After last week’s festival, M. launched into a mini-rant about Pagans’ fondness for some form of re-created archaic dress. For instance, the priest at the solstice sunrise ritual was attired in sort of Dark Ages style: loose trousers gathered at the ankle, loose-fitting shirt, cloak, and sword and spear. How is that more Pagan than jeans and sneakers?
It’s not just us though. Recently I drove past a Protestant church in the small town where we get our mail, and they had set up tents and two-dimensional plywood camels, and people were lounging around in their own form of ancient Judaean costume. I assume it was some sort of Vacation Bible School event.
M., however, objects to the glorification of the Middle Ages, which she sees as repressive in almost all regards. It’s true that since the 1970s, when I first encountered the Craft, there has been an unfortunate bleed-through from the Society for Creative Anachronism, which glorifies the Middle Ages and Renaissance as somehow more vital and creative than Now. Of course, the SCA still enjoys plumbing and electricity; and everyone gets to be an aristocrat, or aspires to be. Even that is fine with me–the bad part is when SCA status influences status in the Pagan community. One is a baroness in the SCA; therefore, one’s fellow Pagans should treat one with more regard. I have seen this phenomenon more than once.
Homo religiosus, the religious person, seems to hold the past in higher regard than the present. The older the text or teaching, the more authoritative it is. Past practice, even if impractible today, has a normative effect–it tells us what we might do. For example, where would the contemporary Heathen practice of seiðr be without that one passage from the Elder Edda about the volva with her catskin gloves? How could I be working on my flying ointment paper without the 14th-century story of Lady Alice Kytler, who beat the rap but let her maid be executed–thus demonstrating the true aristocratic temperment, as opposed to the SCA variety.