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Author Topic: Honoring the Gods, Or Our Relationship with Deity  (Read 7265 times)
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« Topic Start: February 26, 2008, 06:45:21 pm »

Carried over by the thread over in the Cill SIG: http://www.ecauldron.net/forum/index.php?topic=2816.60

**This is a longer post than I thought it was. You have been warned.


There has been a lot of discussion lately about honoring deity, specifically Celtic deities, and how those forms of worship (or whatever word may be used) have changed, should change or should not have changed over the years.

Specifically brought into question is whether certain small, domestic acts of reverence, as created by the practitioner and not attested to in the research or lore, are compatible with authentic Celtic practice and thinking. Many practitioners here I know have small acts of devotion they perform daily, prayers they recite, or offerings they give that are decidedly UPG and have never been claimed otherwise. And some of those practitioners I know are interested in domestic worship as performed, not only by the ancient Celts, but by many other religions as well.

The problem that many of us Celtic worshippers have is that there is so little information about domestic practices that are completely pagan. Most of us look to Christian sources, such as the Carmina Gadelica, and adapt them according to our needs. And most of us look to the other sources, and improvise. And some of us just plain improvise and think nothing of it.

Others, it seems, do think something of it, and hence question the practices.

Also brought into question, and related to the other questions is the nature of our relationship with the deities, and whether the modern approach to deity (generally best described as more personal, more interactive) is to be considered authentic as well; it is difficult, at best, to ascertain whether the Celts thought of their deities as friends, teachers, or guides, who are given gifts of our love and devotion (much as we give to our loved ones), as many of us here think of them, or if they thought of them as difficult and elemental beings who needed to be placated and appealed to for mercy. Many have described their experiences with deity as one would describe their experiences with family, with friends, with beloved teachers, and many other have also described their experiences to be ones like the latter.

So what then is the problem? And ultimately, my point?

We can never really decide whether our interactions with deity, or land spirits, or other ilk, are truly authentic in the Celtic historical, archaeological, or even theological sense. In the modern era, our way of interacting with our world, with our fellow humans and with ourselves is very different.

But can we decide in a Celtic philosophical sense? A spiritual sense? A mythical sense? Would it even matter if we tried to do so? For all of us experience deity differently, and our relationships with those deities are wide and varied.

My question is whether the question of honoring deity, and whether those methods are "authentic", is a question that would be worth asking. Of course, all questions should be asked, but a question of, what I think is essentially, faith, is a different question for discussion, debate and defense than a question of, say, historical accuracy.

How do we, as followers of Celtic deities, respond to questions of faith like this? How do we honor the gods, how do we respect the traditional lore, and how do we create for ourselves a meaningful worship?



I really liked what Oaksworn said:
From the years that I've been here and read the posts of other folks who have a relationship with one god or another I've come to see a pattern.  Essentially, it is this: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

What do we need, when it comes to the gods? Or maybe it should be, what do they need, from us?


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« Reply #1: February 26, 2008, 07:07:57 pm »

Also brought into question, and related to the other questions is the nature of our relationship with the deities, and whether the modern approach to deity (generally best described as more personal, more interactive) is to be considered authentic
Maybe, maybe not.  It seems we really do not know.  However, unless one is making the claim that "this is the way the ancient Celts did things"  authenticity may not matter as much as validity.  If it works, I do not think it matters whether or not it is authentic.

Quote
My question is whether the question of honoring deity, and whether those methods are "authentic", is a question that would be worth asking.
This spurs me to ask another question:  If we did indeed know exactly how the ancient Celts worshipped (or didn't) why would we want to do things the same way?  How would we know if they got it right?  Unless they had a written note from the Morrigan stating her preferred method of worship, what makes their actions any more valid than ours?

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How do we, as followers of Celtic deities, respond to questions of faith like this? How do we honor the gods, how do we respect the traditional lore, and how do we create for ourselves a meaningful worship?
Just as we have, by studying said lore and creating our practice through its influence.

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What do we need, when it comes to the gods? Or maybe it should be, what do they need, from us?
Honestly I don't believe that the Gods do need anything from us.  They may like our interactions, find us amusing, enjoy our worship, but I think they could do just fine without us.  We are only human, after all.   Smiley
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« Reply #2: February 26, 2008, 07:14:12 pm »


Firstly let me say right off the bat that I am not a recon or any stripe. Nor am I trying to be.

I quite happily create my own path, with both Celtic and Roman influences. With few exceptions, the things that I do are my own, or are influenced by what was reportedly done in ancient times...albeit probably very loosely influenced.

I don't particularly care, beyond idle curiosity, if it was done this way in history or not. If something that I am inclined towards happens to have been something that was done historically, I may or may not adopt it, or give it a bit more importance, because that was the way it was done historically. I don't do things solely because that is the way they were done historically. Nor do I avoid things because they weren't done historically.

It also doesn't matter to me, what another person does. I don't care if what someone is doing is historical or not, or even if it's completely off the wall. I don't *care* if you dress in a carrot costume and dance to techno in honor of Morrigan. I might think it's silly, but I don't care if you do it. So long as you're not claiming that it's the way the ancients did it, and so long as you're not claiming that it's part of an established path when it clearly is not.

So long as you're honest about your practice (call a spade a spade for crying out loud. Don't call it Ancient Celtic if you know it's not) I really don't think it matters WHAT you do. That's between you, and your deities.

Honestly I don't believe that the Gods do need anything from us.  They may like our interactions, find us amusing, enjoy our worship, but I think they could do just fine without us.  We are only human, after all.   

I agree. I really don't think that they gods need anything from us. I personally believe that the gods (at least, a good number of them) existed long before us humans...and will continue to exist long after we're gone.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2008, 07:16:08 pm by Dania, Reason: to make a stupid sentence more readable. » Logged


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« Reply #3: February 26, 2008, 07:18:14 pm »

I don't *care* if you dress in a carrot costume and dance to techno in honor of Morrigan.

Oh my Gods I laughed out loud when I read that.  Cheesy
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« Reply #4: February 27, 2008, 12:56:16 am »

And some of those practitioners I know are interested in domestic worship as performed, not only by the ancient Celts, but by many other religions as well.
A good place to hang my "I Am Not A Recon" disclaimer, since it also leads into other relevant bits; since my deities come from many cultures, my interests are transcultural.

When I run across something related to how one or another of my deities was honored in a small, day-to-day kind of way, I take note, as it seems likely that it might be as useful now as it was way back whenever.  Often it is useful; at the very least, deities seem to be pleased at the attention to their likes/needs/character it shows.  Sometimes the deity in question doesn't give a damn either way, or prefers that I not do that - which doesn't mean that the act/offering/whatever was a wrong guess on the part of the ancients, or that the deity no longer wants to be honored that way, just that it's not what they want from me.  Occasionally a deity who comes from some quite different culture will say, "Hey, that sounds neat!"  (Me and my UPGs Grin)

As you've noted, much of what we do know has to do with Big Stuff - things that were done on a civic/tribal level, or personal devotions made for some major purpose.  The small stuff doesn't leave much of a footprint - in a lot of cases, we don't know for certain whether there even was small stuff, other than by logical interpolation:  it's far more likely, human nature being what it is, that there was small stuff than that there wasn't.

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it is difficult, at best, to ascertain whether the Celts thought of their deities as friends, teachers, or guides, who are given gifts of our love and devotion (much as we give to our loved ones), as many of us here think of them, or if they thought of them as difficult and elemental beings who needed to be placated and appealed to for mercy.
How it looks to my non-Recon eye is that, for the various sorts of insular Celts, it may have been something sort of like (but not necessarily exactly like) ancestral spirits, whether actual ancestors, or by "adoption" from the preceding tribe(s) inhabiting a place; and/or spirits-of-place.  For the most part they don't seem to be very elemental; their connections with nature and natural phenomena are too indirect and nuanced.  (Many of the continental ones, OTOH, have less of that "ancestrish" stuff in what's known about them, and more clear/direct elemental stuff - but that could just be because of what info has survived to modern times and what hasn't.)

Quote
What do we need, when it comes to the gods? Or maybe it should be, what do they need, from us?
I've come to think that what the deities need from those they "bother" (thwapping or other direct interaction) has to do with them being limited in their ability to act directly in the World of Form.  This isn't "need" in the sense of "required for survival"; just that they have ends they wish to accomplish, that sometimes can't be accomplished without us meat people.  That doesn't address what they might or might not need from devotees they don't thwap (etc); I don't really have an opinion on that.  (Yes, there are things I don't have an opinion on!  Really! Cheesy)

I do feel that, very often but not always, the "they're gods, and we're only human" stance contains unexamined assumptions about what deityhood means, and about where humans stand relative to other entities.  The "omni-foo-foo" concept of deityhood is culturally prevalent, to the point that atheists often base their atheism on the logical dilemmas of that concept alone; it's difficult to fully disengage oneself from.  And the taken-for-granted lowliness of humans (which derives in part from body/spirit dualism in which our physical existence itself is taken as proof of lowliness) may be in some ways even more pervasive.  They're even tougher to examine when we've absorbed them from our "cultural atmosphere" than when we've been taught them directly.

(That's not a disparagement of anyone here; I can't know what kind of scrutiny any given person has given to their assumptions unless they tell me the details, and it may not be something that can be put into words - nor is it any of my business.)

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« Reply #5: February 27, 2008, 01:06:58 am »

Unless they had a written note from the Morrigan stating her preferred method of worship, what makes their actions any more valid than ours?
She won't write me a note, darn it! Cry Cheesy  She says I should be able to stand my own ground; "notes from mommy" are for children who can't, not for adults who merely won't.

I (as most of you know quite well) can and will, and usually enjoy doing it.  But I'm often very glad that her policy about notes appears to extend to others (at any rate, I never argued with anyone who could present one).

I was tickled by this, 'cause I'd been saving the "if you think my deities had no business choosing me, take it up with them" line for years, and found it satisfying to finally be able to use it.

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« Reply #6: February 27, 2008, 03:59:04 pm »

I do feel that, very often but not always, the "they're gods, and we're only human" stance contains unexamined assumptions about what deityhood means, and about where humans stand relative to other entities. 

Not unexamined, just unexperienced.  Since I don't have a personal experience with any God (yet!) to base my thoughts on, I tend to reach my assumptions through rationalization.  (If X is so, then it leads to Y, which means Z must be true.  I actually do this with most things I examine. hrmm...)  I understand such methods may not be useful on subjects such as God.
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« Reply #7: February 27, 2008, 09:32:26 pm »

Firstly let me say right off the bat that I am not a recon or any stripe. Nor am I trying to be.

A good place to hang my "I Am Not A Recon" disclaimer...

This is probably why I posted this question here as opposed to a different folder: we are decidedly not recons here in this SIG; we strive for "authenticity" (whatever that means) in our practices, and are rooted in tradition, lore and research... but we pretty much all identify as not-CR. Exceptions are present, I'm sure.

There is, however, a tension present here in this SIG because we are "recon-minded"; we are trying to approach our spirituality with reconstructionist thinking that is not necessarily at the fore of our brains, but at least on the back burner. This tension might take the form of this question: "how do we reconcile "authentic" Celtic thought (perhaps in the form of lore or tradition) with our own authentic thought, and experience? And what happens if there is a disconnect, or a direct contradiction between the two? Are we then still "authentically" Celtic?"

I think what I was trying to prod others' brains with is the actual idea of "authenticity." What authenticity means to a recon, and what authenticity means to us non-recons. I'm also interested in the whole idea of need, or want, between the gods and humanity; what authenticity means to relationships, and what it means to defining those needs or wants.
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« Reply #8: March 01, 2008, 12:33:44 am »


I think what I was trying to prod others' brains with is the actual idea of "authenticity." What authenticity means to a recon, and what authenticity means to us non-recons. I'm also interested in the whole idea of need, or want, between the gods and humanity; what authenticity means to relationships, and what it means to defining those needs or wants.


I don't claim to be Celtic other than having a "celtic flavour" by virtue of the Ladies and their influence.
I am not, and never will be, a recon. Is my relationship with either (or both) of the Ladies authentic? To my mind, yes - do I care if anyone else considers it such? Not much.

And since I've already had to deal with the "is this authentic (in the sense of real) {not what you asked i know}or am I loony and imagining it?" issues, I have to accept that whether I follow perceived/extrapolated from what little we actually know/alleged traditional methods and approaches in that relationship or not, then They will let me know if I am offending Them or doing something unnacceptable or unwanted.

Am I doing what ancient Celts did in the way they did it, and for the reasons they did? No... Do I claim to be? no. Have the Ladies asked me to do so? Not to the best of my knowledge.

Whatever I am doing is working for me, and as best I can tell, Them, and as long as I don't try to pretend it's something it isn't, then why is it anyone else's place to tell me whether it's authentic or not? Or for anyone to tell me if I'm doing it right or wrong?

I really don't care if some opinionated upstart somewhere thinks I'm not authentic - go take it up with My Lady - She poked me, not the other way around. With each month that passes I have less time and patience for people telling me what to do or how to do it - with everything I have lost or almost lost in my life in the last few years My Lady has remained, always there, whether I have been paying her adequate heed or not, and that "proof" is all the authenticity I need for our 'relationship' - whether said relationship seems odd to someone else's alleged historical scholarly standard or not.

The deatils don't appear to matter, what matters is the heart and soul, things that cannot be reduced to a list of "x coloured y length candle" or "D flavoured F shaped candy" or "do R and say T on W day".

Lest anyone think otherwise, I'm not trying to put down anyone for their own personal practises - what I'm trying to say is that whatever a person does is between them and their deity, and no one else - and the details, whatever they are, if they work for you, then they shouldn't be anyone else's business.

Which isn't what Finn asked, but I felt the need to say it. Just because I may not use particular pieces of tradition, lore or research in "authentic recon" practises, doesn't mean I simply ignore them. Back burner summed it up pretty well - just because I apparently ignore or flout something considered "recon" doesn't mean I didn't hear it in the first place - it simply means that after consideration it wasn't a fit for me even though it could well be for others.

And I already wrote a bigger essay than I intended or had time to do, but, while I cannot remember where it was or who said it  Embarrassed from the little I've been trying to catch up on today - I agree with whoever said words to the effect that - why would the Gods remain the same now as they were centuries ago, when the world, and humanity, have changed and evolved? For the Gods to remain stagnant while everything else evolves and changes simply makes no sense to me. Therefore why would the deities interacting with 21st century man be identical, and want and expect identical things from/to, the deities interacting with 1st century man.

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« Reply #9: March 01, 2008, 01:26:52 am »


For me, it's a matter of being firmly within a cosmological context that the High Ones, the Ancestors, and the Land Spirits would recognize and feel comfortable within.

When you get right down to it, that really is the biggest thing that disturbs me about some (and before you get ye're knickers in a twist, note the emphasis on the word "some") eclectic Pagans flit from tradition to tradition like a crack-addled butterfly at the Nectar and Ambrosia Ponderosa salad bar.  Religion is not about people.  It's not about us.  It's not a matter of our comfort.  Religion is about the gods and about honoring them in the most appropriate way possible.

Too often, I think, certain segments of the Pagan community devolve into "if it feels good, do it" with no real consideration that we ought to honor the gods in the way that they wish to be honored and with no recognition of the fact that religion and true spiritual development should be hard.
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« Reply #10: March 01, 2008, 09:19:23 am »

Religion is not about people.  It's not about us.  It's not a matter of our comfort.  Religion is about the gods and about honoring them in the most appropriate way possible.

This is a very curious thing to say, to me. To me, religion seems to be all about people--how people interact with each other, how people interact with deity, how people interact with various and sundry spirits, how people find their place in the universe.

Can you expand a little further?
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« Reply #11: March 01, 2008, 09:56:44 am »

This is a very curious thing to say, to me. To me, religion seems to be all about people--how people interact with each other, how people interact with deity, how people interact with various and sundry spirits, how people find their place in the universe.

Can you expand a little further?

Not Celtic here, so if people feel I should butt out I'll happily do so, but...  I think what Armagh is saying is that religion should be focused on the Gods.  It may have things to say about how people interact with each other and with various and sundry spirits, but ultimately religion is not about those things.  It's about the Gods.  It's about serving them (though not necessarily in a subservient sense--maybe "working for them" is a better term), praising them, honoring them.  When choosing devotional practices or offerings, the question should not be "what do I want" or "what makes me comfortable", but "what do They want". 

I think most of us here at TC seem (from watching the conversations here) to do reasonably well at listening to the Gods about that kind of thing, or doing research, or putting some kind of effort into taking it beyond just our own feel-good desires.  However, I also think there are probably a lot of people out there who don't really put a lot of thought into it beyond "oooh, that sounds neat, I'll do that".

This is all my interpretation of what Armagh was saying, but...  Frankly, I agree with her.  I feel, though, like since this is a SIG discussion amongst a group I'm not a part of, I perhaps should keep editorial comments out of it and just stick to interpretation, so I'll stop there.
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« Reply #12: March 01, 2008, 12:57:00 pm »

Not Celtic here, so if people feel I should butt out I'll happily do so, but...  I think what Armagh is saying is that religion should be focused on the Gods.  It may have things to say about how people interact with each other and with various and sundry spirits, but ultimately religion is not about those things.  It's about the Gods.  It's about serving them (though not necessarily in a subservient sense--maybe "working for them" is a better term), praising them, honoring them.  When choosing devotional practices or offerings, the question should not be "what do I want" or "what makes me comfortable", but "what do They want". 

I think most of us here at TC seem (from watching the conversations here) to do reasonably well at listening to the Gods about that kind of thing, or doing research, or putting some kind of effort into taking it beyond just our own feel-good desires.  However, I also think there are probably a lot of people out there who don't really put a lot of thought into it beyond "oooh, that sounds neat, I'll do that".

This is all my interpretation of what Armagh was saying, but...  Frankly, I agree with her.  I feel, though, like since this is a SIG discussion amongst a group I'm not a part of, I perhaps should keep editorial comments out of it and just stick to interpretation, so I'll stop there.

That's what I thought she was saying--the way it sounded (to me) was we were not important to religion at all. I disagree completely with that notion. Religion is about serving the gods, but... who's doing the serving here? And who is responsible for taking in the desires of the served and deciding what to do about it? We are an essential ingredient in the god/humanity relationship. There is no relationship without us.

Plus, some might forget that many people first come to religion for satisfaction of the self. Religion, spiritual interaction, in general, is undertaken for spiritual/physical/emotional betterment of the world, at least in theory, but most seekers undertake it for the self because there is a problem (lack of purpose, emotional instability, what have you).

Service is given to the gods to better the world in which we live, and to better ourselves (at least in my religion).

To say that religion has nothing to do with us seems to completely disregard a very important part of religion: without us, there would be no service. There would be no point. Without us, there would be no religion in the first place.

If what you say is what she was aiming at, then I agree as well. Religion is about service to the gods. But there is also an understanding that service to the gods is, ultimately, a service to the Universe, and, subsequently, yourself. There is an understanding that we are necessary.


And by all means participate, Star. More and more I'm thinking I should have posted this in a more general board so I could hear good answers from knowledgeable folks like you.
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« Reply #13: March 08, 2008, 06:16:41 pm »

There is, however, a tension present here in this SIG because we are "recon-minded"; we are trying to approach our spirituality with reconstructionist thinking that is not necessarily at the fore of our brains, but at least on the back burner. This tension might take the form of this question: "how do we reconcile "authentic" Celtic thought (perhaps in the form of lore or tradition) with our own authentic thought, and experience? And what happens if there is a disconnect, or a direct contradiction between the two? Are we then still "authentically" Celtic?"

I put everything into my brain and go away and think about it till I'm comfortable with it.

We can't accurately re-construct any Celtic religion and some of the practices I've read about, especially ones involving the hearth are for a lot of impossible to use because they haven't got a fireplace.  We have to fit and adapt things into our lives in our centuries.

I have heard on other forums about various peoples who always kept promises, whatever they were.  I've thought about this and I only break a promise if someone has forced me to make it or all keeping the promise will accomplish is to harm both parties.
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Armagh444
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« Reply #14: March 08, 2008, 10:01:21 pm »

Not Celtic here, so if people feel I should butt out I'll happily do so, but...  I think what Armagh is saying is that religion should be focused on the Gods.  It may have things to say about how people interact with each other and with various and sundry spirits, but ultimately religion is not about those things.  It's about the Gods.  It's about serving them (though not necessarily in a subservient sense--maybe "working for them" is a better term), praising them, honoring them.  When choosing devotional practices or offerings, the question should not be "what do I want" or "what makes me comfortable", but "what do They want". 

I think most of us here at TC seem (from watching the conversations here) to do reasonably well at listening to the Gods about that kind of thing, or doing research, or putting some kind of effort into taking it beyond just our own feel-good desires.  However, I also think there are probably a lot of people out there who don't really put a lot of thought into it beyond "oooh, that sounds neat, I'll do that".

Exactly!  And put far more clearly than I was able to manage.

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