Thursday, November 18, 2010

Please Don't Invent Me A History; I'm Good With My Own, Thanks

(The following was prompted by the section "Reconsidering Hutton" in the Nov16th post at The Wild Hunt.)

As I've mentioned before I subscribe to various feeds around the interwebz, many in the Pagan blogosphere.  I like being informed and up-to-date on the many happenings in the Pagan community  I notice a thread of a theme emerging in some posts, that people want a history.  For instance they want to say something like "[insert individual brand of Paganism here] has been around for 500 years" or 50 or 1000 or whatever.  The sense I get from this--and I could be misreading people--is that they need something to be "historical" to have validity.  This is not my understanding of faith.

First, "Paganism" (or "Wicca" or "Druidry") describes not a single faith with an established dogma and hierarchy, but a collection of individual faiths, each developed on a personal level.  Can any such faith have a history?  I'm not saying that a Pagan's faith can't be influenced by the history of another faith, or history in general; where would anyone be if no one had come before us?  Personally, I can name Greek/Roman and Egyptian polytheism as influencing my ideas, as well as physics, chemistry, biology, world politics, and yes, Christianity.  So yes, my faith has a history in the sense that I "stand on the shoulders of giants," as it were, but my faith, as it is today, is of my own creation.  Sure, I borrowed others' ideas, but the way I cobble them together is my own, and I've added a few original ideas, too.

Second, does something need a "history" to be valid?  Is anything new that just came around not real in some sense until it's got some history under its belt?  Furthermore, who decides how much history?  (I know this is a barrage of questions, but just one more...)  If nobody payed attention to anything new (eg an idea) until it had a history, would it end up ever having a history?  I think it would just sort of shrivel up and fade away.

I get the pride and the belonging associated with having a history.  There's magic in calling the elements at Samhain and knowing that hundreds of years ago there were some people doing the same sort of thing.  But that's just it; I feel the magic and the weight of age in the ancient celebrations I take part in, but I don't consider my faith to have a history.

I have thought about what will happen to my ideas when I die.  In all likelihood many of them (ie the original ones) will die with me.  But that's part of the reasoning behind this blog; I can share my ideas and (knowing the internet) they'll be around, somewhere, as long as there are computers, and maybe someone, someday will read them and think "huh, that makes sense to me" and incorporate it into their belief system.  Yeah, I could write a whole religion.  I've thought about it, many times.  But maybe I don't want anyone else to believe exactly what I believe.  I avoid labeling my collection of beliefs as a religion, and instead prefer to call it a faith because the word "faith" has a very personal element to it.  Perhaps it's just the connotation--brought of popular culture and my experiences--and not the annotation of the words that makes me consider religion and faith as different, but even if it is, the connotation is what actually matters in everyday usage.  Hold on a sec, I'll look it up............ yeah, it is sort of the connotation.  Although they do have slightly different definitions (according to, the difference is mostly in the semantics.

The previous paragraph was [for the first two sentences] about the shelf-life of my ideas.  Because faith is personal to me and shouldn't be a copy/paste of another faith, my personal faith in all its [nonexistent] solemn glory is not something I want sticking around.  So history won't be an issue for me.

Various Pagan traditions (like Roman polytheism and ancient Celtic Druidism) were religions (in my sense of the word); there was a dogma and an established hierarchy of priests and such, and so they have a history as a religion.

I feel like this was a confusing post.  I apologize; I guess I have trouble articulating my ideas on history.  My main idea: my history is actually an amalgamation of the histories of the ideas from which I have drawn insight, and as a history is only about as long as I am old.  I don't claim to be a historical Druid or Roman polytheist or anything, so I can't claim all of their history.  I am just me.

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