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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 77 - 9/15/2002
Pot-Kettle: Do We Have Our Own Fundamentalists?
Does religious fundamentalism exist in some Pagan and/or Heathen communities? Can a closed group or tradition be considered as fundamentalist? Are there some Pagans and/or Heathens who 'preach' one true Pagan or Heathen way? Is resistance to the 'mainstreaming' of Paganism/Heathenism a form of fundamentalism? How can we approach the preservation of Pagan and/or Heathen spiritual and/or cultural integrity and identity without falling into fundamentalism? Is fundamentalism even necessarily a 'bad' thing?
You can also check out Isaac Bonewitt's essay on fundamentalism at: A Call to Arms for definitions and other background material.
| Reponses: There are 91 responses posted to this question.
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| Absolutely YES ||Sep 15th. at 11:35:34 am EDT|
|Lauryl Stone (Durham, NC) ||Age: 34 - Email - Web|
Yes, Paganism has its share of fundies. For example, as a mainly self-taught, self-initiated Witch, I can't tell you how many times I've heard the view that "only a Witch can make a Witch." I can tell you, the Lord and Lady called me, and if They don't have the authority to make me a Witch, I don't know who does.
Close-mindedness only serves to divide us when we should be united -- or at least polite and tolerant of each other.
Whatever happened to respecting each other's different paths to the Divine? I may not be a Gardnerian going back three generations, but that doesn't make my path (or theirs!) less valid. I have no gripe with people who want to preserve their traditions. I just want respect for me and mine.
| Boy Howdy ||Sep 15th. at 12:48:22 pm EDT|
|cetacia (northwest) ||Age: 41 - Email |
I live in an area where they are precious few practicing heathen/pagans. If the fundie ratio to practioners here are any indication of the stats out there, I am indeed very worried. It didn't take me long to cut bait and swim out on my own. From the get go here the Witch Wars were on. Who was the biggest baddest longest traditional(which I personally don't go with)Witch of them all. I believe I did my part as far as the Issac Bonewits article is concerned by not tolerating their behavior. I no longer patrionized their circle or establishment. If anyone here asked me where they could find a circle, I respectfully answered, not one I would recommend. Personally I have found like the organised christian religions, you get a group of people together and there alway has to be the few bad apples that spoil it for the rest. Although I really miss the energy created by a group circle, not having to put up with the Only True Tradition has been worth it.
| Mystical Christianity ||Sep 15th. at 1:06:32 pm EDT|
|LaGaeLa (Nashville) ||Age: 43 - Email |
As a practicing Golden Dawn Ceremonial, part of the historical core of my practice is Rosicrucion & Hermetic Qabalah. The mysteries choose to reveal themselves through the "Mysteries of the Crucifixation" in a pure practice. I have to chuckle at how many Pagans are unaware that there are those Pagans "who walk in the body of Christ". Keep in mind that Jesus was not Christian. That he was of a mystical Jewish sect called the Essenes. The "Unwritten Kosher Kaballah" comprised a major portion of his practice. The message of the "Cosmic Christ Incarnate" we hear in church's today, bears very little semblance to the many layers of hidden meaning beneath that that was given 2000 yeas ago. And yes......... much of the symbolism that one uses in the practice of Wicca comes from High Magick of christian origins.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had disparaging remarks about Christians or Jesus directed toward me from those Pagans who have no idea of what my path is. I have to say that often it came from someone I deemed new to the path. I think those of us who have suffered "bible abuse" & are starting out on our path swing to the opposite Pillar until we find the middle ground. I can tell a truly enlightened individual by how they regard "what is sacred in someone else's eyes".
Fundalmentalism is rooted in an unwillingness to expand & broaden one's horizons, to confine one's self to a narrow viewpoint. There are many who are equally guilty of what they accuse their Christian counterparts of. While Pagans are definitely the better educated segment of the public, we still have a ways to go in overcoming & transcending our scars & pain of past religious abuses. I find that many of my friends will educate themselves to a certain point of practice & then that's it.
It is my hope that Pagans will overcome the fear of losing autonomity, within our traditions, by moving to a point of conscensous, where we might experience the renaissaance of a national movement. In my opinion, the lack of power for pagans in our society relates to the fact that we have no identifiable leadership. No national presence to put forth what core values we truly represent. When we have no real visible movement of pagan current, we tend to stagnate. We become comfortable within our viewpoints as we stand & defend our beliefs but do we truly progress in our status quo? Defending is not progressing.
Fundamentalism takes root in many unseen ways. Sometimes we are very adept at hiding it from ourselves. Disquising it in tradition, education, close knit communities or covens. Paganism is innovative, exciting, a rediscovery of lost abilities. A discovery of the divine within all.
Paganism is about pushing the envelope. Paganism is about expanding awareness not stagnating in a narrow viewpoint.
| Yes, Oh Yes! ||Sep 15th. at 1:10:39 pm EDT|
|Greenvie (Tucson, AZ) ||Age: 47 - Email |
When my family and I started looking into Earth-based religions to further the expression of our spirituality, my son soon came to me and said, "Mom, no matter where I look - Druid, Wicca, whatever, all I see is more of what we're trying to get away from in the Church - inflexibility, exclusivity, and a new kind of intolerance. Many respect all paths (unless it's Christian), but if you're going to be a part of their path, you have to do it their way."
Of course we realize that's "tradition," but tradition is a great part of what is strangling the Church and why many are turning to earth-based religions in the first place. We in no way disdain tradition; those are the reverberations and connections we feel to the ancient. Many people feel more comfortable having everything laid out for them, but many prefer a creative approach to the traditional. The energies can be brought to bear in infinite ways.
| Preach Tolerance ||Sep 15th. at 3:34:04 pm EDT|
|Diama White (Wayne, MI USA) ||Age: 46 - Email |
It took me a few minutes to understand what kind/type of fundies we were talking about. My partner and I practice together because we can not find others that aren't already 'established'. Established seems to mean the same as 'it's this way or look elsewhere.' One coven close to us believe in this (practice) and the other that. So as confusing as it was and still is, maybe we are making more solitary practicioners than being a welcoming people. We would like to be with a group, but 100% we preach tolerance. I guess in our own way the two of us are fundies if we insist on tolerence. :)
| Yes, And Yes ||Sep 15th. at 4:33:14 pm EDT|
|Lunae (rural, STL area) ||Age: 30 - Email |
Yes, I see it in the aforementioned "exclusivity" troubles.
Where I see it more and actually feel frightened is of the converts to Paganism (converts are traditionally the more hmmm, diligent of the species) who act from tragic emotional and psychic scarring.
These are the people who flare up or lash out at others, particularly Christians. I've been physically beaten by Xtians and legally attacked. I among all my sisters and brothers can understand what bad histories and frames of reference we can have.
I just wanted to add that ANYONE who yells, throws around their arms, makes threats toward, etc another group of people may be seen as Fundamentalist. You may not call yourself such but to a neutral observer you either have a mental condition or you are following a Fundamental path if you are acting in the name of your religion.
Keep in mind what was done to you and don't pass it on. Isn't that the key to ending abuse?
| Tradition Does Not Equal Fundamentalism ||Sep 15th. at 6:32:35 pm EDT|
|Sterling Harris (Chicago, IL) ||Age: 27 - Email |
It is common for eclectic wiccans, pagans, and heathens to level attacks at Traditionalists, regarding them as somehow exclusive or "fundamentalist" in our adherance to our inherited practices. I have met too many eclectics who immediately assume that simply because one is a Gardnerian or Alexandrian or whatever that we somehow look down upon them and do not regard them as "valid". Typically, those individuals that I have come in contact with have never even met a legit Traditionalist and develop their opinions based upon the writings of a slew of anti-traditionalist Llewellyn writers and general prejudices and misconceptions within the neopagan community at large. I have seen this written on this forum, regarding this particular issue, and found it necessary to respond.
While I take issue with pagans who revel in attacking Christianity and playing the role of the oppressed minority, this is typically something one finds in those who are new to our community. Perhaps it is their way of dealing with the emotional trauma of being raised in a strict Christian household. I don't know but perhaps that could be regarded as fundamentalist.
However, it is unfair and decidedly prejudicial to regard Traditional Wicca (i.e. Gardnerians, Alexandrians, et al) as exclusive and fundamentalist. Yes, we have our practices and no, we don't intend to change them for you or anyone. They have been passed to us and by their very nature, our rites are a part of our identity as traditionalists. To make fundamental changes in these practices is, I feel, to make fundamental changes in the very basis of our tradition, thus destroying our roots and eliminating the common ground that we all share as traditionalists.
This is not to say, however, that we will not work with or regard eclectics as valid. This may have been true thirty or forty years ago but I feel is wholly inappropriate for the 21st Century. From personal experience, Gardnerians now could care less what eclectics do aside from the times when you choose to speak for the entire "pagan community". Our coven has worked with several eclectic groups in pagan student unions and community-building projects, even in environmental and social justice activism. The fact that the stereotype of traditionalists as being exclusive, elitist, witchier-than-thou fundamentalists still exists simply shows the ignorance and intolerance towards our path within the neopagan community at large.
Yes, our secretive nature has led to a great deal of misconceptions as to what we do and why we do them. However, by exhibiting a consistent prejudice towards Traditional Wicca, as indicated in earlier posts on the topic of fundamentalism, you are merely perpetuating the intolerance and bigotry that you claim to be fighting. We have our ways and we don't intend to change them for anyone. Those who are drawn to our ways are welcome and those who are not, we ask them to look elsewhere but go in peace and the love of the Goddess. Why do you feel it necessary for us to change our ways for you? How does that make Traditionalists fundamentalist? Why should Traditionalists conform to what eclectics think we should be?
Sterling Harris, 3* Gardnerian
| Of Course! ||Sep 15th. at 6:55:32 pm EDT|
|Hearthstone (Michigan, USA) ||Age: 40 - Email |
Certainly there exists religious fundamentalism within Paganism and Heathenry. Wiccans of Gardnerian lineage object to sharing the name of their religion with Wiccans who have learned solely by reading Silver Ravenwolf or Scott Cunningham--both are valid paths but they are also two rather different religions! Reconstructionist Pagan paths also vary considerably with respect to how much change an individual adherent feels is acceptable before the religion has become something different. Some people see very few grey areas, and all religions have their share of these folks.
| Fundamentalism ||Sep 15th. at 6:56:02 pm EDT|
|Rod Arlington (Topeka, Ks) ||Age: 58 - Email |
I don't equate traditionalism, or secret paths with fundamentalism. I have seen Trad folk act as fundamentalists with an arogance to suit. But i see that as a rarity.
I have also met solitaries that act in a fundamentalist manner. Personally I don't think Fundy folk are a pretty in ANY spiritual path including out own.
Ultimately no one person or group gets to decide where this community is going or *should* go. Yes, many would like drive this train, but that just ain't gonna happen.
MY spirituality is NOT challenged by the fluffy crowd nor do I feel as though I must impress or be sanctioned by the trad folk to feel valid in MY spiritual path.
back to the question... YES we do have our fundies and they ain't a pretty site.
| Comment ||Sep 15th. at 8:08:45 pm EDT|
|Danielle (Texas) ||Age: 21 - Email |
Well according to Gardnerian Wicca, all other so-called new-age wiccan traditions are "heresy," according to one Gardnerian I know. Gerald Gardner created Wicca, it isn't the "old religion," and since he DID create it, Gardnerian Wicca is the only true Wiccan path---according to traditional wicca.
As a traditional peller, and from my few years of being trained by other pellers, I have a slight problems with wiccans and new-age neo-pagans claiming that what they do is the same as what traditional witches and pagans do. I mean, how many Wiccans know what a Witches' Foot is, and how many books on Wicca have new moon rituals?
As pellers, we don't think that our rituals and charms should be written in books or posted on websites for anyone to get their hands on. We think everyone should be secretive if they claim a "Witch" path, or don't call yourself a witch.
Many pellers also despise Dianic Wicca. Diana wasn't chaste---she persued her brother. Artemis was chaste, yes, but not Diana. Many Pellers are opposed to feminism, especially pagan feminism. I believe it hurts Diana greatly to have her lover ignored. I'm quite sure she wants to be worshipped along side of him.
| My Feeling About The Main Difference Between Pagan/Wiccan ||Sep 15th. at 10:12:13 pm EDT|
|Ivy (Sacramento,Ca) ||Age: 49 - Email |
Fundies, and Christian/Muslim fundies is that I have yet to see anything other verbal attacks from the Wiccan/Pagan folks. They may TELL you that your way of worship is incorrect or mistaken,even "invalid", but they haven't yet killed anyone that I know of. Only Jehovah's chosen (or Allah's chosen) have done that, so far. May it remain so.
| Do We Have Our Own Fundamentalists? ||Sep 15th. at 10:12:37 pm EDT|
|Ariana (Jacksonville, Florida) ||Age: 33 - Email |
The answer to that question, at least to me, is a resounding YES! I live here in Jacksonville Florida and one of my covenmates directed me to this posting. Things got very out of hand when a 55 year old woman from Salem, MA posted that not only could she not find what she was looking for in our local major pagan goods store. She then went on a verbal rampage about how the people that work in the store were not friendly, etc. Later on in the post it became apparent that she was the only one allowed to express her 1st amendment rights, the rest of us were just supposed to suck it up and take her hatred and outright snobbery. The original poster went so far as to insinuate one of the other posters that they were a terrorist for standing up for their own 1st amendment rights. The original poster kept insinuating that her age and the fact that she was from Salem, MA gave her some sort of status over the rest of the posters. I am ashamed to say that my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida is host to the Rev. Jerry Vines that stated to the Souther Baptist convention that Muhammad was a "demon possesed pedophile" and that "Islam is not Christianity". You can do the math as to how welcome pagans/pagan shops are welcome here in the Deep South.
Up until this point I had never encountered such fundmentalism in Wicca/Pagan paths. I ask nightly of my patron Goddess Artemis, that this be the last.
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