Cultural Framing

As I talked about briefly in Archetypes and Aliases, one of the foci of Waincraft is that of localized diversity and adaptation, taking our cues from nature itself, which selects for adaptation and difference to create and maintain homeostatic biomes with all the exuberance, colors and mind-boggling new creations it can muster.

In the context of spirituality, however, modern religious thought tends to focus on globalized homogeneity and overarching absolute principles (no coincidence in my mind, as those are much the same concepts that drive our pursuit of global monoculture in the Western world). It’s no wonder that, of the worlds largest religions ranked by stated adherents, most of them have a history of dissuading or even violently stamping out difference and nonconformity (indeed, some of that still happens in certain places and environments even today). Even among new religions such as paganism, enough bleed-through from the global culture exists that, every now and then, there rage fierce debates and occasionally even violence over differences in opinion, belief, practice and even personality, often very minor differences.

But what does this striving for diversity look like, and how can it be used with regards to Waincraft?

One of the key values and concepts of Waincraft is orthopsychy, the sense that the most important thing about religion/spirituality, and even life, is that each person carries their own place, their own destiny and importance in the great web of life, and the ultimate goal of existence is filling that place, being that person that one was born to be. This is a concept that has been dealt with before, to a degree, by some cultural religions, most notably Hinduism and its caste system, where each person’s role in life was pre-determined by the situation of their birth. Waincraft recognises the limitations of this kind of oversweeping generalization though, and seeks the essence of the concept – destiny and place are individual and self-determined in accordance with existence itself. For example, my true place can no more be determined by the wishes, hopes, and desires of my family than I can wish myself into being a butterfly. Certainly, expectation and obligations may line up with one’s soul-place in a manner pleasing to all involved, but conversely, those expectations, obligations and subtle (or not-so-subtle) pressures can keep us from discovering who and what we really Are.

And so, in the pursuit of orthopsychy, Waincraft realises that each person experience of the Powers, the Tribes, the Folk, concepts of life and death, relevant holy days, and all the other “backbones” of religion can, and will, vary, especially in such a biolocative framework. For it is Waincraft’s goal to connect you back to the land and world in which you live, that your ancestors and descendants know, where everything is alive and there is no unsacred place.

Thus the Waincraft model strives to separate out the essence of its influences* so that those essences can be felt, honored, and worked with in a variety of disimilar environments, from the desert to the rainforest, the sea valley to the mountains.

But cultural input is what keeps ideas alive and viable. And so, by necessity, there must be some sort of culture that this framework can be laid over, to blend and meld with, if it ever has any hope of being relevant. In an indigenous culture, this framework (not Waincraft per se, but the framework of pan-animism, biolocality and regional diversity) would have been built up over centuries of the same people living with the same animals and spirits on the same landscape. Sadly, a large number of modern people do not have that luxury or enviro-cultural support, through the influences of global immigration; dominant monotheism and other dualisms that tend to reject the natural world in favor of the mental or spiritual; the destruction of local natural places and wildlife in the name of “progress” and “development”, and the breakdown of the supportive community and family mechanisms into dysfunction, to the point where many find more support, understanding and love from distant strangers than from those they see every day.

So, there are a couple of options. One, the option that most modern paganisms employ, is the adoption of an historical culture, usually European (though the African Diaspora has seen an increasing number of non-African/immigrant initiates in recent years), with all its attendant myths, mores, cultural heritages and (far too often, it seems) shortcomings.** These are usually the revivalist/reconstructionist traditions such as Heathenry (pan-Germanic, though typically Norse more than any other), Hellenismos (Ancient/Classical Greek, sometimes Greco-Egyptian), the various Celtic Reconstructionist traditions, etc. Other paganisms, such as most revival Druidry, lean Celtic in culture but with modern Romantic and medieval ceremonial magic influences in their practices. Many people who employ this option do so because of ethnic or ancestral heritage (in my own experience, virtually all European-based reconstructionists I have encountered are of European descent, usually of the specific culture they adopt). Waincraft can certainly be used in this manner, but seems to be most effective if paired with a culture that historically lived in a similar (ideally, the same, for those living in applicable areas) bioregion. Otherwise, there’s a disconnect that can lead to dis-identification with one’s environment – imagine, for example, trying to honor Ullr, a Norse god associated with snow, winter and evergreens (among other things), in the Mojave Desert! I’m sure it can be done, and there certainly may be people who do, but such a personage is surely easier to relate to, and may indeed be better understood, in places like Alaska, Finland or Siberia. Thus, a person seeking to use the Waincraft model in New England and wishes to adopt a culture that is most relevant would likely be best served in exploring Goidelic/Brythonic Celts or the Angles, Jutes and Saxons who inhabited the isles from which the US region got its name. Other US regions would each have their own best cultures (for example, the Midwest and Great-Lakes region has heavy Scandinavian influences from immigrants, and is not very far off biomically to parts of Sweden, Denmark and Finland).

The second option, which Lupa touches on here, here, and here in the context of shamanism, may be of great use to Americans in particular, who are often cut off by time and distance from the cultures of their ancestors – the recognition that, for better or worse, we find ourselves on a land that we do not know, that does not really know us, in a culture that doesn’t value either one of those knowings, and in light of that recognition, the embracing of our modern culture and the adaptation of it to our spiritual life. This, in my opinion, is where Waincraft can really shine. The spirits of sky, land, and sea are still there, they have not disappeared just because monotheism and the Enlightenment say they cannot exist (or, if they do exist, should never be respected but only feared and rejected). It is we who have distanced ourselves from them, shutting our minds and our bodies in technological and commercial bubbles. By opening ourselves to the recognition that, yes, we are a part of this world in all its dirt and glory, we can re-invite the spirits and powers into our lives, re-enchanting our worldviews, and (one can hope) helping to subtly alter the destructive course of modern life to a path of sustainability, interconnection and wild, exuberant diversity.

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* Influences which are, admittedly and without bias, mostly Euro-centric based on the background and research opportunities of its founders. I, for one, have tried to incorporate as much as I could of relevant bits from non-Celtic/Germanic motifs and myths, but it is still for better or worse skewed to northern and western Europe.

** Caveat: these shortcomings often are not actually present in what we know of the actual cultures themselves (with some exception), but are usually based on interpretations by modern adherents filtered through the lenses of past creedist monotheism and personal bias. To use a notable example, many Heathens decry even the mention of Loki, let alone worship of same, portraying him as almost a diabolical figure, when it is fairly obvious through bits of lore that, by and large, before the creeping influence of Christianity and its dualism, Loki was a figure of comedy, wits and mischief, certainly rarely to be trusted, but just as rarely despised and reviled.