There are a couple of interesting fault lines in the broader pagan community. One of them – in many ways one of the most acrimonious – is that between the reconstructionist religions and religious witchcraft. The reconstructionists regularly accuse the witches of being all airy-fairy feel-good without any basis in the reality of how pagan religions were historically conducted; the witches meanwhile frequently find the reconstructionists to be kind of dreary and trapped by a worship of scholarly tomes rather than actually capable of involvement with the Powers and, for that matter, with life.
Obviously, both of these stereotypes are wrong – and just as obviously, both of these stereotypes have some basis in reality.
Like most pagans of my rough age group, I found paganism through books on Wicca. (I sometimes say that I went through my pop-Wiccan period back when the books were mostly still pretty good.) Wicca didn’t stick on me very well – while it was a much better fit than anything else I’d come across, it wasn’t a very good fit at all, so I kept the trappings because they were all I knew about how to be pagan and mostly did nothing for a long time.
Eventually, I worked my way around to reconstruction, and things were good there, and it was comfortable and secure to be able to say, “No, I am not a witch. Not all pagan religions are religious witchcraft.” Because that shoe hadn’t fit me very well, it was a relief to shuck it off and delve into things that did suit me better.
Of course, having a personal devotion to the God of “What Comfort Zone? Hah! You Don’t Need A Comfort Zone!” throws a spanner into this kind of thing, and eventually my mystical practice stalled out around being directed to go back to religious witchcraft. (Though not Wicca.) Not because of too much dusty books, but because of too much damage to me that needed fixed before I could be any good to anyone else. And for a while, it was simply that: I was studying these tools so that I could go back and do my reconstruction as a more competent person.
Until it wasn’t anymore. And then I was orbiting around this concept of “witch”. It was clear that I wasn’t a witch in the line of my first teacher, so I sought out another teacher, because there was something there that was more than just mending my head. There was, in the spirit of what I was studying, something that was the Holy Twin of the reconstruction from which I had come, and I would be a lousy Kemetic if I didn’t go chasing down those Holy Twins.
So myself as a reconstructionist was, in many ways, before there were two things. I need to be careful of my own sacred stories, don’t I? They throw all kinds of spanners into things.
But there’s a deeper thing in there. The process of reconstruction itself is weirdly akin to witchcraft. A recon doing the work is walking the knife edge between what is Known and what is Unknowable – in this case, the history, anthropology, and archaeology and theories based upon them, and everything that is lost to time, as well as all the things that are useful for filling in the gaps. The witch, as I understand the role, is one who keeps that edge and dips from one side to the other as need be.
If I were not building, reconstructionism would not be witchcraft. It would be all done already, there would be liturgies and rituals in place for the having, not this threading the horizon between known/hidden, fluid/formed, lost/defined, shadowed/revealed. But the building is like the Craft, walking that secret edge and finding the poetry that cuts between the worlds.
The gatekeepers, now, who stand comfortably in the built and say that the witches do not belong in reconstruction, they are too comfortable in their place for me, because I am still in twilight, a creature of Akhet, taking the knowledge from night into day, and the knowledge from day into night.