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I hate getting up in the morning. Then again, I also hate going to bed at night. Because I like to sleep...once I'm asleep. And I like to be awake, up and doing things, once I'm fully awake. Apparently it is the transition from one state to the next that annoys me. :)

But I'm up and awake now. Just not quite thinking yet. Some days it takes a few...hours.

You know, I've got to conclude something. (And this is stuff I've probably said before in some form, so sorry for any redundancy. :) Mainly I am clarifying some things for myself.) Heathenry is a reconstructed religion, but I think it has passed the point of being a reconstructionist religion. Yes, there's a wide range of practice and there are particular groups (some of the Anglo-Saxon heathen groups come to mind) that do have a stronger focus on it, who when they find that something in existing practice had a modern (or, more to the point, non-heathen) origin, they eliminate or change it--or make small changes to existing practice based on new information. I seem to recall that some group has tried a different sumbel format recently--not sure if it was Pollington's Meadhall that inspired it or a combination of things--which is cool. And on a less formal level, something like the Hammer Rite has become less common, although it is still used and (my guess) will always be used by quite a few folks.

But this is a problem with reconstructionist faiths, or perhaps I should say it is a problem for reconstructionist faiths. Once the religion gets to any size, the majority of adherents will no longer be those who will happily scour primary and secondary sources for liturgical detail for hours on end. Eventually, most folks are going to be there to practice the religion as it stands, regardless of its origins. If a reconstructed religion is a functional one that will serve the needs of its adherents, it will succeed. If it is not, it won't. There are not enough people out there for whom the primary goal of religion is to worship as the ancients did to support a growing faith; there are, I think, enough for whom this is one of several important things that they will choose a reconstructed faith over a wholly modern one--but if the execution sucks, the simple fact of it being inspired by the past will not hold them there.

But even given a religion that can stand on its own merits and flourish, and attract new people, there's still a potential problem, which I started out talking about before getting distracted in the last paragraph :). Not everyone is going to want to work from scratch, and after a certain point I'm not sure this is wholly desirable if any sort of continuity is desired.

I go to old sources as a Hellenic recon because--well, because it's fun :)--but also because while some standards are evolving they are not set in stone, and because there are plenty of areas which really have not been worked out that much.

However, my first resources when I started trying to put heathen rituals together were things likie Gundarsson's Teutonic Religion. They were more accessible, of course--but mainly, they provided a good idea of what modern heathens were actually doing these days. (Okay, so Gundarsson's liturgy isn't necessarily the best example here, I know I'll never be doing anything that high-church--but you see my point. :)) If there was wrong info in there, that's what I used. Hell, what did I know? And, honestly, as a brand-new heathen just trying to figure out the system, I wanted to know that what I was doing was at least close to what other folks were doing. As it happens, I like to do the additional research. Not everyone will. Not everyone should have to. And not all of those who do are going to want to make changes from a liturgy that they know and love--and that works!--because of new information. I'm not sure I would. If it turned out that all the old info was wrong and the ancients actually sumbeled with milk? Well, I'm sticking with mead anyway.

So (since I do have a reconstructionist bent) I do feel like it's important to be as accurate as possible when recreating a new liturgy, because whatever you end up with, it's going to stick once the religion starts to attract folks who just want to be there and honor the gods. I certainly see that notion in action in Hellenic reconstructionism. Once you've got that standard, though, I think you have to accept that the extent to which you can make changes later is going to be limited. There's no Hellenic pope who can say "Okay, remember the way we used to make linations? Well, that was wrong and from now on we're going to do this." Not a big issue currently but, assuming a certain rate of growth, it probably will be someday.

Even on a larger scale I can see this in play--it's not just a matter of outdated practices hanging on because people don't know any better, it also has to do with those practices having become a part of the modern tradition. I can kind of see this in ADF (not a reconstructionist faith so not the best comparison, but it's t he one I've got :)). IIRC there's a specific statement somewhere that if something is found to be incorrect, the thing to do is change it. And this does happen--eliminating books from the recommended reading that have been found inaccurate, etc. But if it's something core (like the Dumezilian tripartite thing) it tends to stay. And, you know, if it works, that's cool; ADF's liturgy has gotten to the point where it stands alone in spite of its sources. And ADF is a neopagan organization in any case. But for a religion to succeed it has to have some solidity, I think.

I guess what I'm thinking is that...well, for one thing, I'm thinking that there's no real solution here. You can't build a solid religion if you're always going to be changing the details. But without that option, can you call these religions reconstructionist?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2004 06:53 pm (UTC)
Eh, changing the details doesn't make it not reconstructionist. In fact, being reconstructionist means that you have to stay on the ball. New research is constantly being unearthed all of the time that may mean changes for how we do things. Take, for example, the recent discovery on the Delphic Oracle. I still have well-recommended books on my shelves talking about the "vapor myth" and that so-called myth was proven to be correct. Lo and behold, the ancients knew what they were talking about. Imagine that. ;)

It means being flexible in thinking as opposed to unchanging, and being open to the idea that what we're doing may not be 100% accurate but that we're *giving it our best shot with the information we have at present*. And I think that's the real difference in attitude. And unless we think Burkert et al was divinely inspired, we may come up with evidence that a different ritual format was used other than the thusia which can be used for a standard offering rite. And on that day, I will correct my website and offer the new outline with footnotes. :)

I gotta hand it to you on researching two different religious traditions and staying on top of both--you rock. :) I originally wanted to do something with that in regards to both the Irish and the Greek religions, but decided against it. We do what we need to do in the end, I think, in order to be true to the gods. And that really can't be found in any book.
Sep. 21st, 2004 07:31 pm (UTC)
Lo and behold, the ancients knew what they were talking about. Imagine that.

I saw something on the History Channel about that not long ago--very cool stuff, will be interesting to see how it changes current theory.

And unless we think Burkert et al was divinely inspired,

Nah, not Burkert. Maybe Kerenyi... :)
Sep. 21st, 2004 08:00 pm (UTC)
Yes! And they are selling that tape online, too. I am very much wanting to buy it sometime soon.

As for Kerenyi...yes. His book on Apollo is fantastic.
Sep. 24th, 2004 04:30 pm (UTC)
I often have a hard time reading Kerenyi--possibly that's a translation problem, I suspect that his prose is difficult to work with--but I am always glad I've done so :).
Sep. 24th, 2004 04:44 pm (UTC)
I think it depends on the work. I've greatly enjoyed his work on Apollo and IMHO it's his best.
Sep. 24th, 2004 05:28 pm (UTC)
Well, no surprise you'd think that, I guess, LOL! :) I got his Apollo earlier this year after some searching, and quite enjoyed it.

Right now I'm reading his Dionysos; I'd gotten it years ago but had never managed to get more than a few pages into it--right now, though, it flows. I think possibly I just had to be ready to read it.
Sep. 24th, 2004 05:35 pm (UTC)
I was the same way with Greek Religion when I first got it. As time went on and I read more and more, I was able to get into it more easily.
Sep. 22nd, 2004 01:03 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad I keep ya on my friends list, because people who think and reflect meaningfully make my days less tedious.
Sep. 23rd, 2004 05:44 am (UTC)
Well, I try. Kinda. :)

I just keep thinking about 5-10-20 years down the road, you know?
Sep. 23rd, 2004 06:53 pm (UTC)
I just keep thinking about 5-10-20 years down the road

Unfortunately not many are doing that these days... they want to read a bulleted outline they can follow step-by-step, no research (or thought!) involved. I don't know whether to blame our instant-gratification culture or the decline of the school system or... *sigh*
Sep. 24th, 2004 04:29 pm (UTC)
Well, that's the paganism that many folks are used to--find a book that tells you *what* to do but doesn't tell you why, and never mind about where it all comes from. Fine if that's the starting point, but for many folks it seems to be the whole thing.

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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