Sunday, 15 February 2015

Modern times and Paganism

There is a thing I am struggling with somewhat, bear with me, I'm finding it a bit of a challenge to adequately put words around.

In our modern world, we have this tendency to find amusement in old fashioned things.  Old ways of doing stuff.  Well, some stuff.  I am rather old-fashioned in my crafts, I don't just knit and crochet (which has my husband referring to me as a Nana) but I also spin and weave.  What I'm talking about though is different.

Medicine for example.  While herbalism has a fairly steady following, we'd fall about laughing if someone suggested bleeding us to cure a headache, flu or any other illness.

Technology is another, who writes letters any more?  Remember the old dial phones that were hard wired into the wall wherever the installer decided to put it when the house was built.  And having to wait up to a month for a line to become free when you moved somewhere.  I'm not quite old enough to remember party lines, but I do remember growing up on an Air Force base where we had to dial 2 before calling anyone off base and had to add three digits to our four digit phone numbers for anyone outside to call us.  Two tv channels and they finished at 10pm when you got either static or a test picture after that.

In so many ways, the old ways of doing things are met with a fond nostalgia, but little interest in returning to that way of life for any length of time.

Except Pagans.

It seems that for anything in Paganism to have value, it has to be old.  It requires some amount of antiquity and tradition to be right or valid.

Technopagans are a source of amusement and ridicule.

Fairly recently, I saw someone saying not to bother with any occult book written in the last 50 years.  And it was widely agreed with.

I'm trying though, to understand why this is.  Why is it that Pagans who will happily spend hours on the internet doing their research will scorn LED tea-light candles?  Anyone doing anything overly new, or trying to create something new is met with derision and snark.

There is a woman I know online, I won't refer to her as a friend, who swears by The Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus, an old spell book of vague provenance.  It is available here for anyone who is interested by the way.  She claims to use the medicinal spells from it as her "go to" quite frequently.  I have been left wondering how she's getting along with all the white lead and mercury and praying over wounds although maybe that would explain a few things.

I mentioned to someone that I've been reading a number of these old spell books and their eyes lit up, "Oh, I would be very interested in reading that", right up until I tell them the websites where they are freely available and public domain.  As if being available to everyone who knows how to use Google somehow tainted them.

Suggest a modern spellbook and most of them roll their eyes.  They assume someone is making all sorts of crap up to cash in on beginners and new agers. 

Many of the Witchcraft histories that I've also been reading suggest that Cunningfolk used whatever worked.  When something new came along, they'd learn and incorporate it if it was useful - not sneer at it as being "not traditional".  This is why circle casting is now such a core part of modern pagan practise - even though it came from Christian Ceremonial magic.

I don't understand this.  I don't get it.  Why does something have to be traditional to have value?


  1. Is this a "Oh I'd love to read that" question or do actually want the answer?
    drop me a PM if you actually want The Answer. -carl

    1. To be honest, I'd hoped to generate some discussion on here.

      I understand the psychology (kinda) behind it.

      I understand the patterns and connections to the past, I understand the link and power in repeating things done as they have been for hundreds of years.

      I understand the astral imprints.

      I get the "test of time" mentality - even when much of it didn't stand the test of time going by history.

      I wasn't talking about that. I was talking about how many people dismiss anything new as being invalid. I seriously saw someone say "don't read a book newer than 50 years" and then someone said "better make that 100". All Chaos magic is considered to be kids playing with stuff they don't understand in some circles.

      I get that there are people who want to protect their own system and feel a need to dismiss anything that is different.

      I get that some people feel unsure about moving away from what has become the accepted norm and find confidence in believing that what they're attracted to is older and therefore more valid.

      It's just that slavery and wife-beating are also traditional by those standards. I believe the law was that a man could beat his wife as long as he used a stick that was no thicker than his thumb.

      All traditions start somewhere - there was always a time when it was "new".

      I don't believe there is a single Answer - unless it's that people are dicks.

  2. It doesn't have to be traditional - everything was new at some stage and it's only after people have discovered that it works that it has become tradition. Modern medicine went through (and is still going through in many cases) its trials and had its detractors so I'm not surprised the same thing happens in Paganism. However the frequency should be alarming if not for the snobbery that most people approach their Pagan practice with. And I'm not even talking about those who put so much stock in a lineage.

  3. There's a point where things go from rite to being ritualised and ceremonialised. The theurgical process is lost, participants go through the motions expecting the result but it's like a childs play computer or radio, without the inside workings repetition just becomes like the monkeys that copy each other and won't climb the pyramid for the banana.
    There is a couple of modern systems which explore that nature of belief structures. One of those uses 4 grades simply labelled Type 1, Type 2 etc.

    Such repetition is a bid for security which is one of the foundations for Type 1 belief structures. These are characterised by "Appeal to Authority". In other words, something is true because it's written down, or by someone with "authority" or rank. Signs are things like worship of words, following/supporting hierarchical leaders. Things like "as it is written so it shall be". It is done because it is traditional.
    This gives security and allows power structures to be built within the herd for ranking and position, As can be imagined these systems are popular with people who want others to feel entitled to owe them, as they can establish a tradition which others must obey.

  4. Most Chaos magic *is* kids playing with stuff they don't understand. Afterall Chaos 137 current is built on top of the 93 current.

  5. One of the questions I don't think that gets asked enough, re: the beating the wife with inch thick stick....
    Why was there need to have such a rule? What kind of wife did things that were likely to result in beating with sticks bigger than a inch diameter?? (knowing that that was a possible response).
    Although given informations such as even in the "advanced" civilisation of Rome at it's peak, women did not have names. It was first (girl), second (girl) etc with the family name. I mean how lopsided is that kind of society and tradition?