Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Open and Closed Traditions

So, I wanted to elaborate a bit on something I mentioned in my ancestry DNA test post from the other day.

I briefly mentioned that I've been told I can't follow Greek/Roman deities, because I am not Greek/Roman myself. Interestingly, I have always been told this by people who are also not Greek/Roman, but who are trying to convince me I need to be following some sort of Celtic path because ancestors. (Never mind how they always totally ignore the Japanese bit, even though I am much closer to Japan through living family and closer ancestors than Ireland or England, but I digress.)

Like I said then, I do not feel like I am limited to whatever it is my ancestors got up to back in the day. But in the case of the Greeks and Romans, I also think it is important to point out that these are pretty open traditions anyway. What I mean by that is the Greeks and Romans willingly spread their religions throughout the ancient world. I was recently made aware of a shrine to Minerva in the UK where people still leave offerings, as an example. The idea of 'foreign' people worshiping their deities was not something they seemed terribly offended by, all things considered.

Beyond that, when one stops and looks, it's easy to see just how incredibly influential these civilizations were on our modern lives, how much of them still lingers with us. That winged staff with two serpents around it that you see frequently in medical symbols in the US? Totally Greco-Roman in origin. And how many statues of Justice - Themis - adorn courts around the world? For many, these traditions are still part of our day to day heritage, even if often overlooked.

That said, I do think it is important to mention that I do not feel this way about all traditions. I do think there are traditions where ancestry or proper initiation are very important aspects. The obvious one that comes to my mind would be many Native American beliefs. I always cringe a little when I see just how many white pagans feel entitled to these beliefs and practices without any actual dialogue with these people. I think some find it hard to accept that, you know, some things just aren't open for you. They belong to someone else, and that needs to be respected. There is the idea that it's totally between Deity and the individual, and for the most part, sure, I get that... but in traditions where the group is extremely important, that must be honored, too. Sometimes it cannot be separated. It's not always an easy process, but if you're going to pursue a closed tradition, that should be expected. (Heck, challenges should be expected of any spiritual path, but hopefully you know what I mean.)

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