Reflections about Invented Traditions

Carol A. Hand

All of the sacred lifeways of the past

that we now revere as traditions

were once newly created, seen as divine messages

passed on through seers and bodhisattvas

around the world throughout human time

Visions were given meaning and substance

from so many different cultural vantage points –

stories passed down from generation to generation,

recorded on stone tablets and sacred birchbark scrolls,

and in bibles, constitutions, and scientific texts


That doesn’t mean the messages are untrue

It simply reminds us that all traditions

should be continually re-examined

in the critical light of changing contexts and times

What we believe to be cast in stone may no longer serve us

Perhaps it’s time to make adjustments

or invent new ways to socially construct

different, peaceful, inclusive possibilities

instead of simply continuing to repeat

the divisive, oppressive, violent ways

we mindlessly use old traditions to justify


Dandelion Field – May 23, 2017


A simple but relevant question to ponder:

Why are dandelion fields less valued than well-manicured grass lawns and flowerbeds?


The question of traditions is something I am revisiting as I edit my book manuscript and reflect on old family dynamics that keep repeating. Two helpful resources are listed below if you are interested in scholarly discourse on the topics of invented traditions and imagined communities.

Benedict Anderson (1995). Imagined Communities. London, UK: Verso.

Eric Hobsbawn and Terence Ranger (Eds.)(1992). The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


19 thoughts on “Reflections about Invented Traditions

  1. A thought-provoking post, Carol…we timelessly, tirelessly follow these traditions without reflection. Oh, I like the idea of a dandelion lawn…or Daisy one! 😀 Good luck with the edit of your book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Maria. I agree that traditions sustain us but not always in healthy ways. When they change, something dies. Perhaps traditions that sustain things like castes and patriarchy should die. It may open up space for greater equality and inclusiveness to be born. But these are just possibilities to contemplate…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Certainly, dear Carol! Time runs its course & what has become archaic must transform in something new. And there must be a transit period for that. I guess castes are not bad at all. Gradation must be in our society for it does exist in the Universe. Though they must be based on totally new approach. Let’s hope Spiritual ones 🙂


    1. Thank you for your always thoughtful comments, Diana. Ah, the challenge of freeing ourselves from unquestioned beliefs and conventions! I suspect it’s a never ending challenge but I think it’s well worth the work. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We learn from the moment we are inside our mother’s wombs and until we go under the soil, this is a local proverb in Pakistan’s Rajanpur desert… I agree traditions are held strongly despite their outdatedness and negative consequences, south asia is full of many such! Sighs.
        As always, wonderful post that makes us self reflect our own personal positions on existing traditions.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Saadia, and for sharing such important insights about how outdated “traditions” can have negative consequences. As you well know, traditions may be fine, but sadly they are often reinterpreted by those who impose new meanings based on their own narrow views and agendas for power.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post and question as usual…anything coming from humans was invented/created at some point, even that we believe coming from the divine or any other authority figure.
    I have always thought that as Joanna Macy and Starhawk say, our current cultures and behaviours, values and beliefs are all shaped by the stories we tell about our origins, nature and relationship to the world and each other.
    Those stories were created and passed long before us and in many cases, they served the peoples and structures or systems in place when they came to be. If the structures, systems, peoples or their needs have changed, then the stories need to be reinvented too…
    Dandelions are considered weeds because they are rebels who spring anyplace where the soil is in need…grasses (manicured ones specially) are a sign of status, of not needing the land for growing food as that was considered of low nature when the middle class was emerging (there was a disdain about working in the fields and that is when being a farmer or worse, a hunter and or gatherer started to be seen as “low”)…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so good to hear from you, Silvia! I look forward to hearing what you are thinking about and doing these days, dear friend.

      I like your comments about the power of stories to shape how we see the world. It reminds me of a quote I was trying to find earlier today (unsuccessfully) – about the staying power of myths. Myths (stories) remain more powerful as a foundation of beliefs and behaviors than scientific truths that call them into question (a paraphrase of something Mark Robert Rank, 2005, wrote in “One Nation Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All”).

      And your observations about dandelions get to the heart of so many crucial contemporary issues. Your comments brought to mind city living and the dearth of land for people to grow food and experience nature. It’s such an unhealthy, powerless position…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wisdom.

    How can we evolve if we don’t allow our belief systems to evolve? Belief systems seem to prevent most of us from attaining wisdom. Too many people look at knowledge as something to collect instead of something to learn from.

    I’m viewed as a freak by many people because I question everything. I’m called weird, ridiculous, unreasonable, idealistic, unrealistic, a troublemaker. One neighbor told me a few years ago that I’m a nice guy and seem to know a lot, but speaking with me depressed her. It’s sad that uncertainty scares and depressses people.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing such thoughtful and important insights, A Shift in Consciousness. Perhaps it’s easier to view those who raise uncomfortable truths as “freaks” if we don’t want to think critically about the significance of the issues they raise. Tragically, too many people have learned to memorize answers for fill-in-the-blank tests. Dealing with the real and present challenges of these times isn’t that simple. It means hard work, study, collaborating with diverse others, and trial and error. I don’t think of you as a freak or “doomer,” and hope you will continue sharing your important insights. 🙂


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