Last night, while attempting to do my Nine Moons Retreat, I took some time to focus on my studies and finished a book I’ve been reading in bits and pieces for months – Celtic Rituals An Authentic Guide to Ancient Celtic Spirituality by Alexei Kondratiev. While I’m always wary of anything claiming authenticity, Kondratiev has a pretty solid reputation as a linguist and as someone who has studied and worked in Celtic communities. Finally, the book had two glowing reviews. I was not disappointed.
This book was not the usual drivel that usually passes as Celtic in Neo-Pagan literature. Everything was very well-researched and, as a linguist, he understood the languages and cultures he was talking about. He is one who encourages study and activism within the culture one wishes to focus on. He argues for the preservation of smaller, traditional cultures over the global monoculture so prevalent in Western society. While the rituals he described were somewhere between Wicca and Celtic Reconstructionism, he was up front about the lack of evidence for calling quarters in ancient Celtic rituals.
It is no secret that Kondratiev had Christian leanings despite his study and involvement with NeoPaganism. This made his book even more unique in that it encouraged Pagans and Christians to work together to preserve the cultures of the Six Nations. Chapter Five: The Cycle of the Tribe was particularly interesting to me because it argues that Celtic-inspired Pagans should accept and embrace the reverence of saints within the Celtic nations as they have absorbed much of the Pagan mythos and are politically and spiritually important days full of heightened energy. While he doesn’t insist that Pagan circles out right revere the saints, he suggests taking those days to remember, celebrate, and ritually support the Six Nations. It is something we should consider as St. Patrick’s Day approaches. I know I went through an “All Snakes” phase during my more uninformed period of Paganism, but I now know more about Irish history and understand that St. Patrick didn’t violently eradicate the Pagans, nor was he responsible for introducing Christianity to Ireland. If anything, it is a day to embrace your Irish culture and remind the world what your ancestors went through.
Chapter Four: The Cycle of the Moon was of particular interest to me. He argues that “The Song of Amergin” can actually be used as a mythological calendar. He doesn’t intend for it to replace the Coligny Calendar in historical importance but as “a living, resonant dynamic for relating to the lunar cycle in a Celtic cultural context. It can therefore provide a serviceable alternative until a more practical approach to the Coligny Calendar becomes possible; it may, in fact, reveal certain mythic patterns that will be directly applicable to the Coligny Calendar” (206). Each “I am” line from the poem corresponds to an “age of the moon,” starting, of course, with Samhain. Much of it is probably UPG, but Kondratiev makes a very convincing case!
I highly recommend this book to all aspiring Druids and anyone interested in Celtic cultures. You may not wholeheartedly adopt all of his practices, but Kondratiev surely had some interesting ideas.