|I'd rather be a|
|Suckled in a creed outworn|
Polytheistic reconstructionism involves the practice of reviving an ancient polytheistic religion in at least a semi-historically accurate manner. The degree of historical accuracy can vary: from an academic approach based on historical texts and archaeology to a more mystical or spiritual approach that may border on more generally Neo-Pagan practice.
The most important of the New-Pagan religions tend to focus on Celtic and Norse religious traditions from northern Europe. However in recent years others have sought to reconstruct other religious practices, particularly those of the Classical and Egyptian pantheons.
Ypato Symboulio Ellinon Ethnikon - YSEE (Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes)
The YSEE is the most organised and explicitly political of polytheistic reconstructionist religious organisations. Based in Athens and focused within Greece (though with international outreach in Cyprus, the US and Australia) it aims to win rights for followers of traditional Hellenic religion. It often accuses the Greek government of “Neo-Byzantine” behaviour in attempting to prevent Ancient Greek religious sites from being used for religious purposes and attempting to circumvent religious rights of non-Christians.
YSEE is actually an umbrella organisation for several smaller Hellenic recontructionist groups based in Greece, but they now speak and operate mainly though YSEE.
Other Hellenic recontructionist groups
There are also Hellenic recontructionist movements outside Greece, the most prominent of which are Elaion and Hellenion. The latter operates mostly online, though it is based in the United States. Elaion specifically requires its members to worship only the Hellenic gods.
Nova Roma is a Roman reconstructionist group, although they do not require that their members worship the Gods of Rome at the lower levels, though higher levels must be willing to do so as the office requires. Like Ethnakoi Hellenes, they have a political dimension, though much less active, take a long term view of their aims, and are more internationalist in nature. Membership is international.
Egyptian (Kemetic) reconstructionism
Egyptian reconstructionism is both newer and older than the other main groups. Individuals had dedicated themselves to worship of the Gods of Egypt in a modern setting from the early 20th century, but organised groups with a more reconstructionist view didn’t emerge until the mid 1980s. Various groups (temples) tend to compete, and the idea of an umbrella organisation has yet to meet with success. The only current organisation of significant size is the House of Netjer (aka Kemetic Orthodoxy), though many smaller organisations continue to exist, including Per Heh, Per Ankh, and some attempts at umbrella organisations.
The House of Netjer requires its members to worship the Egyptian gods, but at lower levels does not forbid the worship of other gods in a separate set of beliefs, though the two should not be mixed. House of Netjer is not technically polytheistic and adopts a monolatic view of the cosmos. This has led most to regard HoN as "revivalist" rather than reconstructionist, as it is widely believed that Egyptian religion was truly polytheistic. In addition, HoN incorporates modern practices without an ancient equivalent (such as divining the "parents" of members, i.e. their "patron" gods), or modified from other religions.
The website of Per-Ankh was offline for quite some time, and has only recently been resurrected, and much content has yet to be uploaded. As such, the exact details of the doctrine are currently unknown.
Aleister Crowley's religion of Thelema centers on Egyptian gods and goddesses, but the ritual and theology were largely invented by Crowley.
Tengrism is an old Turkic/Mongolic religion. Its most famous practitioner is probably Genghis Khan. There have been attempts at reviving it by nationalists in some central Asian republics. In Kyrgyzstan there is the Tengrist society and the businessman-politician Dastan Sarygulov has established a self-described international scientific centre of Tengrist studies and a group called Army of Tengri.
Relations with the Neo-Pagan community
Generally, due to the un-dogmatic nature of polytheistic religions, relations with other groups are mostly focused on non-interference and tolerance. However, followers of some Neo-Pagan traditions, particularly the more eclectic, may be regarded by some followers of more "hard" polytheistic or reconstructionist faiths as being fluffy. There is little real rivalry, however, and for the most part the ancient polytheistic approach of "Our Gods" and "Their Gods" is accepted.
Reconstructionism and meso-paganism
Reconstructionism differs from Meso-Paganism in that it seeks to reconstruct religions that have at one point in the past been effectively "dead", that is, having no known adherents, whereas Meso-Paganism adheres to a religion that whilst small, has continued to be followed by at least some adherents. Both however seek to accurately follow a religion, do not incorporate eclectic practices, and avoid introducing "new" elements into the religion as much as possible.
Reality and practice
Unsurprisingly, the nice cookie-cutter definition doesn't work in reality. Like most things, reconstructionism is a spectrum, with "die-hard" reconstructionists at one end who refuse to use modern languages or translated texts in a ritual, to "revivalists" willing to introduce modern ideas, eclectic practices and practical/simplified practices into the religion that make the distinction between re-con and Neo-Pagan beliefs somewhat blurred.
This can get even more confusing in cases such as Celtic Reconstructionism (CR), many of whose members say that you must be active in Celtic culture to qualify as a CR as opposed to a more typical Neo-Pagan. This may mean that if someone researched as much historical material as possible to make sure they only worshiped Celtic Deities in a historically accurate way (perhaps even in a "die-hard" way), avoided New Age/eclectic practices like the plague, and only recognized Celtic holidays, but said person didn't really bother to participate in Celtic culture (dances, music, communities, etc.), that person may not qualify as a "true CR". However they would also be far too oriented on historical accuracy and consistency to qualify as a usual Celtic Neo-Pagan. It doesn't help that there is no bare minimum set on how much you must participate to qualify as a CR or to avoid engaging in "cultural appropriation", and that CR sources are often contradictory about how immersed you need to be.
Of course, being human, the polytheistic reconstructionists have a few kooks in their ranks, just like every other religion and philosophy. However, ancient Pagan societies tended to be religiously tolerant and open-minded, perhaps even to a fault. The main whack-jobs in the movement are neo-Nazis, who wish to exploit the pre-Christian Germanic or Celtic symbolism used in Asatru and other reconstructionist religions for hateful ends (racism and anti-semitism); but such figures are not known either for citing their religion as a justification for their political activities (often doing the exact opposite), or for showing much interest in the actual religion they profess.
- The Greeks who worship the ancient gods
- http://www.ysee.gr/index-eng.php?type=english&f=dt215 - One example
- Not explicitly mentioned on the current website, but confirmed by a member
- http://www.per-ankh.org/new/EgyptianReligion/evening/teachings-learning-evening-21.html - For example
- See the Wikipedia article on Tengrism.
- Sometimes the SAME sources