CRP The Next Generation…Or Not (Some thoughts)

Yesterday I had the misfortune just before going to bed to read a post on a CR group in Facebook.  Let me tell you that was no fun for me.

Let me clarify a few things before I start.  I do not equate religion with mystical experiences (even though they are certainly a part of it).  I do think belief is important in religion BUT WHAT that belief is, is entirely your own thing.  UPG can mean mystical experiences that happens during practice BUT when I use it I actually mean practices that take place in say a ritual context that cannot be verified by our basic sources.

Now that all that is out of the way let us get on to the discussion I read.  The original poster asked a very important question, why do conversations on CRP forums never go past the CR 101 stage?  Very quickly you saw the “us vs. them” mentality come out.  This is very personal to me, because if I were to apply the criteria that the person responding presented, then I could never become part of CRP, ever.  So let us look at the points raised by this person and their group.

1. You must have a local community that you get feedback from.  I agree with that up to a point.  If you can find that community then more power to you, however, what do people like me do?  I live in Kuwait, I’m never going to find a Pagan community let alone a CRP one, does that mean that I can’t be a CRP even though my practice fits with their basic worldview?  What do people who live in remote areas of the US do?  Or those who don’t have the money or time to make it to a community one or two hours away?  Are they left out?  Does an internet community count in those cases?

2. Things like practice cannot be discussed on “public” forums because some random person who is not grounded in reality can make it part of their fantasy, instead it should be kept to a private group of individuals…  First of all, the source material that we all work from is the same, and each person or group can interpret it in anyway they see fit.  So the idea of some random person taking something said and spinning it into fantasy can happen anyway.  Second, who gets to decide who these private individuals are?  What makes them more worthy exactly?  I understand when a group decides not to share some private rituals, like how they incubate for divination or what they do if they do workings or magic or what have you but surely a basic ritual structure can be shared and discussed in a general sense.  For example, I have the basic ritual structure that I use up on my site, I’ve given people an idea where it came from and what inspired it, and I’ve shared a few of my rituals, but what I get out of my rituals is something that I may or may not share, or I could choose to share partially…I came by it the hard way, and I chose to share it in hopes of getting some feedback from people I considered the Elders of my community (when I thought I was actually a part of one, things don’t seem to be clear right now) and for the next generation of CRP to get inspiration from.  Apparently I’m doing this all wrong…since I don’t have a local community to share with, I shouldn’t really share.

3. People who identify as Pagans. What does that even mean?  Polytheism and by extension CRP is part of the wider Pagan community whether people like it or not.  Heck even the name says so, Celtic Recnstructionist Paganism.  Yes, in your tradition you can choose Irish Polytheism, Gaelic Polytheism, Welsh Polytheism, Gaulish…You get the idea, but in the end you are a Pagan and a part of Paganism.

4. The CR FAQ as a basic guide. Until it is not.  This poor document has been used by people to support their arguments, until it no longer supports their argument, then it is only a guide not to be taken as gosspel.  This document, I have been told by three different people whose names are on it as co-authors, was written through compromise, and in the end didn’t resemble the intent of its original writers, BUT it is a great starting point that needs to be tailored to the individual culture that interests you.  So parts of it can and probably will evolve as people practice more within their cultural structures, it was never intended to be a bible as someone told me yesterday.  The thing is, this is all CRs who first come to the path see, and the only concrete document that speaks about this path in a general way.  So if these people don’t find a community to interact with to further that knowledge how are they supposed to move along the path? Either they find a local community or they are out of luck apparently.

Conclusions:

People like me who have no local community are supposed to go away, and not think they can be included in the selected few who do have a local community for support and feedback.  They really shouldn’t think that they will get anything out of the internet community, as these discussions will never go beyond CR 101 or “this is Wicca we don’t do that” discussions.

In essence we are on our own, we need to do our own work (not that we don’t already) and make our own way in this path.  I just hope that when this work is done we don’t decide not to share with others…Harsh?  Yeah, I’m kind of a little p***ed right now…

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