Why syncretic?

Originally I described myself as multi-trad, as it easily summed up the fact that I work in multiple (usually reconstructionist) traditions. A few months ago, some discussion involving terminology came to the front with other people who also work within multiple traditions. My friend Erynn posted some interesting thoughts on the subject of eclecticism vs, syncretism, and I found myself agreeing with how she was approaching the two words.
What usually happens with me is I will get “tapped” by a God or spirit. As I start to learn about T/them, inevitably I find myself looking at their culture. In order to understand a God fully, you have to understand the culture from whence they originate. To do anything less is disrespectful in my book.
I don’t seek to make some grand meta-tradition with my various Gods. When I honor Them, I honor them within cultural context as I can, as well as with my own personal rites when I feel so moved (or I don’t know enough of Their rites yet). I won’t be blotting to Wepwawet or talking to Bragi or Odin during Senut. They’d look at me funny, for one thing. As Erynn points out:
“Eclecticism and syncretism aren’t about cooking everything together in the same pot. They’re more like creating a satisfying, multicultural meal that includes favorites and harmonious dishes from many lands, with many ingredients. It takes great skill and a strong knowledge of ingredients to have it all come out right and be satisfying for everyone joining you.”

I know I am far from the only Pagan of any sort who’s involved in multiple traditions. I’m also sure there are a lot more of us than we know*. Hopefully the dialog will continue as more of us crawl out of the woodwork.
I am also still considering the use of the term syncretic and wondering how well it fits in my psyche. The jury may still be out, but I find part of me likes the idea of possibly reclaiming a term and potentially reshaping it.

*And I am not counting in ye generic neopagans who do perform the “one pot cooking” method and ignore much historical and mythological record. Sometimes it’s also a recipe for total disaster.


One comment on “Why syncretic?

  1. This is also something I’ve been thinking about quite frequently as of late. On a trip to visit a friend of mine who practices Druidry, she introduced me to a friend of hers, who is a Celtic recon. And I had always described myself as an eclectic. It was in response to the one-word shuffle. When ppl ask “what are you” it seems like most of the time they’re searching for a single word identifier. And given my attraction to various cultures, various pantheons, I have always considered myself thus. She seemed rather offended at the idea of drinking with an “eclectic”. Apparently we were working with two completely different perceptions of the term. For her it was the generic reaching out to incorporate different personalities into a single unified thing without any serious consideration, and for me it was the embodiment of drawing from various ideas, cultures, and representations. But I hadn’t given any serious thought about the differences between eclecticism and syncretism until very recently.

    Granted it would be nice to have answers to mysteries, and to have a working system that fills the gaps, instead of leaving them open to ridicule, but one thing that I’ve observed over the years is my unabashed affinity for chaos. And I recognize that we can’t always have a system that settles these concerns. Sometimes there are mysteries we cannot account for. I don’t necessarily feel that “we’re not meant to know” or that “god/goddess knows what’s best for us” are appropriate answers either.

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