I think we can all agree that a mage, sorcerer or witch can be highly eclectic when it comes to knowledge, application of knowledge and personal belief. The principal of magic only comes down to as long as it works, it’s magic. This is a very vague term that can incorporate anything from just thinking to the most advanced ceremonial formula.
I noticed that many old teachers and those devoted to very specific systems of magic are more likely than not going to have stigmas whenever people try to adapt. One example are the African-American diaspora religions and magic systems (Voodoo, hoodoo, Santeria, palo mambe, etc). Many practitioners of the magic are still Christian to the point where most anthropologists categorize the voodoo religious systems as a syncretism of traditional African religions, Native American spiritual and herbal knowledge and Christianity. Hoodoo, even though it’s not uniquely Christian, is practally married to the Bible. I’ve read some Hoodoo practitioners having a big fuss over their system being adapted to Pagan beliefs. While I do understand the world is changing, exchanging ideas and creating new things, I do agree that the way many Pagans adapt Christian systems is the worst kind of “cultural appropriation”. It’s one thing to be inspired by a system, learn all you can about it, and then ask “okay, how does this fit in with what I do?” It’s another to decide that you’re basically going to take the rituals and instead of praying to the Christian god as “Lord”, you pray to the Goddess as “Lady”.
Even though the LHP has no dogma, it has a very strong but general philosophy. One of the keywords to the LHP is “respect”. We respect the spirits and gods of our paths. But we should also respect humans, as they are spirits of the flesh. To reference LaVey, we should exercise our own egos, but also realize that others have their own ego. “To impose on one’s freedom is to forego your own”. Yes, we can adapt voodoo and take the Christian aspects out of it (as some pro-African groups are doing right now), but we cannot simply just decide to replace certain gods with other gods. 90% of the time, the new names we come across will be of a new god. Some people may argue that there are a certain amount of gods and each have their own “mask”. This is not something I will totally disagree with however I view this statement as entirely archetypal and attribute no particular god as the main archetype. Examples, maybe, but core, no.
Anyway, I understand that others like to have a template system. There are a few problems with this. Problem one is that the template is almost always in a Western context. This means that if you try to adapt something from another culture into the template, you start to loose the original feel once the new system starts to operate. This should not be confused, however, with experimentation. Experiments may leak with certain influences, but the focus is more likely than not a creative effort. The problem is when experimentation starts with an inflexible template. It’s not really anything once you reuse the template. It’s just a different context divorced from the original meaning.
This leads us to problem 2; since the system is being done out of context, it quickly loses substance. The joy of learning is to learn new things. In order to learn effectively, a template should not be used concretely. You may associate certain aspects of the original material with things from other cultures, but comparative symbolism only makes us have a launch pad to dive into something new. And this is what we should always strive for; “new”.
Does that mean you shouldn’t adapt systems in your own practice? I say no. Nobody is stopping you, even if they talk badly about you. But to do it in a way that is truely enriching, it’s a good idea to start from the context. You’re going to have a bad time with dogmatic freaks and faithful devotees within the original context, but it should in no way make you feel bad. Understand what’s going on, take as much from the original system as you can without having to adapt anything, and then go from there. The main concern shouldn’t be blasphemy but knowledge. Simply reversing the system or using templates does no good if what you want is authenticity.
I’m not saying this to discourage anyone. Lately I’ve been reading and seeing many things that are reminding me how narrow minded the general population is. Globalization is enivitable with the current trends. We have to adapt, but to preserve what we love, we have to preserve as much of it as possible. It’s only the respectful thing to do and we must realize others are doing the same thing. No one is wrong on the premise of culture or heritage, or lack thereof, despite what you may dislike about them.
So, what are you going to do about that?