What's Wrong With This Picture?

"I was taught by my Welsh grandmother, who is descended from an unbroken line of Druids."

"I practice the faith of the Inca exactly as it was observed hundreds of years ago."

 We've all encountered it. Whether in a book, on the Internet, or in person, there's always someone willing to make claims like the above. Whenever I encounter this person, my first, gut response is always the following:

 "Yeah, right."

     I especially dislike these claims (and despise the patently false ones) because they assume that I, as a fellow Pagan, can be easily had.  Although it would be nice to think that pre-Christian faiths (especially those of Europe, which were hit hardest) have survived intact into the present day, the chances that it actually happened are slim to nil.  


To illustrate my point, let's create a hypothetical situation. An Italian family worships the deities of Rome's Classical period. During the first, forced conversion to Christianity, they manage to keep their faith hidden. It is then passed down, mother to child, in the very seat of the Roman Catholic Empire through burnings, Inquisitions, and Crusades, not to mention centuries during which Christianity is the only legal religion. Yet no one speaks a word of the family's true beliefs, and those who are suspected and fall into the hands of the authorities keep their mouths shut, although it means torture and death. Finally, the family emigrates to the New World. 

     In America, which has largely adopted the values of its Puritan founders, the family pretends to subscribe to Puritan beliefs and moral codes. Though America is a mecca of people from all sorts of backgrounds, it's highly unlikely that this family will meet up with another Jupiter-worshipping family. Therefore, anyone who marries into the family must be converted from their own faith to that of our Italian immigrants, and if this is not feasible, the faith must be passed on from the Pagan parent to his or her children while still keeping the other partner in the dark. Yet somehow, this family manages to keep the old ways alive and successfully hidden. They continue this trend continues through the equally Church-going 18th century, through the 1950s (when everyone's eye was on their neighbor) and into the present day. 

     The family has kept to the old worship at great personal loss to themselves - the relatives dead to Church purges, the living lie the family led to convince others they're a good, Church-going Christian people. The amount of secrecy needed to accomplish something like this successfully borders on the impossible. So along come the 70's, 80's, and 90's, when most Americans begin to understand that church and state really are seperate, and perhaps Christianity is not the only valid path to the Divine. Therefore, the youngest members of our Pagan family feel that they can take the true methods of worship preserved so painfully and carefully by their ancestors, and sell them to Joe Q. Public at Barnes & Noble for $14.99, without the slightest twinge of guilt. Perhaps it's just me, but the above situation seems a little unbelievable. I would hope that most Wiccans are more intelligent than to blindly accept anyone's claims to the contrary as true. 

      All of Europe, as well as parts of Russia and Africa, were subject to either Christian or Muslim rule for many years. Both of those faiths have an unfortunate history of removing or subverting elements contrary to their own religious beliefs. Certainly, many elements of Pagan cultures have been adopted into the Semitic religions. But the rammifications are that they were adopted into the Semitic religions, not the other way around. Therefore, I find it highly unlikely that anyone has received the methods of worship "exactly as the real (insert name of group) practiced them." 

     This is no less true for Native American beliefs. After years of persecution by white immigrants who usurped land, culture, and rights from American Indians, who can believe that there is really a man or woman among them willing to divulge their "true methods" of worship, which for so long needed to be carefully concealed from the mainstream American culture actively trying to destroy them. Just because a small number (and, although Wicca is growing as a religion, we are still small) of people have disavowed the belief that traditional religions (like Christianity) are the only Way, would it be enough to convince American Indians that we can be trusted completely with their ancient wisdom?   It seems rather unlikely, doesn't it? 

     Or, supposing that one member of a tribal religious group has exposed the inner workings of his faith, perhaps without the concent of other members. Can you really condone an action so blatantly conducted in the name of personal profit? How pure are someone's motives in that case? And, if this person was willing to reveal an ancient, exclusive and sacred part of their culture for money, fame, or the like, how hard would it be for that person to invent aspects of that culture to increase his book's shock value or marketing ability?  

     I have a feeling that most modern day Pagans discovered the Path in much the same way - through books, through college campus groups, or through the Internet.  I also know quite a few people whose families have been Pagan since the first explosion of the New Age in the 60's.  But to claim Craft ties much farther back than that is stretching things. Besides, what's wrong with practicing a relatively new (to the average Joe) faith? Certainly, if it gives you spiritual comfort, the Craft is as valid a belief system as any other, with no need of invented origins! Likewise, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in incorporating ideas from many cultures into your own scheme of the universe. But please don't pretend that your beliefs are the original way by which those religious systems were expressed. Wicca is struggling for mainstream acceptance as it is, and we only do ourselves a disservice by hindering it with false claims such as these. 

Let me know what you think! Email me!