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August 24th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
The Pagan Cleric
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Never Mix, Never Worry
Article ID: 4219
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,218
Times Read: 4,888
Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: April 13th. 2002
Times Viewed: 4,888
One of the many things I like about Witchvox is that the staff there is never hesitant to throw out controversial topics, and I would have to say that, in my experience, this one is in the Top Five at least.
Now, I wastaught that one never mixes pantheons, because pantheons are complex social and energetic constructs that have achieved, over the span of their existence, a certain inner harmony and balance. That harmony and balance may seem anything but harmonious and balanced to us mortals -- for instance, the Norse pantheon -- but for that particular construct, it works. Attempting to 'cross circuit' individual elements from two or more of these self-balanced systems can result in unbalanced and dissonant energy patterns, the kind one doesnot want in Circle. That is not to say that the Gods suffer from such mismatching; on the contrary, if anyone suffers, it is usually we mortals, who instigated the situation to begin with.
From a purely formulaic viewpoint, the reasoning above makes a world of sense to me. But it does not seem to take into account the desires of the Gods Themselves, as individuals.
I was also taught, from the first, that the Gods are as real as you and I, that They have personalities (boy, do They ever!), and that the whole point of the Craft is to have a personal relationship with one or more of Them. The formulaic approach outlined above doesn't really treat the Gods as individual entities, but rather as mere components of a construct.
Which would be pretty insulting to me, if I were a God.
I mean, if you slavishly follow the formula, then it wouldn't hurt to invoke Heimdalr and Loki in the same ritual. Yeah, right. See you when the smoke clears. I'll be somewhere South of Bermuda and picking up speed.
By the same logic, one wouldn't invoke Skahdi (Norse) and Scathach (Celtic) together, even though these Goddesses are quite similar in personality, temperament and function.
The caution against mixing pantheons exists, I think, because it is a good practice for newcomers NOT to mix and match, for several reasons. First, I think its important to work fully with one pantheon at a time, until one becomes familiar with at least the overall dynamic of that pantheon, so that one doesn't, in fact, invoke mutually antagonistic Deities from the same pantheon by mistake. (Whether you do so on purpose is your business, but I strongly suggest only experienced practitioners try it!) Second, I believe the Gods Themselves have to have a say in who They associate with, and it takes time to develop our relationship with Them to the point where we can honestly assess Their wants and needs, Their likes and dislikes. This is a function of experience in the Craft, and I believe it cannot be faked or hurried. Oh, we can delude ourselves into thinking that we know what the Gods want, if we really want to. We can say to ourselves 'Well, Heimdalr is a good egg, I'm sure He won't mind hanging our with Loki for just one night... ' But what we are really doing is ignoring the reality of the situation so that we can get what we think we want. Unfortunately, in trying to second-guess the Gods, what we often get is an unpleasant situation that can spiral out of our control.
Third, and closely related to the second, is that the Gods embody real and potent energies, and when those energies get out of balance in a Circle, it can be a real headache for an experienced practitioner, let alone a newcomer.
Our relationships to the God should be ones of mutual respect, love and loyalty. As such, we shouldn't simply assume that the Gods are willing to associate freely with one another at our whim, just as we would not (or should not, anyway) make such assumptions about our acquaintances on this Plane.
For some years, I had two good friends who disliked each other intensely. In my heart, I felt that they were being unreasonable, and that it would be better for us all -- particularly me, who always seemed caught in the middle -- if they would just bury the hatchet and make up. Eventually they did, but during the intervening period, as much as I wanted them to get together, I had to respect their feelings about each other. I never invited them to a get-together without being sure that they both knew the other was invited to be there. They were then free to decide whether they would show up or not. And as long as they did, they knew they were tacitly agreeing to behave themselves while they were in my house.
Scathach is my Patron. She is, among other things, a Goddess of prophecy and divination. My divinatory preference is to read the runes. Odhinn is the God of the runes. One would think that, on the basis of that commonality, invoking Scathach and Odhinn for a divinatory ritual would present no problems. And mostly, I have found this to be the case. But I made sure, to the best of my abilities, that both Deities were in agreement before I invoked Them together for the first time. And I don't assume, just because They got along once or twice, that They will continue to do so. I have found that the Gods are not shy about answering direct questions, especially as it relates to Their relationships with other Deities, so I ask Them. I have to remember that, even though Scathach and Odhinn share an interest in prophecy and oracles, They are also Warrior Deities, whose children didn't always get along well together.
By the same token, I rarely invoke the Dagda and the Morrigan together, except on Samhain. The description of Their liaison is not really very romantic, so I resist the impulse to think of Them as a Divine Couple just because They are Celtic Deities who happened to have had sex together.
To sum it all up, I think mixing pantheons is something that should be approached -- when its done at all -- with great care and forethought, and only then after a foundation of experience in the Craft has been well laid. It must also be approached with the utmost respect for the Deities involved, and pantheons should never be mixed simply because we think it would be 'appropriate for the ritual.'
We talk a great deal about how we love and honor the Gods; let our actions echo our words.
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