The Roots of Things

With the recent posts that have been going up about modernity and embracing the values and piety of the traditions of various polytheisms there is certainly a very pertinent issue of difference that needs to be addressed, and that is a differing of attitude and approach to the subject. It seems to be, in my opinion, that biggest gulf of difference, especially in the subject of modernity, is how well there are roots present. It is no secret that one of the biggest problems with Americans is that during our formation following the Enlightenment that there has been a conscious effort to separate ourselves from what the founders considered the superstition and evils of the motherland(s). Whereas Europeans, even if raised to believe in their Christianized countries that the religion of their ancestors was in some manner inferior to that of the later rise and saving grace of Christianity, America rose in such a manner that there was an obvious desire to separate itself from any sense of where it came from. It is such a hodge podge of different  peoples in its founding, and yet with a commonality that during its early history there was a purposeful effort to completely disassociate itself from its heritage….going so far as to cause large language changes. Most of us have ancestors who came to this country with the firm belief that they were no longer of their native heritage but performed a complete exchange of identity to being “Americans”. I would wager this is less of a problem with more recent immigrants, but there was a time in the not too distant past where this was a prevailing attitude and the result of which is that most Americans feel positively rootless. Most of us don’t have ties to the aboriginal Native American tribes (or what ties we do have of heritage is not enough to establish a significant relationship with a tribe anyway.

Therefore we are cut off not only from our ancestral roots (which is not even something suffered from European colonies where people still strongly identified with their motherlands), but we are also cut off from the roots of the land in which we find ourselves. As a result Americans become “creative”.  Lacking roots, and a cultural lack of appreciation for spiritual and hereditary roots, most are just doing custom blends of religion. Case in point even in what is broadly called Wicca, you will find traditional Wiccans to be a very small minority in this country versus all the Eclectic custom Wiccan-like mixes and the popularity of New Age spirituality, faux-native “shamans” and so on. Just look at early books regarding “goddess spirituality” and the like you will find the same kind of rampant in-cohesive jumble. Paganism and polytheism has sprung with all of these inherent problems that cause huge relationship problems between pious tradition focused polytheists and recons and other pagans and polytheists who find them to be too rigid. Yet on the same taken some of these of the Recon sort find the mystic and devotional piety of other polytheists to be bewildering. This is perhaps to another attitude prevalent in this country that despite all its attempts to disassociate early on from practices considered superstitious or inappropriately intense, that anyone who does so is viewed by the highest lens of criticism. Of course Romans themselves had this attitude which gives rise to the whole concept of superstition, but Americans really take it to another level.

The result is that among Americans particularly, most forms of intense devotion is viewed with not only mockery but also suspicion, and instead there is a rigid clinging to what is considered an enlightened modern approach to the gods that removes one further from such expressions. It is pretty bad when to actually worship the gods as gods rather than giving praise to the force of archetype is considered fairly inferior. Because of this those polytheists who feel a lasting need beyond the individual spiritual life to work towards a sense of connection and establish roots for those that follow tend to be rather outspoken about what is an important matter. We are not Europeans living amid the ancient roots and living within cultures that have adapted modernity and appreciation of their heritage over the centuries. I have enjoyed time in Europe being in this environment and among devoted Europeans and it is quite wonderful. It is quite a different experience, and very valuable to be able to appreciate what would be considered a spectacle here. Of course that doesn’t mean that they aren’t without their own problems but rather that it is quite different. I have had the privilege of being able to attend rituals in Greece that were filled with honoring the gods, and then on the same token participated in rituals with Americans that felt like little above social hour and “weeee” lets have fun mentality. Very few people in my own locality are interested in the gods for the sake of the gods, and just about any deity or ritual can be substituted in the framework of a community festival without adverse impact because they are not there for the honoring the deity but for enjoying the ritual. This so blatantly different from what I experienced worshiping in Greece that it is almost heartbreaking.

Therefore when people speak of restoring roots and piety it is typically not an evangelical “you must do everything *this* way” (and in fact in my own books you will find that I give suggestions but don’t even provide ritual formats because I am not interested in dictating how to do something) but rather a plea to embrace a spiritual heritage that is there that most of us have not had the privilege of experiencing. To not be in such a hurry to create everything new and throw old everything came before. To embrace and honor the expressions of piety that have been a significant part of polytheistic relationship with the gods from times past. It is about confronting the shortcomings of our culture that potentially disrupt our relationship with the gods. And you know…with security of identity and being well rooted you may find that there are less bitter folks out there in regards to how they relate to their former religion that they were reared in. Being spiritually insecure in a specific adopted religion causes a lot of observable hostility between religions as I have noticed.  Having firm roots and spiritual identity does a lot to help that. The irony is of course no matter how much many Americans want something to spiritually connect to, many of them also go screaming in the other direction when it comes to any sense of participating in an established spiritual tradition. For some folks this works perfectly well for them as they are not interested in participating in a given tradition, but for others it seems rather like a Dr Jeckell/Mr Hyde type of problem that can rear its head. This can also, and has observably done so in the past, caused problems between Europeans who have a secure foundation with their roots, and Americans who aren’t interested in any input on their own tradition building from Europeans. It is rather funny because when you think of it each side has something of the same opinion of the other that someone is trying to dictate how things are done, when I don’t think that this is the case at all for either side but is largely a miscommunication of what is being intended. Thankfully it does seem that fewer Americans these days are having such a knee jerk reaction to European expressed devotion and spirituality than what I observed years ago on recon forums up until even more recently. All the same the differences of what is going on behind what is being said is very important for both sides of the equation.

Just to put matters into a bit of perspective….

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2 thoughts on “The Roots of Things

  1. Hi, we just posted really similar replies somewhere about American polytheism. So I’m saying hello since perhaps we should know each other. Hi!

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