Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism – To Be or Not To Be (A Rant)


In the past couple of months I’ve been reminded in a painful way of why I was very hesitant to join any Celtic Reconstructionist oriented groups, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t one.  The arguments I’ve watched happening were not about history,  or cultural differences or even about the validity of one form of UPG or another but rather about the core values of what Celtic Reconstructionism is.

Let me first provide the full name for the movement, CELTIC RECONSTRUCTIONIST PAGANISM (CRP), and this brings us to the first argument,  taking the CRP movement OUT of the pagan community.  I understand why this is a tempting argument all things considered but it is not a feasible argument.  First of all most people who came to the CRP movement came from the larger pagan community, most of us from Wicca or Celtic polytheism.  The nature of CRP means that it is hard to find people of like mind close to us so seeking out the larger Pagan community is one way of interacting with people who might not be of the same mindset as ourselves but at least of the same wider spirituality.  Related to this argument is the need to take out Paganism and substitute Polytheism instead, but isn’t Polytheism also Paganism?  If the name change is aimed at being more specific then it would be fine (I call myself an Irish Reconstructionist Polytheist however, in mixed company I am CRP) but the change is really aimed at separating CRP from the Pagan community.

Now let me provide the definition for CRP, according to the CR FAQ: “Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR) is a polytheistic, animistic, religious and cultural movement. It is an effort to reconstruct, within a modern Celtic cultural context, the aspects of ancient Celtic religions that were lost or subsumed by Christianity.” (1)  So the movement is meant to reconstruct aspects of the Celtic religions.  In other words religion is a big part of it.  And this takes me to the one argument that keeps cropping up over and over again, orthodoxy versus orthopraxy, or belief versus practice.  Some people would like to strip belief out of religion.  I’m really not sure how to do that and still have meaningful rituals.  Rituals to me are interactions between the deities/universe/energy (whatever you want to call it) and ourselves.  These experiences that happen around the rituals are not just limited to them but spill into the everyday actions in life.  How are you going to “notice” when a deity decides that they want to interact with you if you do not have a belief in them, and how are you going to do what is required for this interaction to be both meaningful and fulfilling for you in your life and learn from it if you do not believe that it will be so?

UPDATE:

A friend of mine has pointed out something that I obviously wasn’t clear on.   I’m not advocating for orthodoxy.  The arguments on the threads were not clear for everyone.  So let me give an example of what I think of as a mix of belief and practice.  I have three altars in my home.  One is dedicated to the gods, one to the land spirits and another to my ancestors. I make offerings daily to my gods which is appropriate behavior for them, and in accordance with my formal patron-cliente contract that I have with them.  I take care of these altars daily and care for them.  This is what I mean when I say that my actions are supplemented by my beliefs and vice versa.  And this is what Orthopraxy means.  Orthopraxy does NOT means that you can go through the motions without having some sort of meaning behind the practice.  

Another argument that has gone round and round is the need for a CRP community either face to face or online.  I’ve noticed that there is a huge resistance against having this happen even though I’ve seen new people to the path beg for it repeatedly.  The most interesting answers were that they should look for cultural groups rather than religious ones or to look for a group that is there for study only but not exclusively for CRPs because that is too close to what monotheists do (exclusivist). It is human nature to want to be with people like you spiritually as well as culturally.  And while going to cultural events and groups is fulfilling in one aspect it is not fulfilling the need which I see in most people who come to CRP groups and ask that question.

Conclusion:

The jury is still out.  I do enjoy the arguments on theology, history and culture a lot on those groups when they happen.  Unfortunately lately I haven’t seen much of that going on.  The smallest post will make the old arguments come crashing through and at this point I just want to go back under my rock, studying and worshiping on my own. I’m still CRP but whether I will participate with the current online groups is a whole different matter…

Endnotes:

(1) http://www.paganachd.com/faq/whatiscr.html#whatiscr

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12 thoughts on “Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism – To Be or Not To Be (A Rant)

  1. Seanchán says:

    I think I can see what you’re getting at here CS. But belief is such a difficult thing really, I mean, it’s almost faith. Believe and something will happen to reenforce that belief or must something happen to engender that belief? I dunno, but I can relate to your comment about meaningful posts.
    Síochána.

  2. Jack Remick says:

    I follow your posts, find them interesting and informative. The religion and belief aspects of CRP foul up everything in the efforts to clarify the Celts. Without texts, how do we know anything concrete?

    • celticscholar says:

      I’m not sure what you mean Jack, we have records from the Romans, we have folklore and myths, place myths, and even though they aren’t from they Celts directly they do give us an idea, that can be backed up with other IE cultures and their religions. Nothing in this world is concrete, but there are archeological records and living IE cultures that we can draw on.

    • Tyson says:

      Jack,

      Celticscholar is correct. CRP uses what is concrete for the foundation of our rituals and much of how we follow a regional deity (Gaul, Welsh, Gaelic). I believe that when reading this post a huge complaint I am seeing is that celticscholar is having a rough time with community and experiencing something that was encouraged by the Celts; which is to openly debate as it encourages growth.

  3. corvusrouge says:

    Interesting post and a situation I recognize through experience with some of the general Pagan communities.

  4. Shawn says:

    I completely agree. In the past few years that I’ve been attempting getting my own path together, the lack of organized groups has certainly been a big hurdle for me. The ancient folk-ways of my Celtic ancestors, just like my Germanic ancestors, were largely communal experiences. Solitary study takes us only so far. After 15 years in Heathenry, the Heathens that “have it together” or have alot to offer, are the ones who have built or joined into Heathen communal groups be they orgs, local kindreds, or family based hearths. CRP needs that too if it is to grow past recon study and into a full fledged spiritual tradition.

  5. Kilmeny says:

    I feel your pain in regards to this. I think it is hard for those of us with a traditionalist/recon mindset to accept those with more eclectic beliefs and practices in to our circle. Its what has put me off joining both online and local groups. I have come to realise however, that it is not black and white, there are not Re-cons and Neopagans and nothing in between, there are a great many people who fit somewhere between these two labels or who are transitioning between them. If we are not open and accepting of them, then the CRP community really will earn it’s elitist and exclusive reputation.

    For me the greatest difficulty is in not being able to share my faith with friends, family or local community. The only active groups in my area are Wiccan covens, which is more than a little too far from my own practice to combine… so I have a great feeling of isolation whilst being in a faith that honours community and clan, it is a paradox.

    • Tyson says:

      I could totally see how this would feel like a paradox. In America it is hard to find a clan that supports our growth and how we learn. Online forums are a great source but also contacting some of the major authors. I think developing relationships with those who are wiser can still help a lot more than we give it credit.

      If you can find someone to express frustrations with (like not knowing what to do for a certain ritual) just ask the person(s) you’ve developed a rapport with. That can be a clan in our modern world.

      Sorry to hear about the distance though..

      • celticscholar says:

        Tyson, the problem is that the people I have rapport with are all on the same level with me, while the people we are supposed to learn from are not inclined to share (not all of course, but some). Still there are a few who are willing to answer questions and explain things of which I am extremely grateful for 🙂

  6. Tyson says:

    This post really seems interesting to me; like you are searching for what most people call the “heart” of their religion. My experiences with CRP have been vastly different than what you’re expressing. I have been taught to avoid UPG’s which is highly understandable. As I (purely my point) do not want to tarnish or confuse my gnosis as fact.

    However, I have been encouraged to ask questions, bring up debate, and put as much heart in my practice as I can. After all putting belief in your practice and ritual is part of honor. We all know that honor is the keystone to Gaelic culture and to the Celts as an overall. Honor is sadly an English translation and in Gaelic (Irish & Scottish) the word for honor is a HUGE term that includes having something deeply connected to our ritual. This especially pertains to daily rituals that show thanks to our ancestors.

    I say keep doing your research and keep writing your posts on here. Bare your soul and be open to growth. There are tribes/groves/clans that do encourage personal growth. CRP’s place a huge emphasis on the scholar but please know that most of us have not forgotten why we chose CRP. I hope you never forget that either!

    Slan,

    Tyson

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