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Posts Tagged ‘Celtic Reconstructionism’

 

I was in high school when I started to seriously study and practice any form of Paganism.  I was solitary except for a few experiments with an equally curious friend.  I didn’t meet any other Pagans in person until college.  The introductory books did not prepare me for the diversity in our community.  I remember an elder  looking down his nose at me when I blurted out a socially awkward “Blessed be!” in the local metaphysical store after I heard what he was talking about.  (We later had a very positive relationship.)  I vividly remember the first time I met a self-proclaimed Vampire.  (It was really uncomfortable.)

Although I never experienced witch wars or anything like that, I occasionally butt heads with people in the eclectic group I belonged to in Utica.  I came to realize Wicca did not resonate with me, but many people in the group embraced it or its teachings.  I realized I was a polytheist, a liberal reconstructionist with a blossoming interest (calling?  obsession?) in Irish culture.  I no longer embraced the Law of Three or the Rede.  Fueled by youthful passion, I wanted to remind everyone, whenever I could, that I didn’t always share their perspectives. While I seldom work a curse, studying Irish (and other Indo-European lore) revealed that it was part of those cultures and not demonized in any way.  Indeed, some of the earliest Irish curses are against inhospitable rulers who were not treating their people with dignity.

The moment you admit any of that, the moment you dismiss the Law of Three, the moment you stand in contrast to Wicca (by your ethics, your tools, your methods,  etc), lines form.  I don’t always mean for that to happen, but it’s been part of my learning curve.  It became painfully divisive whenever I shared my concerns of cultural appropriation when we planned eclectic rituals.   It was exhausting, but I loved everyone I worked with.  They were patient with me, encouraged me to share my own interests, and we always strove to be respectful, even when things became heated.  I’m really lucky that my first foray into the Pagan community was like that.  It could have been worse.  I know many people who refuse to celebrate with others because of really bad experiences.

Now that I’m a little older, I hope that I’m a little wiser.  I realize there is strength in our diversity.  It forces us to think and not become mired in tradition.  It’s good to see things from other perspectives.  Although I prefer to work with and learn from fellow Druids, polytheists, and traditional witches, some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented ritualists I know are Wiccan or influenced by those teachings.  While I find the sacred in the forests and rivers, I now understand that many find it in city streets.  I may be a vegetarian, but I know many who very respectfully hunt or lovingly raise animals, then offer some of the flesh.  I may lean towards hard polytheism, but I understand and appreciate that others see all gods as aspects of one spirit.

If you haven’t already, you should read “Undoing the Hard Work of Pagan Pioneers” by Bekah Evie Bel.  (Fair warning – it’s a Patheos blog update.  They always slow my browser.)  The author explores a topic that I and others sometimes think about.  How society sees us, and how we see each other, play a role in the novel I’ve been writing.  More people are talking about “rewilding” our traditions.  Some are calling anew to Aradia.  In our fight for rights and recognition in larger society, many worry that we have declawed ourselves in the process.  Why is it somehow possible for  Western people to accept that cultures in other countries make offerings, revere their ancestors, talk to plants, or dance while their gods ride them?  When it happens in other countries, it’s interesting, entertaining, it’s so  weird you can’t look away, it’s exotic.  When it happens in a Western country, especially in your own backyard, it’s suddenly alarming to many.  (Obviously, indigenous people live here, but the dominant culture tends to treat their traditions as exotic, too.)  Within our own Pagan community, certain practices will draw ire – you may even be ostracized.  Most people regard Paganism as a monoculture.  Heck, many people within our own community still view it that way, leading to culture shock and conflict upon encountering different traditions.

I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this…  just that I’ve been thinking about these topics.  I seem to come back to them every once in awhile as I reflect on my growth.  While there are definitely certain practices that must stay in the past based on laws and evolved perceptions of human decency, I think it’s important that individuals within the Pagan community continue to grow in a spirit of mutual respect.  We don’t have to agree all the time, but recognizing that not everyone will embrace the same practices or traditions is important to our preservation.  It’s important that we continue to learn about each other and come together to celebrate our diversity.  When we can do that, we’re better able to brainstorm and ameliorate issues concerning race, gender identity, cultural appropriation, elder care, and others challenging our growth. It’s part of why I’m involved in my local FAE Fest and enthusiastically attend PPD – to promote education so we learn about each other, celebrate our similarities and differences, and support each other.

I’m thankful to our Neo-Pagan elders and all they did to help us get where we are today, but I’m ready for certain stigmas to go away within our own diverse community.  The greater misconceptions are more likely to vanish from public opinion when we ourselves stop perpetuating the falsehood that we all believe or practice the same way.

 

 

 

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Scottish folklore and superstitions – When the Song Dies – Aeon Film.

Do take a moment to watch this short documentary by Jamie Chambers about the folk traditions of Scotland.  In particular, it focuses on how old songs and places connect us to our ancestors.  There are some interesting accounts of experiences with the spirit world and the Sight.

It is wonderful to see that these beliefs still exist in the lands that so inspire us, but it is sad, too, that they are dying out.  We need to do our part to respect the cultures we learn from and preserve their traditions and language.  It is a monumental task, and not one any one person can achieve.  It must be a collective effort between all of us who practice the traditional ways – the artisans, bards, and liturgists.

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I was very touched by this post from the blog “A Forest Door.”  There has been a lot of drama in the “Pagan” online community lately.  Paganism vs. Polytheism.  Secular Humanists Pagans/Atheist Pagans vs. theists.  Vegetarian Pagans vs. Omnivorous Pagans.  Pop culture icons as deities vs traditional Gods.  The list goes on and on, and, honestly, the topics aren’t new.  They come up every once and awhile.  It’s no surprise – they’re actually quite interesting!  Yet the drama and mental masturbation that result can be completely exhausting.  I’ve largely avoided these topics because I just don’t have the mental energy to deal with them right now.

So why did the aforementioned blog post make an impression on me?

The author is showing self-integrity.  There are plenty of people writing things that impact, or could impact, everyone in the Pagan community.  Or rather, there are a lot of people trying to do that (it’s very hard to please everyone)!  And that’s all well and good, but there are still plenty of us who want to focus on our own thing.  We’re not blogging to argue or persuade necessarily – we just want to share our thoughts.

The internet is a wonderful tool in that I’ve been able to connect with a variety of Pagan/Polytheistic folk with a wide array of perspectives of deity, magic, liturgy, cultural influence, etc.  A great many are fellow ADFers or people influenced by some degree of reconstructionism.  Many others are very “eclectic” for lack of a better word.  I get that and I respect it.  It’s not for me, though.  I always feel a bit awkward when getting to know a new eclectic Pagan (online or off).  Some are new to the scene and don’t realize there’s more out there than what is essentially Wicca.  Others have been eclectic for years and, in trying to be helpful, provide suggestions or interpretations to my experiences that are not of my own religious practice.  I appreciate that and find it interesting, but it’s always really awkward explaining how some things just don’t mesh with what I’m experiencing or my hearth culture.  And then there are folks who view deity differently and try to get into intense philosophical debates with me.  I’ve never been really interested in that…  I enjoy learning about different perspectives, but people who try to tell me how and what to believe are not individuals I enjoy spending time with.  And trust me – I have a great many friends who view deity differently and we get along fine because we are accepting of one another.

What I’m trying to say is that all of us are called to practice in our own way (if we want to practice a spirituality/religion at all).  It’s a beautiful thing!  I celebrate diversity and love joining others of different paths for their rituals, but I don’t want folks to feel bad or discouraged when I don’t want to incorporate something from their tradition into my own practices.  I also don’t want people to take terrible offense when I embrace history and place value on cultural authenticity rather than “whatever feels right.”  I’m not perfect and don’t claim to practice a purely Celtic path, but I try the best I can, and my efforts to infuse my spirituality with authentic Celtic tradition give what I do great personal meaning.   I also hope my own readers understand that what I write about is about my experiences in Druidism and Celtic-inspired spirituality.  I don’t feel my way is the only way.  I definitely don’t want people to look at this blog and think I’m the best representative for ADF or liberal Celtic Recons or Pagans or Polytheists, etc…  I want people to look at my blog and see what I do.  I keep this blog to record and share my experiences, inspiration, and things I’ve learned.  Maybe some of it will be useful to you, but if not, that’s fine too!  More than anything, I hope to inspire others seeking to live a Druidic life to do so in the best way for them!  My approach is: “This is what I learned in my research, this is what I feel about it, this is how I applied it to my life, and here are my results.  Now you try – if you want!”

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If you haven’t already, please read this wonderful post by the amazing Erynn Laurie.  She argues for a triadic approach involving Aisling (dreams/vision), Ársaíocht (antiquarianism), agus Agallamh (and discussion) .  It is what CR should be – a balance between UPG/our interactions with the Spirit World, historical studies, and discussion with others.  Without this balance, CR (or Druidism) will fall into dogmatism and become static.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer a dynamic religion that keeps me thinking and exploring!  And, of course, I prefer balance to extremes.

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