Posts tagged ‘celtic paganism’

Celtic vs. Mediterranean Polytheisms

In pan-polytheistic online discourse I frequently see assumptions about polytheism from different cultural or philosophical types of polytheists. For better understanding of where I’m coming from as an Irish polytheist, a previous post compared Celtic & Germanic polytheism. This is an attempt to compare Irish polytheism and a little about continental Celtic polytheism with polytheistic religions bordering the Mediterranean, specifically I’m thinking of Greece, Rome and to a lesser degree, Egypt.  These are generalizations referring to several spectra of cultures that existed (and still exist just in different forms) across a long time period. Feedback, corrections and critique are welcome and I’ll make note of changes.

Differences

Theology– Our theolog(ies) are very much up to us as contemporary revivalists to discover and develop. Beings in our lore and literature are not easily categorized as gods, ancestors, heroes and spirits of place. There is much overlap between them. It’s debatable how much particular gods were euhemerized by monks or whether the Irish Dindsenchas- that explains the legendary origins of place name or the tales of Mythological Cycle are more authoritative.  Even the question of whether a particular being is friendly or not towards humans can vary by place or even specific person! For example, Balor is a monster thought to symbolize the dangers of the late summer sun being too hot and threatening the harvest. He was defeated by the god Lugh in battle, the young, many skilled god who brings the harvest. But in the folklore of the Tory Islands the two were reversed and it was Balor that was honored!  The Good People are for the most part avoided and propitiated but certain individuals do make treaty and develop a relationship with a spirit or group of spirits. Sometimes these people are called fairy-doctors and act as an intermediary between the spirit and a local community.

Departmental Deities– I often hear people in Irish/Gaelic/Celtic pagan or Druid groups explain to newcomers that “unlike the Greek or Roman pantheons we don’t pigeon-hole gods into departments like god of love/sun/thunder.” Fair enough, but that’s also not an accurate description of either Greek or Roman religion. It’s an oversimplification that might fit a specific cultus at a given time or for your classical mythology class, but not for all times, places and practices. This is also the case for Irish gods. There also isn’t a fixed, organized pantheon with a set hierarchy, no “chief god” and the family trees of the gods and other beings contradict each other in different sources. You know, like in Greek mythology!

Purity– there is a concept of ritual purity, but it doesn’t seem to be a emphasized as it is in Greek and Roman polytheism. Here is an essay discussing concepts of purity/impurity in Gaulish polytheism.

Hubris (or hybris  in the original Greek)- isn’t really a concept that exists in Celtic religions. There are certainly boundaries of respectful and disrespectful behavior in general and in ritual specifically, particularly related to hospitality and reciprocity. Threatening the gods or spirits, especially with weapons or use of iron in general (esp. towards the Good People) are all certainly ill-advised. Boasting, especially among warriors was as common as it was in ancient Scandinavia. The consequences for going too far with boasting were social and sometimes legal in nature, resulting in a loss of honor and possibly being publicly satirized.

Images– statues and images in continental Celtic territories seem to be mostly a later Roman influence and earlier images seem to be syncretized or influenced by Thracians and Scythians. I occasionally come across the assertion than the Celts had a taboo on divine images, but that is likely a projection from Abrahamic laws against idolatry. That said modern Celtic polytheists do typically use various images for the gods in worship.

Lack of primary sources from pre-Christian times- as with most Germanic & Slavic traditions, we don’t really have anything recorded directly by polytheistic Celtic peoples themselves, We have secondary sources from the Romans who were fighting or trading with them, and later ruling over them but of course these have some built-in biases.  Texts written by monks in Ireland recorded native literary traditions and combined them with classical and Biblical references. Christian era folklore & customs end up being really important in Gaelic & Brythonic traditions because they give us more of an idea of everyday spiritual practice of regular people, particularly towards local spirits and the dead. Reconstructing continental Celtic religion involves study of archaeology and comparative linguistics, religion and mythology.

Similarities with Kemetic religion (from my limited knowledge of it!)

-Strong belief in afterlife, alternate realm, though in Celtic cosmology typically there is an Otherworld existing parallel to our own that is partly afterlife realms, but many other realms belong to gods and the Good People.

-the concept of Ma’at -meaning roughly justice & order in a cosmic sense reminds me a lot of An Firinne- which means truth in Irish, cosmic order with a moral dimension

-The ritual role of kingship, relationship to people and the land. This does not necessarily mean a need for a contemporary king/queen, but the concept of kingship/queenship and sovereignty is key to cosmology. Were Celtic kings/queens deified after death, as with pharaohs or some Roman emperors? Not as a rule that I’m aware of, naturally they’d be important ancestors, founders of particular dynasties, kingdoms, chiefdoms, clans were historically viewed as family patrons, and this practice has been continued with the revival of polytheism with key ancestors.

There are a couple more common pan-polytheistic topics that I am unsure of. What do we know about expectations of piety in pre-Christian Celtic societies? In Ireland, which is the area I’m most familiar, our sources of information about ethics are Brehon law, a system which continued with some modifications long after Christianization, and advice for kings on good behavior. I will have to check them to see if anything is said about piety. But my general feeling is that a sense of piety would be pretty different than a Greek or Roman one. Celtic traditions overall strike me primarily as animistic in character and secondarily polytheistic, they are more primal and localized and tribal. Those elements are definitely in place in both Greece and Rome especially in earlier periods and even later on in certain aspects- the cult of Dionysus seems like something Celts would totally be down with. Whereas Greece and Rome seem more primarily polytheistic.

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October 13, 2018 at 8:40 am 7 comments

Celtic Polytheism- Online Discussion Groups

Old post/page- Updated list. I’m thinking of actually moving these to resource lists for different areas like Gaelic polytheism, Gaulish etc.

Facebook Groups: Some are private/closed, so if you prefer you can keep your membership hidden, or create a profile that uses a religious or other assumed name. Since almost all are closed, I’m now only making note of the public ones!

Indo-European Religion

Pan-Celtic, Pan-British

Celtic Paganism, (Celtic Recon focus)

Celtic Polytheists (Public)

Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism/Polytheism

Irish/British Celtic Polytheism (Public)

Pan Celtic, Non-Facebook Groups

Cauldron Forum’s Hazel & Oak: Celtic Polytheism Special Interest Group

Paganacht Reddit– This one is active!

Celtic Reconstructionist Livejournal Community– in the 2000’s this was the main hub of online discussion- less active now, but lots of good material!

Pan-Celtic, Specific Topics

Alexei Kondratiev’s Lorekeeper Course study/discussion group (Public)

Cult of the Severed Head– historic & current use of skulls/heads in ancestor veneration, healing, divination

Gaelic

Creideamh Duthchasach nan Gaideal– This group is a place to share resources on Indigenous Traditions of the Gaels, its about documenting what our ancestors valued so that we can determine what if any of those values we continue with or which we alter or toss out.

Sinnsreachd- Gaelic Polytheistic Tribalism: Note this group associates more with modern Gaelic cultures rather than Pagan subcultures

Sinnsreachd Hearthkeepers- Practical Gaelic Polytheism

Loachra nan gaidheal– Gaelic warriors guild- Laochra Cuallacht of Comhaltacht na nGaedheal: Cairdreabh nan Gàidheal

Irish-specific

Irish Polytheism/Paganacht/Gentlidecht/Gintliocht

Practitioners of Irish Polytheism

Irish Magic & Spirituality– moderated by Lora O’Brien

Teanga na draoithe– Language of the Druids- Irish language learners

Brythonic

Welsh Polytheistic Reconstruction

Caer Feddwyd– is the public face of Brython, an organisation which aims “To research, recover and redistribute to the best of our knowledge and wisdom the native British pre-Christian Spirituality, as evidenced by historical sources and personal experiences, to trace its influence and expression into later times and to explore its application and relevance to life in the modern world”

Continental Celtic/Gaulish

Gaulish Polytheism Community

Touta Galation – online org, some local in-person groups

Deity-Specific

Clann Bhride: Children of Brighid Religious order devoted to Brighid (co-ed)

Ord Brighideach International– Religious order devoted to Brighid (co-ed)

Nigheanan Brighde Order– Celtic Polytheist flame-keeping order, all women

Cuallacht na Brighid– Order of Brighid for Comhaltacht na nGaedheal: Cairdreabh nan Gàidheal, co-ed, not solely flame-keeping

Coire an Dagda– Cauldron of the Dagda

Song of Oghma

Druid

Druids

Contemplative Druidry– focus on contemplative practices in Druidry (big tent definition)

Not the Druids you are looking for

Specific orgs

ADF- Ar nDraiocht Fein (Closed) Open to non-ADF members. There are other FB groups and lists for specific ADF groves and subgroups- I’m not listing them all!

AODA- Ancient Druids of North America

The Druid Network

Druid Grove of Two Coasts

Henge of Keltria

OBOD Friends (unofficial)

Reformed Druids of North America

Sylvan Celtic Fellowship– Located in Lincolnton, NC but welcomes folks from other areas, inclusive of all Celtic-based paths

National (outside U.S.) 

Canadian Celtic Polytheists “For Celtic Polytheists living in Canada to meet, share events, help and support each other. You may be a Celtic witch, Celtic Reconstructionist, Druid, or any other Celtic path, but you must honour Celtic deities to join.”

Canadian Druid Network

Regional

Northwest Druidry: NW United States and SW Canada

 

June 27, 2018 at 9:03 pm 5 comments

Crossing the Danube: Celtic & Germanic differences

Whenever I go into Heathen or Asatru spaces I joke silently to myself that I’m metaphorically crossing the Danube, the river that the Romans considered the rather arbitrary division between the  continental Germanic and Celtic tribes. Similarities and differences between Celtic and Germanic groups are sometimes over-emphasized or downplayed, in addition to of course intra-Celtic and intra-Germanic cultures having those problems. This adds up to create some misunderstandings between these two cultural/linguistic families including in the religious aspects. I will discuss the general spectrum of Celtic paganism, polytheism and Druidry, and get into a little that is specific to Celtic Reconstructionism. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Decent Celtic information has tended to be more obscure than decent Germanic information (at least Icelandic sources!) , in spite of often being more popular among Pagans most easily available information was up to not that long ago. Frankly, I’m amused what Heathens angrily denounce as being fluffy, the amount of fluff they have typically had to deal with seems so minor by comparison to the Celtic side.
  2. I know many Celtic Pagans/polytheists and Druids that are also at least partially involved in Norse/Germanic traditions whether for reasons of ancestral/ethnic heritage and/or spiritual inclination. We also sometimes have spouses who are Norse/Germanic by culture & spirit, and the household may to some degree combine the two, particularly with ancestor honoring. Folks who primarily identify as Heathen or Germanic/Norse polytheist seem to be less frequently eclectic/syncretic or dual/multi-tradition. Though I am seeing an increase in that, especially with the Religio Romana.
  3. How historically gender-egalitarian- or even “matriarchal” or “feminist” nature of Celtic cultures were gets exaggerated, while the not-so gender egalitarian-ness of Germanic cultures gets exaggerated. They both were mixed bags for the status and treatment of women- patriarchal overall, but women especially higher class women, had more rights than most of ancient Greece or Rome. This also varies by time period, specific culture and so forth of course.
  4. The warrior path gets over-emphasized in a distorting way among Germanic folks, and particularly in some types of British Druidry, Celts somehow become pacifists..like say what *where* are you getting this from? When really being mostly farmers and herders with a few aristocratic warbands was for the most part what both the Celtic and Germanic tribes did.
  5. The conversion to Christianity of the Irish, Scots and Welsh at least was more peaceful than that of most Germanic peoples I’m aware of. That doesn’t mean we’re happy about it, but that Celtic Pagan relationships with Christianity & Christians is overall less hostile. You see more overt syncretism between the two, and a spectrum between Celtic Paganism and Celtic Christianity gets referred to as Celtic Spirituality or Celtic Wisdom generally. Though there are shared customs, sacred sites and local spirits honored by both Christians, Heathens and secular folk in Germany, Austria, the Low Countries and Nordic countries and by their diasporan cousins. I certainly don’t see Heathens celebrating the patron saint days of their homelands!
  6. There is more Celtic Reconstructionist (particularly historical) overlap with general Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft and Druidry both Neo-Pagan & fraternal/ceremonial magic influenced types as compared with Asatru and Heathenry, which has roots in some places in folk culture & custom revivals and to some degree in occult/magical orders, though that influence seems to have lessened over time. Much to its chagrin, Celtic reconstructionists have had more difficulty in differentiating themselves from broader Paganism as compared with Heathens, who have been quite persistent in their distinct identity.

June 5, 2018 at 7:52 am 3 comments

Intro: Why Celtic Paganism is not usually Alt-Right friendly

I’ve spent a fair amount of time for several years reading thru articles about the Alt Right and closely related political/cultural factions that say they aren’t Alt Right, but have many of the same ideas & tendencies. Yes, this has included looking at Alt Right websites, forums, even watching some of their YouTube videos. Reading blogs by folkish & Alt-Right sympathetic polytheists, Heathens & Pagans as well. It’s not exactly a fun way to spend my time, but I’ve considered this research a harsh necessity in today’s world. Likewise, I know many of these folks do the same research in the other direction towards people like me, the “Social Justice Warriors”.

Anyhow, I’ve encountered in several of these places frustration, bafflement and so forth at how most Celtic Pagan spaces do not include them or even that our communities (both online & off) are too feminist/SJW dominated. Typically I see this as a good “problem” for us to have! Alt-right leaning ideas (or ones easily mistaken for them)  do indeed exist in our spaces, as well as in non-Pagan centric Celtic cultural spaces. We don’t always agree on what “counts” as bigotry and cultural appropriation, and in particular I’m not going to call people racist or appropriative, because I feel those terms have become so broadly used that it isn’t clear what they mean. Heck, I myself have been accused of cultural appropriation and various kinds of bigotry, in spite of all my attempts to try following intersectional social justice ideology.  I’m not interested in a debate with any hard-core Alt Righties. I’m open to potential civil discussion with people who don’t dehumanize people who are different from them, and to be fair I’ve had a tendency to do that myself to some folks- and I’ll be talking more about ways I’ve behaved badly and been hypocritical. I’d appreciate people who disagree with me to do the same.

For anyone who isn’t comfortable, that’s fine you do not need to participate. I’ll still be moderating comments for nastiness. I also think we need to have discussions among liberal/left-wing/progressive Pagans & polytheists and I will make it clear when those are internal discussions, likewise with discussions between liberal/leftists who are of non-Pagan religious identities and non-religious identities.  Whew! That was a lot, and that’s just the intro post.

This post series is being done from a primarily religious and cultural viewpoint as an many generations removed Irish/Scottish diasporan American polytheist rather than a secular political viewpoint. If I get ambitious enough I’ll adapt them for a non-Pagan Irish/Scottish cultural interest audience (for both diasporans & natives, whoever’s interested in my blatherings, I’m also happy to link to folks grappling with similar issues in their communities.

This post was inspired by & an indirect response to #9 Politics in Melas the Hellene’s Polemical Topics in Polytheism series.

 

June 1, 2018 at 1:42 am 10 comments

Wanderings of a would-be Gael

Gaelic Roundtable for the March 2017 topic of Journeys (summer catch-up!)

I have been a Pagan of some sort for about 20 years now, which sounds more impressive than it actually is! I’ve had a tendency to be more of an armchair philosophical Pagan than much of an active practitioner, but I’d like to change that. I’d like to weave my spiritual practice into my everyday life, so it does not just feel like something walled off in a corner. I have primarily been focused on Irish culture, but am also branching into Scottish traditions as well. I am especially interested in learning more about how customs and cultures have evolved in both diasporas in Minnesota and other parts of North America and adapted to a modern urban working-class setting, rather than an pastoral aristocratic or peasant setting that tends to be the bias of medieval Irish literature and later folk customs.

During my college years I studied with two different Irish Reconstructionist groups- Tuath Choilraighe, led by Aedh Rua (who now goes by the name Segomaros Widugeni) and Temple of the River, led by Andrew Jacob (who now goes by the name Andre Solo) I have also been an on and off member of Ar nDraiocht Fein, and also studied and practiced with the Mists of Stone Forest, a druid grove that branched off of the Henge of Keltria, in turn a branch of ADF.

I am now a part of Northern Roots Grove, which is an independent syncretic Druid grove, with members of RDNA, ADF and OBOD involved. And of course, I’ve done lots of studies on my own, and gained a lot of knowledge along the way.  I have also been studying the Irish language with Gaeltacht Minnesota.  I am also a member of Clann Bhride, a gender-inclusive Brighidine online devotional group with a focus on social justice.

Druid ABC soup:

RDNA– Reformed Druids of North America

ADF– Ar nDraiocht Fein

OBOD– Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

For a good comparison of these different druid groups see Susan Reed’s summaries here.

 

 

July 1, 2017 at 8:23 am 1 comment

Morrigan

Articles (Scholarly/Works Cited)

The Irish War Goddesses by Saigh Kym Lambert

Fulacht na Morrigna (the Morrigan’s cooking hearth) by Morgan Daimler

Articles (Personal Insight/No Works Cited)

The Morrigan and Personal Sovereignty by Morgan Daimler

Ways to Feel More Connected to the Morrigan by Morgan Daimler

Books

By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrigan

The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queen by Morgan Daimler

Morrigan/Warrior Bibliography by Saigh Kym Lambert

Not Recommended Books-

Feast of the Morrigan by Christopher Penczak- review by Morgan Daimler

Groups/Organizations (Note: I have put the more general groups at the top and the more priestly/dedicated warrior ones towards the bottom)

Call of the Morrigan Community– For anyone who honors/worships the Morrigan in any of Her aspects

Clann na Morrigna– Facebook group for all genders dedicated to the Morrigan as warriors

Ban gaiscedach na Morrigna–  Facebook group for women (trans-inclusive) dedicated to the Morrigan as warriors

Coru Cathubodua: A Morrigan Priesthood- accepts people of all genders who wish to dedicate themselves to Her service.

January 29, 2016 at 3:56 am 1 comment

Labels, Identities and Boundaries

Hey, y’all! I have moved this post to my Witches & Pagans blog, Way of the Sacred Fool. I realized something rather odd. It seems when I specifically set out to write a post for W & P I end up getting stuck, but then I’ll fluently write out something for this blog. I think I need to *just write* without worrying which blog whatever I’m writing fits into and then publish accordingly!

October 28, 2015 at 1:35 am Leave a comment

The Tale of Danu: Part 2

Meanwhile in the Otherworld…during the early Revival Druid era…

Morrigan on phone: Damnit, Goibhniu! This is not about human ingenuity. I know you and the InterPantheonic Council of Smith Gods are all about human creativity and not interfering with it. Well this isn’t creation…these discoveries will lead to destruction, yes I know I’m usually into that sort of thing, but this is too much, even for me! The Manhattan Project will…Yes, I know it’s decades from now, but you know about the time differences between our world and theirs. Stand up to Hephaistos and worse, Prometheus and tell them we mean business! If you don’t, I will make sure Ireland stays out of that war!…Slams down phone.

Cosmic switch board worker: “My lady?”

Morrigan, sighs and leans back “Yes?”

“We’re getting a lot of calls for a goddess by the name of Danu, Danann, is it? Doesn’t that sound similar to one of your titles?

Morrigan looks at switchboard “Great balls of Dagda!” Those are a lot of calls! I think this is yet another error by those monks. Once, again we have to clean up their messes. I’m already taking calls for “Black Annis” seriously beneath my dignity…alright, give me some of them, and some to Brighid. I know she’s busy, lil’ Miss Jill of all Trades, she is (though somehow a lot less show-offy about it than Lugh!) but maybe she can get some of her little saint buddies to help out. Maybe even bodhisattvas…she’s also on good terms with Guan Yin.

So, regardless of origins, somebody out there may be answering your prayers to Danu…we’re just not sure who!

October 22, 2015 at 8:41 am 3 comments

Influences on Druidry & Celtic Spirituality

It can be hard to explain what all is included in Druidry & Celtic Spirituality- I found it more useful to describe some of the major influences (many of them of course are the same as those in other parts of Neo-Paganism and the New Age) It can be helpful to keep these influences in mind when looking at books and other sources!

Romanticism- reaction to the Enlightenment, urbanization and industrialization- emphasis on individual artistic genius, emotion over reason, folklore, fairy tales, nature, the “Noble Savage” (identified with Celtic cultures)

Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton nationalism (sometimes led by individuals from outside those cultures) Revival of interest in native literature and mythology- sometimes forgeries (MacPherson’s Ossianic Cycle, Iolo’s Barddas) and tampered manuscripts were added to drum up nationalist interest

19th century antiquarians who had interesting theories about megalithic monuments, ley lines, Druids as mystical “proto-Christians”, folk etymology like Beltaine comes from the name Ba’al

Gardnerian Wicca & Ceremonial Magic (Gardner was buddies with Ross Nichols, founder of Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids)

Goddess & women’s spirituality, matriarchal pre-history theories- Robert Graves, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel the Mists of Avalon, Jungian archetypes for female empowerment!

Looking to Celtic Christianity as a way to reconnect with nature, honor the feminine (actual historical Celtic Christianity may be disregarded!)

Arthurian Legend- Grail mysticism- legend of Joseph of Arimathea bringing Grail to Glastonbury

Environmental and peace movements- in U.S., U.K., Ireland and elsewhere- Hippie, Peace Convoy, and other countercultural movements

Indo-European studies (ADF)

New Age “awareness” and consumerism- workshops, conferences, publishing, alternative healing

Folk music & cultural revivals

Riverdance and related rise in interest in Irish dance

Opposition to destruction of sacred/historical sites, lobbying for access to sites

Michael Harner’s Core shamanism

Reconstructionism as a methodology

Fantasy novels and science fiction, medieval and Iron Age re-enactment

October 9, 2015 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

Celtic Polytheists on Tumblr (my list)

On the Celtic Polytheism resource page, I had a link to Echtrai’s list of Celtic Polytheists on Tumblr. However it’s like Livejournal in that there’s a lot of blogs that come and go and ones that have very mixed content that you have to slog through. I’m reducing it down to ones that are mostly Celtic in content. And to boot, perhaps I’ll add some other types of polytheists. Bonus points if you actually tag things, have pages of info etc.

Celtic

Celticspirited

ReviewingtheCeltics– group that reviews Celtic-related books & answers questions.

Gaelic

Gaelic Polytheism 101

An tSnaidhm

Adventures in Asexuality

Altar of Delirium– Brighid, Mannanan mac Lir

Beag Coinneal

Beanchaointe

Crowsandcondescension  warrior path, Morrigan devotee

Echtrai–  Riona, devotee of Lugh

Feannog– Kym Lambert, Shadow of the Hooded Crow project for the goddesses Macha, Badb & the Morrigan

Fireinthesea

Lebornaciar- Jared

Mathairnandee- Danu, Brighid

Mirage358

Modern Southern Polytheist

Nicstoirm– Allec, devotee of Lugh, sea magic

Sachairi Mac Caba   Zach

Wandering Artificer

Brythonic

AwenyddogCamulos– selkies!

Gaulish

Bloodybones

Dewognatos

Norse/Celtic

Bethirstyqueerheart

Blind Brigidine Hearth- Robert/Raibert

Lightning & Ravens– Shrine to Thor & the Morrigan

Celtic cultural interest (not just religion)

Too Sexy For My Celt– fashion, historic & modern

As Gaeilge– Irish language learning, by Jared, same person as Lebornaciar

September 17, 2015 at 6:48 am 3 comments

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