In my last post, I talked about my recent interest in becoming a “post-recon” modern polytheist. To begin that work, I decided on the basics of what my personal reconstructed spiritual tradition would be: a modern tradition inspired by the polytheistic religions of the ancient Levant (including some influences from the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans over time) and a modern Jewish identity, all localized to my actual physical location in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. I then named this project Derekh Kochavim, which is Hebrew for “The Starry Way.”
Giving my tradition a name felt powerful and important, which makes sense, as names breath life into things. It was the right first step. But what would come next? I spent some time thinking through that, and came to the conclusion that worldview would be the next logical aspect of a new religious tradition to explore.
So what is a worldview? Strictly speaking (and according to the dictionary), a worldview is: “A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.” In a religious context, this would be the “core concepts” (key tenets) that are the foundation of the religion, influenced by both personal cosmology and one’s ethic/moral code. Derekh Kochavim is a cult of one right now (just me), but were it ever a group religion, no matter what personal touches each person decided to bring to the daily practice of the religion, we would all adhere to the same worldview.
When considering what the worldview of Derekh Kochavim would be, I knew that I wanted to build off the following existing foundations:
- The worldview & cosmology of the ancient Canaanites, specifically from the early Bronze Age to the early Iron Age
- The worldview & cosmology of the ancient Egyptians, specifically from the early Bronze Age to the early Iron Age
- The worldview & cosmology of the pre-exilic Israelites
- The worldview & cosmology of the modern Jewish identity (*regardless of sect)
Even though I am still studying much of the above, which is to say, my journey of creating Derekh Kochavim has only just begun (it will likely evolve for years to come!), I was recently able to pull together some conclusions regarding a worldview for my tradition that I wanted to relay in this blog post.
First of all, when referring to the Derekh Kochavim worldview, we will use the Hebrew word hokhmah / chokmâh, or “wisdom” in English. In the Kabbalah, hokhmah is one of the ten sephirot, and it is said that, in order to train in hokhmah, one must:
Teach people what will be useful to them, according to each one’s capacity, pouring out to each as much wisdom as you can.The Essential Kabbalah, Matt, 1996, page 87
Kabbalistic Hokhmah has two faces: the wisdom which you personally experience from / with the Divine through your internal (or private) life and the wisdom that informs you of how to interact with other people as you go about your external life (which you then also impart upon those other people). With this in mind, I began to consider both the internal and external experience of a follower of Derekh Kochavim as a way to construct our worldview.
The internal wisdom of Derekh Kochavim is inspired by the following qualities found within many of the ancient Levantine / Near East polytheistic religions (*there will be nuance, of course, but these are some of the common patterns I have been able to pull from my research):
- Polytheistic and animistic i.e. believing in many Gods and many spirits
- One’s relationship with the Divine as personal; the Gods are the divine parents or divine family of humanity
- Recognition of the inherent and inevitable interconnection between life and death as represented by the eternal, cyclical nature of the changing of the seasons (i.e. land fertility), as well as through the honoring of ancestors, which builds and strengthens family identity
The external wisdom of Derekh Kochavim is inspired by modern Judaism, as well as my own personal moral / ethical code:
- Tikkun Olam – Social and environmental justice (i.e. Justice). A commitment to continually contributing to social and environmental justice in whatever ways one can.
- Berit – Being in covenant with community (i.e. Integrity). Living honorably, keeping promises, and treating others with respect. We are anti-racist, and oppose all forms of bigotry, hate, and intolerance.
- Teshuvah – Repentance as Transformation (i.e. Self-Betterment) An awareness that nobody is perfect, and self improvement is part of one’s spiritual journey. The view that all honest mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn and grow.
This feels like a good start to the Derekh Kochavim worldview. I will be sure to continue writing about its evolution, as this is only the beginning.
- Albertz, Rainer, and Rüdiger Schmitt. Family and Household Religion in Ancient Israel and the Levant. Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, 2012.
- Matt, Daniel C. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism. San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996.
- Naydler, Jeremy. Temple of the Cosmos: The Ancient Egyptian Experience of the Sacred. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions; Original ed. edition (April 1, 1996).
- Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient times. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
- Smith, Mark S. The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990.
- Siuda, Tamara. The Ancient Egyptian Daybook. Stargazer Design, 2016.
- Siuda, Tamara. The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. Canada: Azrael Press, 2005.
- Woolmer, Mark. Ancient Phoenicia: An Introduction. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2011.