Ancient Rituals and Practices Made New

Runic stone outside the church of Tensta, Uppland

“In my estimation. a middle path exists between abject gullibility and mocking cynicism regarding the ‘Elder ways.’ Yes, much of contemporary Paganism, whether of the North, South, East, or West, has been recovered in recent times, albeit in many cases from genuinely ancient remnants. But, then, what belief system is not an amalgamation of ideas from across time and space? What we know of Christianity today bears little resemblance to its early or even medieval manifestations. Taoism has had many forms and interpretations. Likewise Buddhism. Belief systems always do.

Modern Paganism in all of its varieties harks back to the most ancient times, but its form is in reality the product of a long accumulation of influences. What modern Paganism really does is provide a medium, in the common form of the ceremonial circle, within which threads and traces of ancient ways can be reclaimed. It is about a set of philosophies and practices —such as animism, animal totemism, seasonal celebration, chanting, and spellcraft—the share a common ancestry with shamanism and have surfaced far and wide and in many cultural guises across the centuries.

If the ways have been broken, it is because their practitioners were persecuted. My own opinion is that rather than having to mount everything in an antique frame, we should recognize that Pagan tradition consists of a variety of subtle and subversive threads woven through history. Each of us, even in as simple an act as picking up the Runes, is a weaver in its ongoing revival.”—Paul Rhys Mountfort, Nordic Runes: Understanding, Casting & Interpreting the Ancient Viking Oracle

I usually don’t post quotes this long but Paul Rhys Mountfort offers us a deep insight here that should be read more than once and pondered for a while. What I hear him saying is that religious traditions are not fixed things, they are fluid. Furthermore, I will be the first to admit that the dominant form of Christianity has done more than its fair share of persecuting those they perceived as different and labeled as heretics. [They still do.] Because of this, we sometimes only have fragments of traditions and rituals from which we try to reconstruct a modern form of these ancient practices.

For example, Heilung, whom I absolutely adore, calls what they do “amplified history.” They take fragments of ancient texts and set them to music. Their concerts are more like rituals than performances. However, they will be the first to admit that what they do is not 100% authentic because that’s an impossible task. What they have succeeded in doing is create something new from something old and its power and beauty cannot be denied.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this post. My thoughts on this quote are still a work in progress and I welcome you to comment as well. In writing rituals and speaking of magical practice I do not kid myself into believing that what I post here is 100% authentically reconstructed from the old ways. That’s not only impossible, but its really not helpful either. Instead, we must continually ask ourselves how fragments of ancient history and spiritual practice speak to us now, in this era. We must treat them with respect but also not be afraid to adapt them in ways that are useful to us. Then others will take what we have created and adapt it again after we leave this earthly plain.

I am one of those weirdos who love to do deep research into a particular ritual or spiritual practice. It is then, and only then, that I feel free to adapt it to the times in which we live. These ancient fragments of wisdom and spiritual practice are gifts to us from ancestors long gone. We honor them by finding ways for these ancient forms of ritual and magic to speak to us in a new and fresh ways. This means we can feel free to adapt them but must do so carefully and lovingly, allowing the Great Spirit to guide us in the process. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin,

About David Taliesin

My name is David Taliesin. I'm an writer, teacher and retreat leader who explores the connections between Christian and Pagan Spirituality. E-mail me with any personal comments you'd like to share and I will do my best to answer them. You can also contact me through my Facebook page
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