I like my coffee like I like my magic; Stong, dark, and ethically sourced. Folks! It was the ‘ethically sourced’ part that roused me to ruminate on an issue which has been crawling under my skin for some time. I have grown to abhor that seemingly inevitable question which one encounters when meeting a group of occultists for the first time. A question which always feels, to me, as abrasive as a thunderous fart shattering the mood of a riveting Sunday mass;
“So, what tradition do you practice?”
I know, I know, it’s just an innocent conversation starter, and I can certainly relate to the feeling of novelty by which one is enrapt when they finally take their spirituality back from their parents (or whoever) at long last, but there is no way around this being discourse which falls well over the line into laziness and this particular vernacular record-scratch is, I dare say, also damaging.
The word “tradition” implies a lot more than an aesthetic with which you resonate. Tradition is not merely the adaptation of cultural and spiritual lifeways according to one’s understanding, but implies the total immersion in a worldview which is passed on through stories, practices, and cosmologies. There is no amount of solitary study or praxis, no amount of books that could be read which would suddenly induct you into a tradition and there never will be. Tradition implies ways of life; a life which, in most cases, we simply have not lived.
Sure, everyone has aesthetics they resonate with more than others. Use that to your advantage, absolutely do, but don’t say it’s hoodoo because of your Florida water. It isn’t.
I have personally had experiences of being visited by a couple minor, and one major hindu deity through no will of my own, but I do not know their customs or lifeways nor have I experienced their culture. I wouldn’t dare call myself hindu, though the initiation of contact by another entity or form seems to reach a level beyond appropriation so long as it isn’t misrepresented as a cultural understanding.
Giving a shout-out to the traditions in which you find inspiration without simultaneously colonizing them is something of an art unto itself, but there is a whole world of Christian and Catholic magic, grimoires, saints, prayers, curses, and “folk” magic all relating to traditions you likely have actual claim to, so the more research and effort put into jailbreaking these avenues the better off we will all be, and what better way to transmute your relationship with Christianity than using scripture and psalm for magical ends?
Until then, perhaps we can summon a little true-speak and sharpen our tongues to something like “What aesthetic are you into?” or “What traditions do you draw inspiration from?” it’s wordy and doesn’t flow as well, but belittling the entire worldview of a people through negligence doesn’t flow too well either once you start to hear it in action.