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Erebos
August 24th, 2010, 03:43 PM
Reconstruction involves rebuilding the religious practices and worldview of a dead culture, which can be problematic, as we live in modern day culture(s) that can be quite different from those of the past.

Recently, someone on a Hellenic discussion board called me a "Wiccan fag" for pointing out where certain ancient concepts overlap with modern Wiccan-based Pagan traditions. It's an extreme example of something that seems to be a common occurrence in these kinds of discussions.

The rude person was an ethnic Greek, and modern Greece, much like Classical Athens, is a rather conservative nation. Now I understand the need for preserving cultural tradition and being cautious about foreign influence (in this case Wicca), but this person was an idiot, as these kind of people usually are. Their limited worldview inhibits their brains from actually absorbing correct information, apparently. Aside from his homophobic remarks, he also ranted about how Zeus, Poseidon and Hades were the true trinity, instead of the maiden-mother-crone of Wiccan tradition. As far as I know, there are no trinities (one deity in three forms) in Hellenic polytheism; if anything, three gods united as one in function would be called a triad, though Zeus, Poseidon and Hades are not.

It reminded me of a similar situation I saw on a Hellenic group, when these two men (also ethnic Greeks) went on a rampage about how homosexuality wasn't tolerated in ancient Greece and that homosexuals were damned by the gods, and personally insulted many participants in the discussion in the process. Aside from Plato, who like philosophers in general, did not represent mainstream views, there is no evidence of homophobia in ancient Greece. A man could have sex with whomever he wanted, though marriage was a duty and meant to propagate the family, not for loving companionship, so male-female fertility was necessary.

Ethnic Greeks confuse modern Greek Christian culture, in which the Greek Orthodox Church is highly influential, with ancient Greek culture and equate the two. While there may be similarities, there are also vast differences. Like American Hellenes who might equate conservative Republicanism with ancient Athenian political attitudes, though the former is much more in line with Evangelical Christian culture (but admittedly, both are pretty xenophobic :p).

I'm sure Reconstructionists of non-Hellenic cultures have noticed the same perverting of their own base-culture like I've described. Culture is everything to Recon religions, and it effects everything from ethical values to interpretations of the gods and political ideology. Since we're working with dead cultures, all we really have are scholarly interpretations based on surviving evidence, not the complete living culture. It's problematic, and makes one question how effective polytheistic reconstruction can be. As much as I like it in theory, it's difficult, as not everyone will take the time to educate themselves fully on the ancient culture that is the basis for all the religious ideas, and then these people will perpetuate bad information. Even prolific members of Recon traditions have been known to do this, so it's really quite an issue.

C. Iulia Regilia
October 2nd, 2010, 07:52 PM
Reconstruction involves rebuilding the religious practices and worldview of a dead culture, which can be problematic, as we live in modern day culture(s) that can be quite different from those of the past.

Recently, someone on a Hellenic discussion board called me a "Wiccan fag" for pointing out where certain ancient concepts overlap with modern Wiccan-based Pagan traditions. It's an extreme example of something that seems to be a common occurrence in these kinds of discussions.

The rude person was an ethnic Greek, and modern Greece, much like Classical Athens, is a rather conservative nation. Now I understand the need for preserving cultural tradition and being cautious about foreign influence (in this case Wicca), but this person was an idiot, as these kind of people usually are. Their limited worldview inhibits their brains from actually absorbing correct information, apparently. Aside from his homophobic remarks, he also ranted about how Zeus, Poseidon and Hades were the true trinity, instead of the maiden-mother-crone of Wiccan tradition. As far as I know, there are no trinities (one deity in three forms) in Hellenic polytheism; if anything, three gods united as one in function would be called a triad, though Zeus, Poseidon and Hades are not.

It reminded me of a similar situation I saw on a Hellenic group, when these two men (also ethnic Greeks) went on a rampage about how homosexuality wasn't tolerated in ancient Greece and that homosexuals were damned by the gods, and personally insulted many participants in the discussion in the process. Aside from Plato, who like philosophers in general, did not represent mainstream views, there is no evidence of homophobia in ancient Greece. A man could have sex with whomever he wanted, though marriage was a duty and meant to propagate the family, not for loving companionship, so male-female fertility was necessary.

Ethnic Greeks confuse modern Greek Christian culture, in which the Greek Orthodox Church is highly influential, with ancient Greek culture and equate the two. While there may be similarities, there are also vast differences. Like American Hellenes who might equate conservative Republicanism with ancient Athenian political attitudes, though the former is much more in line with Evangelical Christian culture (but admittedly, both are pretty xenophobic :p).

I'm sure Reconstructionists of non-Hellenic cultures have noticed the same perverting of their own base-culture like I've described. Culture is everything to Recon religions, and it effects everything from ethical values to interpretations of the gods and political ideology. Since we're working with dead cultures, all we really have are scholarly interpretations based on surviving evidence, not the complete living culture. It's problematic, and makes one question how effective polytheistic reconstruction can be. As much as I like it in theory, it's difficult, as not everyone will take the time to educate themselves fully on the ancient culture that is the basis for all the religious ideas, and then these people will perpetuate bad information. Even prolific members of Recon traditions have been known to do this, so it's really quite an issue.

Well, with all due respect, I think the Greeks had a point. While the Greek Orthodox Church is Christian, it is also an out growth of Greek culture. The theology was based on a Greek understanding of christianity.

Having said that, no reconstruction can be complete. time has passed, and I don't think that we can always say with confidence what a modern (Greek/Roman/Norseman/Celt) raised in a pagan culture would be doing.

Nicholas
October 2nd, 2010, 09:01 PM
There's absolutely no way to practice a religion in the very same way as it was created, simply because of cultural influence, subjective reality, and enthnocentrism. I'm actually studying this currently for a paper currently.

Anthropologists aren't even comfortable using the term reconstructionism when refering to a religious groups using "old traditions", because it is fallacy. That's why the prefix "Neo-" is thrown around so much in cultural studies.

Erebos
October 8th, 2010, 09:28 PM
Well, with all due respect, I think the Greeks had a point. While the Greek Orthodox Church is Christian, it is also an out growth of Greek culture. The theology was based on a Greek understanding of christianity.

Yes, but Byzantine and post-Byzantine Greek culture is not the same as ancient Greek culture, as it had many influences that ancient Greece did not have.


There's absolutely no way to practice a religion in the very same way as it was created, simply because of cultural influence, subjective reality, and enthnocentrism. I'm actually studying this currently for a paper currently.

Anthropologists aren't even comfortable using the term reconstructionism when refering to a religious groups using "old traditions", because it is fallacy. That's why the prefix "Neo-" is thrown around so much in cultural studies.

I actually completely agree with you. I think "Reconstruction" is a misnomer, as there can really be no complete reconstruction of ancient religions, and "Reconstructionist" religions are new traditions based on ancient practice and ideology, not the ancient traditions themselves. Anyone who has actually done scholarly study of ancient Greek civilization knows that, although we have many ancient texts which give us insight into ancient Greece, a lot depends on interpretation and educated guesses. This explains why there is a lot of division among Hellenic Recons especially, as though we know the basics of worship and cosmology, a deep understanding of the ancient culture is necessary to understand ancient religion, and there are certain aspects of it that many people disagree on.

It also doesn't help that certain vocal people claiming to be "Hellenic Recons" are culturally Catholic Republicans, and needless to say, this makes their interpretations of ancient Greek culture rather inaccurate regarding many things.

C. Iulia Regilia
December 29th, 2010, 11:13 PM
Yes, but Byzantine and post-Byzantine Greek culture is not the same as ancient Greek culture, as it had many influences that ancient Greece did not have.

No it's not the smae thing as having Greek Pagan culture continue, but at the same time, cultural attitudes and the like may well have persisted under a Christian guise.

The Celts worshipped Brigit near wells and fountains, sometimes offering coins. We still do those types of things by throwing coins in wishing wells.

Long story short, cultural survivals are possible and even likely -- and they would most likely exist in that culture.


I actually completely agree with you. I think "Reconstruction" is a misnomer, as there can really be no complete reconstruction of ancient religions, and "Reconstructionist" religions are new traditions based on ancient practice and ideology, not the ancient traditions themselves. Anyone who has actually done scholarly study of ancient Greek civilization knows that, although we have many ancient texts which give us insight into ancient Greece, a lot depends on interpretation and educated guesses. This explains why there is a lot of division among Hellenic Recons especially, as though we know the basics of worship and cosmology, a deep understanding of the ancient culture is necessary to understand ancient religion, and there are certain aspects of it that many people disagree on.

It also doesn't help that certain vocal people claiming to be "Hellenic Recons" are culturally Catholic Republicans, and needless to say, this makes their interpretations of ancient Greek culture rather inaccurate regarding many things.

Well, reconstruction is more method than anything. I don't think many recons of any stripe think that they are doing the exact same Greek religion that Plato was. But I also think the Recon is needed simply because without basing your ideas of those gods on something, you'll make them in your image.