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

Friday, July 15, 2016

Do we have to worship ONLY Celtic Gods?

So one of the things that our members have asked us about is, is it OK for us to worship non-Celtic deities along with the Celtic deities.  We feel that this is an entirely important question to answer for everyone.

Sylvan Celtic Fellowship is set up as a modern Pagan spirituality organization.   We realize that individual peoples have varying needs for their spirituality.   The Celtic pantheons are just one avenue that people may wish to worship.    We make no demands on our members to worship only Celtic Gods.   We feel that every person has the right to worship whatever Gods they choose to worship.   Our ancestors did not exist in a vacuum.    Worship of the Gods was not something limited to only those Gods that originated in Celtic lands.   

Sylvan Celtic Fellowship and its teachings are Celtic focused because we feel that it is best for the ORGANIZATION to do one thing and do it to the best of our abilities.    And although we focus as an organization on strictly the Celtic deities and folkways, we do not expect our members to solely worship Celtic Gods.   Every person's walk with the divine is theirs and theirs alone.   The Fellowship is polytheist friendly so your household Gods are up to you.   So while our public rituals will be Celtic in focus, how our members worship in their own homes is up to their heart's calling.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Ugly Side of Northern European Paganism

WARNING: The following blog contains concepts that some may find offensive.   ...and if you do you are a horrible person.

Our world is plagued with an ugliness.  It has been with us for as long as there has been human beings.  It is a self created and self-perpetuating influence in our societies.   Even in the mostly liberal modern Paganism it is a secret shame.   I am talking about racism.

I grew up in the rural south of the United States.   Racism was a part of the landscape.   It was the "hidden in plain sight" secret that we all lived with.   But growing up I always knew that it was not right.   I was lucky as it wasn't a part of the earliest times of my life.   For three years when I was very small we lived in Wisconsin.   My parents were surprisingly different people when we lived there than we we moved back home to North Carolina.   Certain words were never a part of their vocabulary while we were in the north.   Once we were in the south I remember having difficulty understanding why it was suddenly acceptable that people of color were now different.   But I am not here to discuss my life growing up, that is just an example of how I see the problem of racism.  What I want to touch on is the hidden racism within Northern European Pagan traditions.

When I was new to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism I would read conversations in online groups that seemed a bit, for lack of a better term, prickly.   Offhand comments were sometimes made that made me feel a bit uncomfortable.   Nothing ever overt.   Nothing ever blatant.   Just a bit of snide here and snark there.   Sometimes it was just elitist scholarly posturing, but other times it bordered on racism.  At this time I was also doing research into Norse Paganism and was finding some outright racism in some circles.  I was blown away at seeing what I thought were forward thinking people who were racist.   I was unsure how to proceed in my path because I am not a racist and I do not want to be associated with racist movements.   Luckily there are many more people out there that are not racist nor who are wanting to have the racist elements within Celtic or Norse Paganism that I was able to learn with.

When I first met my brother-in-law and I told him that I was a Druid he told me a story about a incident that happened to him.   He recently wrote it about it and I want to share it with you.

Years ago, when I was relatively new in my faith, I attended a Pagan gathering and sat through a lecture by one of the leaders of the group putting on the event. He presented himself as a "Arch-Druid" and I have no reason to doubt that he was held in high regard in the community.

In the course of his lecture he talked about how he had rejected a potential student of his path, because that student was black. "You have your own Gods," he told her. He turned her away because he didn't think black people should be worshiping the same Gods as him.

I was repulsed, but I did not speak up. I was afraid to rock the boat, maybe. Maybe I didn't want to risk being rejected by the other Pagans. Maybe I was just a little chickenshit. For whatever reason, I just sat there listening to a racist in a white robe tell me I was entitled to something that people of other races shouldn't have access to.

I don't think I was a good person that day. And while I can't go back and change how I reacted then, I can do my best not to repeat my mistake.

Sure, sometimes I still give in to that subtle fear, and just walk away instead of engaging the issue head on. I'm not really a confrontational guy. But when I'm at my best, I stand up for what I know is right.

This is one of the things that gets bandied around by these people.   The idea that "Non-white people" have "their own Gods" and should seek them out instead of wanting to worship ours.   No matter how you say this, it is racism, period.    Here is the thing, no human agency has any right to say who the Gods we worship can (and DO) call to.   If a Celtic (or other Northern European) God or Goddess calls to someone of African or Asian descent (or of anyone!) who the hell are we to tell them that they should "look to their own Gods"???   When does a mortal tell the Gods that the person they chose is not the right skin color???

As the current Chancellor of Sylvan Celtic Fellowship I will say that our organization will not tolerate bigots.   Racism in any form is considered a bad thing, but religions based in Northern European mythos already have a black eye because of bigotry that has infiltrated them over the years.  As an organization we of Sylvan Celtic Fellowship pride ourselves on being inclusive and that goes for people of any race, color, or national origin.   No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, if the Gods we worship call to you, you are always welcome here.

Domhnall Irvine
Chancellor, SCF

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Dressing for ritual

For our second post we would like to go with something that is a little light of fair when it comes to Celtic spirituality.   The concept of ritual garb is one that most pagans have an opinion on.    As a Celtic polytheist myself, I have my own take on the idea.   Since many people who worship in a Celtic way might want to have an idea about ritual wear, I would like to take this time to touch on this.

Depending on where you came into the pagan paradigm will certainly color your views on the type of ritual garb you should have or whether you should wear ritual garb at all.   The idea of specific garb for ritual has always been to set the mood and bring you into the correct frame of mind.  To some this can go from the simple one piece pull over shirt all the way up to the elaborate wizarding costume.   Some folks even prefer skyclad worship to anything at all.    While we have no real proof that our ancestors practiced skyclad in their rites, it is a modern tradition that is popular with many.  But as a practitioner of Celtic spirituality do we need special gear to wear in our rituals?   The short answer is that depends on the individual.    The longer answer...

I am a firm believer that you do not need special garb to worship in.    If you would like it, by all means wear it.    No one should say that you should not wear it nor what you should or should not wear, especially in your own private rituals.  I will touch on public ritual here though.    In a public setting I do not feel you should have to wear special clothing or jewelry if you don't wish to.   One Druid group that I am a part of states that they feel that people attending ritual should change out of their everyday wear and put on something to help induce the mood.   The thing is, our Celtic ancestors probably did not wear special costumes in order to worship or to go to public holy day events.   They did, from what we can read about in surviving texts and legends, wear their best clothing to these public feast days.   Sort of the equivalent to wearing one's Sunday best when going to church.   The people who held items of jewelry against a debt were even obligated to give those items back to their owners for feast times so that they would not loose face among their tribe.

So what does that mean for us in our world of today?   Well as I said I do not believe you need special clothing to worship in, either in private or in public feast day times.   It would be good if you wore something clean and nice as you would for any religious event.    Something that you could be proud to show up to an event in.   I am not by any means suggesting formal evening wear unless the event happens to require it.   Remember many times we worship outside in nature so dress for the environment of where the event is taking place.   But don't feel pressure to wear something fancy either.   In this day and age money can be tight for people and dressing for a religious ritual should not be something that breaks the bank.   Nor should it be something that you should be afraid to attend if you only have a t-shirt and jeans.   My best advice is to wear something you are comfortable in.   Wear whatever jewelry or clothing that you feel your best in.   Feeling comfortable is a big key to getting in a good head space when communing with your kindreds.   So if you feel better in your "street clothes" when worshiping then by all means  wear them.   Be yourself.

Does that mean you can't wear fancy gear to ritual?  Not at all.   One of the biggest exceptions to the idea of wearing what you feel best in, is ritual leaders.    For those performing ritual it is really a good idea for you to stand out against the rest of the people at the ritual.   Whether it is ritual robes like those of the Druid revival:

Or something a little more authentic to the Iron Age:

 To something even a bit more modern:

 Anything that can help a ritual leader stand out is a really good idea.   What this does is it allows people attending the rite to focus on the people doing the ritual.   I have been to rituals where those leading did not change out of their regular clothes and it was hard to tell who is who after a while.    Sometimes going the extra mile when leading ritual can make for a more powerful experience for those who attend.   Drama is always increased when you have something interesting to focus on while the the ritual leader is invoking the Gods.

Does that mean that non-ritual leading participants/congregants cannot wear ritual garb?  Not at all.   As seen above there are plenty of options for Celtic ritual wear that one could choose from.   And upon reading up on the subject of Celtic dress in the ancient times you can find out all sorts of interesting information that you can apply to your ritual garb.    For instance it is said that depending on one's status in ancient Celtic culture would depend on the amount of different colours one could wear.  In Luke Eastwood's "The Druid's Primer" he mentions:

"The kings or queens wore red or crimson and their offspring could wear scarlet, blue, or purple.  Nobles could wear green or brown.  It is said that royalty might wear up to seven colours, the Ollamh or Bard six colours, chieftains five, great warriors four and so on down to commoners and slaves who wore one colour only.   In Scotland, the royal tartan had seven colours and only the king or queen could wear purple in their tartan.  This colour system is the basis for the system employed for the tartans of Scottish Clans, used in kilts and cloaks today."
These are only a few ideas that you can look to when creating ritual wear.   There are other ideas you can use to add to your garb or even to your own personal identity as a person following a Celtic spiritual path.   Jewelry, specifically Celtic style jewelry can help.  Items such as a torc can be something you wear both to ritual and outside of ritual to keep that connection to your kindreds.

Ritual wear should be a personal choice.   It shouldn't be something you have to do when worshiping the Gods. Just remember that what is important that you feel comfortable when attending ritual.   If you want to wear it then do so.   If you want to wear a t-shirt and jeans, then do that too.   What is important is creating a relationship to your kindreds.   In the end it is that relationship that is what is important, not what you are wearing to ritual.
Domhnall Irvine

-Eastwood, Luke. The Druid's Primer (Moon Books)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Welcome to our blog!

   Greetings one and all and welcome to our brand new blog!   We are Sylvan Celtic Fellowship and we are an organization dedicated to Celtic spirituality in all of its modern and ancient forms.   We are located in the Metrolina area of North and South Carolina and hope to expand over time as we grow.   Our goal is to educate and guide those looking to Celtic cultures and the Gods associated with it in their spiritual quest.   In our effort to better serve the community we start this new blog.
   Through the use of this blog we hope to expand awareness about Celtic spirituality in all of its myriad forms as well as keep folks up to date on all the goings on we are involved with.   We hope to utilize the blog to give our congregants and the public ideas and options on how to worship as well.  Over time the blog will have different sections dedicated to various aspects of things involved with Celtic spirituality.   We also hope to use our blog to publish complete books on the various subjects we discuss here.   This we hope, can help further the cause of modern Celtic spirituality in not just our own local community but for everyone.
   So welcome one and all to our newest endeavor!  We hope that you enjoy what we do here and we hope that you become long time readers.

Sincerely yours,

Domhnall Irvine
Chancellor, SCF