I was chatting today with some friends on Facebook, and mentioned that I have taken to calling my path fusion witchcraft. My path is very eclectic, in what I feel is a good way. I am interested in, read about and learn from many sources. I kind of blend things together so that they work for me.
There is kind of a belittling going on in the magical community towards eclectics. It has become almost a dirty word, like someone who doesn't have the fortitude to pick a path and stick with it, or someone who mashes bits and pieces of different traditions together without any thought just because they felt like it. I don't consider this to be what I do at all. If I were to find a tradition that fully encapsulated who I am, what I believe and what I want to do, I would be willing to do what was needed to be a member of that tradition. But I have yet to find a tradition that doesn't have parts that I just can't get behind.
What I find particularly insulting is the belief that a lot of people seem to spout on about: that people who combine practices are being disrespectful to the original sources/peoples who held a practice originally. Particularly irritating is the fact that often the people getting all riled up about the perceived insult aren't even a part of the original source. But I promise you, any practices that I partake in, anything that becomes a part of my path, for a moment or forever, are taken up in the spirit of reverence and honor. The fact that anyone can accuse another's religious practices as insulting...well I find that kind of offensive.
But back to fusion...making the comment that I practice fusion witchcraft got me to thinking about cooking. Fusion cooking is considered a wonderful thing, and rightly so. You take flavors, ingredients, techniques and recipes from different cultures and use them together to create new and wonderful things. I don't see fusion chefs trying to claim their French-Japanese creations are 'authentic historical French (or Japanese) recipes', and I don't see people complaining because these new fusion creations aren't traditional.
I think this is a great way to approach witchcraft (assuming you are not wanting to be a member of a particular tradition). Every culture in the world has their own way of doing things. They have techniques (where a chef might learn how to stir fry, a witch might learn how to cast a circle). They have ingredients (some things just aren't available in some areas, and some things are so available they get used in pretty much everything). They have recipes (we just call them spells *grin). They have cultural flavors (much like India is known curry and Ceremonial Magic is known for elaborate rituals and symbols). Many times you can recognize a practice, just by the things that are used, the words that are said or the general style.
Most people break into a magical practice in one of two ways: they read a 101 book or they read a book of spells. Learning from a 101 book is like taking a cooking class: it will typically teach you the methods of cooking, like how to chop, boil and bake. There might be some recipes you work with, but the focus is on learning the skills that you will need to be able to read and execute any recipe. Learning from a book of spells is like picking up a cookbook and just starting to make recipes. If you do what the recipe says, you will typically end up with a good result, but you won't know enough of the basic skills to be able to fix any problems that might come up....or be able to come up with your own recipes.
What happens given time and much practice is that you start to build your skills and recipes both. And in order to become a good cook, I think you need to work with a lot of both. Eventually, you will start to branch out on your own, and create your own dishes. A good dish can come about by absolute accident, but you are more likely to have good success by trusting your skills and thinking about other recipes you have made, and then using that information to blend together things that would taste good and use techniques that work well with those ingredients. Often a whole new dish can be created just by changing a few key ingredients in a recipe.
When I started out, I had a book of spells. I worked other people's spells for a long time, finding ones that did what I wanted to accomplish and working through them. But often I found that I didn't have the right ingredients, or part of the wording felt clunky to me, or it worked with a deity I was unfamiliar with. Through reading 101 books, I started learning the hows and whys of things: how circles are cast, why tools are used, what different stones mean.
I think that when I first started working on my own creations, that is when I feel I really became a witch (as opposed to just being a person who did spells...kind of like the difference between feeling you are a cook and feeling like you are someone who cooks food). Now, when I learn about different practices, I think about it like expanding my toolbox. Maybe this culture has a new tool that I have never used, and by learning about how they use it I can see how it might be useful in my path. Perhaps they have a local plant or animal that plays a huge role in their beliefs that I can learn to work with.
Another thing I find really powerful about approaching different traditions with the intent of learning about them and how they might be incorporated into your personal path is that you find yourself automatically trying to see how practices are similar to things you already know. Much you might explain that a malasada is kind of like a donut, you could compare the LBRP to circle casting. While it is definitely helpful in my personal practice, I also find it really useful in talking with other people about their paths. Common language helps dialogue happen.
I think fusion witchcraft has huge potential, and that if people can shift their thinking to be inclusive instead of exclusive, we can open up a whole new page and create something beautiful.