Rev. Tamara L. Siuda has an excellent point in her post on Polytheist.com: Reconstruction, Revival, and Styrofoam Cake Syndrome
The Shinto poet Matsuo Basho, who also lived during a period of thoughtful, intense polytheist reconstructionism, wrote: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old. Seek what they sought.” When I came to my work with Kemetic Orthodoxy, despite that Basho never worshiped the same gods that I do, I took his advice to heart, and it has remained with me since. It is just as important to know the how of one’s polytheism, as it is to know the why. Rituals are important to us as polytheists, often to the exclusion of creed or belief, whether we are the polytheists of today or five thousand years ago. Going through the motions of a ritual with neither a purpose nor an understanding of the meanings of those motions is pointless.
I know people who are obsessed with fiddly historical details. I know people who are obsessed with trying to match the values of their ancestors regardless of what we’ve learned since then about our fellow human beings. I know people who are more set on what a Medieval Christian monk recorded about their gods than they are about what they and the people around them actually experience of those gods.
It doesn’t WORK. Yes, studying our gods is important, and I’m as fascinated by the history as the next academic geek, but when it comes to having a relationship, which is more important, interacting with the other person, or knowing facts about them?
One of the things we teach our students in the extended Hrafnar community, via the Trance Class, and other contexts, is to construct a ritual of hospitality aimed at an individual by practicing designing a ritual based on the idea of invoking yourself. (This actually has other uses that I won’t get into here.)
So if I were going to invoke myself, I would have a can of Coca Cola, and a plate of my favorite pasta, and symbols for rabbits, stags, lions, fire, etc. All those things I connect with my sense of self, sure. But simply having that list doesn’t mean someone knows me. If someone invited me to meet with them and had asked others who knew me what to have ready to be sure I felt welcome, and thus gathered these things, I would be honored they’d thought of it, perhaps, but I wouldn’t mistake it for our already having a relationship.
Such gestures are the invitation to begin a relationship. The relationship itself takes interaction, listening to each other, and offering of ourselves. Making sure the environment in which we do so is respectful and comfortable for each other is a necessary precursor to avoid alienating each other before we even begin, but it’s not the work of building the relationship itself, it’s just the work of making sure building a relationship is possible.