Saturday, May 18, 2013

Odd-Man Out

So, this recent debate on Superhero Worship has highlighted some things for me once again.

When  I read and re-read Sunweaver's initial post the thing I am most struck by is that she is using the word Hero in a modern sense to describe it in an ancient sense. There is a projection of modern connotation onto an ancient word and the ancient understanding of heroes. Her comments below address this fact, but her writing and an inevitable implication and projection of the modern unto the ancient, as well as a blatant disregard for the ancient conception of heroes in favor of the modern usage of the word (which would be fine if she was not specifically talking about hero worship in a Hellenic context). It rapidly became clear to me that the disconnect and the tension in the thread between she and the lovely Ruadhán is that they are approaching it from different spheres of what is important. to Ruadhán the thing of import is talking about the phrase as it related to the ancient conception of the hero cult, to Sunweaver the thing of import was her own personal relation to the word regardless of the cultic associations or implications that may be present. 

Ah-ha, now I'm getting it. 

As I further examined the comments on her article, the most striking thing is that of the people who strongly agreed with her, there was a high disregard for academic study and drawing from ancient sources, and the viewpoint that because it is inspired from ancient sources it cannot be relevant to our modern life and a general misunderstanding of the reconstructionist methodology. The user kenofken stated "I'm never going to re-create the exact relationship with the gods and each other that the ancients had. It would be a waste of time and maladaptive even if I could. I have to engage my religion and everything else in the here and now." to which Sunweaver gave an enthusiastic response to and implied that people who are disagreeing with her are taking the myths literally or the deeds of the heroes literally (not a chance in hell. Haven't met a single person who takes the deeds of the heroes literally.) and the user Erin Lowe states "I think this is a fascinating article in what speaks to a lot of people. Why look into dusty old books for your religion? The much venerated ancients were sorta making it up as they go along! And why not modernize and change things? They did that too!" which is kind of very inaccurate. Things changed, but many and most things stayed the same. We can see this reflected in the Shinto faith and realize that while they went through phases and changes, the bulk of practices and beliefs and festivals stayed the same (who could be priests and participate in matsuri changed over time mainly). So, traditions arose at some point in time, but were also maintained and sustained over time, and we see this with many other faiths which hold tradition in high regard and have continued to hold it in high regard. But I digress.

The comments on her blog and elsewhere give me a clear indication that the fundamental disconnect plays into the fact that those who identify as Recons and those who don't seem to really differ in the fact that 1) Many of the stances of non-Recons tend to be a reaction to a Christian culture assimilating some objections mostly employed by Atheists (such as, it is old, it couldn't possibly be relevant) and 2) Have a larger focus on what things, words, rites, and concepts mean for them personally and generally are in favor of disregarding what they meant for the culture in question of which they are very loosely drawing their beliefs from. Their stance is a reactionary one and is in staunch opposition to anything which remotely reminds them of the larger Christian culture.

That is fine, it works for them, I get it. It is also bringing up yet again, straight in my face, that there are major disconnects between Neo-Pagans and Recons and their derivatives. Reconstructionism is not something that stands in opposition to Christianity nor does it allow you to be centric on yourself and nor does it go 'As long as it lets you cope with the world!'. There is less plasticity (but there is still plenty, I assure you) than Neo-Pagan inspired faiths allow or have, and our separate cultures and tendencies seems to be a source of perpetual tension for us.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a slam against those people, I firmly believe that the Reconstructionist Methodology  isn't for everyone, but it has reminded me that at the end of the day, after it is all said and done, I cannot be a fully integrated part of the Pagan Community. I will always feel a certain disconnect and will probably continue to feel uncomfortable when an enthusiastic and bright-eyed girl talks to me about how Hades is a heavy God and tells me about how the Eleusian mysteries were revealed to her by Persephone to be about compassion. The people are nice, and we can worship together, but the longer I'm around and active in the community the more I realize that to a greater or lesser degree, I'm going to always be the odd-man out.

Black Sheep by Freedy_Ng on flickr


  1. One of the dangers, ever present, when approaching a historic reconstructionism is the application of mental filters and anachronistic social mores that we have taken for granted as modern Westerners. The cultural infusion and indoctrination that any one goes through can pose either a massive barrier to understanding or a jolting shock of understanding that may or may not faze you. It is one of the reasons why I feel that people should have some fundamental grasp in anthropological discourse, especially in Paganism; in many ways, even a simple crash course in cultural aptitude helps you recognize that you're reacting in perceived ways towards something and might, given one's critical thinking skill, enable you to question why.

    The application of the filter of "hero" on the Hellenic model of the word is pretty much indicative of this type of thinking and would not necessarily have occurred were people able to critically think about the interpretation they're putting forward.

    I am with you in the sense that you feel to be distanced from the community/communities as a whole. I think that the idea of a homogeneity of feeling and thought is yet another residual remnant from a culture that has embraced a type of rigid indoctrination and dogmatization. There is a place for everyone in the community, we all just need to realize that it's a larger and more varied place than we give it credit for. I think the issues that Pagans face when approaching the idea of reconstructionism comes, in part, from a self-othering that happens. The Reconstructionist Polytheists get so fed up with the Pagan community that they form their own little cliques and don't bother for any kind of informational outreach program other than "WE ARE NOT [list]". At least in my experience. Your mileage may, as always, vary.

    1. I have to agree with you on the point of self-othering. Despite feeling somewhat uncomfortable and perhaps limited in my ability to express or disagree with certain opinions when in certain groups, I still endeavor to be involved in the community, hence why my Radio Program that is to be launched soon is NOT just for Recons. I don't dislike non-Recons, I'm just realizing and acknowledging that there is a 'language barrier' between us that will cause frustration, tensions, and misunderstandings on both sides.

  2. heh. so many of us odd men! sometimes we even form our own odd-men groups, but we're so at odds with each other philosophically and methodologically that even that doesn't usually work.
    i keep edging out, and the theoi keep nudging me back in again.
    hellenion has brought it home to me like no other how unsuited i am for groups.
    marc, your reply is just brilliant.
    :) khairete

    1. Ahhh, see my problem is that I am *so* suited and oriented towards groups that feeling like the funny-man is really...disconcerting for me. I don't really like it, but it is what it is and it is what I've got to work with so *shrugs*


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