Last night many of you began your holiday celebrations. The festival of Imbolc, the Irish holy day of the hearth goddess, continues today. And that means the Celtic Library Contest has officially ended.
The Results Are In
In November I announced an essay contest to give away this collection of 41 books & sets related to Celtic Studies. Essays were accepted through January 15. We asked entrants to write about a project “that advances either Celtic polytheism, the Celtic polytheist community, or the field of Celtic Studies as it relates to Celtic polytheism.” Yeah, that’s a lot of Celtic.
The essays poured in, full of enthusiasm and great ideas. It was difficult for us judges to rank one great project above the other, and we were impressed with the overall level of academic commitment and community mindedness from the entrants.
One entry however stood out. Submitted by Chris Redmond and Kelley Forbes of the organization Cró Dreolín, they convinced us they would put the collection of books to the best use. Here is their winning essay in full:
A little over 15 years ago, we set out together on a search for our spiritual path. We began by undertaking a philosophical investigation of our personal understanding of reality, especially ontology, cosmology, and epistemology. It was a long and complicated process, but ultimately very rewarding. We emerged with a clear understanding of who we are and how we relate to the world. Based on that understanding, we then went searching to see if there was an existing religious or spiritual tradition that approached life in the same way. It seemed unlikely; ours seemed to be a very unusual metaphysics, unlike any religion we had ever encountered.
Then we discovered the legacy of the pre-Christian Gaels. Imagine our astonishment: In text after text, we saw an entire culture of Gods and men seeing the same vision of the world in which we ourselves believed. The knowledge was tenuous, the tradition broken, but the flame remained alive! It was like taking the first breath of a new life. We knew it would not be easy, but we had discovered our spiritual home.
For years, we practiced in isolation. We sought out the Gods of the ancient Celts and found among them some that were open to a relationship with us. We brought traditional practices into our daily lives, everything from the big seasonal holiday celebrations down to simple votive offerings to the gentle people. We experienced the art, the music, and the poetry. We attempted, as far as we were able, to bring the ancient tradition back to life in our own modern lives. We’ve continued our studies of the tradition over the years, learning to tell the difference between the authentic and the (sadly very common) fraud. We read literature, histories, and cultural studies (both contemporary and modern), as well as archaeological and linguistic treatises. We used that information to continue another kind of learning: practice and experience. Then, about a year and a half ago, we began to see that the Gods of our tradition wanted something new from us. Subtly at first, then more and more clearly, they called to us no longer to be solitary, but to reach out to others who also believe as we believe. In short, we were to gather together a new community of Celtic Polytheists here in Colorado.
Thus was born Cró Dreoilín: A family in which all those who feel the call of the ancients are invited to join with us in rekindling the tradition. The name literally translates as “Wren’s Nook”, but also hearkens to many other connotations, including the druid’s bird, the fold of the loyal, the hidden places, and the king of all birds.
We held our first public event at Imbolg of 2011, which included a celebration of the holiday and a presentation on Celtic spirituality and culture. This remains a good metaphor for our group: We combine living practice of the spiritual ways together with ongoing academic research.
Each adds vitality to the other. Through our research, we improve our understanding of the heritage, which brings us a deeper, more powerful connection to our world and those we share it with—everyone from the Gods, to the Gentle People, to the wild creatures of the land, sea, and sky. Through incorporating the practices in our lives, we get a deeper, more powerful understanding of what we discover in our research.
On rare occasions, we’ll discover some new story or new archaelogical finding which illuminates a part of the tradition that had previously been obscure to us. These occasions are moments of Imbas [inspiration/wisdom] and wonder, like seeing for the first time a landscape only ever previously known through prose descriptions. Those moments keep us highly motivated to continue in our studies.
Since Imbolg of 2011, we’ve conducted a half-dozen other large, open gatherings, several less formal social events, and have an ongoing reading group. The reading group is very broad in scope, reading everything from folklore to anthropology to poetry. If you select us to become the new stewards of the books from your library, this will be the first purpose to which they are put: Reading, discussing, and sharing with our fellow practitioners through this reading group.
We say “stewards” because this is what we have been called to do: Not to hoard knowledge, but to learn in order that we may share it. We ourselves in the family will study these books, and encourage everyone in our community to learn from them with us. Hosting these books in our library is not a matter of simple physical possession; it is the hospitality of knowledge.
Ultimately, we share the long-term goal of building anew the institutions of Draíocht [druidic practices; the priesthood]—the libraries, the colleges, and the people. To the degree that Cró Dreoilín can be a part of those institutions, we will do our part to preserve and disseminate the knowledge, but the ultimate goal is far down the road. If it should one day come to pass that another institution is in a better place to translate that library into living culture, then it will be our role to pass along those books to their next steward.
It is our pledge to you that your gift will live on, should you select us to receive your library.
My Note of Gratitude
It was deeply moving to me to see all of the entries and the potential uses for our Temple’s knowledge. I was especially impressed that so many entries included a provision for how they themselves would pass on the books in a similar contest if they ever closed their doors.
Chris and Kelley’s essay showcased a group that has already been founded and can put the books to use immediately. They present a multi-purpose usage for the collection, from book club to community library to research base for kindling their own draíocht practices. Their mission and the style of their community are both reminiscent of Temple of the River, and at every turn they show how well-planned and well-run their organization is.
If you’re in the Colorado area and have an interest in seeing what Cró Dreolín is all about, check out their meetup page.
Many thanks to Kelley, Chris, and all the entrants: you’ve shown this rogue priest that the work of Temple of the River can live on and that our religion continues to move forward.
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