Situating my spiritual path under the umbrella of Paganism poses a significant challenge to maintaining a coherent theology. Beyond Gerald Gardner there is no unbroken lineage to pre-Christian Europeans, so modern Pagans must create what mature traditions inherit. Where archeology, history, and anthropology cannot provide definitive answers, one must lean on frameworks from other traditions to frame the missing pieces. However, modern Pagans must tread carefully when “borrowing” concepts and practices from any tradition. The world’s spiritual traditions reflect culture and environment that may not transfer to a foreigner never immersed in any of the relevant context. The imperialist power dynamics that allow white people to “discover” living traditions of non-white people also cannot be overlooked.

In my personal journey, I encountered many traditions. Every idea has left a mark, but I never felt comfortable joining any organized tradition. Heterodoxy is the most consistent theme along my path. I find myself most comfortable at the fringes of orthodox belief. Truth speaks most clearly to me when it contradicts the dominant institutions. Initiation into one tradition asks me to reject something learned from another tradition and of continued importance to my practice. As such, I find myself unable to submit authentically to a single tradition.

“Eclectic“ usually describes a path that incorporates ideas from many traditions without a unifying framework. The eclectic Pagan blends easily with the devotee of New Thought, a bundle of cultural appropriation, discredited folklore, and logically inconsistent beliefs. For someone committed to a more critical and studious practice, eclectic Paganism requires forfeit of those commitments. A more rigorous framework than eclecticism is needed for rational and respectful exploration.

My Pagan journey included studying Buddhism and other mystical traditions, looking for models to guide the renewal of lost Pagan traditions. Mystical traditions share a common goal, the transcendent experience of unity with manifest divinity. Since the experience resists simple description, there are many frameworks for communicating and inducing it. From a common source, mystics create various paths to seek to liberation through that experience. When I imagine this pattern, I see a river delta. The main channel fragments into smaller streams that wind their way to an unbounded destination. I call my path as Delta Paganism after this image.

Delta Paganism embraces the diversity of paths as sharing a common originating experience that transcends understanding. Attempts to communicate and reason about the path take form from the mystic’s life, body, culture, and time, so they conceptualize their practice and goals differently. Nevertheless, they all wrestle with the same fundamental phenomenon and its implications.

The Delta Pagan seeker accepts only what is freely given from other traditions, recognizing that some practices cannot be transmitted without disrespect. They learn to recreate from things that cannot be taken, dividing the lesson from the form. A Delta Pagan should tending their own path by connecting to their ancestors in the path and sharing to ease the way for others for seekers on any path.