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Encyclopedia > Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism

Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR) is a polytheistic, animistic, religious and cultural movement. It is an effort to reconstruct, in a modern Celtic cultural context, an ancient Celtic religious tradition. Pagan reconstructionists have been around since the 1970s but little of it has been specifically Celtic. Polytheism is belief in, or worship of, multiple gods or divinities. ... In religion, the term Animism is used in a number of ways. ... Fishers of Men, oil on panel by Adriaen van de Venne (1614) Various religious symbols Religion is a human phenomenon that defies easy definition. ... A Celtic cross. ... Polytheistic Reconstructionism, often simply called Reconstructionism, is the practice of re-establishing and practicing ancient religions in the modern world. ... The 1970s decade refers to the years from 1970 to 1979, inclusive. ...

Many of the people who went on to establish CR were involved in Pagan groups in the seventies and eighties. Often these groups contained many Celtic elements that eventually found their way into core CR practice. This period, and these groups, are often referred to as "Proto-CR". Later, with the establishment of the Internet in the late eighties and early nineties, many of these Proto-CR, or early CR, groups and individuals came together online. This began a fruitful period of sharing of information and experiences, and led to a rapid growth of the movement.

CR does not make any claim to being a linear or direct descendant of any intact, completely polytheistic, ancient Celtic tradition. The polytheistic religions of the ancient Celts were lost or subsumed by Christianity. However, CRs believe there is much to be found in the living Celtic cultures, the archaeological record, and the early manuscripts. Many folkloric practices never completely died out, and all that is needed in some areas, such as community celebrations, is a bit of dusting off and "back-engineering". Other aspects of ancient Celtic religion are more difficult to reconstruct. Celtic polytheism (also called Druidic polytheism) is the term for the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Celts. ...

CRs openly acknowledge that some aspects of their religious practice are modern creations. However, they state that, as much as possible, these practices are based in and inspired by early Celtic beliefs as found in early texts and the work of scholars and archaeologists, and rooted in an understanding of, and participation in, the living Celtic cultures. Any innovations or elaborations are based upon sound historical precedents, and feedback from other scholars and experienced practitioners is sought before a new practice is accepted as part of the tradition. CRs believe it is important to lay aside possible elements of ancient Celtic culture which would be clearly inappropriate practices for a modern society. Some of those early societies may have practiced human sacrifice, slavery, and had strongly patriarchal elements. However, the bulk of this information can be traced to a few prominent Roman politicians and historians such as Julius Caesar (who was at war with the Celts at the time) and Pliny the Elder. While these accounts may be accurate, they also may have included false claims used as a form of propoganda by the Romans. It should be noted that the claims regarding human sacrifice are not supported by current archaeological findings, or the historical record of later Celtic societies. CRs strive to find ethical ways of integrating their historical findings and research with their daily lives. Human sacrifice was practiced in many ancient cultures. ... Slavery in the ancient Mediterranean cultures comprised a mixture of debt-slavery, slavery as a punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war. ... A patriarch (from Greek: patria means father; arché means rule, beginning, origin) is a male head of an extended family exercising autocratic authority, or, by extension, a member of the ruling class or government of a society controlled by senior men. ... Gaius Julius Caesar (IPA: ;[1]), July 12, 100 BC – March 15, 44 BC) was a Roman military and political leader. ... Pliny the Elder: an imaginative 19c portrait. ...

CR is not only about scholarly research. CR practitioners and elders believe that mystical, ecstatic practices are a necessary balance to scholarship, and that this balance is a vital component in determining whether a tradition is CR. They also believe that participation in, and respect for, the living Celtic cultures is a vital part of the tradition. Language study and preservation, and participation in other cultural activities such as Celtic music, dance and martial arts forms, are seen as a core part of the tradition.

Celtic Reconstructionists focus their efforts on a particular Celtic culture, such as the Gaelic, Welsh or Gaulish. While they believe it is helpful to study a wide variety of Celtic cultures as an aid to reconstruction, in religious and cultural practices these cultures are not lumped together.

Not all people who make use of Pagan reconstructionist techniques are entirely comfortable with using "Celtic Reconstructionism" as a name for their religion, seeing the term as describing a methodology rather than a system of belief, or seeing the term as being incorrectly descriptive. Others feel comfortable with the term CR, but have decided to name their CR sub-traditions so as to distinguish their practices from other sub-groups and flavors of CR. Some other names that people involved in CR-style religion have chosen to use include:

  • Amldduwiaeth ("Polytheism" in Welsh)
  • Aurrad ("Member of the Tribe" in Irish Gaelic)
  • Celtic Restorationism
  • Ildiachas ("Polytheism" in Irish Gaelic)
  • Ioma-Dhiadhachd ("Polytheism" in Scots Gaelic)
  • Liesdoueadegezh ("Polytheism" in Breton))
  • Neo-Celtism
  • Pàganachd ("Paganism, Heathenism" in Scots Gaelic)
  • Págánacht ("Paganism, Heathenism" in Irish Gaelic)
  • Págántacht (alternate Irish spelling of Págánacht)
  • Senistrognata ("Ancestral Customs" in reconstructed Old Celtic)
  • Yljeeaghys ("Polytheism" in Manx)


Polytheism is belief in, or worship of, multiple gods or divinities. ... Welsh redirects here, and this article describes the Welsh language. ... The Goidelic languages (also sometimes called the Gaelic languages or collectively Gaelic) are one of two major divisions of modern-day Insular Celtic languages (the other being the Brythonic languages). ... Note: This page contains phonetic information presented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) using Unicode. ... Breton (Breton: Brezhoneg) is a Celtic language spoken by some of the inhabitants of Brittany (Breizh) and Loire-Atlantique (historically part of Brittany) in France. ...

First Modern Appearance of the Term and Other Historical Data

An early, key event in laying the groundwork for much Proto-CR and CR practice was the Celtic workshops, discussions and rituals at the 1985 Pagan Spirit Gathering, in Wisconsin, USA. Participants at this gathering returned home and continued to develop the foundations of their CR sub-traditions, now incorporating some of the ideas they had shared in person. In later years some of them would re-meet online and once again collaborate. Official language(s) None Capital Madison Largest city Milwaukee Area  Ranked 23rd  - Total 65,498 sq. ...

The first appearance in print of the term "Celtic Reconstructionist", used to describe a specific religious movement and not just a style of Celtic studies, was by Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann in the Spring, 1992 issue of Harvest Magazine (Southboro, Massachusetts, USA). Ní Dhoireann credits Kathryn Price NicDhàna with originating the term “Celtic Reconstructionist”; however, NicDhàna credits her early use of the term to a simple extrapolation of Margot Adler's use of the term "Pagan Reconstructionists" in the original, 1979 edition of Drawing Down the Moon. Though Adler devotes space to a handful of Reconstructionist traditions, none of those mentioned are specifically Celtic. In chapter eleven, while describing his Neo-Druidic group, NRDNA, Isaac Bonewits used the phrase "Eclectic Reconstructionist." However, by the time CR became a recognized tradition, this pairing of terms had become oxymoronic, as "Reconstructionism" in the Pagan/polytheist sense had now been defined specifically to exclude "Eclecticism". Harvest was an American Neopagan magazine founded by publishers, writers and editors Morven and Brenwyn in 1980. ... Official language(s) English Capital Boston Largest city Boston Area  Ranked 44th  - Total 10,555 sq. ... Margot Adler (born 5 November 1946 in Little Rock, Arkansas) is a journalist and correspondent for National Public Radio. ... Polytheistic reconstructionism, or simply reconstructionism, is the practice of re-establishing and practicing historical polytheistic religions in the modern world. ... Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler was, perhaps, the first academic examination of Neopaganism. ... Phillip Emmons Issac Bonewits (born October 1, 1949) is an influential Neopagan leader and author. ...

NicDhàna and Ní Dhoireann have stated that they coined the term CR specifically to distinguish their practices and beliefs from those of eclectic traditions like Wicca and the Neo-Druidry of the time. Erynn Rowan Laurie also began using the name "Celtic Reconstructionist" some time in the early '90s, though "NeoCeltic" was her initial term of choice. With Ní Dhoireann’s popularization of Celtic Reconstructionism in the Pagan press, and then the use of the term by these three individuals on the internet, “Celtic Reconstructionism” began to be adopted as the name for this developing spiritual tradition. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... ...

Initially only a few dozen people were involved on the Proto-CR and CR listserves. These included the PODS:CELTIC Echo on PODnet (a FidoNet technology based network), the Celtic and Occult forums on networks like GEnie and CompuServe, and later Nemeton-L in 1994 (founded and initially moderated by Laurie). But over the 1990s many hundreds of individuals and groups gradually joined the discussions online and in print, and the movement became more of an umbrella group, with a number of recognized sub-traditions. Look up echo in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Echo may refer to: ECHO RULEZ THE KNOWN CB WORLD.. Echo (mythology), a nymph from Greek mythology. ... The FidoNet logo FidoNet is an inter-connecting file and message transport system that was used by bulletin board systems. ... Ancient Assyrian stone relief of a genie. ... CompuServe, (in full, CompuServe Information Services, or CIS), was the first major commercial online service in the United States, dominating the field during the 1980s and remaining a major player through the mid-1990s when it was sidelined by the rise of GUI-based services such as America Online (AOL). ... Seinfeld was a pop cultural phenomenon during the 90s and became one of the most popular TV programs ever. ...

Number of Adherents

No one is sure how many people identify as Celtic Reconstructionists. As of May, 2006, the two most popular CR online communities, imbas-public and cr_r, have 671 and 365 members, respectively. There is overlap between the two groups, and it is likely not everyone on these lists identifies as CR, or would be considered CR by the elders of the movement. However, there are also a number of smaller, online CR communities and message boards, often with up to 100 or 200 members. There are also many general Neopagan communities, or general Reconstructionist ones, that include people who identify as CR, but who have no contact with the larger CR groups. There are also people who belong to CR groups but who are not active on the Internet. Until some sort of appropriate census is designed and undertaken, it is likely there will be no definite figure. Neopaganism or Neo-Paganism [1] is any of a heterogeneous group of new religious movements, particularly those influenced by ancient, primarily pre-Christian and sometimes pre-Judaic religions. ...

Celtic Reconstructionism and Neo-Druidry

Though there has certainly been quite a bit of cross-pollenization between Neo-Druidism and Celtic Reconstructionist groups, and there is a large crossover of membership between the two movements, the two have somewhat distinct methodologies and goals in their approach to Celtic religious forms. CR practitioners tend to look to the whole cultural matrix in which the religious ideas were formed, while Neo-Druids tend to prefer to focus on the specifically druidic functions. Some Neo-Druidic groups claim to be non-religious in nature, which is not the case with most CR groups. There are some CR philosophies which downplay the role of the druidic office specifically in preference to a more general view of Indo-European priesthood (making the argument that the Druids may simply have been a very successful school of priestcraft, and possibly not even completely pan-Celtic), or to the successors of druids such as the filí and seanachies. A group of British druids, congregating to celebrate the summer solstice at stonehenge. ... In Celtic polytheism the word druid denotes the priestly class in ancient Celtic societies, which existed through much of Western Europe north of the Alps and in the British Isles. ... See Fíli and Kíli for the Dwarves appearing in The Hobbit. ...

This is not to say that there is no connection between Neo-Druid groups and CR. Some Neo-Druid groups (notably, Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), and Keltria) have similar methodologies of reconstruction, or have taken up CR methodologies recently. The ADF, in particular, have long used CR-type techniques, but many CRs criticize them for their pan-Indo-European focus, resulting in such oddities as "Vedic Druids" and "Roman Druids". Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc. ... The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids or OBOD is a Druidic order based in England. ... The religion of the Vedic civilization is the predecessor of classical Hinduism, usually included in the term. ... Roman mythology, the mythological beliefs of the people of Ancient Rome, can be considered as having two parts. ...

Other differences between CR groups and Neo-Druid groups can include such elements as differing ideas on hierarchical structures and acceptance of Enlightenment-era druidic revivals. Some philosophical differences exist as well, especially in terms of what "Druid" means. Some Neo-Druidic groups call anyone with an interest in Celtic Spirituality a "druid", and refer to the practice of Celtic spirituality as "Druidry", while CR groups tend to look at the older definition, seeing it as an office that requires decades of training and experience and is only attained by a small number of practitioners. A hierarchy (in Greek hieros = sacred, arkho = rule) is a system of ranking and organizing things. ... The Age of Enlightenment refers to the 18th century in European philosophy, and is often thought of as part of a period which includes the Age of Reason. ...

Despite these differences, there are generally good relations between Neo-Druid and CR groups, with, as noted previously, a great deal of sharing of ideas and even memberships.


  • Adler, Margot (1979) Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston, Beacon Press ISBN 0807032379. Chapter 9: Religions from the Past--The Pagan Reconstructionists. Also, Chapter 11: Religions of Paradox and Play, p.303, Bonewits on New Reformed Druids of North America (NRDNA) as "Eclectic Reconstructionist".
  • Theatana, Kathryn [K.P. NicDhàna] (1992) "More on Names", Harvest, Southboro, MA, Vol. 12, No. 3, Imbolc 1992, pp. 11-12. On need to reconstruct traditions of ancestral [Celtic] deities and avoid cultural appropriation.
  • Lambert, Kym [K.L. ní Dhoireann] (1992) "Celtic God/Goddess Names", Harvest, Southboro, MA, Vol. 12, No. 4, Spring Equinox 1992, pp. 11-12. First use of "Celtic Reconstructionist" as tradition name.
  • Lambert, Kym [K.L. ní Dhoireann] (1992) Book Reviews, Bio Blurbs, Harvest, Southboro, MA, Vol. 12, No. 5, Beltane 1992, pp. 6,8. Continued use of "Celtic Reconstructionist" and "Celtic Reconstructionism". Use of term continued in succeeding issues for full publication run of magazine.
  • McColman, Carl (2003) Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom. Alpha Press ISBN 0028644174, pp. 12, 51, 52, 237-8. Basic overview and author's opinion of Celtic Reconstructionism, specifically in comparison to other Celtic spiritual movements.
  • Telesco, Patricia [editor] (2005) Which Witch is Which? Franklin Lakes, NJ, New Page Books / The Career Press ISBN 1-56414-754-1, pp. 85-89. Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, mostly taken from the CR Essay, included in an unfortunately-titled book about many diverse Pagan traditions.


  • Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism
  • Briggs, Katherine (c1978) The vanishing people: Fairy lore and legends. New York, Pantheon
  • Carmichael, Alexander (c1992) Carmina Gadelica: hymns and incantations,: with illustrative notes on wards, rites, and customs dying and obsolete/ orally collected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by Alexander Carmichael. Hudson, NY Lindisfarne
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  • MacKillop, James (c1998) A dictionary of Celtic mythology. Oxford University Press
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  • Ó Tuathail, Sean (1993) Foclóir Draíochta – Dictionary of Druidism.
  • Patterson, Nerys Thomas (c1994) Cattle lords and clansmen: the social structure of early Ireland Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press – 2nd edition
  • Power, Patrick C. (c1976) Sex and marriage in ancient Ireland Dublin, Mercier
  • Rees, Alwyn and Brinley (c1961) Celtic heritage: ancient tradition in Ireland and Wales New York, Thames and Hudson
  • Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise (1982) Gods and heroes of the Celts Translated by Myles Dillon, Berkeley, CA, Turtle Island Foundation
  • Smyth, Daragh (c1988, 1996) A guide to Irish mythology Dublin, Irish Academic Press

Alexei Kondratiev is a Wiccan and teaches Irish language and Celtic history at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, New York. ...

External links

  • Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism: The consensus tradition statement, seen by many as the definitive introduction to CR.
  • cr_r: The LiveJournal CR community.
  • IMBAS: Articles and YahooGroup.
  • Multicultural Polytheistic Hearth: Discussion board for Reconstructionists, with a large CR presence.
  • CAORANN: Celts Against Oppression, Racism and Neo-Nazism.

  Results from FactBites:
Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism - The Mind-N-Magick Paganpedia (1179 words)
Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR) is a Neopagan religious movement.
The first appearance in print of the term "Celtic Reconstructionist", used to describe a specific religious movement and not just a style of Celtic studies, was by Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann in the Spring, 1992 issue of Harvest Magazine (Southboro, Massachusetts, USA).
Though there has certainly been quite a bit of cross-pollenization between Neo-Druidism and Celtic Reconstructionist groups, and there is a large crossover of membership between the two movements, the two have somewhat distinct methodologies and goals in their approach to Celtic religious forms.
MSN Encarta - Romania (1012 words)
  More results at FactBites »



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