Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Authenticity and the modern neopagan

The irony of arguments amongst reconstructionist pagans that come down to whether someone's authentic or not has been driven home to me lately. I'm not talking about the perfectly valid attempts to get people to stop claiming a tradition they've only practiced for ten weeks is the way the ancestors did it when we have no proof of it. I'm referring to how, once you get to where people are working with the lore, the culture, and their own inspiration, some people seem to think they can decide if you're doing it wrong and they're doing it right. When you don't know how X was done, being sure someone else's method of approach is faulty because it disagrees with your own interpretations is the best way to be considered didactic and dogmatic.

I don't know if it's possible for any CR to say they practice a truly authentic Celtic spirituality, especially not one that's true to the pre-Christian Celts. We're all bringing in outside influences, learning the cultural norms, figuring it out as we go along, and are never going to get to the heart of what it was like before the Christians showed up. We can't. We don't speak that form of the appropriate language. We don't live in that environment. Can we get something useful to modern times out of our struggle to understand? Of course. If it wasn't useful at the start, we'd all go do something else. But don't be fooled into thinking any of us will ever have a lock on what's accurate past the cold facts in a book. We can only work the ways the gods move us to follow and keep faith in the rightness of our own path for ourselves. We don't have to agree with others who use the same methods if our facts coincide. Where our paths overlap, we have common purpose and community. Where they do not, we have diversity.

Those who would attempt to sow dissension in the ranks because of disagreements over approach or the individual voices of the gods, ancestors and spirits who speak to each of us will have their works treated with the due and proper respect they deserve. Those who reach for a balanced sense of priorities and speak truth will receive their right reward as well. So I pray to the gods, so I ask it be. So shall it be done.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pure as the driven slush

How do you stay true to a cultural tradition when that tradition itself is subject to change? I've long seen comments about being careful how to approach culturally based religions. The issue of not showing it sufficient respect gets balanced by being careful not to treat it as if it's trapped in amber.

Is it possible to be a purist about a culture that's a Heinz 57 thanks to multiple invasions and cross-cultural integrations? I've been told it's wrong to look at a culture, freeze it at a moment in time, and decide that's the only right space to work in. Can't disagree with that.

So how is it when I look at the Celtic cultures as a living, breathing entity that has changed, will change, and is as clean of outside influence as a used air filter, I wind up finding out I'm doing it wrong because I'm looking at the cultures that influenced it as well as ones that parallel it in some areas?