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Author Topic: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.  (Read 3533 times)

ethelwulf

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Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« on: March 10, 2014, 02:53:46 pm »
Participating in this forum has had a significant affect on how I view what I believe in. More than anything else I have critically looked at what I believe in and in the process lost much of the certainty I thought I had (not necessarily bad). The problem is you can sometimes get lost when you question every thing and need to start over so I reconsidered everything and feel I best identify with a Celtic paganism even thought that is still a diverse group. I have learned that to general a subject does not work well wanted I wanted to present some of the things I have come across with respect for Celtic paganism and see what others in the forum know or think (again I know there is still much variation but I wanted to start somewhere).  

I would really like to know how others in the form know or think about some aspects of Celtic paganism. The gods and goddesses of the Celtic (here I mainly mean Irish because we have more information about them) seem more connected with the land with a large variation between different tribe tribes who honored them. How does this relationship with the land affect the way we see the Celtic Gods and Goddesses as compared to other patterns - Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Christian?

Aiwelin

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2014, 12:23:02 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;142112
I would really like to know how others in the form know or think about some aspects of Celtic paganism. The gods and goddesses of the Celtic (here I mainly mean Irish because we have more information about them) seem more connected with the land with a large variation between different tribe tribes who honored them. How does this relationship with the land affect the way we see the Celtic Gods and Goddesses as compared to other patterns - Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Christian?

 
I don't really have any experience with other pantheons besides Celtic and Germanic, which IMO are rather alike in their tribal deity aspects; so I can't do much compare-and-contrast for you.  But I've wrestled a lot with this question - if the Celts had such localized land deities, where does that leave me as a person living in America more than 1500 years later?  First of all, certainly not all Celtic deities were localized - Brighid and Lugh, for example, seem to have been recognized throughout many Celtic tribes.  Secondly, I place a lot of importance on my experiences of the Gods.  Yes, Irish tribes may have seen Macha as a deity tied to one place specifically (though they may not have, we don't really know for sure), but in honoring Her I have found that She hears me and responds to my requests even here on the other side of the ocean.  This is purely speculation, but it is my assumption that your average Celtic tribesperson didn't travel much beyond the local village; so much of their life was probably tied to that immediate area much as their religion was - but doesn't mean that it was necessarily limited to that area.  I wonder what Gods the merchants and traveling mercenaries of Celtic tribes worshiped as they traveled throughout Europe?  I don't feel like they would leave their deities behind, even if they were far from home.
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Gilbride

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2014, 08:36:08 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;142112
The gods and goddesses of the Celtic (here I mainly mean Irish because we have more information about them) seem more connected with the land with a large variation between different tribe tribes who honored them.


Yes and no. The way I see it is, huge number of deities based on a much smaller set of deity types. The easiest way to come up with a working pantheon for yourself is to focus on one deity for every major type.

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2014, 08:41:19 am »
Quote from: Gilbride;142180
Yes and no. The way I see it is, huge number of deities based on a much smaller set of deity types. The easiest way to come up with a working pantheon for yourself is to focus on one deity for every major type.

 
That's one way of doing it, but another is to focus on a specific area of Ireland (or Scotland or Wales or Breton etc). There will be other ways too. My focus is on an area. I'm not really interested in having a complete pantheon, since I don't believe all the Gaelic tribes would have related to that concept. I'm interested in the gods of a certain part of the land.
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ethelwulf

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2014, 09:33:02 am »
Quote from: Aiwelin;142166
I don't really have any experience with other pantheons besides Celtic and Germanic, which IMO are rather alike in their tribal deity aspects; so I can't do much compare-and-contrast for you.  But I've wrestled a lot with this question - if the Celts had such localized land deities, where does that leave me as a person living in America more than 1500 years later?  First of all, certainly not all Celtic deities were localized - Brighid and Lugh, for example, seem to have been recognized throughout many Celtic tribes.  Secondly, I place a lot of importance on my experiences of the Gods.  Yes, Irish tribes may have seen Macha as a deity tied to one place specifically (though they may not have, we don't really know for sure), but in honoring Her I have found that She hears me and responds to my requests even here on the other side of the ocean.  This is purely speculation, but it is my assumption that your average Celtic tribesperson didn't travel much beyond the local village; so much of their life was probably tied to that immediate area much as their religion was - but doesn't mean that it was necessarily limited to that area.  I wonder what Gods the merchants and traveling mercenaries of Celtic tribes worshiped as they traveled throughout Europe?  I don't feel like they would leave their deities behind, even if they were far from home.

 
I appreciate the answer and I know how hard it is to explore this area. I also understand how your experiences influence how you see the Celtic gods you honor and I am trying to connect more myself.

I was reading the Roman and Greek reports about the Celts and had some thoughts about what they wrote. It is interesting to me how some of the authors including Caesar had to rename the Celts gods to gods they understood. I would think they had the capacity to record the Celt gods/goddesses with their actual names yet seemed to have trouble understanding the relationship of the Celt gods to the Celts themselves. Obviously this could be that they did not care or it could be that the Celtic relationship to their gods was different enough that they could not understand it and therefore imposed their well structured organization system to explain it. I know there is no way to prove that but knowing how well the Greeks and Roman described other things, I find it interesting they did not describe more (of course who knows how many writings were lost)

The female goddesses in particular seemed to be connected with the land and specific places. It is interesting that in the literature/myths written down by the monks (which I do understand would have been influenced by their new beliefs) we find the Sons of Mil leaving their gods from where they came from and accepting the gods/goddesses of Ireland so that they can enter Ireland. This could of course be a misrepresentation but it certainly is not a Christian concept and again connects the gods and particularly goddesses with the land.

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2014, 05:52:46 pm »
Quote from: ethelwulf;142184
I was reading the Roman and Greek reports about the Celts and had some thoughts about what they wrote. It is interesting to me how some of the authors including Caesar had to rename the Celts gods to gods they understood. I would think they had the capacity to record the Celt gods/goddesses with their actual names yet seemed to have trouble understanding the relationship of the Celt gods to the Celts themselves. Obviously this could be that they did not care or it could be that the Celtic relationship to their gods was different enough that they could not understand it and therefore imposed their well structured organization system to explain it. I know there is no way to prove that but knowing how well the Greeks and Roman described other things, I find it interesting they did not describe more (of course who knows how many writings were lost)

 
That wasn't unique to their observations of Celtic tribes. The Greeks and Romans did that with everyone, including each other.

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ethelwulf

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2014, 09:54:27 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;142227
That wasn't unique to their observations of Celtic tribes. The Greeks and Romans did that with everyone, including each other.

Sunflower

 
I stand corrected I thought their writings on the Celts was detailed than on the other surrounding cultures. I admit my experience in reading both Greek and Roman writings is limited and I was using information from authors writing on this subject. I did not realize how limited their writing was and would have expected at least the Greeks to have more written about other cultures considering how little was written about the Celts. Thank you for the insight.

ethelwulf

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2014, 10:56:33 am »
Quote from: Gilbride;142180
Yes and no. The way I see it is, huge number of deities based on a much smaller set of deity types. The easiest way to come up with a working pantheon for yourself is to focus on one deity for every major type.

 
It seems the Celtic and for that matter the Germanic tribes of Europe show a tendency for diversity and individualism in comparison to the more organized and socially structured Romans. It seems to me this is reflected in their pantheon of gods. The Roman pantheon is very well structured with clear definitions to the role each god has where as Celtic and Germanic seem less well defined. The exception for this is the Norse pantheon which develops a level of sophistication similar to Rome's but this as I have read may only reflect the influence of Rome on Norse culture over time and later the influence of Christianity on Norse culture.

Aiwelin

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2014, 11:07:53 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;142292
It seems the Celtic and for that matter the Germanic tribes of Europe show a tendency for diversity and individualism in comparison to the more organized and socially structured Romans. It seems to me this is reflected in their pantheon of gods. The Roman pantheon is very well structured with clear definitions to the role each god has where as Celtic and Germanic seem less well defined. The exception for this is the Norse pantheon which develops a level of sophistication similar to Rome's but this as I have read may only reflect the influence of Rome on Norse culture over time and later the influence of Christianity on Norse culture.

 
I think this is a big difference in state religion vs. tribal religion - tribal religion is by its very nature going to be more diverse and highly localized.  I've read, and tend to agree, that the 'organization' of the Norse pantheon is mostly a literary invention by the author of the Eddas, Snorri Sturluson.
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ethelwulf

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2014, 03:14:56 pm »
Quote from: Aiwelin;142295
I think this is a big difference in state religion vs. tribal religion - tribal religion is by its very nature going to be more diverse and highly localized.  I've read, and tend to agree, that the 'organization' of the Norse pantheon is mostly a literary invention by the author of the Eddas, Snorri Sturluson.

 
One thing that I do not understand is the relationship between the deities and the Earth. The literature I have read connect the Celtic pagans with the Earth in that during the mythological history they entered the otherworld - the sidhe/annwn - and became associated with specific places. Rivers, springs, lakes are associated with specific goddesses. From there it seems we have the place of the spirits (many other names apply) which became the so called fairy world.

Also there is a clear association with animals both in the literature and in their art. There are transformations into animals and animals to humans, individuals being raised by animals, animals as guides to the sidhe/annwn, and relationship with animals on a more equal basis. There seem to me to be many shared concepts as with the Sami religion. I even read a paper suggesting that early  - pre roman expansion - Celtic and Germanic paganism shared as much if not more with the religion of the Sami than with Greece or Rome.

Little Kingdoms

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2014, 05:03:51 pm »
Quote from: Aiwelin;142166
But I've wrestled a lot with this question - if the Celts had such localized land deities, where does that leave me as a person living in America more than 1500 years later?


I have similar issues with this in my studies of Druidry.  Are the Celtic (ie British and Irish) deities tied to the land, the blood, or are they open to all followers?  I'm an American living in the UK and I feel half way between worlds sometimes.  I do have ancestry from Britain and Ireland, but like many people of European descent my relatives were from many different countries in Europe, so I don't particularly identify as "Celtic".  As far as the land connection goes, I am in Britain, but this part of England isn't really considered Celtic either, not compared to other parts of the British Isles.  (The Celts were here of course, before invasions pushed their culture to the western edges.)  So where does that leave me?  It's something of a nebulous position to be in.

Saying that, I don't know if I were to go home that I would have more of a connection to local American deities and spirits than I do of the Celts.  For me, this is my "tribe", even taking the long view.  The more I read of the stories the more I feel a connection to the gods here.  Whether they are local, or some echo in my blood, or just willing to hear me I still don't know!  Maybe this is something I will delve into more.  I haven't attempted to contact any truly local deities or spirits yet, so I can't comment on that experience.

ethelwulf

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2014, 03:10:25 pm »
Quote from: Little Kingdoms;142321
I have similar issues with this in my studies of Druidry.  Are the Celtic (ie British and Irish) deities tied to the land, the blood, or are they open to all followers?   I don't know if I were to go home that I would have more of a connection to local American deities and spirits than I do of the Celts.  For me, this is my "tribe", even taking the long view.  The more I read of the stories the more I feel a connection to the gods here.  Whether they are local, or some echo in my blood, or just willing to hear me I still don't know!  Maybe this is something I will delve into more.  I haven't attempted to contact any truly local deities or spirits yet, so I can't comment on that experience.


What you both have expressed is why I start this thread because of the confusion over this and others I want to bring up. Everything I have learned so far suggests this concept of the connection of the Celtic (I would include Germanic prior to the extended influence of Rome) deities with the land especially the goddesses. It is very believable that the themes in the different Celtic tribes were similar with different names for different palaces. Because Ireland has the most literature( less available from Scotland and even less from Wales) we have to depend on it as our main source of literature to connect with the archeology.

I just started reading a book on the Cailleach written by Gearoid Crualaoich who suggests a potential addition factor beliefs of the pre-Celtic people blending with the Celtic beliefs. I have just started the book so it may be different later but I thought that was interesting. Was interested for information about this subject.

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2014, 11:09:32 am »
Quote from: ethelwulf;142112
I would really like to know how others in the form know or think about some aspects of Celtic paganism.

Part of the problem is that there isn't any one thing that can be defined as Celtic paganism. Which Celts? What kind of paganism? Recon? Druidic? What kind of Druidry? Etc, etc.

Me, I've never had an issue connecting with Irish Gods. Since I've been to Ireland, that connection is better, yes, but... they are out there and accessible when they want to be, no matter where you're standing. And honestly, I think that is because the Gods aren't limiting. People are. People have defined them as belonging to this town or this well or this river. And while those things may be theirs, I think there's a level of transcendence there because the Gods (and the fae, and all those types of beings) are not entirely of our reality. Perhaps it's easier to talk to Brigit at a well in Ireland, but that doesn't mean you can't reach her anywhere else.

Call it galactic skype if you want. Now that these Gods have worshippers all over the world, and are known beyond their ancestral tribal lands, I don't see them ignoring us or being aloof because we aren't all in a field in Ireland or Scotland or Wales or Brittany. They're here for us if we ask them to be.

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Little Kingdoms

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2014, 03:23:47 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;142542

Now that these Gods have worshippers all over the world, and are known beyond their ancestral tribal lands, I don't see them ignoring us or being aloof because we aren't all in a field in Ireland or Scotland or Wales or Brittany. They're here for us if we ask them to be.

Karen


I agree with this.  If you reach out to the gods of any pantheon and you get a positive reply, then maybe the how/why doesn't matter so much.

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Re: Wanting help to understand celtic pagan tradition.
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2014, 06:18:37 pm »
Quote from: Aiwelin;142166
Yes, Irish tribes may have seen Macha as a deity tied to one place specifically (though they may not have, we don't really know for sure), but in honoring Her I have found that She hears me and responds to my requests even here on the other side of the ocean.
 

Ah Ha! I knew there were other devotees of Macha. I am actually being ordained next Saturdas as a Priest of Macha. I really don't think Macha was limited to one spot as she is one of the nine goddesses who make up The Morrigan. She is also one of the three Morrigan goddesses. (it's thought that The Morrigan could be 3, 7 or 9 goddesses depending on what tribe you were with.

Phouka

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