Celtic neopaganism

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The triple spiral is one of the main symbols of Celtic Reconstructionism Triskele-Symbol1.svg
The triple spiral is one of the main symbols of Celtic Reconstructionism

Celtic neopaganism refers to any type of modern paganism or contemporary pagan movements based on the ancient Celtic religion.

Ancient Celtic religion religion practiced by ancient Celtic people

Ancient Celtic religion, commonly known as Celtic paganism, comprises the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age people of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 BCE and 500 CE, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, and in the case of the Insular Celts the British and Irish Iron Age. Very little is known with any certainty about the subject, and apart from documented names that are thought to be of deities, the only detailed contemporary accounts are by hostile and probably not-well-informed Roman writers.



Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism

Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism is a polytheistic reconstructionist approach to Celtic neopaganism, emphasising historical accuracy over eclecticism such as is found in many forms of Neo-druidism. It is an effort to reconstruct and revive, in a modern Celtic cultural context, pre-Christian Celtic religions.

Polytheistic reconstructionism

Polytheistic reconstructionism is an approach to modern paganism first emerging in the late 1960s to early 1970s, which gathered momentum starting in the 1990s. Reconstructionism attempts to re-establish historical polytheistic religions in the modern world, in contrast with neopagan syncretic movements like Wicca, and "channeled" movements like Germanic mysticism or Theosophy.

Neoshamanism refers to "new"' forms of shamanism, or methods of seeking visions or healing. Neoshamanism comprises an eclectic range of beliefs and practices that involve attempts to attain altered states and communicate with a spirit world. Neoshamanic systems may not resemble traditional forms of shamanism. Some have been invented by individual practitioners, though many borrow or gain inspiration from a variety of different indigenous cultures. In particular, indigenous cultures of the Americas have been influential.

Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism

Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR) is an umbrella term for Polytheistic Reconstructionist traditions which are based in one of the specific cultures of the Celtic-speaking peoples (such as Gaelic Polytheists or Welsh or Gaulish Reconstructionists). [4] Celtic Reconstructionists strive to practice a historically accurate and authentic tradition, based on the folklore and living traditions in the Celtic Nations and the diaspora as well as primary sources in the Celtic languages. [5] [6] They reject the eclecticism and cultural appropriation of the broader Neopagan community. [7]

Cultural appropriation The adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture

Cultural appropriation, at times also phrased cultural misappropriation, is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.

Celtic Neoshamanism

Celtic Neoshamanism is a modern spiritual tradition that combines elements from Celtic myth and legend with Michael Harner's core shamanism. [8] Proponents of Celtic Shamanism believe that its practices allow a deeper spiritual connection to those with a northern European heritage. [9] Authors such as Jenny Blain have argued that "Celtic Shamanism" is a "construction" and an "ahistoric concept." [10]

Celtic Wicca

Celtic Wicca is a modern tradition of Wicca that incorporates some elements of Celtic mythology. [11] [12] [13] It employs the same basic theology, rituals and beliefs as most other forms of Wicca. [11] [12] Celtic Wiccans use the names of Celtic deities, mythological figures, and seasonal festivals within a Wiccan ritual structure and belief system, [11] [14] rather than a historically Celtic one. [13] [15]

Wicca modern pagan, witchcraft religion

Wicca, also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new religious movement and as part of the occultist stream of Western esotericism. It was developed in England during the first half of the 20th century and was introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. Wicca draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and 20th-century hermetic motifs for its theological structure and ritual practices.

Celtic mythology collective term for all the fabulous profane and religious narratives of the Celts

Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure. For Celts in close contact with Ancient Rome, such as the Gauls and Celtiberians, their mythology did not survive the Roman Empire, their subsequent conversion to Christianity and the loss of their Celtic languages. It is mostly through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved. The Celtic peoples who maintained either political or linguistic identities left vestigial remnants of their ancestral mythologies that were put into written form during the Middle Ages.

Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans, consisting of the year's chief solar events and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as "quarter days" and the four midpoint events as "cross-quarter days", particularly in Wicca. Differing sects of modern Paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.


Neo-Druidism is a form of modern spirituality or religion that generally promotes harmony and worship of nature. Many forms of modern Druidism are Neopagan religions, whereas others are instead seen as philosophies that are not necessarily religious in nature. [16] [17] Arising from the 18th century Romanticist movement in England, which glorified the ancient Celtic peoples of the Iron Age, the early Neo-druids aimed to imitate the Iron Age Celtic priests who were also known as druids. At the time, little accurate information was known about these ancient priests, and the modern druidic movement has no actual connection to them, despite some claims to the contrary made by modern druids. [18]

See also

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Isaac Bonewits Neopagan leader, author, and neo-druid priest

Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits was an American Neo-Druid who published a number of books on the subject of Neopaganism and magic. He was a public speaker, liturgist, singer and songwriter, and founder of the Neopagan organizations Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Aquarian Anti-Defamation League. Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, Bonewits had been heavily involved in occultism since the 1960s.

Modern Paganism New religious movements influenced by or derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe, North Africa and the Near East

Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for new religious movements influenced by or derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Although they do share similarities, contemporary Pagan religious movements are diverse, and no single set of beliefs, practices or texts are shared by them all. Most academics studying the phenomenon have treated it as a movement of different religions, whereas a minority instead characterise it as a single religion into which different Pagan faiths fit as denominations. Not all members of faiths or beliefs regarded as Neopagan self-identify as "Pagan".

Ronald Hutton is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism. He is a professor in the subject at the University of Bristol. Hutton has written fourteen books and has appeared on British television and radio. He held a fellowship at Magdalen College, Oxford and is a Commissioner of English Heritage.

<i>Drawing Down the Moon</i> (book) book by Margot Adler

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today is a sociological study of contemporary Paganism in the United States written by the American Wiccan and journalist Margot Adler. First published in 1979 by Viking Press, it was later republished in a revised and expanded edition by Beacon Press in 1986, with third and fourth revised editions being brought out by Penguin Books in 1996 and then 2006 respectively.

Celtic Wicca is a modern tradition of Wicca that incorporates some elements of Celtic mythology. It employs the same basic theology, rituals and beliefs as most other forms of Wicca. Celtic Wiccans use the names of Celtic deities, mythological figures, and seasonal festivals within a Wiccan ritual structure and belief system, rather than a traditional or historically Celtic one.

Rev. Robert Lee "Skip" Ellison is a Druid priest and liturgist and an author in the fields of Druidry, Magic and divination. He was initiated into a Celtic Traditional Wiccan coven in 1982. He has been a member of the Druidic organization Ár nDraíocht Féin since 1990, serving on its Mother Grove since 1992. He served as ADF's Archdruid, and is Chief of its Magician's Guild. He was the grove Organizer for Muin Mound Grove, ADF, and became its second Senior Druid, a position he held since 1992. He has been a frequent speaker at Neo-Pagan events including the Starwood Festival, Sirius Rising, and the Wellspring Gathering. Ellison serves on the faculty of the Grey School of Wizardry as its Instructor in Beast Mastery, Divination and Lore. He has created a magical training system based on the trees of the forest, and has authored four books on Druidry and divination. He is also a retired industrial electrician.

Neopaganism in the United States is represented by widely different movements and organizations. The largest Neopagan religious movement is Wicca, followed by Neodruidism. Both of these religions or spiritual paths were introduced during the 1950s and 1960s from Great Britain. Germanic Neopaganism and Kemetism appeared in the US in the early 1970s. Hellenic Neopaganism appeared in the 1990s.

Neopaganism in the United Kingdom

The Neo-pagan movement in the United Kingdom is primarily represented by Wicca and Witchcraft religions, Druidry, and Heathenry. According to the 2011 UK Census, there are roughly 53,172 people who identify as Pagan in England, and 3,448 in Wales, as well as 11,026 Wiccans in England and 740 in Wales.

Italy, Spain, and Portugal are traditionally Roman Catholic and according to the 2005 Eurobarometer Poll retain an above-average belief in God. France is traditionally Roman Catholic as well and has an above-average fraction of atheists. Romania and Moldova are Eastern Orthodox countries and both are very religious.

Neopaganism in Hungary

Neopaganism in Hungary is very diverse, with followers of the Hungarian Native Faith and of other religions, including Wiccans, Kemetics, Mithraics, Druids and Christopagans.

Many Neo-pagan religions such as Wicca, Druidry and Celtic Polytheism have active followings in Ireland, although the number of declared adherents is likely quite small.

Druidry (modern) Modern spiritual or religious movement that promotes connection and reverence for the natural world

Druidry, sometimes termed Druidism, is a modern spiritual or religious movement that generally promotes harmony, connection, and reverence for the natural world. This commonly is extended to include respect for all beings, including the environment itself. Many forms of modern Druidry are modern Pagan religions, although most of the earliest modern Druids identified as Christians. Originating in Britain during the 18th century, Druidry was originally a cultural movement, only gaining religious or spiritual connotations in the 19th century.

British Druid Order

The British Druid Order (BDO) is an international druid order, founded in 1979 as a religious and educational organisation. Its constitution defines it as a not-for-profit unincorporated association. It is commonly regarded as being one of the first, if not the first, explicitly neo-pagan Druid Orders. The order draws on medieval Welsh texts such as the Mabinogion and other early British/Celtic texts for inspiration and to re-connect with the pre-Christian, indigenous religious and spiritual practices of Britain which it believes to be shamanic in nature.

Dun Ailline Druid Brotherhood Dun Ailline Druid Brotherhood

The Dun Ailline Druid Brotherhood is a pagan organization for followers of the Celtic Neopaganism based on Spain in 2010, which supports the practice of a type of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism called Druidism, centered on the Celtic culture of Ireland, and whose principal deities are known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. Its members consider themselves practitioners of a European native religion and they call themselves creidim, a concept of Irish origin.


  1. Bonewits, Isaac (2006) Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. New York, Kensington Publishing Group ISBN   0-8065-2710-2. p.132: [Among Celtic Reconstructionists] "...An Thríbhís Mhòr (the great triple spiral) came into common use to refer to the three realms." Also p. 134: [On CRs] "Using Celtic symbols such as triskeles and spirals"
  2. Matthews, John O. (1991). Taliesin: Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland. Aquarian Press. ISBN   1-85538-109-5.
  3. "Druids Recognised; Daily Mail Angry", Fortean Times, FT269
  4. NicDhàna, Kathryn Price; Erynn Rowan Laurie; C. Lee Vermeers; Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann; et al. (August 2007). The CR FAQ – An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (first ed.). River House Publishing. pp. 24–25. ISBN   978-0-615-15800-6.
  5. Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael (2006). Introduction to new and alternative religions in America. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 178. ISBN   0-275-98713-2.
  6. Kennedy, Michael (November 2002). Gaelic Nova Scotia: An Economic, Cultural, and Social Impact Study. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia Museum Publications. pp. 12, 13. ISBN   0-88871-774-1.: "In developing their own concept of Druidry, no reference was made by the [romantic] revivalists to the native spiritual and intellectual traditions of living Celtic communities – particularly to bards and priests who would have been the closest modern inheritors of any modern druidic tradition, slight as it may have been." ... "Although the [romantic "druidic" revival] movement has continued to grow ... it is still almost entirely absent from areas in which Celtic languages are actually spoken and in which Celtic traditions have been most faithfully handed down to the present day. As Prof. Donald Meek has pointed out, this process of romanticism and cultural redefinition is actually greatly assisted by ignorance of the minority group's language." ... "The major reason that they tend to offer such a confused and contradictory picture of the "inherent" nature of Celts or Celtic culture is that they generally make no reference to existing Celtic communities, to living Celtic cultures, or to the best available Celtic scholarship. In fact, attempts to suggest that these should be the first sources of authority for the interpretation and representation of Celtic culture are often met with skepticism and even open hostility."
  7. NicDhàna, Kathryn et al (2007) pp.74–75
  8. Bowman, Marion (2001). Contemporary Celtic Spirituality in. New directions in Celtic studies. Aquarian Press. p. 97. ISBN   0859895874.
  9. Conway, Deanna J (1994) By Oak, Ash and Thorn: Celtic Shamanism. ISBN   1-56718-166-X p.4
  10. Blain, Jenny (2001) "Shamans, Stones, Authenticity and Appropriation: Contestations of Invention and Meaning Archived 2016-01-31 at the Wayback Machine ". In R.J. Wallis and K. Lymer (eds.) New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore: A Permeability of Boundaries? Oxford: BAR. pp.50,52. "The charge of appropriation, in turn, deals in concepts such as ancestry, cultural knowledge, respect, and profit, i.e. commercial gain. Such charges have been documented by a variety of writers, with reference to ‘borrowings’ from Siberian shamanism – through anthropological accounts – and more directly from Indigenous peoples of North and South America. Let us look again at MacEowan’s ‘Celtic Shamanism’ and further investigate the construction of this ahistoric concept. ... Inventing a ‘Celtic Shamanism’"
  11. 1 2 3 McColman, Carl (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom. Alpha Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN   0-02-864417-4.
  12. 1 2 Raeburn, Jane, Celtic Wicca: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century (2001), ISBN   0806522291
  13. 1 2 Hutton, Ronald (2001) The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. ISBN   0-19-285449-6
  14. Grimassi, Rave (2000). Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft . Llewellyn. ISBN   978-1567182576.
  15. Greer, John Michael, and Gordon Cooper (Summer 1998) "The Red God: Woodcraft and the Origins of Wicca". Gnosis Magazine, Issn. #48: Witchcraft & Paganism
  16. Harvey, Graham (2007) Listening People, Speaking Earth: Contemporary Paganism (second edition). London: Hurst & Company. ISBN   978-1-85065-272-4. p.17
  17. Orr, Emma Restall (2000) Druidry. Hammersmith, London: Thorsons. ISBN   978-0-00-710336-2. p.7.
  18. "The Druids Archived 2012-12-23 at Archive.today ", The British Museum. "Modern Druids have no direct connection to the Druids of the Iron Age. Many of our popular ideas about the Druids are based on the misunderstandings and misconceptions of scholars 200 years ago. These ideas have been superseded by later study and discoveries."

Further reading