Reconstructionism and American Culture

July 10, 2014 at 1:25 am 6 comments

Sometimes I feel as if the Internet is more of a curse to our communit(ies) health and vitality than a blessing, but I do thing one huge benefit to it is being able make friends from other countries and learn from their points of view. I was reminded of this again reading Naomi’s blog today-

Sli na Firinne (The Way of Truth)

“Imbas is not the same as UPG. It is ‘inspiration’ – it’s closer in meaning to ‘awen’ in the Welsh. However, UPG is not a term that I recognise anymore. I didn’t come up with it, nor did my community. It’s not Gaelic or Brythonic. It’s also a very American phrase – I’ve never heard a British Pagan use it. And also, I’m starting to doubt that our ancestors would have needed a term like that. I suspect they went where the inspiration flowed, rather than forcing themselves to live by ‘lore’. They were not fundamentalists.”

UPG (Unverified or sometimes Unique Personal Gnosis) comes from the American Heathen/Asatru communit(ies)- some factions of which seem to have problem with the influence of Biblical literalism and fundamentalism. I hear a lot about Heathens who are “lore-thumpers” and argue about textual citations in a similar way to Christians. There are similar problems in other recon traditions. Some of us come from conservative Christian upbringings, and in general, our country was in part founded by religious dissidents who were very concerned with finding the One True Way of following God/Jesus- the Puritans were trying to “purify” the Church of England, but were persecuted as heretics so they came here. Then they persecuted other people but that’s another story…

I’ve noticed British and European Druids & Pagans tend to more relaxed about “going with the flow” (like awen/imbas) in following where their spirits lead them. Whereas I think reconstructionism has become a bigger thing in the U.S. because we feel lack a sense of legitimacy, because we don’t live in the lands of our traditions, and we feel disconnected. And then some of us think we know the “right” way and tell our fellows across the pond how to do things. We need to cut that out 🙂 Here is another post also by Leithin Cluan the gap in perspective of British and American style Druidry

Related Links (I don’t necessarily with everything said here, just more food for thought) 

A Caution Against Pagan Fundamentalism by Lupa

What Constitutes Pagan Fundamentalism? by Sarenth Odinsson

I’d like to highlight one of the commenters on the second piece (Myriad) was German and mentioned a difference in understanding of racism/sexism/homophobia etc. from a German vs. American view. 

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Léithin Cluan/Naomi  |  July 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I get particularly irritated when some American reconstructionists tell me what to do, because they seem to think I’m “just a fluffy bunny”, and dismiss my cultural context as such. In the process, they’re not only misunderstanding me (and potentially being – racist? culturally imperalist?), but they’re also missing out on insights from other cultures. Ones that may be closer to home, to their spiritual homes, than they realise!

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  • 2. caelesti  |  July 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Not sure what “ism” applies other than American arrogance- which is bad enough by itself. This is why I try my best to listen to people from other countries and cultures, and realize when my perspective is being tinted (or distorted) by my own cultural background. (If more of us did that, we’d probably get into fewer wars…) I occasionally hear Americans complain of snobbery directed towards them from Europeans who think they’re more authentic, but I haven’t experienced it, probably because I’m honest about who I am, and don’t put on “more Celtic than thou” airs just because I’ve read a few books. I also think the “fluffy bunny” label needs to die.

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  • 3. Catriona McDonald  |  July 11, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    “I think reconstructionism has become a bigger thing in the U.S. because we feel lack a sense of legitimacy, because we don’t live in the lands of our traditions, and we feel disconnected.”

    You really nailed it in this sentence. Gods know it’s something I’ve struggled with. John Michael Greer has a wonderful essay on validity vs. legitimacy, and I think that’s where a lot of Americans get stuck. Good post.

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  • 4. caelesti  |  July 12, 2014 at 5:35 am

    Yes, I wrote another post a while back about “authenticity” that draw’s on Greer’s interview in Deo’s Shadow and his fellow AODA Druid Gordon Cooper’s article. https://paganleft.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/authenticity-whats-traditional-anyway/

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  • 5. Erin Lund Johnson  |  July 17, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I like the suggested use of Imbas here. I don’t think it makes sense however to equate hard polytheism with fundamentalism, probably because I view the distinctions of soft vs hard polytheism as delineating how a given pagan adherent *relates with* deity. One can *relate with* deity as universal and singular, or as regional and plural, depending on cultural affinity, personal preference, or I guess, some sense of literal ‘belief’ in which existence is ‘more right’ than the other, but the latter reason reeks far too much of Greek philosophy, on which much of western religion, and ironically, atheism is based, and upon which neither polytheistic nor pagan traditions are based. So long as we avoid such unnecessary, existential traps, we can be just fine, really.

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  • 6. caelesti  |  July 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I’m definitely not equating polytheism with fundamentalism (others have, but I don’t) Perhaps a clearer term, minus the Christian connotations would be “One True Way-ism”. That’s a tendency that can occur in most ideologies- sacred or secular. I agree that the *how we relate to deity, and treat them in ritual matters more than belief per se. I could go to a ritual with a monist/panentheist theology and connect with the Divine in that way, without necessarily believing in that theology.

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