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Celtic neopaganism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The triskele is one of the main symbols of Celtic Reconstructionism.[1]

Celtic neopaganism refers to any type of modern paganism or contemporary pagan movements based on the ancient Celtic religion. One approach is Celtic Reconstructionism (CR), which emphasizes historical accuracy in reviving Celtic traditions. CR practitioners rely on historical sources and archaeology for their rituals and beliefs, including offerings to spirits and deities. Language study and preservation are essential, and daily life often incorporates ritual elements. While distinct from eclectic pagan and neopagan witchcraft traditions, there is some overlap with Neo-druidism.

Additionally, Celtic neoshamanism combines Celtic elements with shamanic practices, while Celtic Wicca blends Celtic mythology with Wiccan traditions. Each tradition within Celtic neopaganism has its unique focus and practices but draws inspiration from the ancient Celtic heritage.

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Celtic reconstructionism

Celtic reconstructionism
The triple spiral, symbolizing the Three Realms
TypeEthnic religion
ClassificationModern Paganism
Orientation  Reconstructionist
TheologyCeltic polytheism
AssociationsEuropean Congress of Ethnic Religions

Celtic reconstructionism (CR) or Celtic reconstructionist paganism is a polytheistic reconstructionist approach to ancient Celtic religion, emphasizing historical accuracy over eclecticism such as is found in most forms of Celtic neopaganism. It is an effort to reconstruct and revive, in a modern Celtic cultural context, pre-Christian Celtic religions. Various groups and approaches based on different Celtic religious traditions emerged in the late 20th century in the United States and in Britain; there are also Celtic reconstructionists in Eastern Europe.

The study of mythology and folklore was part of modern paganism from its inception, and while many groups focussed on witchcraft, some sought to revive pre-Christian religions.[2] During the 1980s, some of these reacted against the eclecticism and the focus on the "spirit" of the ancient religions in favor of "reconstructing what can be known from the extant historical record".[3] Although some Celtic reconstructionist groups only developed an online presence after their formation,[4] the development of BBSs and the Internet facilitated the growth of the movement;[5] A CR FAQ was collectively developed, originally online.[6]

As of 2016, Celtic reconstructionism is the third most common form of reconstructionist paganism in the United States, after Asatru (Germanic reconstructionism) and Kemetic reconstructionism.[7] In addition to English-speaking paganism, there are Celtic reconstructionists in the Czech Republic[8] and in Russia.[9] In both the United States and Britain, Celtic reconstructionism became an umbrella term encompassing several sub-traditions,[5] which vary in particular in the geographic region whose religion they aim to reconstruct, such as British,[10] Irish,[11] Scottish, or Welsh.


Like many other modern pagan traditions, Celtic reconstructionism has no sacred texts and so personal research is stressed.[12] Many Celtic reconstructionists draw on archaeology, historical manuscripts, and comparative religion, primarily of Celtic cultures, but sometimes other European cultures as well.[13] Celtic reconstructionists are not pan-Celtic in practice, but rather study the documentary and archaeological evidence for a particular Celtic tradition.[10][14] While the ancient Celtic religions were largely subsumed by Christianity,[15] many religious traditions have survived in the form of folklore, mythology, songs, and prayers.[16][17] Many folkloric practices never completely died out, and some Celtic reconstructionists can draw on family traditions originating in customs from a particular Celtic region.[16][17]

Rituals are based on reconstructions of traditional techniques of interacting with the Otherworld, such as the offering of food, drink, and art to the spirits of the land, ancestral spirits, and the Celtic deities. Celtic reconstructionists give offerings to the spirits throughout the year, but at Samhain, more elaborate offerings are made to specific deities and ancestors.[18] While Celtic reconstructionists strive to revive the religious practices of historical Celtic peoples as accurately as possible,[3] they acknowledge that some aspects of their religious practice are new inventions informed by theories about the past.[19] Feedback from scholars and experienced practitioners is sought before a new practice is accepted as a valid part of a reconstructed tradition.[20]

The ancient Irish swore their oaths by the "Three Realms" of land, sea, and sky;[21] Celtic reconstructionists use the triple spiral, An Thríbhís Mhòr, to symbolize the three realms.[20] Many also view acts of daily life as a form of ritual, performing daily rites of purification and protection accompanied with traditional prayers and songs from sources such as the Scottish Gaelic Carmina Gadelica or manuscript collections of ancient Irish or Welsh poetry.[22] They also believe that mystical, ecstatic practices are a necessary balance to scholarship and a vital part of their religion.[22] Some practice divination; ogham is a favored method, as are traditional customs such as the taking of omens from the shapes of clouds or the behavior of birds and animals.[22]

Language study and preservation is regarded as a core part of the tradition.[23] as are to a lesser extent participation in other cultural activities such as Celtic music and dance. Celtic pagans have been accused of cultural appropriation and ignoring living Celtic communities, particularly because of the neo-pagan concept of "elective affinity", whereby identification as Celtic is a personal choice;[24][25][26] Celtic reconstructionists seek to be aware of this danger and to participate in living Celtic cultures.[27] Some took part in the protests against the proposed destruction of archaeological sites around the Hill of Tara in the course of construction of the M3 motorway in Ireland, as well as performing a coordinated ritual of protection.[11] Some have suggested that reconstructionism brings a danger of ethnocentrism.[28]


Some groups that take a Celtic reconstructionist approach to ancient Gaelic polytheism call themselves "Gaelic Traditionalists", but this term is also often used by Celtic Christians.[29] Some Gaelic-oriented groups have used the Scottish Gaelic Pàganachd ('Paganism, Heathenism')[22] or the corresponding Irish Págánacht.[citation needed] One Gaelic Polytheist group on the East Coast of the US has used a modification of the Gaelic term, Pàganachd Bhandia ('Paganism of Goddesses').[22] The Irish word for 'polytheism', ildiachas, is in use by at least one group on the West Coast of the US as Ildiachas Atógtha ('Reconstructed Polytheism').[30] In 2000, IMBAS, A Celtic reconstructionist organisation based in Seattle, adopted the name Senistrognata,[30] a constructed "Old Celtic" term intended as a translation of "ancestral customs" in the manner of forn sed as a parallel term used in Germanic neopaganism.[31]

Relationship with other traditions

Celtic reconstructionism is distinguished from eclectic, universalist paganism[28] and from neopagan witchcraft traditions.[7] Reconstructionist groups also differ in focus from Celtic revivalists, for whom the spirit of Celtic religion is more important than historical accuracy.[32] Within reconstructionism, there are varying degrees of emphasis on accuracy as opposed to what best reflects the essence of the religion in a modern context.[33]

There has been cross-pollination between Neo-druid and Celtic reconstructionist groups, and there is significant crossover of membership between the two movements, but the two have largely differing goals and methodologies.[3] However, some Neo-druid groups (notably Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), and the Henge of Keltria) have adopted similar methodologies of reconstruction at least some of the time. ADF, in particular, has long used reconstructionist techniques, but is pan-Indo-European in scope, which may result in non-Celtic combinations such as "Vedic druids" and "Roman druids".[34] Terminological differences exist as well, especially in terms of what druid means. Some Neo-druid groups call anyone with an interest in Celtic spirituality a "druid", and refer to the practice of any Celtic-inspired spirituality as "druidry",[35] while reconstructionist groups usually regard "druid" as a culturally-specific office requiring long training and experience, only attained by a small number of practitioners, and which must be conferred and confirmed by the community the druid serves.[36]

Celtic neoshamanism

Celtic neoshamanism is a modern spiritual tradition that combines elements from Celtic myth and legend with Michael Harner's core shamanism.[37] Proponents of Celtic Shamanism believe that its practices allow a deeper spiritual connection to those with a northern European heritage.[38] Authors such as Jenny Blain have argued that "Celtic Shamanism" is a "construction" and an "ahistoric concept".[39]


Neo-Druidism is a form of modern spirituality or religion that generally promotes harmony and worship of nature gods. Many forms of modern Druidism are Neopagan religions, whereas others are instead seen as philosophies that are not necessarily religious in nature.[40][41] Arising from the 18th century Romanticist movement in England, which glorified the ancient Celtic peoples of the Iron Age, the early Neo-druids aimed to imitate the Iron Age Celtic priests who were also known as druids. At the time, little accurate information was known about these ancient priests, and the modern druidic movement has no actual connection to them, despite some claims to the contrary made by modern druids.[42] Neo-Druid organizations include:

Celtic Wicca

Celtic Wicca is a modern tradition of Wicca that incorporates some elements of Celtic mythology.[44][45][46] It employs the same basic theology, rituals and beliefs as most other forms of Wicca.[44][45] Celtic Wiccans use the names of Celtic deities, mythological figures, and seasonal festivals within a Wiccan ritual structure and belief system,[44][47] rather than a historically Celtic one.[46][48]

See also


  1. ^ Bonewits (2006), p. 132: [Among Celtic Reconstructionists] "...An Thríbhís Mhòr (the great triple spiral) came into common use to refer to the three realms." Also p. 134: [On CRs] "Using Celtic symbols such as triskeles and spirals".
  2. ^ Adler (2006), p. 243.
  3. ^ a b c Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael (2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood. p. 178. ISBN 0-275-98713-2.
  4. ^ Cowan, Douglas E. (2005). Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet. New York / London: Routledge. p. 113. ISBN 0-415-96910-7. Moonstone Circle, a non-Wiccan, Celtic Reconstructionist group whose members have been together in various forms for nearly 20 years, long before the popular advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web ...
  5. ^ a b Bonewits (2006), p. 131.
  6. ^ McCoy, Narelle (2013). "The rise of the Celtic cyber-diaspora: the influence of the 'New Age' on internet Pagan communities and the dissemination of 'Celtic' music". In Weston, Donna; Bennett, Andy (eds.). Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music. London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781315729688. ISBN 9781317546665.
  7. ^ a b Harris, Kevin A.; Panzica, Kate M.; Crocker, Ruth A. (2016). "Paganism and Counseling: The Development of a Clinical Resource". Open Theology: 859. doi:10.1515/opth-2016-0065.
  8. ^ Vencálek, Matouš (2017). "Religious, Socio-cultural and Political Worldviews of Contemporary Pagans in the Czech Republic". The Pomegranate. Vol. 19, no. 2. pp. 233–50. doi:10.1558/pome.33834.
  9. ^ Galtsin, Dmitry. "Claiming Europe: Celticity in Russian Pagan and Nativist Movements (1990s–2010s)". The Pomegranate. Vol. 20, no. 2. pp. 208–33. This group, based in Moscow, is practicing Celtic Reconstructionism and organizes a number of Ireland-related cultural events.
  10. ^ a b Blain, Jenny (2005). "Heathenry, the Past, and Sacred Sites in Today's Britain". In Strmiska, Michael (ed.). Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 184. ISBN 1-85109-613-2.
  11. ^ a b Nusca, Andrew (12–18 March 2008). "Reconstructing Ireland at Home" (PDF). Irish Voice. 22 (11): 23.
  12. ^ Bittarello, Maria Beatrice (2008). "Reading Texts, Watching Texts: Mythopoesis on Neopagan Websites". In Llewellyn, Dawn; Sawyer, Deborah F. (eds.). Reading Spiritualities: Constructing and Representing the Sacred. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7546-6329-4. [Neopaganism] is characterized by the absence of normative sacred texts and a hierarchy that controls authoritative sources and by a stress on personal research and choice.
  13. ^ McColman (2003), p. 12.
  14. ^ Davy, Barbara Jane (2007). Introduction to Pagan Studies. Rowman Altamira. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7591-0818-9. Some pagans embrace the idea of a pan-European Celtic culture, but some practice regionally specific reconstructionist traditions.
  15. ^ Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise (2000) [1949]. Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover Publications. p. 3. ISBN 0-486-41441-8.
  16. ^ a b Danaher, Kevin (1972). The Year in Ireland. Dublin, Ireland: Mercier Press. pp. 11, 12. ISBN 1-85635-093-2.
  17. ^ a b Nagy, Joseph Falaky (1985). The wisdom of the outlaw: The boyhood deeds of Finn in Gaelic narrative tradition. Berkeley: University of California. p. 2. ISBN 0-520-05284-6.
  18. ^ "A to Z of Halloween". Limerick Leader. Limerick, Ireland. October 29, 2009. Archived from the original on November 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  19. ^ Littlefield, Christine (8 November 2005). "Rekindling an ancient faith". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  20. ^ a b Bonewits (2006), p. 132.
  21. ^ Mac Mathúna, Liam (1999). "Irish perceptions of the Cosmos" (PDF). Celtica. 23: 174–187. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-04.
  22. ^ a b c d e Laurie et al. (2005).
  23. ^ McColman (2003), p. 51.
  24. ^ Bowman (1996), p. 246.
  25. ^ Kennedy, Michael (November 2002). Gaelic Nova Scotia: An Economic, Cultural, and Social Impact Study. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia Museum Publications. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-88871-774-1.
  26. ^ Lewis, James R. (2009). "Celts, Druids and the Invention of Tradition". In Pizza, Murphy; Lewis, James R. (eds.). Handbook of Contemporary Paganism. Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion, 2. Leiden / Boston: Brill. pp. 487–88. ISBN 978-90-04-16373-7.
  27. ^ Kirkey, Jason (2009). The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality. San Francisco: Hiraeth Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-9799246-6-8.
  28. ^ a b Strmiska, Michael F. (2020). "Arguing with the Ancestors: Making the Case for a Paganism without Racism Keynote Address". In Emore, Nolli S.; Leader, Jonathan M. (eds.). Paganism and Its Discontents: Enduring Problems of Racialized Identity. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. pp. 8–9. ISBN 978-1-5275-5770-3.
  29. ^ Bonewits (2006), p. 137: "There are ... groups of people who call themselves 'Gaelic Traditionalists' who have a great deal in common with the Celtic Recons. Some of these GTs started off as CRs, but consider themselves different for some reason or another (usually political). Others are Catholics looking to restore old (but Christian) Gaelic customs."
  30. ^ a b Bonewits (2006), p. 137.
  31. ^ "Imbas". 2004. Archived from the original on June 16, 2004. Retrieved 2004-06-16. Danielle Ni Dhighe (March 18, 2000) "Senistrognata". alt.pagan: "Senistrognata [...] is the term which our membership have democratically chosen to replace Celtic Reconstructionism/Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism".
  32. ^ Bowman (1996), p. 244: "There are differences in and outlooks between reconstructors, whose priority is to piece together as exact a picture of the Celtic past as possible, and revivalists, whose main concern is not so much to replicate as to reinvigorate."
  33. ^ Blain, Jenny (2004). "Tracing the In/Authentic Seeress: From Seid-Magic to Stone Circles". In Blain, Jenny; Ezzy, Douglas; Harvey, Graham (eds.). Researching Paganisms. Walnut Creek, California: Altamira - Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 221–22. ISBN 0-7591-0523-5.
  34. ^ Bonewits (2006), pp. 128–140.
  35. ^ Greer, John Michael (2003). The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Worldwide. pp. 139, 140, 410. ISBN 1-56718-336-0.
  36. ^ Bonewits (2006), p. 135: "[B]ecause the word druid is used by so many people for so many different purposes, Celtic Recons, even those who get called druids by their own communities, are reluctant to use the title for fear that others will equate them with folks they consider flakes, frauds or fools."
  37. ^ Bowman, Marion (2001). Contemporary Celtic Spirituality in. New directions in Celtic studies. Aquarian Press. p. 97. ISBN 0859895874.
  38. ^ Conway, Deanna J (1994) By Oak, Ash and Thorn: Celtic Shamanism. ISBN 1-56718-166-X p.4
  39. ^ Blain, Jenny (2001) "Shamans, Stones, Authenticity and Appropriation: Contestations of Invention and Meaning Archived 2016-01-31 at the Wayback Machine". In R.J. Wallis and K. Lymer (eds.) New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore: A Permeability of Boundaries? Oxford: BAR. pp.50,52. "The charge of appropriation, in turn, deals in concepts such as ancestry, cultural knowledge, respect, and profit, i.e. commercial gain. Such charges have been documented by a variety of writers, with reference to ‘borrowings’ from Siberian shamanism – through anthropological accounts – and more directly from Indigenous peoples of North and South America. Let us look again at MacEowan’s ‘Celtic Shamanism’ and further investigate the construction of this ahistoric concept. ... Inventing a ‘Celtic Shamanism’"
  40. ^ Harvey, Graham (2007) Listening People, Speaking Earth: Contemporary Paganism (second edition). London: Hurst & Company. ISBN 978-1-85065-272-4. p.17
  41. ^ Orr, Emma Restall (2000) Druidry. Hammersmith, London: Thorsons. ISBN 978-0-00-710336-2. p.7.
  42. ^ "The Druids Archived 2012-12-23 at", The British Museum. "Modern Druids have no direct connection to the Druids of the Iron Age. Many of our popular ideas about the Druids are based on the misunderstandings and misconceptions of scholars 200 years ago. These ideas have been superseded by later study and discoveries."
  43. ^ "Druids Recognised; Daily Mail Angry Archived 2010-10-30 at the Wayback Machine", Fortean Times, FT269
  44. ^ a b c McColman (2003), pp. 50–51.
  45. ^ a b Raeburn, Jane, Celtic Wicca: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century (2001), ISBN 0806522291
  46. ^ a b Hutton, Ronald (2001) The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. ISBN 0-19-285449-6
  47. ^ Grimassi, Rave (2000). Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. Llewellyn. ISBN 978-1567182576.
  48. ^ Greer, John Michael, and Gordon Cooper (Summer 1998) "The Red God: Woodcraft and the Origins of Wicca". Gnosis Magazine, Issn. #48: Witchcraft & Paganism

Works cited

  • Adler, Margot (2006) [1979]. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (revised and updated ed.). New York / London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-303-819-1.
  • Bonewits, Isaac (2006). "Celtic Reconstructionists and other Nondruidic Druids". Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. New York: Kensington. ISBN 0-8065-2710-2.
  • Bowman, Marion (1996). "Cardiac Celts: Images of the Celts in Paganism". In Harvey, Graham; Hardman, Charlotte (eds.). Paganism Today: Wiccans, Druids, the Goddess and Ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-First Century. London: Thorsons. ISBN 0-7225-3233-4.
  • Laurie, Erynn Rowan; O'Morrighu, Aedh Rua; Machate, John; Price Theatana, Kathryn; Lambert ní Dhoireann, Kym (2005). "Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism". In Telesco, Patricia (ed.). Which Witch is Which?. Franklin Lakes, New Jersey: New Page Books / The Career Press. pp. 85–89. ISBN 1-56414-754-1.
  • McColman, Carl (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom. Alpha Press. ISBN 0-02-864417-4.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 13 December 2023, at 18:27
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