Last night Bik and I had a great evening with the couple who organise our local pagan camps, moots and rituals. Now, we know these folks fairly well and have had some great nights quaffing mead around a fire, we've been at rituals with them in snow, hail and bright sunshine. I've shared some deepest darkest stuff at the camp moonlodge.... all in all, this friendship's got pretty deep.
Which is why, when the conversation turned to ritual planning for a certain day in July and my chum asked the question 'so, what paths do you two follow?' I realised - we're in a pagan group together, but they've never asked us this, and we've never asked them. It's not even come up, not once!
We've mainly just shared good times (and stone soup, lots of that!) together without having to have the 'are we the same?' conversation. Not until they're having to plan a rather important ritual for us, which they've most awesomely agreed to do, has it become relevant. It's not just them - we've never had the conversation with anyone at camp or at most of the pagan events I've been to. I'm pretty sure there are pagans of many paths, and non-pagans at camps, but everyone treats each other's religious beliefs as the what they are - private - even in the context of a pagan group. It's only discussed on a need to know basis, like when somebody needs to perform an important ritual for you (can you guess what it is yet?!).
I don't know if it's years of dealing with intolerance and hiding in the broom closet, or just because most of one's spiritual practice is done alone, but most pagans I know... well.. they just don't ever talk about what they actually believe in. Like, not even if they think there's a God/dess or not, or life after death - all the things other religious paths take for granted when you join them. I remember in Church having to recite 'The Creed' in unison, just to affirm that yes, we all believed the same thing and belonged there.
It's one of the things I like about my chosed path - the privacy to follow your beliefs and the ability, especially with the group I hang out with, to be accepted without having to be a certain way.
See, I reckon when you're called upon to give voice to what you believe, you can get stuck there in the statement. It gets rather hard to change your mind... and I'm a lady who likes the freedom to change my mind when I need to. This spirituality malarky is tricky at the best of times, without having to stick to something I said about the nature of Gaia or the existence of the Fae ten years ago! I'm not up for pinning a label on myself when it comes to belief (or anything else for that matter).
Our chums said the same last night - they like to pick and mix the practice. We live in a global culture, so why not have a little bit of this, a little bit of that?
Others may think 'purity' of belief is important, but for me, I just don't. I grew up in a seriously cosmopolitan place, I don't really identify clearly with one culture, so why should my beliefs be limited in that way?
What I do think, though, is that privacy is a big part of learning to live with our differences as people. Not in a creepy US military 'don't ask, don't tell' way, but simply by respecting that most of what another person does or thinks simply isn't anything to do with us.