(OK, in full disclosure here, this is a rant, a bit of a journal entry, and a statement. I am writing this to do my best to put things together in my head and to finally come out with statements I still am scared to make. I offer it here for further discussion and because it was ‘suggested’ that I do so)
As a child I was aware of my Native heritage. However, it wasn’t something that was talked about much in my family (unfortunately I got a lot of ‘we don’t talk about that’ when I’d bring it up). I knew I had family on a reservation – somewhere – and remember seeing pictures once. I’d get the occasional snippet of a story about someone going to visit them, or my father would discuss how it was brought up at such and such family gathering after I got older. But because of how I look, and because I had no documentation about it, I could never get behind the so-called ‘buckskin curtain’. I had no contacts until more recently, so everything I learned was from books that I could buy and hide from my parents (e.g., any paperbacks that could fit in a purse). So I practiced what I could that ‘felt’ right, which meant a lot of what was called “shaman” at the time – spiritual journeying, energy work, and working with the land, sea and sky spirits that made their presence known to me.
In High School and College, when I first started studying Wicca, one of the things that really struck me was how my then-teacher talked about how personal it was. He made me realize how Wicca could be a foundation for a religious practice that would fit whatever pantheon you were interested in following. This meant my Celtic heritage could shine through.
Later, when I was involved in both traditional and eclectic Wiccan groups, I saw this for myself, and realized that it was going way beyond my Celtic ancestry. For example, one women’s group I was in held a circle working with Roman Goddesses. The leaders built the ritual around it – all the way down to the garb that was donned. The next circle was working with Hawaiian deities, and the feel was totally different. It fit for the group and the traditional (a.k.a. lineaged) Witches that ran it. But those changes, although it worked for them, didn’t fit me anymore. It became too diverse and even too structured at times. This was also around the time of the “traditional vs non-traditional” infighting, and having been a part of both I didn’t want to take sides. The final straw was after I was accepted into a group because of my lineage, and then being told my lineage didn’t matter anymore. And because my lineage didn’t matter I was not allowed to be a part of certain rituals I had originally been told that I would be allowed to attend. That was enough to get me to finally leave the title of “wiccan” behind.
Years later, after dabbling in Reiki and working with my intuitive gifts and still trying to find a path, I got a reading from a Northern Tradition Shaman which blew my mind. I didn’t realize how much my German Ancestry was tied with the Norse Pantheon. (I know – it’s pretty much a common fact, but yet my mind didn’t grasp it until just after the reading) But at the same time, after everything else I had done in my life I just didn’t feel like being full blown Heathen fit either. Then when I started seeing some of the same infighting that I saw in Wicca (this time between re-constructionist and UPG vs Trad/Non-Trad) I wanted nothing to do with it.
So why the heck am I again retelling my past? I’m doing it because I know there are a significant amount of people who have had the same experiences as I have; and are either disenfranchised with the people they are working with or have quit trying to work with a group all together because they feel like they can’t give their fullest into it anymore.
All of this in my mind is relevant to what is going on in the pagan community today. There has been a push in the blogs that I have seen to classify things (again, like I have talked about before) into Pantheist, Animist, Polytheist, etc., etc., etc. And this has itself caused more infighting. An atheist cannot be pagan. Heathens cannot call anything truly holy. Heathens cannot be classified Heathen if they are not Reconstructionist. Polytheist does not include anyone who does not believe different deities are complete and separate entities.
And here are some I haven’t talked about, but have affected me deeply. These may not be pagan, but in many ways fit into the same infighting that I was just talking about. And these are the ones that have hurt me personally:
- “Shaman” is not a politically correct term, and is an affront to Native Americans.
- Don’t call yourself a “Pipe Carrier” or use the term “peace pipe” because they were both coined by the whites.
- Only a true Elder can teach tribal knowledge.
- Even if you feel you have ‘native blood’, you will never be able to get any get true wisdom because only those who are a card carrier and can document blood quantum are the true brothers and sisters. It is only those affiliated with a tribe that are entitled to the wisdom of Native ancestors.
- (and the doozy) Anyone who tries to walk the path of a Native without being documented as such and being trained by a true Elder is only causing disgrace to the true Native American Nations.
Arguing and more arguing. Classifications and dogma. Everywhere I turn in a pagan or Native community it is there in some shape or fashion. And I’m downright tired of it. I’m tired of being scared by it. I’m tired of being afraid of doing something ‘wrong’ and having something, someone or some group mad at me. And that’s why I have to write this all out. Because I’ve touched on how I feel this isn’t right before, but I’ve never done anything about it. I’ve always still stayed afraid, and lived in my own personal world, but still haven’t truly put anything out there for anyone else to see, even though I ‘prepped the stage’ to do so by making this blog.
(Sorry guys, this isn’t all out of my system yet. But I’m getting there.)
We are not ready to be called a community yet. We are not a unified voice, and the efforts by people to try to make us one fail regularly. We don’t need to be a nationwide community, and probably will never be one. We don’t need to try to come together and put more dogma around any of our our current religious practices under the umbrella of any term. We as a group cannot respect our differences so how the hell can we respect any unification?
It doesn’t matter how general you try to be with these labels. Even just trying to divide the community into “Pagan”, “Wiccan”, “Heathen” and other titles doesn’t work; they are always going to have different meanings for different people.
And that is how it should be. At least for now.
We need to focus on our smaller groups if we want to have a group at all. There will never be a unifying voice for ALL Wiccans, ALL heathens or ALL pagans. We need to stop pretending that there can be. But there can be smaller voices; smaller groups that unite in time. And those smaller voices and groups can have their own guidelines. And those guidelines will only be valid for that group. They cannot be pressed onto the rest of us.
Definitions, labels, whatever you want to use – they are not all inclusive. Period. End of Story. What one person calls a polytheist may not be the same thing as what someone else means when they use the term. I don’t care if you call out a definition in a dictionary. That might be great for writing a term paper or thesis, but it may not fit how people think and feel. People are allowed to have different interpretations of a definition. We are allowed to exist and have our own opinions.
Does this mean that someone who has a different definition of, say the term, “heathen” should have a right to force themselves into a “heathen” group that has a different definition or set of guidelines? Absolutely not. But the group also does not have the rights to say what a Heathen is and is not for everyone who chooses that term.
When I see statements like, “we also have to fight against the incursion of elements hostile to polytheistic belief…: Atheists, humanist-pagans, new-agers and those unwilling to in any way accommodate polytheism but more than happy to demand polytheism accommodate them.” (from Galena Krasskova’s post on Secular Polytheism) It really bothers me. No wonder we are still having this fighting. No wonder we cannot come together at all. We cannot even agree on the definition of the term holy between people, much less between different systems of beliefs.
So now it’s time for me to step up to the plate and finally say something about it further than ‘it’s not right’. It’s time for me to stop looking at how other people do things, and do them the way I feel is right for me. If that means I am doing a ceremony differently and mixing tribal tradition (ouch), then if that is what feels right in my heart, I need to do it. If that means I am going to worship Odin and Loki differently than Asatru or the Northern Traditionalists do because it feels right in my heart and gut to do so (yikes), then I need to. If that means that I blend some of the Shaman and Wiccan tools that I have into my worship, So Mote it be. No one has the right to tell me what I am and what I am not, nor should they be telling me how to worship. If I make a mistake, I’m absolutely certain that either Karma or the Gods (or both) will most certainly do the necessary kicking of my ass.
So why the hell this is so freaking scary for me to say, I don’t know. Why it needed a huge 1700+ rambling essay to say, I don’t know that either. But what I am going to try to do now is to follow this up with posts about MY work, MY rituals and MY ceremony. If I write it down and post it, there is no denying it came from me.
“It’s about time” I hear in my head.
Questions, queries, thoughts and theories always welcome.