"Hi? Is this thing on? One-two, one-two, eins-zwo, eins-zwo...
OK, so... Hello, my name is Faerie and I'm an Eclectic."
Those happy-go-lucky fluttering beings that form an undercurrent within the modern Paganism? Those strange persons who seem to be ridden with undecided-ness, who don't seem to be able to pick and choose any one religion to follow? Those greedy bastards who come over and steal from other people's religions?
Those annoying know-it-alls who think they're so much better than everybody else, because they can discuss several religions and do it with an authorative tone? Those sickly sweet fluffy bunnies, who pick and choose all the niceties of all the religions and discard everything that has even the whiff of "not nice" in it? Those who try and get it easy, those who try to have their cake and eat it too, those who detest researching anything deeper than the surface?
Basically: Those so afraid of labels they pick the most indefinite title they can find and use it, those who just can't do the right thing and settle for one religion, giving the whole of Paganism a bad name?
While the questions above may seem loaded with sarcasm, none of the claims in them are actually made up. Each and every single on of them is something I have had said - directly or indirectly - to me, or have read or heard them.
Eclectics are an easy target when some group needs to be the One Group responsible for something negative within the modern Pagan community and much of the blame for it can be put on Eclectics themselves, at least some of them.
Eclectics aren't a uniform group by any strength of the imagination and unless one is talking an actual Eclectic group with set beliefs within the group, no two Eclectics usually have the same kind of "mix" in their religiosity. With all this variation, it is relatively easy to comment even quite harshly on Eclectic Pagans and when one of them objects, say that "it isn't you, it's the other type of Eclectics we're objecting to!"
The thing is, no Eclectic with a working brain can say there aren't some Eclectics that wouldn't fit almost any kind of stereotype you care to come up with and thus can't in good conscience come back with "you're incorrect - Eclectics aren't <add your stereotype here>!".
Do the claims made of Eclectic Pagans have any truth to them? Well, to put it shortly: some do, some don't and most apply to some of the Eclectics out there but practically none of them fit on every one of them.
Eclectics do form an undercurrent within the modern Paganism. Happy-go-lucky, however, isn't a description that fits all of us. I hope I can shed some light on those that this definition doesn't apply to.
Not being able to pick and choose a religion is a claim that could be made on a number of Eclectics. However, for me and many others it isn't really a question of wavering between religions and not being able to choose, but a question of being truthful to oneself. If a religion doesn't fit *as it is* , is it more appropriate to just change aspects of that religion to suit yourself - or to take the fitting portions, leave the rest and form your own path? The Eclectic answer would be the latter, obviously. Many an Eclectic feels very strongly about "fitting the label before taking it" and some do wonder out loud about, say, some of the Neo-Wiccans who seem to just take the label while changing everything under it to fit their needs However, you won't usually see Eclectics trying to talk people over to dropping a label they see as ill-fitting. To each their own, says this Eclectic.
Stealing from other people's religions can be a tricky question By the definition of "stealing", this isn't what Eclectics do. What they take from established, existing religions isn't *taken* from those people practicing the religions - it's still there, it hasn't disappeared anywhere. However, putting myself to the point of view of somebody who gets pieces of hir religion taken and mutated, I can see the frustration and reasons for it. Quite likely what's taken is lifted from its original surroundings and misinterpretations can and do happen. However, the originating religion didn't *lose* anything when an Eclectic came over and took a piece. It is a question information and ideas, not physical belongings.
When I first heard the "authorative tone" -accusation (and it was truly made in an accusing tone), I was pretty much floored. I just couldn't fathom how being able to discuss several religions and being able to do it in an intelligent manner as being bad in any form or shape. Then I had a moment of revelation: I had encountered "religion specialists". Religion specialists are people who only step in a conversation if it has something to do with their religion. They don't waste time researching other religions; their hands are full with studying their own. They are used to debating their religion among their own folks and explaining it to outsiders, so an outsider not only *debating**their* religion with them with well thought-out responses, but debating other people's religions as well can seem somewhat bewildering Of course, this is just guessing.
Fluffies ah, everybody knows and "loves" them There are quite fluffy Eclectics out there, there's no denying that. There are those who actually do seem to pick and choose all possible kinds of "happy and light" aspects - or aspects they consider as such - from practically every religion out there in order to form a type of religiosity with none of the "dark" matter religions tend to have. For me, personally, this type of spirituality is not only quite unbalanced, but also so disconnected from any kind of reality I end up wondering what it actually is like to live in such a world .
Getting it easy by going Eclectic is a rather usual claim. Oh well, what can I say except for "try it out yourself!" There are, of course, Eclectics who do only scratch the surface and leave it at that, but for a thinking Eclectic walking that path is loads and loads of work and never-ending studying. From that point of view, following a set religion is the easy way. You can look to how things are done in one religion and get answers that way, while the Thinking Eclectic has to hit a pile of books, consult personal gnosis and even after that make it all fit together :-) You can walk the Eclectic path and take the easy way out - but when you're serious about your spirituality, it's anything but.
If I had to choose *the* comment / accusation on Eclectics I encounter most often, it's the "being afraid of labels" one. I have dealt with this question earlier on in this essay already, but let's go through some of it again, if only for the sake of it. Are Eclectics really afraid of labels or do they just feel one should properly fit a label before taking it? It can be a lot more difficult a question than it looks on the surface. I'd say a vast number of Eclectics would be happy to "take it easy", if they could in good conscience . They just feel they can't .
Last but not least - giving modern Paganism a bad name As much as one would want to be able to put the blame on Paganism's current status on one group, it just can't be done. It's the individuals of any Pagan faith who could be blamed, not the Eclectics. If I were a "vengeful" person, I'd point the "fluffy (etc)" image blame to the insta-Wiccans out there. However, I won't. They have as much the right of their religiosity as I have and in the end - who is to say who was right?
Every now and then I get asked why on Earth am I using a label that first of all doesn't really say anything and that also has a bad reputation.
Shouldn't I be using another term, like plain "Pagan" or just list all the influences I have? Aren't I worried about being stuck in the same folder as plenty of fluffies? The short answer to both of these questions is: "No."
The fact is, that at least in this point of my religious travel, Eclectic is what I am. My religiosity *is* a self-made construct with elements from various other paths as well as parts sprung up from my own personal gnosis. I might call my ways with a different name, but it wouldn't change the fact that by the standard definition of the word "eclectic" that is what my religiosity and practice is.
I actually like the fact that "Eclectic Pagan" is such a lose term and doesn't say too much. I'm not comfortable with taking on a label without actually fitting under it properly and "eclectic" is vague enough for me to fit in. I do usually just use "Pagan" and define closer with "Eclectic Pagan" if need be. Furthermore, simple "Pagan" doesn't tell that much of one's religious views either, now does it? When it comes to giving a list of influences.... Well, that could be quite a long list and would that tell much either? You'd have to ask separately which parts of which paths have ended up in my own practices.
I have occasionally been asked a question relating to the non-descriptive nature of the term "Eclectic": "Doesn't it get tiring to explain your eclectism, wouldn't it be easier if the label you use would say straight away what you believe?". It is actually quite rare I have to go into any deeper details on my religiosity. More often than not who are interested seem to settle for the term "Eclectic Pagan" and my writings as well as actually talking with me. Interestingly, this far those who have asked me to provide them with lists of influences are people who call themselves Wiccans, but do the "I'm Wiccan, but " -route
To use the phrase I've been using all too often in this essay: "To put it shortly" - For the moment I am an Eclectic. I have been the lone walker of my own path since I found my path. That happened 25 years ago. Still, I'm not stuck with being an eclectic - I can ditch it If I there is a religiosity fitting my own :-)
Written originally for Dragon Clan Online Witchcraft Course at the Cauldron - A Pagan Forum.