The term eclectic is one that I have heard more or less consistently for some 15 or so years now and mainly amongst solitary practitioners. Today however it seems as though every pagan I meet identifies with the term eclectic in one way or another and I am curious as to how far the term actually extends. This speculation is of course a personal perspective based on my individual observances.
“The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way” (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/tradition?q=tradition)
Tradition or at least the thought of it can seems a little stifling to some but if you step back and take in a broader view of what tradition actually means in terms of spirituality then the only things really standing between the term Eclectic and Traditional is time. At some point the founders of well know pagan traditions from all around the world would have been eclectic to some degree. The only difference being that someone one somewhere struck up a conversation with said founder and basically decided “yeah, that makes sense, mind if I get in on the action?” And then there were two, four, six and a few generations later, hundreds. Regardless of numbers the focus should still be kept on the fact that it all began with one, one pagan who shared their thoughts on spirituality that resonated with another.
Eclectic – from Greek eklektikos, from eklegein ‘pick out’, from ek ‘out’ + legein ‘choose (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/eclectic)
For those who embrace the title of eclectic and choose to take a wider and more open minded approach to pagan spirituality, carefully selecting and adopting portions of traditions, doctrines, ideals and spiritual practices from around the world to meld those portions into a more unified personal practice. Are such individuals still eclectic or have they in fact done just was Gardener and Valiente et al (among many others) did all those years ago and formed something modern based on something ancient which eventually grew into a tradition.
In my eyes paganism is an organic spiritual path that like a living entity will grow and evolve; and the term Eclectic lives to serve a valuable purpose in that evolution allowing one to claim a title amidst that very state of growth. And I believe that there is indeed a portion of pagans out there that have found wholeness and a sense of unique tradition through the term eclectic and that these individuals are more than capable of imparting that accrued knowledge on to another. So in saying that, what happens when an eclectic adds to their family tree? Does the incorporation of their loved ones into their path organically perpetuate their unique pagan path?
While I personally, come from a tradition, when I moved from Brazil to Australia at the tender age of 16 and by myself (to live with my father), I must confess to having felt a little lost. After having not one not two but three older generations to guide me up until that point and then suddenly have such distance between us was perhaps the most difficult transition I’ve thus far had to face. So, I turned inwards and began my own spiritual search to fill the enormous longing I felt. I studied many many many paths and practices, travelled extensively, went way way out of my way to sort out individuals whom I thought could enrich my spirituals foundations.
Not surprisingly, in this instance I felt eclectic, because what I was doing was growing beyond my original foundations and forming something new and unique. And now that I am a mother almost twice over (new bub due in May). I have this inexplicable renewed desire for tradition and I wholly and solely intend on perpetuating my knowledge (both ancient and modern) as it stands to my children. Is this the natural evolution of the Eclectic? I think that maybe it is, but again that is my personal opinion.