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What is the ethical basis of CR?

CR ethics are grounded in traditional Celtic virtues which should be embraced, adopted, and integrated into one’s daily life. This approach is known as a “virtue theoretic ethical system,” as it sets forth multiple positive guidelines for behaviour — “thou shalt”s rather than a series of “thou shalt not”s.

We believe in hospitality, truth, generosity, taking care of each other, wisdom, knowledge, eloquence, mercy, justice, and the duty of the strong to support the weak rather than prey upon them. No one is without innate worth, and treating others with respect is emphasized. Because we’re human, we don’t always live up to our ideals, but we feel it’s a more positive approach than enumerating a list of things that are forbidden. For a more in-depth look at ways that CR approaches ethics, The Truth Against the World: Ethics and Modern Celtic Paganism offers one view of the way ethics are treated within CR today.

Some CR’s subscribe to a set of virtues similar to the Nine Noble Virtues of Ásatrú. A common set of virtues followed by many emphasizes Truth, Honor, Justice, Loyalty, Courage, Community, Hospitality, Strength, and Gentleness. Other ancient texts offer guidelines for leadership and adages of everyday wisdom. Such sources include the Instructions of Cormac, the Irish Triads, the Audacht Morainn, and many others.

Warriors are honored in most forms of CR, but violence is not their first or the most obvious solution to the great majority of problems. Individuals within CR may be military or veterans, or they may be peace activists. In many cases, they are both, and many others are part of a wide spectrum between. The place of the warrior is seen as a legitimate protector of the tribe, rather than indulging in first strikes against those who have done no harm.

CR firmly and absolutely rejects racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination which divide people into warring camps.


Do you sacrifice animals? If so, why?

While most CRs do not practice animal sacrifice, a small number do. Most CRs live in urban areas, which makes such a practice impractical. Many do not feel any need to sacrifice animals, instead offering other things to the Deities and spirits. Examples include jewelry and other fine metalwork offered to bodies of water, libations, poetic efforts, or fruits and vegetables — as you can see, there is some overlap between the concepts of offering and sacrifice. Carnivorous CRs may take a moment to thank the spirit of the animal that gave its life for our nourishment, but the actual killing of animals for sustenance is not part of urban life.

Sacrifice is never undertaken lightly by those who do it, and it is done to provide food as well as for theological reasons. No one in CR is compelled to take part in sacrificial rites if it makes them uncomfortable. No animals are sacrificed that are not used for food, so there is no need to be concerned that neighborhood pets are going to wind up on anyone’s sacrifical altar. The most common animals offered in sacrifice and consumed are chickens, pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, or other livestock whose flesh you can buy perfectly legally at your local grocery store.

The few who do practice animal sacrifice are living in rural areas and have made a choice to grow and raise some of their own food, including meat. This is not done just so they can make sacrifices, but rather because of their dislike of the current manner in which most livestock is raised. Sacrifice is sharing the life essence with the Deities and spirits — the blood and often a prime portion of the meat, or one of the animals if small, are offered to Them in thanks for Their gifts to us. It is a natural part of the process of life and death, just as one who makes art might offer their skills to the Goddesses and Gods. Although few CRs are in a position to raise cattle today, many of those who raise smaller livestock still follow the idea of killing the non-breeding food animals at Oíche Shamhna (November eve).

It should also be noted that other religions, like Judaism, Islam, and the Afro-Diasporic traditions such as Santeria, have practices that are sacrificial in nature. Animals that are slaughtered under Kosher or Halal laws are part of a practice that is protected by US law, and the practice of animal sacrifice was also declared legal as a matter of religious freedom in the US Supreme Court case of the Church of Lukumi Babalao vs. Hialea, Florida in 1993.

See also Offerings seem to be a really important part of all those rituals. How do I make offerings? and You talk a lot about these “practices”, but can you describe them in more detail?


The Celts were headhunters and performed human sacrifices. Why would anyone want to go back to that?

Quite simply, we don’t. One of the purposes of CR is to rediscover the things of value in the early Celtic cultures, such as the spiritual elements that were lost when polytheism was replaced by Christianity. While there may be religious and cultural elements that we wish to bring forward into our modern lives, we are not an historical re-enactment group. We are generally law-abiding modern people and enjoy things like indoor plumbing, central heating, modern medicine, and eyeglasses. What we want to do is bring forward those things that are of value and work with what is relevant for the time in which we live.

See also: How do you decide what aspects of Celtic culture to keep and what to discard?


You say CR is “pro-queer”, but is this traditional?

While there are no sweeping statements promoting homosexuality in the ancient Celtic lore, there are multiple accounts from external observers who commented on the widespread practice of homosexuality among the Gaulish Celts. The Greek philosopher Posidonius, who traveled into Gaul to investigate the truth of the stories told about the Celtic tribes, put it rather bluntly: “The Gaulish men prefer to have sex with each other.” This is supported by some Aristotelian commentaries as well.

As far as we know, the ancient Celts had no laws or known prohibitions against homosexual behaviour. To the contrary, there are tales and histories in which homosexuality is mentioned in a rather matter-of-fact way, as well as many other accounts which, while containing no explicit mention of any character’s sexual orientation, celebrate deep bonds between persons of the same gender. Roman and Greek accounts both mention Celtic warriors who were deeply insulted if their offers of homosexual sex were refused.

There is at least one Irish tale, “Niall Frossach” from The Book of Leinster, where lesbian sex is specifically mentioned (as “playful mating”), and no one in the tale treats this as remarkable or shameful. The myths and histories contain references to Islands of Women and societies of “virgin” priestesses, and there are a number of Deities who do not fit neatly into rigid gender roles. There are Goddesses of war and battle, and Gods of love and poetry. The Sea God Manannán is the only God welcome on the Isle of Women, and he drives his chariot through fields of purple flowers. There is also a tradition of male praise-poets who wrote about the kings they served as a lover writes of their beloved. Many historical commentaries on warriors and monastics speak of devoted companions who shared a bed, and often the love between these companions is celebrated in poetry and songs.

While most scholars believe that “Gay identity” is a modern construct, and only exists in reaction to oppression, there is also agreement that homosexuality and bisexuality have always existed, and were certainly a part of Celtic culture.

As CR is about adapting ancient tradition to modern life, even if suddenly someone discovered an ancient Celtic tale that seemed to portray homophobia, it is highly doubtful that any of us would consider changing our personal views on that basis. If it ever turns out that there was homophobia among our ancestors, it would be no more worth preserving than slavery.

See also: I hear you’re just a political movement.


Do you do magic? If so, what kind and why?

While magic in and of itself is not particularly emphasised in CR, it is a part of many CRs’ lives. Generally it is seen as an integral part of daily life rather than a specific set of techniques separated from our daily and spiritual lives. Traditionally, magic was done for both helpful, healing purposes, and to call down ill-luck and destruction upon rivals or enemies. Druids are described as doing battle magic, and the God Lugh performed cursing magic called córrguineacht or Crane-magic as part of the great battle of Magh Tuiredh.

CR ethics do not forbid the use of magic, whether positive or negative, though it is apparent when looking at the lore that negative magic often had negative consequences. In the Irish laws regarding poets, the process for performing the Glam Dícenn, a great curse, is described. Leaving aside the fact that the performance of this curse would be essentially impossible today for a variety of reasons, it was noted that if the curse was laid unjustly, rather than the earth opening up and swallowing the one cursed (along with his livestock and family), the cursing file (poet) and her or his assistants would be swallowed up instead.

Generally speaking, magic was fairly simple and almost always involved the use of poetry or song. Magic-infused ritual was involved in the harvest of healing herbs, and healing magic was accompanied by spoken poetic charms as well. CRs, like most modern Pagans, sometimes do magic for wealth and good luck, to help find jobs, or to protect our homes, families and property. Magic is so deeply entwined with the worship of Deity that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a difference between religious ritual, prayer and acts of magic. However, there is nothing in CR which requires a belief in the effectiveness of magic in an objective sense, nor is there any requirement to practice it.

In modern Gaelic-based CR, ogham is often used as a vehicle for magic and divination. Though the ogham letters themselves probably do not date back to pre-Christian times, many find ogham to be a useful system for organizing older ideas and symbolic associations, and the lore speaks of the druids using it for various purposes. In this spirit, many of us feel it is proper for us to work with ogham as a modern magical and divinatory system. Many approaches are taken to the material, but most CRs who have taken up a study of ogham say they’ve found it useful.

When we practice magic of any kind, we feel it is important to keep in mind the virtues of our path, and to work magic for beneficial rather than harmful ends. While we do not embrace the Wiccan Rede, we do have a positive set of ethics that guide our actions in both our everyday lives and our spiritual and magical work. Positive magical work, if you have an aptitude for magic, enhances reputation, and reputation is a very important part of our participation in community. In CR, we are judged as much by the way we conduct our magical lives as by what we do in community and within the spiritual context of our private worship.



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