On the term “Syncretism”

Hello all,

I’m sharing this thread from Twitter as a conversation-starter. Bordeaux criticises “syncretism” as the only term used for combo-religion, and proposes a couple of synonyms with slightly different nuances – so that we can use more than one word to discuss this phenomeon, approaching it from different angles and with a different kind of emphasis.

I’m pretty sure I learnt the term “syncretism” from the Cauldron back in the day. I want to emphasise that the intent isn’t to criticise or start a fight, more like…because this is a term used a lot here, I thought it might interest people as it interested me :) and be a conversation starter.

What do we all think? Are these alternative angles/words useful? Are there other synonyms for “syncretism” which you use, and why (or in what contexts) do you prefer them?

(Somewhat unrelated, but I was talking on my personal tumblr last night about complex/contradictory genders (like agender lesbian or genderqueer man), and that we could understand them in two different ways:

  • The first being like a cake, with separate ingredients mixed into a new whole where you can no longer see the original ingredients
  • the second being like, a pile of different coloured tissue paper, glass or acetate tossed on top of each other, creating a wholly new colour in the center, but with the original colours all visible at the fringes, and existing in a definite Order; one of my friends suggested the layers of a musical piece, and that works nicely too, where there’s a complete new thing in the center but you can pick out the differences between the bass line and harmony too.

I mention that because it feels relevant to looking at syncretic/hybridised/creole deities and religions, in terms of whether…the outcome is a kind of cake, or a pile of layered (but partially see-through) coloured glass.)

Over to you!

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Is Druidry Initiatory?

So I thought to post this here because, after a few internet searches, I really couldn’t find much on this.

As someone pointed out in a previous thread, ‘Druidry’ is a pretty broad category/grouping, with a lot of variety and difference between many of the communities within it. Because of that, I have a feeling the answer to the question of initiation will vary masssively depending on community and tradition.

This is supported by what I’ve found so far, where OBOD is an initiatory tradition/community, ADF is an initiatory church and BDO (according to a dm between us) prefer not to initiate their students because they don’t want to exert that level of control over them – instead, they offer a self-dedication ritual as part of their distance-learning course for the student to complete on their own.

The situation is further confused when, looking over several basic-introduction type webpages, books and threads about Druidry, initiation is not mentioned to the same extent or with the same emphasis as, say, the same pages on Wiccan traditions, which is of course highly initiatory. When I looked at the Druid Network’s page ‘How Does One Become a Druid?’, initiation is not mentioned and even when OBOD and BDO are, there isn’t a whole lot of emphasis on their training courses, with the main focus being on private study and practice (which, of course, does involve looking into local groves and reading widely).

I apologise if I’ve got anything wrong here – I’m not a Druid myself, though I am seeking to enter the tradition, hence this thread. So, to what extent is Modern Druidry initiatory? I personally have some hesitation in signing up for OBOD and BDO training, for individual reasons. I know of a local grove, though I’m not sure as of yet how good a fit we are (I’ll find out when I eventually make it to a ZOOM meeting!). I do a lot of reading, which I’ve found huge success with in my spiritual life and I’m now looking at the free resources listed on the Druid Network’s website, which involve a few year-long courses I could take on my own.

Anyway, I’d be really interested to see what people on here think of the question. Blessings and thanks.

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New Start, New Introduction!

Hey everyone! You can call me Seb, Coyote, Feathers, whatever else you’d like. She/her or they/them pronouns, doesn’t matter which. As you can see by my post count, I’m not new to the forum, but I’ve been absent for a couple years now and have enough new to say to make another introduction.

I started my pagan journey in elementary school with some friends when we were all convinced that we were Charmed-brand fireball-throwing witches. Of course I grew out of that, never jived with my Protestant upbringing, tried Wicca (it didn’t click), and meandered around for a long time without much direction.

As of late, I’ve found myself trending towards forms of ancestor worship. That involves building a tree of named ancestors, as far back as I can go (lucky me, my parents have already done most of the genealogical heavy lifting), looking into my DNA ancestry and finding where the population my ancestors were part of came from and migrated to, and researching their cultures and beliefs as much as possible.

Being primarily of British and a bit of French descent, I’m pretty much exclusively researching Germanic and Celtic peoples, though I like to go a bit further and try to dig into earlier Indo-European cultures as well. Just learning about my ancestors’ lives and who they were is satisfying in a spiritual way, but I’d also like to start incorporating aspects of their religions into my own ritual. I haven’t clicked with any deities yet, but currently I feel a bit more connected with the Celtic ones than the Germanic.

So that’s my spiel, hopefully I stick around for a bit this time!

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Organising your practice

Any advice? I’m really struggling. (I’ve got ADHD)

  • I’m struggling to keep up deity work across a whole pantheon. I don’t get messages from the divine, not clearly, so I can’t focus on just one or two which are calling me (if they are, I can’t hear them), and it’s a novel pantheon so I dont have the comfort that probably someone else has the other gods covered
  • I’m struggling with time, as in, I’ve tried organising “I’ll revere this spirit at Beltane, that one at Yule” – but come Beltane I forget, or am busy, or distracted, there’s always a reason why ritual doesn’t happen
  • I’m struggling with note-keeping. I keep repeating the same basic tasks over and over. Like, it’s Beltane and I know what spirit I’m supposed to be working with, but???? Even though I know I’ve done the work of identifying songs and words and acts before. So I start again. Leading to contradictory versions
  • I’m struggling with the role of the digital world. Because of problems 1-3, I’ve started trying to create a “master notebook” on the computer with playlists and so forth. But then I spend hours a day online, which is incompatible with my path, and it means I don’t have things in a nice book I can take for a walk. I was budgeting for a tablet, but we had to use it elsewhere instead

Any advice, or descriptions of how you organise things, much appreciated. I just feel so overwhelmed.

Some kind of…you’ve got a fixed ritual, on fixed days, which you can just use without difficulty…which has eluded me as long as I’ve been a Pagan.

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Animal sacrifice, and/or blood sacrifice in general

 Recently I watched the movie Apostle and it made an impact on my thinking about Deity worship.

 Is there any Deity primarily associated with European, West Asian or North African religious tradition in Whose worship there never was animal sacrifice, and no blood sacrifice in general, according to extant historical sources? (Deity worship within Neoplatonic contexts doesn’t count; Neoplatonism’s rejection of blood sacrifice can have come from Christianity.)

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Finding my path

Hi all, For the past 6 years I’ve been researching various Pagan religions and I am aware there are many paths to follow but myself am unsure on which one my beliefs fit with the most. I do know one thing, having studied up on the various traditions of Wicca over the years, I don’t feel a pull to it. I also have a mix of Irish, English, German and French ancestry so, I looked into Celtic and Germanic traditions. While it was interesting and I liked a few deities, I didn’t feel much of a connection to the religions of Heathenry or Celtic Paganism. I had always been interested in ancient Greece since I was young, so I went in that direction, but overall didn’t feel very in tune with many of the gods.

Do you have any advice? Any ideas on where my beliefs might fit into a particular Pagan tradition?

Here is a brief run-down of my basic spiritual beliefs:

* Soft polytheism. I’m more of a universalist, as I mainly view the gods as the same universal divinity manifesting in different forms, so I don’t see much contradiction on honoring gods of different pantheons as such.

* I’m generally not one for groups and I’m more interested in a solitary path.

* The natural world is imbued with spirit, and thus is regarded as alive and sacred.

* I don’t practice magic. I have a lot of respect for the occult and magic, but I don’t thank that that is something that I’m going for in my spiritual practices.

* A belief in karma (the universal law of cause and effect).

* A belief that all living creatures have a soul.

* A belief in reincarnation. In between each life form the soul rests in the afterlife for a period before being born into another body.

* I’m not entirely sure if there are incarnations of the divine among humanity. However I do believe that to tap into oneself is to tap into the divine.

* I follow the wheel of the year but tend to be more drawn towards the solstices and equinoxes than what I see as man-made celebrations such as Beltane or Lammas.

* Ancestor veneration is important.

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My milk boileth over: quarantine cooking misadventures

These days most of us are doing more home cooking than we usually would, and that’s sure to lead to some incidents.  ;D

While I didn’t have any milk boil over (this time), I did try the Ikea meatball recipe that made the rounds a few weeks back. It was quite tasty and simple to make … how it compares to te restaurant version I don’t know, since I usually get the salmon.

On the mishap side, I tried making chili with a can of six-bean mix. Result: I still don’t like chickpeas :P

Anyone else having an interesting time in the kitchen?

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Getting into the head of a Fae character

I’m (very) occasionally working on a fan-fiction set in an anime/manga world (Oh My Goddess!), and one of the characters in the story (from the motion picture, actually) is described as a “fairy princess.”

She’s not central to the story, although I do have in mind to use her to bring out some important points. The thing is, though, I have little knowledge and no personal experience whatsoever with the Fae. If I’m going to write about such a character, I’d like to do justice to her.

Could someone share some knowledge and insight about these beings, or provide some resources for background reading/information? I wouldn’t mind purchasing an ebook or two, although I’m not going to go crazy with this…since it’s a fan-fiction and I don’t own the underlying rights, I’ll like as not never make a dime off the story. Just wanted to stretch my brain and have some fun with the concepts.

Thanks for any help.

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How do we know the laws of reality?

I was a bit nervous to post this thread out of fear it would be taken as pseudoscience and moved to the Twilight Zone—but ultimately my desire to discuss the topic won out over my reticence. Ideally, the title of the thread would have the word know italicized because this is an epistemological question.

How do we know the things that we, as a society, claim to know? We rely on science to tell us how the world works, and it is a very useful method for doing so—but ultimately all science does is provide a body of evidence that something is true. Science does not (at least in my understanding) strive to prove definitive and inviolable truths about reality. Rather it strives to provide logical, reasonable, evidence-based models (hypothesis and theories) for how the world most likely works based on the evidence we currently have.

So with that in mind; at what point do we, as a society, decide that the body of evidence supporting a particular scientific model is sufficient that we treat is as truth? Do we do so after the very first study putting an idea forward? The seventh? The seventy-seventh? Or do we require more than studies to decide a thing is true rather than merely likely? Do we need empirical evidence that can be observed outside the laboratory? What about theories that postulate about things we cannot actually observe—like the origins of the universe or the various hypothetical particles, systems, and phenomena we have never actually observed?

Up until recently we had never seen a black hole, and yet the majority of society took their existence as abject truth anyway—based purely on mathematical models saying that they could and should exist. Is mathematics, then, the ruler by which we measure what is true or false? If you can prove it on paper than it must be true?

I’m not asking these questions to call science into question, to throw doubt upon it’s usefulness or the discoveries it has made, but rather asking because it seems to me that it’s a legitimately unanswered question. Some theories with mountains of evidence are highly doubted by the general public, while other theories with far less evidence are taken as gospel truth. It seems to me that the epistemology of science is all over the place, erratic and inconsistent and often boiling down to whatever an individual wants to believe is true.

To me personally, some of the more widely accepted scientific ideas seem fairly shakily proven.The second law of thermodynamics, for example. It’s certainly a useful model for how reality might work, but it is just a model. I have never seen anything coming even close to conclusive proof that it’s an indelible truth of the universe. Yet, that’s how it’s treated, to the point that any proposed model that questions is is immediately struck down for violating a ‘law’ of physics.

At what point does a model become law? Evolution isn’t a ‘law’ yet, despite having (in my opinion) quite a lot more evidence than some of the things that are considered laws (second thermodynamics seeming the most egregious example to me). Why is that?

At what point did we as a society give science (a system designed to create models, hypothesis, and theories—any of which can be debunked if new evidence is found) the authority to create ‘laws?’ That seems quite contrary to the whole idea of science to me.

So I guess those are my questions here. How do we know that scientific discoveries are objective truths and not just good models? How do we decide which scientific ideas to treat as true rather than just likely, and at what point did science cross the line from being a observational tool to an epistemological one?

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