Pagan Blog Project: Pagan Biker Gang?
Now, please don't get me wrong, I have no issue with bikers in general. BUT, I certainly don't want to be lumped in with them either. I have recently met a "Pagan Biker" and if you were to listen to him, they are a lovely little club that is full of loving and kind individuals. Unfortunately, the truth is vastly different.
The Gang, or Club as they call it, was formed in 1959 and grew rapidly through the 60's. Today the FBI categorizes this group as an outlaw motorcycle gang. And they tend to via for territory with the better known "Hell's Angels" throughout the North Eastern US. This group has been identified as a "white supremacist" organization by authorities, however, my own research shows that this is not entirely true - most likely it's a common feeling by many members, but it's not a driving force for the gang as a whole. That, unfortunately, is where the "good news" ends... The gang, like most organized crime groups, are best known my authorities for their violence and drug related activities.
I hate to listen to the "popular opinion" when it comes to ANY group. I know the kind of ridiculous rumors I have faced over the years because of people doing just that. But, at the same time, I'm actually hearing much of this same chatter from ex-members and children of members as well as law enforcement and the general public.
So, as a FAITH based Pagan and not a BIKER GANG based Pagan, I'm really not liking the fact that for the past 10 years or so, numerous people have believed me to be a part of this group. It's no wonder so many have simply avoided me afterwards.
And I have to say, I find myself rather angered that this gang even choose to use Pagan as their title. I do understand that at the time they were founded it was not as acceptable to be Pagan as it is today, nor was it considered a religion on a legal level. I am sure that, like LeVay chose to use the term Satanists for his group, the Pagans were simply trying to separate themselves from the accepted societal norms at the time. I don't, however, feel that makes it better.
Frankly, I don't care WHY they chose the name they did. The only thing that is affecting me at the moment is the fact that I, as a Pagan, am often being lumped in with them by those who don't know better. People I meet in the street, those who visit my website - and possibly this blog - and I'm sure, those who are considering a religious switch - are all associating the term Pagan, with this violent, outlaw group. Not only is this group damaging the reputation of Pagans as a whole, but they are damaging MY reputation.
Now, I don't think I will stop using the term Pagan. I will always be proud of being Pagan! But I think I may just start being a little more conservative with who I use the term with. Terms such as Eclectic, New Age, or even Witch, may simply be a better choice for me - and for anyone else who may live in Pagan territory. I do understand that terms like Eclectic or New Age can prove to be a little "aloof" and the term Witch often brings negative feelings as well, but, at least I wouldn't be being grouped in with rapists and murderers... And I AM a witch, I'm not ashamed! So why not simply use that term? It almost makes me wish I belonged to a specific path so that I could use a term like Kemitic or Wiccan, but I don't...
I've always known that using the term Pagan could bring me some negative reactions from the under-educated or the mislead, and that's never deterred me one bit. BUT, I never expected there would be an actual group of violent drug runners, rapists and killers out there reinforcing those misconceptions. Now that I know what I know, I think I need to consider what terms I am using, and how much damage they could do to my reputation as well as the reputation of Paganism as a whole... I have always striven to be a positive example of a Pagan, and have worked to help work against common misconceptions locally, and overall. But I wonder if it's possible that this Gang is doing damage that simply can't be overcome directly, and if possibly, by using alternate terms early on in relationships or in local actions, could help to bring people to a better understanding of what Paganism is, all the separating myself from the actions of outlaws...