As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading a lot of blogs written by Pagans/Wiccans/witches and also watching a lot of YouTube videos by people presenting themselves to be Pagan/Wiccan/witches and offering information about their own lives, practices, etc. I recognize that though these people may give themselves the Pagan/Wiccan label, their personal beliefs and practices may not be representative of the entire Pagan/Wiccan community.
What I’ve also stumbled across are a lot of Pagans/Wiccans doing videos and blog posts that basically say “UR DOIN’ IT WRONG.” These people disagree with the notion of one creating one’s own tradition if one can’t find a tradition which “fits.” One argument I’ve found for this is that those who do so are not looking hard enough at the traditions which are currently available, and they don’t understand the meaning behind such traditions (this is paraphrased from one particular article). As such, a lack of basic understanding is creating an increase in what others consider to be “faux tradition” – people just making it up.
I find this lack-of-foundation theory interesting. As far as my understanding goes, Wicca in its current form is only about sixty years old. I understand that it is purportedly based upon ancient traditions, but I’m sure the Wicca practiced today is drastically different than the earth-based religions practiced thousands of years ago. Just because the traditions have changed, does that mean the religion is still not valid? How important is it that followers of a certain religion adhere to tradition, and of that adherence how much leeway, if any, is available if a certain tradition does not “fit” with one who wishes to practice said religion?
This is an issue of labels and ownership of ideas/culture. A member of a group identifies themselves as belonging to a particular group. A member believes their practices and beliefs are reflective of the group’s practices and beliefs. A member sees another person appropriating their group’s label but not adhering to the same set of practices and beliefs. The member is offended, and in an effort to protect the member’s own group decides to admonish the outlier. But is that admonishment justified? As I asked before, how much is Wiccan or Pagan enough? For some people it may never be enough.
More importantly, if we are not practicing with a group, should we even care? In real life, I feel I am an incredibly private person (basically anonymous blogs notwithstanding). I doubt I will ever practice or worship with others, so why should it matter what others think about me? Should I care that others don’t view me as pagan enough? Or does it only matter when I am trying to adopt the label of a certain group or spiritual path?
I can identify as a Pagan when Pagan is defined as “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.” For a while I called myself an atheist because I don’t believe in the idea of god as presented in most widely-accepted religions, however I have recently started to accept that I do believe there is “something” out there (“The Big Stuff”). I don’t identify as Wiccan.
Despite that I am trying to read and research about many different paths, for the most part I will probably just “make it all up.” The way I see it, any religious idea presented to me through another human vessel has already been tainted with that person’s ideas, ethics, and prejudices. What I want is to cultivate my own personal relationship with The Big Stuff and the energies that surround me every day. My own, personal relationship; it is possible that some of my beliefs may dovetail with those of others, but it is also possible that no one else on the planet will see things the way I do. And that’s perfectly okay; I will do my best not to pass judgment on the practices of others as long as they do not pass judgment on mine (with stipulations, of course – my overarching ideas of Ethics and Humanity trump my respect others’ practices, particularly if others’ practices include things like torture, rape, etc. But that’s a whole other issue altogether.).
It seems the easiest thing to do would be to scrap labels completely. However, I recognize that would make it difficult for individuals who wanted to practice with others to stay organized and be able to reach out to others with similar beliefs. So perhaps labels are necessary, if only for those who wish to reach out to others. I’m leaning toward Eclectic Pagan myself.
Of course, these could just be the naive ramblings of the young and uneducated. Thoughts?