How to become the undisputed leader of a polytheistic religion in five easy steps:
1. Pick an obscure, ancient, Near Eastern or Indo-European culture, preferably one with an unknown and/or untranslated language.
2. Read a couple of books on the subject.
3. Double-check to make sure no one else has already established a Reconstructionist tradition based on the religious practices of the same culture. If such a tradition already exists and flourishes, reach out to the adherents, so that you may learn from each other and enjoy spiritual growth and fellowship.
3. Write your own book, the introduction of which must begin with “Never before…” and end with “Forgotten… until now.”
4. Create a Facebook page.
5. Destroy all who oppose you, with unverifiable personal gnosis and self-righteousness as your gleaming sword and shield.
As you may have surmised, Something Happened on the Internet, and I’m Having Feelings about it. I’m not going to name names or point identifying fingers, because I’m passive-aggressive. I will however, make up a fictional recon trad and use that as the context for an actual online conversation:
Polytheistic Author/Diva/Guru – “Good morning! I’ve uploaded a calendar of the Proto-Lithuanian Unicorn Cult ritual cycle. Of course, we do not know if the Cult had a formalized ritual cycle, since the Proto-Lithuanian language has never been translated, so I’ve reworked their seasonal celebrations to align with the standard Pagan holidays.”
Group Member – “I appreciate you sharing this! I came up with something very similar when I was working on my dissertation in Proto-Lithuanian Studies, and it looks like our calendars are remarkably compatible. I do have one quick question, though. What led you to match the Festival of the Gelded Serpent-Pony with the Fall Equinox? I ask, because back when I was collaborating on the Proto-Lithuanian Unicorn Cult Oracle Deck, we determined that the annual stallion castrations in pre-Christian Baltic territories took place in the early Spring, so I’m wondering if we missed something in our research. Thank you for any clarification you can provide!”
PA/D/G – “Look, I tolerate polite dissent, but personal experience is always more valid than what any ‘academic’ has to say.”
GM – “But I didn’t… I was only trying to… you know what? I think I’ll just quietly unsubscribe and go play on Twitter.”
And then she left the group, and I snuck out right behind her.
Young, Drunken Me would’ve lost his shit over the whole thing and thrown a few uncalled-for punches before flouncing out the door. But I’m older and
wiser calmer now, and I understand that snarling at some swollen-headed douche-nozzle isn’t going to change anyone’s mind or make any kind of real difference. Instead, I choose to focus on gratitude over resentment. For example, I am grateful for the members of a different online community, whose conversations go something like this:
New Group Member – “Hello! Can anyone recommend an introductory book on the Proto-Lithuanian Unicorn Cult?”
Group Owner – “Sure! There are a lot of good resources out there, but I suggest starting with either The Proto-Lithuanian Unicorn Cult Definitely Had a Formalized Ritual Cycle and This Is It, or The Proto-Lithuanian Language Is Really Easy to Translate, on Account of It’s Basically Just Prussian with Three Extra Vowels. I hope this helps!”
It does help, Mr. Welcoming and Accessible Proto-Lithuanian Unicorn Cult Reconstructionist Dude. Mightily does it help indeed.