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The last few days have been rather busy, and not just in the mundane aspect of my life. I have been meeting with other Pagans in the community, from very unexpected places, and I have been making offers to and dealing with certain spirits very often over the last 3-5 days. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I should mention, if any of it. I’m still not sure.
There is a part of me that still dwells in the old practice of, “To know, to do, to keep silent.” It’s a common practice in Ceremonial Magic and certain aspects of Wicca, and it’s how I was trained; it is something I fight against every time I post something on this journal. Do I know what to speak of, and what to remain silent on? Why should I not speak upon it? To those who work Ceremonial Magic, yes, I know the answer to that last question, but I work much more from the religious end than the magical end of things. More importantly, the less people speak of these things, the less those who might otherwise be called to such work will even know of its existence; in many ways, this leads directly to the cultural appropriation of whatever is available and cobbling it together from mush, which does not often go well, in my experience. If it’s all you’ve got, though, it’s what you do, if you’re being true to the call.
It’s been on my mind a lot lately because it’s been the primary topic of conversation: “doing your own thing,” and finding out there’s a Pagan culture that either does it similarly or does it better. One example has been the practices in Asatru and Germanic reconstructions, where the older ways are tried and end up showing themselves more powerful ritually and religiously than the modern ways of doing the same thing. Another example is the experience of animism, and learning of cultures that once practiced that animism in a similar vein that one has experienced in personal gnosis. Peer-corroborated gnosis has also been a major aspect of these discussions, and where lore and peer-corroborated gnosis have coincided, and where they’ve clashed.
Mostly writing all this down because the topics are great for future posts, though I would like to check with the other participants of these discussions before I go full-bore into them.
Tonight, however, I performed my third offering ritual to the Deiwos. I went with one change at a time: this change was calling Dyeus Pter before the libations offering. The change seemed satisfactory, and so I shall keep it. Good to know.
So, today’s readings and preparations were all about sacred space: not just the altar, but the entire ritual space. There is a world of difference in the way Deep Ancestors recommends sacred space be created and my own rituals; while one can see the ADF influence in the reconstruction, there are other aspects that make the recommended ritual more like Wiccan practice, or favor historical accuracy to functional practicality.
One of the primary aspects of the sacred space ritual is the idea that sacred space is not permanent. I get that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were a semi-nomadic society, and that temples eventually developed as they continued to roam and settle. This, of course, means that sacred space must be created when a ritual needs to be performed. However, PIE rituals are also apparently supposed to be done under an open sky; while I prefer doing outdoor rituals, I can think of at least a few times when such rites are neither practical nor preferable. This coming Yule ritual, and the plans already made for it, are one example. The health of small children who might be brought to rite are another.
This is not to say we cannot perform the rite, even as written, though traditionally, there has only been the one officiant, which is the second issue. Serith’s rites have a Reks, a Gheuter, a Xadbhertor, a Ner, and a Fire Tender, five separate duties, and some of which are gender-specific. Already, due to my own practice and the practice of my worship group, there’s going to be changes needed to that. While the rite can be performed, those performing will probably need to double- or triple-up on jobs. It might be preferable to slightly alter the wording, as well.
I do love how the ritual tries to include as many people as possible. It’s very much about community, which is part of building sacred space. Sacred space is as much about the community worshiping as it is about the Gods and Spirits being venerated; that is part of the necessary equitable exchange. This is worth a little messing with the traditions so far performed in the household, and why I am willing to give the changes a try. I am especially willing after a second run-through of the basic offering rite, and seeing how it worked.
I will be separating the Wikpotes’ offerings from the altar, which is something different than done before. That is definitely becoming a part of the ritual, regardless of other changes to the ritual text I may make for practicality. This seems to be a major aspect of PIE practice: the dead are separated from the living, even in ritual, and offerings to the Gods of the Dead are not shared. This becomes very important in properly adhering to culture.
On the positive end, I have most everything I need, minus the clarified butter, the bread sacrifice, and an axe. I may make do with a knife for the first couple of rituals, but eventually, an axe or similar implement will be needed. For now, I will need one knife to mark out ritual space, and one for the cutting of the bread/sacrifice.
These three words interest me. They feel final and strong. Just a thought. They represent, “Well-built, well-supported,” and “well-established.” They should feel strong. However, for me, it is something deeper than just the meaning.
Final note for tonight, the processional. A procession into the ritual space will likely be unnecessary, but at the same time, elements of the procession need to be included, specifically, the claiming of the “cattle.” In my mind, this also represents the wealth of the wiks, their bounty and their power. I will be altering things so that such can be done as a personal rite before the ritual begins, on behalf of the wiks.
For reference, this is the ritual from Ceisiwr Serith’s website, which is very similar to the one found in the book.
I usually do a rite once a month on or around the Full Moon. Since Wednesday I had a meeting, and Thursday was Thanksgiving, I chose to do the ritual tonight. This post is concerning the practice and the thoughts I have of it after.
If you know anything about me, you know that while I support reconstruction of pre-Christian religions, such as Celtic Reconstruction, Heathenry, Hellenic Reconstruction, and yes, even PIE Reconstruction, I don’t participate in them. There are a few reasons for this. The first and simplest reason is that this is not that time period. I find it fallacious that people assume they can reconstruct a religion from a thousand or more years ago and still have it be completely relevant to the modern era. Now, I’m not just talking ritual and pantheon reconstruction, I’m also talking about beliefs and practices, which sometimes includes prejudices and problems which do not match modern sensibilities. I’ve talked about ergi before, and how this aspect of Germanic society has impacted American society, but this is only one of many problems with trying to reconstruct an ancient religion in a modern society. What do you keep in? What do you leave out? What do you push for in the legal system, and what makes sense to leave behind?
I’m just going to jump right in. This particular post is both a reminder to me of making sure I understand these concepts before continuing, and an explanation for anyone who is reading the blog.
The practices of Paganism are wide, diverse, even contradictory. Neopagan Animism is nothing like Wicca, which bears little resemblance to Hellenic Paganism, which is in turn very different from Dianic Wicca or Feri or Reclaiming. Anyone not saying, “Duh!” to this statement really hasn’t spent a lot of time in the community, or outside their own tradition.
The number of times I have heard the statement, “You’re Pagan? I didn’t think you were into Goddess Spirituality…” has exceeded the number of fingers on my hands and toes on my feet. Most of these times occurred back in Columbus, but there have been enough times in Denver and in Colorado Springs for me to think that this is by no means isolated to one area. It’s unfortunate. In the ranks of the Pagan community, we can count Jungian archetypists and “soft” polytheists, hard polytheists, animists, nature-focused materialists, duotheists, feminine-focused monotheists, atheists, philosophers, speculators, and (who can forget?) various flavors of magicians, as well as several combinations of any of the above. Being Pagan does not mean exclusively following any particular dogma or set of beliefs or practices.
Neopagan Animism was born from this fact as much as from any particular tradition. I was introduced to a number of religious practices and beliefs under one umbrella term when I was introduced to Paganism, from Wicca to Heathenry to Druidry, and many of the magical practices found within these traditions. Furthermore, we all practiced our religious beliefs together, several belief systems coming to one focal point and one practice in our rituals. Since then, I have heard hundreds – if not thousands – of times that this was the highest form of blasphemy to the Gods and Spirits. I heard this not only from elders in various local Reconstructionist and Traditional communities, but also from lovers, friends, and energy work partners. For a time, I even partially believed it. The development of a tradition which emphasized the animistic aspects of Pagan practice was an ultimate rejection of this attitude.
In Gus diZerega’s blog today, I read an interesting article on the “edginess” of Paganism. Here. Read it. I’ll wait.
Edginess is hard to reconcile with Recon religions, such as Asatru and Celtic Reconstructionism (CR). On the one hand, they’re naturally edgy: many of the virtues and values are imported from over 1,000 years ago, which means you may or may not have a given Reconstructionist who adheres to “American” values. On the other hand, you’re speaking about groups of Pagans who are notoriously conservative in their interpretations of lore, and oddly at home with maintaining the status quo in modern politics, regardless of their political persuasion.
The reason I bring this up is that many polytheists are at some level Reconstructionists, or at least “Recon Lite”, such as ADF and similar groups (credit Ian Corrigan with that quip). The number of polytheists in the US who are more gnosis-based are very rare, and lore/gnosis balanced groups are also uncommon. In Recon religions, edginess and the ability to FReak Out the Mundanes (what I and my associates call “fromming”) seem to be largely a function of ancient culture rather than any actual modern attitude. Some of the freakiest Recons I know (who live in Denver, of all places) still are quite at home at a board meeting or in a “normal” social gathering. Their religion is something they talk about freely but don’t really display as a general rule.
On the one hand, it’s good to be a “normal” Pagan, especially in the workplace or in most public venues. Paganism is a way of life not unlike any other, in the sense that we value hard work and compensation for it. To be seen as a person first and a Pagan second is a worthy goal, and some of us have already achieved it. The question is, “Why?” Why do we wish to be mainstream, to not rock the boat or be outspoken, to go on with “business as usual?”
There is yet another question we should be asking. What is it that makes polytheism, and even Neopaganism, “edgy” or “mainstream”? There are several definitions of both words. A further fact is, Paganism need not be one or the other.
When I think of a mainstream religion, I think of a religion that is accepted as a viable choice of belief system according to the society of a given region. In this respect, Wicca at least has already gained some mainstream status, depending on your location. Being a Wiccan in Denver, for example, is about as important as being a plumber or a banker. It is just one more choice in a variety of choices available. On the other hand, down in the Springs, being a Wiccan still can earn illicit looks or put one’s job in danger.
There is another definition of “mainstream”, which I hope we avoid as polytheists, even as Wicca is succumbing to it. This is the “mainstream” of being available to the lowest common denominator, yet another selection with about as much flavor and importance as the green Jell-o you order at lunch. This is being a religion which does not counter corporate or consumerist values, a nice and safe predicament to be in. Our religion has never been “safe”, you want safe, join Christianity, that’s my opinion. Gus makes the same point, but seems to think that not being this kind of mainstream religion is being “edgy” somehow, as if countering consumerism in principle was somehow societally dangerous. It’s not, at least, not yet. What is dangerous is looking at a Recon and telling them the lore only matters so much in the long run, because it was all written by Christian monks when the old religions had all but been replaced. I’ve ducked more than one punch from that one.
Edginess is partially attitude. I don’t have an edgy attitude. Partially for that reason, people at my place of business can look at me and go, “He’s a little weird, but he’s OK.” They know I’m polyamorous, they know I’m Pagan, and this is in a fairly conservative district. It’s not Colorado Springs, but it is upper-middle-class status quo, and there’s plenty of Fundamentalist attitudes going around. Yet I’m treated as normal, even liked, partially because I try to be a nice guy, and partially because I don’t make a big deal about being different. I’m different, and I have different attitudes about things, yeah. No big.
Gus seems to imply that Paganism should return a degree of edginess to itself, in regards to countering the corporations and the consumer society they have created. I counter with, we don’t need to be edgy to do that. We can be normal, everyday people, and still tell a corporation to flock off. In fact, Paganism will have less impact if we designate and separate ourselves from others who feel the same way, but might not hold our world-view. This is where the Quakers succeeded: they weren’t they only abolitionists in that time period which Gus is speaking of; they coordinated with others who shared that viewpoint even if they didn’t agree with the Quakers religiously. This is not edginess, this is cooperation, *ghosti. This is what needs to happen.