First off, I’m considering turning one of the fictional worlds that lives in my head into a game, that you can play, for reals. It would be created using the StoryNexus toolset, which doesn’t require me to learn five complicated programming languages.
I’d like a chance to experiment with the tool first, but if I do end up making a game, I’ll let you know.
Okay, now on to the serious topic of this post…..the subject of “non-Heathen” practices, eclecticism, syncretism, and other religious blending.
The practice of blending traditions has been going on for a long time. The Romans enthusiastically adopted other deities as their own (sometimes to their eventual dismay, as when they appropriated the cult of Cybele). When people came together to trade goods, it was only natural that they ended up trading religious ideas as well. New religions often took on elements of indigenous traditions (an example of this is Buddhism becoming blended with the indigenous Bon faith in Tibet, so much so that some writers–perhaps being lazy–don’t bother to differentiate the two). In other places, like Japan, religious exclusivity is basically unknown, and many Japanese claim to be adherents of multiple traditions (much to the ire of the few Christians in that country).
At this point, you’re probably expecting me to blame monotheism for the idea that you only have *one* religion (and only one religion) and to a degree, I’d say that’s true. After all, if you only believe in the existence of one deity, who belongs to your religion, what would be the point of practicing another (obviously false) religion? However, I don’t think I would say that what the Romans (and others) were doing was less syncretism (ie. the blending of two different religious traditions) and more assimilation. Foreign deities were not honoured with rites they would be familiar with from their own nation, they were “Romanized” and then honored according to Roman tradition. Hence why my Kemetic friends are often annoyed by others who conflate the Graeco-Roman Isis with the Egyptian Aset (the Egyptian understanding of Aset and the Graeco-Roman understanding of Isis are VERY different, hence why they are treated as separate deities, think about that for a second).
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that many Pagans are leery of people who blend traditions. Some believe that something is lost when you try to blend wildly different religions. Others wonder how a dual-trad or multi-trad person keeps it all straight in their heads (having to possibly memorize two or more different ritual scripts). Still others have seen sloppy eclecticism, the kind where someone just picks and mixes without any regard for the history of the individual elements (Hello, pretty much the entire New Age movement, I’m glaring in your general direction.) Many Heathens will LOUDLY caution against incorporating any non-Heathen thing in their practice (while simultaneously suggesting that the newbie look at such non-Heathen cultures as the Sami people). Most agree that it wouldn’t be wise to invoke two deities from different pantheons into the same ritual space.
However, I think what these cries of EXCLUSIVITY! really don’t account for is the nature of deities themselves. These people will criticize, say, a person who honours both Norse and Celtic deities or someone like Sarduriur Freydis Sverresdatter (whose words you read a few posts back) who identifies as a Norse Kemetic because they don’t exclusively devote themselves to one pantheon.
This attitude, quite frankly, pisses me off.
It doesn’t take into account the fact that a deity, an individual with their own thoughts and feelings, might call a person from another tradition to do something for them. I hate to break it to these people, but sometimes, despite a person’s best efforts, these things just happen. If a deity came up to me and was like “Hey, Gef, do something for me!” do you honestly think I’m really going to tell them. “No, sorry, you’re not in the right pantheon, why don’t you go bug your devout followers?” I’m sure it will go over well. Some of these people make a big deal out of how hard their polytheism is, but it never seems to occur to them that deities would ever *gasp* go to someone else besides their devout worshipers. Yes, it does happen, and when it does, the hapless mortal doesn’t really have any control over it.
What do you mean, deities are independent beings? What? Did you expect deities to stay in the little boxes you assigned to them for eternity? Oh, I know, some people are so convinced that the deities will only ever be satisfied with their perfectly-accurate-painstakingly-reconstructed-100%-pure-Germanic-ritual-recited-in-an-appropriately-old-language that why would they settle for the devotion of a Vanacelt, or a Norse Kemetic, or (gods forbid) a Norse Wiccan? OH NOEZ NOT A NORSE WICCAN!
So, the next time you feel the urge to criticize a dual-trad or multi-trad person, remember that there’s a possibility that their deities like them that way, just as they are.