Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You are what you do, not what you study

This is a moose, your argument is irrelevant
I have been using this mostly just for homestead related issues, but I think this actually relates to some extent. I will, however, most likely use this blog to delve into Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and Heathen matters here, if they do not more relate to the warrior path where I'm more likely to do so at Championing Ourselves.  The idea of starting yet another blog is just to much. I find it odd that I've divided my life as much as I have, actually.

This topic also fits here for me, because this is very much a blog about living this life, rather than studying it. This is also true of Championing Ourselves, of course. In both cases research plays a major role, of course, research into Gaelic and Norse cultures, but here also research in various arts, crafts and sciences of living this life. However, research is only to lead to living, it can not be the only is not what defines us.

It seems that some folks now want to define a "Celtic Reconstructionist" as only someone who studies, who is themselves a scholar. That anyone who isn't cracking the books seriously cannot be called a CR. This would mean that my husband who has done minimal study isn't a proper Reconstructionist in their view.  My husband who has been practicing this for nearly 20 years now, who can remember every detail of every discussion he's been in, who actually know more about the lore (both Gaelic and Norse) from what he's picked up over the years than some of these folks relying on questionable tertiary sources and who has been in and lead ritual for, again, nearly 20 years is apparently not qualified because he prefers to research farming, alternative energy and politics; he reads some lore and history, but not a lot.  Fuck that shit!

CR was never meant to be a "religion of scholars" it was, rather meant to be a scholarly based religion. Really, I no longer consider it "a religion" it ceased being that a long time ago when others took up the term and it came to mean many thing, that is that there are many CR religions, it is a methodology. That methodology is a combination of scholarship and experience. But not everyone who decides to follow a religion using this methodology are going to be doing the work. Yes, that was true of most of us 20 odd years ago when we didn't have community, but in order for CR to mean anything, anything at all, we must be open to those who have other things than scholarship to share.

Celtic Reconstructionists have a horrible reputation not just in the broader NeoPagan community, (and yes, we are NeoPagan, we are in fact among the newest), but also among other Reconstructionists and think this issue may well be one which has caused this. Because there may be a valid reason why everyone sees us only as fighting online. Because far too many fancy themselves scholars and tell others that they're not welcome if they're not too. Although some of us (I have from the beginning) have tried to make everyone welcome, I have seen people be attacked, viciously sometimes, for wanting to find practice without having to do research.

Okay, so part of me might resent it a little because off all the work I've had to do being one of the first. But the point is that there has to be room for both those who are and those who can offer other things. Including just community. Because we are just elitists assholes sitting alone in front of our computers if we can't build community. I have seen many in Asatru, Nova Roma and Hellenism who have been welcoming of those who wish to do, to worship, to commune, to live inside their religions without all those people being scholars. And yes, some argue about things online too. But they don't share our reputation about it because it's far clearer that's not all they do.

I have seen people complain about not having community, about their family members not being "interested" only to realize that they have themselves destroyed any interest their friends or family members may have had by requiring that everyone do the same amount of Research.  I have seen people claim that they can't include their kids because kids are too young to do The Research. They're whining about not having a community but they've destroyed it by making absurd demands on people.

CR is over 20 years old now. When it began there was a lot of need for scholarship and there still is. But scholarship is not depending on tertiary sources and rehashing the same things. So what we needed then was more general, "let's get this started" research with some beginnings of serious scholarship. What we need now, actually, are more people doing down right serious, primary sources (translating even) focused study. Most of the people I have seen claiming we all must be scholars are not doing this level of work and often depending on previous work that is fairly easy to obtain but often was very generalized and included misinformation that even academics not focused on specifics of a particular issue fall into. We don't need more of that, we need more serious research and exploration.

We also need those who are not real scholars, both those who realize they are not and shouldn't be bullied about it and those who think they are but it's not the strongest thing they have to offer. We need the farmers, the warriors, the craftspeople; we can't all be priests and poets. We need to be building community, or at least households, to be doing the work of living this life. Because we are not what we study, we can never be ancient Celts, we are what we do. We are how we live. We need to move beyond the beginning stages that CR often seems to still be in and get on with the living of it.

Moos has had enough


  1. I've been saying much the same for years now. I know that you have been, too.

    Kids today.

    1. "Kids today" indeed. I'm realizing that they may be thinking that the point of this is to reconstruct it from scratch and ignore everyone who has done work already and expect everyone who follows to start all over too.

      I hope we're not still having to say this in another 20 years.

    2. This is what I wrote elsewhere when asked about "reconstructionism as methodology". It's not surprising that we had convergent ideas:

      Well, it's not that difficult, really. "Reconstruction" should be seen in the forensic sense - we reconstruct the situation as it was before we were able to directly observe it by means of comparing the available residue with known patterns. That residue consists of a number of elements: archaeological remains, folklore and oral traditions, literature (which we must compare with the existing folklore and oral traditions), contemporary observations by outsiders, and so forth. "Celtic" refers to the cultural matrices in question, which is a matter of much discussion in itself. For this purpose, we will assume that the question is already settled, as it is less important to what we are discussing than the definition of "reconstructionism".

      Some people consider "reconstruction" to refer to the process of rebuilding on ruined foundations. I think that is a mistake. What we are building is here and now. For some of us, that includes such foundations - those in the Celtic and ex-Celtic countries, for instance, or those who grew up in very traditional, non-assimilationist families (extremely rare, as this would imply learning a Celtic language as one's milk tongue among other things) - but for the rest of us, such foundations do not exist, and we are building new "buildings" in a style that is disfavored in the "modern" world. We are doing so in a way that attempts to learn from what those who built the original "buildings" had to teach. Our reasons for choosing this disfavored style are probably as varied as we are, but I for one am more interested in actions than alleged motivations or self-descriptions.

      Which last leads us to the issue of identity. I am more interested in what people do than in what they call themselves. I'd rather hear someone describe an insight into the nature of the gods than tell me who they wish they were.

    3. Oh, very well put..I agree. Thank you.

  2. Well said, you were always more eloquent then I.

    1. Thank you. However, I think if I were truly eloquent I would have come up with a better name to suggest all those years ago. As I noted in other comments, I think that perhaps having the word "reconstruct" in there has led to the belief that everyone is supposed to reconstruct from scratch. It does, actually, seem to be what's happening an awful lot. Not everywhere, but....

  3. I'm confused. How do you know what to reconstruct without looking at how it was? If you don't look at what it was before, isn't that constructing not reconstructing?

    1. Hi Fernwise, I didn't say that as a group CRs don't need to know the past to build from it. HOWEVER, remember this has been going on for 20 years and, for me (and many others, especially if we weren't online...and back then even those who where couldn't have been like we are now) even in the beginning there was room for diversity. Not EVERYONE needs to be the ones studying the past, and not everyone who does needs to be doing it broadly. The key, of course, is working with a variety of people and not limiting it to those who are researching.

      And not constantly reinventing the wheel which I do, in fact, see some new people doing. It often feels like the past two decades of work is ignored by many coming into CR more recently, so they all feel they have to do ALL the research. It may, in fact, be a flaw with the use of "reconstructionist" in the common name, something which I didn't think would be an issue in 1991 or 92. (Mostly because I figured someone would come up with a more attractive name rather than ever use it. ~;p) But the truth is we can't actually reconstruct anything if ALL we're doing is studying and arguing about it. We have to take what we, or what some, learn, spread the ideas and then DO.

      Religions and cultures really do rely on the doing. And this is a cultural religious movement. What we're trying to reconstruct is communal and family based, which gets lost if we define members as ONLY those who do the study. We need to include children, people who have faith and want to learn in other ways and that do not want to delve into the heavier reading.

      I've seen people discourage those they might share this path with locally from considering themselves as CR because they're "not studious enough." A friend or family member might love what they know, might want to learn more bits and pieces but isn't interested in starting from scratch. Then the same people whine about not being able to find community.

      And this does NOT mean "blindly following" as I've been told some have claimed it does. Trust me, my husband may not have read a tremendous amount in Celtic or Norse studies but he's the best bullshit detector I know. He learned a lot through various lore meetings and just hanging around me and my colleagues through the years. I know another woman who told me that she felt overwhelmed by what all she first felt she had to study until she realized she could just focus on the aspect that she was drawn to. By having various people working together, there an be more doing and less study, at least for those so inclined.

      So if we're spending all of time just doing study, with every newcomer constantly having to do all the work again instead of seeking out those who have already, we don't move forward. We don't build our knowledge base through those who could take what has been created already and focus their studies more. And we don't DO anything. Or at least not much because it doesn't leave us with a whole lot of time. And we need to DO things.

      I sometimes think that the timing of CR taking off at the same time the internet did has helped in some regards but hurt in this particular one. We've certainly been able to find each other due to it, but as the internet is about communication and therefore is going to be filled with those who study and want to talk about it but not those who are more focused JUST the doing. I think that may have ended up putting more emphasis on the study to the point where I have.


    2. I wasn't online when I started,I think I got online in '96 or so. So my first experiences in working with other people on this stuff, after graduating college, was in (or out as I never joined, my role was liminal, even when I joined ADF I never joined a grove) very mixed groups (within ADF, but both groups were run by women who considered themselves CR). There were people serious about study and there were others who were less studious and had other things to offer. They might come to lore meetings and learn through the discussions. But not everyone was cracking the books to the same extent.

      There has to be the people doing the study, but we can't thrive or really be anything at all if they are the ONLY people we have. And if they all feel that they're the ones reconstructing from scratch. Then we're making the mistake of being a "religion of priest/esses" which is exactly one of the problems some of us had with other NeoPagan religions which seem to define as such. We need the celebrants, we need the poets, we need the law-speakers, but we need the farmers, we need the warriors, we need the children, we need the cooks. Some of us can do many of these things (and I see that as necessary on the Outlaw Warrior path), but we can't all do everything and we shouldn't have to.