Posts tagged ‘celtic polytheism’

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.

October 13, 2018 at 8:40 am 7 comments

Left/Right is a False Divide for Polytheists

Melas the Hellene’s Polemical Topics in Polytheism # 9 Politics

First view: Polytheism ought to follow Liberalism on the left, because religious monotheists tend to take the right.

Second view: Polytheism ought to follow Conservativism on the right, because Liberalism is often antithetical to tradition, religion and culture.

Third view: Polytheism needs both right and left, and at the same time, must move beyond this often stifling dualism.

Despite being staunchly left-wing most of my life, I agree with the third view. To begin with, many will ask why should politics & religion be intertwined, and indeed that they shouldn’t be by citing separation of church and state or freedom of religion as it exists in their given country. But they are confusing government with politics, and how also do we define politics? Many people define it more narrowly than I do, but then I have a bachelor’s in political science and I also enjoy studying sociology.

The division between the so-called left and right is a cultural division, with politics really being a symptom of a deeper divide. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done some great work in explaining the moral foundations that divide us in the United States and to some degree, Canada and other Western countries. Studying his research is something I’ve found very helpful at better understanding how people who are more conservative than me thin. Which is good, because that is most of my country- particularly most of the people who vaguely resemble me both physically and culturally. Conservatives tend to have stronger feelings in several areas that Haidt measures that liberal & classical libertarians are often simply lacking which leads to a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding between these factions. Conservatives often to some degree get it more than liberals do. Here’s a shorter piece about the politics of disgust, which is one of the aspects that started him down the path of this research.

My boyfriend shared an article about this with me years ago, and over time particularly while reading Galina Krasskova’s blog, I noticed the increasing importance of the purity/sanctity vs. disgust dimension in her writing. Part of it was that I recognized it more, but it also seem to grow in importance as she deepened particular aspects of her practice, like emphasis on modesty, purity and piety. Disagreements about these issues with other polytheists became larger leading to a split among factions of bloggers, though I think as time goes on hopefully there will be more of a range of views and dimensions represented. My own views while aligning somewhat with one faction have also grown more nuanced, especially as I’ve deepened my cultural and religious studies. For one thing, many of the fault lines that have formed & the assumptions behind them, don’t fit very well with Irish/Scottish diasporan polytheism or Celtic polytheism more generally I might add, at least as I interpret them.

To be clear about my own biases, I am online friends with several of the writers on the Gods & Radicals staff, though I have only met one of them in person. Several of them are fellow members of Clann Bhride. I’ll admit I’m pretty lousy at being both a practicing democratic socialist and a polytheist, mostly an armchair theorist with both.

Anyhow I’m interesting in getting other polytheists of various political stripes together to compare our scores on Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations research. The questions he has about religion are unsurprisingly, not very relevant to us, but perhaps we could contact him and see if he has any students that are doing psychology of religion research. Let me know if you are interested. Here’s the section of the Righteous Mind website for religious communities. I wonder if it would be more accurate if we had different cohorts or something. Color me rusty on methodology…

Then I’d like to further explore the moral foundations and how they fit with our various religions & cultures.

Note: For my fellow anti-capitalists, for simplicity’s sake I’m just using liberals to include us, even if yes, classical libertarians that word by rights originally belongs to you. But being an anti-capitalist in American politics is rather like being well, a polytheist in the Western religious landscape, most of the time you aren’t really acknowledged to exist in public, and you have a zillion little sects & disagreements that are really important to you, but nobody else knows the difference between your beliefs and another ideology that you consider completely different, thank you very much! Marxists though are generally far more dogmatic and stuck in the past, in my experience…though they could probably compete with online heathens in the macho department!

June 28, 2018 at 4:17 am 1 comment

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

Getting Started in Various Polytheisms

If you aren’t sure what tradition you will be following (or creating!) this is a nice way to compare things a bit before you dive head-first into something! Remember also, that polytheist and animist practice doesn’t have to be based on a particular cultural tradition- either historic or living. One example of a modern, polytheistic religion is the Otherfaith, involving worship of eight Gods and a multitude of spirits. Though I’m not a follower myself, I find it fascinating to watch the development of the Otherfaith, the reflection of human diversity in their Gods (or rather are we reflections of the Gods?) and my discussions with Other People has added a lot of insight in my own attempts at finding modern inspiration.

General

A list with lots of resources- Pagan 101

Polytheism 101: Building a Shrine, Offerings, 

Devotional Primer– advice from an eclectic heathen

Keeping a Daily Practice: 7 Keys to Success by Dagulf Loptson

Daily Devotions– suggestions for each day of the week. On the main blog page, she posts each day the day of the week activities as well as hymns for deities/spirits associated with that day of the month, festivals etc.

Indo-European Polytheisms

Guide to Gaelic Polytheism

Longship– Beginner’s Guide to Heathenry- pan-Germanic

Roman Polytheism

Non-Indo-European polytheisms

Natib Qadish– Canaanite polytheism

Daily Prayer

Kemetic Polytheism (Egyptian)

Kemetic Starter Guide

Ritual

Hinduism

Super Simple Daily Puja

Shinto-

Shinto Resources

Non-historically inspired polytheisms

The Otherfaith

Modern American Polytheism– this can be combined with various other pagan/polytheist traditions.

June 10, 2015 at 9:53 pm 7 comments

All Wrong: Religion, Culture and Country

Wrong Country: It doesn’t matter if our ancestors didn’t all come to the United States (& various other colonies) for the specific purpose of enslaving and conquering people, but mostly were trying to escape poverty, famine, war or religious/political persecution. Or came here as slaves, prisoners or indentured servants. It doesn’t matter how long our families have lived here. We’re invaders. Or “settlers”, I guess that’s a little nicer. OK, we’ve realized that we messed up. Or someone else did, and we benefited from it. So we’re going to “decolonize” now. It sounds very enlightened and progressive. Wait, does this mean we need to move back to Europe? Black folks have to move back to Africa. (Tried that already, by the way) And so forth. Or is it OK that we stay here, so long as we admit that we have no right to be here? Just lose the sense of entitlement and gain some humility and be a good ally.  But wait, which Tumblr guide to “How to Be a Good White Ally” should I follow?

Wrong Culture: Sometimes I come across European pagans/polytheists (and non-pagans) who are baffled by Euro-American interest in their cultural heritage. But you’re Americans! You’re over there! Go do Indian stuff. Uh, no. Not touching the peace pipe. It hasn’t been offered. So be Wiccan! It’s sorta kinda generically European… Sprinkle with deities of your chosen ethnic identity. Some of us try to prove how Truly Serious & Sincere & Respectful we are. We study the languages, the customs. We become reconstructionists.  But…

Wrong Religion: We still get criticism- here’s a Scottish fellow complaining about how not Gaelic neo-paganism is. Most “Celtic” paganism isn’t very culturally Celtic, I agree to that. What I found baffling was that he specifically approved of the website Tairis, but complained about the CR FAQ. Celtic Reconstructionism was actually founded for the specific purpose of avoiding cultural appropriation that is rampant in the U.S.  Annie Gormlie, the author of Tairis is Scottish, basing her practice on Scottish folk customs. Very cool lady. The CR FAQ is pan-Celtic and written by Americans. Americans? Well in that case they must be evil cultural pillagers.  And because they talk about doing research about pre-Christian religion, they can’t care about modern culture at all, right? This is a false dichotomy Proper Scots are atheists, according to him. Another one I came across said True Scots are Presbyterians. Real Authentic Irish people are Catholic of course, no wait- atheists according to this guy. Another critic here.

Maybe we should stop arguing about which religion (or atheism) is superior and do our parts to learn & teach Celtic languages and customs? I’m in my Irish class, and there’s also a Wiccan in the class as well. No one cares what our religion is, we’re there to learn Irish. I don’t know how Pagan-friendly every nook and cranny of the Irish community is, so I don’t announce it to everyone. 

There seems to less of this among Germanic heathens- they don’t have the cultural colonization historical chip on their shoulder the way the Celts do. There are some Europeans who look down on American Heathens that get most of their info from book-learning rather than oral tradition.  But that goes both ways. 

Culture, religion, country. It would be nice if these things “matched” but life is messy and they don’t. Humans move around. They change religion and language. Deal with it. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care that much about other people’s approval. I try to do the Right Thing social justice-wise, or culture or religion-wise, but it’s always the Wrong Thing to someone else. It’s nice to get approval and affirmation when it comes but condemnation and condescension will always be coming from another direction. Once again, hey I’m an American. Guess I’ll throw caution to the wind. 

August 13, 2014 at 3:24 am 6 comments


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