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)
* 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)