In Equal Measure: Orthopraxy And Orthodoxy

An idea that may seem strange, since we are often told that Heathen/Pagan customs are overwhelmingly, if not entirely orthopraxic. However, that applies on a level in which we recognize each other’s practice. Not in the sense that orthopraxy matters less, it does not. I am simply implying that practice is informed by belief. In other words, people in the past had practices for a reason.

There would be no reason to commune with something one need did not think existed. Nor with something they thought unimportant, or that couldn’t impact the tribe or household, in a positive way. Therefore, the origin of any practice comes from a need or reason based on the belief in a particular being or practice. That the being is real, or the practice works. That the ritual has at least some chance of success.

The difference between orthopraxy and orthodoxy is in the public sphere. What ties people together under an umbrella term, such as Fyrnsidu, or larger one like Heathenry, or Paganism, is the relative commonality in practice. A certain way rituals are done. It isn’t so much that to the practitioner, one matters more than the other, but that outside of that, since beliefs amongst such people are so varied, practice is the only way, outside of one’s hearth or tribe, theod, kindred, can recognize others like them.

Since, of course, unless one is deliberately mimicking another hearth, or group, no two will be exactly alike. However, the similarity will lie in the elements of practice. Our rituals generally follow the same formula. The wording is different, the items may vary to certain degrees, but the basic format is similar. In other words, if a Fyrnsidu practitioner is invited to a ritual at another’s hearth or group, they should be able to make out the general flow of the ritual. If they cannot, it likely isn’t Fyrnsidu (or they themselves don’t know what they are talking about).

Is that a bad thing? Of course not! It just means that they practice something else. The basic purification, invocation, offering, and closing is something that can be delineated from all kinds of groups. The usage of Anglo-Saxon terms and identity is how one knows, of course that it is an Anglo-Saxon Heathen ritual.

Of course, I am specifically talking about the action of ritual in this case. The other obvious marker is the understanding and application of worldview. In spite of all of this, belief matters, as there is little to no point in doing all of this if one doesn’t. After all, outside of my hearth, I know no Fyrnsidu practitioners in person. However, I have a good relationship with my family and friends, and I don’t do rituals with them. So, I doubt that is a necessity to be friends with someone. If it is, then they probably aren’t very good friends to begin with.

Outside of the public sphere, one has to find their reasons for why they do as they do. Why they practice. What are the beings, cultural aspects, and stories that motivate you to take time out of your day to take a portion of your team and material wealth to make an offering? What do these beings do that is worthy of engaging in a gifting cycle and bond with them? What is it about them?

These are questions most of us have an answer to, but the answer can differ between people. It is said that we are who we are because we do. There is truth to that. Just as important is why. Orthopraxy is the doing, orthodoxy is the why. Both matter in equal measure. The former has prominence because it translates much smoother, it is basically a gauge in order to make the judgement of who is what, but without a reason why, there is no point to do it. So, yes, do, but have a reason to do it.

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