I am proud to be an Eclectic Pagan, i.e. a pagan who draws from many different traditions, rather than following only one path. Beliefs and rituals that I have incorporated into my own spirituality include Shinto, Wicca, Hellenism, Asatru, Celtic Paganism, and plenty of other traditions as well. I find this suits me better than following a single path, and here’s why:
1. I am new to paganism. Therefore, I think it’s important for me at this stage to be as open-minded as possible, and research into the many different forms of paganism as much as I can, instead of committing myself to one path without fully exploring all options. I can see how some new pagans may prefer to stick to one path for the added structure this provides (and if they’re being mentored or practising paganism mainly within a coven then they may have to do this anyway), but as a mainly solitary pagan, eclecticism suits me better.
2. I strongly lean towards Shinto, which is a highly syncretic religion and is rarely practised in isolation in Japan. To the Japanese, mixing religions is a natural part of daily life – your average Japanese may have a Shinto christening, a Christian-style church wedding, and a Buddhist funeral, and see nothing at all wrong with this. As someone who has lived in Japan for an extended period, I’ve come to model my own spiritual approach on the Japanese way of thinking.
3. I suspect that our ancestors took a more eclectic approach to religion – there’s plenty of evidence for this, such as the abundance of pagan trappings in Christian rituals and symbols. And even in pre-Christian Europe I’m sure plenty of mixing and matching went on, especially as so little was written down; the Romans, for example, were quite keen on syncretism, which is why there is so much overlap between Roman and Celtic deities, not to mention the integration of Egyptian deities such as Isis into Roman beliefs.
4. More fundamentally, I believe that paganism is at the heart of all religions. It is like a spider’s web, with all beliefs woven and connected strand by strand. I recommend (as always) reading Frazer’s Golden Bough for elaboration, but the way I see it, paganism is religion at its most basic level, and so all paths are essentially the same thing.
5. Eclectic paganism allows you to easily adapt to your local environment. For example, where I live we have so many foxes that to venerate the Shinto fox-deity Inari seems very appropriate. Then there’s my local coven, Medway Pagans. Their practices are based mainly on Wicca, and so even though magick does not interest me as much as the more religious side of paganism, I nevertheless honour many Wiccan traditions because that is what the coven follows, and therefore what I am familiar with.
6. To me, eclecticism is a more progressive form of religion, one in which the idea that you follow any spirituality is more important than what those beliefs actually are. This allows for more acceptance of the beliefs of others, less dogmatism, and more opportunities for spiritual growth by embracing new ideas.
7. To quote Azeem from that rather cheesy movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, “Allah loves wondrous variety.”