What can I do to get started?
Getting started is fairly easy and there are many things you can do even if you dont have access to a large CR community or a research library.
Reading is very important in getting started in CR. Knowing the history of the Celtic peoples helps connect us with those times and places, and gives us the background to understand what the Gods and Goddesses are telling us. Start with the introductory books listed here: Which books for someone totally new to CR? These are easily available and not overwhelming. Start working your way through the reading lists at your own pace, taking time to absorb and integrate the ideas as you begin to formulate ways to put them into practice in your own life.
Find some space in your home or outdoors near where you live and create an altar or a shrine for the Deities, for your ancestors, or for the land spirits. Make offerings to them there water and small bits of food on a plate will do, though more elaborate offerings will be welcome. Milk products, baked goods, apples, rowan berries, oats and hazel nuts are all traditional, but many people simply offer some of the best of their own meals.
Contemplate the world as a cosmology of land, sea and sky, everpresent around you. Feel how you are connected to the three realms. Meditate on the well and tree that are at the center of the worlds and which link all things together; and upon the gateways to the otherworlds that can open in the center or at the edges. Meditate on the fire that arises from the well signalling the presence of the Deities, and the awakening of iomas (inspiration).
If you are not already, become involved in the living Celtic cultures. Seek out language classes, traditional storytelling and music seisiúns or cèilidhs, performances or classes in traditional dance and martial arts forms, and Highland games or other Celtic festivals. Become acquainted with the surviving traditions in the Celtic nations and the diaspora, and meditate on the ways in which the largely-Christian practices are the same or different from a polytheistic approach. Listen to music and radio in the languages of the Celtic cultures you are drawn to. Become familiar with how language shapes thought, and how the mindset of a culture is revealed in the structure of the language.
Community is a core value of CR. Put some time and energy into forming connections with others on the path, in person if you can, and online if that is all that is available to you. Even for those of us who are lucky to have in-person CR communities, the online world is very important as it gives us access to a worldwide community of pooled research and experience. (See Are there any CR organizations? Websites? Books?)
Take time every day to meditate on the Celtic Deities Who call you, and listen to Their voices. Read the tales about Them and think about what those tales mean. Find ways to bring Their presence into your life through use of images, music, or colors that you associate with Them. Find places in nature that seem special to Them, such as the seashore or a forest, a field or mountain or well, or even a small pond or special tree in a city park. Spend time there in meditation and making offerings. Be alert to the signs of the Deities presence in your life.
On your indoor shrines, in addition to food and drink, burn candles and herbs or incense for the Deities and spirits as offerings.
Pay attention to your dreams and write them down. The Deities and spirits often communicate with us through the agency of dreams. Check with others who are CR in online communities or in your area if your dreams and impressions raise questions for you.
Juniper was traditionally used as an herb of purification in Scotland and many Scottish and Irish based CRs burn it to purify themselves and their space. You can do this by burning small amounts of juniper and letting it smoulder in any fireproof container. Many CRs do this before making offerings, at the beginning of rituals, or as part of their meditations.
Celebrate the festivals with a feast and make offerings to the Deities, ancestors and spirits when you do so. Even if your friends and family arent CR themselves, everyone loves to get together for a shared meal. Even the staunchest of Christians also appreciate tales of the ancestors, heroes and heroines of history, so traditional music and storytelling can easily be incorporated into religious or non-religious festivals.
Get outside and connect with the spirits of the land. Make offerings to them and talk to them. Most importantly, listen to them.
Breathe. Love. Laugh.
I have kids. How can I include them in all this?
While it may seem most public CRs are childless, this is perhaps because those without children simply have more time to be discussing it. CR is actually very child friendly due to having both cultural and religious aspects, celebratory rituals rather than only working rituals, and being open to many ways of approaching the paths. This allows parents to include their children at what ever level their interest and attention span determines. Children tend to learn well by inclusion, so rather than teaching them the religion, most CR parents simply include them in activities and discuss the purposes of those activities as they go, and go into detail only when the children ask.
As story telling is a major part of Celtic cultures as well as a favored activity for many parents and children, this is often a starting point for CR parents. Some parents might feel more comfortable just reading the stories to and with their children, but others might spend time memorizing the stories in order to retell them from memory as a way to both share with their children and become more familiar themselves with the tales. Older children who are interested may want to learn story telling themselves.
CR parents usually include their children in making routine offerings. The entire family might gather at the household shrine, yard or outdoor location to give to the Deities, ancestors and spirits. In some families its actually the job of the children to make the offerings or they may make specific ones while other family members do others. The children may want to help decorate the shrines and/or may have one in their own rooms. These may be kept very general, or as the child shows interest in a particular Deity, spirit or ancestor (usually for children this interest would be in a loved one who they remember who has passed) objects relating to those Beings might be included.
Many groups which include families allow young children to come and go from a ritual area as long as a parent or guardian is keeping an eye on them to keep them from wandering off or into the fire. Many times the children are kept in mind in designing the rituals, which may also help keep the rituals more interesting for less mystically minded adults. This includes giving the children roles such as helping with offerings, helping to pass out food or drink that might be shared in ritual, or short phrases to say. Ritual drama and story telling regarding the season being celebrated also help children, as well as adults, feel connected to the ceremonys purpose. The one exception for including children in seasonal celebrations is Oíche Shamhna, which is considered by some CRs to be a dangerous time, especially for children. Also, groups that do ritual drama often do things at Oíche Shamhna that might be too intense for young children. This may lead to a childrens party/ritual being done indoors with some of the parents, allowing them to still particpate in the festival, while allowing most of the adults to have their intensity, with everyone getting together for a feast afterwards.
Childrens culture can reveal many small survivals of traditional lore. Some of the old traditions have been preserved as childrens games, rhymes and dances. Customs often ignored by adults, or dismissed as superstitions, have sometimes been maintained by the children and passed down by older children to younger ones in an informal, cultural way, for many generations. What may have once been a solemn ritual becomes a childrens party. A tribal Deity or ancestor may now be a ghost story told at girls slumber parties. Divination games, in particular, have preserved some old ways of interaction with the spirits, and bonfire parties at Oíche Shamhna and Lá Bealtaine were a part of some of our childhoods. With the advent of television, much of this childrens culture has now been damaged, and is in need of preservation. But some older members of the CR community who grew up in Celtic neighborhoods experienced these things as an integral part of our childhoods.
As children tend to learn languages more easily than adults, some CR parents expose their children to the language of their culture. For those who themselves are not fluent, this may include language and song tapes very early on, and the possiblity of classes if the older children are interested.
Just as many adult CRs find Celtic cultural societies offer a great deal to enrich their connection to the culture, often these organizations also offer play groups, classes and other activities for children. Highland, Step and other dance classes for children are much easier to find than for adults and offer a fun connection to the culture that may have great meaning for the child as they grow. Cultural events such as Highland Games and Irish Festivals, which feature animals, music and other entertainment, often have a great deal of attraction for children as well.
See also: Which books for kids?
Im told that I should practice hospitality. What does that mean?
Hospitality is one of the premier virtues among the Celtic peoples, both ancient and modern. Its practice can be as simple as making sure any guest you have is offered a warm welcome, cup of tea and a snack, or as elaborate as making sure you always have room for unexpected overnight guests who might need a place to stay. The art of hospitality may include creative cooking to stretch things a little for company. It might just mean being a sympathetic ear to a friend who needs one.
Most CR folk, even those of us who tend to be social hermits, are often fond of visitors and conversation over a hot drink on a cold winter evening. Many of the Irish triads address issues of hospitality. Here are a few:
Trí fuiric thige degduni: cuirm,
fothrucud, tene mór.
Trí fuiric thige drochduni: debuid ar do
chinn, athchosan frit, a chú dot gabáil.
Trí fiada co n-anfhiad: gréss i
nóentig fri muintir, uisce rothé dar cosa, bíad goirt cen
Trí fáilti coirmthige: immed 7
dúthracht 7 elathó.
Hospitality works both ways, though. There are expectations of the guest as well as of the host. Traditionally it was said a tale from the host, then tales from the guest until sunrise. This reflects a time when news was hard to come by, and any traveler would bring information from afar. Stories and songs were shared, as well as gossip and important news about the world outside the croft.
While it might be reasonable to expect, as a guest, to be invited in if you show up unannounced (unless the hosts are on their way out the door), good guest behavior would dictate letting someone know youre showing up. Bringing a gift of some sort is generally part of good hospitality if youre visiting someone you rarely see. Being polite under anothers roof, treating their children, housemates, and animals well, and expressing gratitude for hospitality are also valued. As a guest, its expected that you dont fight with your host, steal from them, or leave their home in worse shape than it was when you came to visit.
Online, we also have expectations of hospitality on our email lists and in our electronic communities. Some of these expectations are that you will be polite to each other and the hosts, that youll do some looking into areas of interest offline before asking questions, and that youll follow up your assertions with documentation if its requested. Where lists and communities have rules, those rules should be read and followed whenever possible. Requests are always going to be treated more favorably than demands of your hosts and the regulars on the lists.
If Im going to be CR, how should I wear my hair?
The Path of the Hairdo® is a very important part of Celtic Reconstructionism. You may spike up your hair with Bog Body Hair Gel® (sold on our official website). Alternately, you may wear The Official CR Tonsure, which involves shaving bits of hair off your head when you are bored or in a deep trance of devotion to your Gods. It is also traditional to cut or shave the hair when in mourning, and this must be done with appropriate wailing, bellowing, and gnashing of teeth.
There is a schism who both tonsure and spike, with lime or Bog Gel®, but that is an inner mystery, not suitable for a public forum. Others firmly believe that no hairdo is an official CR hairdo unless it involves braiding it and then running through the woods while people throw spears at you. Then being buried in the ground up to your waist and fending off more spear attacks. This camp is adamant that, if your hair gets messed up during this challenge, it is not worthy of being considered a Real CR Hairdo®.
Those who have adopted The Official CR Tonsure must also tattoo, or daily paint, symbols of their path on the revealed canvas. There is a great deal of controversy in these matters, as those who have chosen to tattoo believe everyone else with The Official CR Tonsure must endure the same pain they did. Those who are allergic to tattoo inks must simply find other ways to cause themselves pain. Such as answering endless bizarre questions in online fora when sensible people would be sleeping. Or thats what Ive heard. What?
Seriously? Wear your hair any way you want. Were kidding. Mostly.
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