Creating a Living Tradition

Creating traditions from the source itself is daunting, hard, and at best confusing – other times makes you shake your fists at the barren sky.

But, I’ve learned shit-loads.

Building a tradition isn’t about just rituals or symbols. It’s more than that. It’s about the recipes, the customs, the viewpoints to the celebrations and rites that give them the ‘meat and potatoes,’ we all crave in our lives.

It’s the looking forward to Crullers at Rauhnact, or to potato dumplings at Ostern, as well as the rituals to honor the symbolism and belief structure. It is the giggles over botched musical renditions; the singing, the memories of that drunken uncle diving into the snow naked after too many Grogs… Sigh.

Look at a house. It is more than just four walls and a door with a roof over top. It is the people inside, the smells, the sounds, the music… And the ‘knowing’ of why we do what we do, when we look outside or stand outside to look at our world. It is the living tradition that turns our beliefs into a home.

It’s the life, behind the celebrations that make the tradition what I think it is for my own tradition. It is the telling of the memories behind every ornament on the Rauhnact tree, and the telling of spooky ghost stories by firelight. The tales told beneath the home-made wind chime at Litha, while munching on BBQ fish caught with our own hands.

The ‘umph,’ behind the stories.

I was saddened by what passes for ritual in many circles in visitation some time ago. It was so hollow, so.. Lifeless to me. Now, the participants enjoyed themselves, and kudos to that. Shit, at least they’re trying their best with a disjointed history we all know too well in Paganism. I’m not knocking them here – not one bit. I came from this stock as many Pagans did – convert or not.

But with the ritual ended, everything seemed to stop – it was as if it was said ‘Ok, pack up and go home,’ with nothing else to chew on. In my younger years this was enough to suffice, but now that I’m older and working on a family of my own – I truly want something more. Little to no music, no tales, no… Nothing. Sure, I had time in my youth to interject my own afterwards – but with hopes of growing my own family – I want something, I guess more beefy.

I’ve looked at a great many books with traditions in them – many are lacking in the rest of living for the seasons. Nothing but the rituals with them – and it’s even more surprising that the books that DO have recipes, songs, and stories are overlooked for the rituals ( I think there’s more to the celebrations than just the ritual) themselves. Have we fallen that far?

And it’s given me room to pause, thinking back. Now I’d like to foster a life that may not in be wealthy in the bank, but rich in and of itself. Why do we do this, what is the point? What songs echo in the night that we can carry forward? What little traditions that make the seasons hard to forget the larger customs?

It doesn’t get any easier once you start building. Now, you’ve got to take into account that a Hellenic living in Arctic Alaska will not have the same year as one would have in a more southern climate. I live on the plains, not quite the same as the Swiss Alps…  But building something for you and yours right where you are is an anchor – a firm place to stand for when the shit hits the fan.

It’s something to hold onto, a reason to go back and visit, as well as taking those memories to aid your future minions in anchoring themselves wherever they may happen to land.

It’s tradition – not repetition. It should be carried forward, fostered, grown. It shouldn’t be repeated like a pantomime, but colored with vibrant colors, and local spices and sounds.

I hope this makes sense. I say this a lot because while it may sound good in my head – in reality… Sometimes not so much. Can’t get more honest than that…

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