Beyond Reconstructionism

May 5, 2009 at 2:37 am 3 comments

Like many Pagans, I began my path with Wicca, at least the non-traditional eclectic forms of it that were being popularized in the late 90’s, early 2000’s when I became interested. Cast a circle, call the four elements, invoke the God and Goddess. Wicca is certainly a valid religion for those who practice it honestly but as I grew spiritually and studied more, I found it wasn’t for me.

I discovered many historical and cultural flaws in modern pagan books and began shifting more towards scholarly sources. I encountered websites describing reconstructionist religions, which seek to study a particular culture (Irish, Norse, Egyptian, Greek, Roman) and revive its religious practices as accurately as possible while adapting to modern social mores (rejection of animal sacrifice, slavery etc)

With the exception of Asatru/Heathenry, most reconstructionist movements are very small and there are few options in most places for groups. So I was very lucky to find a Celtic Reconstructionist, Aedh Rua O’Morrigan locally who was teaching classes. I learned a lot from him, and later another of his students. Later I found myself solitary again, and I struggled with how to practice CR. I worried so much about the ‘right’ and properly Gaelic way to do things, that I didn’t do anything! There is an emphasis in polytheistic traditions on orthopraxy, right practice, but often we don’t know what that is!

I’d rather just call myself a Gaelic/Hellenic polytheist and leave “reconstructionist” out of it. That way people can’t accuse me of not being “recon” or traditional enough. And besides which, both my teachers, who were big influences on me, have been declared “not CR enough” by many in the community. Well, I just don’t care anymore.

We’re missing the point here, people. Scholarship is good, but we can’t base our whole spirituality on it. We need roots, but we also need to reach our branches out and grow. The funny thing is the founders of CR actually said this- that they wanted to balance “aisling” (dreams, inspiration) with archeology. The CR community is dividing between a more traditional faction and a liberal, innovative faction.  Now it would be fine if different subgroups formed and just agreed to disagree but it seems like there is some antagonism- even ostracizing going on. I realize any group of people is going to have disagreements, but we are such a small community we can’t afford this infighting.

Various friends of mine are going this direction also- Gavin describes being led by Hermes, while Ben discusses his frustrations with the movement itself as well as trying to reclaim his Gaelic heritage as an American while native Gaels accuse him of New-Age style cultural misappropriation.


Entry filed under: Celtic/Druid, Pagan Communities. Tags: , .

Squirrel Trouble Christo-Paganism

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. liminalrealm  |  May 5, 2009 at 5:25 am

    There are such movements in all the Reconstructionist religions, its one of the big reasons I am so glad to not really be in the game anymore. Some of those movements are genuine (as opposed to massive ego trips that should burn themselves out soon when you’re driving away even the people who would be your allies with your vile, unrelenting hatred) or at least they start out that way. And then things degrade from there. “Truth in labeling” turns into “our way is the only right way and you can’t worship our gods” and “if you’re not part of *our* solution you’re part of the problem.” It turns into a massive war, and that ends up turning people off and driving them away because they are looking for a religion not a crusade.

    I’m fine with making sure what is and is not historical is labeled correctly, and I am careful about that myself. But I’m not interested in policing other people as a part of my faith (especially since, in the end, I can’t stop anyone from worshiping the gods) and I’m not interested in focusing entirely on what everyone else is doing. I want to worship my gods, not add more drama to my life.

  • 2. coloradocelt  |  May 20, 2009 at 1:15 am


    I am wondering why, as you pointed out, this feeling of CR being to restrictive is happening right now. I see CR heading a in a bad direction personally. It seems to be becoming more dogmatic and more rigid. If a modern day Gaelic speaking Irishman/woman went out on a hike and expressed themselves spiritually does he or she have to worry about a cadré of people when he gets home saying, “Hey! We saw what you did up there in the hills. That was not Celtic enough!” 😉

    Like you I do not think that we can base our spirituality on academia and have it appeal or mean anything beyond the “experts”. I started to feel like I was defending a dissertation rather than practicing a spirituality!

  • 3. caelesti  |  June 18, 2009 at 8:27 am

    CR has been around for about 20 years, and has been becoming more well-known & gathering more followers lately. I think things just have reached a critical mass where the movement is dividing- like I said some type of division is perhaps inevitable. I just wish it could be more amicable. But perhaps folks like you & I will still be welcome among the liberal/innovative branch (Erynn Laurie, Brenda Daverin et al)


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