Following A Celtic Path

by Erynn Rowan Laurie

 

Copyright 1995 Erynn Rowan Laurie

All Rights Reserved

May be reposted as long as the above attribution and copyright notice are

retained

What elements are required to make a path true to the Celtic spirit?

 

I think that there are several. The more of them you have, the closer you

get, in my opinion.

 

First is reverence for Celtic deities. This is easy, and pretty widespread,

even among groups that are not really Celtic in focus. Lots of purely

Wiccan groups, for instance, revere Celtic Gods and Goddesses, without

fulfilling any of the other possible criteria.

 

Second, connection with ancestors and land spirits. This one is pretty

generic and needs to be taken in combination with several other things,

because ancestor worship and reverence for land spirits happens in most old

Pagan cultures. I would suggest that this connection and reverence must

happen in a style not unlike that shown in Evans-Wentz's "The Fairy Faith

in Celtic Countries" for it to be seen as a continuation of the Celtic

spirit. We can carry it forward into a modern Celtic spirit by having a

general love and reverence for the earth and its creatures. A deep

appreciation of nature is revealed in early Celtic nature poetry from

Ireland and Wales.

Third, poetry as intrinsic to the structure of magick. Lorax and I have

done a number of rants on poetry here. We're not talking about lame

moon/June/tune rhymes, but about the kind of poetry that stirs up fire in

the soul, the kind that speaks power in its descriptions and its focus. The

sort of poetry that sucks you in and churns your guts. Although we often

get clinical in our writing, we also try hard to make much of our writing

lyrical in that sense. I hope that we sometimes succeed. In addition to

poetry as magick, there was also respect for poetry as a social mechanism;

it offered praise for those who were worthy, and satire and scorn for those

who were not. It isn't just the reading of poetry, but the making of poetry

that is important. Celtic Pagans must be poets, even if they aren't great

poets.

 

Fourth, a connection with the past. The Celts had a reverence for history,

and that reverence is a part of the Celtic spirit, I believe. For some,

this connection comes through physical ancestry. For others, it comes

through study of history. Some people get it through connecting with the

feeling of the myths. Other folks get it in other ways. I think that this

is why we have such heated debates here about the importance (or lack

thereof) of sticking to historical fact. We all recognize that something

from the past is speaking to us strongly, but we disagree about the methods

of judging its veracity and usefulness.

 

Fifth, a sense of early Celtic cosmology; doing things in terms of three

realms rather than the classical Greek four elements, using Celtic symbols

like triskeles and spirals rather than pentagrams, celebrating Celtic

holidays rather than (or more deeply than) the holidays of other religions,

threes and nines as ritually important, use of a sacred/cosmic tree and

well combination. Much of this cosmology has had to be painstakingly

reconstructed from fragmentary hints, and it goes back again to the

argument that historical research is important to learning about and

preserving the Celtic spirit.

 

Sixth, I think that inclusiveness is important. We can't rely on genealogy

or geography to determine who is Celtic. The historical Celts roamed all

over Europe, and lands beyond. Anyone worthy might be taken into the tribe

through marriage or adoption. The Celts are roaming still, moving to

America, Australia, and other widely diverse lands. And they're still

taking people in through marriage and adoption.

 

Seventh, respect for women was a definite part of the Celtic spirit. While

Celtic women didn't have it perfect, they were far better off than their

Greek and Roman counterparts. Likewise, respect for and acceptance of gays

and lesbians seems important. There is certainly text evidence for men

loving men in early Celtic society. Women were not as often written about,

but I think it is safe to assume that women had similar choices open to

them.

 

Eighth, an appreciation of the complex and intricate. This is found in

Celtic art, law, myth and poetry. The classical historians noted that the

Celts spoke in riddles and loved to obfuscate. Wordplay and veiled

reference were common.

Ninth, personal responsibility and a deep sense of self are a part of the

Celtic spirit. Boasting and personal pride are evident in every Celtic

tale. Sometimes it went overboard, so of course, like some other things

(head hunting, etc), we have to be careful not to get too deeply into it. I

think that some of us do act on this Celtic instinct, and that's why we

often have heated debate on this list. So long as it doesn't get out of

hand, I find it encouraging and a growth-oriented activity. Spirited

argument was a part of the poet's duty, and was one of the ways in which

the younger poets learned from the older. Along with this, I would say that

the Celtic spirit includes a strong sense of ethics about what is right and

what is wrong. The Celts were not an "anything goes" kind of people. They

had a very complex body of laws governing what was appropriate and what was

not. Celtic Pagans need both a strong sense of personal responsibility and

a code of personal and social ethics in order to carry the Celtic spirit

forward.