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CELTIC-L  March 1994

CELTIC-L March 1994

Subject:

Re: Puns (fairly long)

From:

Tom Harbold <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Tue, 29 Mar 1994 09:53:21 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (167 lines)

In message "Puns," Chris Tacker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
 
<among other things>
 
>What is missing in the various neo-mystical movements is the entire cultural
>context. If I may offer an analagous situation, you may convert to another
>religion,
>say Judaism or Catholicism, but you will not be the same as an Israeli Jew or
>an Irish
>Catholic that has spent their entire lives immersed in that culture. Your
>assumptions
>and unconcious reactions will not be the same.
 
This is largely true, but (IMHO) partially beside the point. Please allow
me to explain... There are at least two points which I think are worth
looking at in regard to modern efforts to revive or re-create some version
of Druidry.
 
Primus: American society is so fluid at this point that people who spend
"their entire lives immersed" in _any_ culture -- except perhaps American
pop culture, which hardly counts -- are very few and far between. This is
also true, though less radically so, in other parts of "the West." Should
no one, then, convert to any religion or spiritual path which is embedded
in a different cultural milieu than that in which they were raised? I
simply don't think that's a realistic expectation.
 
Secundus: as we all know, ancient Celtic culture, Druidic or otherwise, no
longer exists; therefore, any degree of rebuilding any aspect of that
culture must, of necessity, but somewhat conjectural. Additionally, there
are aspects of all ancient cultural/spiritual traditions which few of us
would want to rebuild or re-create. Here I think the Society for Creative
Anachronism (a medieval/Renaissance reconstructionist group) serves as a
possibly salutary model: they engage in considerable scholarly research in
an attempt to be as authentic as possible, but they do so with the idea
very firmly fixed in mind that they are "recreating the Middle Ages, not as
they were, but as they ought to have been"! Neo-Paganism, Druidic or
otherwise, is likewise not merely reviving ancient religious/spiritual
traditions, but _re-constructing_ them, in light of the contemporary world,
which is not the same thing at all. "Re-imagining" or "re-envisioning"
might be as good or better a term...
 
>If you overlook the lack of cultural contest, you must also deal with the
>entire lack
>of human interaction. You are interested in Druidic thought? That's nice,
>maybe they
>have some insight to offer. I have always been interested in the beliefs that
>are based
>in a veneration of Nature. Now try to resolve the paradox of sucking up that
>belief
>system from that cold glass teat in front of you now. Rather than dealing with
>the
>sights, smells and sounds of another human being, and learning from the
>experience,
>the on-line Druid College offers the coldest, most sterile and refined form of
>instant
>teaching. Do-it-yourself and Druid-yourself in the privacy of your own home,
>in the
>cold blue light of the CRT.
 
Now, that's a real good point! The irony of that idea had not escaped me,
either. But it ties in directly with my response to the next post...
 
>These mailing lists are, at best, an opportunity for conversation that allows
>time for
>some thought before the reply. I offer Leslie Jones' (and others) recent
>posting on
>Shamanism as an example. At worst, it is cybergraffitti, an interactive form
>of TV
>geared for instant gratification. I believe that the more scholarly postings
>here are an
>example of the former. What I have read so far about "Druid-L" suggests that
>it is the
>latter. It is geared for instant gratification rather than requiring the work
>and
>discipline the ancient Druids faced.
 
Sadly, I find that I have to agree with you, in large measure, with regard
to some of the posts in here so far. What I, personally, would be
interested in seeing on any "Druid-L" would be some form of scholarly
discussion of current research on Druids, Druidry, and Celtic religion in
general -- with, perhaps, some suggestions, anecdotes, etc. related to
putting some of this into a relevant form for use as a spiritual path in
the modern world. But maybe that's asking a bit too much, I don't know. I
_don't_ want "Digital Druidheacht" (although I admit I got a kick out of
that expression!) in the sense of e-mail-based "orders" and "degrees" and
who knows what-and-all; that's unrealistic. I also think it's unrealistic,
however, to say that because we simply cannot, in the modern world,
re-create Druidic 19-year training cycles,* elaborate mnemonic poetry for
rote memory, etc., we should confine any discussion of Druidry to the
"strictly scholarly" (whatever that might be).
 
(Climbing up on soap-box, with sincere apologies...)
 
It seems to me that we put far too many, and too narrow, boxes around
aspects of our being -- and certainly our thinking -- in contemporary
culture. As, for example, between "mystical" and "intellectual," or between
"religious/spiritual" and "academic." The ancient Celts, Druidic or
otherwise, certainly don't appear to have done so! Neither have numerous
other cultures around the world, historically and even to the present, in
some areas. Are we so far gone that it's impossible, any more, to have
"both-and"? I don't think so. I certainly hope not. "Druid-L" _could_ be a
place where it's possible to be _both_ scholarly and spiritual, both
academic and inspired. If so, I want to be a part of it. If not, you may as
well sign me off, too. Frankly, I'm not all that interested in either New
Age pseudo-"Atlanteans" _or_ the kind of condescending disdain offered by
Stuart Piggot and his ilk. Is there not a "middle way"? Can we not,
together -- those of us with an interest in Druidry, that is -- try to find
it?
 
(Climbing down off soap-box, with sheepish grin...)
 
Not to mention the fact that a list such as "Druid-L" would provide those
who _are_ "dealing with the sights, smells and sounds of another human
being, and learning from the experience" (in such Neo-Druidic groups as
ADF, Keltria, Druidiactos, etc.) a place to network without wading through
the Fundies, Thelemites, Satanists and crack-pots in "alt.pagan" -- or
taking up bandwidth on "Celtic-L"! <grin>
 
Now, a question (two, really):
 
a) does anyone have any impressions they'd like to share concerning Ward
Rutherford? I'm reading his _Celtic_Lore_ ; he _seems_ pretty solid, and
his bibliography's exhaustive, but I'm a bit disconcerted by his lack of
foot/endnotes...
 
b) I'm looking for information on the department of Celtic Languages and
Literatures (Graduate School of Arts & Sciences) at Harvard University;
could anyone with first-hand (or reliable second-hand) information on the
department please e-mail me? Thanks! And apologies for blathering on for so
long in this post...
 
Brightest blessings,
 
Tom
 
 
 
* It's worth noting, in this context, that some of us have spent 19 years
(or more) in the secular academic system, much of it spent learning (one
suspects) a lot of the same things that probably took up much of the
Druid-candidate's 19 years: literacy, history, philosophy, natural science,
and so on. And I think most of us who have been through it would agree that
post-secondary education, at least, takes _some_ degree of "work and
discipline." Just because these years weren't spent in Druidic groves
doesn't mean that we moderns don't have many of the elements of a "Druidic"
education -- or are we to assume that _all_ of a would-be Druid's years
were spent learning ogham, mistletoe-gathering, and techniques of
divination?
 
----------
Thomas H. Harbold
Vanderbilt Divinity School
[log in to unmask]
----------
Vanderbilt University and Divinity School do not own or operate my brain
and are therefore not responsible for my comments. Please do not blame
them. Thank you!
----------
My heart is moved by all I cannot save;
so much has beeen destroyed.
I have to cast my lot with those who
age after age,
perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
                                        --Adrienne Rich

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