Thursday, November 8, 2012

Save the Recons!

Reconstructionism is hard, and it isn't nearly as attractive as some other options within the Pagan movement. While Paganism in general requires a great deal of reading and study, Reconstructionism requires even more, and the texts that a recon has to read and access to become acquainted with the practice are often a fair deal more dry and cerebral than those of other Pagans. Reconstructionism isn't for everyone, and the numbers tend to be small, but it can be very fulfilling. The question is, how do we cope with the isolation? Why do we have difficulty maintaining people? How do we reach out to people? Well, lucky for you imaginary person, I've got some ideas.

Reconstructionism is tied to a specific culture or cultural grouping. You, of course, have various sub-varieties, but ultimately each is an expression of the whole. In Hellenism we have Attic practices, Spartan practices, and Athenian practices. Heathen groups have their plethora of expressions (from Old England Heathenry up to the stereotpyical Nordic and German varieties) Celtic Reconstructionism varies greatly depending on the region involved, point is this, each one is tied to a very specific culture.

 Very simply put (from all that I've scratched into) Pantheon preference comes in cycles. The "standard" as I like to call it, has been and will probably always be, the various Celtic pantheons. The other Pantheons (aside from "mainstays" like Hecate, Isis, Diana, and Artemis) come and go in cycles. You will have years where the Egyptian/Kemetic pantheon be popular for a stretch of years, then here comes the Nordic, then here comes the Greek/Hellenic. Now, this isn't to say that the pantheons get abandoned, but rather they decrease in popularity. If someone has a patron God or Goddess from that Pantheon, I've noticed they tend to bring them along to their new practice, but this isn't always the case. The reason why this does not bode well for Reconstructionist is because first and foremost, Reconstructionism is bound to a specific Pantheon and thus they will see an increase and decrease in their number in accordance with these rhythms. Secondly, to be a Reconstructionist you must have a love of the land and of the culture to some degree, and many Neo-Pagans, while drawn to certain aspects of the culture, don't really have the drive or time to dig into the ancient culture and really "get" them, as this takes quite a good deal of time. In addition, these people when they "convert" from one Pantheon to the other often do not change up their whole practice when they do so. They may alter superficial elements, but the core practice stays precisely the same, between Recon groups this is not so, and as such becoming a Reconstructionist may ultimately result in "wasted time" or feeling that time was wasted, since the person has a tendency towards switching every so many years. In addition, recon groups are not accommodating.  They have a specific view of deity (polytheistic etc) and that is that. Perhaps they will allow for various varieties of that particular theism, but an Atheist or a Duotheist may be tolerated in a recon group, but will likely never be fully accepted as "part of the group".

Recons also have very loose national associations but very tight-knit tribal/blot/demos groups. This is very good locally because it gives the recon group strength and consistency, however it makes it very tough for those individuals who do not live close to other recons. While online interaction is enough for some, nothing can replace human warmth or community, especially when the tradition is so focused on the group rather than the self. Thus, Recons often lose people due to attrition because people cannot find a group to practice and discuss things with. This often leads to stagnant numbers or even negative growth of the tradition, I think there is a way around it though, if the recons ever have any hope of having more than a handful of people scattered across the broad USA.

1) Solitary Recons, join a Neo-Pagan group while you also practice home/hearth based reconstructionism. Many of these groups have no individual proscriptions for belief or practice, and thus are ideal for solitary recons getting a satisfying communal experience. The key is that you find something that resonates with you, and to keep in mind that you can in fact have two practices. I find that the easiest way to solve this dissonance is by incorporating another Pantheon that you may have been interested in, which allows you to perform your reconstructionist practice with one pantheon and your Neo-Pagan group experience with another. This will help you keep a consistent practice and will help to solve any dissonance you may have had or have. This is of course only directed at those who long for that community That is not to say that you should abandon the group if your flavor of Reconstructionism picks up though, you should only join the group if you find it satisfying , and you should only leave it if it becomes dissatisfying I would recommend a neo-Druidic order/group such as OBOD ( ADF ( AODA ( If that isn't quite your thing there are often CUUPS groups in a Unitarian Universalist Church. They tend to be very generic in their practice, but the community tends to be quite good. CUUPS: Unitarian Universalist Association: . Really, I recommend getting involved with a non-recon Neo-Pagan organization even if you aren't solitary. They (generally speaking) have quite a lot to offer just about anyone in terms of learning.

2)All Recons, work on increasing "visibility". The reason why some people are not reconstructionist is because they don't know it exists! I have heard of more than a few stories of Wiccans and Eclectics doing their thing with a particular pantheon, but not being fully satisfied. They don't look into reconstructionism simply because they don't know it *exist*. Also, just because they know one sort exists, it does not mean they know it exists for all sorts. Attending things like Pagan Pride Days and performing rituals or setting up a booth for your group or something of that nature is rather important. Even if it is merely getting the word out on the internet, every little bit helps!

3) If you have the time or the means consider starting a National group if one doesn't exist, if one does exist, try to learn how you can help strengthen the group. National groups are a blessing ultimately, even if they do have their faults. They allow for members all over the Nation (and World!) to communicate and co-ordinate nationwide conventions, meet-ups, or otherwise assist in equipping members with the proper knowledge and resources so that they are not merely stumbling in the dark with their practice. I cannot begin to express how much help it was to get in touch with and discover From suggested reading to the bare basics, they helped immensely in leading me down what I have found to be immensely spiritually satisfying.

4) Play nice with others. Reconstructionism isn't superior because it is older, nor is it any more "true" than any other Neo-Pagan groupings. The fastest way to be absolutely miserable is to alienate yourself from local Neo-Pagan groups by being a brazen ass, and then realizing that being a solitary recon is really hard. Don't get mad because they mix pantheons at the altar, don't get mad if their rituals center around a Horned God and a Mother Goddess, and don't stare if a man shows up wearing a dress. These things are to be expected.

All of these things are, of course, not just my experience. A lot of this is observation and talking to people, but I think doing at least *some* of these things will help recons to survive, endure, and grow. Ultimately, if you take just one thing away from this, I hope it is this. The Dualism of belonging to a Recon group and non-recon Neo-Pagan group can be immensely satisfying, and even complimentary to one another.


  1. Conor,

    Your post have given me much food for thought, in terms of the substance of information and insight, contained herein.

    My own spiritual paxis has always centered around the Goddess Brigit (and the Gaelic Pantheon), and I have looked and studied much of the lore, history that surrounds Her. When I was a Wiccan (for 11 years), in and outside of ritual, I found my experiences with Her were consistent and strong in my life, but I always felt something was missing. Of course, as a Wiccan, I always have believed the Gods are not just aspects of an uber-God/Goddess, but distinctly unique unto Themselves, even though they can and do acknowledge other divinities.

    It was then I picked up a book called "Celtic Myth," and "The Apple Branch" that I felt more complete. Doing my prayers and ceremonies with the best Irish Gaelic I could muster was rewarded with a "There you go!" affirmation from the Goddess Brigit, Herself. The mythic template of "The Settling of the Manner of Tara," underpins my practice, too.

    Being Gay, I was a bit remiss to work with any Deity after all my horrid experiences with churches. She called out to me, though, and has been very gracious and patient despite my hits and misses along the personal learning curve of learning Gaelic in ritual and mythological, as well as folkloric studies. Connecting with my Black Irish heritage, and walking a specific cultural Path has included a lot fo challenging work, but it is worth it. Learning to speak a language (ancient and modern Gaelic) is greatly respectful to the divinities prayed to. I have a long way to go, but Brigit is with me, along the way, ever patient. Thank you, Conor!

    ~Daniel SnowKestral

    1. Hello Daniel,

      I'm glad this post was able to get you to think on some aspects of your praxis. Learning another language is always impressive, I myself, endeavor to learn Gaelic and Greek (ancient on both, but modern Greek as well!). You've also given me some more books to investigate and add to my reading list. I hope you keep reading and keep in touch!



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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.