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Today it was warm again, in the upper 70s and sunny, which pleased my creaky bod to no end. I walked down and mailed out the package to my brother and grabbed a few groceries on the way home.

Tonight is my flamekeeping shift as well, and I lit up the altar at sunset. A little later I got a ping from [livejournal.com profile] activegnome about a midnight showing of Spirited Away down at the Egyptian, so I popped into the car and headed down to catch the movie. While it took me 20 minutes to find parking (about par for the hill on a Friday night), I did finally find a free spot only about four blocks from the Egyptian. The movie was fun on the big screen, but it was dubbed rather than subtitles, and the print wasn't that good, particularly toward the end, where there seemed to be quite a lot of spotting and other issues.

I spent a fair bit of time today poking through the photos from my brother's visit, which resulted (as you probably noticed) in a bunch of photo posts. I only put 4-6 in each one so that my mom could actually load the pages at some point, even if it's really slow. Hope you'll like them, mom!

I got a snarky anonymous comment in one of my posts from last week about polypraxy being a preexisting term. Fair enough -- I didn't know about it when I started writing this stuff. A google websearch on "polypraxy" turned up my posts and this one from 2008 from a Christian site debating whether polypraxy or polydoxy would be a preferred term, so I can't say as it's exactly a widely-used term and quite honestly, I'd never seen it before. And if that blog is trying to decide which term should be used, I don't think it's exactly an old one that's been around forever either.

Of course, when one is tossing about those Greek and Latin bits, compound words like this are going to come up out of the ground at some point. I'm using it specifically in terms of Pagan polytheisms without reference to any potential Christian usages that might have preexisted.

So, snarky anonymous commenter, don't be a dick. Your comment was sent to the great bit bucket in the sky and I have addressed your point. You may now fuck off and DIAF.

This cranky comment brought to you by Erynn's Achy Hips.
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My essay "Polypraxy: A Multitudinous Future" was published today on the Patheos website. Drop on by and give it a peek.
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This week over at Patheos.com they're having a "future of Paganism" series. I talked about a couple of the essays there yesterday; today I tossed together a two page essay of my own on polypraxy, based on a post I made some time back. About half or so of the essay is from my LJ post on the topic, with the rest being a little expansion on the idea. I sent it off to Star this afternoon. She says it'll probably be up tomorrow sometime. I'll post a link when she sends it to me.

Now if only I could knock out that Brigid essay for [livejournal.com profile] alfrecht's anthology!

Polypraxy

Aug. 16th, 2009 04:39 pm
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A lot of folks talk about Paganism in its varying manifestations as being not a religion of belief but one of practice. Generally speaking, I agree with this assessment. Belief is all well and good -- I believe in spirits and deities and that magic works -- but when the rubber hits the road, practice is where things really happen in spiritual and ethical communities. You can believe all kinds of wonderful things, but if you never act on them, you might as well not believe either.

In monotheistic religions we see manifestations of orthodoxy (unity of belief) and in many of them we see orthopraxy (unity of practice) as well. Calling various types of Paganism, including CR, religions of practice doesn't point to uniformity, though. In Celtic cultures, practices varied from village to village, so it's hard to claim an orthopraxy in any meaningful sense. In Gardnerian Wiccan circles, you can usually expect to get something that doesn't vary a whole lot from group to group. There is a certain orthopraxy beneath the varied personal practices. A Gardnerian can, generally, expect their initiation rituals to be the same from group to group in a particular line.

The same can't be said in reconstructionist religions for the simple reason that we don't usually have handed down texts of rituals to work from. We can all look at the same texts and come away with different interpretations and different ways of ritualizing the content of those texts. Individuals in a community may influence one another's interpretations and practices, but even within a small local community like the Seattle CR schmooze group we have different approaches, different interests, and different types of focus on the material. We have folks who are interested in Irish or Scottish materials and folks interested in Welsh materials. We experiment with different types of ritual based on the sources to see what happens and how it all works -- if it does at all.

And so what we see in the Pagan community at large, and within many reconstructionist communities as subgroups of the Pagan community, is what can really only be called polypraxy -- a multiplicity of practices based on variations in source materials, interpretations, and localized bioregional expressions.

Polypraxy happens in Ireland, where the festivals for Lá Fhéill Bríde (Imbolc) vary from one town to another in the same county. In CR approaches to the same holy day, localized manifestations are going to be a feature of the movement by the very nature of human spiritual experience and its interpretation. One group might focus on the weaving of Brigid's crosses and putting out the Brat Bríd, while another looks at ways to bring in aspects of the cross-dressing Biddy Boys traditions and public processional, and a third deals with Bríg Ambue and the purification of outsiders who are then welcomed into the community as full participants.

None of these approaches are incorrect, nor does any group have to have all of them to be a "real" CR group celebrating a culturally appropriate festival. It's possible to have a philosophy of polypraxy within a movement and be very much true to both the originating culture, the source texts, and the spiritual impetus of the individuals who make up the modern movement without any of it being inauthentic. Each of these rituals address different needs in the particular community where the rituals occur, all of them based on traditional literary sources or folk practices.

Ritual and actual practice is important. It's still uncommon to see discussion in the community of rituals and their results. While one can find rituals posted on the web here and there, there's no indication of whether many of these rituals have ever actually been performed as written and even less of what happened when they were done. This is part of the reason I post about things like my experiences with the warrior rituals, both as a participant and as a recipient of the rituals, and about my incubation chamber work and my wilderness vigil rituals. It's why I posted about my ritual work surrounding the making of my ogam set. It's why I post about what doesn't work as well as about what does. It's also why the local group held a panel discussion at PCon this year about the warrior ritual we performed last year and why we hope to do one this year for the warrior return ritual as well. I know that this discussion opens me to criticism, but that's okay; I hope that my own openness and the openness of our local community in these matters will encourage others to write about their own work, to share their own ritual experiences, and to enrich the community through their sharing.

Writing a ritual and posting it on the web doesn't mean it's been tested or that it works. There are no guarantees. Things can sound fantastic on paper but have really poor results for a variety of reasons ranging from impossible stage directions to lines that end up making everyone laugh in the wrong place. Until we talk about our experiences and share both our successes and failures -- and our modifications to our practices based on those experiences -- it's hard to develop a shared community of functional ritual experiences. Because so many CRs practice alone it can be difficult to develop community ritual, and reports of community ritual are few and far between, particularly those that include a discussion of the process and the results. People should absolutely post ritual scripts, even if they haven't been performed yet, but it's important to note in that case that the script is one that hasn't been done. Asking for feedback is good, too, and shows an openness to dialogue with the community. Posting the script for a ritual that has been performed can be greatly enhanced by including discussion of the logistics and the results, as well. It will benefit everyone, and that's a good thing.

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