Neopaganism is something I’ve found myself curiously drawn to. I’ve also flirted with the idea of Celtic Christianity; that practised by the Gaels of both Ireland and Scotland, and later, by the Picts. And so, although I have no inherent problem with either Neopaganism, or Wicca as a rule; I do however, take issue with their use of aspects of my culture within their corresponding movements; twisted, and often wholesale co-opted as it is. And so, as a result, I decided to go ahead and set the record straight concerning a few of the things that they ascribe to, that they promote, and why it’s more often than not, utter nonsense.
Below, are some of the assertions taken from a collection of Neopagan/Wiccan websites I visited in preparation of this post, and of which (you guessed it) I’ll subsequently pick apart with reason, sass, and logic.
“However, many claims of continuity between Neopaganism and older forms of Paganism have been shown to be spurious, or outright false, and most Neopagans draw from, but also adapt, the old religious traditions. Some Neopagans also draw inspiration from modern traditions (including Christianity, Buddhism, etc), creating syncretisms like “Christian Witchcraft” or “Buddheo-Paganism”
Christianity is a modern tradition? Are you serious, come on man, really? So by that, do you mean that paganism has a much more ancient pedigree, and is therefore somehow more legitimate? Well, let’s look at the facts, shall we?
Christ died and was resurrected in around 30 AD, give or take a few years. So that would be considered the year Christianity was founded. Now wither you subscribe to the bible or not, Jesus was a real guy; people knew him, and he did teach to a following well before he died.
On the other hand, here is when wiccan was founded: “in the 1950s, the Englishman Gerald Gardner almost single-handedly revived ancient Pagan and witchcraft traditions in what came to be known as Wicca (partly based on the 1920s writings of Margaret Murray)” Straight from the horse’s mouth, no less.
Wikipedia has this to say on the matter of dogma, which is the cornerstone of any established religion: “Concise doctrinal statements or confessions of religious beliefs are known as creeds (from Latin credo, meaning “I believe”). They began as baptismal formulae and were later expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith”
And so, if paganism is older, and therefore, inherently more legitimate, which part of your unified paganism is ancient then, for by its very nature, and made up of many differing parts as it is, wiccan has no one core of belief, nor founding dogma that stretches back into antiquity. Unlike Christianity, of course…which is an actual religion.
This quote is taken from the “withcraftandwitches” website: “The Romantic movement of the 18th Century led to the re-discovery of Old Gaelic and Old Norse literature and poetry, as well as a renewed interest in folklore and occultism, the widespread emergence of Pagan themes in popular literature, and the rise of nationalism”
Now, do you see anything out of place in what has been written? No? Well, let me point it out for you, take this line: “re-discovery of Old Gaelic” and this line “Pagan“. What is wrong with that, you may still be wondering; it’s this; Ireland ceased being pagan just about all the way back in antiquity, and then spread Christianity to Scotland not that much longer afterwards. Both countries have been Christian/catholic/protestant for almost their entire existences. There is also nothing pagan about fairies and monsters either, as they are not themselves a component of religion; therefore, not pagan.
Neopagan’s and Wiccans, oh my!
Now again, I want you to understand, that I don’t actually despise all Neopagan/Wiccans, but really, it’s just those who muddy the waters, those who watched far too much Charmed, those who mix and match my culture with that of others, and at the same time, and (with a straight face) try and tell me that aspects of my culture, that I know to be unique to Scotland, are actually a part of some wider mythology that was practiced here, there, and everywhere. These are the people I despise; your “Mistress Moonbeam’s” your “Ezra Fairy Raven’s” and your “Queen Mab’s”
And then you have those Neopagan types who grow out their beards and plait their ponytails in some ignorant display of a pop culture ideal of their ancestors, despite their ancestors having never looked the way movies like to portray them; the sort of folk who sit beneath fur tents in the woods, or flock to the Winter Solstice without even knowing why they’re there. Hell, I’ve even come across many a Tumblr blog wherein I’ve found Finnish and Danish Neopagan’s dressed in Kilts, or as they call it ‘traditional Finnish attire’. But do you know why they do this? It’s because the world associates the Kilt with manly warriors and rugged mountains; the wild, yet noble barbarian; the defiant warrior set against all odds. And It is for that reason that these poor and deluded morons try and associate themselves with the Kilt, because to them and their uneducated sensibilities, it is instantly recognizable as ‘Pagan’, despite those who did historically wear it; the Highlanders/Lowlanders and Picts, having been overwhelmingly, and staunchly, Christian.
They are simply attracted to the idea of how their culture is perceived, how it looks. It is make believe, it’s superficial, shallow and vain. These people find a hollow identity within dressing up as though they’re fierce warriors because to them, that makes them look cool, dangerous. It allows them to tell the world that they’re part of some ancient club, when in reality, their ancestors dressed as they did because that was all they had had to wear that morning. Simply put, these people enjoy dressing up.
Side note: I have a huge beard, and up until about a month ago; hair down to my waist. Yet you wouldn’t have seen me strutting down the street in my dress kilt, and carrying my brother’s claymore, because I can appreciate my own culture, without turning it into a pantomime. Case in point:
The matter of culture grabbing
But what really annoys me about the whole Neopagan/Wiccan movement, isn’t that they live their lives by how they assume their ancestors to have looked; but is that they cherry pick defining aspects of a separate culture, and then try and desperately shoe-horn it to fit into their own deluded system of beliefs. For instance, the kelpie of Scottish mythology has no counterpart anywhere in the world, yet these delusional fantasists obviously find the myth attractive, but having no counterpart within their own cultures to compare, simply co-opt it under the guise of it having been an established folklore under a wider label, such as that of ‘Celtic‘. When in reality, the kelpie is not a ‘Celtic‘ belief, but a Scottish one. It originated here, and nowhere else. It is not ‘Celtic‘, it is Scottish. Yet you find it, and many other Scottish myths, legends, and cultural aspects, reiterated across a broad spectrum of some such websites and blogs, wherein the author, without even so much as a nod to its source and origins, buries it deep beneath the label ‘Celtic‘, and by doing so, helps to reinforce their longing for the myth to have a connection within their own culture.
The whole Neopagan/wiccan blogosphere is simply a collective circle jerk of self-gratifying delusion, wherein the boundaries of one country’s culture and identity is manhandled and banded about as something else entirely.
Gaelic, as opposed to ‘Celtic’: Separation of Scottish and Irish Mythology
The two main aesthetic sources of inspiration for these people that I’ve run across, is that of Scotland and Ireland. Now, while it is true that we share an over-arching branch of mythology (what with us noth having a Gaelic culture) that is not to say that each individual myth is a shared one. For instance, a creature synonymous with Ireland is the leprechaun, whilst Scotland has the kelpie.
Now, the leprechaun is not a part of Scottish folklore, nor is the Kelpie a part of Ireland’s, despite both mythological creatures originating within Gaelic countries, and therefore beneath the arch of the term Gaelic mythology. These are the finer points you find staggeringly bastardised by these wishful thinking wiccans, and something they seem unwilling to understand or comprehend, that simply for having been labeled ‘Celtic‘, does not make every aspect of one individual countries culture, regardless of how similar they appear to ignorant eyes, a shared experience; no matter how much they wish it was.
Similarly, Scotland has the Bean nighe (Washer Woman), and Ireland has the Banshee, and this is an example of where our cultural mythology is similar, yet neither of those creatures are ‘Celtic‘, they are Gaelic. The Cu sith, or ‘fairy dog’, of Scottish mythology may have, to the ignorant observer, an Irish sounding name, but it is Scottish, with no parallel outside of said country. It is a part of Scottish Gaelic folklore, and is an example of where the shared Gaelic mythology between Scotland and Ireland differs. So even though it could be considered Gaelic, that still doesn’t mean that it automatically becomes Irish as a result.
And that is the point I’m trying make here, that a label like ‘Celtic‘ is not some unifying factor that joins every aspect of completely separate countries and their corresponding cultures. Scotland is ‘Celtic‘, Ireland is ‘Celtic‘, wales is ‘Celtic‘, yet barely even a quarter of our individual mythologies are anything alike. And that is because there is no wider ‘Celtic‘ mythology; it is a fantasy, a fallacy, an ignorant, insidious, and pervasive tool of belief that allows people free-reign to pick and choose their heritage and culture. It allows a Neopagan from Brittany to feel justified in wearing the Kilt, or an Austrian ‘Celt’ to adopt a belief in Scottish folklore.
For the most part, it stems from a lack of identity, a lack of any grounded and solid set of beliefs by which to understand ones ancestors. They find the myths of their own countries boring, or not to their taste, and so they attempt to invent some sort of way in which to associate themselves to cultures/culture that they are more interested in, that they find romantic, but without ever truly understanding, nor appreciating the nuances that make each individual myth and legend something special; sacred; unique. Below is a graph that may help illustrate this point.
To reiterate, there was not, and is not, a shared or established unifying ‘Celtic‘ culture. ‘Celtic‘ culture (if that wasn’t such a meaningless label) is comprised of many different and separate ideas, and beliefs, myths, and legends that exist out with categories, and within groups that have never meet, nor whose ancestors ever co-existed. By their very nature, such myths as deemed ‘Celtic‘, exist as such, only in the minds of those who know nothing about them other than that they’re pretty, or interesting, or kinda cool. Appreciate it, certainly, but if you are not Scottish, then you have no right to co-opt my culture. If you are not Irish, then you have no right to co-opt theirs either, for our cultures are Gaelic first, ‘Celtic‘ second. And you may call us ‘Celts‘, but that is not what unites us, nor is it what defines us; our shared Gaelic heritage is where our folklore and culture stems from. Not from Germany, or the ‘Celts‘, or Austria, or ‘Bronwyn’s‘ Wiccan coven from somewhere deep in the ‘Celtic‘ heartland of California.