Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rebirthing vs. Reconstructing

I recently encountered a Wiccan who has a devotional relationship with some Hellenic deities and she shared with me that she is regularly told by those on the reconstructionist side that she is not worshipping Them correctly.  As someone who has a foot in both worlds, this sticks in my craw.  My understanding from working with the Hellenic Theoi over decades within the context of this incarnation is that Their goal is to be back in relationship with us in powerful ways.  So I strongly believe that those who are creating uncertainty and hesitation amongst those They have called are working against Their divine will.  I'm not sure, specifically, who I am addressing...but I've seen enough of this often enough to know it is a problem.  If you recognize yourself in this description, stop it!

What is the point of religion?  It is to build and maintain relationships with the unseen, especially the gods.  All of the other stuff is means to that end. Now, I am a huge, huge, huge proponent of doing the research, learning as much as one can, and judiciously using what has been learned.  Many of the old forms work well (and work in adaption) because they have thought forms behind them that, through centuries of repetitive use, act as a signal and calling card to particular Great Ones.  It is fabulous when you can harness that.  It is also not necessary.

Similarly, I always say that it is essential to get to know the Great Ones you are intending to work with and to have a thorough understanding of who and what They are and what They want.  This helps you deepen the connection and provides a behavioral understanding for you about how to interact with Them.  But They are BIG.  They are much bigger than us.  They can adapt to our behavior and forgive us our confusion.

As far as I am concerned, if one of the Great Ones has called you, and it is not a one-time kind of thing, but clearly one of Them is reaching out to be in relationship with you, it is a really good idea for you to go do the research and be sure that you want to say "yes" before you agree to Their work.  No harm, no foul if you want to say no.  You are a Divine being living in a body and have free will.  So, get a clear understanding.  I'm also going to say that there is some wisdom in only accepting life-work from one or two at the most.  You really can't serve as a priest/ess of more than that and do a good job of it....although you can do particular acts for some of the others.  That's a limitation based on our energy and time.  But if you really have been called and you decide to say "yes" then don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

All of the other stuff is means, not ends.  It is good to learn it.  If you have taken up that kind of work, you should learn as much as you can...but it is better to learn it judiciously rather than uncritically.  After all, cultures shift and change.  Our written records for ancient Hellenic religion run from about 800 BCE to 500 CE - that is a long time and any living culture shifts and changes.

I have said many times in various contexts that if you call to the Great Ones and They answer - whatever form you use - you are doing it right.  If you call the Great Ones and They do not answer, it doesn't matter how ritually perfect or historically accurate your form, you are not doing it right.

I consider what I am doing to be rebirthing rather than reconstruction, specifically because I am not even trying to carefully reconstruct historically accurate forms.  I learn everything that I can and take inspiration and modify ancient forms and bring them into rituals because doing so taps old energy currents and helps...but if I am doing my own inner and devotional work (and I am) then They come even without that.

 I use the lore to get a really good understanding of what these Great Ones want...of what their agendas are.  I use that to inform how I interact with Them.  For example, I know the old sacrifices to Poseidon, but I'm not going to do meat sacrifices.  I don't raise animals and it would be inappropriate for me to do so in my current circumstances.  I can walk to a grocery store and buy meat vs. carefully raising an animal and then going through the slaughter and giving up most of the meat on that animal to the community.  As a sacrifice, it doesn't have the same meaning it would in a different context.  But what I know, what I absolutely KNOW, is that Poseidon cares for the seas.  So my sacrifice for Poseidon is that whenever I see plastic lying on the ground, knowing that without my intervention it will go into a gutter and end up polluting the ocean, I pick it up and throw it away and tell Poseidon, while I am doing it, that it is in honor of Him.  THAT gets His attention.  That helps me build relationship with Him.  I am both doing something in alignment with His agenda, in service of what He cares about, and I am calling Him to mind over and over and over again, strengthening His form and His power as an intercessor for the health of the seas.  Obviously, you will never find any reference in the lore to picking up plastic trash, but it works and is important.

This, to me, is the difference.  I do believe in the power of research.  I believe it is essential to understand as much as you can about the Great Ones you are working with.  I think there is a tremendous amount of power to help your magick and worship if you can use references back to old thought forms and tap those lines of repeated activity and pull them into your work.  But in the end, it is about the gods.  It is about our relationships with the gods.  And that means that it has to be about now and our current context.  They want to be in relationship with us and it is an act of impiety to inhibit or discourage that relationship from one who has been called to Them.  We should be empowering each other to build these relationships, even if those relationships look different than ours.  That is the work that all of us are called to perform.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree wth you on this. I think to focus on rote replication of a spiritual practice of a culture and context that no longer exists and is often barley even documented accurately or consistently, actually gets in the way of most productive worship - if that worship is to receive guidance for real, useful work in the current context. It can be a harkening back to essentially invented 'simpler times' based on limited actual information - too often (it seems to me) primarily for psychological comfort in the tumult of modern life. It can become a form of religious escapism that too often is sterile or actually toxic to current reality and practice. It can become a form of spiritual, cultural and ethical regression/reductionism in the guise of 'honoring tradition'. Life is, we are, different now. I think they know this.

So, I agree with the sane approach of using as much as is possible for inspiration and education, importing what reasonably/rationally can be into the current reality in a way that is effective and relevant, and leaving all the rest behind in blessed memory. Honestly, to believe that Divine entities - comparatively immortal and immense to humans - do not change the way they communicate with us or ask us to act based on how much we know or are capable of understanding at any given time seems nutty to me. To think that god/desses of healing, for instance, would guide us based on a Dark-Age understanding of anatomy is insulting to their nature and their (presumed) interest in human development.

Strict reconstructionism makes me ask: if it is believed that gods and goddesses cannot 'evolve' their interaction with humanity to connect with and influence current life conditions/contexts and require us to behave in ways that deny all advancement, is it we or they that are incapable of evolution? If we believe it is them and that a being that is supposedly larger and wiser and farther seeing than we are is stuck in a way of being that we have already moved beyond, why are we worshipping them? If it is us that needs to cling to practices of worship that are in most ways no longer relevant, then we are, for whatever reason, resisting one of the primary objectives of life as divinely gifted: evolution, adaptation, expansion.

Cathonic forces remain what they are - and we understand and are able to interact with them differently as our own grokking of reality changes. Divine beings that present as anthropomorphic beings with personalities and agendas meant to connect to humanity are, by their nature, defined by the cultures with which they wish to interact. Physical representations of them and understanding of who they are or how they need us to be in relation with them changed regularly and progressively throughout antiquity. Why would they now require that evolution be frozen at some arbitrary time, some x-thousand years passed?

Mine the past for gold, and shape and adapt it into tools for the current reality when possible. Beyond that, personal relationship with the Divine, shared and tested in the context of community for its power to positively evolve humanity, is the game, IMO.

Such are my 3 am musings, at any rate...

-Jim Dickinson

Ashley Hunter said...

An excellent article, thank you!

Surely it is like any other art (because there is most definitely an art to worship). You learn the basics that have been prescribed, and with those firmly under your belt...you break the rules and try new things.