Friday, March 2, 2012

More on Recontructionism and Its Limitations.

Rescued from Facebook, and preserved here...

On the problems of reconstruction: What is it I want to reconstruct? I want to reconstruct a North American polytheistic, nature-centered, esotericism-friendly religion that uses the mythic tropes and forms of the late pre-Christian Irish. (and the occultism to go with it, by-the-by.)

In order to do that I think I have two main tasks. First I must do my best to understand those tropes and forms. I'll probably never be able to verify whether I have understood them correctly, but I can continue to refine my understanding through study.

Second I must enliven those mythic forms through modern practice. In order to do that I must choose what sorts of practices to use with them. The actual record provides nothing more than bits and scraps of Celtic spiritual practice - their rituals, invocations, forms of meditation or trance. To fill in those blanks I tend to use later folklore, the spiritual practice forms of nearby literate cultures like the Greeks and Romans and those of further-away but culturally-related systems, such as Hinduism.

In the course of doing that for the last 25 years, and of helping a couple dozen groups do it as well, I've decided that the real point is to bring modern people into direct contact with the Gods and Spirits. *That's* how reconstruction will actually be accomplished. By working the rites, calling their names, making their idols, offering of our wealth and talent modern people will draw near the Gods, and bring the Gods near to us.

My understanding of how polytheism works suggests that the Gods we come to work with will not be precisely the same beings that the ancients knew. In working polytheism when a deity reveals itself in a new place it usually displays a mix of traditional characteristics and new ones. Thus 'Diana' of Ephesus is only vaguely related to Athenian Artemis, or to her Roman counterparts. Zeus is 'Zeus *of* somewhere, Dodona, etc.

So my work is to make the images and call the names of the old gods, often just ritual titles, like Dagda or Morrigan or even Brigid. (My own opinion is that we remember those names because they were poetic titles for god-types, that travelling poets could use in many tribes and be understood.) As those gods answer I learn about how they will appear, what offerings they seek and how they can best aid their worshippers. From that we will grow our new religions, reconstructed from bits and bobs, like a beast regrown from bone-splinters.

My guess is that in 100 years we'll have new religions with spirits that share characteristics with those from the past, but exist in ways proper for modern North Americans. We might have Kemetic and Hellenic and Gaelic sects doing frozen ethnic things, but I'm far from sure of that. I think these ethnic platforms are mostly just jumping-off points so that we can get rolling on the business of bringing the Old Gods into New Times.


Fiona Claire said...

Nice post, Ian. I'm sure the old gods are hearing you/helping you. Good luck with your work and hello from a fellow Druid in Ireland.

Andrew B. Watt said...

I think this resonates with me, too. I'm reading Shirley Toulson these days, and thinking about the mythic landscape of the Celtic saints across Britain, and what I'm finding is that the stories open up a kind of awareness of spirituality through an invisible geography — sacred tors and skelligs and holy wells that I may never get to visit; hermitages and chapels and monasteries where great teachers have been ghosts for centuries, and maybe not even that.

Sooner or later, North American pagans are going to have to wake up to their own spiritual geography — our own hermitages and sacred wells in this land, the skelligs and circles of our places. We're not there yet... I know pagans now who travel hundreds of miles to cons and festivals, and then bemoan the fact that "there's nothing near where I come from." All their mythologies trace back to lands across the sea, rather than their own back yard. It's a problem...

Matt said...

I was just thinking about this today when I (fortunately) came across this post.

In working with the Gods and spirits, I've had similar experiences. Irish Lugh isn't identical to Gaulish Lugus; and I can't help but think that Lugh of America might take on some new attributes as well.