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28 April 2006 @ 05:27 pm
Beta Post of FAQ questions and answers - Post 4  
Section Two: Practical and Methodology
Part One: Basic Questions

This is the second half of the first part of the second section of FAQ questions. As noted previously these are copyright © 2006 the group of us writing it.

Do you work in groups or are you solitary?

Both. At the moment, there are very few groups that are larger than a hearth or household, but that's because there aren't a lot of CRs out there. Larger groups tend to get together for the major festivals, for feasting and making offerings to the Deities, ancestors and land spirits. These large, celebratory groups may also include visitors who aren't CR at all. Many of us practice by ourselves out of necessity, at least most of the time. But with increased visibility and networking on the Internet, more groups are developing as people meet in local areas, and as they discover others who are dedicated to the same Deities or who are working on the same paths.

What do you call your groups?

As with so many other things on the CR path, this depends greatly on the group and its goals, as well as its cultural focus.

A family-based group might call themselves a Household or Hearth (or an equivalent in a Celtic language, such as líon tí), and may also include friends as part of their extended "family". A group devoted to study and scholarship might refer to itself as a Hedge School or Druidic College. Those who meet mostly for purposes of worship might refer to their group as a Grove, Nemeton, Nemed ("temple, sanctuary", modern Irish Naomheadh) or Fidnemed ("woodland sanctuary", modern Irish Fiodh-naomheadh). Groups focused on their dedication to a particular Deity or cultural path may identify as Brighid orders or Fianna-inspired warbands. Other groups may be loose, non-hierarchical collectives, who may identify as "outsiders" or feel no need for a permanent, public name.

Some larger groups might consider calling themselves a Clann ("extended family") or a Tuath ("tribe or nation, and the land the tribe/nation inhabits"). However, more traditional CRs see this as inappropriate; any modern, polytheistic groups currently using these terms have radically redefined them. Historically, and in the living cultures, these terms imply huge groups: either those who share a common, distant ancestor (such as the Highland Clann organizations), or a large, land-based community of thousands of people. Even a "household" in ancient Irish terms was very sizeable - reckoned at about thirty people per dwelling. A tríca cét was roughly three thousand people, and a tuath consisted of several allied tríca céta. Therefore, a tuath only really applies to groups larger than six thousand people. In a modern sense, a Clann would more accurately describe a huge, extended family of origin, such as one's birth family and relatives, all the way out to the very distant cousins (again, as seen in the Highland Clanns). Tuath would more aptly describe a town or small city.

Currently, there are no large, organized CR groups of that size, and though many of us include members of our families of origin in our celebrations, rituals and cultural events, there are no modern, Celtic Polytheistic groups who fit the historical definition of a Clann or Tuath.

The names of groups and any officiants in them will also be influenced by the cultures and languages that inspire them. Names of groups based on Welsh or Gaulish traditions will be different than those based in the Gaelic traditions of Ireland or Scotland. Though there is a respect for historical as well as contemporary context in our naming conventions, there are no hard and fast rules.

Do CRs have a distinction between clergy and laypeople?

Yes and no. In terms of household worship, we do not need external or intermediary clergy -- each CR acts as their own conduit to spirituality, making offerings at our altars or outdoor shrines and connecting with the Deities, ancestors and nature spirits as we can. Sometimes the head of a household, or the member of the household with the most aptitude towards the work, will lead these sorts of rituals for their friends and family. Within the larger community there are also those who write and perform rituals for large groups at festivals or for holy days. Some among us are better at divination or healing, while others tend to things like weddings and child blessings. Others are good at teaching the basics of CR to others, while still other folk specialize in the philosophies and theologies of CR. Those folk who enage in the research and philosophy, in public ritual and healing, or in divinatory service to the community could be considered clergy, while those who prefer to act only within their own households tend to fall more into the laity category. At this point in CR's growth, there is no hard and fast distinction and most of us act as clergy at one point or another, if for no other reason than necessity.

Are CRs autonomous or is there some sort of governing body?

There is a good deal of autonomy in CR, and we do not have any official governing body. However, those who have been working together for the past fifteen to twenty-plus years to develop the CR tradition and community do tend to stay in touch with each other and keep an eye on how the tradition is developing. We have a lot of communication between groups and individuals, both old and new, in keeping with the Celtic values of respect and hospitality. We share with each other online and in person, and work through our UPG together to come up with patterns that fit across the spectrum. While no one speaks for CR as a whole, we do very much rely on the opinions of other CRs when discussing the traditions publicly. That said, CR organizations may have their own governing bodies that deal with individuals within those organizations.

How do you determine who your spiritual elders are when you don't always have an ordered hierarchy?

We look at what the individuals in question are doing for the community, what they're producing, and the results their works bring to the community.

Do they comport themselves with honor? Are they honest, ethical people? What do their students and/or their teachers say about them? What do others who have met them in person or interacted with them for a long time online have to say about them? What kinds of things are they teaching, and how closely does it seem to follow historical Celtic spiritual precedent? Do they bring valuable insight to discussions, set an example to emulate by their admirable behaviour, and produce scholarly, respected, and inspired work? Do they help to productively foster a feeling of community and the spiritual development of the individuals within it? Do their inspirations seem to work for a variety of people across the CR spectrum?

In traditional, land-based communities, no one was (or is) able to operate with the current anonymity provided by the Internet or the occasional festival gathering of strangers. You would know who someone's grandparents, parents and older siblings were. You would know the values held, and patterns of behaviour exhibited by, their family. They could not escape their own reputation.

In our modern world, we have to find ways to make up for this lack of long acquaintance. In CR, we cannot judge anyone by any titles they take for themselves. Rather, we learn about people by watching what they do. We must be patient and see how someone behaves, in community, over the long haul. Part of being an elder is actual physical age, as well as the wisdom and experience gained by many years of participation in the tradition. Titles are not easily granted, bought, or self-proclaimed. They are earned. They result from community recognition, not individual self-aggrandizement or ego. Folks we consider elders are those who have had a positive impact on our practice and who have advanced CR as a whole through their teaching and their work.

Are there any CR organizations? Websites? Books?

This is still being compiled

What do CRs eat?

The official cuisine of CR is Indian Food. No one knows why.

In all seriousness, while there are no pan-CR food taboos, there are many individuals who use food choices and behaviours to deepen their spiritual connection to CR. There is a strong tradition of feasting as both celebration and offering of hospitality, and traditions which demand that a guest must be offered food, drink, and the chance to wash upon arrival. Many CRs extend this to a modern context, and will offer such hospitality to their guests.

Specific foods may be deliberately eaten or avoided to evoke spiritual effect. Some CRs will choose to consume salmon and/or hazelnuts as an effort to take wisdom into themselves, beef as a way to appreciate wealth and bounty, or pork to evoke feasting, plenty, and a possible connection with the Otherworld. Many will deliberately seek out locally-grown and produced food and consume it mindfully to commune with their local land spirits. Some Celtic Deities have specific food associations, such as Brighid's well-known association with milk and dairy products. This known association may be drawn upon in ritual, sharing a cup of milk or offering one. In the Irish materials, Manannán mac Lír and Goibhniu were involved in presenting the Feast of Age that gave immortality to the Túatha de Danann. The rite involved the sacrifice of a boar that returned to life the next day, and consuming ale brewed by Goibhniu. Some CRs hold feasts in commemoration of this involving pork and ale or mead.

In addition, individuals may have personal behavioural requirements called geasa, the breaching of which was a serious error often leading to one's downfall. Many of these relate to food. The ancient Irish hero Fergus was never allowed to refuse to attend a feast in his honor, and Cu Chulainn was prohibited from eating the meat of dogs while at the same time unable to refuse food offered by a woman. Some CRs believe that they have similar geasa, and will avoid foods that are personally proscribed.
alfrecht on April 29th, 2006 09:32 am (UTC)
Thursday night, a Hellenic recon, a CR elder, and a whack-job (me!) all had the official CR food. It was good!

Anyway, these are really excellent answers--well done, all!
endoveliconendovelicon on May 1st, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
This FAQ is wonderful!
BTW, I have a question about CR food: I´d read somewhere about food geasa that were not specific to an individual, but general and tied to the four festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasad and Samhain (i.e., things that were mandatory/forbidden to eat on those days).
Is this true? If it is, what were those geasa?