Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Whither CR, 79th in a series

The Greeks dubbed my European ancestors keltoi. The secret people. For all their loud shows in battle, learning their ways was not easy for the outside observer. Especially not the intricacies of their faith. I am beginning to wonder if that old approach is permeating modern Celtic paganism.

Misapprehensions about the Celts go down smooth and easy with so many. The truths that we know are only gained with focus and effort. And then they are not so readily shared. Book projects go down the tubes. People who make efforts from their studies are dubbed "overly Wiccan" when they'd never been in a coven in their lives at the point they'd developed what they wrote about. People post web sites that few people find out about. When people ask "what are you doing for X holiday" on a mailing list, replies are few and far between. We're busy doing to the point we don't seem able to talk. Assuming we're doing anything more than gaining a few authors fatter royalty checks.

Celtic reconstructionist paganism has been rightfully accused of being long on academia and short on ritual. I know people are performing rituals in a CR framework. But few of us talk about them. Of course, part of the problem is we have a fairly steady stream of newbies who have to get a grasp of what's behind them more often than not before they can appreciate them. It's one of the hurdles of cultural paganism. If you don't have a good grasp of the culture, the ritual's symbologies could get lost. "Celts liked the number three" doesn't cut it when the real explanation takes a chapter's worth of text to communicate the nuance. Secret, in short, while not being esoteric in the "oathbound to secrecy" sense.

Of course, some of us might be too much in love with the nuance to be able to share the bare bones. But, again, I see the love of the complex over the simple in Celtic art. A love of symbology and detail over realism or minimalism. And we the would-be inheritors of that pattern wind up poring over archaeological dig abstracts to extract useful info for our in-house rituals. And when newcomers arrive wanting to honor the gods, we often as not hand them the same abstract or something like it. I sometimes wonder if it's a knee-jerk hazing ritual. "You must be this intelligent to ride our ride." I vacillate sometimes as to whether I like it that way.

The lack of consistent groups isn't helping with the ease of transmission, either. Those form and die like so many badly plotted games of Life on an Apple ][e. Asatru kindred that maintain coherency are able to support new members and guide their learning. A lot of us Celtic folk are little more than solitaries. But we keep trying, so a solution to that is in progress.

And then there's the arguing. Yet another "why are we doing it this way" debate on a mailing list drove me to post this, in fact. The questions raised are good ones. They tend to be. But it's been a challenge in Celtic circles to keep matters at a civil level. As I was reminded elsewhere, King Cormac had this to say about argument:
"O Cormac, grandson of Conn", said Carbery, "What is the worst pleading and arguing?"
"Not hard to tell", said Cormac.
"Contending against knowledge,
contending without proofs
taking refuge in bad language
a stiff delivery
a muttering speech
uncertain proofs,
despising books
turning against custom
shifting one's pleading
inciting the mob
blowing one's own trumpet
shouting at the top of one's voice."
If nothing else, if more of us could commit to following that sage advice, we'd at least have our schisms form politely.

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