The main reason should be obvious. The highly organized state religions of ancient civilizations cannot really be recreated without large numbers of people in one location with a lot of money to spend building temples, supporting the priests of the Gods who maintain those temples, and recreating the often lavish, state-supported festivals of those religions.
There is also the problem of context. In ancient Greek religion, each city-state had somewhat different important deities and festivals tailored to the history (both mythological and real) of their city. Detailed records only survived for Athens so most Hellenic recons focus on Athens for their religious calendar and festivals -- even though they do not live there and some of the festivals held in Athens really only make sense if you live in ancient Athens.
A third problem is difference in culture between the classical era and the twenty-first century. It's not just obvious things like the fact that men and women are equal today while women were definitely second class citizens in most of ancient Greece, it's seeming minor things like not having anyone home for many hours during the day to safely keep a home fire burning or the rigid work schedule of work weeks and weekends that makes holding a large number of religious festivals during the work week almost impossible for most people.
For years I've watched recon-oriented Hellenic groups try to do the nearly impossible: recreate ancient Hellenic religious practices with a tiny membership scattered across the world. Why do these groups try for the near impossible? I honestly do not know, but I think it is because to do otherwise isn't "recon enough." Doing less would be slipping toward Hellenic-favored Neo-Wicca or something else obviously not Recon.
Therefore, from what I've seen, you end up with a large number of people interested in Hellenic Paganism and in worshipping the Gods of Ancient Greece joining one of the various Hellenic Recon groups. Most members drift away after a year or two because these organizations generally offer only a place to talk and the hope of some type of regular (and practical) religious observances sometime in the future.
Does it have to be this way? If one is trying to recreate the religion of classical Athens, I suspect it does for all the reasons listed in the first few paragraphs of this editorial. But what if one were to drop this somewhat unrealistic goal and try to create a Hellenic religion for the modern world? I'm talking about a middle road between trying to reconstruct an ancient religion and grafting the Hellenic Gods on to some generic neo-Pagan ritual. There is a lot of area between those two extremes, after all.
Here's the basic outline:
2) Study of Hellenic myths and/or philosophy.
2) Some type of home fire to Hestia (perhaps real while someone is home and symbolic when no one is home?)
3) Libations to a different deity each day.
4) Divination when needed
I agree that this is simple, but I think it is better to start with something simple that can be done by just about anyone truly interested in worshipping the Greek Gods than something so complex that it scares people way. After all, as time goes on, one can always add to a simple start.
Is this one "one true way" to do a modern Hellenic religion? Of course not. The fact that it is just a very basic outline I thought up in 24 hours should make this obvious. But it is a starting point. A starting point that is actually doable instead of a wish and a hope for "someday" (when there are large numbers of members of our religion in every city so we can recreate Athenian festivals without looking silly).
2) Sunday was picked for festivals because it is one of the two weekend days that most people are likely to have off from work and because it seemed more appropriate to honor the Gods on the first day of the week (Sunday) than on the last day of the week (Saturday).
(Typos and Randallisms courtesy of the Goddess Eris)
Copyright 2007 Randall Sapphire