I personally like borrowing from other cultures and see nothing evil of it. Especially, when it comes to learning new crafty ways. Yet I can’t say that when it comes in personal beliefs that I am all open and willing to take everything as pure truth and add it up to one big mess.
Because of that “mess”, as my friend so neatly put it, is why so many pagans advocate not mixing up so much and support learning one system deeply and others more for knowledge than practice.
I guess I can say I agree that when it comes to witchcraft, knowing one system deeply does have it’s advantages. At the same time, closing yourself off from new things and not learning how to use them can be just as devastating to your workings.
The more I learn on my path, the more I incline towards northern mythology and folklore. It’s my home base, so I feel good in this environment and I know the plants here best. Plus I grew up in this system, even if not factually being pagan.
I know how exiting it is for a beginner to learn all the new systems and possibilities. I’ve been there too – the moment internet opened up in front of me, I happened on a pagan portal – I was off and rolling. But it becomes very overwhelming after a while and soon you’ll start making adjustments and choosing what works true for you. Still, when it comes finding new ideas, I’m all ears and eager to try them out. BUT, and that is quite a big BUT. I adapt.
This week’s Pagan Perspective topic is “Pre-made vs. Original”. I have spoken of it before that I belong in the group, who rather does things as they feel right than do them in the absolute perfect moment and not feel right. I have chosen not to use ceremonies for example that call out gods or goddesses that I am not so familiar with. But if I find something in the pre-made ceremony that I like, I won’t hesitate it to adapt for the deities I am using. Especially, when you are just beginning, it is very hard to get ceremonies the way you want without some pre-study or trying out the ones that you read about. Because, as far as I know, those ceremonies are a result of years of self-doing, too. If you take Gardner’s Blue book, it is adaptions of other ceremonies and ways which have never been meant as the one and only way.
Witchcraft is exactly what the word refers to – it’s a craft. Like every craftsman, you have the freedom of learning new helpful tricks and bits to get better in it. But when I try this new “trick” out, I fix it so it suits in my general practice rather than adopt whole new belief system. Where comes the belief that if you create item that is generally used in another belief system, you sort of also take over that belief system, is beyond me. You don’t take it over. You adapt it.
For example doll making. It is one of the most used magical craft there is. For evil, for good, for healing, to make someone sick – you name it. Yet the belief system most related with it is voodoo and american corn dollies. I have no fondness for them, so I don’t make corn dollies (and I can’t get my hands on the sort of material needed). But I have made them of branches and cloths or sewn a simple ones or made beaded dolls.
However, local folklore talks about wax dolls, which I find very intriguing. So even though I learned about the uses of the dolls from foreign cultures, there is alternative to them. Only, the stories I found from our local culture warn about the horrors if you get it wrong. One thing was common in them – all those dolls worked the way you wanted, but living with the consequences is much harder than most give themselves credit for. But strange is that if I mention that I made a puppet, the first reaction I still get is “Hey! That’s voodoo! Why do you spoil our religion with something like that?”.
We share the same basics. All magical systems. They are all adaptions of something one witch has learned from another. Craft is tool – witch is the knowledge behind that craft. I still turn to the god and goddess I have chosen for myself and do the workings in their light of wisdom. I can’t say I borrow from other religions, because my own is so poor that it doesn’t cover everything. It actually does. But if my neighbor knows a better way to cut the fabric, why must I continue ripping it with knife if I can use scissors? The intuition and power you put in that craft still comes from your religious system. So what you are actually arguing about is decorations.
I write this and I keep thinking about James George Frazer book “The Golden Bough”. Though it is actually anthropological study and I dare to say some ideas are old by now, it is probably still one of the best books I have read regarding the similarities and differences of folkloric belief systems, where most of the knowledge and how-to comes from oral memory.
So to argue, IF to borrow, I think the question should actually be HOW to borrow? Because it is one thing that they press in our brain in lectures how we must keep our religion and culture clean of outside influences, totally another to kill it off, because you force it to stagnation duo fear of loosing your own. You don’t loose it. Making a dolly that is sewn together instead of wiring small sticks to human form is nothing more than crafty decorations. I’d say – go and learn both ways. Then you can at least teach your method to another and say you have tried others and you’re not suppressing them because they are foreign, but because you feel that your method is easier or gets more intention set in it duo longer process it takes to make it. What ever the reason you have then, it is better than just “because it is foreign!”. You too are foreign to others and would you like your craft get the same treatment? Being rejected, because of inability to learn and understand? Nobody tells you to take their system over, because you add new candle magic method in your craft abilities.