Within this ongoing dialogue about my own spiritual intentions, I have come to see that I don’t want to “reconstruct” anything. A Celtic Recon over at Felmac is starting a new online journal about Celtic Reconstructionism (hereafter CR). I may be getting myself into some trouble here, but as I read through the basic description of the forum I had to shake my head. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not trying to slam anybody for their beliefs and spiritual practices. The following critique is meant to outline why I personally have decided to no longer call myself a Celtic Recon.
“Celtic Reconstructionism is a methodology to restore and revitalize the pre-Christian worldviews and polytheistic systems of the various Celtic peoples in the context of contemporary yet traditional Celtic cultures.”
This is a nice basic description of CR. I have come to see, however, that for me this is the wrong approach. Ever since my education in anthropology and my readings of some of the writings of Alexei Kondratiev, I have had to accept that my direct experience of Celtic culture is almost nil. I am a Coloradoan , and an American. These are the cultures I was raised in (and I say “cultures” for a reason, trust me growing up in Colorado is totally different from growing up in Missouri for example) and the ones that shape the majority of my cosmology. Frankly I think it is not realistic, nor honest, for any American to claim Celtic culture nowadays. We simply don’t know what we are talking about, as we have no direct experience of it. We can be inspired by Celtic culture and belief, but that is as far as we can go. That is not to say that for many American families with Irish or Scottish (or Welsh etc.) heritage, that it is not a major influence on them, simply that it is an influence that is biased by Christian belief and culture since the days of Patrick. This is not a bad thing at all, I point it out simply to counter the idea of many neo-pagans who would like to pretend that the era of Celtic Christianity never happened. It did.
I was recently struck by a post by Metro Calvinist entitled: New Ageism, leave the Celts alone! James speaks with some real authority here. I have some objections with what James says but it is an article worth the read. While I am not naive enough to think that he represents the “be all end all” of contemporary Scottish opinion on this, I would venture to say that he represents a large majority of those he represents; mainly Gaelic speaking Highlanders. One of his most direct statements is:
. . .Western culture has latched on to the idea that the Celts are magical nature worshippers – thus providing a convenient, ready made historical group who apparently embody everything that New Ageism would idealise.
However, I as a Celt, deeply resent this. I am not New Age and am thankful that Latha Buidhe Bealltain forms no part of the Celtic culture that I inhabit. I am not a magical nature worshipper, I am a Holy Spirit indwelt Christ worshipper. The New Age movement has no right to hijack my culture and the sooner people like Tom O’Neil realise this, the better. Let us Celts be Celts, and let us tell the world who we are and what we believe.
You have to respect this, and here’s why. This man has more Celt in his cosmology and outlook than I do in my little finger. It is also the majority opinion of modern Gaelic speakers from Cork to Inverness. I know there are native speakers who would disagree with his statements about there being no such thing as the “Celtic Christian” church (among others), but I digress. I have heard many Native Americans make very similiar statements about us “white folks” hijacking their spiritual traditions. (For the record I consider myself honey colored, not white). 😉
Felmac also states:
This methodology is part of a manner of living and being that involves a commitment to the living Celtic cultures and their pre-Christian thought and character.
Unfortunately, many folks in living Celtic cultures, see what neo-paganism (and by extension Reconstructionism) are doing, period, as an insult! There are no easy ways around this very indigenous point of view. Nor can Recons pretend to know anything about pre-Christian belief that has not been heavily influenced by Christian thought. Respecting living Celtic culture means respecting everything that currently makes up that culture, even the parts of it you don’t like.
Felmac further states:
Celtic Reconstructionism does not involve and in fact rejects modern and artificial syncretisms, eclectic practices and modernist interpretations, and does not affiliate with Neodruidism or Neopaganism.
This is where I cannot be on board with Reconstructionism any longer. CR is neo-pagan, whether we affiliate with it or not. CR is a modern interpretation of bits and pieces of altered lore from over 1000 (and more) years ago. Secondly, when you look at any living spiritual or religious system they are *all* made up by sycretisms, eclectic practices, external borrowings, and modern interpretations. How else could they remain relevant? One of the things that has attracted me to Faery Seership is the honesty of it’s origins and it’s inclusion of practices from other cultures that *work*. Lets remember the pre-Christian Celts did the same thing.
For me there is a difference in head knowledge and heart knowledge. It is basic yet extremely powerful. One can know with ones head that your parents or friends are going to die, head knowledge. But until you experience it and feel the emotion and experience the changes it brings to your life, you don’t really know. This direct experience is heart knowledge. This is the knowledge that I want. This direct, heart experience of the Sídhe, the Gods, and the Otherworld in general is what Feary Seership is all about. I have no desire to enslave myself to tradition, when we really don’t even know what that “tradition” was. We have to get our hands in it, work with it, and be willing to disagree with the lore, when our experience differs from it. This is not an insult to Celtic culture but an acknowledgment of it’s gifts to the modern world.