collapse

* "Unable to verify referring url. Please go back and try again" Problem Logging In?

If you get an "Unable to verify referring url. Please go back and try again" error when you try to log in, you need to be sure you are accessing the board with a url that starts with "https://ecauldron.com".  If it starts with https://www.ecauldron.com" (or "http://www.ecauldron.com") you will get this error because "www.ecauldron.com" is not technically the same website as "ecauldron.com". Moving to the more secure "https" means it is more picky about such things.

Author Topic: Criticism of reconstructionism  (Read 392 times)

Kaio

  • Journeyman
  • *****
  • Join Date: Nov 2014
  • Posts: 103
  • Total likes: 1
    • View Profile
Criticism of reconstructionism
« on: March 25, 2020, 12:09:36 am »
I recall leaving Wicca for Ásatrú back in my teens  because I was looking for the depth I associated with reconstructionism. Now, however, I think reconstructionism can be limiting.

I looked for experienced reconstructionist people on the web because I wanted to know what they think about thorny issues within reconstructionism, like purity requirements. Just a few such people answered me; some answers were somewhat vague; some were eccentric but no backing from a source was provided; some seemed to be common within that community, but no clear ancient precedent was mentioned.

What I want to say is that I'm so used to think in a reconstructionistic way that anything non-reconstructionistic seems to be not enough and/or even just wrong.

When I was a Wiccan I felt I could just invite a Deity to the circle, talk to that Deity in my native language, offer that Deity incense, maybe light candles during the ritual to which that Deity was invited, etc..

Now I think that:

- I, my room, my clothes, etc. must be strictly pure before I think of doing any ritual. I, however, am not sure about how to cleanse myself, my clothes, etc., since it varies according to overall tradition (like Hellenic, Egyptian, etc.) and varies even within traditions (like from temple to temple regulation within Hellenism, etc.), from source to source, etc.. It may require just abstention, a bath (perhaps in a river), maybe blood from an animal, etc.;
- I must have to be without sex, masturbation or any bodily fluid for two days at least (counting that the day starts at the previous day's sunset); also for two days at least I must have not touched menstruating women nor animals, nor corpses or people who've been around any corpse, nor any murderer, nor any newborn baby, nor any woman who gave birth recently, etc.;
- the most correct language to address any Deity is any language in which people already talked to that Deity before in ancient times according to extant sources;
- I don't know what to offer several Deities; it's not clear what many Deities were offered apart from meat of animals slaughtered for that ritual;
- there's proof that incense was offered Deities in Mediterranean regions, but it's not clear it was the case in other places. And I'm not aware of ancient use of candles as offering.

I don't know... I like the idea of just praying to Deities, lighting colored candles when praying to them and offering them incense, maybe flowers and/or libations, not that differently from the folk Catholicism/Umbanda mix I grew up with. I immagine that, a simple polytheistic practice within the limits of what I've lived regarding religion. With no worries as for ancestry, etc.. But I don't know if this is possible...
When in Rome do as the Romans do. (Ambrose)

Anon100

  • Master Member
  • ******
  • Join Date: Jun 2019
  • Posts: 327
  • Country: gb
  • Total likes: 85
    • View Profile
  • Religion: Pagan
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2020, 04:17:40 am »
I don't know... I like the idea of just praying to Deities, lighting colored candles when praying to them and offering them incense, maybe flowers and/or libations, not that differently from the folk Catholicism/Umbanda mix I grew up with. I immagine that, a simple polytheistic practice within the limits of what I've lived regarding religion. With no worries as for ancestry, etc.. But I don't know if this is possible...

Ok, so this is jusy my own thoughts here ( and I travel my own path so to speak so am an uneducated outside observer ).

Reconstructionism seem to be the rebuilding of the ancient religion(s) to the point where they were cut short. Which is a good way of rebuilding them.
That said if you look at existing religions you'll notice that they change ( sometimes slowly ) with time and the environment. For instance the more militant branches that would have been mainstream for so long have become less so - No Christian crusades, C of E branching off and allowing divorce, the Pope relaxing certain items etc..

I don't know if I have the right end of things here but I'd imagine that, once a religion is reconstructed it then has to be free to grow and change with its environment

Aster Breo

  • Senior Staff
  • *
  • Join Date: Jun 2011
  • Posts: 2886
  • Country: 00
  • Total likes: 82
    • View Profile
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2020, 04:47:34 am »




I don't know... I like the idea of just praying to Deities, lighting colored candles when praying to them and offering them incense, maybe flowers and/or libations, not that differently from the folk Catholicism/Umbanda mix I grew up with. I immagine that, a simple polytheistic practice within the limits of what I've lived regarding religion. With no worries as for ancestry, etc.. But I don't know if this is possible...

Why do you think this would not be possible?

Who is going to tell you that how you worship on your own home is wrong?

And, even if someone did tell you that, why would you care what they think?

I'm asking these as serious questions.

Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk

"The status is not quo."  ~ Dr. Horrible

Jenett

  • Senior Staff
  • *
  • Join Date: Jun 2011
  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Posts: 3228
  • Country: us
  • Total likes: 754
    • View Profile
    • Seeking: First steps on a path
  • Religion: Initiatory religious witchcraft
  • Preferred Pronouns: she/her
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2020, 10:03:00 am »
I don't know... I like the idea of just praying to Deities, lighting colored candles when praying to them and offering them incense, maybe flowers and/or libations, not that differently from the folk Catholicism/Umbanda mix I grew up with. I immagine that, a simple polytheistic practice within the limits of what I've lived regarding religion. With no worries as for ancestry, etc.. But I don't know if this is possible...

People do it, and thrive with it, so it's clearly possible! How to make it work for you is more of the question.

One of the things I notice in your discussion here is that you're assuming a rigidity that may not actually have been historically relevant. A lot of times, we don't necessarily know a lot about small household-centred practice historically - and certainly not the full range of what must have happened over decades and centuries. (Except that we do know things almost certainly changed, sometimes a lot.)

We do know from other living religious traditions that there are often different specifications for ritual purity - people in certain roles in the community may have more restrictive requirements, but someone working an everyday job, living in the community, going about their business probably had fewer restrictions. Or maybe the restrictions mattered a lot before certain rituals, but not every day.

(We also know that a lot of the purity restrictions as you've stated would leave most women out most of the time, and we know that's not actually what happened. In part, we know that because we can look at modern religious communities with purity restrictions, and see that religions that last for any length of time come up with a wide variety of modes of participation that work for people on a day to day basis in a variety of necessary situations.)

But the restrictions we're going to hear about, mostly, in a researchable record, are going to be the ones for the big fussy temple celebrations, not "It's Tuesday, and we're about to have dinner with a small offering to our family gods." (Or alternately, we're going to hear about the requirements for people who are priests, or responsible for tending a temple, or other specific roles, not Dikaiopolis the farmer.)

The other part of this is thinking about what you're doing. Instead of focusing on "What would someone living in a different economy, ecology, and environment have offered to this deity", what about "What were the offerings doing, and what are the equivalents in my culture and community?" There are some common threads if you look at offerings across cultures:

Light: In ancient cultures might have been an oil lamp. Our modern light is almost always electricity, which is a weird 'offering' because we're so disconnected from the process of making it available. Choosing and lighting a candle is much more of a deliberate act, and therefore works better as an  offering action. (And you're not seeing the use of candles in many ancient places because they'd have used oil lamps or torches or hearthfires instead of candles. People moved to candles when wax/tallow/etc. became more readily available because they are safer and easier to manage.)

The essentials of life, namely clean fresh water, and staple foods (bread, rice, the local oil/fat source - olive oil for the Greeks, for example). It's worth noting that in many places and cultures the local form of widely drunk alcohol (wine, beer, hard cider, etc.) counts as a staple food - whatever people would have drunk in place of water. In some places, dairy would be a staple, in other places it wasn't.

Strong scent, either incense or something like burnt meat, where if you read the ritual texts, it's often about the scent rising to the heavens and taking on the form of whatever the Gods desire. The key often is it's got to be a strong scent, to be strong enough to get there and be transformed. Again, from looking at modern and documented history practices, we can be pretty sure that "the incense material it is easy to get around here" was a common choice most of the time (and there are a number of garden plants that can be used for incense). So what's common near you?

Seasonal pretty/tasty things: Fruit and flowers in season (i.e. the stuff that is widely available), a particularly nice rock you found on a walk, that really gorgeous leaf.

You do see that the offerings are generally things that the offerer would use themselves (i.e. they should be of the same quality you'd be eating/drinking/using, not poorer quality).

The key to these ongoing/regular/fairly routine offerings is that they take a modest amount of attention and effort, but that they are in fact manageable by the average person or household on an ongoing basis. We're talking about items that are widely available, where you would give a small portion of your store of them to the Gods.

And then you get to the "This is a special occasion, what do we offer that's special?" These are not offerings that were made every day (or even every week) in many places, these were the ones you'd do for special festivals, or particular occasions.

This is where the "Here is a whole cow/sheep/horse/etc." sacrifices come in, generally - and often, if you read, you'll see that the portion of the meat that was burned for the gods was not the part the community would eat. The community would feast (in poorer villages, this might be one of the only times people had meat during the year), and the bit that wasn't very edible by humans would get burned as an offering. Everyone gets something useful.

But if you're doing a special ritual, for a particular festival or an urgent need, that's when you pull out the offerings of extra nice stuff. This might be specially made objects (jewellery, beads, etc.), it might be extra nice foods (the stuff you only have a little of, or things like spices that were imported from far away), it might be imported incense or other materials (silk, particular pigments, etc) or an uncommon perfume. You might give your best sheep for the sacrifice, or have lots and lots of oil lamps (later candles), the things that took you a lot of time and energy to prepare for use.

Again, we know that wasn't the everyday thing, in part because people wrote about those things being different, occasional, or only for certain uses. Often those require a communal structure (a large temple set up a certain way) to do.
Looking at how Judaism handles the fact that the Temple in Jerusalem isn't an option (and so neither are the communal rituals that require it), but there are still both daily rituals and a variety of festivals and holy days can be instructive here. (Also the fact that Judaism has functioned as a religion in diaspora for many centuries, often with a relatively small population in any given area is a quite possibly very useful model.)

And some of those offerings may not make a lot of sense outside of a community context: if you live by yourself, even if you could slaughter and process your own sheep, you probably can't make use of all of it in a timely way. Perhaps making a meal with meat that has been ethically raised and slaughtered (but a meal amount for you + offering, not for a whole village) is the modern equivalent that makes sense. Different context, adaptations may make a lot of sense.

Thinking through this more
What happens if you start off doing simple offerings that cover the same bases as so many historical ones (light, staple foods, clean water, maybe some seasonal fruits or flowers), and see what happens? Does it make your life better? Your connections to the Gods you're offering to better? If so, yay! If you're not sure (and you've given it a reasonable try - I'd say a month or two of regular offerings if you don't get a strong sense one way or another), then try something else, or consider whether you might want to make offerings to different gods.

I've had a regular practice for something like six or eight months now where I do an energetic offering every morning, and light/incense/some sort of suitable liquid (I just finished the batch of spiced wine I made at winter solstice, sometimes it's the alcohol I have in the house to drink, sometimes it's cream or honey or olive oil). More details here on my website.. This is not the whole of my religious practice by any means, but it's an approach to offerings that I feel is historically anchored, and that is sustainable and meaningful for long-term use.
Seek Knowledge, Find Wisdom: Research help on esoteric and eclectic topics (consulting and other services)

Seeking: first steps on a Pagan path (advice for seekers and people new to Paganism)

Micheál

  • Sr. Master Member
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jul 2011
  • Location: Belfast, N. Ireland
  • Posts: 587
  • Country: ie
  • Total likes: 32
    • View Profile
    • Gall-Ghael
  • Religion: Alexandrian Wicca, Gaelic Polytheism
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2020, 12:58:52 pm »
I recall leaving Wicca for Ásatrú back in my teens  because I was looking for the depth I associated with reconstructionism. Now, however, I think reconstructionism can be limiting.
It's kind of catch 22, in a way not a lot is not known about how the ancients actually practised. Since knowledge constantly changes on the academic front, many practitioners are distant when it comes to answering questions like that in case their practise is debunked, or not seen as valid later. Since reconstructionism is a methodology that reconstructs in a "modern context," in theory it shouldn't seem that complicated getting those kinds of answers, but alas it is.

Things like the language example can be a bit over the top. Many English speakers can barely, or not even at all understand Shakespeare, never mind an ancient form of a language, many which are just the best scholarly guesses into what they actually sounded like. I encounter this often, as I'm Wiccan (which does have a beautiful way of interacting with deity), and also a Gaelic Polytheist, that lives in Ireland, and am an Irish speaker. We have a contemporary culture that doesn't need reverse engineered, and too often we'll get the odd reconstructionist from a different culture an ocean away accusing Irish Neopagans and especially Wiccans of cultural appropriation and the like.   

Eastling

  • Sr. Master Member
  • *******
  • Join Date: Feb 2016
  • Location: Seattle
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 544
  • Country: us
  • Total likes: 374
  • Love and be free.
    • View Profile
    • Mystermercury
  • Religion: Dionysian pop culture paganism and heretical Judaism
  • Preferred Pronouns: He/him/his
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2020, 02:08:10 pm »
I recall leaving Wicca for Ásatrú back in my teens  because I was looking for the depth I associated with reconstructionism. Now, however, I think reconstructionism can be limiting.

I looked for experienced reconstructionist people on the web because I wanted to know what they think about thorny issues within reconstructionism, like purity requirements. Just a few such people answered me; some answers were somewhat vague; some were eccentric but no backing from a source was provided; some seemed to be common within that community, but no clear ancient precedent was mentioned.

What I want to say is that I'm so used to think in a reconstructionistic way that anything non-reconstructionistic seems to be not enough and/or even just wrong.

Well, that's unfortunate. Reconstructionism may work for some people but when you reach that point with it--when it's holding you back more than it's laying groundwork for you--clearly something about your approach has to change for you to make the spiritual progress you want.

Quote
Now I think that:

- I, my room, my clothes, etc. must be strictly pure before I think of doing any ritual. I, however, am not sure about how to cleanse myself, my clothes, etc., since it varies according to overall tradition (like Hellenic, Egyptian, etc.) and varies even within traditions (like from temple to temple regulation within Hellenism, etc.), from source to source, etc.. It may require just abstention, a bath (perhaps in a river), maybe blood from an animal, etc.;

Physical and etheric cleansing with running water is important to most practices, but in the modern day we have showers and faucets, most of which draw water from running sources (check your local reservoir info to see if that's the case for you). I've personally had good luck ritualizing the cleansing power of a simple shower.

Quote
I don't know... I like the idea of just praying to Deities, lighting colored candles when praying to them and offering them incense, maybe flowers and/or libations, not that differently from the folk Catholicism/Umbanda mix I grew up with. I immagine that, a simple polytheistic practice within the limits of what I've lived regarding religion. With no worries as for ancestry, etc.. But I don't know if this is possible...

As Jenett pointed out very well above, this is possible for many people; the question is how to make something similar possible for you.

Your anxieties mostly sound like the worries of someone with high scrupulosity who's been exposed to too much circular, unproductive methodology--in other words, something in a similar (though obviously less pathologically severe) vein to the compulsive, ritually purifying behavior of certain obsessive disorders. So my suggestion is, well, continue what you're doing now: moving away from hard recon that gets lost in impractical minutiae, and exposing yourself to other forms of pagan spirituality.
"The peacock can show its whole tail at once, but I can only tell you a story."
--JAMES ALAN GARDNER

Yei

  • Sr. Master Member
  • *******
  • Join Date: May 2012
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 562
  • Country: au
  • Total likes: 145
    • View Profile
  • Religion: Mexica Reconstructionism
  • Preferred Pronouns: He/Him/His
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2020, 10:43:58 pm »
I recall leaving Wicca for Ásatrú back in my teens  because I was looking for the depth I associated with reconstructionism. Now, however, I think reconstructionism can be limiting.

I looked for experienced reconstructionist people on the web because I wanted to know what they think about thorny issues within reconstructionism, like purity requirements. Just a few such people answered me; some answers were somewhat vague; some were eccentric but no backing from a source was provided; some seemed to be common within that community, but no clear ancient precedent was mentioned.

What I want to say is that I'm so used to think in a reconstructionistic way that anything non-reconstructionistic seems to be not enough and/or even just wrong.

When I was a Wiccan I felt I could just invite a Deity to the circle, talk to that Deity in my native language, offer that Deity incense, maybe light candles during the ritual to which that Deity was invited, etc..

Now I think that:

- I, my room, my clothes, etc. must be strictly pure before I think of doing any ritual. I, however, am not sure about how to cleanse myself, my clothes, etc., since it varies according to overall tradition (like Hellenic, Egyptian, etc.) and varies even within traditions (like from temple to temple regulation within Hellenism, etc.), from source to source, etc.. It may require just abstention, a bath (perhaps in a river), maybe blood from an animal, etc.;
- I must have to be without sex, masturbation or any bodily fluid for two days at least (counting that the day starts at the previous day's sunset); also for two days at least I must have not touched menstruating women nor animals, nor corpses or people who've been around any corpse, nor any murderer, nor any newborn baby, nor any woman who gave birth recently, etc.;
- the most correct language to address any Deity is any language in which people already talked to that Deity before in ancient times according to extant sources;
- I don't know what to offer several Deities; it's not clear what many Deities were offered apart from meat of animals slaughtered for that ritual;
- there's proof that incense was offered Deities in Mediterranean regions, but it's not clear it was the case in other places. And I'm not aware of ancient use of candles as offering.

I don't know... I like the idea of just praying to Deities, lighting colored candles when praying to them and offering them incense, maybe flowers and/or libations, not that differently from the folk Catholicism/Umbanda mix I grew up with. I immagine that, a simple polytheistic practice within the limits of what I've lived regarding religion. With no worries as for ancestry, etc.. But I don't know if this is possible...

I think it is better to think of Reconstructionism as a methodology, or perhaps a tool, which can be used to answer specific religious questions, rather than as a style of worship. Like any tool, it can be effective for certain tasks, and ineffective for others. It just depends on how you use it, and on the questions you want answered.

Now, there is a question over how Reconstructionism is to be applied to modern circumstances, on both the small and large scale. On the large scale, we could ask how does X religion understand say, climate change, or democracy, or internet pornography? For the record, I absolutely believe that reconstructionist methods can be used to answer some of these questions. However, coming to an agreement is easier said than done. Many communities are small, and most people are still in the process of learning the basics. Communities lack elders and teachers who can effectively navigate these kinds of questions. We also all carry with us cultural baggage, and it can be difficult to separate (or effectively integrate) that with our religious practises.

Take me for example. I’m currently the only Nahua Recon active on this site. I would love to debate ‘how would the Aztecs have dealt with this?’ but without a community to talk to, I would have a hard time getting effective feedback/criticism/support, or actually having my ideas gain acceptance and validly. It’s a fairly obscure religion, and relatively few people are well grounded in the sources. Furthermore, most beginners focus on the bread and butter of worship; gods, myths, offerings, etc. Launching into complex philosophical debates would be a bit much for someone starting out on their path.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Reconstructionism is slow. Hopefully, as the community matures, more resources will become available for beginners, and it will get faster. Until then, we’ll just have to enjoy the journey.

DemeterDelusion

  • Sr. Apprentice
  • ****
  • Join Date: Jan 2015
  • Posts: 68
  • Country: 00
  • Total likes: 0
    • View Profile
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2020, 02:08:26 am »
[snip]

As someone whose practice for the past five years is rooted in recon hellenismos/religio romana, this is a mood. If I don't feel like I'm adhering close enough to the old rites, I'm less inclined to actually practice. However, I think it is perfectly acceptable to just do the mainstream witchy worship, even within a recon context. Jennet did a fantastic job of covering household gods and informal worship, which is a good way of incorporating "light a candle, give a quick prayer," into recon worship.

Regarding purification: it's worth asking <i>why</i> the ancient pagans did the things they did. It's important to remember ancient ceremony and ritual had social and cultural value outside of the purely spiritual for ancient cultures. In my wheelhouse, for example, a lot of the taboos I deal with are rooted in miasma, or that guilt or pollution can lead to disease or divine punishment. In modern society, however, we have very different ideas about what triggers shame and guilt. Evaluating the purpose of the taboos, what social mores they're designed to enforce, and whether they should hold the same importance today. It's also worth researching any instances were worship changed over time for your specific path.

Recon's not for everyone, especially not the hard recon seemingly described in the OP. It can be time, resource, and mentally exhaustive. You're not a lesser pagan if you go the soft recon route, or only partially incorporate reconstructionism into your practice.

Darkhawk

  • Senior Staff
  • *
  • Join Date: Jun 2011
  • Posts: 4915
  • Country: us
  • Total likes: 820
    • View Profile
    • Suns in her Branches
  • Religion: An American Werewolf in the Akhet; Kemetic; Feri; Imaginary Baltic Heathen; Discordian; CoX; Etc.
  • Preferred Pronouns: any of he, she, they
Re: Criticism of reconstructionism
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2020, 02:30:13 pm »
I think it is better to think of Reconstructionism as a methodology, or perhaps a tool, which can be used to answer specific religious questions, rather than as a style of worship. Like any tool, it can be effective for certain tasks, and ineffective for others. It just depends on how you use it, and on the questions you want answered.

I would like to draw lines under this and asterisks and little puffy-pen hearts.

One of the main ways reconstructionism fucks up is people developing an idolatry of the process of reconstruction and valuing that above having an effective, meaningful, and restorative religious practice.

One of the major reasons I miss Chavi around here is that she would say, straight up, that she was a Celtic recon in the mode of a discredited scholar, that she was well aware that the ideas that they based their reconstruction on were no longer considered historically accurate, and that she didn't give a shit, because they produced a functional religious practice that satisfied humans and appeared to satisfy the gods.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Tags:
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
2 Replies
2686 Views
Last post August 01, 2011, 07:40:28 am
by Mark C.
27 Replies
4627 Views
Last post May 14, 2012, 12:15:42 am
by Sharysa
37 Replies
3997 Views
Last post April 12, 2012, 04:46:19 pm
by Valentine
6 Replies
1472 Views
Last post February 14, 2013, 08:01:00 pm
by Oíche
2 Replies
1846 Views
Last post November 14, 2014, 03:34:00 pm
by caffinitive

* Who's Online

  • Dot Guests: 42
  • Dot Hidden: 0
  • Dot Users: 0

There aren't any users online.

* Please Donate!

The Cauldron's server is expensive and requires monthly payments. Please become a Bronze, Silver or Gold Donor if you can. Donations are needed every month. Without member support, we can't afford the server.

* Shop & Support TC

The links below are affiliate links. When you click on one of these links you will go to the listed shopping site with The Cauldron's affiliate code. Any purchases you make during your visit will earn TC a tiny percentage of your purchase price at no extra cost to you.

* In Memoriam

Chavi (2006)
Elspeth (2010)
Marilyn (2013)

* Cauldron Staff

Host:
Sunflower

Message Board Staff
Board Coordinator:
Darkhawk

Assistant Board Coordinator:
Aster Breo

Senior Staff:
Aisling, Jenett, Sefiru

Staff:
Allaya, Chatelaine, EclecticWheel, HarpingHawke, Kylara, PerditaPickle, rocquelaire

Discord Chat Staff
Chat Coordinator:
Morag

Cauldron Council:
Bob, Catja, Emma-Eldritch, Fausta, Jubes, Kelly, LyricFox, Phouka, Sperran, Star, Steve, Tana

Site Administrator:
Randall