When many people hear “paganism”, one thing immediately pops into their head: Wicca. (well, Satan-worshiping, baby-sacrificing cults is another thing, but hey, let’s stick to the realm of the truth here) They probably think of a largely earth-worshiping, Goddess-devoted path full of liberal ideas and naked rituals in the moonlight.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. This post is fully clothed.
And obviously, that’s not the only pagan path out there. But it’s just plain sad that most people would go “huh?” if they were told that someone is a Reconstructionist. I would have done the same a few years back.
And for this post, I’m talking about Reconstructionist paths.
So let’s take it definition first: Oxford says that reconstruction is “the act or process of being reconstructed”.
Umm…yeah. That’s helpful. Thanks, Oxford. LET’S GO DEEPER.
…A-ha! Reconstruct…to reconstruct something is to “build or form (something) again after it has been damaged or destroyed”. There we go.
In the case of religious reconstructionism, it’s trying to re-build the religious practices long-gone or suppressed. Today, there are tons of Reconstructionist paths for one to choose from: Baltic, Canaanite, Finnish, Greek, Norse, Roman, Mayan, Slavic, Celtic, Egyptian…and the list goes on and on and on.
It’s not an easy thing to do. Some peoples, like the Romans, left detailed accounts of their practices, so reconstruction in that case isn’t so bad. But if you’re reconstructing a Celtic or Norse path, you’re going to have a hard time. Most writings are just gone, and those that exist are saturated in the bias of Christian commentators.
It’s also important to note that what is being reconstructed is the religion, and not the culture. Taking Rome as an example again, theirs was a hugely patriarchal society rife with slavery, neither of which are things that I care to reconstruct. Period.
I also would not be an advocate of bringing back the toga: those things are so awkward.
Moving on…I think I’ll talk a little about what Roman Reconstructionism is. Obviously it’s the reconstruction of Roman practices, but what does that mean?
First, it’s the respect for the mos maiorum, the “way of the ancestors”. The Romans absolutely hated change, and suggesting that a new practice be implemented was not a way to make friends in the Senate. This mainly includes the values and virtues to be practiced – though there’s none of the “Thou shalt not ___ ” stuff. As I said earlier, though, some things should not be reconstructed, and it’s all pretty much common sense what those things are.
Branching out from the mos maiorum, the Religio Romana is about the veneration of ancestors and the worship of the Roman deities (and not just Roman – through syncretism, you might get paths like Gallo-Roman Reconstructionism). There are the household Lares and the Penates, and several personified abstractions such as Hope and Courage (also Manliness, but that’s another story).
There are different time periods, too, that one might choose to reconstruct. Generally speaking, those are the Archaic (which is the most difficult), the Republic, and the Empire. The major differences, at least as far as I see, involve how you see the deities (Venus as a Republican goddess of growth and fertility versus Venus as an Imperial goddess of love, a la Aphrodite), the concept of the Imperial Cult, and how many household Lares you pray to.