06 January, 2013

Neos & Recons

Hey, Readers!

Once again, I opened up Blogger with one intention in mind and have completely forgotten it in favor of discussing (briefly) another topic I had been thinking about a while ago, which was brought up again by my seeing it written about in Chris' blog, My Hellenic Life. I don't always go online every day anymore, so I often skip over some topics I would otherwise write about, and this is not the first time I've been reminded (by his blog) of one such topic.

On Yule (21 Dec. 2012) I recorded a video about Christians "stealing" Yule, and how that type of language--while it comes from grains of truth--is ultimately negative. I admit to being annoyed when people condemn a person's faith without realizing or being willing to acknowledge that it is exactly where their own celebrations come from (how can you call my symbols evil and then decorate your home with them, that sort of thing), but I believe we can handle such things without having to run around waving our arms and screaming, "You STOLE from us!" Because I'm an eclectic practitioner. Some people would say all I do is "steal." We eclectics, however, we know that's not quite true.

Anyway, I had recently seen a post on tumblr where someone said "Stop saying Christians stole Yule. They didn't STEAL it. You still HAVE it." And that triggered a lesson from undergrad, when I worked as a Teaching and Writing Assistant, teaching students the difference between theft and piracy. To steal something is to remove it from its source and have it now as your own. To pirate is to create a copy for yourself, while leaving the original in its place. The latter is moreso what has been done, because while other people have used pagan traditions and symbols for their own ends, pagans do very much still have their own traditions. So can't we just focus on that positive aspect, and have fun celebrating in our way? This was the basic idea of my video, at least.

Several days after the video was posted, I got a lot of negative comments in one big burst. Not only about religion, but about me in general, my crafting skills, my outlook... And it got under my skin. So perhaps had this comment come at another time, it would have held less weight. As it was, this day I got a comment on that video from someone claiming that I could not tell people to be happy we still have Yule, because Yule is not ours to "still have," because unless we are reconstructionists, then we never had it in the first place. Rather, we stole it from those who truly celebrated it long ago. Again, one could argue that we "stole" it, because obviously we're using old ideas and making them our own, just as I said is done with eclecticism in general, to an extent. But I absolutely do not think it's fair or even correct to say that only reconstructionists "have" Yule. And this is where Chris' post comes in. On 29 Dec. he posted a blog about this very recon/neo opposition. We both come from a neopagan standpoint in that we are not recontructionists. We do not attempt to recreate exactly how things were done in antiquity. I think finding out things like that is interesting and helpful, as it is always helpful to know one's past in order to learn from it. However, I don't find the idea suitable for me personally.

I believe that times change, ideas evolve and progress. That traditions are great and meaningful and fun, and that we should not be afraid of change. I think some things that were common practice centuries ago are not suitable today, and that some ideas can still be drawn from without being duplicated. That we ought to know what's come before us, yet we cannot ignore what lies ahead.

I think both paths are valid and meaningful to those who choose to follow them. I don't intend to discredit reconstructionism here at all, only to lend strength to what I have been ridiculed for so many times over the years (and always, of course, by relatively anonymous strangers online). Personally, I am a modern witch. People have thrown that at me as an insult more times than I can count, but I own it. I AM a modern witch, and my path fits into today's world. If you're a recon, you're a recon. That's where you find your meaning, and neos find theirs in another way. But can we both celebrate Yule? Of course. Can we both have our own celebrations and traditions based on the older ways? Yes! Yours may be closer to how people actually did things in whatever year you may cite, and mine may come from the same time period but be updated to what I have now, in this time, in this place. As my friend, Eric, and his friend, Stephen, said in a video they did for us over on Pagan Perspective recently, "If the druids had butane Bic lighters, they would have used them!" (I actually have different colored ones that I switch out according to the moon phase, which I started doing because I already HAD the different colored lighters, rather than going out and getting them for the purpose.) And as Margot Adler says in Drawing Down the Moon, "[...] roots are only one part of the whole tree [...]."

Me as Amiens in As You Like It, 2010
All-female cast, modern dress
To bring in another passion of mine, theatre, this is a lot like Shakespeare being performed today in modern dress. By which I mean, not in Elizabethan garb or whatever else people think "looks Shakespearean." Some people think Shakespeare must only be done in doublets and hose, but others know that his actors only wore that because it was their contemporary attire at the time the plays were first performed. They didn't have a budget with which to costume period dress, so they wore what they had. We merely think of it as Shakespearean now because of the time period in which it was performed. But in following suit today, it makes perfect sense to play Shakespeare in what we have now, whether it be whatever you have lying around the costume shop, or the jeans and t-shirts you wear every day. I see many things about my faith the same way. People performed magick and made offerings and worshiped using what they had available to them. Why then, should not we do the same?

We are all doing great things and making wonderful connections and learning truths. We do it differently because we are different. As people, you and I, we are different people! We have different likes and dislikes, we look different, act differently, think differently. Why should anyone assume that we would believe the same? Or if we did believe the same, who's to say we must practice the same? My path involves nature, which grows stronger for its diversity. Paganism is no monoculture.

So yes, I celebrate Yule and other holidays and festivals that other types of pagans also celebrate. We don't do it the same way. That doesn't mean either of us is wrong or may not say that we have those traditions. No one may say what someone else's path entails, includes, or holds dear. Just concentrate on your own practice, and share with others, that we all may grow. But share not hatred or negativity that will lead to anyone's stagnation. Because as Chris said, the gods care not for denomination the way humans do. And in that example, we should really strive to follow.



  1. Well said. I liked your original video on the topic. It helped me to not be so irritated with certain people and I was able to enjoy the season again with a lighter heart.

    You have a great point illustrating your thought with the Shakespeare plays... comparison? That's not the right word... and it isn't coming to me. -_- Anywho, it's a great example how it's still the same play regardless the costume, the setting, the location, etc. Details may vary, but the heart, the core of it is always the same.

    It must be tiring and frustrating to keep getting comments from people- especially fellow pagans (say what?). There are some who just want to be trolls for whatever reason; it doesn't give them a right or anything, but it's best not to feed them so they can forage elsewhere. (;

    1. The most hurtful comments always come from those we consider fellows on the same path. We expect it from non-pagans, but like-minded folks catch us off guard.

      I think you actually made another great point about the Shakespeare topic! I was going for the idea that Shakespeare can be done up-to-date because they only used what they had at the time, just as it makes sense for us to modernize magick and not feel a need to copy what was done centuries ago. But you took it a step further by saying that the message is the same, however it may be dressed up. Thank you very much for that alternate reading. =)