Our Standards: Should They Be Measured by Intuition or Tradition?
Author: Nights Aqua Tiger
Now let me start off with a disclaimer (yeah I know, annoying) but I have been out of the loop a bit for the last three years. Some older patrons might remember me posting from my high school and college years, but many probably do not. In my defense, it’s hard to keep up when you are on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean three months at a time serving our country.
I’m now stationed on land and I see some trends that worry me.
When did those of us in Paganism become snobs? I have heard the phrases “Well, the right way to teach someone” and “All Wiccans must” several times now and have been shocked. I could be wrong but weren’t some of the reasons we joined this community acceptance and the belief that if you were harming none, there is no ‘one right way’? Catholics obviously took the ‘one true way’ route. Growing up, I heard that Protestant religions were not ‘real religions’. Paganism was my first hard look at myself in that respect. I was forced to analyze if I was pushing my beliefs onto others.
As an anthropology major, I ended up spending a lot of time doing some serious introspection about my history and preconceptions. I came to some interesting conclusions: my beliefs had become a habit, not a conscious thought. This became the huge wakeup call in my life.
Like several others, I started my journey with Silver Ravenwolf. Is her advice always the best for everyone? No. However the relief was amazing when during high school I realized I was not the only one feeling this way. That message alone got me through some amazingly difficult times and made me actually seek more resources like The Witches Voice and Pagan Pride Day. Is it good to institutionalize any religion? Not necessarily, but if people who find such starter places never look any farther, then it probably was just a fad for them and they will continue on their journey elsewhere.
For those of us who continue to learn however, I find we tend to get into the rut of familiarity like every other religion. When I hear phrases that diminish someone else’s studies against some invisible set of standards of “purity” or “old traditions”, I start to worry about the paths we are deciding. After my college-initiated phase of introspection, I realized that the rituals had become so familiar that I was no longer focused. My answer? I stopped.
I started doing many rituals purely on the mental level because I was never anywhere long enough to set down some roots or bring with me any sort of supplies. Instead of being inhibiting as I expected, it was freeing. No longer tied to the ritual, I am now able to focus on following my intuition and to explore other studies, pantheons, rituals, and ideas I had never considered. My core beliefs have remained but now I have more ways to express them.
One of the reasons that I have loved finding this path and am now looking into joining in some group magicks is this need to continue to explore new expressions of my love for this path. While meeting the founders of the group I hope to become a part of, I again heard this story of “some people don’t consider me to be ____ because I supposedly wasn’t taught exactly the same way.”
This idea that there is some “pure” form of the tradition or Craft to follow is (Yes, I’ll say it and it’ll probably piss off a few people) NUTS. Have we really forgotten our roots so fast? Not to argue this history because we could debate over who started what when, but the term Wiccan appears to only be about 70 years old (Yes, I know we can argue this in another article if we wish – for now let’s just use it as a starting point) .
The word pagan, as defined by Webster’s dictionary as ‘a follower of a polytheistic religion’. And that’s debatable too… wait… the two words that we most frequently use to describe our community have debatable definitions? So if there are debates behind the simplest definitions within the religion, how can we have a “pure” form?
I brought this argument up to a dear friend and immediately got shut down. “Well, we have to have standards in our teachings!” I couldn’t agree more. But in evaluating someone’s studies to see how they fit into the group, we need to take in more than their ability to memorize some pretty rituals. Let’s get down and dirty!
How many years have they been studying? Do they take a more rigid and structured approach or do they use what is available and their intuition? Can they work within our group? Do their core beliefs follow our principles? How seriously have they been studying/practicing?
Intent and willpower mean a lot within our belief system and we should not ignore their value. Let’s start asking the questions but also remembering that not everyone is going to practice the same within one coven let alone the whole religion.
One of the blessings of this religion is our ability to include new people, ideas, and expressions of belief. One of our new goals needs to be to keep that new joy that we all felt in finding this path alive. One of our next goals should be to help each other feel that joy without judging how/why people study. We are a reconstruction of ideas that we all feel are important to each other and ourselves. Let’s try maintaining that identity…the identity of a people who are accepting of and willing to work together. Let that be our standard.
Let us remember our roots and use that to continue to build an opening happy community that supports each other without judging how someone chooses to participate.
Second Class Petty Officer of the USCG