Eclectic Vs. Ancestral Paganism

With the rise of social media came a rise in the number of individuals claiming to be pagan. Seemingly the number of pagans on social media claim the term “eclectic” to describe their spiritual paths. For many years, I too called myself eclectic but was a bit wary of doing so. I couldn’t explain it then, but now that I’ve had time to reflect I believe it’s because the word makes me feel like a scattered individual. Like I can’t commit to one path or one system and so this makes me a bit finicky.

By no means am I saying that being eclectic is a bad thing for all the people who use this term. I mean for myself, personally, I find using the term eclectic denies me the ability to commit to my studies of the ways of my ancestors. If I call myself eclectic, I’m more likely to go off and study and work with the gods of the Greek pantheon, for example. If I call my path ancestral in nature, then I am more likely to commit to studying the paths of my ancestors – German, Swiss, French, Irish.

Here’s where things get hairy, though. The majority of us (people in general) in the world today are not just ONE culture or ethnicity or nationality. We are typically more than one (as you can see by my ethnicity above). And to be truthful, I am more than what is listed, I also have Italian, British, and Spanish ancestors. But I don’t work with these paths as of yet, because I feel I have so much to learn already. What I’m saying is, if you follow an ancestral path, you’ll find yourself studying multiple paths at some point. You may start out with just one, i.e. Germanic, then you may get the calling to try others, i.e. Irish. Or you may study one and find it just doesn’t resonate with you and decide to move onto another. Although, I’ve found that following an ancestral path seems to just fit. Learning about the ways of your ancestors, any of your ancestors, will not only be fulfilling but also enlightening in many aspects.

It just so happens that for most of us an ancestral path also means eclectic to a certain degree. But to be fully eclectic, I believe this means you reach outside the boundaries of your ancestral make-up – your family tree and DNA – and you may study or work with deities from a completely different culture or nation than your own. There is NOTHING wrong with this. I’m bringing up this topic mainly because I feel treading an ancestral path can be rewarding and soul-soothing in ways a fully eclectic path may not. This is because we have our ancestors with us. At all times. How so? Some believe on the other side they look after us. Some believe they still walk amongst us, just on a separate plane of existence. But if you tend to be more cynical of the afterlife theories, you can look at it like this – your ancestors live on…inside of you. You are the culmination of THOUSANDS if not millions of people who lived and breathed before you. You are the product of a thousand loves. Most people forget how difficult it was for our ancestors at many periods throughout history just to survive yet alone make children who also survived things such as war, famine, sickness, and other atrocities.

Respect your ancestors by simply seeking to learn about them. So many people will say, I don’t know anything about my ancestors. Okay. So put the time into learning about them. Ask a relative who may know more about your ancestors (an elderly grandparent, aunt/uncle, etc). If you were adopted or are estranged from your family, start with your (biological) last name, if known, and google search “origins of ________” (insert your last name in the blank space). You might be surprised to find the meaning of your last name, where it originates, and potentially even a coat of arms. This is a great starting point. Now you know what country at least one of your branches comes from. If you don’t know your biological last name,  put up the extra money to buy a DNA kit from one of the many companies offering their services. Often around the holidays, ancestry.com will discount their DNA kit from 90 dollars to 70 dollars (approximately). The last discounted time was Mother’s Day. After you’ve done a DNA test, you’ll have a breakdown of where your DNA comes from. Now you have an idea as to what cultures and ancient people to study – what practices to potentially incorporate into your tradition, what deities to study or potentially work with, what holidays to incorporate throughout the year, etc.

Give it a try. Even if you are dead set on being an eclectic pagan you’re entire life, try being an eclectic ancestral pagan. You may just find your ancestors calling out to you…beckoning you to the ancient spiral paths they once walked.