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Hopefully this will be a series of articles/essays about the oddities of neopagan/paleopagan/heathen cross-fertilization.


I was discussing the existence of "dual-trad" pagans/heathens with a fellow pagan/heathen today. Now, when I was starting out as a pagan, "trad-hopping" was considered an indication of inability to focus and learn any tradition, and generally was characterized as flightiness at best, insincerity and laziness at worst. Yet many of the people I respect most in the community have studied, in depth and/or lightly, at least two or three trads.

Add to this conundrum that a person may keep the same practices but worship different pantheons either sequentially or simultaneously. Their religious outlook may be pantheist or polytheist (or both), and their ritual practice may be derived from any number of neo-pagan, paleo-pagan, reconstructionist, and/or anthropological sources. You really can't tell the players without a scorecard!

In theory, it is possible, and mostly respectable, to have a person who has studied Brit Trad Wicca, Golden Dawn style Ceremonial Magic(k) and Hermetics who worships Odin, Kali, and the Morrigan using Eclectic Pagan ritual formats! Now, many single trad people shudder at this, and I can see why. If American Indian shamanic practices there would undoubtedly be cries of outrage about cultural theft and defilment. These may even be valid. But what if the individual was part Welsh, part German, part East Indian, and part Native American?

I have personaly had someone disapprove strongly of me wanting to sanctify the perimeter of a ritual site with a burning cigarette. I didn't have incense (and am allerfic to the cheap stuff), and the ritual site was in North America. One could easily argue that the land and the local spirits would be most pleased and accustomed to this style of offering! Was such a concept unacceptable trad mixing/culture stealing, or was it consideration of the land and it's spirits?

Then you have traditions like my own, which have multiple components: an ethical system/philosophy, a magical praxis, a theology, and a mandate to learn about, preferrably with some depth, as many other traditions and/or religions as possible! I honor various gods and pantheons, either within the ritual format of their native tradition, if I know it, or within my "base tradition"'s ritual and/or shamanic format. I am beginning to suspect that this is not all that uncommon, but is not often talked about for fear of offending the purists, single trad neophytes (that may become confused), or strict reconstructionists, paleopagan protectors, and cultural defenders.

The first task, of course, is to cleave the definitions into something manageable. Therefore:

Religion
Most simply, a system of beliefs about the origins of the universe, beliefs about our place and purpose in it, and practices for worshiping, acknowledging, or honoring forces outside ourselves, either natural* or deific.
* Please note that some regard deities and spirits, etc, as natural phenomena of varying types and degrees
Tradition
A set of practices and observances, usually within a religion or philosophy, that is taught to adherents as a cohesive set. Another related concept is "sect". For example: Christianity is a religion; Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic are traditions within that religion.
Pantheon
The gods, demigods, and other non-corporeal entities of power or worship (or fear) that are the central point of a specific culture's dominant religion.

The reason, of course, for these definitions is to provide a definition of the assumptions that I'm using in these essays.

Comments so far?

Comments

weofodthignen
Dec. 5th, 2004 02:25 pm (UTC)
As you see, I am still attempting to catch up . . . thanks for using my suggestions '-)

Not much to say so far, except I guess for 2 points. The small one is definitional. What you define here as a "tradition" is what I and ertla naturally tend to call a "denomination," because it is explicitly within one religion. However, things get hairy when "paganism" is the religion, because to a lot of us "paganism" is a catch-all term for many religions, and "tradition" the accepted term for a religion under that umbrella. Which is the main philosophical rationale for calling a person--or a person calling herself--dual-trad. If "paganism" is seen as one religion--as in the case of Eclectic Wicca--then by definition everything either derived from indigenous religions or focused on magic, whatever its form, is part of the same religion and the only meaningful use for "tradition" is "derived from the praxis of a particular teacher or line of teachers." I have no way of estimating what percentage of folks use one definition or the other, but the second one is talking in very different terms from the first and I think outside the definition you're using.

The second point is that in the first definition of "paganism," tolerance of dual-trad really depends on the folks involved--for instance, on the relevance of the "We're virtually all of mixed blood and culture" argument and on how jealous the gods involved are said to be in the texts. But the second approach--the "Of course I'm serially or simultaneously eclectic, that's the whole point of neo-paganism/religion as a whole" definitional approach--renders the whole thing moot. And my experience, such as it is, is that outside the religions currently labeling themselves "reconstructionist"--in the entire area where "pagan" is used in the umbrella manner--that's the dominant paradigm. i.e.: what lysana deprecates as "cherry-picking" is the objective of religion for the majority of non-heathen pagans I have encountered.

So if we have a "dual-trad problem," we have it at least in part because there are two entirely different ways of regarding this. Insofar as I use a definition of "religion" with respect to "pagan" that closely resembles yours, and use "tradition" to represent a culturally derived approach/pantheon focus rather than a teaching trad., I don't regard the cherry-pickers as a problem at all; they simply belong to a different religion from mine, in which they do that. I do feel bad about the way they use my gods, but that's ultimately the gods' business. I know some gods--others' and presumably some of mine--don't mind.

Make sense?

M

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