Thursday, April 13, 2006

The darker side of CR

I've been logically aware of the fact Celtic Reconstructionism is not perfect for the entire time I've been involved with it. I came in as an adult, after all. I know when you put human beings into the mix, you'll wind up with problems. But a recent conversation showed me exactly where we as a tradition are facing severe growing pains.

Many if not most of the people reading this blog are probably aware of the modern orders, both Christian and pagan, who watch over Brigid's flame. From the nuns in the saint's abbey in Kildare to the Daughters of the Flame and Ord Brigideach, the fire that was re-lit in Ireland now burns around the world. I myself am a member of OB and keep a 20-day vigil cycle.

One thing none of the currently extant organizations are is CR. OB and DotF are more generi-pagan. OB has a clear policy of accepting Christians (I can't speak for DotF). This attempt to be all things to all Brigid worshippers leads to a lack of common liturgy and in some respects, a sense of community in the membership in my experience. Others are quite happy there, but I've been backing away from it very slowly aside from lighting the candle when I'm supposed to.

Noises started being made not so long ago about putting together a CR order to keep the flame. Liturgy would be designed, flames distributed to the 19 members, and so forth. This first one is being designed to be all-female in keeping with the pattern established with, at least, the nuns of Kildare. Intellectual honesty compels me to note that there's no hard evidence of the practice starting before the Christians showed up. Nobody's about to ask the nuns to let them do a complex archaeological dig where they have to, say, put their vegetable garden.

Personally speaking, I don't do well in all-female groups unless it's a small social circle of a temporary nature. "Women's space" feels wrong to me, even if only via e-mail. I'm very much female. I just prefer mixed company. So I would not be able to participate in that all-women's CR Brigidine order for long before it got to me. My husband was wanting something similar, so he broached the idea of a gender-blind flamekeeping order in a public space.

I wish I could frame some of the objections in a civil manner. I can't. They weren't civil, even if politely phrased. I don't mean the people who dislike the idea but are willing to admit they aren't Brigid's police force. I might be a bit sad about those, but I'm the last person to expect everyone to agree about how to handle the lore. I mean the ones who started making sweeping pronouncements about how men should never honor Her in that fashion and should be happy with alternate approaches regardless of the call they feel. The fact the nuns of Kildare give the flame to all comers was dismissed as a modern innovation by Roman Catholics who weren't in touch with the real truth behind the ritual.

That's the dark side. The orthodoxy of the convert. Forgetting when it's convenient that we're not working with a set of static images from a dead culture. If an innovation by members of a living Celtic culture is forbidden to members of CR because it contradicts older material, not just something that makes someone uncomfortable but an influence that must be ignored by all right-thinking people, we should stop lying about being willing to engage the modern cultures and make like the Society for Creative Anachronism clone we get accused of being.

No comments: