Technopagan Problems

The term Technopagan is a difficult one, as taken literally it is in and of itself an anachronism. Originally coined by the Christianised Romans to describe the feral and uneducated country folk who lived outside of polite urban society, the term paganus soon became slang for anyone who eschewed the military lifestyle to instead live in proximity to livestock and crops. These cultural throwbacks, tolerated by virtue of their agricultural importance, refused in the most part to take on board what many of them likely saw as yet another short lived imperial cult.

Fast forward to the modern era and claiming the title of Technopagan when practising any form of digital occultism is fraught with problems that must be addressed before you can continue. As mentioned, a literal translation of the the term in the 21st Century would likely describe a technological simpleton living on a small farm in some rural hellhole. It is unlikely that they would have a phone, let alone access to the internet, and any magick that they did perform would be purely to ensure their more down to earth needs were fulfilled. As you can see, as far from an Instagram or Tumblr witch as you can get.

Then there is the problem of the sweeping assumption made by the name itself. Hailing from the bulletin board culture of the mid to late 1990’s it originally described a small collective of like minded Neopagans and disaffected Western shamans who found common ground in the drug fuelled rave culture of the period. Yet as we now know, not every follower of an Earth based religion believes in magick, nor are all those who cast spells Pagan. Thus the title, while attractive, soon becomes heavy with meaning and sinks like a stone into a quagmire of labels. The term Technowitchcraft is similarly blighted by this issue, as are more modern concepts such as cyberoccultism too.

Finally we find those who claim that the whole idea is redundant anyway. Technology has become so deeply ingrained within modern Neopaganism at this point that making any distinction between witches who keep a USB of Shadows and those who prefer to rock the traditional pen and paper method in an admirably old school manner is pointless. We all have multiple libraries worth of bootleg PDFs on a variety of weird and unusual topics somewhere on our hard drives these days. Many CDs worth of ritual music litter our desktops while memberships of online message boards keep us up at night scrolling from page to page. And there are blogs like this one too of course.

Perhaps the internet was never going to serve as a second astral plane after all. But the human relationship with technology is toxic at best, and as ever it falls to those who are used to walking with one foot in the weird to infuse such mechanistic nightmares with a more positive spirituality before they consume us whole. If we need to alter how we read certain catch all terms from the 1990’s to achieve this positive change then that is a small price to pay. The ultimate consideration becomes one of purpose. As an example of this we can look at the heated discussion around the term shaman, a title also claimed by some early Technopagans.

Many see it as some form of cultural appropriation, though I do not agree. When used without a claim to a certain ethnic lineage the word is purely descriptive, belonging to none but those who find value in claiming it as their own. Language is a difficult snare to escape, its boundaries already limiting our options when trying to foster a free and open exchange of ideas. The problematic issue of copyright aside no one really owns a group of words, nor should anything be allowed to censor our use of them. As a result of this reasoning, though many roll their eyes at the allusion to Neopaganism, when we add Techno to the beginning it remains a valid and convenient label for what I do.

Our practice has gone digital, whether we like it or not, and there is more to be gained from embracing that change than running from it. Perhaps in hindsight those who questioned the point in resurrecting this already niche idea were right in their lack of imagination after all. Yet I am convinced that there is some value in returning to the Technopagan current regardless of the many issues that will arise as we reengage with the concept on a more practical level. In this I am doubtless the only one, though it is also plain that the term itself was literally the main stumbling block for most who also tried to do so in the past.