I've been talking lately with a couple friends about recon. and, in the course of the conversation, we end up sharing stories of past experiences. Somehow the conversation had turned to the way that people often misunderstand what recon. is and the funny and frustrating discussions that result and that got me thinking about how many people really don't understand what recon. is all about. So the following is my attempt to clarify a couple things and my own impression of what reconstructionist religions are.
First off many people seem to think that being a recon. means trying to live like or have the spirituality of an ancient culture - sorry, no. Reconstruction is about learning as much as we can about what the anceint culture was like and what the religion was like in order to bring the core of it forward in a workable modern way. We are not trying to bring ourselves back or create a backwards looking religion, rather we want to envision what that anceint paganism would have grown into had it not been interupted. By researching and using archaeology, anthropology, history, mythology, and linguistics we can gain a better understanding of the beliefs and practices that existed thousands of years ago and find the best ways to bring that forward in a viable modern way.
Secondly reconstructionism is not a static faith; it is not only about picking out bits and pieces of old pagan practices to use. Achieving a thorough grounding in the ancient culture and the principles of modern recon. allows people to then create new material in the spirit of the old material; songs, poems, invocations, rituals, and all the other essentials. No religion can survive long if it is not living and growing and that is equally true of recon. Now it is true that new material has to be in line with the old, because part of recon is not introducing foreign elements, but the world we live in today is very different from the world thousands of years ago - if we can't create a religion that is modern and that is adapted for the modern world, then really, what's the point?
So to me recon is a viable modern faith that is rooted in an ancient pagan faith, brought forward as we envision it if it had never stopped being practiced. Each individual and every group will have their own ideas on what that would look like depending on their own views and interpretations of the available material, creating a very similar situation to what it was like back then when each tribe had it's own particular ways within the larger culture. Nonetheless we all share a common goal and a common vision that should hold us together as a community. We keep the core cultural values, the main religious practices and beliefs, and we use critical thinking and inspiration, along with a deep understanding of the historical culture, to adapt the surviving material and to create new material in the spirit of the old. Because recon. is not just about the book-knowledge or the research - it's about actively living the spirituality we find there.