Sunday, October 25, 2009


Correct action. Contrast this with orthodoxy, which is correct thought or belief.
At least within ADF (, a modern Druid group in which I am currently a member) the difference between the two is explained in a religious context. From what I have read/heard, Pagans back in the day were more concerned with orthopraxy: you do the ritual like it's supposed to be done, and the crops grow, the sun shines, and the Gods and ancestors are happy. It wasn't until the spread of Christianity a few hundred years after its beginning that orthodoxy began to be the cool new thing: so long as you have correct belief, God and Jesus love you and you'll make it to Heaven. Even within Christianity, the debate between faith vs. action has been going on ever since the Lutheran reformation; I intend to focus on how "right" and "correct" actions or thoughts go with religions of any stripe, particularly the Pagan ones.

Somehow I think you can't have one without the other: whether you want to argue that acting correctly will lead to thinking correctly or vice versa, it seems that one who acts correctly would know why they do it that way (and even if they don't, there must be some impetus for them to do what they do). But this can't be the case! Let's put this into context: For many years of my childhood, I went to church with my family and acted along with the service. I was even an altar kid at the end, and still I didn't feel like it was the right thing for me to do because I didn't believe in it.
On the other hand, you'd think that right belief leads to right action, yet this is also false; there are plenty of cases where folks say they're of a certain faith, yet don't go to church/service/ritual/whatever. Then do they really believe, or is it just a convenient thing to say and not to do also?

And I admit I have a bug up my butt when it comes to what one is "supposed" to do. Call me lazy, procrastinator, airhead, or what have you, but I'm not much for dogma and prescribed ways of doing things. Granted, when one is starting out it's nice to have examples for things; it's also good to learn what one can based on what has been going on for however long (hundreds or thousands of years, depending). But there comes a point when something like religion becomes intensely personal, and therefore unique to each individual. Members of a given faith may share big ideas, but even below the levels of denomination--even within a traditional Wiccan coven--each person will perceive things differently, have different thoughts and opinions, and therefore believe differently than anyone else.
How, then, to people see fit to say to someone, "Oh gods! You're doing it wrong!!!" when the particular details of that person's life and faith are not known?

True, there are many things to be said for tradition and keeping the faith. I grew up diet Catholic (Anglican Episcopalian) and I'm dating a Jew--tradition can be very important for feeling a connection to one's ancestors, be they of blood or of spirit. And it's a very intense and personal experience to know where you came from and how things came to be. But even ancestry becomes very personal; one may be of German descent and share the ways of those many tribes who lived in Central Europe back in the day (like from the Bronze Age), but get closer to the present and certain families form and grow and join and disappear; wars are won and lost, farms are replaced with factories and the world changes. Religions also change, the faces of the Gods as we know them are very different than those of the Gods known to Saxons and Vandals and Brythonic tribes.

I learn what I can, when I can--I strive to live up to my own label of "informed eclectic" (even though I'm not all that eclectic), since the "plug-and-play" style of ritual doesn't jive with me and the Gods I associate with. Even so, I don't always act on what I learn and I don't change what I've come to believe just so it fits with some "ideal" of the religion as it was however long ago. Everything goes through my filter(s) and things evolve. Belief isn't a lot of words set in stone: it's a natural process and survival of the fittest plays a huge part. They grow and change and die and even are reborn sometimes. They are remembered and forgotton, honored and despised or just ignored.

I guess that's all I have to say.

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