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22 April 2006 @ 04:46 pm
Beta Post of FAQ questions and answers - Post 2  
See the previous post for data on the progress of the FAQ project. These are the drafts of the rest of the questions and answers from the first section (So What is Celtic Reconstructionism (CR)?) and are copyright ©2006 to the group of us who are doing the writing.

Feedback is welcome and encouraged.

How do I join CR?

Currently (in 2006), the community is relatively small and spread out. Though some CRs are lucky enough to have an in-person community, there are many more CRs whose main sense of community comes from participation in online forums and email lists. Even those who primarily practice with other CRs in person generally join in the online discussions, as that is currently the fastest and easiest way to collaborate with a wide range of people, and can lead to contacts for forming a local community. A combination of reading, individual research, and participation in CR forums and groups will help you connect with and contribute to the CR tradition.

See also "What can I do to get started?"

How can you recreate a culture that's dead?

Celtic culture never died. While Celtic languages have at times been endangered, several of them never completely died out, and Welsh and Scots Gaelic are showing signs of new growth. Cornish has tenuously returned from language death, with a very few people now speaking it as their first language, and a few more having become fluent in it as a second language. Many of the art forms like music, poetry, literature, visual art and dance continue with great vigor. Most CRs are deeply involved in maintaining these parts of the living cultures.

So, if the culture is living, why do you need to reconstruct it?

What does need to be more fully reconstructed are the pre-Christian, polytheistic forms of ritual and spiritual practice that were lost or subsumed during the Christian era. While we have a significant body of folklore, cosmology and mythology to build upon, it is also taking a good deal of experimentation and research to reconstruct a viable spiritual practice. Opinions as to how much needs to be developed do vary in our communities, with some being satisfied with the simple folkloric practices we already have, others wanting more elaborate theatrical or occult rituals, and still others being concerned with a theological structure. Different types of practices are developing in different branches of the tradition. Much work has been done on this, and it is an ongoing project.

Is this a religion, or a culture?

Both. CR is a polytheistic religion that is a branch of the living Celtic cultures. We see our religion as inseparable from culture.

A primary reason CR developed was because we felt the need to keep Celtic spiritual practices and beliefs as much within the context of Celtic cultures as possible. Calling something “Celtic” means it should be rooted in the culture and not in practices from outside of the culture. The process of applying a Celtic veneer over a core of non-Celtic material is akin to dressing an alien practice in knotwork and tartan; it may look Celtic to those unfamiliar with Celtic ways, but its substance is not. In the 1980s, all the "Celtic" Pagan religions we were coming across fit this description. We were looking for a specifically culture-based religion rather than an eclectic or "universal" religion. We needed our religion to be an integrated part of a whole cultural matrix, rather than separating our spiritual lives from our daily lives.

Few CRs live in a completely Celtic society, so we cannot claim that everyone who identifies as CR is part of the living Celtic cultures. However, many CRs are involved in the activities of the Celtic diasporan communities, or in these communities in the Celtic lands. Supporting the cultures from which our traditions arise, and helping them grow and thrive, is symbiotic with Celtic spirituality, regardless of whether we live in a Celtic country or in the diaspora. Our aim is not to exactly resurrect a historical culture, but we do look at historic as well as contemporary Celtic cultures to help understand how to ground our practices and beliefs in our daily lives. It also helps to understand that we are working to practice a Celtic religion, but being a Celt by the strictest definition is not necessary, just as it is not necessary to be Asian to practice Buddhism, an Asian religion.

There was never one monolithic Celtic culture, so there will probably never be one monolithic CR culture. We are too diverse for that. There were (and are) many Celtic lands, and even within those lands there were a variety of customs, practices and beliefs. It's no surprise that this variety is reflected in CR. Not only are there differences in our religious beliefs, but there are also differences in the customs we choose to adopt from living and historical sources as well as our interpretations of these customs.

In a cultural religion, the importance of custom can sometimes outweigh the importance of belief, so some cultural groups may have members who decide to share certain religious practices even though their own beliefs behind them might vary. It is often easier for some to agree to a custom than to every specific detail of the beliefs behind it. Those differences in belief might be argued, hopefully in a congenial manner and with good references to support them, but despite any differing interpretations of why we do something, the customs we share can bond us all the same.

Most of the people in the living Celtic cultures are Christian, though it is a type of Christianity that is often reasonably harmonious with Celtic Paganism. In this spirit, a large, contemporary Celtic community will probably contain both CRs and Celtic Christians, as well as those of Celtic heritage who follow another religion entirely, or no religion at all. The Pagans and Christians may both pray to Bríde at Her holy well, with the CRs seeing Her as a Goddess, while the Celtic Christians see Her as a saint. For us, this is not a conflict. We are all part of the broader tapestry of the living Celtic cultures.

See also "Is Celtic Christianity a part of CR?"

So, everyone in this community calls themselves Celtic Reconstructionists?

Yes and No.

Though most of us refer to our traditions as "Celtic Reconstructionist", and there is a core set of shared principles and some shared ritual structures, in many ways CR is an umbrella term for a variety of sub-traditions.

In the eighties and early nineties, a variety of names were in use for the early approaches to the tradition. In retrospect, much of those things are now referred to as "Proto-CR".

Even after "Celtic Reconstructionism" or "Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism" gradually became the most common term, there have always been other names in use as well. Some CRs choose to apply more cultural specificity in their names, for instance, referring to themselves as "Gaelic Reconstructionists," "Scottish Reconstructionists" or "Welsh Reconstructionists."

Not all people who make use of Neopagan reconstructionist techniques are entirely comfortable with using "Celtic Reconstructionism" as a name for their religion, seeing the term as describing a methodology rather than a system of belief, or seeing the term as being incorrectly descriptive. Others feel comfortable with the term CR, but have decided to name their CR sub-traditions so as to distinguish their practices from other sub-groups and flavors of CR. Some other names that people involved in CR-style religion have chosen to use include:

* Amldduwiaeth ("Polytheism" in Welsh)
* Aurrad ("Member of the Tribe" in Irish)
* Celtic Restorationism
* Ildiachas ("Polytheism" in Irish Gaelic)
* Ioma-Dhiadhachd ("Polytheism" in Scots Gaelic)
* Liesdoueadegezh ("Polytheism" in Breton)
* Neo-Celtism
* Pàganachd ("Paganism, Heathenism" in Scots Gaelic)
* Págánacht ("Paganism, Heathenism" in Irish Gaelic)
* Págántacht (alternate Irish spelling of Págánacht)
* Senistrognata ("Ancestral Customs" in reconstructed Old Celtic)
* Yljeeaghys ("Polytheism" in Manx Gaelic)
Current Location: on the bridge
Current Mood: busy
Current Music: official theme music
r_monoxide on April 23rd, 2006 02:53 am (UTC)
I don't know if I missed this in the earlier posts, but are you going to cover anything like, "are you druids?" or anything about druidism? I don't even know what the general CR community thinks about druidism, but I identify as both druid and CR.
(Deleted comment)
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: reporting for duty (bridge crew)caitriona_nnc on April 23rd, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
the whole list
paul_hamish and I were thinking that the next post should probably be the entire list of questions. That way people could see what all we plan to cover, even if all the answers aren't ready for beta post yet.
Madrun: toonmadrun on April 23rd, 2006 04:02 am (UTC)
Are the Celtic Revivalists not considered part of this too?
(Deleted comment)
Kym Lambert...or Saighsaigh_allaidh on April 23rd, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
Uh, but "Celtic Revivalist" in reference to anything like this is used by only one person I know of and who is someone who frequently attacks Celtic Reconstructionism. It might go in one of the other questions. So my opinion is that no, it's not part of this too....and I'm sure he'd actually agree.

The actual Celtic Revivalist movement, of course, is not really something I connect with either, although I suppose we must take Yeats and Lady Gregory into the picture somewhat for their popularization of Things Celtic(tm). But they are very problematic.
Madrun: toonmadrun on April 23rd, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
I could actually ask him...
(Deleted comment)
Kym Lambert...or Saighsaigh_allaidh on April 24th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
Uh, my real concern was with the hostility issue and the fact that it's not the same thing other than the initials.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleachcaitriona_nnc on April 24th, 2006 01:25 am (UTC)
No, if it's who I think she's talking about, he doesn't consider himself CR, that's why he started calling himself something else.
Mac Peaircinmacpeaircin on April 23rd, 2006 03:35 pm (UTC)
Calling something “Celtic” means it should be rooted in the culture and not in practices from outside of the culture. The process of applying a Celtic veneer over a core of non-Celtic material is akin to dressing an alien practice in knotwork and tartan; it may look Celtic to those unfamiliar with Celtic ways, but its substance is not.

Given the amount of modern, non-Celtic political ideology in the current CR "canon", I'm rather confused by this. Sounds right, but doesn't play in practice. What am I missing?
seeker_of_pathsseeker_of_paths on April 23rd, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
While I don't necessarily disagree with you, I would ask exactly what you are referring to.

Blind equality of genders?

Blind non-discrimination?

Some other thing that would not really fly with a tribal society?
Mac Peaircinmacpeaircin on April 23rd, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
Those are fine examples. I'm not really wanting to pick at other peoples' nits; I don't think it's necessary if the dynamic itself remains the topic, rather than the particulars.

I'm not suggesting I disagree with any of those nits in and of themselves, necessarily, but it does seem a bit odd to me on the one hand, with the statement I quoted on the other. I understand the perceived necessity of modernization, but there's a line between updating and old thing and projecting your own and calling it the update of the old thing, if that makes.

Might not, though. I ramble.
Mac Peaircinmacpeaircin on April 23rd, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
And I apparently can't speak English today. Sorry. :\
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: NicEoghainncaitriona_nnc on April 23rd, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
So, are you saying we would be more "authentically Celtic" if we supported the enslavement of women? Or if we encouraged people to proclaim themselves Kings and pretend to "rule" over a region of the US? Or if we denigrated those who do not have Celtic ancestry?

Really, how about some specifics here?
Mac Peaircinmacpeaircin on April 23rd, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, well. I suppose we can't keep it general.

I find it interesting you consider enslavement of women, false pretensions of kingship and active prejudice to be "Celtic."

All I'm saying is that "calling something 'Celtic' means it should be rooted in the culture and not in practices from outside of the culture" should mean exactly that, not "calling something 'Celtic' means it should be rooted in the culture and not in the practices from outside the culture unless those practices are personally attractive to us and we'd like them to be Celtic."

I'm not trying to be confrontational about this. I simply don't see how one can honestly reconcile the two positions. I have no evidence of openly pro-homosexual stances in traditional Celtic cultures. I have no evidence of descent (even the mythological) being so pointless as it is in CR, it being the entire basis of (Gaelic, at least) social structure. I have no evidence of men keeping the flames of Bríde. These are all, as far as I personally know, concepts that have been imported from modern ideologies by CR folks who were part of that world first, before "hearing the gods call" and deciding they were to be Celtic in some fashion. If I'm wrong, I've no problem admitting such, but that's the way it seems to me.

It's not anything about "authentically Celtic", whatever that might mean to someone. It's about the same sort of pseudo-cultural claims that have plagued modern religious movements that draw from the past over the last century. Clarity must be maintained between that which is drawn from our past, that which is inspired by our past and that which we reject from our past. Rejecting a portion of our past and replacing it with something else doesn't make the something else a part of that past. To make it more specific, rejecting something traditionally Celtic and replacing it with something non-Celtic in origin doesn't make that adopted thing Celtic, even when we all agree the change is better, morally or socially. I think computers are great, but I don't claim my use of them is particularly "Celtic."

Also, I feel compelled to note yet again that I'm not attacking anyone or their ideas. I don't think CR (or you, for that matter) are so fragile that not marching in silent lockstep will break anything. What I do think is that if CR is to be anything other than a few peoples' personal take on a Celtic-inspired neopagan religion, we have to stay clear on what's what. Modern feminism is not Celtic, though some Celts are feminists. The modern concept of homosexuality is not Celtic, though some Celts are homosexuals. Libertarianism is not Celtic, though some Celts are Libertarians. And so on. Inserting portions of these things as part of some neo-Celtic canon and claiming them as Celtic just strikes me odd.

I don't understand why pointing out the obvious is met with such hostility. Perhaps I'm just misreading, and what I perceive as your ham-fisted sarcasm is really pithy. I suppose the ultimate point in this is that if you, personally, feel that displaying heads is an outmoded and disgusting practice, fine. Nothing wrong with that. But claiming that the "one true way" of reconstructing Celtic practices also concludes such...that just makes CR into a cult-like following of select individuals, not anything that's Celtic, nor a reconstruction, past your personal practice. This is no different from that Partholon fellow that claims Celtic peoples are the master race in exile from their gods or whatever.

I'll go stand in the corner now.
(Deleted comment)
endoveliconendovelicon on April 24th, 2006 03:46 am (UTC)
And this goes well with one of the first affirmations of the FAQ: CR is more along the lines of "how would Celtic culture be like if it was allowed to keep evolving until today, without the interference of Rome/Christianity/whatever?"
endoveliconendovelicon on April 24th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC)
or, to give a more graphical example: CR isn´t about raising the ressurected Tuan-the-first from his tomb (if he had one), but more like talking to him AFTER his centuries-spanning manifold changes of form and the consequent change of mind.
Itinerant hacker adventuressthewronghands on April 24th, 2006 06:42 am (UTC)
Yes, precisely. Almost none of us are interested in living in a 100% Iron Age culture, or one that has evolved technologically but not socially. Some attested ancient Celtic practices are simply not acceptable today. It doesn't mean that every stance that a Celt has ever had is canonically Celtic, but I do think that the continuing social evolution of Celtic society is something worth considering while reconstructing. My experiences in modern Ireland have included a low tolerance for racism; we'd do well to do the same in our efforts to live a Celtic tradition. So yes, if you look at the lore, we can find a bunch of attributions for how outsiders suck and are entitled to very little. However, if you look at modern Celtic cultures, that value has been deprecated. I don't think that's having our cake and eating it too; I think that's sensible acknowledgement of the progress of cultural values within a tradition. Social evolution within a culture happens all the time. It doesn't invalidate that culture.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: NicEoghainncaitriona_nnc on April 23rd, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
Response and Mod Warning
I find it interesting you consider enslavement of women, false pretensions of kingship and active prejudice to be "Celtic."

seeker_of_paths asked you if you were referring to: "Blind equality of genders? Blind non-discrimination? Some other thing that would not really fly with a tribal society?"

And you responded: "Those are fine examples."

I have no evidence of openly pro-homosexual stances in traditional Celtic cultures.

Then you haven't been reading this community. While most scholars agree that "gay identity" is largely a modern concept, there is also agreement that homosexuality and bisexuality have always existed. Go back through the posts - we've had numerous discussions about Celtic tales where love and companionship and the "sharing of beds" and "playful mating" and "companions of the heart" and "battlefield marriages" have been discussed.

Unless you're saying that because many contemporary Catholics of Celtic descent tend to follow the Popes' hatred of homosexuals we should, too? Sorry, my Irish ancestors broke with Rome shortly after coming to this country. My Irish/Scottish/Welsh family of origin is pro-choice, too. Does this make us less Celtic? On whose authority?

I don't think you are being openly confrontational, but you do have a tendency to jab at people in this community in more subtle, passive-aggressive ways. I think, "Perhaps I'm just misreading, and what I perceive as your ham-fisted sarcasm is really pithy." is confrontational and insulting.

I have no evidence of descent (even the mythological) being so pointless as it is in CR, it being the entire basis of (Gaelic, at least) social structure.

Speaking for myself, my ancestors are important to me, and ancestor reverence is a core part of the tradition. I have spoken before about my ancestors' role in the families of the filidh, and what a large part that played in my coming to help co-create the CR community. What I don't need to go around saying is that my ancestors are better than everyone else's, or that my ancestors give me some right to rule over others.

You seem to be assuming that because we don't bellow about it, and that because we are welcoming of those of diverse ancestry, that none of us grew up in diasporic families ourselves. Guess what, many of us did.

I have no evidence of men keeping the flames of Bríde.

Nor do I. I have spoken out against modernizing that tradition. There is diversity, and sometimes disagreement among those of us in the CR community. Far from "marching in lockstep" we do not all agree on everything.

In one breath you attack us for our diversity, and in another claim we are trying to force a "one true way" approach.

(continued below)
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: CAORANN www.bandia.net/caoranncaitriona_nnc on April 23rd, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Response and Mod Warning
You have a whole slew of mischaracterizations in these posts, and others, of yours where you take to task and subtly insult the CR community and specifically your hosts here on this forum. I, for one, am sick of it. It would be one thing if you were contributing to the growth and well-being of the community in some way, but I don't see it. It would even be acceptable if your role of gadfly pushed things into a desirable direction, or encouraged productive dialogue. Initially, I thought that might be the case, so I was willing to give you a chance here. But, for the most part, you seem to be rehashing the same old mistaken prejudices you have about us.

I do agree with your points about not misrepresenting modern inventions or materials from other cultures as "Celtic". That is actually a core tenet of CR. So I do take issue with your repeated accusation that I, or CR in general, are not following this core tenet.

You have also been quiet so far about your avowed racism (http://macpeaircin.livejournal.com/37795.html I would also include the post where you said, "I am a racist." but it appears to now be friends-locked or deleted). You were let in to this community before the mod letting you in was aware of your avowed racism. But we decided to see how you would behave, even though we are well aware that your racism has led to you being kicked out of other fora. In your time in this community I have not seen you contribute substantially to the dialogue. Instead, you seem to use almost every post to jab at people and subtly insult. I am sick of it. Consider yourself warned, you are teetering on the edge of being kicked out of here, too.
You see a boundary, I see a sidewalk: CR Comm Badgelysana on April 24th, 2006 02:08 am (UTC)
Re: Response and Mod Warning
For the sake of public record, I support you in this. I know good gadflies. He's terrible at it.