Syncretism and Asatru Reconstruction

I just listened to a podcast about Asatru Reconstruction, which had some good points, and some lacunae.

- If you’re going to change your religion, it makes little sense to swap out the names and essentially continue with your current worldview and religious beliefs. The most naive form of syncretism is religion as a mad-lib.

- Re-enactors are the guys that wear the garb and are relearning how to do crafts of old. They may or may not be interested in the religion or world view.

- Reconstructionists want to revive the old ways and worldview as it was, and not adapt or improve it for modern conditions, but not necessarily the costume or other aspects of re-enactment. A Reconstructionist would see these adaptations and improvements in the same as mad-lib religion.

- Neoheathens are not reconstructionists, but they are adapting the old ways to modern life. They are the most likely to be syncretic, which is sometimes not philosophically elegant, because some of the popular religions of the moment are incompatible with Asatru– but probably not on all points. In my opinion, syncretic views that are not fundamentally incompatible are a good thing.

I see the point about mad-lib religion, but I think there are some weaknesses with strict reconstructionism. We don’t want to revive human sacrifice, we can’t revive tribal subsistence farming, and not everything that has a happened since the end of widespread heathen practice in Europe was bad, not everything that preceded it was good. People pre and post conversion made mistakes and had good ideas.

Ancient heathenry is itself syncretic and very much in a mad-lib way. There is no worldview difference between the people and the Aesier and the people and the Vanir– yet these gods almost certainly come from different traditions, the later most likely the pastoral plains Indoeuropeans and the Aesir most likely the pre-indoeuropean hunter and gather tribes of Europe.

And what ways are the old ways? In the 1970s, Asatru was about the religion of the Vikings. Now, with better scholarship, it the religion of the Germanic peoples, including England, Netherlands, Germany and all of Scandinavia. With even better scholarship and archeology, we might start reconstructing the religion at an even earlier point, and should this be different, then what?

So I suppose if I were to label myself, I’d be attracted to neoheathenry informed by reconstructionism, but not at all interested in reconstruction as the non-plus-ultra.

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