Talking About Reconstruction

I promised this a while back, but have been so busy and now realize nearly a month has passed. So…

 I talked about exploring some Celtic practices upon North American land, like encountering the local land goddess in whichever land we live on, working with river and creek deities/spirits, springs and other local spirits; ways of offering to them, based on years of my own experience and experiments. I also talking about what reconstructionist methodology is and what some of the very serious pitfalls are such as the reenactment mindset, being unaware how deeply different we are from ancient peoples, being incognizant of scholarly perspectives and inevitable historiographical interpretations, as well as reading the lore like it was gospel…and discussed the experimental approach as one way to avoid such, and to simply get things going: try something out and see if there is result and what kind of result. Then I opened it up to discussion and sharing. A strong takeaway is that there are religions that have sufficient common ground so it is easy to talk together, and without any apparent misunderstandings, or anything major at any rate. That actual polytheist religions, and not only reconstructed ones of European and Near Eastern origins, but those generated in many parts of the world share so much. Often these are sacrificial and liturgical in orientation, and have profound local affinities; offerings important to all of the ones I have encountered.


Although the presentation was scheduled rather late into a Friday night (recon/devotional polytheist events are often scheduled early in the morning or late in the evening or at opening or closing spots when many have not arrived or many have already left), when many convention goers were partying or attending concerts, we staked out a space for serious discussion and interactions that I found encouraging. It was great to hear the experiences of a woman reconstructing Indo-Iranian practices, and the perspectives of heathenchinese (check out his blog at, as well as from those with a Celtic focus, and also some heathens. PSV Lupus was there and had plenty of good things to share too (unsurprisingly) Again, the ability to share language and not having terrible times understanding one another’s words is so different an experience from the debates in the ‘umbrella pagan’ sphere (or for that matter at the Wiccanate Privilege session). I find that people involved in various reconstructions (and those who are more engaged in restoration of existing traditions) are able to converse fruitfully.


There were people also who attended to simply get some idea of reconstruction. One asked a question that kind of surprised me: Why do reconstructionists want to revive these old traditions? I didn’t actually answer the following, but I thought because old things are really cool! (well, not everything, but you know). I did say a lot of us want something that is different than the dominant culture and its values. Perhaps this is a conceptual divide that is very hard to cross and is one of the difficulties in communicating with eclectic Wiccanate neopagans who want something that easily fits into the superficial instant of the consumer culture.



12 thoughts on “Talking About Reconstruction

  1. My own primary reason is that I want to connect to the long line of people stretching back into prehistory that we term, for convenience, the Ancestors. Strongly innovating religions do not allow that. In addition, I want to connect to the gods in a polytheist sense, because that is how my experiences with divinities seem best explained.

      1. Exactly so! And we are left wondering where that fascination comes from – it must have an origin, and experience tells us that it is probably the gods communicating with us. Which comes back to Kym’s comment below, and helps us to counter the misperception that “Reconstructionists” have nothing spiritual going on.

  2. My answer as to “why” is usually “because one of the Goddesses I worship told me to.” It’s not only true, that She let me know that Wicca wasn’t going to work out between us, but it really confuses those who are convinced that Reconstructionists don’t ever act on UPG or have spiritual experiences. ~:)

    And old things are really cool!

    1. I was getting nudged, if not so obviously directed by Someone; ‘religious witchcraft’ just wasn’t the ‘old ways’ it claimed to be. One thing I tried to dispel in the presentation is that whole stereotype that we don’t act on UPG (and a big part of my concept of ‘experimental’).

  3. I find it supremely ironic that what Recons are known for all-too-often in the wider pagan and polytheist communities is: a) being “lore-hounds”; and b) not allowing any UPG in. All of the most authentically reconstructionist-methodology-employing folks I know allow in UPG and place a great emphasis on actual contact with deities and guidance by them in what they do; and, too many self-professed “lore-hounds” don’t know shit about the actual lore involved more than half of the time, it seems. Those of us who are doing recon “the right way,” I hate to say, are often being edged out by secondary and passive recons far too often, alas…perhaps in the same way that people who have polytheism as part of their overall religious framework want to edge out those of us who actually acknowledge a diversity of deities. *shrugs*

    Also, Felix natalis tibi!

  4. I’m interested in old traditions because I am interested in understanding the worldview of my ancestors, and their spiritual notions about how to live the good life. I don’t see this emphasized much in recon traditions, though. While recons surely have personal spiritual experiences, there seems to be little dialog around shared spiritual values as a community. I wonder why that is.

      1. I agree, inter-personal social ethics and personal social virtues are discussed, but little to no discussion is given to spiritual ethics in terms of how we collectively teach and talk about relating to the enchanted land in which we dwell. Asatru doesn’t either, within its Nine Noble Virtues. But Romuva does, interestingly. And I think in doing so it speaks to a spiritual ethic which would be common to folk traditions relating in a spiritual way with land and natural forces. I feel that this is a huge gap in Celtic circles.

      2. I think when you relate to the land as a goddess, to rivers, streams, springs, as goddesses/spirits or their homes it is given that you don’t foul them, use resources without restraint and so on. Definitely something I plan to be writing about more.

        Interesting about Romuva; from what little I know I understand the break in continuity wasn’t so long, so maybe that’s a factor?

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