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Neo-Pagan Reconstructionism

Neo-Pagan Reconstructionism


I wonder how many pagans, wiccans and “Earth Magicians” claim an unbroken tradition  of their tradition?

I tend to feel that this is a rather romantic notion which although has appeal cannot really be verified historically or through social anthropology. Most of those now  following a Druid-path accept that what they are involved in is a reconstruction; a recreation  possibly influenced by what is known about extant cultures and pagan traditions.

In 1792, a stonemason named Edward Williams, who fancied himself a bard, gathered together some friends and held his own homegrown bardic initiation ceremony, which he called the Gorsedd (Welsh, meaning “throne”). Unlike the other Welsh bards, Williams’s group claimed an unbroken lineage from an ancient order of druids. Williams rechristened himself Iolo Morganwg (Ned of Glamorgan), and embarked on a long career of scholarship and creativity punctuated by fraud, alternately translating ancient Welsh poetry and creating forged documents of his own. Morganwg championed Welsh poetic traditions and even rediscovered a number of important works, including that of Dafydd ap Gwilym, who is now acknowledged as Wales’s greatest poet.

So whilst Iolo kick-started a movement and complicated things by ‘fraud’ he nonetheless generated an interest in the works and words of commentators from long ago. The stories, the myths and the folk tales from which we can draw inspiration. The Mabinogion, The Book of Invasions, the stories of Talesin, Merlin and Arthur – these texts can be read and used to remind us of tradition but not necessarily to call for a return to a pre-scientific state of being.

There are many seeking ‘traditional paths’ as an escape from the orthodoxies which seem to have created disharmony. There are some calling for a kind of return to Eden, to simpler times – but we can’t unlearn what we have unlearned nor un-invent that which has been invented. What we can do is reconnect ourselves to the source of inspiration; to the relevance of myth in order to explore the subjective self that sometimes sits on conflict with the objective mind.

We now understand some of the cycles of nature; we now recognize something of the interdependence of all things and perhaps Druidry, with its theatre, its art and its exploration of myth can offer ways of being which are as relevant as ever but with an edge which relates to the rational-mystic we could all become. In such a state we understand that magic is a natural rather than supernatural act; that art and science need not be antagonistic and that the petty spiritual jealousies which drive theists apart can be resolved within mystical spaces of the mind rather than over simplifications of animistic and numenistic philosophies.

For your consideration allow me to present some thoughts by Carl Sagan, who was a scientist, a humanist and atheist. His book ‘The Demon Haunted World’ would seem to stand in stark contrast to some of the ideals of the modern pagan movement BUT whose observations inspire and could help create a bridge between worlds.

Until next time …



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Published: March 24, 2014

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