2009 August 19, Authentic vs Valid

Originally posted on my previous blog archive site

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
     Authentic versus Valid

What is “valid” versus what is “authentic?”

This topic seems to creep up quite frequently with regards to different modern day traditions of Pagan spiritual practices (Wicca, BTW, Stregheria, you name it).

With everyone on the internet being an authority on just about everything, it can get quite confusing.  It seems like everyone is trying to state in black&white what something either IS or IS NOT and since everyone is an expert, who do you trust?

It’s particularly difficult when trying to discuss anything having to do with areas of spirituality, especially with such young Paths like Wicca and modern Paganism.  In most forms of Paganism, there is NO central authority that can give proclamations from “on high”. More established Paths (read – organized religions) tend to be able to do that with authority because they have a long history what they are, how things are done, HAVE a central authority, and have collectively over the years agreed on certain base definitions for themselves and how they express them to outsiders.  As modern Pagans, we’re still struggling with those things – partly because we are young in terms of public organization as compared to them.
Old Timers in the Craft need to realize that newer folks WILL see things in a different way and shouldn’t get so threatened when someone comes along and presents a view that differs from theirs.  Instead, it might be more productive if they really listen, correct from their perspective, and keep a dialogue open.

New folks should realize that the Old Timers have been doing this for quite a while and might actually have a clue based on research, personal experience, and community agreement regarding terms and definitions.  I would suggest that new folk present their differing views in a less antagonistic way, acknowledge that they may not know everything, and keep a dialogue open.  When they are gently corrected, they should take it as “constructive criticism” and not as a personal attack.

Basically, act like adults and agree to disagree while continuing to talk and be honest with each other.
I realize that I have certain deeply held beliefs that differ from some of the more conservative Wiccans yet I know that they are equally valid for me and my practice.  Whenever I talk about Wicca, Stregheria, or Paganism, I try to get across that what I am speaking about is only from my perspective. I am not “defining” as much as I am “describing”.  That, I think, is the key: describe rather than define and “my way/our way” rather than “the way”.

I am one of the moderators for a Stregheria yahoo group and “valid and authentic” recently came up with regards to “Strega traditions”. Personally, I see a difference between “authentic” and “valid”.  Frankly, “authentic” is nothing more than “is something what it claims to be”.  “Valid” on the other hand is simply “does it work”.
Below is the post that I made in response to those discussions as relating to Stregheria.  I’d be interested in your feedback.
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Post from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/traditional_stregheria/
Vinnie Russo on Grimassi and Streghe ….
Posted with permission…..
From: Vinnie Russo ….
Subject: [traditional_stregheria] Moderator Note – Grimassi & Wicca bashing….
Date: Aug 12, 2009 8:49 AM….

Hello all,….

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First, I want to say that I am thrilled with all of our new members and the recent lively discussions. However, I need to step in both personally and as a moderator regarding Raven Grimassi as well as the recent attitude of “Wicca bashings”…..

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I know Raven Grimassi personally. People who criticize his published material often don’t have all the facts, have never talked to him, or have jumped to assumptions…..

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Raven’s published material is just that published. You don’t really think that he’d actually publish all the material that he has or what he uses to train personal students, do you? It’s material that is appropriate to teach the public, he makes that very clear. However, what Raven teaches his students is both authentic and valid. {Vinnie’s note: please see above descriptions of Authentic & Valid.}….

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I would like to quote directly from Raven Grimassi:….
“There is a rich legacy of ritual, lore, and magic in the teachings of Italian Witchcraft. It has always been my goal to share this with others in whatever way I can. This has been a challenge over the years because much of the material is protected by sworn oaths to not reveal various elements. I have pushed that envelope over the year and continue to do so today. Ironically this has brought charges from initiates that I am violating the oaths, and it has brought allegations from the public that I have nothing authentic to share and am simply using the “oath claim” as a shield. We are a fascinating community.” ….

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“The facts are that I plant the keys to initiate material in my non-initiate material. I use common material as a carrier for the inner workings. All that is required is for a person to sift through my books and join things together. The keys and the doorways are all there, it only takes a focused desire to reveal what resides within the written words. Is this the breaking of oaths? For some people it is, and some initiates feel that I am freely giving away keys that they have had to work for over the years.”….

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“Some non-initiates look at my work, and because it contains some common Wiccan elements they dismiss it all as unauthentic. I guess this is like finding a fly in your soup; it ruins the whole thing. Except, of course, that the fly doesn’t make chicken soup something else because the fly is mixed in. It’s chicken soup with a fly in it. That’s pretty much the situation with Wiccan elements in my writings on Italian Witchcraft. I was particularly amused one time to hear my book on Italian Witchcraft referred to as Wicca with marinara sauce. While inaccurate, the statement is still funny.”….

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“I find that some of my critics invent things about me and work, which is really a misuse of valuable time for all concerned. While I appreciate respectful differences of opinion, and I value constructive criticism of my writings, I have little tolerance for unwarranted allegations and outright lies. But I do realize that being a public figure is going to draw attacks upon my work and my character. It’s an unfortunate truth about human nature.”….
More can be read here: http://www.ravengrimassi.net/about.htm. ….

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OK, back to me now. In addition to responding to inaccuracies regarding Raven’s work, I want to address the recent “Strega good, Wicca bad” attitude. ….

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What’s with all the Wicca bashing? There is absolutely no reason to denigrate or criticize another Path in order to compliment one’s own. It is entirely possible to “sing the praises” of what Stregheria is WITHOUT the need to criticize what it is not. ….

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Stregheria is a VERY diverse path and some families and branches have chosen to incorporate some Wiccan elements. So what? I applaud them. They are taking a long term look at things and incorporating elements into their own practices to ensure what they pass is a complete system rather than a fragmented system of lore and folk magic. Bravo…..

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The very culture of Sicily and Italy is syncretic in nature (Italian, Greek, Spanish, French, African, Phoenician, etc.) and there is no reason that our Craft shouldn’t reflect that. As a matter of fact, it would be VERY surprising if our Craft DIDN’T reflect that especially as a living tradition. As many of us are American, English, etc. and NOT native Italian or native Sicilian, it only makes sense that we would begin to incorporate elements of the culture that we currently live in and make those elements our own. Just because something originally can be traced to another culture or Path doesn’t mean that it can’t also be part of Stregheria. It becomes part of Stregheria (at least in particular families) when the element in question becomes fully integrated into the composite fabric of the Craft…..

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Further, factual history of the Craft (of any culture) is almost non-existent. Most of the so-called facts are simple oral lore and stories but would not stand up to academic research to ascertain the validity of the various claims. Much of the initial modern Wiccan/Pagan movement started based on a fabrication of history (i.e. tweaking the truth and even outright lies). It’s much better now with Wiccans becoming Academics and doing real research that will allow them to take a more honest look at themselves…..

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I don’t want to see us (The Streghe) fall into the same trap that the Wiccans of the 1960’s did namely, that of everyone claims to have a personal family tradition going back in an unbroken line for thousands of years; with unchanged material, lore, and mysteries; that is a complete system of magic and mystery; that was always secret which is how it survived; and is oathbound so no verifiable proof can be offered to corroborate. If we follow that path, it only makes us look like attention seekers and children that don’t know any better…..

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So, let’s all try to criticize others less and compliment good academic research, good heart, and honest discussion more…..

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—Vinnie ….
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11:33 AM
1 Comment
1 Kudos


Kudos to you Vinnie.  Too often people concentrate on the difference instead of looking for our similarities.  In actuality we should all be working for a common cause in taking better care of our world and eath other.  It is our own personal perspective that makes the differences jump out and too often jealousies, and arrogance makes people go off on their own tangent about how “right” their viewpoint is.  I too write about my path, and try to make sure people know that it is from my perspective as it is my personal path, and not one that is joined with a group.  If it coincides with another’s views, so be it…then we have found common ground upon which to build our friendship.  If not, then again, that is okay too, for it gives us a place to start talking and listening to each other in an effort to grow as friends.  Thanks for the reminder today.  Blessed Be.

Posted by Shae)0( on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 – 1:36 PM

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