When I originally started on this topic a few months ago, I was very angry and wanting to completely rip apart this idea of “eclectic,” even though that’s the best term to describe myself to other Pagans without getting in too deep. It’s a semi-accurate label, though I loathe it.
But is it even a little accurate?
There’s a stigma attached to the word “eclectic” in modern Pagandom: you’re thought of as non-committal, unable to decide on a “set path,” and flaky. And yes, that’s a stereotype. But the truth is that this applies to a lot of people in today’s Pagan and Pagan-adjacent communities. People get distracted by the newest thing that catches their attention, whether it’s a currently “popular” god or the Fae Folk or shadow work or whatever else is this week’s trend. I’ve seen many Pagans and Pagan-adjacents try on so many hats that I’m wondering if they still have hair under there or if all the weight has crushed their follicles to dust.
That’s not even getting into all the other problems you see with eclectics, like cultural appropriation, but that’s a whole separate issue.
So what’s the deal with the word eclectic and why do so many people like using it? For me, I hate even saying the word. It clatters on my tongue like I’m trying to speak around a wooden block that’s knocking against my teeth – ec. lec. tic. But people like it, for whatever reason.
Perhaps it’s because saying “eclectic” is easier than saying “I work with Anubis mainly but I’ve also been tapped by Odin, The Morrigan, Hekate, some odd Horned Goddess that I can’t figure out who it is, and Thor, but sometimes Loki shoves his head in there and now Persephone’s just trying to get my attention but I’m too busy for that right now and just blah, but I also like working with land spirits and house spirits even though the Fae still owe me $40 from that one time they stole all my stuff and *deep breath*”
Yeah, I can see how that’d get confusing.
It’s easier to say “eclectic” than to explain every little detail about my path. When you tell another Pagan you’re “eclectic,” they have an idea that you work with a lot of variety, but there’s still that stigma attached. And gods forbid a non-Pagan asks you for a little more detail about what it is you do and believe. Having a set path like Kemeticism or Hellenic polytheism gives you a framework to answer their questions, like how you view our place in the universe, the idea of the soul, or what happens after death. Being eclectic…you appear like you’re just making stuff up as you go, leading to the even more skeptical eyebrow raise than the Kemetics and Hellenics get from people who just don’t understand non-Abrahamics. The stigma is always there, always the assumption that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
And perhaps that’s true, in some cases. Some of us are still just putzing around out here, gently bouncing against the walls of a room of faith and taking a little bit with us here and there, things that appeal to us and things that make sense.