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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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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| The Fundamentals Are Good, Fundamentalism Isn't ||Sep 22nd. at 11:38:37 am EDT|
|Laura (Rhode Island) ||Age: 22 - Email |
I have been surprised and disappointed in the past year to encounter a number of people who hold what can only be described as fundamentalist views on Wicca. Many of these people belong to one of the paths that fall under the heading of British Traditional Wicca (BTW). Not all BTWs are like this, of course, by any stretch of the imagination, but this attitude does seem to be most prevalent among them.
This "fundamentalism" stems from a valid and praiseworthy desire to keep Wicca a definable and recognizable religion. Many practitioners of BTW are dismayed to see the large numbers of people who call themselves "Wiccans" without making a thorough study of the religion, or who practice in ways that are so different from the traditional ways as to be unrecognizable as practices of the same religion. Traditional Wiccans do not wish to be associated with these radically different practitioners, because they do not see these altered practices as being truly Wiccan.
I will agree with them as far as to say that a line should be drawn. "Wicca" cannot mean "whatever I say it means". BUT, I will also say that some practitioners of BTW draw this line a little too close to them.
Solitary Wiccans are sneered at by many members of the traditional community, who say that "only a witch can make a witch" and that self-initiation is not valid. Some go farther, and say that many established covens and traditions are invalid, as they do not trace their lineage back to Gerald Gardner.
This is, in my opinion, preposterous. I agree with these people that everyone who wants to call him/herself a Wiccan should learn the history of the religion, and learn the fundamentals of it. They should know where the practices originated, and how they developed. There are certain things that should always be included in Wiccan practice: the celebration of the Sabbats, worship of the God and Goddess, the ritual tools, the Rede, etc. Also, I believe that most Wiccans would do well to study at least for awhile with a coven. But, there is much room for flexibility within these parameters. Flexibility prevents the religion from stagnating. When balanced with a respect for tradition, it can make the religion more lively and fulfilling for more people.
| You Betcha! ||Sep 22nd. at 1:18:27 pm EDT|
|Stephen Coslett (Portales) ||Age: 48 - Email - Web|
There are fundamentalists everywhere and no group is immune to this. It's not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it a disease, but part of the human condition. What we all seem to forget is that, for the most part, people desire to be a part of something. Sometimes that desire manifests itself in a very strong way and can even lead to alienation instead of togetherness.
I know quite a few folks who meet the criteria of "Fundie Pagan." Soem of these are seekers and some have been on the path for a long time. I have heard many of the arguements; "only a witch can make a witch" ... "it should be hereditary" ... "self initiation is invalid" ... blah-blah-blah ... so forth and so on ...
We should be careful not to confuse fundamentalism with fanaticism; our country and the world has a very harsh reminder of religious fanaticism. Let's try and keep out of that lane, folks ... it's just a dead end and it can do a great deal of harm. Too many folks cry, "Fundie," when some of them should be looking in the mirror.
I one of the folks who think that you are what you truly believe in and that the best test of your beliefs are time, commitment, and conflict.
Bless You and All That You Are.
| Does The Pagagn/Wiccan/Heathen World Have Fundies? ||Sep 22nd. at 1:44:24 pm EDT|
|Mae Silverpaws (Ga.) ||Age: 37 - Email |
Unfortunately all organizations,religions and ways of life have their exstremests.
And sadly the Pagan/Wiccan/Heathen world(s) is no exception.
| I'd Say Some Of Us "Traditionalist" Take It A Bit To Far.... ||Sep 22nd. at 3:13:44 pm EDT|
|Jade (Ct, USA) ||Age: 19 - Email |
bear with me... because im gonna write an essay here!
ok, me, belonging to the British Tradtional Wiccan (BTW) community, would have to agree that some of us do take things a bit too far sometimes.... i do agree/ believe that "only a witch can make a witch" but, in this day and age, there would be coven waiting list in order to be properly initiated!.... so, i also agree that self-initiation is a valid way to get started in you pagan path.... but, to call oneself "Wiccan" persay, i think that knowlege of the roots, philosophies, "tenets", theories, beliefs, ethics, practises, etc., etc. of this craft is essencial.... mabey then to pursue dedication & initiation to a coven for proper "training" if one decides that Wicca is what the person is... i think that "Wicca" has become a laymays term (atleast in USA) to substitue for the word "Witchcraft".... all the "eclectic wiccans" are valid... but, i dont think they should call themself wiccan... especially if they have no working knowlege of just what wicca really is. i have no problem with solitaire witches... some people can work w/ a group, some cant.... i, personally, think that a witch (especially wiccan witchs) should experience both... for it would be greatly enriching... but, fundie-ism is somehting that all religions must deal with... just as long as that fundamentalism doesnt evolve into fanatisism.... i think it is vital for wicca to grow and evolve over time though, and that would take some degree of *eclectsism* in every coven/ family/ "practisionaire"... or else we will become a dinosaure religion, like catholosism, or orthodox judaism.... it wouldnt be good!.... well,i guess this opinion is just coming from the BTW point of view.... do you think i am fundie now? its your opinion...
| I Wish We Didn't! ||Sep 22nd. at 4:49:10 pm EDT|
|rosie stewart (ireland) ||Age: 36 - Email |
As someone who has been exposed to all kinds of fundamemtalism during her life, both religious and political, it boils dowm, i feel to ego.
If we let the ego overtake our instinct and open-mindedness, we are in trouble! It has been my pleasure to undertake the journey alone and only in recent times to share with one close friend (whom i met thru this site- bless you!). For me there is no right way. Each must find their own path and that path takes many turns and twists on its way. If we close our minds then we have lost the very essence of our spiritual journey. All those we meet have something to teach us. We have no right to claim"truth". Truth exists only in our own experience and everyone's triuth is different. We can give and share but never claim to be right. Shouldwe do so, we are ctting ourselves off from so much that we can learn and grow from. Blessings all. Rose
| Sadly, Yes................... ||Sep 22nd. at 4:58:41 pm EDT|
|Myrddin (Wisconsin) ||Age: 55 - Email |
Of course there are "fundamentalists" - even "elitists" in the pagan world. Just as there are in every other field of endeavor, philosophy or human pursuit. It is human nature to want to feel "special" or "better than" others....remember how excited and happy you felt when you KNEW the right answer in grade school and were called on? And the other kids didn't? Unfortunately that normal child-like pride is taken into maturity by some and refined into arrogance. It IS human nature to want to be special: we ALL ARE special each in his own way. We each have our own unique contributions to make. It is when we get into the realm of saying "playing the drums isn't really music! REAL music is playing the violin as I do!" or.......more to the point.....the God and Goddess are an orchestra. Is it really valid to claim that only the strings section, or the horns section are the only ones playing the REAL music? That only one of those sections TRULY represents the God and Goddess? I don't think so. Is it more prestigious to be in the string section than say, percussion? WHY should it be so? The BEAUTY is that all are playing the Goddess's music, and that music is all the more beautiful for its individual notes and tones combined.
Traditionalists putting down other pagans or paths is focusing on the violins. By and large, that claim - though not confined to - is made by Garnerians. I find that rather ludricrous. I have been around quite some time.....I got involved back when Wiccan was really taking off as an alternative to other religions. I read deeply everything that was available. The two biggest groups attracting followers were Gerald Garner's brand of wiccan, and LeMay's brand of Satanism.
Gladly, LeMay floundered, was found to be an opportunist, and THAT particular path is not much mentioned today. The thing is......Gardnerian form of Wiccan is an amalgum folks. Gerald Gardner claimed to have been inducted into the last surviving, very secret English Coven. 60 years later we have come to realize that no such coven really existed. He came into a group that was trying to re-discover the Old Ways. I do NOT make little of their efforts. I do accept (and was initiated) Gardnerian as a legitimate interpretation of what the Old Ways MIGHT have been originally. I also recognize that much of the ceremony and laws were borrowed from Masonic rites, from Margaret Murray's research and study of primitive cultures tainted by her desire to interpret some things within a context that she HOPED to find.......and many other interpretations of Old Ways or beliefs. It is a wonderful path to follow for those who wish to. But it is NOT the only answer to what the Old Ways truly were. Only by being ONE OF those folks way back when before Christianity quite obliterated and obfuscated could we truly know what the belief systems and rituals were. And even then, Druids in England probably had somewhat different beliefs or rituals from those in France....though similar enough to see the core of them both.
The point is......Gardnerian form, or Druidic form, or Shamanistic form is no more valid than any of the three or the others which one wishes to incorporate.......in my opinion. They are ALL notes of the orchestra. We should be celebrating the music, NOT one section of the orchestra over another.
Love, peace and BB to all,
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