There has been a lot of talk back and forth lately about the need for a more cohesive community surrounding Celtic* Polytheism… And while their words are a bit more harsh than I would have personally used, quite frankly I echo the sentiment of another user when they blatantly say “My question is, where the fuck was that attitude any time before the last week?”.
Since starting my journey through Irish Polytheism in late February I have been pretty vocal about my personal upset that such a community does not exist for many reasons. Yet when I voiced my personal concern about it the response that I received was (what I interpreted as being snarky) “we don’t need to be like other Communities” from one individual, a dismissive hand wave or echoing silence from most, and a few excuses from some as to why no Community exists… But almost four months later the lack of community is, overall, the largest thing that I am still having a hard time understanding when it comes to Irish Polytheism.
From everything that I have read so far during my research… The Early Irish were (and the Modern still are) a very community driven and oriented people. You can, in my opinion, see it pretty clearly in the information we have about things like guest laws, certain maintained traditions, the way in which holidays were celebrated, and so on; it’s there and (at least to me) it is obvious.
So why, then, do we not have a community? Why has no effort been put into building one? Because it stands to reason that if Community was important to them and we seek to follow their cultural religion… Then Community should be a big deal to us as well. And it shouldn’t just be “a big deal”, either. It should be the entire foundation of our practice and part of the reason why we practice in the first place. There are several reasons for this, but the most prominent of which stands out in my mind is the foundation of Reciprocacy that is found within the surviving Irish lore and practice; offerings and worship were provided for the fertility, survival, and overall benefit of the Community and the Land.
So for us, as Celtic* Polytheist, community is and should be an important foundaion. Not just for this reason, but also because of the fact that- if it doesn’t outright determine it- it does at least massively affect our interest in and solidarity with only one another, but also to our Gods and faith; as TheTwistedRope once alluded to a while ago in regards to a bit of controversy concerning Tess Dawson? Community is important:
This is why I personally have taken so much time to try and create resources to make a good community. Because the community can often define the religious experience, and help determine whether someone wants to even bother with the religion.
Our communities are the first thing that any newcomer will experience when looking into our religion. We are the first line of contact… And as the first line of contact, the strength, structure, and overall attitude of our community is often a defining feature in their decision to pursue our faith; as the first line of contact, many newcomers look to us directly. We are the Gods’ representatives- and we are representative of the practices and beliefs involved with them.
Because of this, it is important to have a well defined community which can adequately represent this. But more than that, coming together as a Community in at least some form leads to and encourages unity and cohesion among members, exposes us to new takes on our materials, encourages innovation in our practices, and so much more. This is important not only for the continued reconstruction, revival, and growth of our faiths as a whole, but us as individuals as well.
But for me, this issue isn’t just the lack of a Community… It is also the distinct actions on the part of certain individuals to stop community building in its tracks- which was the modus operandi of practically everyone (except a small handful) until last week… And that upsets me. I am apparently not the only one who noticed this trend, either. The same user that I referenced in the opening paragraph continues on in their post to say:
“Literally everything I have ever seen about Celtic polytheism on tumblr has been [people] whining about how they need their own [redacted] corners. If this sounds harsh, it’s meant to; we are a people who value the [redacted] tribe and honor, and yet all that I’ve seen is petty masturbation, keeping people out instead of keeping them in […]”
And while I don’t quite agree with the rest of what they say, in this specific observation they aren’t necessarily wrong… Overall, we as a group take a very self depreciating and ultimately discouraged stance when it comes to the state of us and our capabilities as a Community.
We would rather reinforce the idea that we are a small group with no real voice within Paganism. We would rather reinforce the idea that we are overshadowed by Wicca and Neo-Wicca. We would rather reinforce the idea that Celtic* Polytheism is too vast, too personal, and too different between the various types under its umbrella to ever lend itself to the creation of a cohesive Community that involves and uplifts all of us.
We would rather reinforce several things and then kind of shrug our shoulders and take an “it is what it is and why bother changing that?” kind of attitude instead of actively working to do it anyways despite the struggles we will face in doing so; as another user says:
“Like you said in the [original post], a lot of us have developed some pretty nasty knee-jerk reactions to just about everything. We have tendencies to lash out even when we don’t want to when things don’t go exactly how we’ve been told they should go.”
But the problem is not that we are small, voiceless, or any of the other things we would rather continue to encourage others to believe about us… The problem is that we are using these things as justification to continue existing in self imposed isolation. And I am not saying that the self isolation isn’t warranted in some cases. However, I am saying that if we continue doing this, we will only continue to remain the things we say we are as a community.
Furthermore, it becomes a significant problem when we repeatedly attempt to sabotage the Community Building efforts of others in order to maintain our own isolation for our own reasons… And this is exactly what I see so many users doing. Worse is that it is not being done outright, but (in most cases) through coded language and covert actions; discouraging people from partaking in certain traditional beliefs and practices, simply not talking or outright refusing to talk about certain foundational elements, snarky quips or complaints about actions aimed at building Community, outright discouraging people from utilizing certain (I feel) important materials, or quips about personal things that only serve to reinforce our self imposed isolation as individuals.
We let these things discourage us, and in return we actively discourage others around us… But it’s a toxic and ultimately self damaging thing to do.
Community forms an integral foundation not only to practice consistently, but also to modernize and update the faith appropriately. So if there is no cohesive, actively engaging Community in the first place- and all efforts to build a Community (online or off) are shot down- then how are we to practice and Modernize appropriately? Because in order to do that, we must have cohesion and a community built upon that cohesion… So I do not think, in all honestly, that we can; I do not personally see how we can emulate, recreate, reconstruct, or otherwise modernize Irish (and other brands of Celtic*) Polytheism without also modernizing all of its values- including putting effort into Community Building.
I don’t say that to point fingers or place blame, however. I say it because it’s true. It’s there, and I know it is. I have seen it, and I have even experienced it; until the conversation recently, I have been met at almost every turn with a plethora of actions and words from various people which seek to discourage Community Building and the people who attempt it… And maybe it’s not being done intentionally by the individuals doing it, but it is definitely being done regardless of the intent that is behind it.
And if you do not want to put forth that effort, that is fine. No one is asking you to break out of your self imposed isolation and get involved if that is not what you wish to do… However, I am asking you to to stop being a negative voice and to stop actively discouraging those people who attempt to build a Community here; I am asking you to be more aware of the impact that such negativity and discouragement (whether intentional or not) has on those around you.
“One cannot dose poison into a well every day and then ask, later, why no-one drinks the water.”
For a list of IriPol resources, including those I used to inform the opinions mentioned in this article, please view this page here.