Reconstruction. Every time I hear this term, I think of the period immediately following the American Civil War, particularly in the southern United States. But that is not what the term typically means in Pagan circles. to borrow from Wikipedia’s page on Polytheistic reconstruction:
Reconstructionism attempts to re-establish historical polytheistic religions in the modern world, in contrast with neopagan syncretic movements like Wicca, and “channeled” movements like Germanic mysticism or Theosophy.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytheistic_reconstructionism
Fairly textbook oriented perspective, but useful in understanding the primary aspects of reconstruction perspectives within the Pagan community. Attempting to showcase the perspective I am chasing, a simpler aspect would come from elsewhere in the same article.
While the emphasis on historical accuracy may imply historical reenactment, the desire for continuity in ritual traditions (orthopraxy) is a common characteristic of religion in general, as seen in Anglican ritualism, or in much Christian liturgy.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytheistic_reconstructionism
Essentially, and I am painting with an overly broad brush here, its a perspective of doing rituals and practicing aspects of a belief system exactly (or as close as possible) to the manner in which the ancestors of that system did back in time. There is a strict adherence to a set of ritual framework, spell-work, and how to honor the Gods, the Ancestors, and the Spirits. This can even include things all the way down to manners of personal dress and how such clothing is made.
Now, please do not take me the wrong way. I am not denigrating or trying to shit all over the way folks that practice this methodology to their Spiritual Path. On the contrary, I applaud them for finding this method as working directly (and correctly) for them. This approach; however, does not work for me. In fact, it would be most appropriate to say that I am nowhere in the same ballpark with any reconstruction movement.
in fact, my own approach to my Spiritual Path might be more detailed through a Journey song. Yes, Journey – the band.
She saidJourney, “Any Way You Want It”
Any way you want it
That’s the way you need it
Any way you want it
Most of my ritual work has a framework associated with it – that which I learned through my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. However, over time, I have many alterations that I have added (and removed) to that framework until I have a few variations that I can manage that are within my own personal comfort zone. And since I am a congregation of one (me), it makes it a lot easier to alter things on the fly if need be.
Now orthodoxy would have me called out as a blasphemer, since I am altering what would be considered as “set in stone”. Orthopraxy; however, would note that what I am doing is “ok” for me, so long as I do not force my own changes onto others. In other words, when gathered with a group of fellow OBOD members, following the typical ritual framework would be considered as better conduct since we all have studied and trained within that aspect. No one would be caught off guard with the various alterations I have created for myself.
My own alterations to the framework are why I would never consider myself a part of a reconstruction movement. I am not trying to recreate something old; just utilize something that I am more comfortable with. And even if I did utilize a part of a framework that is the same or similar to what was done in “ancient” times…my use of that is not associated with a desire to do things “as they have been done before”. Rather, as I have noted a few times now – I am trying to do something that “works for me,” nothing more.
To be brutally honest, I am not worried about how things were done in the “ancient” times. Nor am I worried about how things were done last weekend. I want to focus on what feels “right” and “comfortable” with this moment in the ritual. Simple as that. That perspective will likely draw the ire of reconstructionists and Pagans of an orthodox frame of mind, but this will have little effect on me. I am not encouraging a single individual to do what I do. If someone decides to adopt the same mindset – working on their own Path through ritual practice that they know and understand – that is for them to decide. So please, do not take me the wrong way and say that I hate reconstructionist and orthodox methodologies within Paganism. Rather, my perspective is that those perspectives do not work for me.
My friend John Beckett likes to remark about the Big Tent of Paganism. My perspective is a little different – more like a Pagan campground. However, whatever the symbolism that gets utilized, there’s room in Paganism for a lot of beliefs – even those diametrically opposed to one another in belief, methodology, and/or perspective. And that wide diversity is a strength, in my opinion. If you explore throughout – either walking through the Big Tent of Paganism or going from fire to fire in the Pagan Campground, you will learn many approaches to personal Spirituality. And the more approaches you can understand, the wider your vision can become. You do not need to utilize the approaches – merely understand. In my opinion, the wider your experience, the wider your eyes will be. The wider your eyes will be, the more you can see. The more you can see, the more you can choose to experience. Just a thought….