Theology: Core and Individual

Any path, religious or otherwise, has some basic general principles, and then much individual interpretation. If the basic premises of the path are inconsistent with the basic thought process of the practitioner, then the path is just not going to work out. As well, there may be areas not addressed by the path, which may occasionally be of use or significance to the person.

As an example, Christianity (most versions of it) require a belief in original sin, a belief in a redemption by holy sacrifice, and a promise of either heaven or hell, to come in the afterlife. It is important for anyone who intends to practice this path, that they be able to not just work with, but truly embrace those concepts. These are core concepts. They are inherent to the path, and most practitioners of Christianity will not recognize as Christian, someone who does not accept and follow one or more of them, despite what that person may call themself.

Christianity does not specify or require any particular associations with the quarters. Looking at the architecture of some of the older churches, there are often figures placed in the quarters; but this is not an essential feature of the path. These are not core concepts, and there are some purists who would argue that their inclusion is inappropriate because it is an interference with the Core of the path. This is an example the kind of difference of opinion that is found among the most conservative members of any path, Gardnerianism being no exception.

Gardnerian Core Beliefs: Some Examples

If there are too many things in here that are just not ideas that you can become willing to embrace and learn to work with, then this is probably not the path for you. A caution here; this doesn’t mean that every Gardnerian has the same interpretation of them. As I mentioned earlier, the group I work with has a great many theological disagreements. Interpretation and application is personal; it has to be, because it’s based on experience. The basic principles, however, are constant throughout the tradition.

Some examples of Core Beliefs affecting choice of Path

Divine as Feminine. If a person absolutely cannot see the divine as feminine, then Dianic Paganism is not going to be a good fit. Likewise, a need to deal with the masculine divine while working as a Dianic may also be troublesome; but depending on how strong the need, and how extreme the Dianic practice; this occasionally can be worked out.

The sacredness of directions. If a person sees as very important the overt acknowledgment of the quarters/directions/elements, then Christianity, which has no such overt acknowledgement, may be a poor fit. If a person does not feel comfortable with that idea/practice, then Wicca, which has a strong overt recognition of them, might not work out well.

Note that in both these cases, these general concepts can be addressed, separate from the specifics of their application to each specific religion or path. This is why so many Gardnerian teachers write their own teaching rituals and materials; this is a way to express and share their own understanding of their path, without breaking their oaths.