No matter what Pagan, Witchy, or spiritual space you walk into you will run into this ongoing conflict between tradition and creation. This argument seems to be more amplified for people who have recently walked onto their new path of discovery, but the argument itself has been around for at least 100+ years in occult spaces. I think it has grown more so with the rise of the internet and social media though because of the unprecedented access to information that we did not have before.
There are two loud camps, each on the extreme sides of the spectrum. One side holds Reconstructionists and those who value lore above all else. The other side has thrown everything to the wind and is all about creating new everything. The rest of us are all stuck somewhere in the middle.
If you have been listening to me for any length of time you have probably picked up on the fact that, to me, extremes are a very damaging thing. In this particular argument I feel this even more so. I can see what both sides are saying and why they are saying it. Both have some valid points, but neither is right in my opinion. So let’s dig into some whys before we head into a different approach.
The hardcore reconstructionists and lore mongers hold historical writing above all else. The biggest issue with this is that we do not really have any writings that predate christianity for the majority of paganism. Even if it wasn’t written by a christian, it still has christian influences due to the fact that christianity wasn’t confined to spiritualism. It bled into laws and the very fabrics of society. This was by design. It was part of the conversion process which was more about controlling people than it was about spiritualism. The stories we do have were passed down verbally and in song. They were told by bards and storytellers, each putting their own flare, their own perspectives, and uniqueness into them – thus changing them. This isn’t a bad thing as long as you realize what you are reading now is an interpretation and not factual events. Most of the few accounts we have on practices of cultures like the Celts, Pict, Norse, and Druids pre-christian were written by outside people, mainly Romans. People who were trying to conquer them. I have done several videos on this kind of topic, but as you can see, the “historical” documents are somewhat problematic.
With that being said, I do understand the draw for reconstructionists to want to unearth the past ways, to find truth, to bring back what was lost. We long in our soul for something lost to us, a missing piece, an understanding we feel that has been swallowed by time. There is power in the old ways. A connection to nature and the Gods that we have lost through christian influence and modernization. That I think is what they are searching for, but I do not think it is something we will find in a book. We may glimpse some understanding, some truth – for there is truth in all stories, but no story is true. We will never know for sure how it truly worked if we are only focused on what is written, and theories from archaeologists and anthropologist. Those will give us clues, a glimpse, but not instructions. We need to be honest about the fact that the church was very good at twisting and wiping out the core of pre-traditions.
The last question we have to ask on the reconstructionist side is, How ancient is ancient? Now my personal studies lean heavily on Celtic (primarily Irish/ Scottish, Norse, and Animismistic approaches) so it is what I am most familiar with. With that being said, most of the occultism and revival started in the 1700s with the Druid Reconstructionists. A group of mainly rich aristocrats trying to reconstruct Druidic practices. Due to a lack of information, much of what they developed was creating not reconstructing. The Golden Dawn, which was the biggest starting point for much of the magical / spiritual systems we see today, was created in the 1800s. They were created by Freemasons who can date back to the 1200s. So they most likely have more information closer to pre-christian but still not pre-christian.
Now some will point to people like the Sami, First Nation, aboriginal peoples as being the model, which isn’t a bad point. Although they have been heavily influenced as well, especially First Nation people, they still held onto their culture and connections better than anyone else. Here’s the one point I want you to remember with these groups – they evolved their practices as their people, culture, and environment evolved. They were not static in the rules or practices. All of that evolved as the people and the world evolved.
So let us go to the other flip side now – The Create – Everything – New. I don’t want to say New Age because many new age people incorporate old world ideas. I am speaking more about the extremists who only focus on creating based on right now. They are much fewer in my experience but they are there. They do not see value in the work previously discovered and done by established institutions/ religions. I will admit that I understand these people much less than the reconstructionists. I get the idea they are going for – no rules, no constraints, no trappings that organized religion (this includes pagan religions) always contain in some measure. For them, it is all about their personal connection and experiences. I do see one glaring problem with this approach – Our minds are an incredible machine. If we are not disciplined, not completely honest with ourselves, the mind will twist things to what we want and not what is really there. Even with those things, we can find ourselves lost in a lie our mind created. The secondary issue is an old saying – We don’t need to recreate the wheel, we need to make it better. There is value in what has been tried and tested. There are lessons we can glean from the success and failure of others. Speeding along our own process.
So it is at this time I would like to interject a message I received during my Rune journey –
“In the time of the Tower, some pieces must be cast aside, so the two opposite sides can see they are fighting for the same solution, just in different ways”
This is true of both of these camps and all of us in the middle. We are all looking for connection, understanding, growth, experience – and dare I say Faith. Faith after all is born from belief and personal experience. Both sides have valid points but instead of acknowledging each other, acknowledging the value and the problematic nature of both approaches – they fight about who is right. They use venom and fear to sway the minds of the unknowing and those in the middle. They fight to be the biggest voice. Is it power that drives them? Is it fame or money? Is it a deep belief based on their own experience? It’s hard to tell, but perhaps there is a little of all of it in there.
The reason they do it isn’t as concerning for me. It is what happens because of it. It creates a fear, especially in newer people, so they are not asking questions. We see it all the time – someone asks a question and these two camps come out to bash the person and each other. This isn’t guiding and sharing, this is trying to control other people and the narrative. It creates fear from experimenting and trying new things. If we are not experimenting, pushing previous “truths”, pushing boundaries to see how far we can go, we do not grow – we become stagnant. I get messages and talk to people all the time who were too afraid to ask simple questions publicly for fear of backlash from the community. That is insane! It absolutely infuriates me and it all stems from this power struggle of “who is right”. I have had people following the instructions of others and never feeling anything. Then they try some of the exercises that worked for me (structure but not instructions) and they have experiences. I think this is because it gives them a structure to help get started but what they say or do in it is personal to them. It’s an example not a “how to”. All of this becomes even worse when we go into Deities, Ancestors, and the unseen worlds.
I feel we need to live somewhere in the middle of all this craziness. Get inspiration and ideas from the past but build according to us, our own experiences, the world we live in, and what we discover for ourselves.
Our world has evolved. People, cultures, societies have evolved from what it was 2,000, 3,000 even 10,000 years ago. To think the Otherworld, Energy, Magic, Divine doesn’t evolve with us is kind of crazy to me. What battle looked like during the iron age isn’t even close to the battles we encounter on a daily basis now.
When dealing with Deity/ Divine, let Them tell you Their own stories – What is important to Them – Who They really are – How They want to be honored – What lessons They are here to teach you and so forth. I find it very interesting that, especially lessons, are very personal and individual to our own path and growth. This is because if They are here working with us, They are doing so to push you to grow – why else would They bother? They get energy from us within the partnership and connection to our world. We bring others attention to Them through sharing our own stories and experiences, Thus bringing more people and energy to Them. These have been my experiences at least.
The past holds Knowledge. Cycles hold Understanding. Experience holds Wisdom.
So why not try to take a step back from a place of control and approach each other from a place of compassion and respect. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to follow. We will make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Let’s step back from telling other people how to do something and instead just share what we do. That will impact the world more than anything else. Giving inspiration, ideas, and opening a path of discovery for all of us.
If you are looking for ancient truth or knowledge, you will not find that in a book or story.
If you do not listen to anyone but yourself you will never see the missing pieces that lay in other perspectives.
**Side note: After posting this, I came across a great video that I think greatly compliments what I was writing about