If the Suit Fits

Or, is my path sufficiently tailored?

This started as a response, on an e-mail list, to a person who suggested comparing the relationship between BTW and Eclectic Wicca to the relationship between Catholic and Protestant. The writer who suggested the original comparison thought there was a misunderstanding, and this reply pretty much clears that up.

I am reacting to the content of your analogy, actually. I mean, ew...Bill Maher was on TV last night giving a backhand compliment to the Machiavellian "spin" skills of Republican arch-druid Karl Rove as a "man who could spin Kristallnacht as 'Take Back the Night'". So while I "got" it, I wasn't keen on it.

OK, let's use perhaps more appropriate labels: the wonderful world of retail fashion. To keep the analogy less unwieldy, I will only include those paths with which I have direct experience. Eclectic can be thought of the Gap or perhaps a discount department store (do they still exist?). Eclectic gets its goods offshore and in bulk (Llewellyn or stuff repurposed from BTW or New Age paths or whenever). It doesn't discriminate and tends to put a strong emphasis on self-validation and "right for me, therefore right with the Gods" logic. That's not wrong, and it's not a problem, as it meets a large number of spiritual needs and incorporates values (frequently leftish and almost always ecologically oriented) for a lot of people. If you are coming out of either an agnostic or a Fundie background, it can have a lot of appeal. Styles are whatever's "in", but there is usually a large selection of colours and frequent loss-leaders ensure that some fashions will be briefly more popular than others in any given year. Wears out easily, relies on extensive advertising. Run like a hot-dog stand, but it's affordable, wash 'n' wear and attractive to the young.

Alexandrian: Custom tailoring by Saunders of Fleet Street. Classic styling with options and "flair" in the sense that if you want a nicely cut suit, but in a dark purple, it's cool if you can pay for it. Acknowledgement of the existence of certain parameters of fit and finish with the option to incorporate some timeless stylistic touches: a little Tarot, a little Qabala, some Kundalini, perhaps, sir? Conservative, but with the potential for drama. Suitings are well-made, but can sometimes date the wearer. Wears well due to quality of fabrics; experimented with extensive advertising in the '60s and '70s, but jingles since farmed out to former Blue Stardivision . Run like a co-op.

Gardnerian: Bespoke tailoring a la New Forest Suitings. A classic range of stylings with fewer options and fewer concessions to fashion trends. The object is to achieve the illusion of grace through continuity, proper fitting and subtle tailoring cues . Quality is evident, but can appear "stuffy" from other viewpoints. Costs more, needs special cleaning and requires poise to pull off...consequently, not for everyone. Things like vents, collars and tie widths move imperceptibly from season to season, if at all. Only flair is found in retro touches: tie bars, cuff links and fedoras are still good sellers at Mr. Gerald's, but curiously, underwear is not. Experimented with "point of purchase" marketing in the '50s and '60s, and now relies almost entirely on word-of-mouth. Rumours of a take-over are false as shares of Mr. Gerald are somewhat diluted among family members and generations, making for interesting board meetings.

Posted with the permission of it's writer: Rhys of Blackthorn Coven, Toronto