When I first wrote this page, I described myself as what I was at the time: a Roman reconstructionist who doesn’t really reconstruct. I said I felt a powerful affinity for the culture of ancient Rome, and I still do. I also said that I didn’t try to mimic Roman culture warts and all – because a lot of it was just horrible – and explained that, in fact, I didn’t really follow the actual Roman religion, as such, at all.
It was more a matter of self-perception. I’ve always felt deeply connected to ancient Rome somehow, whatever criticisms can reasonably be aimed at it, and I’ve always tended to view divinity in the form of the Roman gods – Jupiter, Mars, Juno, et al. For me, though, these gods aren’t characters of myth: by nature, they’re rather distant – more the embodiment of nature, and human nature, than individuals with whom I might form a familiar relationship. Where the ancient Romans would spend a great deal of time ensuring that every god was offered the proper rituals and sacrifice, I believe that that gods simply do what they need to do, and all we need to do is get on with living the lives of mortals.
“Pah!” say the religious scholars, raised on their diet of monotheist orthodoxy. “That just means you’re too wishy-washy to commit to a proper code of ethics and right action.”
“Pah!” say the anti-religious campaigners. “That just means you’re trying to avoid committing to a firm statement of belief which Science could test and disprove; thus you invalidate all concepts of religion and prove Richard Dawkins right.”
“No,” I reply, “It just means that I don’t necessarily believe that ethics and morality can stem only from divine decree.” The ancient Romans treated their religion as a sort of convenient barter system between humanity and the gods, with deals being struck here and there for favour and advantage. I don’t see things working that way. And if the gods do, indeed, answer prayers or appeals, I believe they do so on their own terms, and dispassionately. And even then, it’s usually not possible to know whether a particular change has been made in the universe just for you because you asked nicely, or if that had been the plan all along, and the plan just happens to coincide with what you wanted.
Things have changed, though, as things tend to do. I’m not the person I was, and my religious outlook, like everyone else’s, is constantly developing. Other things are coming to the surface, particularly recently, and a strong thread of something I can only really describe as being vaguely druidic in nature seems to be emerging. It’s not druidism – not exactly – but I haven’t really explored it enough to offer a better description just yet.
Still, I think it illustrates quite well the idea that paganism isn’t about signing up to a rigid, formalised system of beliefs, but walking a broad, evolving path that can manifest itself in countless different ways.
Hmm. Roman and druid in the same person. This could be fun…
None of which really tells you much about me, I know. Well, if you’d like to know anything specific, you can always ASK. 🙂