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Differences between Celtic Reconstructionism and neo-Pagan Druidism?

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  • Differences between Celtic Reconstructionism and neo-Pagan Druidism?

    Hi,

    I feel a bit silly asking this, but I've already read FAQs on both subjects and I'm still confused. I know Celtic Reconstructionism and neo-Pagan Druidism have different approaches to Celtic religion and separate ideas of what constitutes a "druid" but could someone illustrate some of the main differences between them for me? I'm interested in both, but I'm not sure which I'd like to move forward with doing more research on until I have a better understanding of what makes them different. Thanks!

  • #2
    Although the two can share common ground, the CR methodology solely consists off reconstructing historic pre-Christian Celtic practices in a modern context, as opposed to neo-Druidry, which although can share a similar interest in historic traditions and what not, can also incorporate influences from other elements within neo-paganism. Indeed the Druid movement started off as a romantic revival, which has changed to some degree in a lot of groups, but the historic druids were peoples that covered a wide facet of learned positions in life, from lawyers, philosophers, poets, to doctors, e.t.c. as well as priests, and magicians. Due to lack of evidence, it would be impossible to completely restore historic druidry, hence the presence of other neo-pagan elements in the process of becoming a self-proclaimed or appointed druid within modern Druidry.
    Semper Fidelis

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    • #3
      Originally posted by scorpio7 View Post
      Hi,

      I feel a bit silly asking this, but I've already read FAQs on both subjects and I'm still confused. I know Celtic Reconstructionism and neo-Pagan Druidism have different approaches to Celtic religion and separate ideas of what constitutes a "druid" but could someone illustrate some of the main differences between them for me? I'm interested in both, but I'm not sure which I'd like to move forward with doing more research on until I have a better understanding of what makes them different. Thanks!
      Neo-Pagan Druidism predates Celtic Reconstructionism by at least 20 years (if not more). As such, its own recreations or reconstructions started off based on less accurate academic information than was available to those movements and groups starting later. Druidism carries with it (for many groups) many preconceptions that are based on a romantic or imagined concept of the Celtic past. Some modern Druid groups have a lineage back to 17th and 18th century English and Welsh Druidic movements that were almost entirely based on folk beliefs and misconceptions about Druids and Celtic culture.

      Happily, many of the earlier Druidic and Neo-Pagan Druidic groups are now revising their philosophies and historical teachings to reflect what is now better known from academic research and analysis.

      Celtic Reconstructionism seems to try a more academic and less romantic approach to Celtic culture and Druidic ways. This does not mean that it is not subject to its own misconceptions or romanticism on the subject (but it seems to be generally less than older Druidic groups embraced).

      I'm more of a neo-Pagan Druid than I am a CR type though I have been around and have dealt with both types for many years. I try to follow an independent path on the Druid way, but am a member of the Henge of Keltria group (which matches up more closely with my beliefs, practices and understandings than other Druidic or CR groups).

      I think that both neo-Pagan Druidic groups and CR groups have a lot of growth in understanding and practice that is required before they will arrive at the same level as our ancestors had, but that both groups will eventually get there. Which group or groups that are best for any person to join in this adventure is a matter of personal goals and attitudes as well as the openness and clarity of the groups themselves. I've found Druidic groups to be more to my liking and generally to be less subject to individual cliques and personality override or primadonnas. I think this is because they are actual long standing organizations with rules, creeds and codes for how one functions and relates. They have officers with well defined duties and generally have scheduled rituals, events and training. The CR groups seem to be defining these things as they go but are about 20 years behind the Druid groups.

      So, my answer in short is that the neo-Pagan Druid groups are better organized but are recovering from beginnings based in inaccurate scholarship while the Celtic Reconstructionalist groups generally started based on better scholarship but are still going through the growing pains of becoming more clearly organized and focused as actual organizations with activities. There is room for growth and knowledge in either group but I have personally embraced and recommend neo-Pagan Druidry.

      Searles O'Dubhain
      Last edited by odubhain; April 5th, 2011, 01:28 PM. Reason: replaced "were" with "was"

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Micheلl View Post
        Although the two can share common ground, the CR methodology solely consists off reconstructing historic pre-Christian Celtic practices in a modern context, as opposed to neo-Druidry, which although can share a similar interest in historic traditions and what not, can also incorporate influences from other elements within neo-paganism. Indeed the Druid movement started off as a romantic revival, which has changed to some degree in a lot of groups, but the historic druids were peoples that covered a wide facet of learned positions in life, from lawyers, philosophers, poets, to doctors, e.t.c. as well as priests, and magicians. Due to lack of evidence, it would be impossible to completely restore historic druidry, hence the presence of other neo-pagan elements in the process of becoming a self-proclaimed or appointed druid within modern Druidry.
        Isn't there a general lack of evidence at points in either path? Since I think this is true at some points, maybe the difference between neo-Pagans and CRs is in how they fill the gaps or develop a replacement practice for those that are lost. It also seems to me that in the past within Celtic societies that it was the Druids that came up with new ways to do things or who could explain how things worked. If knowledge was lost then it was the responsibility of the Druids to discover this knowledge. In practicing these recoveries, the Druids made use of esoteric and mantic practices that included seer-ship, prophecy and Otherworldly journeys/techniques. The responsibility for verifying that this new knowledge was valid seems to have rested with the Druids or the kings (though the final validation of truth seems to have been left to the people who judged this based on how prosperity was effected).

        I'm not clear on how CR groups address this need and requirement of recovering knowledge (unless they also have those who act as Druids). I know that some of these types of groups that I have joined in the past had a real problem even admitting that Druids were a part of Celtic or Gaelic society (or that such could ever be a part of a CR effort at recovering that society's ways). This difference in approach and attitude has created a lot of friction to say the least about it.

        Searles O'Dubhain
        Last edited by odubhain; April 5th, 2011, 02:13 PM. Reason: removed duplicated signature

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Micheلl View Post
          Although the two can share common ground, the CR methodology solely consists off reconstructing historic pre-Christian Celtic practices in a modern context, as opposed to neo-Druidry, which although can share a similar interest in historic traditions and what not, can also incorporate influences from other elements within neo-paganism. Indeed the Druid movement started off as a romantic revival, which has changed to some degree in a lot of groups, but the historic druids were peoples that covered a wide facet of learned positions in life, from lawyers, philosophers, poets, to doctors, e.t.c. as well as priests, and magicians. Due to lack of evidence, it would be impossible to completely restore historic druidry, hence the presence of other neo-pagan elements in the process of becoming a self-proclaimed or appointed druid within modern Druidry.
          So would you say that folk customs play a minor/non-existent part in CR?
          Beer is proof the Gods love us and want us to be happy.

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          • #6
            Thank you for your answers! This definitely clears things up for me. I like the scholarly approach to CR, but spiritually, I need and am seeking a group atmosphere and something more structured, which I think would fall in line with neo-Pagan Druidism. I like that Druid groups are "catching up," as Searles put it, on the historic parts Celtic religion or culture, although I think many spiritual paths tend to have romantic ideas about one thing or another (I saw this even when I was a Christian). So would it be accurate to say that you can follow neo-Pagan Druid ideas and still be heavily influenced by CR ideas?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by odubhain View Post
              I'm not clear on how CR groups address this need and requirement of recovering knowledge (unless they also have those who act as Druids). I know that some of these types of groups that I have joined in the past had a real problem even admitting that Druids were a part of Celtic or Gaelic society (or that such could ever be a part of a CR effort at recovering that society's ways). This difference in approach and attitude has created a lot of friction to say the least about it.

              Searles O'Dubhain
              I'm not too sure actually Searles. I'm not a reconstructionist myself, but a Wiccan that adheres to the regional Gods and traditions of my island, therefore also a Gaelic Traditionalist. I have seen examples as well of the groups mentioned, along with individuals who will go out of their way to avoid anything that remotely resembles neo-paganism, even if that means creating modern ones with claims that attempts are made as "close as possible" to the historic ones, which also happens to be a neo-pagan methodology as well.

              Originally posted by Ailyn View Post
              So would you say that folk customs play a minor/non-existent part in CR?
              I have seen it said so on their behalf, but there are some brilliant CR's, some on this site, that would probably be able to answer that question for you. Having said that though, there are many folk traditions ignored by CR's as well. I'm a Gaelic Traditionalist that places importance on all traditions, be they Christian, or foreign. The Irish didn't cease being Irish with the advent of Christianity, and we have a term, Gaelaigh-"Gaelicize," which has been applied to foreign concepts. There are rich Gaelic folk beliefs and customs revolving around days such as the Equinox's and Solstices that I've seen reconstructionists exclude because there's no indigenous pre-Christian reference to their importance, and more so because there are neo-pagan paths that honour them as well, but living in a contemporary Gaelic society, are acknowledged by me.
              Semper Fidelis

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Ailyn View Post
                So would you say that folk customs play a minor/non-existent part in CR?
                It depends on the CR, I think. A Gaulish or even a Brythonic Recon wouldn't put much emphasis on folk customs compared to those who focus on the Gaelic cultures, because there isn't really anything (or as much) to go on in a Gaulish or Brythonic context (although I'd guess Welsh customs might be relevant to a lot of Brythonic types, I don't know).

                I'd say that folk customs in a Gaelic context play a huge part in daily practices as well as festive ones. Like Micheلl says, some CRs are uncomfortable with observing the equinox and solstice festivals because there isn't much pre-Christian evidence for their celebration, but it's becoming more common now, I think. There are a lot of different approaches within CR, and a lot of different cultures as well, so it's difficult to generalise.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Micheلl View Post
                  Due to lack of evidence, it would be impossible to completely restore historic druidry, hence the presence of other neo-pagan elements in the process of becoming a self-proclaimed or appointed druid within modern Druidry.
                  I once met a Native American lady and we discussed traditions. I asked her what she would do if all the traditions were lost to her people. She looked at me for a few seconds and then said "We'd have to find them again just like we did the first time."

                  I got banned from the Imbas list for supporting this statement for Druids, but I still maintain that it was the Druids who found or discovered the traditions in the first place and who were tasked with being its preserving shrines. I'm not sure why this knowledge would threaten or upset anyone who was involved with preChristian Celtic culture.

                  If a Druid did not have the tradition preserved in memory or could not find it through the usual searches, then they would seek the knowledge that illuminates to uncover hidden knowledge. That is one of the main ways that new knowledge and traditions took root and were preserved in Celtic culture. It should be the way that such things happen today if one is committed to reconstructing or restoring the culture "just like we did it the first time."

                  Searles O'Dubhain

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by scorpio7 View Post
                    I like that Druid groups are "catching up," as Searles put it, on the historic parts Celtic religion or culture, although I think many spiritual paths tend to have romantic ideas about one thing or another (I saw this even when I was a Christian).
                    In earnest, I wouldn't call it "catching up". Things like this need to be dynamic, to grow as they go. Any other way causes stagnation and it becomes mere rote.

                    The "Druid Revival" Organizations that started almost 300 years ago were formed by scholars of the time and a lot of what they did was based off the academia of the time. The RDNA, which originally started as a way out of Carleton College's mandatory religious services, evolved and gave birth to the ADF and Keltria and both lean more towards the scholastic aspect than their parent organization did.

                    Originally posted by scorpio7 View Post
                    So would it be accurate to say that you can follow neo-Pagan Druid ideas and still be heavily influenced by CR ideas?
                    Certainly! I know many people who do so (including myself). There's nothing that says the two are mutually exclusive.
                    "Cattle die, kinsmen die, one day you yourself must die.

                    I know one thing that never dies:
                    the dead man's reputation."


                    Havamal- Sayings of the High One

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by odubhain View Post
                      I once met a Native American lady and we discussed traditions. I asked her what she would do if all the traditions were lost to her people. She looked at me for a few seconds and then said "We'd have to find them again just like we did the first time."

                      I got banned from the Imbas list for supporting this statement for Druids, but I still maintain that it was the Druids who found or discovered the traditions in the first place and who were tasked with being its preserving shrines. I'm not sure why this knowledge would threaten or upset anyone who was involved with preChristian Celtic culture.

                      If a Druid did not have the tradition preserved in memory or could not find it through the usual searches, then they would seek the knowledge that illuminates to uncover hidden knowledge. That is one of the main ways that new knowledge and traditions took root and were preserved in Celtic culture. It should be the way that such things happen today if one is committed to reconstructing or restoring the culture "just like we did it the first time."

                      Searles O'Dubhain
                      There have been some good attempts made towards this in Ireland, with the Druid colleges, and Druid schools, that offer accommodation for their training, send people out to "guard" sacred sites, but much of this is modern interpretations of incomplete sources. I think it's a good thing, and it is our modern version of druidry, but will always possess this modern element since a good lot of our pre-Christian traditions are lost forever with time, and unfortunately there will only be so much that can be figured out through academia. More will always be recovered with time, which means the practices would have to evolve to suit this factor.

                      The same can be said for many peoples, including the Native Americans, that their indigenous cultures are not intact. People from tribal cultures have learned a great deal from scholars in regards to their own traditions when modern life lead them astray. Modern society generally lacks the supporting structure and community in which druidry functioned. There are only 6 nations being survivals of these cultures, where a minority of the population still possesses these elements. Actions can be taken to change this elsewhere, but it would require a great deal of work, and creating a completely separate sub-culture, or community in my opinion.
                      Last edited by Micheal; April 9th, 2011, 03:31 AM.
                      Semper Fidelis

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Micheلl View Post
                        There have been some good attempts made towards this in Ireland, with the Druid colleges, and Druid schools, that offer accommodation for their training, send people out to "guard" sacred sites, but much of this is modern interpretations of incomplete sources. I think it's a good thing, and it is our modern version of druidry, but will always possess this modern element since a good lot of our pre-Christian traditions are lost forever with time, and unfortunately there will only be so much that can be figured out through academia. More will always be recovered with time, which means the practices would have to evolve to suit this factor.

                        The same can be said for many peoples, including the Native Americans, that their indigenous cultures are not intact. People from tribal cultures have learned a great deal from scholars in regards to their own traditions when modern life lead them astray. Modern society generally lacks the supporting structure and community in which druidry functioned. There are only 6 nations being survivals of these cultures, where a minority of the population still possesses these elements. Actions can be taken to change this elsewhere, but it would require a great deal of work, and creating a completely separate sub-culture, or community in my opinion.
                        My thinking is that the land has a memory and a mind of its own and that if people listen and commune with the land then they will learn the same lessons that their ancestors learned.

                        When modern people first got to Iceland, they sent their seers and sensitives around the country to locate where the land was centered and spoke most clearly to the people. It was at these places they located the centers for meetings and rituals. I expect that happened in Ireland as well.

                        In the present day, I think it's a right-brained activity that is required to recover what the left-brains have lost. The left-brain is a computer and full of facts but the right-brain is a symphony and an antenna for communicating with the parts of reality unknown to literality.

                        One can put all the ingredients together but there still must be the breath of life to bring life. After that, it is a matter of finding what works, that which sustains and the beginnings of those things that bring the future into the present to rejoin the past.

                        Starting at the places revered by our ancestors is the best beginning for reconnecting with them in place, in thought and in spirit. Let's all hope that it doesn't all get buried under roadways and parking lots or befouled with smoke and radiation.

                        Searles O'Dubhain

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                        • #13
                          I have a question

                          Sorry to butt in on this thread but I have a question that I am sure one of you fine people can answer for me.

                          It is evident through history that our pagan ancestors sacrificed animals as a means of appeasing the gods.

                          My question to you:

                          As a people that are on a path trying to Reconstruct the true ways of our pagan anscestors. Is this a practice that is incorporated? It would seem to me that if it isn't then your "taking out the garlic and adding salt and pepper to taste" so to speak.

                          Just curious

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Symandinome View Post
                            Sorry to butt in on this thread but I have a question that I am sure one of you fine people can answer for me.

                            It is evident through history that our pagan ancestors sacrificed animals as a means of appeasing the gods.

                            My question to you:

                            As a people that are on a path trying to Reconstruct the true ways of our pagan anscestors. Is this a practice that is incorporated? It would seem to me that if it isn't then your "taking out the garlic and adding salt and pepper to taste" so to speak.

                            Just curious
                            I've seen mention that some do, but I presume that's in the context of those who raise their own livestock and thus know how to kill animals humanely. I don't raise livestock and I'm legally prohibited from doing that where I live (in an urban/suburban context).

                            It's like human sacrifice as well. Over time, animal and human sacrifice became obsolete and practices evolved - a focus on offerings on food and other items, which is far more appropriate for most people in a modern context. This thread might help.

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                            • #15
                              Thank you for your answer,

                              My point in asking was that if one was to be so steadfast that they are trying to Recreate or RECONSTRUCT the ways of our ancestors into a means that could best be assembled representative of history and what we ACTUALLY used to do. Then in order to truly be reconstructing it this would be a necessary practice with or without modern legal authority and furthermore, if you truly embracing this path then a solid working knowledge of the proper way of the killing of the animal would indeed also be part of your religion regardless if you raise livestock.

                              My point is "If your gonna do it THEN DO IT! Don't pick and choose what you feel confortable adding and then still try to call yourself a person who is RECONSTRUCTING the old ways based upon historical knowledge and representation because You're NOT plain and simple. Your just another neo pagan who adapts what is convenient for them and the time in the world.

                              All these people appear to be is Pompous Well Read Celtic *and other* Neo Pagans...nothing more nothing less.

                              And thats ok be proud of it. Dont show such secret disdain for the rest of the world and keep up these petty pissing contests betweens you on whos more pagan than who.

                              Its obnoxious and very much a character trait of people in High School.

                              Thasts just my 2 cents I dont mean to be offensive and my comment was not directed at anyone in particular.

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