for 'Buddhism', 'New Age' or anything else from which Neo-Paganism has drawn.

Paganism is chock full of Everything Else. Tarot has a Christian history, magick has a Christian history, the elements were defined by the ancient Hellens, then added to magickal workings by Christian magicians, trying to get closer to God. Whatever is worshiped in Neo-Paganism tends to be offset by Christianity. Star Forster recently wrote a blog post about what we, as Neo-Pagans, own in terms of spiritual practices. She only found one thing; polytheism. And I think she's pretty much right. Tarot, for example, might be important in Neo-Paganism, but the people on T.V. who do Tarot readings are rarely Pagan; they're New Age spiritualist, sometimes even Christians. Like Star puts it; we don't own anything.

Some might wonder about the God and Goddess. Aren't they authentically Neo-Pagan? No, They are not Neo-Pagan; they're part of the Wiccan and Neo-Wiccan pantheon. See the first paragraph about my opinion on Neo-Paganism ≠ Wicca. Still, the God and Goddess as worshipped in (Neo-)Wicca are to be proud of, and the simple fact that there is so very little authentically (Neo-)Wiccan makes it all the more important to me that (mostly Neo-)Wiccans stop trying to pass off the God and Goddess as Deities who outdate all other Gods and Goddesses. Simply by doing that, They become tainted by Everything Else.

I think it's because of this, I (over)reacted so strongly to Cara's explanation of Hellenismos by way of comparison to Christianity and Hinduism. Hellenismos was not build on Christian or Hindu foundations, it's entirely its own religion. Can we please keep it that way?

The fact that Neo-Paganism has borrowed so much from Everything Else is not bad at all, it keeps Neo-Paganism fresh and vibrant. It allows for great flexibility and a strong appeal to seekers. It says to keep what you love and add to it with practices you come to love. There are no worries about doctrine; you can make your own. For over twelve years, it was exactly what I needed. Until it wasn't.

I'm still Pagan, still under the Neo-Pagan banner. I'm still proud of the banner we've build over the past 60 to 70 years. But I need to own something and be owned by something. I need doctrine, structure and liturgy. I need to be expected of, I need a framework of daily practice. I needed a new challenge, a new way of demanding excellence of myself and a new way to serve the Gods I hold so very dear. For me, I found that in reconstruction. Others might find it somewhere else entirely, including the eclecticism found in Neo-Paganism. To every seeker his or her own, I say.