Thursday, September 12, 2013
Woe is Me: Celtic Culture and Eclectic Paganism
This is an article I have been itching to write, but I don't really know how to go about it. Perhaps it is because this is probably the most opinionated piece I have so far written; these are more about my thoughts about something that irks me, but isn't necessarily unmoral or a call to movement.
My problem boils down to this: a lot of people in the pagan community tend to use terms, practices, and holidays removed from their original cultures.
For example, pretend that someone in Europe is celebrating Fourth of July. They have fireworks and are eating outside--but why call it Fourth of July? Why celebrate another country's national holiday when that person is outside the country?
So... Why celebrate Lughnasa without understanding of the culture that created it?
This particular issue of what is often called "eclecticism" (though by no means is this the only version of that practice) is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for me. The more I interact with the Gaelic community, the more I realize how it bothers me when someone worships a Gaelic God in a way I think is distasteful. The most recent example is when I attended Lughnasa at the UU Church. While I already explained how I enjoyed the experience, that particular holiday has has been hijacked more or less by the NeoPagan movement. The real historical Lughnasa can be found here. And with Samhain fast approaching, I am sure that this will be the same. And continue around the year for Imbolc and Beltane.
I guess I can liken this to a devote Christian being disappointed that their sacred holiday, Christmas, was turned secular by people who don't care about the birth of their savior. And much like if that Christian took their issue public, it would be met with mix replies with the majority saying, "Get over it. No harm is being done."
Similarly... I cannot personally argue the harm in someone worshiping a Gaelic Holiday with non-Gaelic Deities, other than it not making a lick of sense. Just like my metaphor above about a European celebrating the Fourth of July... Why call it that if the holiday makes no sense outside the cultural framework? Why call something Lughnasa when what is really meant is "First Harvest"?
There's this sense of using something "foreign" in name even if the practice can't match up. And in doing so, it relies on stereotypes that strip away cultural identities. The "everyone is the same" mindset that, while nice on print, means that you are ignoring the cultural significance of a person's Bindi. Ignoring the tradition and lore with a Dream Catcher.
Now... With Gaelic Polytheism, it is almost entirely open. Not I nor anyone else has to be part of a community worship to celebrate Lughnasa, or Beltaine, or Imbolc, or Samhain. But it bothers me to hear these terms outside the Gaelic Polytheism community and know they mean something completely different. Much like how the Lughnasa I attended called on non-Celtic deities, people who are pagan often latch to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year as a way to attune to the natural cycles. I don't blame them, nor do I discredit that, but it hurts to know that a culture I deeply respect and admire gets little to no respect.
Part of this, of course, is the rampant misinformation there is out there. To the point that, as a Gaelic Polytheist friend and I discussed, it would be futile to try to make a stand against the abduction of Gaelic and Celtic cultures by other pagans.
But I guess my point of this post is just to lament that misinformation about Celtic cultures is so rampant and acceptable. That the reaction of Edain McCoy to this Gaelic Polytheist in Ireland is "acceptable." Or even expected. The idea that one person's choice to use various parts from various cultures without giving time to learn, study, or participate in that culture is not only common, but the standard practice.
I don't know how to fix this. If I were to go to the UU Church's pagan group and ask to not worship under the name of Celtic festivals, is it a battle even worth fighting for? Am I being too sensitive and selfish? This brings into question of how far away from the traditional cultural festival is still appropriate to call it Lughnasa, or Samhain, or Beltaine, or Imbolc?
Consider this entire post a fit about the norm of misinformation with Celtic Culture coupled with taking from the culture without consideration.
I don't have a specific question, just any thoughts are very much welcomed below. I know I'm still sorting out my thoughts about all this, so I would appreciate any critical questions or feedback anyone has.