Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mabon, Tribalism, and Fitting it all Together…

When trying to craft a modern Celtic ritual calendar based on what we know of the ancient Celts and their celebrations, we realize that the modern pagan calendar of 8 “sabbats” feels like a bit of unnecessary add on.   We have just passed the modern pagan celebration of “Mabon” here in North Carolina and it has gotten us thinking about things related to Celtic calendars and how things fit together for us here at the Fellowship.
Mabon is a modern construct for paganism.  The Celts didn’t celebrate anything called “Mabon”.   And while neo-lithic cultures predating the Celts did seem to honor the solstices and equinoxes, the evidence we have of various Celtic cultures points to them not celebrating those times of the year.  Not that having a fall ritual/festival at this time of year is a bad thing or invalid…

The Need for Gatherings
When modern Paganism was creating itself it drew on the available scholarship of the day.   It looked at the celebrations of not only the Celts but Germanic peoples.   With the “Quarter” and “Cross-quarter” days a cohesive cyclical year of celebrations came into being.  This was before the days of Celtic Reconstructionism and people specializing in particular areas of paganism.  The balanced and cyclical year became a staple of most modern pagan traditions and most organizations tend to use some form of it even down to today.   And it makes sense.  Communities need regular gatherings; we enjoy spending time with people of like mind.  Having regularly spaced times of ritual or spiritual gathering during the year helps us stay connected and helps us build our own modern mythos.   So how do we remain true to a Celtic path and still maintain close contact outside of the four Celtic high days?

Modern Tribes
One way we do things in Sylvan Celtic Fellowship is we have created a tribal system for people.  It is a way for people to come together in fellowship and spiritual celebration.  We don’t use the “grove model” adopted by many modern Druid organizations.  More can be gleaned by reading our previous blog post here.   The point though is that our modern hearths, clanns, and tribes are able to come together for their spiritual needs outside of our Druid led Celtic holy days.   Although the Solstices and equinoxes are not inherently Celtic celebrations there is no need to stop using these aspects of the neo-pagan “Wheel of the Year”.  In our tribal system we have begun using these days to grow our own tribal traditions.  

Customs and Traditions
Each Hearth, Clann, or Tribe in Sylvan Celtic Fellowship should set up their own ways to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes.   By doing this each group becomes its own unique entity.  The Hearths, Clanns, and Tribes will forge their own customs and traditions for these days.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be religious ritual that groups do.    For example, our sister organization for the Mabon season holds a Thanksgiving style feast.  Your group could hold a feast, go for a weekend camping getaway, hold a toasting circle; the options are entirely in your hands.   As time goes by the traditions that each tribal unit comes up with will give them their own identity.    Along with the Druid led Celtic holy days, the solstices and equinoxes will come to fill out a yearlong cyclical calendar that will be unique to each tribal unit.   Our hope is that as more tribal units come into being, each with its own identity, that the tribes will have the diversity that our ancient counterparts had.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A quick update!

It has been several months since we have had a chance to blog here at Sylvan Celtic Fellowship.   Life sometimes manages to get in the way of things but we still aim to post things relevant to Celtic Spirituality and the Fellowship.    One of the updates we look to start is to start posting weekly for our folk and the Celtic tribal based worship system we call “The Sylvan Path”.   We aim for the updates to be able to be usable by solitary members, full family hearth units, clann groups, and full on tribal units.  We also hope that “The Sylvan Way” units can be of use to those folks who may not have reached out to an organization or who do not wish to.   We may take the collected series once finished and publish it into a hard format for people to purchase, but all the stuff we do will be free if you want to read it here.
We are going to write a few entries to get us started and then begin publishing them once a week, once we have about 6 weeks’ worth.  That way we can hopefully keep things rolling for you, our readers.  So stay tuned!

Of course “The Sylvan Way” won’t be our only posts here.  We plan on being more active.  Our goal will be at least one regular blog post for the SCF blog at least once a month in addition to the weekly updates.     We seek to be a place of options for the Celtic pagan community and our own Sylvan community.    So keep watching this space.   Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will have some more good stuff coming this way!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

About Us, An Explanation in Three Parts. Part 3 The Tribes

It has been a few months since our last post but now that the holidays are over we want to get back into the swing of things.   We were one post away from wrapping up our “about us” feature in three parts.   So without further ado…

One of the things that we decided early on was that we wanted our organization to have a feel that would have been something that our ancestors could recognize to an extent, at least in as much as we could do in a modern age.    It was also what stopped us from going the route of recreating the wheel and making “just another Druid organization”.    So we took a long hard look at the past.   We also looked at surviving Celtic cultures.   We realized that the concept of “group work” could be improved upon.   The Grove model used by many Druid groups is the norm for the most part in our modern world.   But our ancestors held to a more tribal model.   This tribal model is also used by some Celtic reconstructionist groups so the idea seemed to us to have merit even in our modern world.  
So how do we look at the tribal system for our organization?  All things begin with a good foundation.  For our foundation we feel that the home is where all things start.   The home and family is the foundation of a tribe.  We call our family units Hearths.   In fact Sylvan Celtic Fellowship has set up our membership so that a whole family can join as a fully formed Hearth.   Hearths are all those folks living under one roof who practice their Celtic spirituality together.   We envision families with their children gathered around their home altars/shrines all communing with spirit together.  Creating not only a home based spiritual tradition but also celebrating Celtic culture and our ties to it.     But that is only the beginning.
When a Hearth decides to branch out and invite others to join them or when the two or more Hearths decide to unite, then the members of those hearths will be able to form a larger group.   We refer to this larger grouping as a Clann.   As Clanns form they will gain their own group identity through creating their own customs.    It is these customs that will give them a strong sense of belonging and will help to tie the spirituality of the group deeper into the minds of the group members.    These customs wouldn’t just revolve around the four Celtic feast days but would include more rites of passage for the members of the Clann, like weddings, coming of age ceremonies, child blessings, etc.   The goal is to create a sense of kinship among the members of a Clann so that each Hearth comprising the Clann will feel like they are a part of one another’s family.    Which brings us to…
If two or more Clanns come together and wish to unite as one, they have option of forming an even larger community.   We refer to this community as a Tribe.   Clanns , like the Hearths that comprise them would still be subgroups within the Tribe.   The Tribe would be able to unite the customs of the Clanns into a tradition as well as form new customs.   Tribes take the idea of Celtic identity deeper into the spiritual equation.   Tribes will be able to do more with the help of all the individual members coming together, perhaps even being able to purchase land to build permanent worship sites for the folk. 
With any situation where groups of people come together for a common goal sometimes differences of opinion and clashes of personality can lead to disharmony.  To help with this fact of life we hope that the Druids of the Fellowship can be of service to the people to help settle these problems.   By acting as mediators and peace makes the Druids can serve as counselors to the people as well as serving the spiritual needs.   Thus the Druids will be fulfilling the role that their ancient counterparts had in the Iron Age.   We envision each Clann having a Druid to serve its need and perhaps several Druids for a whole Tribe.   Along with the leaders and elders of the Clanns and Tribes, the Druids will help teach our ways to the people.
Getting back to the idea of community though, it makes sense that to grow a community we need to be open to new members.    In order to do this effectively and pass along customs and tradition there would be a mentoring relationship needed.  We call this process “Fostering”.   By bringing new people in and having a clansman/tribesman teach them our ways we can grow effective groups.    The Fostering process will bring a sense of kinship with the mentor and mentee as well as passing along spiritual tradition.
So as you can see our approach to groups is different from the norm in modern paganism.    We have done away with the occult society/coven model in favor of a model based on families and extensions of families.     It is an approach that we feel reflects our ancestors and honors them.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

About Us, An Explanation in Three Parts. Part 2 Druids

Druids…   When Sylvan Celtic Fellowship was first being visualized it was a Druid based entity.   It was originally going to be just another Druid group out there in the vastness of the pagan landscape.    But one of the problems we foresaw is that we didn’t want to be just another Druid group out there among the many.   So we decided to look at how the ancient Druids were structured and use that as a role-model for how we approached Druids and Druidry within our organization.
Speaking of role-models…    Our research showed that the ancient Druids were a part of the Nemed or sacred class of the ancient Celts.   In our modern world we wanted to find a way to define “druid” for our modern membership.   Luckily we were able to find a modern book that gave us a great jumping off point.

“…a Druid is a professional invigilator of living spiritual mysteries as expressed by Celtic cultural forms.”
-Dr. Brendan Myers “The Mysteries of Druidry”

This was our answer.   With our research and this bit of knowledge from Brendan we realized that Druids should be seen as a role within Celtic Polytheism.    As a guardian of and a communicator of Celtic polytheist tradition, the role of the Druid would be an important aspect of how we approached the growing of our organization.  

We also did not want to fall into the same grooves as other Druid groups out there.    Most Druid organizations today view the idea of Druids as either a religion or a magical path.    While our take on Druids does have a religious aspect, we do not view it as a religion in and of itself.    And while we do have magical aspects in our view of Druidry we do not view it as a magical philosophy.   Instead we see Druids as filling the role of the spiritual professionals for modern Celtic polytheists.  
To better facilitate the training of Druids for our tribes benefit, we created a training arm for Druids within Sylvan Celtic Fellowship.   We call this arm the Order of the Sylvan Oak.    

This arm takes its cue from most modern druid orders but there are significant changes.   First and foremost the Order of the Sylvan Oak is strictly Celtic focused.    We do not apply the stance of Indo-European cultures as being Druidic.   The ancient Druids were a Celtic phenomenon and although other Indo-European cultures had their own holy men and women, they most certainly were not Druids.    Non-Celtic cultures had their own names for their learned classes.   So to be true to our mission we choose to focus on strictly Celtic cultures, such as Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Gaulish in our approach to Druidry.
And as we are discussing that we are Celtic focused, it should be noted that our Druid training is Pan-Celtic in its scope.    Since we do not have the best records from our Iron Age counterparts, the training that we are constructing will use sources from all Celtic lands.    This is not to say that individuals Druid wouldn’t have a specific cultural focus, just that they will be getting a well-rounded Celtic education.

As for how we teach, similar to the Druids of old we organize our groupings of Druids into Groves.  Groves within the context of the Order of the Sylvan Oak are gatherings of Druids and Druid students for; the teaching/learning of lessons, gathering to discuss philosophy, fellowship with other Druids, and the working of magical rites. To be able to be a part of a grove one must either be actively working on our Druidry lessons, or have finished the training course work. We are not trying to exclude non-Druids on the basis of elitism, but because our goal is the training of Druids to serve their communities. While the Druids of a Grove will hold public rituals for the Celtic Holy days, and semi-public and private rituals for their tribesmen, the rites we do together as Druids will for the most part be private affairs.   We do welcome other Druids from outside organizations into our groves for cross organizational meet and greets.   We feel that Druids from all traditions can learn from one another.
One of the things we are aiming to do is for our Druids to be a link between the tribes we are creating in the Fellowship.    

“They (the Celts) lived in many tribes which were politically autonomous from each other.  Yet they had an inter-tribal institution, the Druids, who could operate across tribal boundaries- evidence of highly advanced social organization.”
-Dr. Brendan Myers “The Mysteries of Druidry”

We envision our Druids to be the scholarly religious professionals for our tribes.   They are a part of the tribes but they also stand apart in that they are a part of an initiatory tradition that serves the Gods, the people, and the land.  

In our next blog we will tackle our tribal organizations and how they fit together with what we are doing in the Fellowship.

Domhnall Irvine
Chancellor, SCF

Friday, August 12, 2016

About Us, An Explanation in Three Parts. Part 1

In our last post we fielded a question from one of our members and this got us to thinking.   We have written a descriptions about us but we really have not covered this in an explanation of said description.    So as a service to our members and those seeking we would like to take the time to touch on a few things about just who we are as Sylvan Celtic Fellowship.

Firstly we refer to ourselves as a Fellowship.  One of the definitions of the word "fellowship" is: "friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests".   SCF aims to be a Celtic focused spirituality organization.    As an organization we feel that narrowing our focus to things Celtic allows us to concentrate on one thing so that we can do it to the best of our abilities.   So as a fellowship we aim to be an association who share a common interest in Celtic culture and Celtic Spirituality in all of its forms.  Speaking of Celtic Spirituality in all its forms...

Sylvan Celtic Fellowship embraces all forms of modern Celtic worship.   These include, but are not limited to, Celtic Reconstructed Polytheism, Celtic influenced Wicca, Druidry, and even Celtic Christianity.   We embrace these various types of spirituality because we wish to be inclusive to all people who are touched by all things Celtic.  As long as Celtic languages have existed there have been different religions embraced by the people speaking those languages.  And let's face it in our modern times everyone has their own opinions about how to practice a Celtic spiritual path.   Although in Sylvan Celtic Fellowship we are crafting a path of our own, we want to be welcoming to any and all folks who practice myriad and various forms of Celtic spirituality.

As to how we are organized...   When we founded the Fellowship we wanted to do something different.   We wanted to be more than a Druid organization.   There are plenty of Druid groups out there so we wanted to aim for something new.   We wanted to shoot for something that would be akin to something our ancestors would have known.    So we looked to the idea of crafting a modern tribal system.   We wanted something that our members could craft to suit their needs for group worship.  Where members of like mind could form a cohesive tribe to enhance their spiritual experience. 
We also wanted to examine Druids within a tribal setting and to view them as the role they were to our ancestors.   By seeing Druid as a role instead of a religion we feel is truer to how the original Druids were.  We also feel that by seeing Druid as a role we can promote better cooperation across the Druid community.   But we will be delving more into those aspects of SCF in our follow ups blogs.

Next Up, Druids and their roles in our Fellowship.

Domhnall Irvine
Chancellor, SCF