Mixing Traditions: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Have you ever noticed how humanity loves to label and categorise things? From bugs to the way we dress, all things have a label and a category they fit nice and neatly into, or so we would like to believe (wouldn’t it make life so much simpler?) . What is unfortunate and fortunate all at the same time is that nothing ever really fits perfectly into one given category. This makes things a little messier when you are trying to catalogue all the different types of fashion there are in the world, but also gives the world an endless and beautiful variety. The same happens with Paganism.
So we have this big ‘umbrella’ term ‘PAGANISM’ but can anyone truly describe in one sentence what Paganism really is? I bet you’re all saying no at the screen right now. This is because Paganism isn’t so much one big religious/spiritual belief as it is a culmination of many several different beliefs from all walks of life with a few general basics in common.
For example many, but not all, Pagan paths include the following: Witchcraft, working with the seasons, celebrating the Sabbats, viewing the divine as a God and Goddess Who also grow and change with the seasons, and having respect for nature; this is just to name a few. Without these fundamental bonds, there would be no such thing as Paganism. There would be a myriad of different religions, all different from the next.
I’m sure many of you who haven’t had a particular calling from the beginning of your journey, or followed a family tradition, have been troubled with the question of “Which Path do I choose to follow?” This happens all the time.
We have Joe Bloggs to the left of us going “I’m This Path and it’s awesome. I can read runes and we go into the woods to camp, drinking mead and swapping stories all night! Join us!” Then on your right is Sally Smith saying “I’m That Path; we’re all about empowering women and communing with the Goddess. Join us!” And now you’re stuck in the middle thinking, “Argh, but I like the sound of both of those!!” Well don’t despair, because in Paganism you can have your cake and eat it too!
The problem with the term ‘Path’ is that we imagine when we hear or read the word, one straight road that is rather monotone all the way, bushes to the left, bushes to the right and a dirt track in the centre. This is how I used to see it anyway. This is not the way it is supposed to be viewed at all! Your Pagan Path should be how YOU want it… with a rainbow to the left, Munchkins to the right and a yellow brick road to walk on if that’s how you really want it. Your Pagan Path should be a reflection of you and of what you hold dear and true to your heart. Your heart has no limits, so why should your Path?
It is healthy and, in my Coven encouraged, to not follow just one set of beliefs (unless of course this is what you find comfortable and works for you) . It can be so hard, even with how many different belief systems there are out there, to find one single system that completely works for you. I always find that you can fulfill your potential more if you branch out and find your own way of working that fits you.
I, myself, started with Heathenism. I put a lot of energy and time into learning all the Heathen ways, but I couldn’t follow it to the letter and traditionalist Heathens would have hated to work with me. After a while I thought I was ‘going off’ Heathenism as I became fascinated with the Celtic, particularly Merlin and the Morrigan.
However, it wasn’t that my Heathenism was just a phase; it was that there were areas that I needed fulfillment in that Heathenism alone couldn’t give me. So I mixed the two together.
Now, depending on your views you might be thinking “you can’t just mishmash things together how can all the Gods and Goddesses be real. You either must believe in one set of Gods and Goddesses or another.”
While as in some people’s views this may be true, in mine, it is not. I believe in what I like to call ‘The Diamond Theory’, in the way the books by Christopher Penczak describe it. If you think of one divine being or energy (conscious, primordial, unconscious, universal however you view it) in the shape of a giant diamond, the top half of the diamond is the masculine traits, the bottom half is the feminine traits and then each facet is an aspect of the masculine or feminine trait depending on which half of the diamond it is on.
Okay, so to break it down, let us use the Greek Pantheon as an example. Start with one divine in the shape of a diamond. Now the top half is all of the Gods and the bottom half is all of the Goddesses. In the top half, you will have facets to represent the war-like aspect (Aries) , the ruler aspect (Zeus) , the party-fun-loving aspect (Dionysus) and so on. In the bottom half, you will have facets representing the queen-like aspect (Hera) , the wise aspect (Athena) , the crone aspect (Hecate) and so on. Using this Diamond Theory, you can follow whichever gods call your fancy, whether they are in different pantheons or not.
This theory also opens the doorway to even broader thinking about the energy systems of the universe. For example, can there be a ‘Heaven’ and ‘’Reincarnation? Well why not? I believe that our souls/spirits are born into physicality, die, then after a while, come back again. Then again and again we return until we have learnt all we can from the physical realms, after which, we ascend into what we could call Heaven. I believe that the universe was created by divine will, yet I also believe in the Big Bang theory. This approach works for me because I see the divine as energy, flowing through all things and not as a bearded man on his lofty perch.
You will often find that many symbols, creation myths, systems, Gods and Goddesses from various Pagan religions are all extremely similar, if not the same, with different visual descriptions. As I said at the beginning, all the basics are generally the same in the various paths, which brings in this beautiful opportunity to mix and match without causing much conflict.
So before you start worrying “What path should I take?” I already have the answer for you. Your own! Tweak it. Mold it. Shape it as you see fit. It is no one else’s but your own! Always remember, nothing fits perfectly into any label or category.
[P.S. I would like to state that the examples of ‘This Path’ and ‘That Path’ I used above were purely stereotypical and I do not see these values to be solid truths in any religions.]