A Note On Celtic Reconstructionism


I’ve noticed so much confusion around social media lately about reconstruction, and Celtic Reconstruction in particular that I’m going to make my small part to hopefully unmuddy the waters. See Lairbhan for another effort on this for recon in general. One thing that really gets me is ‘the I like flush toilets, I need my insulin, I couldn’t really live on a sheep farm’ type statements. Yet no one has ever said that being a Celtic reconstructionist means living in an Iron Age reenactment (even if that were possible). Can we please stop saying these things? Reconstruction is not reenactment of a past age.


Then we get the stereotype that has been going for at least a couple of decades. Recons don’t practice spirituality, they “only” read books. From the very early days we had people like Erynn Rowan Laurie saying we are based on archaeology and aisling (vision/dream). That was always at the foundation. A few years ago this got refined to Aisling, ársaíocht, agus agallamh, with arsaiocht meaning lore, or basically antiquarianism and agallamh being colloquy, the discussion. https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/revisiting-the-r-word-toward-an-experimental-reconstructionism/


So a triad, and what could be more Celtic? Sure this does create tension, and balance, but this is a good thing. The lore and the vision should be in dialog. Nothing is just passively accepted (which seems to be what a lot of neopagans want.) Then there’s that ridiculous stereotype that CRs are ‘mean’, but some of this is from people having to repeatedly challenge the same nonsense from those who have suckled on some fantasy of Celticity, like that Wicca is Celtic.


Vision can’t but help but be a crucial element of the redevelopment of Celtic polytheisms, the filid and seers played a central role in traditional Celtic societies. They also received substantial educations and they had plenty of debate.


Unfortunately, in my opinion, a lot of people come in from a rather New Age-y context where people just make statements and debate is actually frowned upon, considered ‘negative’.


And that is part of the process where some CRs have downplayed aisling.


Another part of this, though, is that study is a form of piety too (of which I will write more of later).


Another common misunderstanding goes back to the Iron Age thing (our detractors seem to love that phrase). A lot of us, certainly myself while trying my best to learn how religion operated at that time before the coming of Christianity, see that plenty of the spirituality did survive, even if in a circumscribed way. Offerings to the Good People hardly stopped and plenty of the values of old Ireland continued on down the generations. The folk practices of the nineteenth century are a great treasurehouse for my own practices, even if they were interwoven with Christian threads, they reflect a profound connection to land, sea and sky that far predated the coming of the Church. The Carmina Gadelica is a key resource for such; I suggest checking out Morgan Daimler’s paganized versions in By Land, Sea and Sky: www.amazon.com/Land-Sea-Sky-Morgan-Daimler-ebook/dp/B00N5TWKYW/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427517405&sr=1-7&keywords=Morgan+Daimler


Finally, for Celtic reconstructionism the culture, the languages, are integral—this may not be so much true for some other reconstructionist approaches. For people who would challenge this, I ask them to remember that these are the languages that our deities manifested in and these languages open doors to understanding Them better. They also show a respect and responsibility on our part to both ancestors (of blood or heart) and the living communities.


*CR aims to recreate the old ways for our current times but our ways often challenge views of the so-called ‘overculture’.


2 thoughts on “A Note On Celtic Reconstructionism

  1. Yes to all of this…

    Something I had to challenge elsewhere yesterday is the “But myth can mean anything to anyone” when I corrected someone on the details and interpretations of a particular thing they were horribly misreading. To take anything out of its culture of origin, completely re-interpret it in a way that pays no attention to what that original culture thought, then ascribe those meanings to the original culture and have the entitlement to say “Well, you can’t tell me I’m wrong because it means whatever I want” is called cultural appropriation, and yes, pagans, Wiccans, and others can do that to Celtic things, no matter how much they assume that they “own’ them and they are part of their heritage. Gods…!?!

  2. While I think narratives always can speak in cultural contexts far removed from those who produced them, and fairly take on new meanings, I agree that to do so without acknowledging that the originators and their context would have had very different meanings is not only dishonest but very disrespectful to their heritage.

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