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So, we’re on the second week of I in the Pagan Blog Project. Not the most fruitful of letters, I suppose, but one must make do with what one has. So here we go.
Indigenous means belonging to a place. A lot of people, Pagans in particular, like indigenous ways. Native American tribes often get hit with people who come to them wanting to learn the “old ways” that are “indigenous.”
Most Native Americans, however, aren’t really that happy to share. Because their ways are indigenous, and belong to the tribe, and why should they share with those who are not of their tribe? Ask almost anyone (except perhaps the on wanting to get to those ways) and they will say that after all the Native Americans have suffered, it’s pretty much their right not to share if they don’t want to.
Of course, the thing so many Pagans tend to forget (or ignore, most likely) is that we have our own Indigenous ways. Of course, this is complicated (at least for those of European origin) by a few things.
Christianity really did a number on us, and a lot of people can’t seem to fully get over the barrier of “false gods/fake gods” which I think is why we see a lot of “soft” polytheism. It’s a way to have non-Abrahamic gods without having to face a lot that comes with actually accepting the Norse, Celt, Roman, Greek, and other Gods and Goddesses are real.
Part of it is Racism, in that because in the past some people who were of European origin were racists, now anything or anyone that takes pride in their European heritage is a racist (oh Gods do we Heathens get hit with that by everyone thanks to the Nazis, but it really happens to any of those who base in European practices). Let’s face it, pretty much no one likes to be called a racist. And we all know in our hearts that if we went around being proud of where we came from, and what our people did, there would be hundreds of people or more jumping on us screaming we were racists and evil. And despite the fact that those calling us evil would be coming from a place and ideology we don’t believe in, for some reason so many Pagans give them the power to dictate belief and action.
Another is that the old ways of Europe (at least to a lot of people) are long gone a thousand years or more. I once read a joke that to an British person, 200 miles is a long way, while to an American 200 years is a long time. When we deal with history in class, a thousand years can pass in just a few hours of material. It gives us a distorted view of time. A thousand years of Christianty seems like forever, but few people ever really note that the Roman Republic/Empire lasted pretty close to a thousand years itself, and was pagan through out most of it. Most Pagan religions can be traced back to the origins of their respective peoples, if not before.
So Pagans scatter all over the place. They look at Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Native Americans, and everywhere else but Europe. And those that do look at Europe, tend not to look at indigenous ways in Europe. They tend to look more at the High Magics and stuff, Hermetics and the like, or stuff based off of mysticism that tends to have a fair bit of the Abrahamic thrown in.
And when confronted with anything indigenous (or at least indigenous to the Norse/Teutonic) they scream: “Ieee!! New Right! Racist! Facist! Run! Run! Runnnnn!!!!!” Or “Ieee!! Facist! Racist! Evil! killkillkilll!!!!!!!”
At least that the impression I get. Maybe I’m hanging out in the wrong places.
I really wish people would stop that. It’s bad enough we get it from the non-Pagans. We really shouldn’t have Pagans doing that to fellow Pagans. Then again, those that do so are often more political than Pagan, and make their Paganism fit their political view point, rather than the other way around. I think I’ve talked about that other places.
Steve McNallen, head of the Asatru Folk Assembly, had a blog post up the other day: Asatru is About Drinking From Our Own Well which I really liked. It’s about his experience at a Pow Wow where he met a Native American Elder who told McNallen that “You’re not going to find what you’re looking for here. You need to drink from your own well.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to this. I don’t know if its because our ancestral ways came from our spirit, or our ancestors bred for those most capable of holding to their ways (civilization as evolutionary factor). Maybe it’s a mix of both. The Celtic ways are beautiful and fearsome. The Roman ways are glorious and powerful. The Greek are thoughtful and strong. The Egyptian are elegance and mystery. But as wonderful as they are, none of them fit me like the Norse. The Norse is where I come from. It is my well. My personality, my ways, my abilities and natures, they don’t fit anywhere else as well (though I will admit I probably could do okay as a Roman if I had too). And I think it’s that way for everyone. You can believe as you wish, you can even put together hundreds of different things to try and make a way that fits you. But that’s like taking hundreds of different puzzle pieces and using them to make a new puzzle. Sometimes it works, sometimes it even makes a very pretty picture. But it will never be what it would have been if you’d used all the same pieces. And while there are pieces missing from the old ways of Europe (the least from the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Slavs, and Norse, more for the Celts) you can still make an educated guess about what the missing stuff would look like. You might even find that the answer rises naturally to you if you practice long enough. It has for me at times.
And as for the whole “we’re so inter-bred that we can’t tell/it won’t matter” thing, so what? I’m only half Scandinavian. Just look at where you come from, and look at the ancestral, indigenous ways of your ancestors. Study all of them. You’ll find a place you fit.
Happiness lies in drinking from your own well, not in taking water from someone else’s.