Pagan Blog Project: Personhood

Oh dear Gods, this is going to make me wish I paid attention in all those philosophy lessons… haha, I’m actually quite proud that this is coming to you on time and fairly coherently… we’ll see how long that lasts.

What does it mean to be a person? To have personhood? This is a question that many philosophers have grappled over and after personally sitting through many, many lessons on the subject I have to tell you straight off that there’s no clear answer… and quite possibly no answer at-all-full-stop.

Generally one of the first steps is that people give the status of personhood to humans- but I think that as a Pagan we can’t even do this, in my opinion a large part of being Pagan is accepting that we as humans aren’t the most important or dominant species on this planet.

But to do this in regard to the personhood debate we then need to assign it to other species, to animals.

Now, a quick google tells me that the definition of person is:


  1. A human being regarded as an individual.
  2. Used in legal or formal contexts to refer to an unspecified individual.
man – individual – personage – character – figure

and that the definition of personhood is:


The quality or condition of being an individual person.

I don’t like this definition- and not just for the obvious reasons. It states that a person is a human being who is regarded as a individual. This brings up many questions.

1. Regarded by whom?


2. What is an individual?

The answers to these questions lie only within your own psyche, so puzzle them over in your spare time, in classic philosophy student style I’m going to give you the basic definition of individual (seperate objects/beings) and move onto my next point.

As Pagans I don’t think we can regard only human beings as people, I think to do this would be to go against everything it essentially means to be Pagan. I believe that ‘personhood’ is essentially just another way of us labelling ourselves as above animals and creatures.

To me the simple fact is that we don’t understand animals- our brains are different, we speak different languages, this doesn’t make them any less beings than us, this doesn’t make them any less intelligent- it just makes them different.

All creatures have their function in the world (apart from us, but that’s a post for another day) all creatures are equally as intelligent- just in different ways.

We are all people- all beings are people, all animals and all plants are people- because once you remove the ‘human beings’ part from that dictionary definition you’re left with pretty much no defining characteristics.

And I’ll let you puzzle out the implications of this one in your own time,

Blessed be,
Wren x


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