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.