"Don't mix pantheons." I hear this frequently in Pagan circles. I have heard it for as long as I have been Pagan. And I've never heard it challenged. The idea is that we aren't supposed to invoke Kali and Loki in the same ritual, for example, or Zeus and Odin, or ... pick two any deities from any two pantheons.
This injunction is often made by hard polytheists, but is made by some soft-polytheists too. Often they are quite open about their disdain for those who mix pantheons. It is seen as a form of immaturity or ignorance. Others see it as a sign of disrespect. I hear this no-mixing-pantheons talk so often, it seems it must happen a lot, so I wonder why all the pantheon-mixers aren't speaking up in their defense.
I’ve always wanted to be consistent. Walk one path with loyal dedication. But it was not to be.
Born with a perverse need to be both sceptical and spiritual, I have a checkered religious history. I’ve been a Jehovah Witness, Anglican altar girl, and agnostic (a few times). Twenty years ago though, I found Paganism. Instead of dogma and moralizing, it offered me a celebration of life and a treasure trove of symbols and traditions to explore.
Before I begin this, which will be my very first blogpost for Pagan Square, I wish to thank Anne Newkirk Niven for inviting me to be part of this wonderful online community. I count it as a great honour and privilege to be able to share my thoughts and experiences here and hopefully have many fruitful dialogues and discussions with those who log on. I do not see myself as a teacher, but a fellow traveller on the spiritual path who has much to learn from other pilgrims. I spent almost two decades of my life as an Anglican (Episcopal) seminarian/ priest and, through it all, never considered Christianity as ‘the’ way, but merely one spiritual path among the many thousands on offer around our enchanted globe. However, this open and eclectic attitude made me as many enemies as friends, and I did not last. I will thus begin my new monthly Blog with an introductory piece so you can see where I’m coming from.
Isaiah Berlin begins his famous essay The Fox and the Hedgehog by quoting the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin uses this saying to contrast two different intellectual styles: Hedgehogs “relate everything to a single central vision, one system,” while foxes “pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory ... seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves.” (Isaiah Berlin, The Fox and the Hedgehog: An essay on Tolstoy’s View of History, (Guernsey: Phoenix, 1992) 3)
In Pagan terms, Berlin’s approach presents an interesting way to think about what we mean by “eclectic,” what it is that we’re contrasting eclecticism with, and the benefits and potential downfalls of both approaches.