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08 May 2006 @ 02:33 am
FAQ - Misconceptions - Part Two of Three  
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.

I hear you're 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 some Celtic lore focuses on the more patriarchal facets of history, and neglects the role of women and LGBT people, many CRs feel it is necessary to state a pro-feminist, pro-queer position, so 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.

Aren't 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.

Isn't 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 wouldn't 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 can't 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 doesn't share the core principles and traditions of CR, and if one isn't 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 I'm a Celt, shall I pick a tartan for my group to wear?

Tartan patterns are specific to individual ancestral clanns. 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.

However, there are also non-family tartans, from both Scotland and Ireland, and those who are not a member of a family clann are in some cases welcome to wear one of these. These include the popular Black Watch tartan, national or district tartans, and tartans designed for particular groups, occasions and occupations (some of which are more attractive to modern sensibilities than the clashing patterns of some of the older setts).

Out of respect for the living cultures, if you want to wear tartan, you should familiarize yourself with the history and customs surrounding it. For instance, many feel that district tartans should only be worn by those with some degree of knowledge of, and connection to, that particular district. Worn one way, tartan sashes indicate you were born into a clann, worn another way, that you married in; and 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. However, tartan has been a part of some of the Celtic cultures for hundreds of years now, and those of us who participate in the living cultures do sometimes wear it or include it on altars that honor particular ancestors.

The above answers from The CR FAQ are copyright ©2006 the group of us co-writing the CR FAQ. All contributors retain the right to their individual contributions.
Morgan: moon & treeesmereldachubb on May 8th, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC)
Re: the last question... the way the question is worded and answered implies (by not addressing that part of the question) that becoming a CR automatically makes you a Celt. I think I remember a question like "What is a Celt?" being addressed separately somewhere else in the FAQ, but you might want to include a reference to that somewhere in this answer.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: NicEoghainncaitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC)
Not automatically a Celt.
Interesting point. As this is the "misconceptions" section, I was purposely being dense/inappropriate/snarky with the "now that I'm a Celt" thing. But you're right, we should address that part of the misconception in the answer, as well as linking it to the earlier, "What is 'Celtic'" question. Thanks for bringing that up.
(no subject) - caitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
RedSelchieredselchie on May 8th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
The Black Watch tartan has a particularly bloody history, that some may not desire to be wearing, once they learn of it. If you include this in the FAQ, you might wish to mention it.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: reporting for duty (bridge crew)caitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 06:48 pm (UTC)
Black Watch - sources?
What links or books would you recommend as references in this matter? As I go into below, I've only heard that it's one that most think it's ok for those without a family affiliation to wear.
Re: Black Watch - sources? - redselchie on May 9th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Merchants and Aran sweaters - caitriona_nnc on May 10th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - caitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alfrecht on May 10th, 2006 08:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - redselchie on May 10th, 2006 01:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Mollywulfmadchen on May 8th, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC)
Tartan is not actually ancient.

Thank you. I have broken countless American and Australian hearts by explaining that while various families probably had regional specialties in tartan weaves, "clan tartans" as we know them mostly date to no earlier than the early 1800s with William Wilson and Sons. This does not obviate their current use as symbols of national and family pride any more than the fact that Gardnerian Wicca originated in the mid-to-late 1940s invalidates Wicca as a spiritual practice.

Also, for those with a Jacobite background (or those who enjoy anglo-bashing as a hobby) it should probably be noted that the Black Watch tartan originated with a Scotland-based enforcement unit of the British Military. If you mention Black Watch specifically, it might be good to mention that or link to references about it.
Cateriona: eleven point starcateriona on May 8th, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
True, the majority of "tartans" are not ancient and there are no true "ancient tartans" made today. Few of the weave patterns for the Clans or regions survived the kilt being outlawed. Those that did survive were registered as being "ancient," but while the colors that made them were perseved, the dye methods were not. It was not only the pattern that was important but the materials and methods that went into the pattern that gave "power" to a specific tartan.

"ancient" setts and traditional dyes - caitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: Clann Eoghaincaitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 06:43 pm (UTC)
good Black Watch links?
Could you suggest some good links about the Black Watch?

Do you know why it's common for people to say that those who do not belong to a family clann can wear Black Watch? I realize now it's something I've always heard, but I don't actually know the reasons behind it except for it not being a family pattern. Is it just a marketing thing on the part of the tartan merchants, or is there a more interesting, complex reason? I have my suspicions, but, as I've always just done the family sett thing, I may not know the whole story here... Guess it's Googling time.

I seem to also recall there's some connection between Clann MacKay and the Black Watch.

(Deleted comment)
Re: good Black Watch links? - caitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Re: delusional people in BW - caitriona_nnc on May 8th, 2006 08:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: delusional people in BW - urthlvr on May 9th, 2006 12:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: delusional people in BW - wire_mother on May 9th, 2006 01:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
ex_koid_gat on May 9th, 2006 08:52 am (UTC)
random Tartan prattlings
As someone who does historic costuming the phrase "However, tartan has been a part of some of the Celtic cultures for hundreds of years now" makes me cringe. It's too open ended. Somebody could (and usually does given some the dicussion I've had to have at re-enactment events) to take it that means its fine for dark ages and middle ages when it is really more recent then that. And really mostly clan tartans date to the 19th century. when they were "gathered together" (i.e. made up) by the Sobeski Stuarts and others. We do have evidnce for the wearing of "plaids' in medieval/Renaissance, but it doesn't seem to have the meaning as wearing a tartan.

Also. The lovely shades of modern tartans is as a result of Victorians using analine (iirc) to take the natural dyes place. Some of the , er. bright tartans actually would look quite lovely in natural dyes. For some odd reason natural dyes don't clash as bad. It also is possible that analine dyes reduced the number of colours in tartans due to the restricted range of colours in the analine dyes but I'm getting horrendously off on a tangent.

Oh and there is a cornish tartan whose colours are based on a rhyme about King Arthur, which is 20th century

And on the subject of the Black Watch. as of this year it is no longer a regiment of it's own. It has been merged with the borderers, argyll, and 3 others. I can't remember exact names of the top of my head. And as a complete tanget, the new superregiment wears kilts including the three lowland regiments.
ex_koid_gat on May 9th, 2006 09:11 am (UTC)
More tartan comments
Another point I would like to (and will) make about tartans is
"just because he/she is a celt doesn't mean she/he has to wear a tartan and just because somebody wears what looks likes a tartan doesn't mean they are a celt"

I would a geographic qualifier to the end of that first sentence because from what i understand it is a predominately Irish-Scots thing and not something to be associated with Bretons, Welsh etc. Something that may be need to be spelt out. You can be a Celt and not wear tartan.

And the second part of the point is because I've had a few conservations and seen online people make comments about the mummies in Asia or Russia or somewhere wearing plaid were obviously celtic because they were wearing plaid despite it being completely unfeasible that they were so.

Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleachcaitriona_nnc on May 10th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
Re: More tartan comments
Thank you so much for all your feedback. We have rewritten sections of the answer as a result.
Re: More tartan comments - ex_koid_gat on May 14th, 2006 06:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
Cateriona: knot celticcateriona on May 9th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
Tartan silliness
It seems strange that this discussion continues. Anyone with a pattern and enough money to order the fabric can register a Tartan. I've always want some of the American Bicentennial Tartan and there are some nice Japanese Corporate Tartans out there too.

The contrast color tartans or dress tartans that are favored by competitive dances mostly date from the Victorian Era when it became popular to wear them as formal wear. True the darker tartans or hunting tartans are older, but what is Gaelic for "camo." There was more than one reason why the "kilt" was outlawed.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleachcaitriona_nnc on May 10th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Tartan silliness
I think the discussion continues due to the double vision of being involved in both historical research as well as the living cultures.

A number of us have adopted things via the living cultures - someone's grandmother wore this tartan scarf, and said she got it from her grandmother, so now they wear it or keep it on an ancestor altar to connect them with those recent ancestors. Maybe later they find the tradition only goes back a handful of generations, but those generations still matter, and wearing the scarf now also provides a visual signal to others that they share this heritage.

There really is no Official Position in CR concerning tartan. But it does seem relevant to include the question precisely because so many people, both Pagans and modern Gaelic folks, have misconceptions surrounding the matter.
Re: Tartan silliness - cateriona on May 11th, 2006 06:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
alfrecht on May 10th, 2006 08:16 am (UTC)
NOT about tartans!
This is a very minor thing, but this sentence jumps out at me from the "Political Movement" question:

"Similarly, as some Celtic lore focuses on the more patriarchal facets of history, and neglects the role of women and LGBT people, many CRs feel it is necessary to state a pro-feminist, pro-queer position, so that women and LGBT folks know they are welcome not only in the movement, but in leadership roles as well."

And while I understand why this is being said, perhaps there needs to be some links to the queer Celtic bit that has a summary of the Niall Frossach story, etc. If someone were to read this bit out of context (which they are bound to do), it would be good to have them shoot over to that to see that, in fact, there is also "some Celtic lore" that does not ignore or downplay or disparage such people.

Just a thought.
放縱瘋狂的結wire_mother on May 10th, 2006 08:20 am (UTC)
Re: NOT about tartans!
very good point, and not really a minor thing at all.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: queerceltscaitriona_nnc on May 10th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
Re: NOT about tartans!
Good point. I'll insert linkage to the other question. Are there any other links you think we should include?

And maybe we should rephrase it to be more about some scholar's biased interpretations rather than the lore itself.

Re: NOT about tartans! - alfrecht on May 10th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: NOT about tartans! - caitriona_nnc on May 11th, 2006 04:43 am (UTC) (Expand)