I was sitting here thinking about the Contemporary Pagan community. As I do quite a lot; if truth be told. This morning while mulling over various such things, I started thinking about some of the cultural differences between religions and the ethnic/cultural signifiers that some of them have. Many different religions have traditional foods or even languages that they consider sacred, special, or of significance to their practice. Reflecting upon this in relation to Contemporary Paganism, my initial thought is that we are lacking as a religious group these various things which other religions seem to have. Of course I was wrong and almost immediately concluded as to why, but the thought did occur.
Then I started thinking about why they have these things. Frankly, it all goes back to the place and culture from which they grew, with some outside influence just to balance the mix. Considering this, I must conclude that Contemporary Paganism does have some signifiers; however, they are not readily recognized because they are the same signifiers that exist in our parent culture from which were born.
Like it or not; Contemporary Paganism is a Western Religion. As such, our cultural signifiers, and much of our daily lives for that matter, are those that are the same unto the rest of Western Culture. It is our paradigm that is different, amongst other things; such as the apparent differences in practices and beliefs derived thereof. In fact, many of these signifiers for which I mention though they arrive at our door from mainstream Western society are in fact rooted in ancient Pagan practice. Looking at all of this, I can see many such signifiers in my own practice and the practice of my local community. As there are many differences within the sphere of what constitutes the West there will be many variants therein; which is completely normal, for example, the local traditions of Contemporary Pagans residing in Italy will be different than those in Canada.
One example of a local practice, in much of the United States, which I say having seen it in Ohio, Georgia, and North Carolina, is in regards to the holy day held at Autumn Equinox. It has taken on many of the festive qualities of the American holiday Thanks Giving. I have lost count of how many feasts I have been to for this Sabbat where the meal is a huge turkey with all the traditional Thanks Giving sides. This is a localized signifier that has rolled into our practice here in the US. The same can be said about traditions surrounding Winter Solstice. Yule Trees, gift giving, and Santa are all a part of the lives of many Contemporary Pagans around this time of the year. Whereas we are quick to point out that these traditions have roots in ancients practice, let us not forget that these too are cultural signifiers that we share with many in the Western World. The difference is the significance given, but at the end of the day it is these things that show where we as a people have been and come from.
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."