It’s occurred to me lately that describing myself as an eclectic pagan makes no sense to non-pagans. It seems like a peculiarity of paganism, that it has the concept of eclectic practice. And when I think about it, it is a strange concept to have, but totally understandable in the context of the broad range of faiths and practices found under the pagan umbrella.
This occurred to me as I pondered whether or not a non-pagan would understand what was meant by eclectic paganism without me having to explain it. And, really, I find it’s hard not to want to specify further when using it as a description, because it doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning compared to Asatru or Wiccan, for example. In the sense that it doesn’t describe a thing, it’s a method, if method is the right way to describe it. Eclectic pagan doesn’t tell you anything about someone’s path, except the fact that it’s eclectic. Unless further information is given, it’s a bit pointless to use.
Even to other pagans, I feel a need to be more specific to outline what kind of eclecticism I practice. My path is admitedly a very multi-faceted one. It’s not an eclectic form of one particular tradition or practice. It’s an eclectic collection of practices from all over the place, as is the nature of eclecticism. As I enter this latest pause at the crossroads, I’ve been thinking about this a lot more as I try to figure out how to bring all these practices together. Not necessarily with the aim of creating one single cohesive “religion”, but more so that I have a structure that makes sense to me.
I’m not trying to shirk the eclectic label; to be honest, I think I’ll always be eclectic in one way or another. But there comes a time when I’ve got a big chest full of all sorts of beliefs and practices and it’s so full and broad, I have no idea what I’m doing. So I need to take stock of what I’ve got and figure out if I really do need it all, and organise what I actually want to keep into something I can actually practice. Because without a spirituality that’s able to be practiced, what on earth is the point of walking all these paths? I’m not doing this for the intellectual stimulation, that’s for sure.
In some ways, I don’t feel like I need anything other than pagan, just like I don’t feel like I need to ID as anything other than queer, but humans like to classify things, so it’s useful to be able to articulate what kind of pagan I am, or how I am queer/what I mean by queer. Because the term pagan is so broad and covers so many different paths and practices, just saying I am ‘pagan’ is somewhat meaningless, apart from saying I am not an adherent to any of the Abrahamic faiths. On the other hand, when I do come out to non-pagans, it’s usually enough to tell them what my spirituality is. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.
And that’s kind of where I need to be able to define my path in some way, to be able to say, ‘this is what I am’ and on the other side, ‘this is what I’m not’. I may not reveal all the little details of my practice, but being able to describe my path and how I practice in general terms is useful. It gives context to how I practice more than just listing the Gods I work with. I mean, I can say I worship Isis, but unless I specify how, I could mean anything from a Wiccan framework to a pure reconstructionist framework.
I consider it akin to the denominations of Christianity. They all have their own way of doing things, even though they’re all practicing the Christian religion. Except paganism is much more broad and there is less similarity. But the concept is, I think, similar enough, even though all the diverse groups could hardly be called denominations as many are separate religions. But because you have such diversity, merely saying pagan doesn’t really tell anyone a lot unless you define it further to say what kind of pagan you are.
I won’t go into detail about how I’m currently trying to define/combine my paths at present, because I have planned separate entries for them further on to explain/explore them in more detail, but as an overview, the way I currently define my path is as follows:I am an Eclectic Witch, Queer Pagan, and Graeco-Roman Kemetic.
And the more I think about it, write about them, and figure out how they work together, the more they make sense.
Queer Paganismis my umbrella term. It’s the overarching structure. It’s how I see the world, the Cosmos, and everything in between. I need a base frame to structure this faith around so that there’s something there binding it all together and making it make sense. This is, if you like, my overall worldview. It’s not really a ~practice~ as such, in that sense. It’s not something that has rites and practices attached to it. This is the context that makes the other two make sense.
Eclectic Witchcraftis the (non-religious) magical practice. It is just the magic, just the witchcraft. Any religious structure comes from the queer paganism side of things, but it is not inherently religious. It’s non-Wiccan witchcraft, mostly using ribbon and candle magic, and anything else I have to hand. It’s a very practical form of witchcraft, and could probably be considered (what I understand to be) kitchen witchcraft, but not restricted to the kitchen. It’s a little bit that, and a little bit Chaos Magic, while being its own thing.
Graeco-Roman Kemeticis the only way I’ve found to describe my current mix of Egyptian, Roman, and Greek influences. It’s also the religious side of my path. Clearly, I’m being led to that late period in Egyptian history where there was more Roman and Greek influence over the religion. Isis seems to be pointing me towards Roman-style household rituals (with Her at the centre), and then there is Apollo, the Mousai, and Hekate pulling me into Greek styles of worship. And yet, I still have Sobek, Heru-sa, Djehuty, Aset, Wepwawet, Bast, all these Egyptian Gods being predominant in my life. I belong to Sobek, and He is steadfastly Egyptian. Egypt is still important.
Obviously this is never going to be a pure reconstructionist path, but I’m okay with that. From my perspective, it would be impossible to participate fully in any of the recon communities. I’m too different, and I’m not the sort of person who’s polytheistic enough to worship Gods I have no relationship with, just because I must acknowledge the whole pantheon. And I lack the energy to try to work with three complete reconstructionist paths. One was hard enough. Three would drive me bonkers, trying to get all the rites done.
So a blended path it is. But I’m not claiming to be a pure recon anyway. I am, hopefully, a responsible eclectic, though. No, my path is focussed on my Gods. I worship Them how They want me to worship. If it’s not purely recon, that’s okay. I just need to find the right framework to make all of this into a cohesive spiritual practice.