Reconstructionism and Living Cultures

Various neopagan religious symbols (from left ...

Various neopagan religious symbols (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been having some thoughts on the label “reconstructionist”, its general usefulness as an approach, and how it intersects with living cultures, cultures of origin, and cultures in diaspora. I’m attempting coherency on the subject now because of two different things- reading Naomi’s post here on cultural misappropriation and differences, and Veggie talking about a podcast in chat, in which Tamara Siuda said “reconstructionism is a dead end because we cannot replicate how people lived then when we are living now.” (I don’t have the link for that podcast, maybe someone could share it here?)

I almost always describe myself as a syncretic eclectic with a strong interest/preference in history and historical sources, but not actually a reconstructionist. I also, on my blog, list my culture of origin in with the three ancient cultures I draw from, because that lens of origin is a thing and I think it needs to be paid attention to. In Naomi’s post, she talks about how reconstructionism is heavily a North American thing, and how North American Celtic pagans are divorced from the modern Celtic cultures. It’s brought up a few questions for me.

– Are there any cultures that pagans reconstruct (or attempt to reconstruct) that do not have any modern legacy? I think people would probably jump on Kemeticism, but Egypt does have a distinct culture, and Coptic Christianity and Egyptian Islam are different than Christianity and Islam elsewhere; and as mentioned by Nykti and Veggie in chat, there are folk traditions that persist today that really ping off older practices and beliefs.

– Can one realistically and faithfully reconstruct an ancient culture if there’s a modern living culture, and one is not part of said modern living culture? Where does reconstructing while living in diaspora, or having no cultural connection whatsoever, cross the line into appropriation?

– Why do reconstructionist pagans seem (to me, at least) to very rarely publicly acknowledge and discuss their culture of origin and its influences on their reconstructionism?

– If you are a recon, why do you use the label? What do you feel is different about your approach from other culturally-focused religious approaches? (Like, say, calling oneself a revivalist, or a cultural polytheist, etc.)

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