Traditional: right or wrong reasons?

Discussion in 'Pagan' started by bgruagach, Jan 10, 2004.

  1. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    It's quite common, particularly in modern Pagan books, to see people promote their ideas as being "traditional."

    What do people think about this? Do they find the label "traditional" makes them more interested in the things being said, or does it make you suspicious?

    I've seen the label "traditional" trotted out by some as a way of trying to appear superior to others, even though when you look at what they do they are not really any different from those who don't claim to be "traditional."

    Is there are right reason to use the label, and a wrong reason?

    Within the Wiccan community, the label "tradition" is also used to mean "sect" or "established system." Is this making the label less meaningful, since someone who makes up a coherent system or sect yesterday could call themselves "traditional" as a result?
     
  2. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    Ben, always asking interesting questions!

    There is some kind of firmly-rooted idea in the humans' mind that what is old must be good. That was even a basic principle of law in the early middle age: the longest a custom was held, the better it was. The one who could bring the oldest elders to testify as to what the custom was would generally win the lawsuit.

    This can be seen within and between many religions. Some members of the more established religions have the tendancy to brush-off neo paganism as too "neo". Within neo-paganism itself, traditions that pretend to be or are older sometimes brush-off newer ones. We've all seen that. For some reasons, some people think that a tradition that can say "a number of people practiced it over the centuries" is somehow more credible than one where the founder said "I made it all up two months ago". From there to the step of making a story up to pretend to have a very "traditional tradition", there is not very much.

    Why is it so, I must say that I don't know. It is true that if a tradition has been revieved, used and improved by many people, it is possibly more coherent than the product of just one person, but not necessarily so. The problem is that it is often used to depreciate "younger" traditions. In that case, its use is IMHO not good.

    It is true that the fact that neo-pagan "sects" are calles "traditions" tends to muddy the water, but for instance in this post I used "tradition" to mean "sect" and "traditional" to mean "old(er)".

    Baud
     
  3. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    In the Wiccan community, I've also seen the label "traditional Wicca" used to mean sectarian Wicca, as opposed to eclectic or solitary Wicca.

    It would be nice if people restricted the term "traditional" to mean "older" but that's unfortunately not what's happening.
     
  4. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    Grass greener on the other side

    It is the same syndrome as the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, here the fence of time frames and religious brands.

    Notice how Catholics are converting to other Christian churches, Anglicans and Protestants to Catholicism, Westerners to Buddhism, etc.

    Same old human tripe behavior.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  5. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    good posts thus far.

    it is common in the Eastern traditions, especially the wisdom traditions of Asia, that authors would "back date" their texts to give them the sembleance of being "traditional". you can find some good examples of this in some of the later Taoist works that clearly exhibit an influence of Buddhism yet claim to have been written in the time of the Yellow Emperor.

    this method was used to give more creedence to one school of thought over another.

    though different, this same type of "traditionalist" behavior is found in the West as well.

    eh.. from my point of view, it's not really all that relevant if the text being studied is older than another or not.. it's the content that determines if it's a valid teaching or not.
     
  6. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    A possible reason for the tendency

    In religious matters, disputes often come down to a matter of faith/belief - something at the core that cannot be proven or disproven by rational argument or experiment.

    In order to gain traction for one's ideas, then, you have to appeal to some higher authority. By claiming a traditional interpretation, backdating, or whatever, you have the authority to appeal to. Saves a long argument about whether you should sprinkle the sage widdershins or deosil around the turkey that basically comes down to "because I said so".

    Me, I'm a traditional Glassfordian, proud inheritor of a long tradition (about 25 seconds) for the above belief. :)
     
  7. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

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    Ah, yes. I used to be a Glassfordian, but I feel they are in grave error regarding the Doctrine of Sublime Indifference, so 15 seconds ago I branched off with the Reformed and Reorganized Glassfordian Tradition.

    Seriously, I suspect that many Wiccans are a bit nervous about the fact that modern Wicca started fifty years ago, and would like to forstall critics who might try to poke holes in their belief.

    I believe a case can be made for the use of "family traditions" or "family traditional," referring to those practices that HAVE been passed down generation to generation, and which now are called "famtrad" by others in the Craft. I know personally two Rom (gypsies) and one practitioner of Strega (traditional northern Italian Craft). All are powerful witches; all learned the Craft as children. I also know two witches from England who began in the Craft as children during WWII, thus predating Gardner's publication; I don't know much about their community, but would imagine it is famtrad, British style.

    I think it's important to recognize, though, that evem among famtrads, it's tough to identify GENUINE traditions that date back more than a century or so. Calling the four quarters is common to the magical practice of many, many peoples and goes back a long way . . . but we can't be sure that that wasn't one of the things Gardner borrowed from Crowley, who in turn probably adopted it from the Watchtowers of Enochian Magic.

    Nowadays, it's common for Gardnerians to refer to themselves as "traditional" in order to distinguish them from eclectics and other Johnny-come-latelies. The emphasis is not so much on the length of the tradition as on the practice. Gardnerians have a very specific set of ritual and ceremonial--well--traditions which they don't share with others. I think they want others to know that, if they say they're Third Degree Gardnerian, it means something, including a lot of study and hard work. Too often, though, it becomes simply cause for bragging rights, or the mark of membership in an exclusive club.

    I think it is important to distinguish between "traditional" and "tradition." As Bruce so delightfully suggested, a "tradition" can be something I made up last week; if I do it all the time, I can certainly validly claim it is MY tradition. An example: when calling the Goddess in-circle, and when dismissing her, we bend down and touch the earth. That tradition I learned from my teacher in the Craft; I'm pretty sure she and the original founders of her coven made that up, though it's possible they read about it somewhere and incorporated it into their rituals. But it's cool, it was passed on to me as a tradition, and when I'm teaching baby witchlets, I pass it on to them. My wife and I wrote a singing call which we use often when casting. I learned the other day that one of my students has taught it to members of his circle . . . so we may have a tradition in the making, there.

    Traditions have to start somewhere. I'm thinking of foot-washing and communion, beginning at the Last Supper--"This do in rememberance of me." I wonder if the Christians of 80 A.D. were nervous because their "traditions" were only fifty years old.

    Where we get into trouble with the word is using "traditional" as a kind of badge of righteousness or of authority: "My understanding of the Craft is traditional and goes back umteen million generations, so MY religion is better than YOUR religion." Bah, humbug! No thanks!
     
  8. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    Newer is better.

    Baud asks:

    The idea that older is better in religion is -- though I might appear simplistic -- due to the deference we have always been brought up to give to our elders. And in past history to the more recent times and even in backward societies today that axiom is genuinely valid. Who have more experience, the old or the young?

    The test of time is certainly in many instances the best criterion for chooosing the most reliable and lasting of articles for use in everyday life. The idea is carried over into lifestyle and religious beliefs and observances.

    Of course we know that old wine is better than new wine.

    But all this attitude is changing, now newer is better; every new CPU is better than the earlier one. So also in the world of ideas and beliefs and religious observances and personal lifestyles.

    Now the old folks have to ask the youth and learn from them. Sounds familiar? Otherwise they will be left behind. Has anyone gone to the old folks' home to consult with the extremely aged inmates there about love and marriage and of course the church to attend, and the school to send the kids to?

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  9. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    WHkeith, just to support one of your points, my ex-girlfriend is from two "famtrad" that date at least to her grandmothers, but she has no idea how old the "tradition" was. The funny thing is that she had never head of Wicca or Neo-Paganism before meeting me, and considered herself as "some sort of Christian witch revering mainly the Virgin Mary, but disagreeing with most of the Catholic dogma".

    Susma, a lot of good point in your post! Could it be that the creation of "newer" denominations and the wider acceptance of recent "traditions" is a sign of the evolution of society in the last century?

    Baud
     
  10. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste baud,

    speaking of evolution and modern society...


    Stephen Hawking was recently speaking about this and was suggesting that technology and it's result, information, was natural selection at work and that we were witnessing the evolution of the species as we speak.

    interesting theory, that.
     
  11. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    That reminds me of what my teacher of military hostory told us at the very beginning of the first Gulf war (I obviously paraphrase): "The people who think this war is going to be difficult are wrong. A young American soldier has been playing computer games and accessing the intertet since he was a child. Technology is easy to him. For the young Iraqi soldier, the only television he saw was the only one of the village. He started learning about using computers when the entered the army. Technology is foreign to him. Give both the same technology to use in the war, the result is obvious."

    Baud
     
  12. Darkwolf

    Darkwolf Kemetic

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    The ancient Egyptains were fond of this, too. Some texts have a heading that says so-and-so found an old worm eaten papyrus and copied the information down to preserve it. The evidence suggests "so-and-so" wrote it himself.
     
  13. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Darkwolf,

    thanks for the post.

    how interesting!

    by the by... i think that the scholarly interest is a valid line of questioning to take, however, i'm not of the opinion that attribution is necessary for a valid text to have been composed.

    eh.. we have the text in our hands now and the information is being presented to us... what we choose to do with that information is the key., imho :)
     
  14. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    This is the time for all the good men

    This is the time for all the good men to come to the establishment of a universal all satisfying religion.

    Now that we have read and for many practiced a lot of the religions dating back thousands of years, we are the ones most knowledgeable about religion and most experienced.

    So, with our scientific and technological knowledge, and our best humanistic aspirations, we can and we should go about fashioning a religion that can withstand all the challenges of opponents to religion, and yet be concordant with the findings of science.

    Can it be done? I think it's being done already. Witness the Baha'i faith; it seems to be absorbing the best of religious traditions from the past and it maintains an open-ended attitude toward future development, in its avowal that Baha'i is the best religion for the present age of mankind as intended by God, but as time progresses God will make it evolve further so that it will always be the best for man in his times.

    Well, for non-believers in God, like the Buddhists, then Baha'i is not the ideal religion for the current period. But I always observe that among Buddhists, the greatest majority are believers in gods, Buddha being the foremost among them; it is only among the connoisseurs who claim to be non-theistic. However, they do give honor to Buddha just the same, even though they insist that the honor given to Buddha is not similar to the kind given by theistic religionists. All that of course are just words.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  15. Darkwolf

    Darkwolf Kemetic

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    I agree that age or authorship does not indicate worth. I don't care if someone made up their religion 10 minutes ago, as long as they are honest about it. How meaningful it is to them (or others) and how they apply it is what's important.
     
  16. Darkwolf

    Darkwolf Kemetic

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    To be honest, I don't like the idea of a "one world religion". I like diversity. I think it would be more valueable to focus on getting along dispite our differences. My dream is of a world where we can practice and believe differently without harassing each other, degrading each other, or blowing each other up.
     
  17. Mick

    Mick World Citizen

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    And so do I, but we accept 'Unity in diversity'. We are told to rejoice in our differences and to be curious about them. Our differences should never be a reason for disharmony, unless they cause harm to others. Then the rest of the world should unite against those that are causing the harm.

    An example would be a belief system that suggests that one group of people should be segregated from others and did away with, simply because of their belief. Historically, the group that is being martyred are a non-assuming, loving group and the group that is forcing their belief system onto others is an aggressive/militaristic group. Today, we have many groups that preach separatist ideals that would cause disharmony among many.

    Unity in Diversity
     
  18. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Darkwolf,

    I am in agreement with you. I cannot help but think that a "one size fits all" religion would inevitably end up forcing itself on someone (or group), or otherwise watering down the beliefs and cultures as they became integrated and assimilated. Ultimately, choices would have to be made, who and what to sacrifice...? Perhaps not an important question to the one holding the handle of the sword, a very important question to the one at the business end of the sword. In other words, the idea seems good, until you realize that your belief/faith/religion/society/culture is on the chopping block!

    I'm not too keen on that thought, considering every culture that has lasted for any legitimate length of time, has contributed to the vast treasure trove of human understanding, wisdom and beauty. Among the collected human races, someone somewhere would lament the passing of any of those cultural treasures. And ultimately, we are all the poorer for it.

    Religion, in the purest sense, seems to me a collection of myths, stories, fables, parables, and wisdoms that ultimately lead a person along a path to moral enlightenment. Without such enlightenment, what purpose for the religion? If a religion cannot show each or any individual the benefit of morality, it is no true religion. Without morality, religion becomes ritual for the sake of ritual, the meaning becomes lost, the adherents become blind, and the practice becomes futile. If no goal or purpose, why begin the journey?
     
  19. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    The idea of a "universal religion" is basically the point of monotheism, isn't it? Every monotheistic religion out there has presented itself as the "one true and only valid religion" at some point or other. That's the primary purpose of actively seeking to convert nonbelievers, isn't it?

    Trying to push a "universal religion" hasn't worked too well in the past few thousand years of human history. I would doubt it would go over too well now or in the future.
     
  20. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, bgruagach!

    Good point. Of course, the monotheistic religions began within specific cultures. In that regard, they were no different than the many subsets of polytheistic religions. All religions proselytize, its just part of what they do. And one could point to the Roman persecutions to see a polytheistic culture that held as a basic point the extermination of competing religion(s). So while what you say is true, it is not the exclusive domain of monotheism. Polytheism is equally (and sometimes more so) guilty.
     

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