Why are you racist?
CR is firmly anti-racist. This has been unanimously agreed upon by representatives of the established CR sub-traditions, CR elders and other long-term members of the community, including the founders of the tradition. CR was founded in no small part because some of us were sick of the rampant cultural appropriation in the Neopagan community, and wished to devote ourselves to something that was our own, that honored the ways of our ancestors without needing to rip off anyone elses ancestors or cultures in the process. There is no ethnic or cultural requirement for anyone to practice CR we do not believe that blood has any bearing in spirituality or in who might be called to a particular path. And as Celtic identity is a matter of language and culture, blood really has nothing to do with whether or not an individual or tradition is Celtic. No matter where your ancestors were from, or what your ethnic background, you are welcome to practice CR with us.
See also: What do you mean by Celtic? What makes your ancestors any better than my ancestors? Dont you have to be Irish/Scottish/Welsh to be a Celtic Reconstructionist?, and What is the ethical basis of CR?
What makes your ancestors any better than my ancestors?
Nothing, and nobody who is actually practicing CR believes that the early Celts were inherently any better than anyone else. While many people of Celtic heritage are drawn to CR, and respecting our ancestors is important to us, no particular ethnicity or nationality has ever been a requirement. A significant number of people in CR dont have any physical ancestors from the Celtic lands, though they do participate in the living Celtic cultures and consider the Celtic peoples to be their spiritual ancestors. We follow Celtic deities and explore Celtic traditions because we are drawn to them and what they have to say about the human condition and human spirituality. People practicing or endorsing racism are not accepted as a part of CR any more than KKK members are accepted as a part of mainstream liberal Christian denominations. We work hard to expose people using CR or a link with Celtic culture as an excuse for racism and condemn them for their prejudices and acts of discrimination.
Thats not how my (insert family member here) taught me to honor (insert figure of choice here)!
As will happen in any living culture, some of the tales do exist in different versions. Similarly, folkloric practices and the meaning and use of various magical objects can vary a bit from region to region. However, as a whole, the Celtic oral traditions have been remarkably conservative. We have versions of tales recorded at the turn of the century that hardly vary at all from the same tale in ancient manuscripts. Given this inherent consistency, when someone appears in the community and puts forth a bizarre set of mythological associations and claims they are valid because they learned them that way from their family, it is understandable that these claims are greeted with skepticism.
Usually when a variant meaning is valid, some supporting evidence, such as other tales and folklore from the region, can be found. But in cases where these sorts of assertions clash radically with everything that is known of the region they claim to be from, yes, its usually a case of someone making things up or having been taught by someone who made it up.
Dont you all just read books and argue rather than practice real spirituality?
Most of us are very spiritual people in our private lives. We have altars in our homes and do personal and family-centered devotional work. Some of us do divination or healing, or perform ritual services within our communities. Reading doesnt mean were not spiritual. In fact, for most of us, the reading we do enhances our spirituality and helps us understand what we are taught by other people and what comes to us through more mystical means such as in visions, meditations or dreams. Reference books, written by those who have devoted their lives to studying the words and traditions of the ancestors, help us sort out what is traditionally Celtic from what is our own internal voice. Both may be valid, but our inner voice may not be entirely accurate about what is Celtic, or what is communication from the Divine and what is our own imaginations. When we believe we are receiving information from a Deity or spirit, we go to the scholars to compare notes and see whats Celtic and whats not.
The CR community is diverse. Not everyone is an experienced scholar, and not everyone is inclined to deep mystical work. However, we believe both scholarship and experiential, ecstatic spirituality are necessary on the CR path. The presence of, and balance between, these aspects is crucial. Without both, it is not CR. But people will tend to move towards what is more comfortable and desirable for them. Sometimes the balance has to be found in community, where the mystics and the scholars can work together to help inform one anothers practices. In this way, we can co-create a vibrant tradition that honors our personal experiences as well as those of our ancestors, that is ecstatic yet also rooted in the earth and in the history and living culture of the Celtic peoples.
So, youre like Eclectic Neopagans or something like that?
No. CR is not eclectic.
Due to a clumsy phrase in an earlier CR document, a comment about the value of cross-cultural comparisons was misinterpreted as advocating eclecticism. This misconception then spread in some backwaters of the internet to such an extent as to later be repeated back to us as fact. It was surpising to hear this, to say the least, as we were accustomed to being accused of being too culturally focused, of having too high an academic standard and not being open enough to personal innovation for the tastes of many Neopagans.
CR was actually begun as an alternative to eclectic Neopagan traditions, and while we do allow for some innovation when there are gaps in the tradition, as much as humanly possible it is innovation based on sound, historical precedent.
For more on this see Do you borrow from other cultures to fill in the gaps? Does CR include syncretisms? Can I be CR and still worship non-Celtic deities? and What is the difference between CR and Celtic Neopaganism?
I hear this is a religion, not a culture.
Perhaps you got this impression because religion does tend to be the most common topic on CR discussion lists. There is no need to work to reconstruct the non-Pagan parts of Celtic culture. As stated elsewhere, most of the Celtic cultures are still living and growing, and participation in them is an important part of CR. So we turn our efforts to where they are needed: to recovering, repairing, and reviving the polytheistic traditions that did not survive intact.
See also Is this a religion, or a culture?
I hear youre just a political movement.
That depends on how you define political. Most CRs would instead say that we are very concerned with ethics.
Some see the desire to preserve Celtic languages as a very political stance. Some of us also are or have been involved in some of the political struggles in the Celtic nations, as well as in poltical movements in the diaspora that are connected to these struggles.
As some Neo-Nazi and other racist groups have tried to hijack and misrepresent Celtic culture, it has become increasingly necessary to state our anti-racist position. Similarly, as most Celtic scholars have in the past focused on the more patriarchal facets of Celtic history, and severely neglected the role of women and LGBT people, many CRs feel it is necessary to rectify this bias with our research, as well as to state a pro-feminist, pro-queer position. In addition to simply honoring all of the ancestors, this is also in order that women and LGBT folks know they are welcome not only in the movement, but in leadership roles as well. It is akin to the practice among some Christian churches of noting that they are a welcoming congregation. Some people who do not share these values have tried to dismiss them as partisan politics. But to dismiss concerns about racism, sexism and homophobia as unimportant is in itself a political stance one that shows a differing political bias, but a bias nonetheless.
Arent you Pan-Celtic?
No. Individuals and groups choose a particular Celtic culture on which to base their spiritual practice.
However, most of us also study a variety of Celtic cultures, as well as related cultures that interacted with the Celts or have similar cosmology and practices, as this broader overview can be invaluable in helping us figure out how to reconstruct the areas that are incomplete.
Isnt everyone who incorporates some degree of Celtic Research CR?
No. Various traditions, from Wicca to Neo-Druidry to Eclectic Neopaganism, have always included bits of authentic Celtic material, but it was (and still is) always mixed in with material from many other cultures as well. Most Proto-CR groups started as some variety of Celtic Wiccans, or Eclectic Pagans with Celtic leanings, who then began to do serious research and to slowly incorporate larger and larger amounts of authentic material into their existing practices.
What distinguishes Proto-CR (a name which has only been applied in retrospect) from what came before was the increasing desire for authenticity, and the decision to begin the experiment of replacing non-Celtic elements even if they were familiar and comfortable with Celtic cosmologies and ritual structures.
By 1991 at the latest, the phrase Celtic Reconstructionism was coined to describe this new approach. By that point, there were a number of people using Celtic ritual structures and cosmologies, and a significant number of people had transformed their practices sufficiently to no longer resemble Wicca or genero-Paganism. With the creation of the Internet, we were now in touch with many others doing similar work, and CR began to be adopted by this larger group as the name for what we were doing. Celtic Reconstructionism is now recognized as both a method and an umbrella term for a diverse group of sub-traditions which, despite having some degree of uniqueness, still share this core principle of prioritizing authenticity.
The transition from other forms of Paganism to Proto-CR then to actual CR was not necessarily an easy one, nor one where every phase and step was clear-cut. It involved times of uncertainty, of facing the void left by abandoning foreign approaches and going through the neural repatterning it takes to truly live within a new cosmology, a new ritual framework, a new approach. It involved taking risks and spending time in the mists. Those who have never made this transition, who simply incorporate bits of authentic materials into a non-Celtic structure, are not CR.
How can any of you claim to have started CR?
CR began because many people felt a need for it. At various stages, there have been key people who have set an idea in motion or otherwise sparked inspiration. It could be said that without these particular thinkers, scholars, ritualists and liturgists, CR would not have happened. But it is just as true that without all the people who eventually latched on to the idea and brought their own work to the table, we wouldnt be where we are today.
Part of the traditional job of the Celtic poet or storyteller is to remember the history of the community, and the names of those whose work deserves to be remembered.
I want to call myself CR and you cant stop me.
Obviously, the individual words Celtic and Reconstructionist existed long before anyone thought to combine them as a phrase and apply them to a particular Pagan tradition. But as CR coalesced as a movement and community, many people began using the term to describe a similar approach and, as they developed, similar traditions.
So, yes, it has come to refer to a specific thing: a community of people, and the culture, beliefs and practices these people share. This means calling oneself CR if one doesnt share the core principles and traditions of CR, and if one isnt part of the CR community, is inaccurate, inappropriate, and somewhat incomprehensible. It makes no more sense than calling yourself a Hindu if you are actually a Methodist.
Actually, the founders of the tradition are surprised that some non-CRs want to call themselves CR. One of the reasons we chose the name was because it was boring and we assumed no one would want to steal it.
Now that Im a Celt, shall I pick a tartan for my group to wear?
Becoming involved in the CR community doesnt automatically make you a Celt. Nor do all people involved in the Celtic communities wear tartan. The oldest tartan patterns are specific to individual ancestral clanns, and are really only relevant to Gaelic varieties of CR. It is seen as quite inappropriate to simply choose a family tartan and wear it unless you were born, adopted, or married into that family.
There are some non-family tartans from Scotland, Ireland, and the diaspora, and those who are not a member of a family clann are in some cases welcome to wear one of these. These include national or district tartans and tartans designed for particular groups, occasions and occupations. It should also be noted that modern tartans can be registered by anyone with a design and enough money. There are official tartans for the US, Canada, Australia and other nations, as well as Japanese corporate tartans all created and registered in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Out of respect for the living and historical cultures, if you want to wear tartan, you should familiarize yourself with the history and customs surrounding it. Like in other Celtic matters, if you show up at an event wearing tartan you will be expected to know what it means and be able to explain why you are wearing it. For instance, many people who sell tartan will say anyone can wear the military Black Watch tartan, as it is not the tartan of a particular family or region; however, you will want to familiarize yourself with the history of this (actually British) regiment and decide if you support their military policies and past actions before deciding to publicly align yourself with them. Similarly, many feel that district tartans should only be worn by those with significant knowledge of, and historical connection to, that particular district. Worn one way, tartan sashes indicate that you are a regular member of a certain clann; worn another way, that you married out of your original clann but still wish to wear the tartan of your birth- or adoptive-family; yet another way indicates that you are the chieftain of the clann something very serious and likely to be contested (or laughed at) if you are not the legitimate Chief of the Name.
Tartan is not actually ancient. Though the ancient Celts probably wore clothing patterned in checks and stripes and dyed with the colors provided by their local flora and fauna, the modern, codified designs probably only date back to the sixteenth century at the earliest, and many designs are of far more recent origin (such as the many tartans that were only created in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries). However, tartan has been a part of some of the Celtic cultures for multiple generations now, and those of us who participate in the living cultures do sometimes wear it or include it on altars that honor particular ancestors.
Do you guys paint yourselves with woad?
No, not really. And our ancestors probably didnt, either. While its possible woad was one of many pigments used for temporary body painting, it really does not work well as a body paint, and it fails miserably as a tattoo pigment. (For more on this see: The Problem of the Woad by Kym ní Dhoireann.)
Tattooing does appear to be common among CRs, particularly tattoos of traditional Celtic designs. Others, especially those who cannot be tattooed for some reason, do seem to be fond of the occasional bodypaint for decorative or spiritual reasons, but again, this is a personal preference and not necessarily part of the religion.
Why would anyone want to try to bring back the Iron Age?
We dont. Were all very fond of indoor plumbing, central heating, modern medicines, eyeglasses and computers. Its the spiritual and philosophical ideals of Iron Age Celtic society that were interested in, not recreating it down to the last parasite and drafty roundhouse. Even those who get asked this the most, the homesteader-types, are more than happy to explore modern sustainable technology rather than going back to how our ancestors farmed. Theres a lot we can learn from Iron Age society, but what CR tries to do is understand what Celtic religions would look like now if theyd been uninterrupted since then, not to take society back to that point in history.
How can you practice a religion and still claim to believe in science?
Religion and science dont have to be in conflict. We take mythology and creation stories as metaphor rather than sources of scientific and historical fact. Mythology holds great spiritual and psychological truth where science often presents empirical, physical truths. That said, new theories are being developed in different scientific fields all the time, and science has yet to account for all phenomena in the universe.
Both psycho-spiritual truths and physical truths are necessary for an understanding of the universe we live in. Because CR doesnt have an investment in the literal truth of our mythologies, we can appreciate their spiritual truths without experiencing the dissonance of having to choose a spiritual truth over an empirical truth or vice versa.
Who can initiate me into your super-duper secret tradition handed down from the early mists of time? You are the hidden children of the Goddess, right?
One of the most annoying theories that we face is the belief that Wicca was the secret stuff that the Celts were forbidden to write down and that anything remembered by the broader, non-Occult, living culture was only there for the ordinary people who werent initiates of the hidden traditions. This is sometimes referred to as the hidden children of the Goddess theory.
This theory flies in the face of historical fact. Gerald Gardner created Wicca in the first half of the 20th century. Its true that he drew from earlier sources, but very little of what he used were Celtic sources. Wicca owes more to Hinduism and the Masons than to Celtic religions. In fact, the basic structures and expectations of Wicca and Wicca-based genero-Paganism conflict with Celtic cosmology.
While there are strains of occult belief or techniques that have influenced CR, that influence tends to be limited, and those beliefs or techniques only used as markers for what sorts of things were trying to find in the ancient and living traditions of the Celts. Some of the mystics among us use techniques that are not always found in the mainstream of the living Celtic cultures, but if they are used it is with caution and without any inclusion of non-Celtic beliefs. (This is discussed in more detail in: Do you borrow from other cultures to fill in the gaps?)
When Wiccans continue to insist that their non-Celtic traditions are actually Celtic, it can lead to a type of cultural imperialism with Wiccan beliefs and practices being adopted by well-meaning people and presented as Celtic, while the actual Celtic traditions and beliefs fall into obscurity. Even residents of the Celtic nations and the diaspora are not immune to this, and this unintentional cultural imperialism has sometimes even resulted in Wiccan misinformation being presented at Celtic cultural events as the real deal.
Any secret tradition that is encountered that clashes with known Celtic cosmology, culture, language, tradition, etc., should be treated with skepticism. More on this can be found in the Thats not how my (insert family member here) taught me to honor (insert figure of choice here)! answer and in Why do CRs hate Wicca and Wiccans?
Do you use the Celtic Tree Calendar and Celtic Astrology?
No. Neither of these actually have anything to do with any of the early Celtic peoples. The Celtic Tree Calendar is the creation of Robert Graves in his 1946 work of poetic imagination, The White Goddess, and the creation of so-called Celtic astrology is even more recent (and based upon Graves fabricated tree calendar).
While sacred trees do play a part in Celtic myth and folklore, and many CRs incorporate this older tree lore as part of their work, it is a different system than either of the above-mentioned, recent fabrications. Similarly, there are old manuscripts that point to possibilities of an ancient Celtic view of astronomy and astrology, but these are nothing like what has been popularized as tree astrolgy, and the information is still rather obscure as little of it has been published in English.
For a good discussion of the alleged tree calendar and a debunking of the tree astrology that grew out of it, see Peter Berresford Elliss The Fabrication of Celtic Astrology article. Another article by Ellis, Early Irish Astrology: An Historical Argument, discusses what is known about the possible existence of a pre-Christian Irish astrological system, which used native names and concepts (none of them trees) for the planets and constellations.
Arent there oghams in America too?
No. While Barry Fell and some of his followers in the Epigraphic Society and other groups have made such claims, particularly in Fells 1976 book America B.C., there is no physical evidence that any Celtic people arrived in North America before the arrival of Columbus. It can be conclusively proved that the Norse people arrived in pre-Columbian Canada, for they left physical evidence of their inhabitation in Newfoundland artifacts, structures, and written accounts preserved in other countries about their colonies. By contrast, there is no physical evidence that the Irish or Scots ever came to North America in pre-Columbian times, and the immrama voyage accounts of early Irish literature are far more easily read as Otherworldly adventures than an account of actual landings in North America. If the Irish or the Scots had arrived prior to Columbus, we would expect to find potsherds, buttons, weapons, drop-spindles, and a wide variety of other physical items left behind in trash heaps, broken in fields of battle, or in the remains of dwellings. None of these things exist.
While there are some stone structures, especially in the Northeastern US, that are built in a beehive style common to Celtic cultures, there is absolutely no evidence that they are pre-Columbian. As the First Nations people of these regions state the structures resemble nothing from their cultures, it can reasonably be assumed that these stone structures were probably built by Irish or Scottish immigrants, who came in the usual waves of later immigration from those countries. None of these structures have anything resembling ogham carved on them.
Fells research methods are deeply flawed and his conclusions are nothing more than fiction. For an in-depth discussion and debunking of his claims, including an analysis of how he comes to his translations of his alleged ogham texts, this article is extremely useful, along with the links at the bottom of that page. It should be noted that Fell was not a Celtic scholar and knew next to nothing about Celtic languages, archaeology, or history. He was a professor of Marine Biology a discipline quite useless in tracing language and inscriptions, or in dealing with archaeological sites. The fact that someone has a degree in one field is no guarantee that they actually know what theyre talking about in another.
The most distressing aspect of Fells assertions is the underlying, essentially racist assumption that the First Nations tribes were incapable of making petroglyphs of their own, observing the universal fact of solstitial and equinoctial solar phenomena, or of building any stone structures that might vaguely resemble European standing stones or other megalithic structures. Its akin to asserting that the ancient Egyptians were incapable of building the pyramids themselves and concluding that, therefore, aliens did it. Human beings are extremely inventive and capable, regardless of their origins. Let us give credit where its due and leave the science fiction and fantasy for novels.
What about the Four Treasures and Four Cities, dont they go in the cardinal directions?
No, the Invasions of Ireland texts are clear that the four cities of the Túatha Dé Danann are located in the North of the world or perhaps the sky. There was no correlation of the Four Treasures with the four cardinal directions or Classical four elements until the 19th century, when William Butler Yeats and others were trying to fit Irish mythology into a Golden Dawn-style system called The Castle of Heroes.
It should also be noted that the Four Treasures are really only relevant to Irish Reconstructionist Paganism, as they are not found at all in Welsh, Gaulish, or other Celtic mythologies.
Arent you CRs in North America stealing cultural elements from Native Americans/the First Nations?
This question is somewhat baffling, as one of the main reasons we started CR was to avoid the type of cultural theft that we saw (and still see) going on in the Celtic Shamanism and Eclectic Neopagan groups.
Our Celtic ancestors had their own cultural and religious beliefs and practices, and we still have the living Celtic cultures which, while not thoroughly polytheistic, are still vital in terms of culture and community. We are interested in rebuilding what our own people lost, not in stealing from others.
The problem of cultural theft is a serious one, though, and is rampant in the Neopagan communities. It is largely due to issues of cultural theft that most of us no longer identify as part of the Neopagan community. CR as a whole is committed to respecting the cultures of First Nations peoples, as well as respecting the desires of the traditional peoples of those communities to set their own definitions, boundaries and standards. Many of us actively support the Lakota Declaration of War, as well as doing what we can to help out First Nations groups who work to expose Plastic Shamans and other frauds and exploiters of Native American spirituality. We also work in our own communities to educate people about issues of cultural sovereignty, and cultural integrity vs cultural theft.
In researching Ancient Celtic cultures and religions, it is true that we have found some practices that are similar to some of the practices of some First Nations cultures. However, this does not mean those practices are identical, universal, or in any way interchangeable. Most cultures, worldwide, have some methods of seeking inspiration, of reaching for communion with the divine. Many cultures have a history of heraldry or other ways of identifying, and connecting, with the symbolism of the natural world. Ecstatic practices do not always equal shamanism, and no one culture is the sole arbiter of ecstatic states. However, individual cultures, especially the traditionals and elders of those cultures, do own their traditions, and have a right to protect them from those who are not part of their culture or community. There is a danger in acknowledging the similarities that are there, as some who desire to create a sort of eclectic, Celtic Shamanism have often seized on these small similarites and used them as an excuse for the types of abuses we in CR are trying so hard to avoid. This is why we do our best to make a distinction between our approach and that of eclectics and shame-ons.
See also Do you practice Celtic shamanism? Who do I pay to be initiated into Celtic Shamanism? Do you borrow from other cultures to fill in the gaps? Does CR include syncretisms? Can I be CR and still worship non-Celtic deities? So isnt CR just cultural theft from the Celtic cultures? and Why are you racist?
So isnt CR just cultural theft from the Celtic cultures?
CRs relationship with the living and historical Celtic cultures differs from cultural theft in crucial ways.
Cultural theft involves removing pieces from a culture and using them out of context in a foreign cultural matrix. Very often, the foreign culture will have tried to wipe out the culture being robbed, and this theft of religious traditions is a continuation of that destruction and imperialism. In contrast, CR specifically requires that the Celtic cultural matrix be the framework in which we function as a tradition and community.
While we cant speak to every thing that has been done by every individual who has ever claimed to be CR, we hope we have made it clear in this document that preservation of and respect for the living Celtic cultures is a core part of CR. Anyone who is simply stealing bits of Celtic culture and inserting them into a non-Celtic format is not CR, no matter what they may claim, no matter how they may dress it up in velvet cloaks or appliqued bits of knotwork and tartan. CR strongly focuses on participating in and giving back to the Celtic cultures, not just taking from them. Many CRs support Celtic arts and artists, language study groups, political causes, and charity work. We insist upon a respectful and giving relationship with the Celtic cultures, not a pillaging of them.
Being a part of any ethnic diaspora can be a difficult thing. Many of us have felt rootless at one point or another, and it is this feeling that makes many Americans in particular prone to cultural theft. If someone was raised with no particular sense of cultural identity, it can be hard for them to understand issues of cultural sovereignty and cultural integrity. One of the missions of CR is to help people understand these issues so they do not behave offensively.
CR was begun as an alternative to the cultural theft that is rampant in the Neopagan communities. Before CR, and still in the Neopagan and Newage communities, all kinds of non-Celtic practices and beliefs were being misrepresented as Celtic. But we were looking for something authentically Celtic, that honored our ancestors without dishonoring anyone elses, and that respected and honored the living traditions.
For those of us who founded CR, becoming rooted in the ways of our ancestors was one of the main reasons we began this journey. For some it was the main reason. Though the CR community is welcoming to people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and now includes members from all over the world, including people in the modern Celtic nations, it was begun by American members of the Celtic diaspora, a number of whom grew up in largely Irish- and Scottish-American communities. Among the CRs who did not grow up in the Celtic nations, some have lived in Celtic nations as adults, attended school there, and/or have good relations with friends or family members in those countries. When the ancestors of the diasporan Celts stepped off the boats or planes, they did not immediately jettison their culture, their values, or their ways of life. Some of them lived in Irish ghettos (in cities like New York, Boston and Chicago) and rural Gaelic communities (such as the Gaelic enclaves in Nova Scotia and Peoria) where some of their native traditions and languages were maintained. With the passage of time, some of our ancestors and families held on to their heritage, while others were eager to assimilate into the proverbial melting pot.
Those of us who participate in language preservation, the preservation and development of Celtic art forms, and the political struggles in the Celtic nations are doing our best to be honorable, to do our small part to give back at least as much as we take. If they are not already, we actively encourage all people interested in CR to also become involved in their local Celtic communities in a respectful and sustained way, not as tourists. We encourage them to study the language(s), to learn as much as they can about the cultures involved, to educate themselves on the history and political struggles in the Celtic nations and to support these causes as much as they are able.
The CR community is now made up of a diverse lot of people, some of whom are descended from recent Celtic immigrants, others whose ancestors have been in the diaspora for a long time, some who live in the Celtic nations, and still others who are not of Celtic heritage but are drawn to Celtic culture and wish to make a sincere contribution to the community. What we share is that we are all fully committed to establishing and continuing deep, strong relationships with the Celtic cultures as an essential dimension of our CR practice. We express hospitality and welcome diversity in our communities in the spirit of all working together to revitalize the polytheistic aspects of the Celtic cultures. All ethnic and racial backgrounds are welcome to join us, but that does not change our rootedness in Celtic culture and religion.
See also How can you recreate a culture that's dead? Is this a religion, or a culture? But, what do you mean by The living Celtic cultures? How can you claim to be a Celtic tradition if youre not immersed in the Culture? What is the difference between CR and Celtic Neopaganism? Hidden children of the Goddess, Why are you racist? and Are you Gaelic Traditionalists? What is the difference between Traditionalism and Reconstructionism?
Why do CRs hate Wicca and Wiccans?
We dont, but Wicca includes a number of fundamentals which are different from those of the native Celtic religions. These include differing conceptions of divinity, cosmological organization, and many other assumptions about the spirit world and methods of interacting with it. Some Wiccans have been taught that their religion is identical to ancient Celtic religion, and have made a number of claims which are simply not supportable in a Celtic context; when corrected on these misconceptions, some have assumed that meant that CR was perforce opposed to Wicca in some way. In reality, it is a complex situation.
As CR is about cultural focus and cultural cohesiveness, and Wicca was compiled from an eclectic combination of beliefs, and practices from a wide variety of cultures, it has also been common for some Wiccans to not understand why we are culturally focused, and to take our decision to not be eclectic as a judgement on the inherent human worth of individuals who do choose to be eclectic. Sometimes hard feelings have resulted when, for instance, one side feels the other is doing something that is offensive in their tradition. While we try to have good relations with those with whom we may disagree, sometimes deeply-held beliefs can make it hard to be accepting of individuals whose practices we feel are culturally inappropriate.
It should be noted that books about Celtic Wicca are very poor sources for Celtic information and lore. These books generally describe a Wiccan framework with Celtic Deity names and concepts inserted with little regard for the original Celtic culture and context. This leads to inevitable misunderstandings. CRs have often been frustrated by the misconceptions propagated by these books.
Do CRs believe all Celtic traditions should be modernized?
No, not all CRs believe this. CR is a diverse community. We do not all agree all the time.
For instance, there are diametrically opposed views in the community about whether it is acceptable to modernize the longstanding tradition of women flametenders for the Goddess Bríde (aka Brigidine Orders) to now include men. Of the CRs who have participated in writing the answers to this FAQ, a majority are adamant that this traditional form of worship must remain for women only, while others believe that the modern innovation of including all genders is acceptable. Other issues in the debate include the place of men in Brídes worship, and what dedicants to Bríde can do in a structured situation aside from flametending.
A milder example of a modernization debate is the discussion about how much Celtic land-based traditions such as tree ogham or dindshenchas should be adapted to wildly differing climates in the Celtic diaspora. While Celtic tradition contains many examples of the importance of adapting to ones local ecology and nature spirits, there is also the question of how far these adaptations can go before the tradition simply isnt Celtic anymore. When a CR is living in Australia, Arizona, or some other place with a radically different ecology from the lands where Celtic culture originally developed, some CRs believe it is more appropriate to adapt traditions for the place that you find yourself, such as choosing native trees of your bioregion for tree ogham or moving the dates of festivals to coincide with local natural events such as first frost, if indeed there even is one. Others believe that it is more accurate to maintain the original associations and their historical attributes, even if they dont fit the natural cycles or climate of the place that the CR lives.
Another issue that comes up is Romano-Celtic syncretism, and how much Roman influence is acceptable in Romano-Celtic branches of CR before it becomes Roman rather than Celtic. As with other issues of syncretism and eclecticism, it can be a problem of cultures of oppression versus native cultures, and of how history is read through various lenses.
Such debates are a natural part of hammering out what it means to have a modern incarnation of a living tradition, and are not unexpected. Though in most things we endeavour for consensus, in some matters it is necessary to mention that there are differing camps on an issue, and that neither camp is perceived as speaking for the whole of the CR community.
So all CRs worship the same way?
No. It isnt actually possible for all CRs to have identical rituals and holy days. Not only are all CRs different people, but our interests and our Deities pull us toward different Celtic cultures. The fact is, different cultures within the Celtic matrix, and different cultures within the even larger and more diverse Indo-European (IE) matrices, do things in different ways, and different Deities demand different things. Languages also play a role in this, marking different cultures and different paths of approach to ritual and cosmology.
This means that, while certain basics of the frameworks may sometimes be similar, there will also be significant differences in the ways that, for instance, a Scottish-focused CR would do things compared to the way a Breton CR would do the same type of ritual. And both of these will usually be quite different from a Vedic or Hindu ritual, despite all being Indo-European cultures. In fact, due to differences in the cultures and languages, they may not do rituals for the same things or the same holy days. They certainly wont be doing them for the same Deities.
As a result, its not wise or even useful to take a basic ritual format and just plug in a set of Deities based on the culture and language you want to work with today. You have to be respectful of the cultures youre working with, and of the Deities themselves. Anyone telling you that you can do plug and play ritual within a CR context doesnt understand what reconstruction actually means.
Ive heard that you are mean to people who have questions. Why is that? *
Some CRs or CR communities may have acquired this reputation because we dont suffer fools, liars or the overly credulous easily. Everyone was a beginner in CR at one time. Lack of knowledge is understandable and expected. However, if someone pretends to have knowledge or experience they obviously do not have, they are rarely tolerated for long.
CR very much has the motto of Show me. If someone comes up with a new and novel explanation for historic or pre-historic Celtic practices, they should be prepared to provide some proof, either in the archaeological record or through research. CRs do not accept I say its so, so it is so. CRs generally expect you to cite academic sources and present a reasoned argument for radically different interpretations of any ancient Celtic practice, society, or belief.
While personal inspiration is also an important part of CR, when something is not supported by the lore, it is necessary to indicate this as UPG.
Many people new to CR are surprised to hear this question, as they swear theyve never received uncompassionate or harsh treatment from any CRs. It does seem that the attitude with which the new person approaches the community largely determines the reception they will receive.
Polite questions are always welcome. Its just when people are impolite or overly demanding that the folks used to fielding the questions can get cranky. But if we didnt like answering questions, wed hardly be writing a FAQ, now would we?
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