Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hellenic Reconstruction

An interesting interview on Hellenismos (hat-tip):

Jessica Orsini: Let's see. I was raised Roman Catholic, but the best way I can put it is that it "didn't click". For whatever reason, I was never able to forge a connection with the Abrahamic god . At 14, my immediate family left the Catholic Church in a tiff, storming off to the Baptists. That went no better for me. At 17, when I went off to college, my spirituality did as well. I finally came to realize that the connection I *had* forged, the voice I'd heard in the woods since I was a small child, was Artemis.

I was introduced to paganism by a very soft-polytheistic Wiccan; from there, I ran through the usual assortment of Llewellyn publications and wound up with a sort of mish-mosh. I spent twenty years of wrangling through various efforts at implementation, trying somehow to fit my beliefs to Wicca. I tried this sort of "take the best from each" approach - the "many facets" concept that is so popular with a lot of pagans today. But it never really worked for me. I finally realized that my beliefs would never fit Wicca... and that there was this amazing old way that actually *did* fit.
When it all boiled down, I needed the hard, deep roots of Hellenism. I needed Hesiod's Theogony, his Works and Days. I needed that cohesive pantheon, and the culturally complete approach it allows.

(I've removed footnote numbers and corrected a typo.)

I don't have much to say about it. But polytheistic reconstruction movements, like Hellenismos or Theodism, are an interesting phenomenon. There's a tendency to conflate 'ethnic/tribal religion' with 'folk religion'; but reconstruction movements are an obvious example of how this conflation fails to do justice to facts. Hellenismos, for instance, is an ethnic religion, but since it is a reconstructed one, it is scholarship-based in at least a basic way (and usually thoroughly so), and therefore not a folk religion in the usual sense. Greek and Roman reconstructions are particularly interesting, given the richness of the resources from which they can draw; one could certainly do much worse than thoughtful, reasoned appropriation of Sallust and Hesiod.

But abhorred Strife bare painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon earth when anyone wilfully swears a false oath. [Theogony, 226-232, Evelyn-White, tr.]

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