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This is the last installment of a four part series on physical infrastructure in the Pagan community. In this post I am focusing on festivals, conferences, and other multi-day events. In almost every culture and every community there is the custom of the gathering of the tribes. Modern pagan festivals, gatherings, and conferences are our equivalent of the gathering of the tribes. For simplicity sake, I'll refer to all these sorts of events as gatherings. In earlier posts in this series I spoke about the value that comes from seeing each other, working with each other, and having places that we can call our own. What makes gatherings different from these other kinds of infrastructure is that they involve large groups of people. Why is that important? For the most part, we are relatively isolated from each other and see only a handful of people at a time that share some commonality with our path. Seeing a multitude of Pagans together is transformative....
A couple of weeks ago—which partially explains my absence from this hallowed place—Mother Grove Goddess Temple ordained a group of women as temple clergy. The women—and in this case they were all women—were already priestesses but they went through a long process of study and practicum to make them clergy. They can perform all the rites of passage (including the legal one of marriage), can teach and speak on behalf of the Temple and its programs and philosophy.
It was a powerful ritual at a local herb school, because the Temple is small. There were candles and simple black robes. There were special guests and people making speeches. There was a choir and a reception. There was an audible gasp in the congregation when the women’s stoles were placed on their shoulders and they turned to face out. At that point, they were introduced one-by-one as “Reverend.”...
In our culture belief is the sine qua non of religion. We talk of ‘beliefs’, and ‘believers’, and ‘other beliefs’, as synonyms for religious doctrines, adherents and other religions. The problem with this is that only one religion on the planet actually cares about what you believe: Christianity. Most other religions relate to their doctrines or practices in very different and sometimes contradictory ways, such as having several unresolved and conflicting opinions in one person. For them, this is not a problem, but for Christianity it is. The history of Christianity is mostly about disagreements in doctrine and who had to flee, hide, fight, be killed, or submit to whom, about it. It is true that across human history religion has been an excuse for war or plunder, but that was usually about resources or dominance and not about technical points of theology. Christianity is different.
Over at Patheos, Star Foster recently blogged about the paganizing influence of books such as the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It is a conversation I have had many times, online and in person: do such books really bring people to Paganism (of whatever tradition)? Based on my own completely unscientific survey, I believe the answer is yes. Books like the Percy Jackson series -- and possibly Rowling's Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants, Anne Ursu's The Cronus Chronicles, and others -- do seem to spark an interest in the old Gods and mythologies. Or, perhaps, fan a flame that was already there.
I have written before about the differences between general (Neo-)Wiccan/Witchcraft Traditions and Reconstruction. In that blog post, I focussed on the practical, on the part you can see. This is not the most important part of Reconstruction Traditions, though. It's a part of it, but it only exists because of a mental component. It's this component I want to talk about today.
In general, 'reconstruction' is the practice of rebuilding something. This can be a crime-scene, a broken vase or any number of things. In Paganism, Reconstruction means the practice of reviving lost religious, social and practical practices from a specific time period or people. It is not that different from reconstructing a vase, actually, and I will be using that analogy a lot today.
Imagine this; long ago, a potter made a vase. He needed to make one because he had something which needed a holder. He shaped it in a specific form, inspired by his culture and need, and when the shape was done, he decorated it with imagery that was also culturally inspired. Somewhere over the years, the vase broke into a dozen pieces. There was no need for that particular vase anymore, so no one put it back together. Now, people need a holder again, and it seems logical to put the original holder back together instead of making a new one, because the first one functioned very well. They realize that in order to put the vase back together, they need to understand the culture and whatever was going on in the head of the potter who made it; without that knowledge, they won't be able to figure out how the pieces fit together and they can't restore the imagery without knowing what the potter created in the first place.