Polytheistic reconstructionism (Reconstructionism) is an approach to paganism first emerging in the late 1960s to early 1970s, and gathered momentum in the 1990s to 2000s. Reconstructionism attempts to re-establish historical polytheistic religions in the modern world, in contrast with neopagan syncretic movements like Wicca, and "channeled" movements like Germanic mysticism or Theosophy.
While the emphasis on historical accuracy may imply historical reenactment, the desire for continuity in ritual traditions (orthopraxy) is a common characteristic of religion in general, as seen in Anglican ritualism, or in much Christian liturgy.
So if I want Mexicans to learn the name of Quetzalcoatl, it is because I want them to speak with the tongues of their own blood. I wish the Teutonic world would once more think in terms of Thor and Wotan, and the tree Igdrasil. And I wish the Druidic world would see, honestly, that in the mistletoe is their mystery, and that they themselves are the Tuatha De Danaan, alive, but submerged. And a new Hermes should come back to the Mediterranean, and a new Ashtaroth to Tunis; and Mithras again to Persia, and Brahma unbroken to India, and the oldest of dragons to China.
The term "Reconstructionist Paganism" was likely coined by Isaac Bonewits in the late 1970s. Bonewits has said that he is not sure whether he "got this use of the term from one or more of the other culturally focused Neopagan movements of the time, or if [he] just applied it in a novel fashion." Margot Adler later used the term "Pagan Reconstructionists" in the 1979 edition of Drawing Down the Moon to refer to those who claimed to adhere to some sort of historical religion. This emphasis on reconstruction is in ostensible contrast to more fanciful approaches to "paganism" in Romanticism, as seen for example in Germanic mysticism.
Reconstructionist Paganism has evolved into Polytheistic Reconstructionism, and is a distinct movement from the syncreticism and eclecticism of popular Neopagan culture, and from the Wiccan ritual format that many Neopagan groups have adopted. Reconstructionist religions are based on the surviving historical record, and on surviving folk practices of the culture in question.
According to Linzie (2004), the reconstructionist movement originated around 1970 with early attempts to reconstruct pre-Christian religions, with Germanic neopaganism in the USA, the UK and Iceland focussing on Norse religion of the Viking Age, and reconstruction of Hellenic polytheism in Greece, and of Baltic polytheism with Romuva.
In a second phase beginning in the 1990s, these movements have been joined by serious attempts at reconstructing Roman polytheism and Celtic polytheism (see Roman Polytheistic Reconstructionism and Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism). Many of these groups focus on the 1st millennium AD (with the exception of Greek, Roman, and Celtic polytheism which is already well-attested in sources to be prior to the 1st millennium BC), up to the period of Christianization of the respective populations. Most also include folkloric practices that have survived into recent history or, in some cases, into the present day, as is the Zamolxiana movement among the Romanian people.
Reconstructionism and Neopaganism
Linzie (2004) enumerates the difference between modern reconstructionist polytheism, (such as modern Hellenismos), with "classical" paganism as found in Eighteenth to mid Twentieth century movements, (including Germanic mysticism, early Neodruidism and Wicca). Aspects of the former, not found in the latter, are as follows:
- There is no attempt to recreate a combined pan-European Paganism.
- Researchers attempt to stay within research guidelines developed over the course of the past century for handling documentation generated in the time periods that they are studying.
- A multi-disciplinary approach is utilized capitalizing on results from various fields as historical literary research, anthropology, religious history, political history, archaeology, forensic anthropology, historical sociology, etc. with an overt attempt to avoid pseudo-sciences.
- There are serious attempts to recreate culture, politics, science and art of the period in order to better understand the environment within which the religious beliefs were practiced.
The use of the terms "Pagan" and "Neopagan" to apply to polytheistic reconstructionists is controversial. Some reconstructionist, ethnic and indigenous religious groups take great issue with being referred to as "Pagan" or "Neopagan," viewing "Pagan" as a pejorative term used in the past by institutions attempting to destroy their cultures and religions. In addition, reconstructionists may choose to reject the terms "Pagan" and "Neopagan" in order to distance themselves from aspects of popular Neopaganism, such as eclecticism, cultural appropriation, the practice of magic, and a tendency to conduct rituals within a Wiccan-derived format, that they find irrelevant or even inimical to their religious practice.
Even among those reconstructionist groups who see themselves as part of the broader, Pagan or Neopagan spectrum, or who simply see some members of the Pagan community as allies, there is still a refusal to accept or identify with what they see as the more problematic aspects of that community, such as the above-noted eclecticism, cultural appropriation or Wiccan-inspired ritual structures. Many Polytheistic Reconstructionists see Reconstructionism as the older current in the Pagan community, and are unwilling to give up this part of their history simply because eclectic movements are currently more fashionable.
- Armenian: Hetanism
- Baltic: Baltic Neopaganism
- Canarian: Church of the Guanche People
- Caucasian: Caucasian Neopaganism
- Celtic: Celtic Neopaganism
- Egyptian: Kemetism
- Germanic: Germanic Heathenism
- Greek: Hellenismos
- Hungarian: Hungarian Neopaganism
- Italo-Roman: Roman Tradition
- Romanian: Zalmoxianism
- Semitic: Semitic Neopaganism
- Slavic: Rodnovery
- Uralic: Uralic Neopaganism
- Lawrence, David Herbert (1995) . The plumed serpent. Wordsworth classics. Wordsworth Editions. p. 221. ISBN 978-1-85326-258-6. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
- Bonewits, Isaac (2006). Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. New York: Kensington/Citadel. p. 131. ISBN 0-8065-2710-2.
- Linzie (2004), 5f.
- Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes. "Pagans". Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes. Retrieved September 7, 2007.
- Arlea Anschütz, Stormerne Hunt (1997). "Call us Heathens!". Journal of the Pagan Federation. Retrieved September 7, 2007.
- Adler, Margot (1997). Drawing down the Moon, page 282. New York: Penguin/Arkana. p. 262. ISBN 0-14-019536-X.
- Nova Roma
- Roman Reconstructionist Paganism
- Movimento Tradizionale Romano (MTR),
- Associazione Culturale Ignis,
- Associazione GENTILITAS - Spiritualità Italica,
- Associazione Tradizionale Pietas
- Linzie, Bil (2008). "Reconstructionism's Role in Modern Heathenry" (PDF). Retrieved September 2008.
- Linzie, Bil (2004). "Uncovering the Effects of Cultural Background on the Reconstruction of Ancient Worldviews" (PDF). Retrieved February 2007.
- Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today ISBN 0-14-019536-X (1979, 1986, 1997, 2006)
- ecauldron.com: What is Pagan Reconstructionism?
- The Association of Polytheist Traditions While not strictly reconstructionist, APT is an educational group concerned with ancient historical religions as well as modern syncretist new age religions
- Neopagans vs. the Recons (beliefnet.com)
- The CR FAQ - An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionism A consensus document, co-authored by representatives