War of the Wicca: A Primer on Wasted Energy
Article ID: 11888
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: August 26th. 2007
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Why is it that almost everywhere I go, when Wiccans are involved, there's always conflict between the traditionalists and the eclectics? It seems that both groups vie for dominance in a religious movement that is much too young to even be considering who's a more faithful believer.
I was in a group at one time when this discussion actually came up. As happens in these types of arguments, you have the fundamentalists on both sides of the fence: the one side making a point to let all the eclectics know that their path is intrinsically less ethical because they don't have any rules or a central head to govern their practice, while the other side tried desperately to defend themselves amidst these accusations, while trying to even the playing field by firing their own little bolts of ignorance and such at the concept of working in groups and the need for traditions in the first place.
Now both members of these groups had been successfully practicing their faith for years before this discussion came up here, so I must ask the question: what's the point?
Now it should be understood that the traditionalists were members of what they feel is the one true branch of Wicca, and the more vocal member of this camp argued for the one member of the opposition, after a comment about Wicca being a religion of eclecticism, to prove his claim.
Now it doesn't take much of a theologist to prove the claim of the eclecticism of Wicca, especially given its current tides. One can read about said eclecticism in any book on the subject, and you can trace it roots to ancient spiritual practices.
Read those words again very carefully so that you understand what I just said. Note I used both words religion and spirituality, and note that neither can ever be used interchangeably because they are both different words.
Merriam-Webster defines eclectic as, “selecting or made up of what seems best of varied sources, ” the idea here being that when you pull ideas from a variety of spiritual concepts and ideas from even the ancients belief structures, and a few modern ones, you are making a choice to create something new from those parts because they work from those other beliefs.
Since its inception, Wicca has pulled its beliefs from classical, celtic, and shamanic beliefs. First of these are the deities that many Wiccans honor. Yes, more often than not they'll be referred to as the Lord and Lady, or often Diana and Faunus, or other such names. But it must be clearly understood now that those beings are classical in origin.
Next we have the eight holy days that almost all Wiccans honor (I personally don't know any that don't honor these eight days in some manner). These include the solstices and the equinoxes, as well as a few others that fit in to the overall mythology of Wicca.
However, many of these days were originally honored by previous faiths and religions before Wicca showed up. Looks to me like another idea pulled from antiquity with a highly eclectic flair.
Finally the shamanic beliefs of the afterlife, healing ideas and techniques, herbal uses, and other ideas that have marked Wicca as the religion it is now, and that is pulling in more ideas with each new coven that springs up.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with this eclecticism. I see it firstly as a mark of progressivism in a time when so many religions are becoming so sedentary and stalwart in their beliefs and not growing with its people. That it can evolve marks it as a living spirituality, not a philosophy that sat down and refused to get back up again.
But even all that is not the point of this writing. What has become the new big thing is when traditionalists, who have given themselves completely to their beliefs (kudos, by the way), see eclectics (and some solitaries) at fault because they aren't in the same group as they, or they aren't in a group at all.
When did religion become all about the group you're in? Suddenly, it all goes back to what church you belong to (or circle, coven, grove, depending on who you talk to). Yes, I do so love how we've fallen behind in our own spiritual practices that we can revert back to seven year-olds and tease people for not being in our group, or in high school for pushing around the individuals for not being in the in-crowd. That's what you traditionalists make yourselves out to be sometimes.
And then we get on this whole ethics tripe, and everything goes south.
My favorite is the part where eclectics are intrinsically unethical because, since they aren't in a tradition, they have no rules to adhere to. Where does that level of ignorance come from, exactly?
Now I'm all for people thinking highly of themselves, and I wish we could do it more often. But when it gets to the point where you're making a constant self-centered annoyance of yourself, I think the high horse can stand for a rest (or sit for a spell, if you will).
Traditionalists, where do you think your rules came from? They came from someone with an eclectic mind who saw a parallel with all these different beliefs and said, “Hey, let's put these all together and make a religion that will really get people going somewhere in their lives!”
Then there's the other side. The eclectics. Oh yes, don't think you're getting off scotch-free. Why work in groups? Why be part of a tradition? I have one word for you: fellowship.
That's right, the being together with like-minded individuals, all gathered together for one goal: to practice a faith, a craft, and to honor the divine essence of life and living. Why else would you work in a group?
Having fellowship with others is one of the best ways to maintain your own path while growing spiritually. You pick up new ideas (as eclectics are wont to do), and you learn new ways of interpreting old ideas, even concepts that you, yourself, may have developed.
There's nothing wrong with being in a group, as only people who have been in groups can tell you, it's worth it to join at least one group for a joint goal. Besides, when you're all gathered together for one thing, the collective power of you all is enough to break a dam. Think about it.
Furthermore, when you practice your own ways, you naturally develop your rules as you go along. What do these rules do? They formulate the basis for your own tradition (especially if your craft runs in your family), and you can only add to and strengthen what you've already got going for you.
Furthermore, there are deep parallels that run between your own personal practice and that of a traditionalist, one that I think you both can stand to learn from. And keep this in mind, as well: traditionalist views came from the eclectics because of the need to fellowship and get people to think along the same lines, not the same way.
An eclectic with a mind for traditionalism is a person who is thinking more about the effects that their actions will have on the greater whole, not always about hunkering down in one spot and refusing to move like a wet dog on the morning paper.
I wanted to illustrate to both sides the need to stop all this bickering, and backbiting that also tends to happen when you get both parties in the same group. There's this covert backbiting and underhanded comments, and the like that seems to plague these groups, and I hope that you all realize it before you destroy each other.
The group that I mentioned earlier suffered from this exact thing, which precipitated my departure from it. It didn't help that those moderating the group felt that there was nothing wrong with the comments being made, that it was a sharing pf ideas, while all the other members felt sorely at odds with each other and felt as though they were being attacked (they clearly were), it made discussions very uncomfortable, even though there were strings of discussions that clearly marked the group's ability to get along quite well.
So you both see your selves as being true to the heart of the faith. Wonderful. You're true for yourselves, not each other.
This goes beyond agreeing to disagree; this goes into not making a nuisance of yourself.
Believe me when I say that it's not an attractive sight to see a collective group fighting amongst itself because of its practical differences. There's a bigger conflict in the world than who's the better Wiccan.
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