On Identification and Affiliation

Discussion in 'Pagan' started by anise, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. anise

    anise New Member

    Oct 7, 2004
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    Hi all. I just thought i'd jump in here.

    im interested in getting some opinions on the following thoughts having to do with name association in the neo-pagan community.

    (this was spurred on by a post in a friend's livejournal)

    I'm not truly invested any longer in who has the right to use the word "Wicca". I find the debate fascinating, which is part of the reason I decided to step away from religion in general. I found it very difficult to stay away from the debates, for I always had another angle, another argument to try, another stone to turn. And yet such debates did absolutely nothing for my soul. The bottom line is, very few people are going to have their minds changed, and even fewer are going to experience this change of heart as spiritual epiphany or liberation. The realization that Wicca is/is not this or that is probably not going to change the way a person related to her God.

    So why does the debate continue?

    My best guess is that is has to do with affiliation. As i've said a billion times in a billion different circumstances, individuals are reflections of their communities, and the community is reflective of its various members. Members of a community share a title, a label, some manner of outward (and inward!) identification that is in theory readily transferrable from individual to a set of prescribed ideas, forumlas, actions or vice versa.

    So when NeophyteMary calls herself Wiccan and espouses a belief in a mother Goddess who is Queen of the fairies, an outisder can (and does) attach her professions to her use of the label Wicca and comes to believe that this is what Wicca is.

    This infuriates BritTradWendy,who uses the same title and yet holds a very different set of ideas and values dear, and she doesn't want her title besmirched by the likes of NeophyteMary, with whom she has so little in common. She doesn't want the perception of her community changed so much that she is no longer a reflection of it, and it no longer a reflection of her.

    Now, on some level all of this is understandable. We are a pithy people, and we love our titles and labels and whatnot. But let's ask ourselves some questions:

    1. Where it is obvious that the two women will disagree about what it means to be Wiccan or to belong to the religion of Wicca, is there not something that they can offer each other spiritually? Is there not something that they can learn from each other if only they can overcome their disagreement about how a certain word is used? Is it possible that these two can belong happily, in fact, to the same spiritual community?

    2. Does the fact that Mary uses the term Wicca one way in fact change the community to which Wendy acutally belongs and with which Wnedy actually ineracts? I agree fully that it may change the perception of outsiders. But to what extent is others' perception valuable? If the community to which Wendy belongs--be it her coven, her women's group, her drum circle, whatever--is not in any way inwardly changed by Mary's beliefs and choice of title, then to what extent should the deviation matter?

    What is more important--perception or reality? Actual reltionships or preconceived judgments?

    It seems to me that the real problem isn't whether or not a certian group of people have the right to use a word or have the right to change what the word means, but rather whether or not and to what extent the outside world should be able to affect my inward and outward identifications.

    People want to be able to sum up a range of ideologies and beliefs with one pithy word or phrase. This is evidenced by the many people i've heard trying to come up with a single word to unite and identify all the myriad people who are not Truly Wiccan but who follow a Wiccan-like structure, minus this or that, etc etc. Many people seem to see the application of a word or phrase to their system of belief as a method of belonging.

    I'm a Catholic, one may say. I belong to Catholicism.

    I'm a Democrat. I belong to the Democratic party.

    But I have often wondered if perphaps human relations, especially in political and religious arenas, wouldn't be improved by a different manner of communication from the outset.

    If you ask me, "What religion are you?"

    And I reply, "Is that what you really want to know, or do you want to know what I believe or how I choose to worship?" then suddenly a whole different dimension and a whole new opportunity for dialogue emergences between us. If what you want to know is really what I believe, does it matter what label I use?

    And how neatly we sidestep the whole confusing issue of rights and ownership of titles and lables!

    I understand that desire to cull the "Riff raff" from our linguistic identifications and affiliations. I understand that two people using the same word to mean very different things is confusing. But the truth is, even within an orthodox religion, individual people will have different beliefs and different personal rites, however minor. If I tell you, "I'm a Democrat" does that tell you how I feel about abortion? About gay rights? About public education? About affirmative action? About international trade?

    Are you really intersted in my label, which tells you very little about me as a person, or are you interested in the depth of me?

    So the question is, where are we going with our dialogue with each other? What are we getting out of our affiliations with words, with each other? What are we interested in knowing? The actual beliefs and practices that people actually harbor and use, or the "sanctioned" ideas that may serve only in a brief moment while people are together worshipping and practicing, but which many not guide their daily action, thoughts, or relationships?

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