An Creideamh S in the Heart of Cascadia


Religion vs Tradition

Posted by Erin nighean Brghde on May 27, 2014 at 11:35 PM

As I spend time in the online spheres of contemporary polytheists, and read about contemporary polytheist worldviews and practices, I understand that these practitioners primarily relate with their polytheism as 'religion,' and that they understand religion to be a discrete entity in and of itself, to be selected, rejected, or changed at will.  I have come to learn that I don't relate with this mindset.

While I can appreicate the modern impulse to break free of what western society had so long imposed via near-eastern monotheism and its attending power structures, and that I myself do benefit from the freedom of choice this impulse has manifested, I am somewhat turned off by the very western idea of viewing 'freedom of religion' as the freedom to view the religions of the world as existing in some kind of existential shopping mall, to be browsed and tried on at will, bought and taken home for a time, then dropped off at the used-religion store with a sigh of dismay or apathy, to head off to 'religion-shop' again.  I am also not drawn to the idea of 'god-collecting' just to give worship, or develop personal spirituality.  What these forms of discreteness do, to my mind,  is amplify the sense of alienation that western culture and worldview emanate and perpetuate, through initially the rejection, and now amnesia, of our ancestral roots. 

A religion is a thing to practice, to develop, to name.  When one identifies with ones religion, one is identifying with a modern western concept, that of religion as an entity independent of culture, which might look to it as a mine for digging up elements which might enhnace ones personal practice, but does not view culture as the body of a tradition which is collectively owned by a people, delivered to them by their elders. 

Tradition, conversely, is the collective body of worldview, mindset, and culture of a people, including its spiritual expressions and teachings.  Religion exists within it, and in tandem with its other elements.  Tradition contains roots, delivered by the ancestors, if no longer directly by elders, and binds one by duty to pass on to future generations what one receives and learns.  Tradition is a root and a thread, which is both grounding and connective; both a spring and a river, which is nourishing and encompassing.  Tradition is also a living thing, for we, through our personal experiences within our generation, in turn shape it to better address our needs in our present time and place.  But each generation must respect and adhere to the integrity of Tradition, and not soil its wellspring, or alter it into unrecognizeable forms which no longer resonate with the nature of its roots.  In spirit, the Ancestors are always available to guide and counsel in the traditional ways, so we are never alone with Tradition, even if we walk our traditional paths in a seemingly solitary way.  One is always surrounded by Ancestors, and proceeded by descendants, to whom we are duty-bound to deliver Tradition, in some manner or other. 

It is ultimately within Tradition that I find roots and meaning, connection and relationship, because Tradition is a concept of traditional/indigenous thinking, rather than a concept of modernist, western thinking, the latter of which is more oriented to analysis than connection, study than relationship, scholarship than experience.  I belong to Tradition and my Ancestors, so I am vitally connected with them, rooted to and grounded within them, and they provide me context and guidance, company and comfort. 

Do you resonate with Tradition in these ways?  If so, I'd love to talk and share with you.  Leave me a comment, and let's chat.  :)

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