Monday, February 28, 2011

Pagan Traditions as Monoliths

As a follower of multiple paths, this is an issue I tend to deal with a lot. For me, different traditions don't contradict each other, as pagan traditions are not monolithic in the Judeo-Christian sense as mutually exclusive entities. Ancient, pre-Christian peoples defined themselves by their culture rather than "religion" (which, as an entity distinct from the rest of the culture, was a non-existent concept). Like early Buddhism was not considered mutually exclusive to "Hinduism" (a term that didn't exist to describe indigenous Indian traditions until the arrival of British imperalists), there is a great deal of fluidity in terms of non-Abrahamic traditions. Of course, there was also a great deal of syncretism in the ancient world, as well, as the gods of the Olympian pantheon, for example, originated in various places like Egypt and the Near East. Isis had a wildly popular cult in the Greco-Roman world, and Rome especially was known for its tolerance of foreign cults.

However, I am not necessarily talking about mixing different traditions into one new, personal, eclectic path. I'm talking more about practicing different traditions without contradiction. To use myself as an example, I follow a system of pagan Witchcraft, as well as Hellenic and Kemetic polytheisms. I relate to ancient Greek (Hellenic) and Kemetic (Egyptian) cultures and enjoy honouring the gods in a traditional and culturally specific way, yet I also like that contemporary Witchcraft is a modern recreation of indigenous, "primitive" religion that is based in nature rather than on society and its constructions. Witchcraft is rather inclusive of other traditions and gods, so incorporating them is not hard. There is historical syncretism between Greek and Egyptian cultures, so following traditions is not hard, especially since I am not a part of either culture (and the cultures are dead). I mainly follow a Hellenic system that incorporates a few Egyptian gods, though I mainly worship Isis and Osiris these days. They easily fit into Witchcraft as forms of the universal Goddess and God, as well. I guess I don't really separate the different traditions too much, but I think there is a lot of overlap and they fit into each other well. I also try to follow Hellenic conceptions of arete ("excellence" or virtue) and the Egyptian concept of Ma'at, which also co-exist for me without contradiction.

As pagan traditions are not "religions" separate from culture in the Christian sense, they do not necessarily contradict each other and can be practiced side by side by an individual. Especially since the cultures these traditions come from are dead, and I have no interest in pretending to be an ancient Greek and adhering to political attitudes from 2000 years ago. I think it's perfectly acceptable to practice in different paradigms for different purposes, as adhering rigidly to a single one is Abrahamic in origin, not pagan. Does anyone agree, disagree, or also follow multiple traditions and have something to add, or an experiences to share?

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