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Author Topic: Pagan Traditions as Monoliths  (Read 6404 times)
Carnelian
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« Topic Start: February 27, 2011, 08:38:59 pm »

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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« Reply #1: February 27, 2011, 10:58:01 pm »

Does anyone agree, disagree, or also follow multiple traditions and have something to add, or an experiences to share?

As some people are aware, I'm Kemetic recon, a student of the Feri tradition, a part-time Discordian, and becoming a Unitarian Universalist sort of through the back door.  I obviously don't see any issues with adhering to multiple religions.  Apparently what I have is issues not sticking to them.)

I tend to feel that additional religious obligations narrow the field of what I may do.  Not necessarily by a huge amount, especially if the religions have major ethical, social, or stricture overlap.  But the more layers of meaning are in play, the more precisely filtered everything is.  It's all about the Venn diagrams.

(Pardon my typing if it's bad, I have a toddler zonked oyt on one arm.)
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« Reply #2: February 27, 2011, 11:14:57 pm »

As some people are aware, I'm Kemetic recon, a student of the Feri tradition, a part-time Discordian, and becoming a Unitarian Universalist sort of through the back door.  I obviously don't see any issues with adhering to multiple religions.  Apparently what I have is issues not sticking to them.)

I tend to feel that additional religious obligations narrow the field of what I may do.  Not necessarily by a huge amount, especially if the religions have major ethical, social, or stricture overlap.  But the more layers of meaning are in play, the more precisely filtered everything is.  It's all about the Venn diagrams.

(Pardon my typing if it's bad, I have a toddler zonked oyt on one arm.)

Maybe it's a Feri thing, as that's the tradition of Witchcraft I lean closest to  Grin

I never thought about how the overlap focuses the practice, but that's actually a really good point. Maybe that's why I am mostly focused on Isis and Osiris lately, as they fit into all three of my traditions. They were Egyptian deities syncretized into Greek culture and religion, and also are compatible with conceptions of the Goddess and God of Witchcraft, so all my bases are covered.
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« Reply #3: February 28, 2011, 02:22:30 am »

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...- 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.


This is pretty close to what I was saying just a few years ago, when I was a mad eclectic with a love for Hellenic and near-eastern syncretism. Since then, the gist of my beliefs has not really changed much. I believe in multiple pantheons from multiple cultures, and I believe that the Gods could comprise quite a large population of beings. However, I do consider myself to have my first loyalties toward certain deities, and have asked them for permission to explore my interest in other deities. Having received no response as of yet, I have let the matter rest. That's personal though. I still believe in just about any deity. If I'm going to believe in Osiris and Susanoo, then it's only fair that I believe in the God of the Israelites, the Wiccan Goddess, and the Christ-God as well.
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« Reply #4: February 28, 2011, 05:32:26 pm »

Maybe it's a Feri thing, as that's the tradition of Witchcraft I lean closest to  Grin
... Right, so you do, and I knew that; I just wasn't thinking about it while I read your OP.  In that case, I won't pick the nits one at a time, I'll just note that your usage of "Witchcraft" in the OP was very centred on "neoPagan religious Witchcraft that isn't Traditional Wicca" (leaving out non-religious witchcraft - other than by use of upper-case W; I make the distinction that way myself, but most folks don't reflexively parse it that way so it's usually necessary to explain a little - and either excluding or misrepresenting Traditionalist stances).

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« Reply #5: February 28, 2011, 08:14:41 pm »

... Right, so you do, and I knew that; I just wasn't thinking about it while I read your OP.  In that case, I won't pick the nits one at a time, I'll just note that your usage of "Witchcraft" in the OP was very centred on "neoPagan religious Witchcraft that isn't Traditional Wicca" (leaving out non-religious witchcraft - other than by use of upper-case W; I make the distinction that way myself, but most folks don't reflexively parse it that way so it's usually necessary to explain a little - and either excluding or misrepresenting Traditionalist stances).

Sunflower

Sorry, I'll specify next time. Like you said, I was using the capital-W to indicate it was non-Wiccan religious Witchcraft rather than witchcraft as only magical practice.

This is pretty close to what I was saying just a few years ago, when I was a mad eclectic with a love for Hellenic and near-eastern syncretism. Since then, the gist of my beliefs has not really changed much. I believe in multiple pantheons from multiple cultures, and I believe that the Gods could comprise quite a large population of beings. However, I do consider myself to have my first loyalties toward certain deities, and have asked them for permission to explore my interest in other deities. Having received no response as of yet, I have let the matter rest. That's personal though. I still believe in just about any deity. If I'm going to believe in Osiris and Susanoo, then it's only fair that I believe in the God of the Israelites, the Wiccan Goddess, and the Christ-God as well.

For me it's different because I don't believe all pantheons are separate, just different ways of interpreting the same divine power. I view Aphrodite as being the same as Hellenistic Isis, who is the same as the Great Goddess of pagan Witchcraft traditions. The lens I use to interpret Deity changes according to my practice, which is determined by what I need at any given time. I'm not comfortable with the word "eclectic" for myself because I don't pick and choose from various paths, but practice them each as a whole. Maybe it's the same difference, but whatever.
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« Reply #6: March 01, 2011, 01:26:39 am »


For me it's different because I don't believe all pantheons are separate, just different ways of interpreting the same divine power. I view Aphrodite as being the same as Hellenistic Isis, who is the same as the Great Goddess of pagan Witchcraft traditions. The lens I use to interpret Deity changes according to my practice, which is determined by what I need at any given time. I'm not comfortable with the word "eclectic" for myself because I don't pick and choose from various paths, but practice them each as a whole. Maybe it's the same difference, but whatever.
Well, I do believe in overlap of certain deities. The example you give involves both Hellenic and Near-Eastern religion, and I agree there are many instances of this in the history of cultural syncretism, like the Roman Isis of ten thousand names.  "Eclectic" is just a term I've picked up. I don't mean to label anyone. I once called myself one because that's what I was lead to believe described me at the time. Even then however, I tended to view deities as individuals- I have for awhile . I take as much interest in the contrasts between Gods and faiths as in the similarities.
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« Reply #7: March 02, 2011, 07:54:31 am »

i personally am a Hellenic and Shinto pagan, meaning i worship the Greek and Shinto Gods and Goddesses and i follow the traditional Shinto culture, mised with the Paganism.i find that these two cultures work relatively well together, at least for me. for instance, i have one Goddess from each culture (Athene and Amaterasu) that work really, really well together. the other deities and the over all traditions of the two work for me, and i dont find friction between them very often.
my friend is a Hindu Hellenic, and he finds more problems then i do. but i really beileve that any culture can work to gether if they are worhsipped right.
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« Reply #8: March 02, 2011, 08:32:43 pm »

Hi, wren(mania),

Just a quick note:  Please remember to quote, even if you're just replying to the first message in the thread.  It makes the discussion easier to follow, and it's required by our rules.

This isn't a formal warning, just a reminder.  No reply is necessary, but if you have questions or need clarification, please feel free to contact a member of staff privately.

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« Reply #9: March 02, 2011, 09:40:55 pm »

my friend is a Hindu Hellenic, and he finds more problems then i do. but i really beileve that any culture can work to gether if they are worhsipped right.

That's interesting, because I think there are a lot of similarities between Hinduism and Hellenism. Vedic religion, in particular, as it involves offering to the gods through the sacrificial fire (personified by the god Agni), like how Greek religion revolves around the sacrificial flame sacred to the goddess Hestia. It must be the Indo-European influence on both cultures that makes them similar.
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« Reply #10: March 04, 2011, 03:52:39 am »

That's interesting, because I think there are a lot of similarities between Hinduism and Hellenism. Vedic religion, in particular, as it involves offering to the gods through the sacrificial fire (personified by the god Agni), like how Greek religion revolves around the sacrificial flame sacred to the goddess Hestia. It must be the Indo-European influence on both cultures that makes them similar.

In that regard, I definitely do not look at traditions as monoliths. Indo-European similarities are a big part of my interpretation of Slavic paganism, including the Vedic religion. Among the links between the two traditions are the veneration of friction fire- that is, fire produced from a drill. You can find that in Russia as well- it was called zhivoy pozhar- "living fire".
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« Reply #11: March 04, 2011, 08:52:43 am »

In that regard, I definitely do not look at traditions as monoliths. Indo-European similarities are a big part of my interpretation of Slavic paganism, including the Vedic religion. Among the links between the two traditions are the veneration of friction fire- that is, fire produced from a drill. You can find that in Russia as well- it was called zhivoy pozhar- "living fire".

That's very interesting. Many ancient religions have similar origins, and many influence each other. It's hard to view them as separate entities unless it's from a modern, Christian mindset.
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« Reply #12: March 12, 2011, 05:19:33 am »

Does anyone agree, disagree, or also follow multiple traditions and have something to add, or an experiences to share?
I can say something similar. A lot of people don't understand that Wicca is an initiatory mystery tradition, that's experimental in nature. It's orthopraxic, but once someone has been trained and brought through, there's room for personal adaptation. Also being an earth centred fertility religion, a lot of the Wicca incorporate the local deities, and mythologies of the land into their praxis. I personally thereby worship and adhere to the Goidelic Gods& traditions of this island.

I'm also a Gaelic Traditionalist/Polytheist, and by traditionalist being that I don't follow a reconstructionist methodology, because I already live in a Gaelic society, so I don't solely reconstruct indigenous pre-Christian practices for modern circumstances. Contemporary practices are just as important to me, be some Christian, or foreign that were introduced into Ireland, because they've already been adopted into Gaelic society (Gaelachaigh-Gaelicise)  The same of what's been touched on above can be said about the Irish, that being a tribal society with no codified pantheon or state religion, didn't have a word to describe themselves or their language, never their religious beliefs. The name that stuck, happened to be a foreign reference to them, the Welsh Goídil, in turn Gwyddeleg, that became Goídelc/Gaeidhilg/Gaeilge/Gaelic. 

Aside from religion, I also adhere to Western Esoteric philosophies, and occult magic(k)al traditions such as Freemasonry, and Thelema.(It happens to be a coincidence that Gardner was also a member of the O.T.O, a Mason(although a Co. Mason), and influenced by Gaelic/Manx folk traditions.) Now some are philosophical companions to religion, and others more secular in nature. It does annoy me when people try to pin down certain influences within the Western Mystery Tradition as solely Neo-Platonic, or Abrahammic, in an attempt to label the whole of a tradition as "Monotheistic" in essence, especially when there's members of these traditions in various countries of many different religions. I don't see how trying to recognise universal truths is monotheistic , when it was present in pre-Christian Polytheistic cultures. That's why I find it odd that some fundamental reconstructionists can "pick&choose" among various source material and personally interpret it, and it's ok, but when those not following a reconstructionist methodology do, it's "eclectic neo-paganism."

"Monotheism" and "polytheism" are recent words, not older than the 17th century CE, and they have different statuses. Monotheism is a general term for the religions that confess too and worship only one god. "One God!" (Heis Theos) or "No other gods!" (first commandment)- these are the central mottos of monotheism. The religions subsumed under the term "polytheism" cannot, however, be reduced to a single motto of opposite meaning, such as "Many Gods!" or "No exclusion of other gods!" On the contrary, the unity of oneness of the divine is an important topic in Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, and other polytheistic traditions. Polytheism is simply a less polemical substitute for what the monotheistic traditions formerly called "idolatry" and "paganism."  -Religions of the Ancient World: a guide by Sarah Iles Johnston

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« Reply #13: March 12, 2011, 11:49:36 am »


"Monotheism" and "polytheism" are recent words, not older than the 17th century CE, and they have different statuses. Monotheism is a general term for the religions that confess too and worship only one god. "One God!" (Heis Theos) or "No other gods!" (first commandment)- these are the central mottos of monotheism. The religions subsumed under the term "polytheism" cannot, however, be reduced to a single motto of opposite meaning, such as "Many Gods!" or "No exclusion of other gods!" On the contrary, the unity of oneness of the divine is an important topic in Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, and other polytheistic traditions. Polytheism is simply a less polemical substitute for what the monotheistic traditions formerly called "idolatry" and "paganism."  -Religions of the Ancient World: a guide by Sarah Iles Johnston



Yes and no. Overtones of monism were present in the beliefs of some, such as in Greek philosophy and religion during the Hellenistic period,  or certain Egyptian texts. There is also evidence for henotheism developing from polytheism in the Vedas, and in Egypt. For most religious practices before Christianity and Islam became dominant though, I would argue that "polytheism" was a valid classification throughout Europe and the Near East. 
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« Reply #14: March 12, 2011, 02:44:55 pm »

For most religious practices before Christianity and Islam became dominant though, I would argue that "polytheism" was a valid classification throughout Europe and the Near East. 

From a modern perspective looking back, yes.  What I understand Johnston to be saying in that quote (though I may be incorrect) is that it's only recently that we have called that classification "polytheism"--that, for instance, the ancient Greeks or Romans or Norse or Celts would not have called themselves "polytheistic".
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