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?
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.
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…