As part of my field research this Christmas, I undertook a few initiatory sessions in the Italian folk magic Tradition of Segnature, an old and fascinating practice rich with elements of the Saints, the Trinity, and Pagan Deities. I dedicated my doctoral research to it, and you will find dedicated videos on it. I found myself in an intriguing discussion about how traditions change and absorb new ideas. A memorable moment that really stood out to me was when the teacher mentioned that some people she knew were disseminating “inauthentic Segnature”, including “Ascended Masters” in the incantation part.
With a touch of humour and disbelief, the teacher said, “My Grandma had no clue what an ascended master was,” making it clear that this was a new idea, not something traditionally part of the Segnature practice. I remember chuckling along with others in the group, but her comment also got me thinking. It was a sort of lightbulb moment for me about how traditions like ours have evolved over time and how careful we need to be when introducing new elements. Her words stayed with me, sparking curiosity about the line between keeping traditions alive in their original form and allowing them to grow with new influences.
This enlightening experience in my Segnature sessions opened my eyes to the complexities of syncretism in religious and esoteric practices. It led me to develop the concepts of honest and dishonest syncretism, which I find crucial in understanding the implications and, perhaps, nature of different types of syncretism. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in this episode.
Before we dive in, I’d love to remind you to sign up for my Newsletter! Don’t rely on the capricious algorithm and social media platforms that could shut down whenever they decide. By signing up for my Newsletter, you’ll always be up to date with my work and will get access to exclusive content, pictures, insights, and academic research.
You will find the link in the Bio, the cards, the info box, and a pinned comment. You’ll also find all the ways to support Angela’s Symposium, as this project is brought to you by you! Check out all the services I offer on drangelapuca.com and join my Inner Symposium on Patreon, Ko-fi or YouTube Memberships.
And thank you to the generous souls who make this knowledge available to all!
Now, Let the Symposium begin!
Hello Symposiasts, I’m Dr Angela Puca, religious studies PhD, and this is your online resource for the academic study of magick, esotericism, Paganism, Shamanism, and all things occult.
Fieldwork as an Inspiration
So, this episode is based on my personal reflections on my recent fieldwork experience with Italian folk witchcraft, and hence, I will keep using Segnature as an example to explain the difference between honest and dishonest syncretism, but the typology can be applied to other traditions and practices as well.
In fact, as you listen along, I’d love it if you’d type in the comments an example of honest and one of dishonest syncretism.
Alright, let’s dig into it!
Honest Syncretism Definition
Honest syncretism, as I see it, is about integrating new elements into a tradition with openness and respect. It’s about transparency about where these elements come from and how they fit into the existing practice. In honest syncretism, there’s no pretence of historical continuity if it doesn’t exist; rather, there’s an acknowledgment of the eclectic nature of the amalgamation. It’s like adding new threads to a tapestry but being clear about the origin and texture of those threads. For example, if we were to include elements from other belief systems into the Segnature practice, honest syncretism would mean acknowledging these as new additions, explaining their background, and understanding how they complement or contrast with the traditional practices.
Dishonest Syncretism Definition
On the other hand, dishonest syncretism is where things can get murky. This happens when new elements are introduced into a tradition but presented as if they were always a part of it. It’s like rewriting history to make the new elements seem authentic, which can mislead practitioners and dilute the original essence of the tradition. It’s akin to adding synthetic fibres to a silk tapestry and insisting they’re all the same material. The introduction of “Ascended Masters” into the Segnature practice without acknowledging their modern New Age origins is an example of this. Such practices can confuse and mislead those within the tradition, especially if they’re seeking a connection with the original teachings.
The Problem Dishonest Syncretism Fosters
This distinction between honest and dishonest syncretism has become an interesting perspective for me in my exploration and practice of religious traditions. It’s a reminder to approach the evolution of ancient practices with integrity, respect, and a deep understanding of their origins, ensuring that their evolution enriches the tradition rather than distorting it.
The concept of integrating “Ascended Masters” into the Segnature tradition, a practice I encountered during my initiatory journey, serves as a compelling example to illustrate the differences between honest and dishonest syncretism.
Let’s dive into it again to understand the difference better and let it work as an example of using an honest syncretism approach; introducing “Ascended Masters” into Segnature would involve a clear acknowledgement of their origins in modern Theosophy and New Age spirituality. This transparency ensures practitioners understand these entities as recent additions, not as historically integral parts of the Segnature tradition. The integration would be done with respect and sensitivity, both to the New Age tradition, which views these entities in a specific light, and to the Segnature tradition, ensuring that the new elements complement rather than overshadow the existing practice. This approach would require informed consent from practitioners, offering them the choice to engage with these new aspects based on a clear understanding of their nature and origins. Importantly, even with the addition of new elements like the “Ascended Masters,” the core principles and practices of Segnature would remain intact, preserving the essence of the tradition.
Dishonest Incorporation of Ascended Masters in Segnature
On the other hand, if the incorporation of “Ascended Masters” were an example of dishonest syncretism, it would involve several misleading practices. It might include presenting these entities as if they were always part of the Segnature tradition, thus creating a false sense of historical continuity and authenticity and rewriting the actual history of the practice. This misrepresentation could mislead practitioners regarding the nature and origins of their practice. Furthermore, if the integration of the “Ascended Masters” was done in a way that did not consider how they align with the overarching philosophy of Segnature, it could lead to a practice that feels disjointed or loses its original coherence. In the worst-case scenario, this could result in the new elements overshadowing or even replacing key components of the Segnature tradition, thereby diluting its identity and meaning. Another sign of dishonest syncretism would be the lack of choice or information provided to practitioners about these new inclusions, especially when they significantly alter the nature of the tradition.
Syncretism is Inevitable and Enriching
Through my experiences and reflections on traditions like Segnature, it has become increasingly clear to me that syncretism, the blending of different cultural, religious, or philosophical elements, is not just an inevitable aspect of spiritual practices but a fundamentally enriching one. Every tradition is inherently syncretic to some degree, having evolved and absorbed various influences over time. This ongoing process of syncretism is not inherently detrimental; in fact, it’s a vital part of how traditions grow and respond to changing contexts.
We see honest syncretism when new elements are thoughtfully and respectfully integrated into a tradition like Segnature. This approach is marked by transparency, respect for both the new and original elements, and informed choice for practitioners. Such honest syncretism allows a tradition to evolve while maintaining its core essence. It enriches the practice, bringing in fresh perspectives and ideas that can resonate with contemporary practitioners, thereby keeping the tradition alive and relevant.
On the other hand, dishonest syncretism, which involves integrating new elements without regard for the tradition’s integrity or historical authenticity, poses a risk. It can lead to a distortion or erasure of the tradition’s original identity and values. However, it’s important to remember that the act of syncretism itself is not negative. The key lies in how it’s done – whether it’s done with an understanding of and respect for the tradition’s history and core principles.
Our Ongoing Responsibility
As practitioners and scholars in the field of esoteric studies, it’s crucial to recognize and understand the nuances of syncretism. We need to approach the ever-evolving landscape of spiritual practices with an openness to change and adaptation while also being mindful of preserving the fundamental essence of these rich traditions. In doing so, we can ensure that these practices continue to thrive and remain relevant for future generations, enriched by the thoughtful integration of new insights and perspectives.
Support Angela’s Symposium
This is it for today’s video.
If you watched until this point, leave me a ribbon emoji or a rope emoji if there is one.
Now, my dear symposiast, this project of delivering free academic knowledge based on peer-reviewed scholarship can only exist thanks to your support.
So, if you have the means and want to offer this knowledge to all, please consider supporting my work with a one-off PayPal donation, by joining membership, my Inner Symposium on Patreon, super thanking me in the comments, or checking out my services at drangelapuca.com. You can book private lectures and tutoring sessions, commission a video, and much more!
All links are in the Bio, in a pinned comment, and in the description box.
Also, don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter to get to know me better through my personal reflections and ponderings over my academic work on all things esoteric.
If you liked this video, don’t forget to SMASH the like button, subscribe to the channel if you haven’t already, and hit that notification bell so you will always be notified if I upload a new video or I am live. Leave a comment and share this video with all of your friends, literally all of them.
Thank you so much for being here, and stay tuned for all the academic fun!
Bye for now.