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Celtic Christianity and the Future of New Religious Production

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CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE FU TURE OF RELIGIOUS PRODUCTION By JOSEPH DYLAN WITT A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006

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Copyright 2006 by JOSEPH DYLAN WITT

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iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank Bron Taylor and A nna Peterson for their guidance in writing this thesis and my fr iends for their support.

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iv TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iii ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..v 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 2 HISTORY OF CELTIC CHRISTIA NITY: POPULAR AND CRITICAL ACCOUNTS.................................................................................................................8 Pre-Celtic Britain and Ireland.....................................................................................11 The Celts.....................................................................................................................14 Christianity in Celtic Lands........................................................................................22 Romantic Revivals and the Celtic Twilight............................................................29 3 MODERN THEOLOGY AND PRACTICE..............................................................38 Issues of Legitimacy and Authority............................................................................39 Important Themes in Modern Celtic Christian Theology...........................................50 Modern Communities and Environmental Concern...................................................60 4 CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND NEW RE LIGIONS: A RELIGIOUS STUDIES ANALYSIS.................................................................................................................68 Celtic Christianity and New Religious Movements...................................................69 Celtic Christianity and Paganism................................................................................78 Celtic Christianity and Nature Religion.....................................................................81 Celtic Christianity as Modern Nature Spirituality......................................................84 5 CONCLUSION...........................................................................................................90 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................94 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH...........................................................................................101

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v Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE FU TURE OF RELIGIOUS PRODUCTION By Joseph Dylan Witt May 2006 Chair: Bron Taylor Major Department: Religion In this thesis I analyze the debates and issues su rrounding the modern Celtic Christianity movement largely through an ex amination of relevant popular and scholarly literature. Celtic Christianity is a mode rn Christian spirituality movement allegedly based in the beliefs and pract ices of pre-Christian and ear ly Christian Celtic peoples, generally in present-day Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As a Christian tradition, several popular writers offer works on Celtic Christ ian theology, which generally emphasize the basic goodness of Gods Creati on and the need to protect that Creation from harm. Some critics, though, challenge the historical and theological claims made by Celtic Christians. These critics poi nt to inaccuracies in popular Celtic Christian historical accounts and the borrowing of Celtic religious and cultural themes by non-Celtic peoples in their arguments against the modern moveme nt. They sometimes conclude that Celtic Christianity is part of a la rger trend of secularized, indi vidualistic reli gious production that ultimately harms the cultures from which it borrows.

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vi Rather than accepting as true the claims of believers and critics, my point in this thesis is to examine the contesting claims of authority and accuracy from a religious studies perspective. Through this perspect ive, I understand religious appropriation and invention as part of the general processes of religious creation and evolution. As a creation-centered, or nature-cen tered, tradition, Celtic Christ ianity represents a modern attempt to address ecological and social cr ises from a Christian religious framework. Celtic Christianity, then, may be seen as a m odern example of nature-based spirituality. Adopting a religious studies perspective in this thesis helps to situate Celtic Christianity beyond its historical inaccuracies and within a broader milieu of nature-based religious production. Much more research is needed to discover in what ways Celtic Christians engage in activities to alleviat e ecological and social crises. Such research could provide valuable information not only about Celtic Ch ristianity but about the interactions of religion and nature in the modern world as well.

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Celtic Christianity is a modern form of Christian spirituality based in traditional belief structures and practices of the Celtic cultures of Britain and Ireland. Celtic spirituality, as defined by the British reli gious studies scholar Marion Bowman, includes Celtic Christianity, Celtic Paganism, Drui dry, and Celt-influenced New Age beliefs (Bowman 2002, 56). While noting interrelati ons between other non-Christian forms, in this thesis I primarily examine Celtic Christianity and analyze the debates concerning its historical development and spiritual authen ticity. I adopt here a religious studies perspective in which the task is to properl y analyze religion rather than to defend or engage in it (Taylor 2005, 1374), and utilize David Chidesters availability of symbols mode of engagement with religious appropria tion to analyze the dynamics of conflict and exchange between critics and supporters of Celtic Christianity (Chidester 1988, 158). Such an approach allows me to situate Celtic Christianity within more general trends of religious development. Because modern Ce ltic Christianity, th rough its popular literary expressions, values nature and encourages engagement with the social and ecological crises of the world, it may be seen as repr esentative of a new type of nature-based religion. Hopefully, this pers pective regarding the modern Celtic Christianity movement will aid future studies of the interactions between religions and nature. Popular authors on Celtic Chri stianity claim that when Ch ristianity first arrived in Britain and Ireland, the native Ce lts incorporated some of thei r own pre-Christian beliefs, such as those regarding the immanence of de ities in the natural world and the importance

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2 of the number three (which provi ded a natural affinity for Christian Trinitarianism), into their regional Christian beliefs and practices. These beliefs continue, they claim, in the particular Celtic worldview of some of the modern i nhabitants of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England and help create a gene rally orthodox though nonetheless unique form of Christian spiritual orientation. Today, Ce ltic Christianity is represented by several popular books and intentional ecumenical comm unities, such as the Iona Community and the Community of Aidan and Hilda. Some historians and theologians, however, challenge certain historical and theological claims of modern Celtic Christians and criticize many popular writers for their readin ess to misrepresent the people of Celtic lands. As part of this analysis I will examine two important and interrelated areas of Celtic Christian scholarshipthe differing hist orical accounts and their related evidence and the theologies and practices of mode rn writers and practitionersin order to understand the place of this emerging tradition among other spiritual orientations. Many of claims made by Celtic Christians find little or no support in historical evidence. Some critics of Celtic Chri stianity, though, rather than o ffering neutral analysis of the traditions anemic historical grounding, become partisans in debates of authenticity by subtly claiming authority to speak for a tradi tion, then seeking to preserve it from what they consider damaging, sync retistic influences. Scholarly literature on new religious movements offers, in contrast, a different approach to claims or critiques of historical continuity. Many new religions inaccurately appropriate historical evidence, or invent for themselves a history altogether, in support of their theological claims. But this is a co mmon feature of most religions, especially

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3 noticeable in those seeking legitimacy within the dominant culture. These claims relating to the ownership of the true tradition a nd the legitimacy of belief deserve further analysis within religious st udies (Chidester 1988, 157). Mo dern pagans, for example, often face similar criticisms of invention and historical inaccuracy. Because of their shared relationships as alternative religious movements and because they sometimes draw upon the same Celtic mythology, scholarly litera ture concerning modern paganism offers valuable resources for understanding Celtic Christianity and helps to situate it among other religious developments as well. The study of Celtic Christianity through religious studies lenses, including prim arily the perspectives of new religious movement theory, and understanding it as a form of contemporar y nature religion, provides an illuminating vantage point for observing contemporary re ligious production in an ecological age. While situating Celtic Christianity within the study of new religious movements, this paper also examines its potential ecologi cal and social benefits A central tenet of Celtic Christianity, for example, involves a de ep concern for life, justice and ecological wellbeing. Modern Celtic Christianity repres ents an attempt to construct a form of Christianity capable of engaging with the soci al and ecological crises of the world today. Much of Celtic Christianity's historical support is certainly invented or based on questionable historical and archaeological data but the historical element provides only part of the Celtic Christian story. Religious studies scholars should not so quickly reject Celtic Christianity solely for its historical inaccuracies and inventions but understand it as part of an ordinary process of religious change as well as a meaningful and very human attempt to engage with and addre ss real problems in the world.

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4 It is not the purpose of this thesis to demonstrate that environmental degradation is serious, threatens many species, and causes great suffering; this is, ra ther a starting point for it. Moreover, as human populations gr ow and the distance between rich and poor lengthens, human-induced ecological crises and social problems, such as war and poverty, will likely intensify further. As long as these issues remain important to people, mainstream religions and new religions must engage these ecological and social problems if they are to remain meaningful to their believers. Celtic Christianity provides one means of positive religious engagement in the world. By examining the Celtic Christian call to engagement with social and ecol ogical problems, I hope to provide a more thorough account of modern Celtic Christia n beliefs and practices than would be available from historical evidence alone a nd to perhaps add valuable information for further scholarly analyses of the relati onships between religion and nature. Chapter 2 of this thesis examines the hist orical component of Celtic Christian belief and the important debates and interpretations of historical evidence re garding Christianity in Celtic lands. Historical claims rega rding the continuation of pagan practices and beliefs into the Christianity of Celtic lands remain crucial to Celtic Christian belief. Issues of historical inaccuracies also provide central points in the arguments of Celtic Christianitys skeptical critics. Using archaeo logical, literary and linguistic evidence, this chapter explores the Celtic cultures of Br itain and Ireland from their emergence through the introduction of Christianity and into the Romantic Celtic revivals of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Historical evidence shows that many features of the modern Celtic Christianity movement derive, like many m odern forms of European-based paganism, from the Romantic period of the eighteenth a nd nineteenth centuries. Popular accounts of

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5 pre-Christian cultural stability in the rural areas of Britain and Ireland and the application of a modern term, Celt, to peoples who did not identify themselves as such reflect this romantic rural ideal. While certain crucial aspects of the popular st ories regarding early Celtic Christian belief may be highly innovati ve, they nonetheless create an important counter-narrative to dominant historical stor ies and help distinguish modern Celtic Christianity as a unique sp iritual orientation. Chapter 3 turns to an analysis of Ce ltic Christian theology and practice as expressed through several popular writers. Re lated to the popular historical accounts, Celtic Christians often cite the teachings of Pelagius and John Scotus Eriugena and the lives of early Celtic saints su ch as Patrick, Columba and Brigit as the foundation of Celtic Christian theology. The repression of these te achings by the medieval Church represents, for many believers, one stage in the long hist ory of oppression of Celtic peoples. Celtic Christianity is often presented as an alternative to this oppr essive Church history in its respect for the roles of women and the valu e placed on ecological stability. For Celtic Christians, God is not a dist ant being, barely involved in the fallen material world. Instead, God, through the members of the Trin ity and the saints, remains highly active in a basically good world, covered only by the wo rks of sin. Though they claim historical continuities with pre-Christian beliefs, many mo dern Celtic Christians or at least most popular writers on the subject, nonetheless em phasize the orthodoxy of their tradition. For Celtic Christians, this theology presents an important alternative to the cold, distant theology of the Church (or the theology re sponsible for the damages analyzed by Lynn White, Jr. [2003]) but does not involve a break w ith what they conceive to be essential aspects of Christian belief. Popular writing on Celtic Christianity also often includes a

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6 call for environmental and social engagement. Chapter 3 therefore examines Celtic Christian activism at events such as the Faslane protest and through organized communities such as Iona. The call to social and ecological activism and the practice of such beliefs remains crucial to truly understanding the modern movement. Chapter 4 situates Celtic Christianity with in religious studies theory, particularly theories of new religious movements and na ture religion. This chapter compares the experiences of Celtic Christians with thos e of modern European-based pagan groups, many of which also originate in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Romantic revivals. This will facilitate a better understanding of the place of Celtic Christianity, and its mutually influential relationships with va rious other religious thinkers, groups, and movements, within what Colin Campbell ca lled the cultic mili eu (Campbell 2002). Examining Celtic Christianity from a religious studies perspective, particularly using the work of David Chidester, Bron Taylor, and Ma rion Bowman, helps reveal the contesting claims of authenticity made by numerous interested parties and to understand Celtic Christianity as part of much larger pro cesses of religious evolution. As a spiritual orientation directly engaged with the create d world, Celtic Christianity also contains elements of what Catherine Albanese calls nature religion. In other words, Celtic Christians, in some ways, incorporate certain religious orientations toward the natural world within their belief systems. Beyond its elements of nature religion, Celtic Christianity consciously attempts to recognize and offer solutions for, in a religious way, the social and ecological crises facing the world. When we examine Celtic Christianity through these lenses, beyond just historical and theological critiques, we gain impor tant information about current religious

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7 responses to ecological and social crises in the world. If ecological and social crises persist through the future, as evidence shows they may, then ecologically-oriented religious traditions such as Celtic Christianity might continue to emerge as well. It is important for scholars of religion to note that individuals are attemp ting to resurrect and construct more ecologically-friendly and soci ally beneficial relig ious traditions, and hopefully, this thesis adds something to this growing area of interest.

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8 CHAPTER 2 HISTORY OF CELTIC CHRISTIANITY : POPULAR AND CRITICAL ACCOUNTS Accounts of the historical development of Celtic Christianity remain crucial to the modern movement, as John Rordin says to understand Christia n Celtic spirituality to any degree, it is helpful to have some appreciation of the religious and cultural attitudes and imagery that informed the minds and hearts of the pre-Christian ancestors ( Rordin 1996, 36-37). Popular claims however, are not always supported by archaeological, literary and linguistic data, l eading some scholars to doubt the viability of modern Celtic Christian belief. In other wo rds, for some, historical inaccuracies and appropriations of sacred symbol s are problems for Celtic Chris tianity that should be fixed by believers in some way if the tradition is not to be abandoned as useless altogether. This chapter examines the histories of Br itain and Ireland from Celtic times through the introduction of Christianity and into the Romantic Celtic revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries and evaluates the different historical arguments made by believers and critics. Although Celtic Christians can find some s upport for their histor ical accounts, the modern movement emerges largely out of the romanticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as the Romantic C eltic Twilight at the turn of the twentieth century. Embedded in these differing critic al and popular historical accounts, however, are often issues of religious and historical authority, or issues regarding who has the right to define the tradition and its hist ory. Examining more deeply the claims and arguments made by Celtic Christianitys believers and critics will help bring forward these issues of authority.

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9 In regular usage, the term Celt en compasses several similar but nonetheless distinct cultures with diffe rent languages. Much of th e present scholarly knowledge concerning the origins and history of the Celt s derives from linguistic studies. Indeed, Celtic Studies today remains a primarily linguis tic affair. Donald Meek, a Celtic Studies scholar and vocal critic of the modern Celtic Christian movement, says of the vagueness surrounding the identificati on of historical Celts, the li nguistic anchor is undoubtedly the most secure mooring which can be provided for the term (Meek 2000, 8). The Celtic languages exist as a branch of Indo-European languages. While there certainly may have been many more Celtic languages, most linguis tic evidence comes from the western-most groups in Brittany, Britain and Ireland. These Insular Celtic languages divide into two branches, namely, P-Celtic (including Welsh, Breton and the extinct Cornish and Cumbrian languages) and Q-Celtic (including Iri sh Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and the extinct Manx) (Chapman 1992, 16). These languages re main definitive of Celtic peoples, though some scholars such as Malcolm Chapman have recently begun to doubt the existence of the Celts as a distinct people. Donald M eek says of the more loose modern usage, nowadays, while the term 'Celtic' is still used by scholars in its linguistic and cultural sense, it is widely employed as a form of shorthand to denote more or less anything which is believed to be associated with the non-English aspects of the cultures of Scotland, Ireland, Man, Cornwall and Britta ny (Meek 2000, 8-9). For Meek and Chapman, current popular understandings of the term Celt derive from romantic or simplistic constructions of an idealized past by modern persons. Though it is important to note these issues of power and the presence of romantic ideals involved in modern popular accounts of the Celts, the term itself serves as a worki ng descriptor of very real

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10 and distinguishable historical peoples and se rves as a symbol for modern believers in Celtic spiritualities (McIntosh 2001). Several problems exist regarding the study of pre-Christian Britain and Ireland. As non-literate peoples, the Celts r ecorded none of their own stories. Rich material evidence remains, however, including ornate metalwor k, indicating certain re ligious beliefs and practices. Beyond this, many of the earliest r ecorded versions of Celtic stories come from Christian monks, primarily in Irela nd, and Roman military invaders like Julius Caesar. The works of Greek and Roman travel ers often painted the Celts negatively, as a warlike and brutal people. The Christian monks, from whom we receive much of our knowledge of Celtic mythology, recorded storie s that frequently reflected Christian events, such as in the Irish Book of Invasions written in early medieval Ireland, which claimed that the first inhabitants of Ireland descended from Noah. Writers influenced by the popular romanticism and primitivism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also greatly influenced modern understandings of the Celts. These writers connected the Celts to sites like Stonehenge and Glastonbury, connections now k nown to be false, and gave them particularly Christian concerns, such as the anticipation of a future savior-figure. Many of these imagined historical details continue into modern popular accounts of Celtic spirituality and Celtic Christianity, and it is these details to which scholarly critics of Celtic Christianity often react. Much of the literary and oral history regarding and composed by the Celts originated in Wales, Scotland, and especially Ireland. This is because the land now known as England witn essed numerous invasions after the Celts, including by the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, each of which pushed the Celts

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11 further to the fringes, into the hills of Wales and Scotla nd, or across the Irish Sea to Ireland (Hubert 1934b, 165-184). Pre-Celtic Britain and Ireland The history of the inhabitation of Britain and Ireland, however, does not begin with the Celts. Humans have lived in the presentday British Isles, or at least those parts not covered by glaciers during ice ag es, since the Paleolithic age. The oldest burial, in southern England, dates from about th e year 25,000 BCE (Hutton 1991, 2). The emergence of agriculture around 5,000 BCE marked the shift to the Neolithic age. This period, from c. 5,000 to c. 3,200 BCE, also witnessed the em ergence of stone construction in the north a nd large tombs, or barrows, around the region (although some individual tombs such as Carrowmore 4 in Ireland possibly date earlier in the Middle Stone Age) (Hutton 1991, 20). Barrows and other large construction features became more unique in differing regions. The presen ce of male and female figurines in these tombs as well as evidence for ritualized bur ials reveals a strong social structure and perhaps religious orientations. The nature of this Neolithic religion remains hotly contested. Whether these Neolithic inhabitants of Britain and Ireland worshiped a mother Earth goddess, male warrior deities, or numerous local spirits remains unclear. Differing claims, though, remain very important for modern believe rs and critics of paganism and goddess spiritualities. These historical debates also remain important in the arguments surrounding Celtic Christianity. Modern historic al accounts are always nested in political and religious controversies, with all sides often attempting to prove more than the evidence actually reveals. Adrian Ivakhiv notes, the past is and has always been contested territory, and the more distant the pa st, the wilder and more varying the claims

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12 about it (Ivakhiv 2001, 31). The evidence of Neolithic religion remains unclear, and as Ronald Hutton notes, studies of modern hunte r-gatherers have demonstrated that such peoples can believe in a large number of spir its inhabiting the natura l world, in a varying number of goddesses and gods, in a universal deity, or in di ffering combinations of all three. So it may have been with the Ne w Stone Age peoples (Hutton 1991, 44). The religious beliefs of these people may foreve r remain a mystery. What remains most significant for this study is how the different interpretations influence, support and are contested with regard to the various claims involved in modern religious constructions, including in the case of Celtic Christianity. In the fourth century BCE, significant ch anges in lifestyle occurred around Britain and Ireland. People at this time took up agriculture, domestic ated animals and lived in permanent or semi-permanent dwellings ( hgin 1999, 6). Along the Boyne River in eastern Ireland emerged the massive grave complexes of Knowth and Newgrange after 3,200 BCE. These complexes contained tombs much larger and with more chambers than had previously existed. They also in cluded, for the first time, many petroglyphs and decorative motifs involving spiral s and circular forms. This period also witnessed the emergence of large rings created by the erecti on of monoliths in circular patterns. The Avebury complex, for example, included larg e earthen mounds, large stone rings, burial sites and evidence of wooden construction. Interestingly, the em ergence of the ring complexes corresponded with the general abando nment of the older-style tombs. Some of the old tombs were even sealed. While th is shift happened at different times and at different rates across the regions, it perhaps ma rked a period of signifi cant social or even religious change. Scholars in the past have suggested that these changes represented the

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13 effects of an invasion. The archaeological evidence, however, vague as it is, might only prove an internal shift in political and social organizati on due in part to the change to sedentary lifestyles (Hutton 1991, 52-87). Around 3,000 BCE, persons erected ceremoni al wooden structures on Salisbury Plain in Wessex. Later, around 2,100 BCE, lo cal inhabitants abandoned other ritual centers, including stone circles and tomb site s, and raised severa l stone monoliths around the area of the wooden structures. By around 1,500 BCE, major construction was essentially complete on what is now called Stonehenge. Precisely because it has inspired the imaginations of people for centuries, many of Stonehenge's secrets may never be known. Ronald Hutton says, to prehistorians it is probably th e most tragic monument in the entire world, for its very fame has en sured the destruction of the evidence which might have permitted us to know its story (Hutton 1991, 97). Archaeologists generally know that Stonehenge originally included bur ial sites and related wooden structures. Contrary to many popular and Romantic views, it was constructed relatively quickly, as evidenced by the instability of many of its m onoliths, and of relatively poor stone, or at least the stone not taken from other monuments (Hutton 1991, 99). For Hutton, Stonehenge likely represented a major c ondensation of power in Wessex. The ceremonial practices of Stonehenge reflected cer tain social stratifications, as he said, Stonehenge itself appears to be a very eliti st monument, for the space at its heart is about half the size of a modern tennis court and the great stones would have blocked off the view from outside (Hutton 1991, 99). Importantly, Stonehenge was not built by Celtic peoples. The last evidence of new c onstruction and burial activity predates the arrival of the Celts in Brita in by nearly a millennium. Popular legends originating among

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14 Romantic writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, t hough, persist today and influence modern pagan and Celti c Christian ideas and practices.1 The Celts Archaeological evidence shows that se dentary lifestyles helped increase populations across Britain a nd Ireland. These increases in population, among other things, led to increases in resource de pletion. Temperatures dropped after 1,000 BCE, bringing more rain and exacerbating erosion in recently cleared areas. River valleys across Britain filled with silt, creating and enlarging the broad moors observable today. Areas inhabited for at least a thousand y ears, such as southwest Ireland, became unoccupied by the year 500 BCE (Hutton 1991, 134-135). Into this changing region, probably quite slowly, arrived the Celts. Traditionally, historians place the first arri vals of Celtic peoples to Britain in the fifth century BCE and to Ireland by the third century BCE (MacCana 1983, 7). According to popular Irish mythology, recorded in the early medieval Book of Invasions ( Leabhar Gabhla ), the Milesians from Spain, le d by Donn and the poet Amairgen, defeated the previous inha bitants of the island (the Tuatha D Danann or People of the Goddess Dana) and established the first Ce ltic kingdom of Ireland (Low 1996, 25-26). Scholars such as Ronal Hutton, on the other ha nd, argue that the pe ople we now identify as Celts arrived slowly to Britain and Ire land, not through definite periods of military conquest (Hutton 1991, 139). From wher e, though, did these Celts come? 1 For many modern pagan groups, Stonehenge is an important ritual site. Government regulations on public access to Stonehenge have generated certain conf licts among groups, though. For example, in 1995, English Heritage authorities arrested Arthur Uther Pendragon for entering the site without a permit on Midsummer Day. Pendragon, a leader of the Glastonbury Order of Druids, considers himself to be the reincarnation of King Arthur. Harvey (2005b) provides a succinct history of modern religious uses of Stonehenge. Green 1997 and Ivakhiv 2001 analyze modern pagan constructions of sites such as Stonehenge and Glasonbury.

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15 Archaeological, linguistic and literary ev idence places the emergence of the Celts in central Europe in the second millennium BCE. Archaeologists define three main stages in the development of Celtic culture. The first stage encompasses early cremation sites and remains somewhat vaguely defi ned and understood. The second, called Hallstatt based on significant finds of iron artifacts near an Austrian village in the 1870's, represents localized cultural devel opment from around 800 BCE to approximately 600 or 500 BCE. The third stage, called L a Tne after an ar ea of Switzerland, represents the most artistically advanced form of Celtic culture. The Celtic peoples spread from central Europe and occupied much of present-day Europe by the third century BCE. It was these people, mostly La Tne style cultur es, that the Romans encountered in their military conquests of Europe and that the first Christian missionaries found in Britain and Ireland (Cha pman 1992, 6-7; Hubert 1934a). Though scholars disagree upon the dates of the arrival of the Celts in Britain, important evidence exists rega rding their presence on the Co ntinent. Greek historians such as Herodotus spoke of Celtic peoples as early as the fifth and sixth centuries BCE. Timaeus (in the third century BCE) and Posidoni us (in the first century BCE) also spoke of keltoi and galatoi (Celts and Gauls) (Green 199 7, 14). Romans such as Strabo, Diodorus Siculus and Julius Caesar, in thei r military outings through Europe, described the Celts as well. Roman incurs ions into Gaul began in the 1st century BCE and continued through their 43 CE arrival in Br itain (Hutton 1991, 200). Julius Caesar wrote of the religion of the Celts of Gaul, particularly involving th e druids, or the priestly and intellectual class of Celts. In his works, Caesar drew upon his own experiences and the accounts of others to describe the Celtic pantheon and the pr actices of the druids. Much

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16 of the present popular knowledge regarding Ce ltic religion and the druids continues with Caesar's assumptions. Caesar described the Celts as a warlike people who practiced human sacrifice and followed a religion led by the druids who reve red the oak tree and mistletoe (Green 1997, 46). He compared the pantheons of the tr ibes he encountered with his own Roman deities, assuming that all Celts accepted this local Gaulish pantheon and that each individual deity performed a specialized function, like the Roman deities (MacCana 1983, 20). The details of Caesar's account of the Celts of Gaul were generally accepted as true through most of the modern period of Celtic scholarship. Modern Celtic studies scholars remain skeptical of Caesar's account, though, largely for its imperialist perspective and perhaps inaccurate connections to Roman beliefs. Popular literature on Celtic Christianity and spirituality, however, remains largely indebt ed to the accounts of the Romans in Celtic lands. Therefore, it is important to address the central tenets of Celtic religion as constructed through the accoun ts of Caesar and other travelers through Celtic lands. Irish Celtic society, for example, was divi ded into systems of clans, much like the modern Scottish system. A chieftain led each cl an and held a certain territory with a seat of power located near a sacred tree or hill. The gods of these Irish societies associated themselves with specific clans and regi ons. Deities included the Daghdah (meaning good god, a kind of leader of the pantheon) Goibhniu (a smith associated with the underworld), Lugh (a craft god associated w ith light), Macha (godde ss of war), and Anu (an earth-mother goddess) (MacCana 1983, 32; Rordin 1996, 28). Perhaps the most important Celtic goddess to Celtic Christians though, is Brighid (als o spelled Brigit), a

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17 goddess of teaching, healing and prophecy (MacCana 1983, 33-34). Some argue that the attributes of this goddess were later applied to the Christian St. Brigid. Edward Sellner, a popular writer on Celtic Christian saints, says, it is clear th at St. Brigit stands on the boundary between pagan mythology and Christia n spirituality (Sellner 1993, 69). The resemblance of these Celtic deities to Greek and Roman gods, though, is readily apparent.2 Caesar definitely explained Celtic deities in his own Roman terms, and the early Christian recorders of Celtic mythology may have been influenced by this Roman and Greek literature and may have projected that influence onto the Irish and other Celtic cultures. In some instances, Celtic gods and goddesse s existed with thre e personalities, or three aspects. For example, the goddess Brighid, in some accounts, is one of three sisters, all named Brighid and each with her own pa rticular skill. The war goddesses Morrigan, Badb and Macha also frequently appear as a trinity (MacCana 1983, 86) These religious groupings of three are somewhat confirmed by sculpted figures with three faces found in France, Britain and Ireland. This also lead s many Celtic Christians to assume that the Celts had a natural affinity for Catholic Tr initarianism (see Chapter 2). Though based in some material evidence, this idea of Celtic Trinitarianism owes much to modern imaginative literature as well. Robert Grav es first promoted the image of the triune goddess as maiden, mother and crone in his work The White Goddess (1948). This idea has since been adopted by many pagan groups, pa rticularly those associated with Wicca. Ronald Hutton notes that lit erature reveals no fewer than twenty goddesses with names similar to Brighid, meaning that each aspe ct of the goddess more probably refers to a 2 For example, Daghdah = Zeus, Goibhniu = Hephaestus, Lugh = Apollo, and Macha = Athena.

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18 regional deity (Hutton 1991, 153). Based on ot her archaeological evidence, however, the number three probably held a special place in Celtic society and religion long before the arrival of Christianity (Hutton 1991, 214). Graves is also largely responsible for pr omoting images of loving Celtic mother goddesses. Citing the example of Morrigan in Irish epic poetry, who sweeps onto the battle field and devours the dead like a raven and whose appearance to a living man means his impending death in battle, Hutton doubts the presence of any nurturing mother goddesses in Celtic culture. He says, goddesses ra rely feature in the Irish literatures as maternal or nurturing, being more often aggre ssive and voracious in both their sexuality and their bloodlust. Whether they repres ented role models for self-assertive Celtic women, or the fantasies of pagan Celtic male warriors, or the nightmares of the Christian monks who wrote the stories, is an open question (Hutton 1991, 152). Indeed, they could have represented a ll three of Huttons options. Along with the Roman and Greek accounts, some information regarding Celtic mythology comes from Christian sources as we ll, primarily monks working in the early medieval period in Ireland and Wales. Th ese myths are expressed in lengthy poems, recorded by medieval monks but presumably r ecounted orally since pre-Christian times. In Ireland, these are divided in the Ulster Cycle, the Fionn Cycle and the Mythological Cycle. The Ulster Cycle consists of tales involving the kingdom of Ulster (located in Northern Ireland) and its famous warrior hero C Chulainn. The Tin B Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cuailnge) involves the exploits of the hero C Chulainn and Queen Medb of Ulster, a possibly historic al figure from the first century of the Common Era (see introduction to Kinsella 1969). The Fi onn Cycle involves tales concerning the

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19 adventures of the fiana or roving bands of warriors, primarily the group led by Fionn mac Cumhaill. Finally, the Mythological Cycl e includes various other local stories which do not fit within one of the other cycles such as those involving the Tuatha D Danann who moved to the underworld upon the arriva l of the Celts in Ireland and became the sdh or faeries (MacCana 1983, 16; Low 1996, 44).3 Though, like the Illiad and the Odyssey for Greek culture, these stories reveal a great deal about Irish mythology, they are infrequently cited by writers on Celtic spirit uality. This might be because they tend to not promote environmentally frie ndly or peaceful values. The Tin like the Illiad involves exceptionally violent descriptions of battles and the cold indifference of the gods, primarily Morrigan, the goddess of d eath and war. Another tale, Sweeney Astray, set and written in the early mediev al period in Ireland and recently translated by Seamus Heaney, likewise fails to conform to more Romantic ideas of Celtic beliefs. Sweeney is turned into a bird after the Battle of Moira and cursed to fly across Ireland. Though Sweeney richly describes the landsca pe below his flight, he laments his transformation and seeks his return to human ity. Nature in Sweeney Astray is not a happy place but a kind of prison, though the attent ion to detail by the poet and references to real places remain impressive (Heaney 1983) There also exist cy cles of stories from the Welsh tradition, primarily the Four Branches of the Mabinogi These stories were compiled by a Christian monk or group of monks sometime in the eleventh century and, 3 Many of the faerie mounds found throughout Britain and Ireland are actual Iron and Stone Age burial sites. This leads some to conclude that the Tuatha D Danann represent the pre-Celtic inhabitants of the region. See MacCana 1983, Rutherford 1987, Low 1996, and McIntosh 2005. Patrick Laviolette and Alastair McIntosh (1997) offer a very interesting argume nt that faerie hills, as liminal zones associated with mystical powers and cursed spirits and therefore largely avoided by developers through the years, represent islands of biodiversity in Britain and Ireland. Further exploration of this possible connection would be quite valuable to further study of the relationships between pagan beliefs and environmentally friendly practices.

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20 like their Irish counterparts, i nvolve the activities of Celtic go ds and heroes such as Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Branwen of Llyr and Rhiannon (MacCana 1983, 72). The druids, by many popular accounts, occupi ed the ecclesiastical and intellectual elite class in Celtic society. The Roman sources paint druids as both philosophical mystics and fearsome, power hungry sorcerers. It is certainly possi ble that they were both (Hutton 1999, 9). Along with the druids were the filidh and the bards, at least in insular Celtic areas. The filidh and bards composed and maintained poetry and legends, including the dinnshenchas or stories related to histor ical and mythological events surrounding specific places. The offices of filidh and bards may have continued through the Christianization of Celtic lands, an important claim for the argument of a continued Celtic tradition. Proinsias MacCana says, whereas the Druids, as the foremost representatives of pagan religion, had borne the brunt of the Church's opposition until they finally disappeared as a distinct order, the filidh succeeded in establishing a remarkable modus vivendi with the ecclesiastical aut horities which allowed the two bodies separate but complimentary spheres of authority and permitted the filidh to continue many of their ancient functions and prerogatives, including some of which had formerly belonged to the druids (MacCana 1983, 12-13). The bards and filidh survived, argues MaCana, by moving underground. Some individuals resurrected the offices of bard and filidh during the Romantic pagan cultural revivals of the eighteenth a nd nineteenth centuries In 1791, Unitarian minister Edward Williams, later renamed Iolo Morganwg, organized a Welsh Gorsedd (or meeting of bards) on Primrose Hill and in 1819 joined the Welsh Eisteddfod (a kind of bardic society). The Welsh Gorsedd and Eisteddfod and the related Cornish Gorseth

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21 (founded in 1928), were founded as secular cel ebrations of Welsh and Cornish culture and the bardic traditions of storytelling, singing and poetry but were later emphasized by persons such as Morganwg as continuations of pre-Christian relig ious tradition (Bowman 2005, 507). This tripartite division of Celtic religious culturedruid, filidh and bard remains influential for modern pagan groups. For example, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, founded in 1964, promotes a hierarch ical elevation through levels of learning through international mail a nd Internet correspondence courses (Bowman 2002, 83). Whether or not medieval bards and filidh retained their pre-Christian importance, or even existed, many popular writers today assume th at the present tradit ional and esoteric knowledge of Celtic religion derives from their continued activity. A final important aspect of Celtic reli gion, emphasized by modern pagan and Celtic Christian groups, involves the ritual calenda r. This calendar includes eight main festivals, namely, Samhain (October 31-Nove mber 1, the beginning of the new year and time to remember the dead), Midwinter (the winter solstice, also called Yule), Imbolc (February 1, sacred to Brigi d, celebration of fertility), Sp ring Equinox, Beltain (May 1, or May Day, important day for weddings), Summer Solstice (Midsummer, special for communion with non-human beings), Lughnasadh (harvest festival falling around August 1), and the Autumnal Equinox (Harvey 1997, 3-13). This ritual year is celebrated by many modern Celtic-based Druidic and Wiccan groups. Though these festivals certainly refer to re al traditions from Britain and Ireland, they may not have been shared by Continental Celts. Important for many Celtic Christians, however, is the correspondence between these Celtic holidays and Christian days. Imbolc, the day sacred to the goddess Brig id, is also the feast day of St. Brigit of

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22 Kildare (de Waal 1997, 165-166). Samhain also corresponds to All Saints Day. These apparent holdovers from Celtic religions provi de some support for the popular historical claims of modern Celtic Christians regardi ng cultural continuity in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As Edward Sellner asserts, this Ce ltic Christian spirituality was very much the child of the pagan culture which preceded it, one that valued poetic imagination and artistic creativity, kinship rela tions and the warmth of the he art, the wonder of stories and the guidance of dreams (Sellner 1993, 16). Be fore turning to a more involved analysis of modern Celtic Christian be liefs, though, the history of th e coming of Chri stianity to Celtic lands must be addressed in further detail. Christianity in Celtic Lands Christianity was most likely brought to Br itain by Roman soldiers and to Ireland by traders, though exact dates remain vague. Te rtullian celebrated th e rapid conversion to Christianity in Roman lands, including Brita in, as early as the year 200 (McNeill 1974, 18-19). Literary evidence also points to three British martyrs in the third century, shortly before the 312 conversion of Constantine. In 314, three British bishops attended the council of Arles. The presence of bishops suggests that British Christians lived in relatively organized diocese. Little else is known of these early British Christians, however (Alcock 1989, 132). The development of Christianity also corresponded with the late fourth century withdrawal of Roman military forces from Britain and the subsequent fall of Rome to Alaric the Go th in 410. Saxons from the east quickly took lands in the former Roman terr itories of south Britain, and ev entually solidified the small kingdoms of Britain into the Land of the A ngles, or England. Exactly how it was done remains unclear, but in the transitional chaos, Christianity emerged as a powerful force in British culture. By the end of the fifth century, St. Germanus traveled to Britain from

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23 Gaul in order to counter heresies among certain British Christian communities. The presence of heretical groups suggests an increas ing number of Christians in Britain at this time (Hutton 1991, 261). Christianity arrived in Irel and only shortly after its emer gence in Britain. In the first centuries of the Common Era, the Celti c Irish occupied lands far beyond the present nation of Ireland, including presentday Wales, Cornwall and Scotland.4 The first literary evidence for Christianity in Ireland comes fr om the year 431, when Pope Celestine I consecrated Palladius as the fi rst bishop of Ireland. As R. P. C. Hanson notes, there must have been a substantial number of Christians already in Ireland for the pope to send a bishop, for in the ancient world no bishop wa s ever sent to a place totally devoid of Christians (Hanson1995, 31). These Irish Ch ristians surely had contact with the relatively well-established groups in Britain. In Ireland, Palladius coordinated the estab lishment of monasteries and attempted to counter the political powers of the druids and the teachings of the monk Pelagius (Charles-Edwards 2000, 191). Pelagius, a na tive Briton and Roman citizen who lived from approximately 360 to 430, emphasized original goodness and the free will of humans to choose a life of salvation or si n. Since humans are born good and in the image of God, in Pelagian thought, the ability to choose a sanctified life comes from God as well, not just the human mind. Pelagius' teachings of free will and original goodness conflicted with the theological positions of many African bi shops, including Augustine of Hippo. In 418, Augustine and others successfu lly petitioned Pope Zosimus to condemn 4 The Roman name for Ireland was Scotia from which comes Scot and Scotland. Scotland, therefore, was named by the Romans after its Irish inhabitants, the Dl Riata, not the native Scottish Picts (Foster 2004, 910).

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24 Pelagius for heresy by denying the po wer of grace (Nicholson 1995, 386-394). Supporters of modern Celtic Christianity, though, argue that the condemnation of Pelagius derived more from Church power politics than from unorthodoxy. According to M. Forthomme Nicholson, Pelagius' teachi ngs and their popularity represented only regional interpretations of Bib lical tradition, as he says, P elagius survived in Celtic Britain and in Ireland because his ideas were pa rt of the local idiomatic expressions of the Christian faith (Nicholson 1995, 392). Modern Celtic Christian theologians such as J. Phillip Newell also emphasize the particularly Celtic nature of Pela gian thought while at the same time arguing for his essential ort hodoxy. The conflicts surrounding Pelagius show that Christianity in Britain and Ireland in the 5th century was active and highly dynamic, with connections to Continen tal churches and authorities. Beyond Palladius and Pelagius, one of the mo st important early figures for modern Celtic Christianity is St. Patrick. Patrick, originally named Patricius, was born to a noble Romanized Christian family in modern Engla nd. The dates of his life remain vague and contested, though scholars general date his life from around 390 to 460, or roughly contemporary with Palladius and Pelagius (Hanson 1995, 28; Delaney 1983, 390). At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raider s (a frequent occurrence at the time) and forced to work as a shepherd. After a few y ears, he escaped back to Britain and entered monastic training.5 Patrick was then sent as bish op to Ireland by the British church, perhaps shortly after the missi on of Palladius. In his life, Patrick wrote only two known documentsthe Confessions a kind of autobiography, and the Letter to Coroticus a theological letter to a warlord who recently killed fellow Christians. These documents 5 According to Cahill, he did this in response to conver sations with angels during his time as a shepherd in the wilds of Ireland (Cahill 1995, 116).

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25 provide only a vague image of Patrick the person. According to R. P. C. Hanson (and perhaps contrary to popular accounts), Patrick ha d no particular love for the Irish people. After all, he lived there as a slave for several years. Instea d, Patrick ventured to Ireland, the western edge of the known world, because h e believed that he was living in the last times and, in accordance with the perennial call of Christ to evangelize, he must preach the Gospel among the last people (Hanson 1995, 33). According to Hanson, Patrick was only doing his part to bring about the return of Christ to the world. Patrick's hagiographers, Muirch and Tirech n, credit the saint with the foundation of the monastery at Armagh and the general co nversion of the Irish pe ople. According to his own writings, Patrick successfully adopted the children of seve ral important Irish landholders into lives of monastic servi ce and evangelism (Hanson 1995, 41). In his Confessions Patrick notes much hostility regardin g Christian conversion among the Irish people. He claims that he and his foll owers frequently experienced threats and occasionally purchased protection from warlords ( Crinn 1995, 28). Patrick ultimately succeeded in the general convers ion of Ireland, though, and by the year 500, shortly after his death, most of the island c onformed to Christianity. In 560, the king Diarmait Mac Cerbaill conducted the last record ed pagan right of the sacred wedding to the local goddess. After his death, acc ounts of pagan Celtic religion in Ireland disappeared, at least for a few centuri es (Charles-Edwards 2000, 240; Hutton 1991, 262263). Along with Palladius and Patrick, several fi gures spread Chris tianity across Celtic lands through the foundation of monasteries. Enda and Finnian, working in the middle of the sixth century, founded several monast eries around Ireland (D elaney 1983, 162).

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26 Columba, also called Columcille, who lived from about 521 to 597, left his royal family in Ulster (Northern Ireland) and founded th e abbey at Iona, a small island off of the southwest coast of Scotland, in 563 (Delaney 1983, 125-126). David, who lived sometime in the 5th and 6th centuries, founded m onasteries across Wales (Delaney 1983, 141). Brigid, who lived from about 450 to 525 and whose parents, according to legend, were baptized by St. Patrick, founded the larg e monastery and convent at Kildare around the year 470 (Delaney 1983, 92-93). These sa ints founded many of the first monasteries around Britain and Ireland which trained later monks who continued monastic development through the ninth century. Colu mbanus, who lived from about 540 to 615 and who trained at Bangor, left Ireland in 585 and traveled across France, Switzerland and Italy founding monasteries, including th e large monastery at Bobbio (Delaney 1983, 126-127). With such strong foundations and because of their relative remoteness, the monasteries of Ireland and Brita in survived the chaos caused by the fall of Rome due to the invasions of pagan groups from the east in the sixth century. Af ter the fall of Rome, Christians lost a major center of authority a nd Europe entered the so-called dark ages. The invading pagan armies of Goths, Visi goths and Vandals destroyed many churches and libraries across Europe and finally re moved the drastically weakened political infrastructure of the Romans. During this pe riod of crisis in Ro me and other important Continental Christian center s, Irish monks such as Co lumbanus re-established monasteries and centers of learning acro ss Europe and helped solidify Christian structures during the sixth and seventh centuries. Indeed, this is the thesis of Thomas

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27 Cahill's 1995 book How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Historic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe Although Britain and Ireland were beco ming rapidly Christianized, the region remained politically chaotic. After the withdrawal of Roma n troops, Britain divided into many small tribal kingdoms, mu ch like Celtic Ireland. These kingdoms existed in almost constant warfare with each other, forming a nd breaking alliances frequently. At the same time, Saxon armies from Germany and France es tablished kingdoms in southwest Britain, pushing Celtic peoples into Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. One of these Saxon kings, Oswy, perhaps desiring alliances with th e increasingly powerful British Christian monasteries, called a council in 664 to solidif y Christian doctrine in his lands and gain official monastic support. Delegates attend ed the synod at Whitby from Rome and from British and Irish churches. Because Bede recorded the proceedings of the Synod of Whitby, originally called Strenaeshalc, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People much is known about the debates during the meeting (O'Loughlin 2000, 149). The Roman party, led by a Saxon monk named Wilfred, challenged the Pelagianism of the British and Irish churches and requested that they adopt the Ro man style of tonsure and the Roman dating of Easter. After days of debate, Oswy accepted the arguments of the Roman contingent and enforced the conformi ty of churches in his lands to the Roman system (Lehane 2005, 191-203). Among modern Celtic Christians, the S ynod of Whitby represents the official defeat of the unified Celtic tradition by the overpowering forces of Rome. For Philip Newell, a popular writer on Celtic Christ ian theology, the victory of the Roman contingent at the Synod of Whitby alienated a nd ostracized the Celti c Christians of the

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28 time, as he says, the Church was the poorer for forcing Celtic spirituality underground, so that for centuries it survived primaril y on the Celtic fringes of Britain, among people unsupported in their spirituality by clergy (N ewell 1997, 106). Donald Meek disagrees with Newell and says, instead, that Whitby involved only the unification of belief and teaching among the many British and Irish chur ches, not the repression of a distinct tradition by the powerful forces of Rome (Meek 2000, 138). While issues of political power probably influenced certain decisions made at the Council of Whitby, it probably did not represent the official repression of one distinct tradition over another. Numerous teachings competed throughout Christendom in the early medieval period, and councils meant to establish orthodoxy in a region were not an uncommon occurrence. According to modern writers, the Celtic vi ew of Christianity, despite the unification at Whitby, occasionally reappeared through the middle ages. Many modern Celtic Christians adopt the 9th century philosopher John Scotus Eriugena along with Pelagius as an early articulator of Celtic Christian theology. Eriugena, whose name means John the Irishman from Ireland, lived and trained as a monk in Ireland before moving to France to serve as a teacher under the patronage of Charles the Bald. While in France, Eriugena composed his major philosophical works, including the Periphyseon Like Pelagius, Eriugena believed that the material world, as a creation of God, re mained basically good and could reveal the wisdom of God. In his work De Divisione Naturae Eriugena explained a certain interrelation between G od and creation, where each creature existed as part of God while God remained, in a my sterious way, within each creature as well (Glacken 1967, 209-212). For Eriugena, God is the substance of creation, or as Geo Trevarthen explains Eriugenas theology of cr eation, creation ex nihilo is actually

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29 creation ex Deo (Trevarthen 281, 2005). Eriugena also believed that the material world of nature was not inherently evil. John OMeara summari zes Eriugenas position as follows: there is no natural cause for the illicit misuse of free will or of evil. Just as evil is uncaused and none can discover whence it co mes, so the unruly misuse of natural goods arises from no natural cause (OMeara 1988, 149). While Eriugena is somewhat separated from the golden age of Celtic Christianity in the fourth through seventh centuries, his thought resembles that of Pelagi us and is often taken by modern writers as another example of a particularly Celtic interp retation of Christian doctrine. After the Council of Whitby, Christia nity remained dynamic and diverse throughout Britain and Ireland. The Celtic tradition, though, as argued by Newell and other popular writers, went underground (excep t for occasional related theologies like that of Eriugena) only to fully reemerge a millennium later. Popular writers of the 18th and 19th centuries, inspired by works like Alexander Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica argued that Celtic Christian knowledge, or the syncretistic pagan and Christian teachings of the Celtic Church, remained on the outskirts of Britain and Irela nd after the Council of Whitby and could hence be revived. Romantic Revivals and the Celtic Twilight In the eighteenth century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, Friedrick Wilhelm Schelling, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe developed the literary and philosophical elements of Romanticism (J asper 2005). Romantics, as Tilar Mazzeo explains, sought to reinvigorate those aspect s of human knowledge and experience that the Enlightenment had pushed aside. These included: attention to mysticism and psychological supernaturalism and a thematic emphasis on the value of the imagination, sentimentalism, natural spiritualism, and pastoralism (Mazzeo 2005, 1424). In Britain

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30 and Germany, Romanticism led some to reex amine pagan traditions, though usually from a Christian or deist context. Goethe, for example, expressed ad miration for Greek and Roman pagan deities as symbols for his own deep experiences while at the same time retaining belief in the one Christian God (Hutton 1999, 21-22). At roughly the same time, William Stukeley, an English Anglican minister, wrote a popular history of Stonehenge in which he ar gued that the druids had a religion so extremely like Christianity that in effect it di ffered from it only in this: they believed in a Messiah who was to come into this world, as we believe in him that is to come (quoted in Bradley 1999, 107). In his work, Stukeley bo th promoted the false belief that Celtic druids constructed Stonehenge and articulated the position that Brit ish pagan traditions and Christianity needed not be contradictory. In the early 19th century, George Petrie, a Protestant Scot whose family relocated to Dublin during his childhood, wrote popular accounts of the spiritual power found around ruin ed Irish monastic sites. His work promoted some of the earliest spiritual tourism to Ireland, esp ecially to the monastic ruins at Clonmacnoise (Bradley 1999, 112). The works of Stukeley and Petrie also represented early attempts to establish roots through Celtic culture. Stukeley and Petrie, both Protestants, found historical precedents fo r their Romantic Ch ristian beliefs in prehistorical Celtic culture. As early as the writings of Stukeley and Petrie, Celtic Christianity involved a continuous rooted tradition, available to all who believed, not just those who fit any required ethnicity. In the nineteenth century, these Romantic cu rrents led to an expl osion of alternative religious development across Europe and No rth America. This nineteenth century spiritual hothouse, a term used by Sarah Pike and borrowed from Jon Butler, witnessed

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31 the emergence of Transcendentalism, Spir itualism, Theosophy, and health movements such as Christian Science (Pike 2004, 42). Each of these traditions, in its own way, offered alternative approaches to life and sp irituality and, through th eir popularity, helped generate an environment amenable to the bl ending of pagan and Christian beliefs. Another major event in the history of m odern Celtic Christianity came with the 1900 publication of Alexander Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica or The Songs of the Gaels. Working as a tax co llector, Carmichael traveled Scotland's remote western Islands. As a native Gaelic speaker, Carmich ael became interested in the prayers spoken by the local inhabitants, and from 1855 to 1899, recorded them (Meek 2000, 60). For Carmichael, these prayers and incantations represented examples of a continuous tradition which blended pagan and Christian be liefs. In the introduction to his work, Carmichael speculated, some of the hymn s may have been composed within the cloistered cells of Derry and Iona, and some of the incantations among the cromlechs of Stonehenge and the standingstones of Callarnis (Carmichael 2001, 30). The people Carmichael questioned also lived on the fringes of British society, far from the Victorian culture of London, as he said, these poems we re composed by the learned, but they have not come down through the learned, but th rough the unlearnednot through the lettered few, but through the unlettered manythrough the crofters and cottars, the herdsmen and shepherds, of the Highlands and Islands (Carmichael 2001, 30). For Carmichael, the prayers and incantations of the Carmina Gadelica represented a continuous oral tradition held by those with little contac t with the intellectual fads of the cities. In 1906, Douglas Hyde conducted a similar proj ect in Ireland with his Religious Songs of Connacht

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32 The integrity of the oral tradition remains important for modern Celtic Christians, and for scholars such as Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie, the recorded oral tradition provides perhaps the best account of true Ce ltic Christian spiritual belief (Davies and Bowie 1997, 17). Whether the works of Carm ichael and Hyde reveal pre-Christian beliefs among late nineteenth century Scots and Irish people, they have certainly inspired later thinkers to develop what is now called Celtic Christianity. Celtic spirituality received another importa nt advocate in 1893 when the Irish poet W. B. Yeats coined the term Celtic Twilight. Yeats examined the folk stories of rural Ireland in an attempt to construct an Irish Celtic mythology. Yeat s himself was involved in Alastair Crowley's Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a precursor to modern witchcraft, and other mystical and esoteric or ganizations such as the Rosicrucians and the Theosophical Society. Within the Celtic Twilight movement, Yeats and others attempted to elevate the pagan Celtic traditi on as itself a mystical system of esoteric knowledge and situated early Christian saints such as Patrick and Brigid as vessels of that knowledge (Bradley 1999, 139-140). Though his works on Celtic folklore and mythology remained influential to Celtic Chri stians, Yeats was more interested in the pagan and mystical elements of Celtic histor y. These more mystical and pagan elements of the Celtic Twilight influenced the development of modern Celtic New Age and Neopagan traditions. Donald Meek, a Gaelic-speaking native of the Scottish island of Tiree, argues that many of the modern problems with Celtic Chri stianity solidified within the Celtic Twilight movement. Speaking of Celts as a single group and Celtic spirituality as a single thing, he asserts, misrepresents the diversity of belief a nd culture around Britain

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33 and Ireland (Meek 2000, 6). Meek also notes th at the Celts themselves would not have considered themselves at the fringes of soci etythey only appear on the outskirts of the world from British and Continental perspectiv es (Meek 2000, 81). Finally, the emphasis upon the primitive purity of the Celts continues, for Meek, in the British tradition of the oppression of the other by romanticizing simplicity and effectively removing from modern Celtic peoples thei r ability or right to mode rnize (Meek 2000, 76). Malcolm Chapman also notes this issue of oppressi ve colonialist anthropology in his 1978 work The Gaelic Vision in Scottish Culture arguing that British anth ropologists mapped their primitivist perceptions onto their analyses of local rural communities. He argues that, when European anthropologists be gan to turn their attention to European societies, they tended to choose areas that approximated in primitive status to those that their Africanist colleagues had studi ed (Chapman 1978, 181). Not all of the early modern promoters of Celtic spirituality, however, followed Yeats Romantic views of Celtic culture or accepted his emphasis upon mysticism. An early example of Christian Celtic spirituality came with the Reverend George MacLeod. George MacLeod, who founded the Iona Community in 1938, was an important figure in the evolution of modern Celtic Christianity. After serving in World War I, MacLeod followed in his family tradition and became a Presbyterian minister, serving in Glasgow (Ferguson 1990, 71). In Glasgow, MacLeod began preaching in the Govan region, an impoverished industrial area greatly affected by the economic depressions of the 1920's. MacLeod believed that Christia nity, with its tradi tions of works and community, offered a solution to the problems of the impoverished residents of Govan. Ron Ferguson, MacLeods biographer, said of MacLeod's beliefs, he believed the

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34 Christian gospel was the answer to the problem s of society, and that the main obstacle to belief was the fact that the Church was not living its message in ways which commended it to ordinary people (Ferguson 1990, 142). In the 1930's, MacLeod sought a location for the development of a Christian community based on works and service. He found the historically-rich isle of Iona. Columba built the first abbey on Iona in 563 which was abandoned sometime in the twelfth centur y. In 1203, a group of Benedictines reestablished the abbey. It became an importa nt spiritual center and the burial place of local kings. During the Reformation, though, th e community of Benedictines was pushed out and the abbey left to crumble. In the 1800's, based on the Romantic writings of those such as George Petrie, the ruins became a popular attraction for thos e seeking inspiration from the Celtic past (Ferguson 1990, 153-154) In 1899, the Duke of Argyll donated funds for the refurbishment of the abbey, which was completed in 1910. The basic structures existed when, in 1937, MacLeod proposed the establishment of a semipermanent community in the Abbey (Ferguson 1990, 163). In 1938, the Scottish Heritage authorities granted permission to MacLeod's scheme and the Iona Community was born. The Iona Community continues today as perhaps one of the most recognizable Celtic Christian communities, although its headquarters moved to Glasgow. The community sponsors educational and spiritua l workshops across Scotland and offers regular non-denominational services in the ab bey. To become a member of the Iona Community one must undertake a two year training program and live and work on the island, although the community also include s associate members who attend regular workshops. Currently, there are nearly 250 members who have completed the program

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35 and nearly 3,000 associate members and friends around the world who support the community.6 The Iona Community also operate s the Wild Goose Press in Glasgow, which publishes many books related to Celt ic spirituality and spreads MacLeod's message of ecumenical Christian service fo r peace and equality (Bradley 2000, 45-48). While MacLeod cared mainly about issues of social justice, the Iona Community later moved to include issues of ecologica l justice among its concerns. Though Iona remains among the most well-known modern Celtic Christian communities, it is not alone. The smaller Community of Aidan and Hilda, founded by Anglican ministers in 1994 and based on the is le of Lindisfarne, also supports a small group of permanent resident members, spons ors spiritual workshops, and engages in community works. Dara Molloy, a self-iden tified Celtic priest, also conducts Celtic Christian services and weddings on the Arra n Islands in western Ireland. Molloy was ordained as a Marist Priest but left in the mid-1980's to start a family and live as a Celtic monk in the rural Arran Islands. His An Charraig community, in which he and his family live, operates organic gardens and recruits in ternational volunteers for cultural restoration projects around western Irela nd. Molloy also operates an Internet magazine called The Aisling which publishes articles, poetry and st ories related to Celtic spirituality.7 In North America, the Celtic Christ ian Communion represented several Celtinspired Christian congregations, including th e Anamchara Celtic C hurch, the Church of the Culdees, and the Celtic Christian Chur ch. Though the Celtic Christian Communion dissolved in 1997 due to theological disagree ments, its former member congregations 6 The Iona Community. About the Community. < http://www.iona.org.uk/community/main.htm > 2003. Last viewed March 16, 2006. 7 See www.aislingmagazine.com for more information on Molloy and his community.

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36 remain and sponsor missions of evangelism around the world (Meek 2000, 18). For many North American communities, as the Methodist theologian George C. Hunter III argues, Celtic Christianity offers useful m odels for evangelism and aids in the conversion of the non-Christian masses (Hunter 2000, 53-54). In the modern context, Celtic Christianity generally refers to a spiritual orientation based in the historical lives a nd practices of medieval Chris tians in Celtic lands. This includes ecumenism, evangelism and education. Individual Celtic Christians generally remain active within a particular Chri stian tradition, such as Anglicanism, Episcopalianism and Catholicism (except for rare examples like Dara Molloy), but refer to the inspiration of the Celtic tr adition for modern Christian life. Celtic Christianity emerged out of Romantic religious revivals of recent centuries involving resurgences of interest in Celtic pe oples. This chapter has shown that several popular claims made by Celtic Christians a nd others influenced by the general Celtic revival, as many critics argue, lack historic al support. For modern believers, though, Celtic Christianity is a reconf iguration of a continuous spiritual tradition situated within regular patterns of Christian belief. As a re interpretation of Christ ian belief and practice, some argue that Celtic Christianity poses no real threat to modern peoples in formerly Celtic lands. Philip Sheldrake, in his popular works on Celtic Christianity, responds to historical criticisms and seeks to provide a more historically accu rate version of the tradition, as he argues, I believe that the Celtic tradition of Christianity deserves to be retrieved . however, it also deserves a less romanticized and more balanced treatment (Sheldrake 1995, 3). Oliver Davies also at tempts to situate the emergence of Celtic Christianity within normal pr ocesses of religious developm ent, arguing that in many

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37 ways Christianity lives by its ability to redi scover its past. The history of Christianity shows a constant tendency toward invigorati ng revival and rediscovery of its roots as well as to polemics surrounding the varying de finitions of tradition. Celtic Christianity offers just such a renewal (Davies 1999, 24). Despite its close relationships with pagan and New Age traditions, or at least thos e based in Celtic mythology and inspiration, modern Celtic Christianity represents a fully Christian spiritual or ientation, accepting the divinity of Jesus, the transcendence of God a nd the reality of the Trinity. Chapter 3 turns to a deeper analysis of many of the basic theological beliefs and ritual practices of modern Celtic Christians.

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38 CHAPTER 3 MODERN THEOLOGY AND PRACTICE As the previous chapter has shown, much less is known about early Christian and pre-Christian Ireland and Britain than many s upporters of Celtic spiritualities presume or claim. Nonetheless, Celtic Christians ba se their emerging theologies in historical contexts, claiming the historical support of saints, scholars an d institutions. This chapter turns to a deeper analysis of the theology of modern Celtic Christians in order to better understand Celtic Christianity as a spiritual tr adition. Beyond the historical story, this includes arguments for the legitimacy of modern Celtic Christian belief, historical and contemporary theological statements, and pr actices related to ecological and social justice. Analyzing these arguments from th e religious studies perspective identified by Chidester (1988) helps situate Celtic Christianity among other Christian movements. While Celtic Christianity remains a di verse movement, without any official doctrinal position, some common features ex ist through the works of popular writers. Adherents often value the natural world as God's creation and hold it as essentially good and as a source of knowledge concerning God. This manifests itself in creation-centered theologies, such as those of J. Phillip Newell and Sen Duinn, and in support of environmental care and sustainability, as with the efforts of members of the Iona Community. Many also emphasize the powers of the saints and members of the Trinity. Though further surveys regardi ng the beliefs and practices of self-identifying Celtic Christians would be helpful, popular writers nonetheless reve al important general aspects

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39 of modern Celtic Christian theology, and so, help construct an imag e of the beliefs of modern Celtic Christians. Issues of Legitimacy and Authority Many popular Celtic Christia n writers employ several strategies for claiming authority for the modern construction of th e Celtic past. These strategies include establishing historical continui ty for certain important Celt ic Christian beliefs, including the care for creation, the pow er of the saints, and Trinitarianism, and arguing for indigenous status for the Celts. Many critics challenge the accuracy of popular notions of historical continuity and point to issues of power and domin ation in the appropriation and syncretism noted in modern Celtic Christ ianity. Examining these differing supportive and critical arguments, though, shows that most parties seek to legitimate some historical account and vision of a proper religion over others. For some, the Celtic tradition remains constant from the introduction of Christianity in Celtic lands to the present day because of a certain cultural conservatism among Celtic peoples. Phillip Newell, a pr olific writer on Celti c Christian themes, summarizes this historical perspective as follo ws: Celtic spirituality is neither simply a thing of the past nor a twentie th-century phenomenon. Rather, it is a spirituality that characterized the young British Church from as early as the fourth century. Although it was pushed out to the Celtic fringes after Augustine of Canterbury's Roman mission in 597, it has always managed to su rvive in one form or anothe r, usually on the edges of formal religion (Newell 1997, 2-3). Acco rding to Timothy Joyce, an American Benedictine monk, Celtic culture retains its essential features well, despite outside influences and historical change. He says, because of that slowness to change, we are able to reach back into the ancient mind with some ease (Joyce 1998, 4). Such

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40 statements directly contradict the arguments made by historians that because of the lack of written evidence, the ancient minds, to use Joyces terminology, of Celtic peoples remain forever shrouded in the mists of time. Popular writers sometimes establish this continuity by reference to theological holdovers from pre-Christian religions, in cluding the care fo r creation due to a recognition of the immanence of deities, the importance of the saints and Trinitarianism. According to writers such as Newell, care for creation, which remains a central theological tenet of modern Celtic Christ ianity, derives from pre-Christian nature worship. As Newell claims, the Celtic trad ition has a strong sense of the wildness of God (Newell 1999a, 20). Esther de Waal, another popular writer on Celtic Christian spirituality, expresses the con tinuity of care for creation th rough a discussion of the broad Celtic family. She says, Celtic spirituality is corporate spirituality with a deep sense of connectedness to the earth itself and the natural elements, to the human family, not only the present immediate family into which each of us is born, but the extended family as it stretches back in time through the many generations (de Waal 1997, 38). Philip Sheldrake situates Celtic Christianity with in broader trends of medieval religious syncretism, arguing, as any stude nt of medieval magic knows, continuities with a preChristian past were quite common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. However, it is fair to say that the Church in Cel tic lands took over wholesale so many of the existing cultural and social structures that it seemed to Christianize traditional religion in a more systematic way (Sheldrake 1995, 9) Citing historical precedents, Newell, de Waal and Sheldrake claim historical continuity between medieval Cel tic Christianity and their own modern beliefs.

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41 Though it is rooted in pre-Christian cu ltures, many popular writers seek to distinguish Celtic Christianity from pagani sm by retaining the importance of God and emphasizing the peaceful coexistence of Chri stianity and paganism. In an important historical claim, Newell says of medieval Ch ristians in Britain and Ireland, it was typical of the Celtic Church to see its worship of Chri st as building on the truths and symbols of the mysticism that had preceded Christianity in Britain. Aspects of its ancient mythology and nature religion were the equivalent of an Old Testament for the Celtic mission. Christ was the fulfillment of all that was tr ue, whether that was of the priestly and prophetic traditions of Judaism or of its ow n Celtic druidical past (Newell 1999a, 21). He also says of Christian inte ractions with pre-Christian be liefs, the gospel was seen as fulfilling rather than destroying the old Celtic mythologies (Newell 1997, 27). For Newell, Christianity and paganism coexiste d peacefully in Celtic lands and even exchanged certain beliefs and practices. Th is connection between pre-Christian druids and Celtic Christians mirrors claims made by early British druid revivalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As ear ly as 1680, historian John Aubrey connected the stone circles at Stonehenge and Ave bury with druidic act ivities, based upon the literature available at the time and his own imagination. Anglican vicar William Stukeley continued Aubrey's arguments and claimed that the Celtic druids basically accepted the tenets of Christianity (Green 1997, 141-143). Newell and other modern Celtic Christian writers, however, avoid fully equating Celtic Christianity with paganism. He says of a poem celebrating the moon in the Carmina Gadelica it was not the light of the moon that was being worshipped but the Light within the light (New ell 2000, 100). Oliver Davies similarly argues that

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42 Christianity integrated certain pagan traditions in Britain and Ireland without compromising important Christian beliefs and te achings. He argues th at this willingness to coexist peacefully with other belief syst ems distinguishes Celtic Christianity from Roman Catholicism in general and other mode rn Protestant traditions. Davies says, those aspects of 'Celtic' Christianity that most appeal to us today are precisely the sources that convey the sense of this integralism, and do so in a distinctively Christian coding (Davies 1997, 21-22). In this way, Ce ltic Christianity becomes a tradition rooted in pre-Christian culture that nonetheless retains basically Chri stian beliefs. Stories of the saints provid e a second important connec tion between modern Celtic Christians and historical Christians in Ce ltic lands. The saints, in popular accounts, remained important to early Christians in Ce ltic lands largely because they occasionally took on the attributes and duties of pre-Ch ristian gods and goddesses. Prayers in the Carmina Gadelica call upon saints such as Patrick, Br igid and Columba for help with daily chores, revealing a belief in the real agen cy of saints as supern atural aids (Bradley 1999, 157). For example, Esther de Waal says, Celtic saints are approachable, close at hand, woven quite naturally into life just as would be any other member of an extended family. It is this that sets them apart fr om the great saints of the Western Church, who were made saints by formal canonization through the process of a centralized ecclesiastical machinery (de Waal 1997, 162). Of course, de Waal neglects to say that the Celtic saints, too, were formally ca nonized by the centralized ecclesiastical machinery. Like de Waal, Edward Sellner argu es that the lives of Celtic saints represent spiritual tools for awareness and a deepening kinship with the love and suffering of Jesus (Sellner 1993, 43). In his Wisdom of the Celtic Saints (1993), Sellner provides

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43 summarized accounts of the lives of nineteen saints from across Ireland and Britain. His work is not meant to be a history of the sa ints, though, but a spiritua l guide to be read with an openness to what the stories themselves can teach us about God, holiness, and our own great mysteries (Sellner 1993, 42). The Celtic saints, like many aspects of Celtic Christian spirituality, exist in a nebul ous world between historical accuracy and spiritual inspiration. For wr iters like Sellner, what real ly happened does not matter so much as what stories of what happened might te ll us of our relationships to the world and God. Trinitarianism is a third theological feat ure claimed by Celtic Christians to connect to pre-Christian religious belie fs. As earlier mentioned, there is evidence that the number three held special significance in pre-Christia n Celtic religion and so ciety. Some modern Celtic Christians argue that pre-Christian Celts adopted Church Trinitarianism early because of these pre-existing affinities for tr iple deities. For example, Timothy Joyce states, to the Celts, who alrea dy thought in terms of threes, this must have seemed very natural. They had already thought of their pa gan deities in symbolic and abstract images (Joyce 1998, 19). Several popular anthologies of Celtic spiritual writings include the Lorica Sancti Patritii or St. Patrick's Breastplate, a poem allegedly written by St. Patrick but tracing only to the eighth century. St. Patrick's Breastplate is a prayer for protection, a deeply Christian protection prayer that yet carries along with it some of the flavour of pre-Christian invocations that were no less sincerely spoken and sung for the same purpose of protection (O'Donoghue 1995, 4950). Importantly, th is eighth century prayer begins with a strong stat ement of Trinitarianism: For my shield this day I call / A mighty power / The Holy Trinity / Affirmi ng threeness / Confessing oneness / In the

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44 making of all / Through love (O'Donoghue 1995, 46). Esther de Waal mirrors the sentiment of the Lorica almost exactly, as she says, t he God whom the Celtic people know is above all the Godhead who is Trinity, the God whose very essence is that of a threefold unity of persons, three persons bound in a unity of love (de Waal 1997, 38). For de Waal and others, the Trinitarian ism of the medieval author of the Lorica remains an applicable spiritual orientation for Celtic Christians today. Another related strategy for developing authority for modern Celtic Christian beliefs is to claim for the Celts indigenous st atus. For example, Timothy Joyce says of the Celts, they are recognized as the 'European Aborigines,' like Native American tribes already on the land with their own developed culture prior to bei ng conquered, driven out, or assimilated by more powerful invade rs (Joyce 1998, 1). Alastair McIntosh, a Scottish activist and scholar, reports similar instances of identification between modern Scottish activists and Native North American s. After viewing a television program on Native Americans, Torcuil MacRath, an elde rly friend of McIntosh's, commented, they said that their culture is dy ing. They said it's because the Circle, the Sacred Hoop, has been broken . It's the same for us. It's the same for the Gael . Because when I heard them on the television, those Indians, I understo od instantly what they meant (quoted in McIntosh 2001, 51). Interestingly, Sulian Stone Eagle Herney, a MiKmaq activist brought to Scotland by McIntosh, recognized th is indigenous connection as well. While visiting a community development project in Glasgow, Stone Eagle sa id, your situation is the same as ours, referring to the innercity poverty and dislocation of the Scottish people (quoted in McIntosh 2001, 244). The idea of Celticity provides a sense of roots

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45 for modern, industrialized indi viduals who might feel sepa rated from their cultural heritage. As indicated by the quote from Joyce above, this argument for indigenousness often includes the story of the oppression of th e Celtic tradition by the powerful forces of the Roman Church at the Synod of Whitby, and later, by the Protestant British. McIntosh frequently cites the oppression of the Scottis h highlanders by the British ruling elites, beginning with the 1746 Battle of Culloden Moor when the British forces defeated the Scottish, forcing the nobles to cede their land to British lords. This initiated the period of lairdship which led to the Highl and Clearances of the early 19th century, when thousands of Highland crofters were move d off of their land by the Brit ish lords in order to provide grazing land for sheep (McInt osh et al. 1994, 64-65). The Ir ish point to the period of famine in the mid-19th century caused by the spread of potato blight as an example of British oppression. The British lords who contro lled the Irish farms refused to reduce the potato export during the famine forcing the Irish to live on the bare remainders. To rediscover the Celts, then, is to rediscove r a people long marginalized by the dominant British culture, according to some Celtic Christians. Some scholars, however, reverse this argument of oppression and say that the popular equation of Celtic culture with Na tive American and othe r indigenous cultures involves the continued cultural exploitation of these traditions from dominant social groups. Marion Bowman, a scholar of mode rn British religious movements including Celtic Christianity, argues that the Celts have become Britain's Noble Savages, or that they represent an idealized, environmenta lly friendly past (Bowman 1993, 154). For Donald Meek, appropriations of indigenous trad itions and inventions of indigenous pasts

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46 come from issues of power and guilt. He sa ys, the romantic repossession of regions and cultures which have been abused by imperia lism seems to be one of the ways by which the well-heeled, modern descendants of the c onquerors come to terms with their own and their forefathers' misdeeds (Meek 2000, 32-33). Celtic Christianity, for Meek, represents one such instance of the repossess ion of an oppressed culture by members of a dominant culture. This resembles Phillip Deloria's arguments regarding the place of Indians in American identities and power dynamics. The possession and repossession of native traditions occurs in a kind of reciprocal dynamic of power. Deloria argues, the self-defining pairing of American truth with American freedom rests on the ability to wield power against Indianssocial, military, economic, and politicalwhile simultaneously drawing power from them (Del oria 1998, 191). This argument might be applied to Celtic Christianity as well. The Irish, Scottish and Welsh people, who have been historically marginalized in Bri tish society, nonetheless serve a legitimizing function for their very oppressors. It should be noted, though, that critics of appropriation such as Meek are not simply neutral parties in debates over cultural owners hip, but subtly claim for themselves certain rights to speak for a culture as well. For Meek, as noted above, Celtic Christianity involves the guilt-inspired repo ssession of and identificati on with oppressed cultures. Although he criticizes the Romanticism of the oppressors, Meeks own position simplifies Celtic peoples as well. As Bron Taylor notes, some critics of appropriation seem to assume, for example, that cultura l traditions can or should be immutable and geographically enclosed. Such assumptions ar e historically nave a nd contain logic that would relegate all religion to the dustbin of history, unable to adapt to cultural and

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47 evolutionary developments (Taylor 1997, 199) While issues of oppression remain vitally important, it also remains important to analyze the persp ectives of those who would so readily criticize all appropriation. Again, as Taylor notes, a study by Andr Droogers shows that opponents of syncretic pro cesses are often resis ting threats to their own hegemony over religious produ ction (Taylor 1997, 199). In the Celtic context, it is worth examining to what degree critics such as Meek seek, though their criticisms, to preserve a specific idea of the past as well. Beyond the issue of cultural appropriati on, connections between ethnicity and belief remain highly problematic for many sc holars as well. Ma lcolm Chapman notes, the Celts, therefore, have a long history of being tied up in a discour se of race, language and culturea discourse which has indeed, in an important sense, created them (Chapman 1992, 20). Meek warns against the ethnification of the Celts and points to the work of the nineteenth century philologist Ernest Renan as an example of the possible problems of creating an ethnic-based religion wi th Celtic Christianity. Renan painted the early Celtic Church as a pur e institution, valuing only Cel tic saints and pre-Celtic pagan beliefs (Meek 2000, 47). When believers speak so freely of Celtic spirituality, they perhaps unwittingly connect be lief to ethnicity. One might ask if one must be a Celt to follow Celtic Christianity. Modern writers, however, frequently take pains to avoid the identification of Celtic Christianity with one specific race. Philip Ne well says that, since the original insights of the medieval Celtic Christians came from God, th ey remain open to all, as he says of his spirituality, its starting-point is not an e xperience that separate s one group of people from another but a gift that we all have b een given (Newell 1999a, xi). Marion Bowman

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48 also notes the emergence of cardiac Celts, or those who feel in thei r hearts that they are Celtic (Bowman 1996, 246). In this wa y, Celticity becomes more a state of mind than an ethnic designation. Alastair McIntosh, who has done much to promote the inclusion of diverse cultural traditions in Sc otland, argues that 'Celticity' therefore takes on a meaning that can be bigger than ethnogr aphic and linguistic definitions alone: it becomes a code for reconnection with huma n community, with the natural world and with God (McIntosh 2001, 20). The Celt is a symbol for the Celtic Christian, not an ethnically idealized ancestor. Along with revealing historical inaccur acies and the problems of ethnification, many critics point to issues of consumerism, secularization and individualism as reasons to doubt the validity of Celtic Christianity. Ian Bradley notes that the te rm Celtic has become a marketing tool for books, tourism and other items such as Celtic crosses (Bradley 1999, 218-219). Donald Meek similarly not es that to be 'Celtic' is to be trendy, cool, 'other' and even marketable. The word moves easily from the market to the monastery, and back again, as secularisation takes its toll of even the most hallowed spiritual icons (Meek 2000, 9). Celtic Ch ristianity loses its meaning for Meek and Bradley when it becomes something that any individual may buy or find on the Internet without any connection to hi storical communities. Celtic Christianity is certainly heavily marketed, but so are many other religions and Christian traditions. Criticizing religious consumerism does not help explain why it occurs or what it means for those engaged in it. Furthermore, those who market Celtic culture to tourists (and those who buy it) are not necessarily the same as those who find deep inspiration in the mode rn Celtic tradition. Again, Me ek and to a lesser degree

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49 Bradley seek an idealized Celtic past, before consumerism desacralized its most holy features. Issues of consumerism and th e related radical individualism go deeper, culturally, than Meek and Bradley seem to accept. In the American context, for example, Robert Bellah and his colleague s argue that religiou s individualism is part of American culture, as they say, religious individualism is in many ways, appropriate in our kind of society. It is no more going to go away than is secular individualis m (Bellah et al. 1996, 247). Consumerism, or the excessive empha sis placed upon the act of consumption of goods, seems to be a general feature of mode rn Western cultures. To point at the consumerism and individualism in Celtic Chri stianity and to base a critical argument around it, as do Meek and Bradley, inaccurately withdraws forms of Celtic spirituality from the greater consumerist cultural milieu. In contrast to Meek and Bradley, supporte rs of Celtic Christianity offer their tradition as a potential solution to the problems of secula rization and individualistic consumer culture. Sen Duinn, for example, says, while death beckons menacingly at the once great [Celtic] civili zation, a lingering breath still remains which perhaps could be the breath of life for the jaded victims of the consumer society ( Duinn 2002, 21). John Rordin similarly says, as we str uggle today to humanize and Christianize our industrial and consumerist urba n society, we might learn from our pagan and Christian ancestors something of thei r healing and harmonious rela tionship with the permanent underlying realities of earth a nd sea and sky, and the changi ng seasons of the year ( Rordin 1996, 85). Others, rather than focusing solely upon individual spiritual attainment, emphasize the community involved in the modern Celtic tradition. Timothy Joyce says, Celtic spirituality will not allow us to go it alone. It is never just between

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50 me and God. The community is important for that is where I know who I am (Joyce 1998, 156). While Duinn, Rordin and Joyce might not represent all Celtic Christians, and while their words might not transl ate into actual practices, they show that Celtic Christianity itself cont ains important tools for belie vers to counter the harmful effects of individualist consumer culture. Critiques of Celtic Christianity as individualistic consumer spir ituality, then, neglect importa nt points made by the popular writers of the tradition. Celtic Christianity is a complex moveme nt, involving several sometimes competing and contradictory historical and theological cl aims. Issues of historical legitimacy and authenticity, though, provide only part of the Ce ltic Christian system of belief. Celtic Christianity also includes now well-developed theologies, base d in historical precedents, but also shaped by and relevant to modern cultural contexts. Important Themes in Modern Celtic Christian Theology The popular works of J. Phillip Newell, Sen Duinn, Esther de Waal, Timothy Joyce, Philip Sheldrake and others provi de important inform ation about general theological beliefs of many modern Celtic Chri stians. These writers, particularly Newell, often draw upon the works of Pelagius and Er iugena to define Celtic Christian theology against what they view as the harmful doctrines of Augustine. Though they align themselves with persons considered hete rodox by the Roman Catholic Church, these popular writers and theologians still claim for Celtic Christianity a basic level of orthodoxy. Popular writers often use the emphasis upon creation and the goodness of God, Trinitarianism and the impor tance of saints to help distinguish their Christian spirituality from other New Age and Neopagan spiritualities which also draw from the Celtic context.

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51 J. Phillip Newell, a Church of Scotland minister from Canada, former Warden of Iona Abbey and current scholar in residen ce at St. Giles Cathed ral in Edinburgh, is perhaps one of the most prolific writers on Celtic Christian theology. In his several volumes he outlines some of the most important general characteristics of modern Celtic Christianity. Though his work provides a basis for this section, it is not definitive of all Celtic Christian theology. Other writers are introduced to emphasize agreements on certain points and to reveal important differences in popular Celtic Christian thought. In his work, Newell emphasizes God's revela tions in the natural world in a form of the two book metaphor. The two book meta phor involves recogni tion of the Book of Nature or the Christian concept of nature as a book, written by the hand of God and serving as a companion volume to the book of Scripture (Gould 2005, 210). Utilizing this idea of the Book of Nature in a meditation and prayer guide entitled Promptings from Paradise (1998) Newell says, hearing the Word in the church and hearing the Word in the world are not opposed to each other (Newell 1998, 13). Philip Sheldrake agrees with Newells Book of Nature approach and states that, for mediev al Celtic Christians, nature was a kind of second sacred book, parall el to the scriptures, that revealed the divine (Sheldrake 1995, 73). This Book of Nature teaches beyond the reach of Christian literature, as Newell says, the mystery of God was being communicated in the world, through creation and in the lives of men a nd women, long before religion came into being. In fact it was the hearing of God in the world that gave rise to religion. In the Christian tradition we may claim a two-thousan d-year tradition of hearing God in the church's mysteries of word and sacrament. It needs always, however, to be set in the context of the fifteen-billion-year traditi on of God speaking in creation (Newell 1998,

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52 14). In this quote, Newell reveals a cert ain universalism and acceptance of geological science in his creationcentered theology. Newell argues that this focus upon creati on, or the Book of Nature, is and has always been a critical feature of Celtic Chris tianity. He emphasizes this point in several of his writings. He says, where do we look, ther efore, to learn of God? It is not away from ourselves and away from creation, but deep within all that has life. That is where the truth of God is hidden, like treasure, burie d in a field (Newell 1999a, xvi). He also states, in a meditation upon the seven days of creation, at the heart of all that has life is the light of God. This is a fundamental belie f of the Celtic tradit ion (Newell 1999a, 3). Elsewhere Newell says, the feature of Celtic sp irituality that is probably most widely recognized, both within and outside the Chur ch, is its creation emphasis (Newell 1997, 3). God's truth inhabits creation and re mains knowable and accessible to those with sufficient sensitivities. Sen Duinn, a Benedictine monk from Limerick, also asserts that there is a special attention placed on creati on within the Celtic tradition. Duinn also makes clear, however, that the medieval Celtic Christia ns also accepted the transcendence of God, remaining theologically orthodox, as he says, there was no difference in belief in this matter between the Celts and other Christia ns; both parties held that God was both transcendent and immanent, as is necessary for orthodoxy, but the Celts tended to place particular emphasis on the immanence of God ( Duinn 2002, 8). The Lutheran theologian Paul Santmire also argues fo r the orthodoxy of early Celtic Christians, asserting that the reverence fo r nature seen among the Celtic saints derives from a deep love of God and the future of salvation. He says, their oft-noted ecological sensitivities

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53 and their celebrated affirmations of nature were, for them, profoundly rooted in their universalizing eschatologi cal and christological convi ctions (Santmire 2002, 308). Scholars such as Duinn and Santmire, wh ile supporting certain aspects of modern Celtic Christianity, attempt at the same time to establish the tradition as essentially Christian and avoid any movement toward the denial of a transcendent God or of the divinity of Jesus. Because God is present within the worl d, creation is inherently of God and therefore good for modern Celtic Christians. In One Foot in Eden (1999b), a book of meditations upon the stages of human life, Ne well says, the basis for this book is the Celtic belief that grace is not opposed to what is natural. Rather grace is given by God to liberate the goodness that has been planted at th e heart of life. Grace is opposed to what is false in us but not to what is most d eeply natural (Newell 1999b, 5). Nature and Gods grace are intertwined for Newell, who asse rts that an important feature of Celtic spirituality, that appears again and again in a variety of wa ys over the centuries, is the refusal to divorce the gift of nature from the gift of grace. Both are seen as of God (Newell 1999a, 13). God remains accessible and wants to be known. In her work, Esther de Waal explains this expe rience of God here and now, w ith me, close at hand, a God present in life and in work, immediate and accessible (de Waal 1997, 69). Like the rest of nature, Newell says, we are created out of the essence of God, not out of nothing (Newell 1999a, 83). He adds, it is God's Life that sustains all life, and it is God's Soul that indwells every living soul (Newell 1999b, 13). Creation, then, is a basically good place where humans may find Di vine love and salvation.

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54 For Newell and de Waal, God is radically immanent and acce ssible within the created world, but also transcendent and n ecessary for salvation. Newell explains the problem of evil as follows: the divine likene ss within us may be hidden or forgotten. It may be held in terrible bondage by wrongdoing bu t the image of God remains at the heart of who we are, even though we may live at what seems an infinite distance from it. We have distorted the image but not erased it (Newell 1999a, 85). Again, the solution to the problem of evil lies in Gods immanence. For Newell, Eden is not a place from which we are distant in space and time. Rather, it is a dimension within ourselves from which we have become separated (Newell 2000, 61). We need the grace of God present within the world, though, to realize this essential goodne ss. While accepting many of the doctrines of Pelagius, Newell avoids what ort hodox Christians consider to be the heresy of Pelagianism, by retaining the necessity of God's grace. Newell and other Celtic Christian writers, such as Timothy Joyce, often oppose this creation-centered theolo gy to the original sin doctrine of St. Augustine. The problems with Augustine began, according to Newe ll and Joyce, when the Bishop of Hippo actively challenged the creation-ce ntered theology of Pelagius. St. Augustine's dislike for Pelagius, in Newells unders tanding, emerged from A ugustine's own personal power designs. Newell claims of Pelagius' exco mmunication that the forces which moved against him that year were pr imarily political in nature (Newell 1997, 20). Joyce also believes that St. Augustine's work shrouded the essential features of Pelagian theology, as he says, I believe Pelagius has something to say to us today if we can cut through the extremes to which the Augustinian criticisms may have pushed him (Joyce 1998, 59). Newell and Joyce note that Pelagianism also differed dramatically from Augustine's

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55 theology, though. For example, Newell argues that Augustine differed with Pelagius's practice of teaching women to read Script ure and his conviction that in the newborn child the image of God can be seen (Newell 1997, 13). This summary, of course, paints Augustine in a quite negative a nd perhaps inaccurate light. This demonization of St. Augustine is pervasive through the works of many Celtic Christian writers, as Ian Bradley says, Augustine of Hippo became the bogeyman for a new breed of pro-Celtic theologians who blam ed him for giving West ern Christianity its obsession with sin and guilt (Bradley 1999, 202) Other scholars ch allenge such quick rejections of Augustinian thought, though. Fo r example, in his extensive survey Traces on the Rhodian Shore (1967), Clarence Glacken summar izes St. Augustine's ideas as follows: the earth and earthly things are to be spurned when we compare them with the greater glories of the City of God, but neithe r are life on earth and th e beauties of nature to be despised because they are on a lower or der in the scale of be ing or because they represent an order inferior to the Divine Order. The eart h, life on earth, the beauties of nature, are also creations of God (Glacken 1967, 196). Paul Santmi re finds an emerging ecological consciousness in the works of Augustine, saying, his mature theology represents a flowering of the ecological promise of Christian theology, which later was to be practically expressed in the life of St Francis (Santmire 1994, 22). Glacken warns against simplistic readings of early Church writers and imposing modern concerns upon past thinkers, saying, through sele ction of materials, the tho ught of some Church Fathers can be presented so that they appear more ascetic and less tolerant, having less love of life, nature, and learning, so that their thought becomes 'incompatible with any high valuation of nature.' Many expressed both vi ewpoints; one cannot assume consistency or

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56 that contradictions or differences in empha sis will be reconcile d (Glacken 1967, 202). To some degree, Newell and others apply th is unfriendly and perhaps simplistic reading to the works of St. Augustine. Newells creation-centered theology and cri tiques of original sin, however, are not unique to Celtic Christianity ; other theologians mirror Newell's emphasis upon creation and ecological consciousness. Mark Wall ace's recent work promoting Christian Paganism provides one example (Wallace 2005, 13). According to Wallace, Christian Paganism is a transcendental animist tradition that understands God as both transcendent and radically immanent (Wa llace 2005, 43). Wallace calls for recognition of the Holy Spirit as the green face of God, or the member of the Trinity most relevant to spiritual orientations toward the world (Wallace 2005, 7), and concludes, one of the most compelling religious responses to the threat of ecocide lies in a recovery of the Holy Spirit as God's power of life-giving breath w ho indwells and sustains all life-forms (Wallace 2005, 38). Wallaces Christian Paganism resembles in some ways the immanent creationism of Newell. An important image of the Spirit for Wallace is the mother bird god, an image found in Hebrew sources and related to Pagan and Native American conceptions of divinity (Wallace 2005, 40). Recognizing th e Spirit in the world helps to create a Christian deep ecology which envisions all th ings as bearers of God's presence through the agency of the Spirit (Wallace 2005, 97). Like Celtic Christians such as Newell, Wallace seeks to produce a scripturally justifiable a nd ecologically friendly Christianity. Matthew Fox's Creation Spirituality provi des another related example of an environmentally friendly Christian theology. Like Newell, Fox calls for a creation-based

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57 spirituality, or a spirituality that begins with original blessing instead of original sin (Fox 1994a, 210). For both Fox and Newell, creation is basically good, covered only by the acts of sin, largely be cause God still inhabits the creation. Fox embraces the panentheism of several mystics, as he says, i t teaches us that everything is in God and God is in everything. That is the proper wa y to name our relationship with the divine (Fox 1994a, 212). Fox calls this animating force the Cosmic Christ. Like Celtic Christianity, Creation Spirituality involves e ngagement for change within the world. For Fox, true Christian environmental and social activism entails an abandonment of dutybased and anthropocentric stewardship ethics and an acceptance of mysticism. He states that stewardship still denotes a dualistic re lationship between humans and creation . it is still one species taking upon itself the right to manage another (Fox 1994b, 64). Such statements against anthropocentrism place Fox on the more radical end of the Christian environmentalist spectrum. Newell and Fox share a belief in the e ssential goodness of cr eation. Fox argues that, because creation is esse ntially good, evil and any unsavor y aspects of creation (like predation) remain crucial parts of God's plan and should be embraced. He says, the fact is, my friends, all creatures are imperfectlet us celebrate that. Divinity purposefully matched our imperfections with one another, so we need one another and that way we build relationships with one another (Fox 1994a, 213). The ecological and social crises, though certainly bad and in need of response, represent positive occasions for true spiritual growth and even mystical union with the suffering God, Fox believes. He claims that today our whole species is involved in the dark night of the soul, but that is not necessarily a bad thing; it can be the beginning of radical conversion, the beginning

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58 of life (Fox 1994a, 213). Such optimism is al so an important part of Newells Celtic theology. While not a Celtic Christian, Fox's theology resembles that of Newell, primarily regarding his creationism and call for engageme nt with evil forces in the world, and he accepts important points of the Celtic Christian historical story. For example, Fox says, the creation-centered Celtic people in the seventh century had their nature-mysticism smothered at the Council of Whitby (Fox 1994a, 210). As with Celtic Christianity, though, several theologians reject and critic ize Creation Spirituality as theologically wrong or unorthodox, and question its value with regard to real-w orld applicability.1 Patout Burns argues, for example, that F ox reduces God from transcendent to the cosmos itself, as he says, by neglecti ng both the divine transcendence and the distinctiveness of the human, his theory tends to reduce both the divine and the human to the cosmos (Burns 1994, 82). Paul Santmire a Lutheran theologian and one of Fox's more vocal critics, claims that Fox's Creation Spirituality neglects important realities of suffering and inequalities in the world. He says, his approach resonates all too disquietingly with the anti-urban, romantic i ndividualism of the Thoreauvian tradition. When all is said and done Fox leaves us in the sweat lodge. His thought is not fundamentally at home in urban America (S antmire 2000, 21). Santmire believes that Fox avoids the realities of evil and, by vilif ying the theology of St Augustine, removes a crucial doctrine for truly unders tanding evil in the world, namely, original sin. He argues that, for struggling people, the doctrine of orig inal sin provides some explanation for their 1 Foxs theology has also alienated him from the Catholic Church. A former Dominican priest, Fox left his order and became an Episcopal priest after pressure from the Vatican regarding his pantheism, denial of original sin, and certain other teachings and activities at his University of Creati on Spirituality in Oakland, California. See Kresge 2005 and Introvigne 1998.

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59 suffering as well as a way out. For Santmire, mystical approaches to suffering such as Foxs do not feed starving children or help th e sick, rather, this tends to become an occasion for mystical participation in the dark side of the cosmos, rather than an occasion to struggle with alien powers that wreak havoc in this world, come what may (Santmire 2000, 22). Humans can bring about true soci al and ecological change, for Santmire, when they have a real evil presence to remove. Ultimately, according to Santmire and Burns, Creation Spirituality fails to provide practical solutions to the real ecological and social crises of the world. This critique mi ght apply just as well to Newell, who also avoids the doctrine of origin al sin. Arguments c oncerning whether or not a belief system actually works to solve practical problems, how ever, require more than just theoretical evidence. Interestingly, although he criticizes the Creation Spirituality of Matthew Fox, Paul Santmire looks toward the Celtic tradition as a possible source of environmentallyfriendly Christian attitudes and practices. For Santmire, the Celtic saints provide examples of Christian spirituality fully in t une with the ecological realities of death and suffering. They are well-equipped to be our spiritual mentors in this our ecological era preeminently because they can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death (Santmire 2002, 302). The Celtic monks and sain ts of the early medieval period did not view nature romantically, on the contrar y, death was their dail y breadand still they embraced nature as the gracious gift of G od, their creator and redeemer (Santmire 2000, 96). These Celtic Christians2 lived in communion with God, the angels, the saints, and 2 Santmire uses the term Celtic Christian to refer to persons living in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, from about the fifth to the tenth centuries C. E. (Santmire 2000, 96). While he records his own inspiration from these historic Celtic Christians, Santmire does not explicitly address modern Celtic Christian communities.

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60 the spirits of deceased monks (Santmire 2000, 108). Rather than providing examples of romantic and idealistic perceptions of nature, the Celtic saints and monks, for Santmire, provide examples of a religious consciousness fully in tune with th e ecological realities of death and predation. The differences be tween Newell, Fox and Santmire, therefore, reveal the power of Celtic themes and images in the creation of environmentally-friendly Christianity. The Celtic saints are many thi ngs to many people, and theological attempts to green Christianity re ferring to their examples de serve further study. According to Santmire, the reverence fo r nature seen among the Celtic saints derives from a deep love of God and the futu re of salvation. Becau se they recognized the realities of evil and death, the Celtic saints provide meaningful examples for a truly Christian ecology. The debates between Sa ntmire, Fox and Newell, however, focus especially on the possibility that theology mi ght inspire activism. They each seek a theology that works to solve recognized social and ecological problems. It is important now to note some ways in which contemporary Celtic Christians address this issue of real-world function. Modern Communities and Environmental Concern The concern for creation often becomes a call for ecological and social justice among modern Celtic Christian writers and orga nizations. In this section I examine some of the resources drawn upon by believers to s upport these calls for justice, recognizing that much more empirical data is necessary to draw more definitive conclusions. Some modern communities, such as the Iona Community and An Charraig list environmental and social issues among their most signifi cant concerns, but they do not necessarily represent the beliefs and practices of all Ce ltic Christian groups and individuals.

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61 For believers, Celtic Christianity remain s not Romantic but distinctly concerned with creating a better world. Phillip Newell claims that those who consider that the Celtic tradition is merely a romanticized na ture-mysticism need to hear the hard-hitting words of the Celtic teachers again and again over the centuries. To claim that both nature and grace are gifts of God given for all is to offer a spiritual ity that engages deeply with the life of the world and that calls emphatic ally for a just distribution of the earth's resources (Newell 1999a, 45). Timothy Joyce supports this statement, arguing that to follow the spiritual worldview of the Celtic Chris tians is to embrace a way of life that is a real commitment to the belief that the Trinitarian God is alive in this world, that Christ remains incarnate in his church, that each Ch ristian is called to active discipleship in building the kingdom of God (Joyce 1998, 153154). While these statements do not explicitly support acti on for environmental justice, th ey reveal attempts by popular writers to counter critiques that Celtic Christianity is only disconnected mysticism with no real world applicability. Matthew Fox more explicitly calls for direct action and the acceptance of ecological virtues, saying, political organizing to defend creation, including civil disobedience when necessary, is ecological virtue (Fox 1994a, 215-215). According to Newell, Joyce and Fox, a sp iritual emphasis upon cr eation necessarily involves a divine call to protect th at creation from damaging forces. The Celtic tradition, according to its suppor ters, offers a more environmental and socially friendly worldview than more dom inant Christian traditions. Reflecting his sense of the repression of the Celtic tradi tion, Newell asks, would not the Church and the world have been better prepared to m eet the challenges of the modern world including the ecological crisesif they had learned from Celtic spirituality instead of

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62 rejecting it? (New ell 1997, 106-107). Though only a sugge stion, this comment includes a very strong claim. What makes Celtic Chri stianity unique, for Newell, is its ability to justly provide solutions to modern social and ecological problems, with the assumption being that other forms of mainstream Christiani ty have not done so. Celtic Christianity, in Newells understanding, provides a necessary Christian alternative to other dominant, oppressive and harmful Christian teachings. Importantly, Newell and others retain important Christian teachings, arguing that their spiritual tradition remains orthodox with other mainstream traditions, though they challenge more traditional and dominant Christian forms for their alleged inabilities a nd failures to address ecological and social problems. Celtic Christianity, for Newell, is a spiritual tradition better adapted to face modern challenges from with in the Christian context than those traditions more influenced by what he considers to be the world-denying Augustinian example. Examples of community and individual acti ons make Newells claims plausible, but much more research is needed in order to evaluate them definitively. Many of the modern Celtic Christian groups discussed in Chapter One, such as the Iona Community, emphasize actions for peace a nd justice. On the official Iona web page, members declare that the community is committed to rebuilding the common life, through working for social and political chan ge, striving for the renewal of the church with an ecumenical emphasis, and exploring new more inclusive approaches to worship, all based on an integrated unde rstanding of spirituality.3 Important issues for the Community include opposing nuclear weapons campaigning against the arms trade and for ecological justice . political and cultura l action to combat racism . [and] action 3 The Iona Community. About the Community. http://www.iona.org.uk/community/main.htm 2003. Last viewed March 16, 2006.

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63 for economic justice, locall y, nationally and globally.4 Community members sometimes engage in direct actions in response to these issues. Members of the Iona Community atte nded demonstrations surrounding the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. On July 2, 2005, the Make Poverty History organization, founded and suppor ted by numerous public figure s including Bob Geldoff, Bono and Pat Robertson, led a march around Edinburgh's city center and sponsored a large benefit concert, called Live 8, in London.5 The movement to Make Poverty History found support among several Christian groups, including a small band of sign-carrying members of the Iona Community.6 On July 4, 2005, approximately 700 people gathered to protest Britain's nuclear weapons program at Her Majesty's Naval Base on the Clyde, near Faslane, Scotland. Unlike the Make Poverty History march, this ev ent included the real th reat of arrests and potential violence from both anarchistic agit ators and police (Sto rrar and Stansfield 2005, 6-7).7 Included among those present were me mbers and associates of the Iona Community, holding a green sign with a white dove and the words The Iona Community and wearing shirts which read Adomnan of Iona Ploughshares Affinity Group. The shirts revealed important info rmation about the groups Celtic Christian identity and relationships with other activist groups. Adomna n was an abbot of Iona and hagiographer of Columba who lived in the latt er half of the seve nth century. Adomnan 4 About the Community. http://www.iona.org.uk/community/main.htm 2003 Last viewed March 16, 2006. 5 See www.makepovertyhistory.org 6 Details on events surrounding the G8 Summit come la rgely from the author's field notes, recorded from July 1 to July 9, 2005. 7 See www.faslane.co.nr for more about the local peace camp.

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64 also generated a law of the innocents doctr ine for the kings of Britain which defined the proper treatment of noncombatants it wa r. For members of the modern Iona Community, Adomnan represents the Celtic Christian tradition of non-violence. The other half of the t-shirt slogan, Pl oughshares Affinity Group, refers to the Ploughshares organization. Ploughshares is an international networ k of Christian antiwar and anti-nuclear activists. In Britai n, Trident Ploughshares organizes many protests against Englands Trident Mi ssile Program housed at the Faslane naval base. The Ploughshares network was inspired by the 1980 work of the Ploughshares Eight, a group including Jesuit priests Daniel and Ph ilip Berrigan, two famous Catholic anti-war activists who have devoted much of their ad ult lives to civil di sobedience. Daniel Berrigan, for example, stole and publicly bur ned government draft f iles in protest of American activities during the Vietnam War.8 The Berrigans and others also served time in prison after damaging materials related to nuclear warheads at a Pennsylvania munitions factory.9 By identifying their affinities with the Plowshares network, these individuals revealed some of the links betw een Celtic Christians and other Christian activist groups. In the afternoon, several of those present, including many of the Iona group and others from a Quaker group, sa ng hymns and a priest offered a sermon on Jesus' teachings against violence in front of the main gate of the base.10 Celtic Christians, or at least those associated with the Iona Community, join other Christian groups such as the Quakers and organizations such as Plow shares in their comm itment to nonviolence 8 Wikipedia. Daniel Berrigan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Berrigan March 19, 2006. Last viewed March 24, 2006. 9 See http://www.plowsharesactions.org/ and http://www.tridentploughshares.org/index.php3 for more about the Ploughshares network. 10Author's field notes, July 4, 2005.

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65 and activism in support of eco logical and social justice.11 Of course, this does not mean that all self-identifying Celtic Christians e ngage in similar forms of activism. Some communities, such as the Celtic Christian Communion and the Community of Aidan and Hilda, may approach environmental and soci al issues primarily by providing education and community outreach programs, while othe rs, such as the members of the Adomnan of Iona Ploughshares Affinity Group, ma y engage in direct action and civil disobedience. More research and fieldwork would be necessary to fully identify the levels of commitment to activism among Celtic Christian individuals and communities. Some critics, though, question the actual envi ronmental attitudes of medieval Celtic Christians upon which modern groups someti mes base their inspiration. Ian Bradley argues that it is pretty meaningless to label people living in the eight or ninth century as environmentalists. They lived at a time wh en there was no perceived, nor probably any significant actual threat to the environment from humans (Bradley 1998, 59). Excluding Welsh praise poetry dating from as early as the ninth century, Bradley argues that monastic writings reveal no r eal environmentally friendly a ttitudes. Thomas O'Loughlin likewise cautions agains t applying modern concerns to medieval peoples, saying, when any early medieval text feels warm and cosy to our religious sensibili ties, then we should watch out (O'Loughlin 2000, 31). Bradley also argues that any avoidance of exploitation of natural resources among the Celt ic monks derived more from their simple monastic lifestyles than from any 'green' theo logical perspective. As he put it, their 11 In my own research I have encountered a few interesting connections between Quakers and Celtic Christians. During research with the Gainesville Fr iends Meeting, several of my interviewees expressed interest in Celtic themes of Christian spirituality, though none identified themselves as Celtic Christians. Alastair McIntosh also combines the two traditions we ll. A Quaker activist and scholar from the Isle of Lewis in western Scotland, McIntosh blends the Quak er call for justice and peace with inspiration from his own Celtic culture. See McIntosh 2001.

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66 extreme austerity and asceticism almost certa inly did more to preserve the natural environment around the monastic vallum than any of their ideas about the sanctity of creation (Bradley 1998, 67). Philip Sheldrake, a supporter of the modern Celtic Christian resurgence, also warns against misapplying en vironmentally friendly ideas and behaviors to medieval monks. He argues, neither the Irish Celtic hermits of the eighth century nor the nineteenth-century Hebrid ean islanders of Carmichaels collections were concerned about nature in our modern sense. . In contra st the Celts, whom we tend to romanticize, simply lived with nature because they existed in cons tant contact with it and could not afford to be disrespectful to it (She ldrake 1995, 71). The important point, though, remains that the works and teachings of medi eval Celtic Christians, idealized though they may be in the present, inspire modern activity. In their critiques of modern Celtic Christianity, scholars such a Bradley, OLoughlin, and Meek point to historical inaccu racies and issues of improper cultural appropriations. Chapter 2 examined the histor ical development of Celtic Christianity and several of the related historical claims on bot h sides. This chapter examined several of the important theological claims and practices of modern Celtic Chri stians and critical responses to them. Religious studies scholar s need not become partisans in theological disputes, but they can examine the conteste d nature and impacts of such disputes. Moreover, they can draw on theories related to new religious movements, paganism and nature religion, to understand Cel tic Christianity as an exampl e of the general process of new religious formation. Because Celtic Chris tianity, or at least as represented by its chief writers, brings to the center of its theology and pract ice issues of social and

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67 ecological justice, its emergence and growth ma y reveal important trends for the future of religious change.

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68 CHAPTER 4 CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND NEW RE LIGIONS: A RELIGIOUS STUDIES ANALYSIS Many of the historical claims made by popular writers on Celtic Christianity find little archaeological, literary or linguisti c support. As Chapter 3 revealed, however, Celtic Christianity remains a functional spirit ual orientation for many adherents. Rather than simply accepting the claims of the critics or the believers, religious studies scholars have begun to take a different approach to su ch revised religions, an alyzing them as new or emergent religions, and not criticizing them for inventing their traditions or distorting those from which they draw inspiration. Th is chapter employs David Chidesters (1988) model of religious studies along with theori es of new religious movements and nature religion to gain a better understanding of Ce ltic Christianity from a religious studies perspective. While Celtic Christianity may not without complication be considered a new religious movement, theories regarding the social functions of new and alternative religions nonetheless help to situate Celtic Christianity as a new and emerging tradition worthy of further study. As a new religious tradition that values nature, Celtic Christianity shares certain hist orical and ideological features with nature-based pagan and New Age religions as well. This relations hip can be illuminated through the lens of Catherine Albaneses nature re ligion. Utilizing this reli gious studies model allows for a fuller picture of Celtic Christianity, wit hout normative evaluations, and helps place it within more general tren ds of religious producti on and countercultural bricolage (LviStrauss 1967, 18; Taylor 2001a, 178).

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69 Celtic Christianity and New Religious Movements Scholarship on new religious movements shows that all religions exist in states of reformation and revision. Celtic Christiani ty, then, may be seen as a new religious revision of more traditional Christian beliefs a nd practices based in specific contexts and needs. New religious movement theorists, primarily Colin Campbell, show how new religions emerge from counter cultural social trends and then define themselves as alternatives to dominant social norms. Th is section examines these arguments more closely. Definitions of the term new religious movement often remain ambiguous and tend to identify types instead of providing any common features. The term itself comes from the study of cults. Sc holars of cultic behavior s ought more neutral terminology after it became evident that the term cu lt, in popular usage, carried the negative connotation of violent, brainwashing groups such as the Manson Family and Jim Jones' People's Temple. Many scholars now argue for the abandonment of the term cult altogether, as James Richardson says, to make a ny use of the term 'cult' offers solace to those promoting the new, negatively-loaded definition of the term, and such use should be stopped (Richards 1998, 37). One still finds the term cult used in older new religious movement literature, however. Perhaps one of the more influential typol ogies of religious groups comes from J. Gordon Melton. In his Encyclopedia of American Religions (2003), Melton divides historical and contemporary American religi ous groups into twenty-four categories or families, most involving some fo rm of Christianity. A centr al and innovative aspect of Melton's typology, though, is the acceptance of non-mainstream traditions. Along with the Baptist Family and the Lutheran Family, Melton acknowledges the Pentecostal

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70 Family, the Christian Science-Metaphysical Family and the Mormon Family. Celtic Christianity, though, occupies no single place in Melton's typology, but several places. Different aspects of it could pl ace it within the Liberal Fam ily (which includes Unitarians and Universalists), the Spiritualist, Psychic and New Age Family (including Spiritualism), the Ancient Wisdom Family (including Theosophy), and the Magick Family (including forms of paganism). As Chapter 2 revealed, elements of modern Celtic Christianity derive historically from each of these families. Melton himself places some modern Celtic Christian churches w ithin the Ancient Wisdom Family, perhaps because of their claims regarding the con tinued tradition from pre-Christian times (Melton 2003, 163). Clearly, this typology does not efficiently place Celtic Christianity. Melton accounts for such groups with the Un classifiable Family, into which fall syncretistic and other groups. Though his typo logy represents a posi tive scholarly move toward the acceptance of new and alternat ive traditions as genuine religions worth scholarly study in their own right, and while it helps to some degree to situate Celtic Christianity within the American context, Melton's Families do not describe well the general Celtic Christianity movement (Me lton 2003; Saliba 2003, 24-32). Along with listing types of new religions many definitions refer to the social situation of new religions. For example, af ter listing several examples of new religions, Catherine Wessinger explains their function, sayi ng, new religions provide social spaces for experimentation in altern ative theologies, gender roles, sexual relations, leaderships structures, and group organizations (We ssinger 2005, 6514). J. Gordon Melton likewise prefers to emphasize social relationships in defining new religious movements. He says, new religions are thus primarily defined not by any characteristic(s) that they share, but

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71 by the tension in their relationships with the other forms of religious life represented by the dominant churches, the ethnic religions, a nd the sects. They are all those groups designated in some measure as unacceptable by the dominant churches, with some level of concurrence by the ethnic churches a nd sectarian groups (Melton 2004, 81). For Melton, new religions must exist in some tension with more traditional ways of life and belief. A major claim of modern Celtic Christians is that their tradition has been marginalized by mainstream Roman Catholic ism and world-denying Protestant groups. So, according to the popular insider understand ing of Celtic Christianity, the movement occupies Meltons countercultural space. This new religious counterculture may be better understood through Colin Campbells work on the cultic milieu. Studying cults in the 1960's and 70's, soci ologist Colin Campbell formulated his theory of the cultic milieu. Working w ith Ernst Troeltsch's typology of religious organizations, Campbell noticed that many cult groups1 emerged and disintegrated frequently. While individua l groups often failed, Campbe ll believed that a certain supportive milieu, keeping the production alive, must have existed. He said, there is a continual process of cult formation and co llapse which parallels the high turnover of membership at the individual level. Clearly, therefore, cults must exist within a milieu which, if not conducive to the maintenance of individual cults, is clearly highly conducive to the spawning of cults in gene ral (Campbell 2002, 14). This cultic milieu remained a countercultural feat ure of society, as he argued, thus, whereas cults are by definition a largely transitory phenomenon, the cultic milieu is, by contrast, a constant 1 Campbell meant by cult basically what scholars mean by new religious movement today, operating from what Richardson (1998) ca lls the sociological-technical de finition instead of the popularnegative. In other words, cult held no negative connotation for Campbell but neutrally and effectively described observable social orientations.

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72 feature of society (Campbell 2002, 14). Th e cultic milieu exists as a continuous alternative ferment for heterodox beliefs and practices. While Campbells cultic milieu fails to adequately account for tensions within and among countercultural groups (Taylor 2001, 178) it does explain the general, am orphous body of countercultural beliefs and practices which dialogically shapes much ne w religious production. Celtic Christianity, which draws from pagan, New Age, alternative Christian, and environmental activist cultures, fits within and continues to draw from this cultic milieu. The emergence of the cultic milieu, for Ca mpbell, is directly related to the increasing secularization of soci ety. He argues, the declin e in the power and influence of the Christian churches has inevitably weaken ed their role as custodians of 'truth' and reduced the extent to which they can draw upon society for forays against indigenous 'pagans' and 'heretics' (Campbell 2002, 20). The decline in power of traditional religious institutions as well as increas ing pluralism and syncretism add to the general acceptance of the cultic milieu, as Campbell says, the relativism and tolerance of cultural pluralism which, it is claimed, are concomitants of s ecularization have greatly assisted the increased acceptability of these 'heretical beliefs (Campbell 2002, 21). The cultic milieu existed in eras of more extr eme centralized Church authorit y, in Western cultures, but it only emerged into the mainstream when th e Church lost its authority through the secularizing tendencies of industrialization and modernity. Campbells argument is somewhat affirmed by noting that the rationali stic Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the scientific indus trial modernization of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries correspond with the deve lopment of many alternative religions.

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73 Campbell used witchcraft in Britain as an example of the general emergence of the cultic milieu during a period of seculariza tion. According to Campbell, decreasing church power and increasing tolerance made possible the emergence of new witchcraft traditions such as Wicca, even in a place where, only a few hundred years earlier, witches accused of heresy were often executed. Impor tantly for Campbell, along with decreasing church power and increasing tolerance, s ecularization includes the acceptance of scientific rationalism. This does not, howev er, produce secularism. For Campbell, the incompatibility of science a nd religion exists primarily in philosophical a nd theoretical understandings of the terms, as he says, although such an incompatibility can be demonstrated at a philosophical level, it is by no means clear that the scientific and religious outlooks are behaviorally in congruous (Campbell 2002, 21). Rather than replacing churches as a dogma tic force of conformity, Ca mpbell argues that increasing scientific rationalism cannot suppress the cultic milieu, for it is to be doubted whether science as a body can compare with the churches in either their desire or their ability to repress heterodox views in the society at large (Campbell 2002, 22). Importantly, Campbell wrote this long before the explos ion in access to the Internet, which added further support to his argument and seemed to defy many cultural regulations from churches, scientists, or others. Like Melton, Campbell defines the cult (o r new religious movement) against the social and religious norms of the dominant society. If new religious movements must always remain countercultural, however, how might they gain legitimacy? Massimo Introvigne argues that individual countercu ltural movements enter the mainstream over time, but antipathy remains among members of the mainstream culture toward the cultic

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74 milieu in general. He says of popular media claims of brainwashing levied against new religious movements, it will remain as a psycho-cultural artifact, capable of limiting the expansion of minorities perceived as part of a marginal fringe, or as kitsch. As such, the fringe will not really over-expand, much less 'explode', although individual movements may move from the fringe to the mainline, as Christianity did once and as groups such as the Pentecostals or the Mormons are doing now (Introvigne 2004, 989). Ideas of acceptability shift over time in cultures, pa rticularly in Campbell's secularized age without the institutional authority of churches Definitive aspects of the counterculture change as alternative movements, like Morm onism and Pentecostalism, gain adherents and move into the mainstream. The cultic milieu, though, remains as a source of and safe haven for countercultural ideas. Using Campbe lls terms, Celtic Christianity may be understood as a Christian movement heavily influenced by environmentalist and pagan currents of the cultic milieu. It is important to note, however, th at Colin Campbell questions functionalist definitions of new religious movements, or those in which the rise of new religious movements is presented as revealing so mething significant about the nature of contemporary society such as the inability of major religious to satisfy spiritual needs any longer (Campbell 1982, 232). This func tionalist argument fo r the increasing popularity of new religious movements assu mes that people move to them out of dissatisfaction with older trad itions. Campbell argues that this functionalist position leaves a gap in satisfaction of needs among re ligious persons. In other words, according to the functionalist argument, i ndividuals feel unsatisfied for some period of time before finding satisfactory elements within the cultic milieu. Instead, Campbell argues that the

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75 decline of the churches may, however, be seen as a necessary rather than a sufficient condition for the growth of cults (Campbe ll 1982, 235). In this view, people did not leave major religions to join new religious m ovements. Instead, the decline in the power of the major religions removed the earlier barriers to the sp read of heterodox beliefs. According to Campbell, it is not that specific teachings of new religious movements suddenly appeal to people, drawing them away from their traditional religions, but rather that, with the dimini shing authority of re ligious structures, individuals become more aware of the ever-pre sent cultic milieu in ways that they never could before. Campbell says, there has been a major shift in recent decades, not so much from belief to unbelief as from belief to seekership. That is, away from any commitment to doctrine and dogma towards a high valuation of i ndividual intellectual growth and the pursuit for truth coupled with a preparedness to believe in almost any alternative or occult teaching (Campbe ll 1982, 237). This movement away from doctrine and an increasing valu ation of the individual corres pond with the rationalism of secularization. Campbell warns against assumi ng that new religious movements arise to fulfill a societal need. For him, new religious movements always exist as part of the vague cultic milieu of ideas and practices. Only when Church structures lose their authority do elements of the cultic milieu em erge into general so ciety, gaining popularity as more people gain knowledge of their existence. In the American context, though, this loss of authority does not correspond to a loss of religious devotion. Christianity remains a powerful force in Amer ican society, but the increasing diversity of denominations opens the door for a public acceptance of more general diversity in religion. Individuals, how ever, may select elemen ts within the cultic

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76 milieu most applicable to their own needs. The cultic milieu, for Campbell, includes many diverse elementsenvironmentalist, New Age, pagan, racist, communal, to name a few. What elements gain popularity following the decline in centra lized religious power is determined by which element responds to the awareness and needs of a society. Campbells argument against purely functional understandings of the cultic milieu just warns against assuming that this availability of choices precedes the popular emergence of the cultic milieu. So, more people become aware of the cultic milieu as it gains exposure due to the withdrawal of traditional re ligious authorities. Though it contains diverse and perhaps contradictory elements, individuals chose aspects of the cultic milieu most appropriate to their own needs and current religious perceptions. Philip Sheldrake summarizes the appeal of Celtic Christianity in the modern We stern world as follows: there is a serious dissatisfaction with the institutional Church. This is leading an increasing number of people to seek in the past a version of Christia nity that seems to be free from all that they find unattractive about the Churchs present in stitutional forms . the importance of pilgrimage and journey in the Celtic traditi on, balanced with a strong sense of place, are sentiments that aver very much in tune with the experience and temper of our own age. We seek both firm roots and yet a capacity to deal with continuous change (Sheldrake 1995, 2-3). For Sheldrake, Celtic Christianity offers mechanisms for establishing cultural and spiritual roots while at the same tim e acknowledging the need for change. His summation, while addressing the novel aspects of the modern movement, presents Celtic Christianity as a purely Chri stian tradition. Though many Ce ltic Christians consider themselves orthodox Christians, popular pr esentations of the tradition are often

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77 influenced by other New Age and pagan sour ces. Celtic Christianity, then, involves the acceptance of pagan, New Age and environmentalist themes within a Christian context. Because it draws upon several elements of the cultic milieu to satisfy needs left unsatisfied by mainstream Christianity, Celtic Christianity represents a Christian new religious movement. Some, though, might reject the application of the term new religious movement to Celtic Christianity. Unlike generally recognized new religious movements like Scientology and Mormonism, Celtic Christianity makes few if any novel religious claims. As shown in chapters One and Two, many of th e main theological a nd historical claims of Celtic Christians have been made by others who do not associate themselves with the tradition. Celtic Christianity, then, might re present more an emerging Christian spiritual orientation, or what Massimo Introvigne calls non-traditional Chris tianity, than a new religious movement in itself (Introvigne 1998, 259) Celtic Christianity is still enmeshed within processes of religious production, howev er, and historically associated with the countercultural and romantic cu ltic milieu which has spawned many new religious forms. By challenging the anti-ecological aspects of dominant forms of Christianity, Celtic Christianity exists within th is alternative milieu and repr esents and innovative approach to Christianity. It mediates between tradi tional and alternative belief systems, accepting the historical accounts of certain New Age, pagan and environmentalist groups while at the same time retaining belief in a transcendent Christian God. If, as Eileen Barker argues, new religions may be new interpretations of traditional religious doctrines, then Celtic Christianity certainly counts as a new religious movement (Barker 1998, 18).

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78 Theories of new religious movements he lp explain the social context for the development and acceptance of Celtic Christia nity. It remains to be seen, though, how Celtic Christianity relates to other elements of this cultic milieu, specifically, paganism. Celtic Christianity and Paganism Celtic Christianity reflects the increasing creation and acceptance of new religious movements based on the valuation of nature. It exists within a milieu of new religious formation, much of which is elucidated by ne w religious movement theory. Like certain forms of modern paganism, it emerges out of environmentalist and pagan streams within what Campbell called the cultic milieu. A further analysis of scholarship regarding nature-based paganism will help to situate Ce ltic Christianity within this milieu of new religious formation. Perhaps one of the most important and infl uential scholars of paganism in recent years has been Michael York. In Pagan Theology (2003), he attempted to establish paganism as a legitimate religious system: paganism represents a theological perspective and consequent practice that, despite its plethora of micro and local expressions, is a viable and distinguishable reli giospiritual position (York 2003, 14). Paganism for York is a root religion, or the root from whic h the tree of all religions grows (York 2003, 167). As a root religion, the study of pagani sm reveals valuable information regarding other religious formations, including Celtic Christianity. Nature remains central to definitions of paganism. For York, the earth and nature constitute the seminal and unifying sacred te xt for the various local ized expressions of what can be identified as pagan religi ons (York 2003, 16). Graham Harvey follows York's emphasis upon nature, saying, paganism labels a set of religions centered on the celebration and veneration of na ture that understand and engage it in one way or another

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79 as sacred (Harvey 2005a, 1247). More succ inctly, Harvey says, paganism is a polytheistic Nature religion (Harvey 1997, 1) Occasionally, scholars seem to use the terms pagan and Neopagan interchangeably. Following York, however, paganism is a general term encompassing most earth-based religions while Neopaganism refers to a set of specific, modern Western-based pagan religions such as Wicca, Asatru, Odinism, Druidism and others (York 2003, 60). Modern Celtic spirituality (not Christianity) is generally Neopagan. Celtic Christianity, contin uing with York's distinction, is a form of Christianity more in tune with its nature-based pagan roots. Paganism is frequently defined in relati on to New Age religions. York argues that religions fit on a continuum with paga nism and gnosticism occupying each end and where, ideally, paganism posits the world or matter as real and valuable, while gnosticism sees the same as something to be pe netrated, as something fictive or worthless or even evil (York 2003, 159). This distin ction between materia list worldliness and immaterialist other-worldliness exists in several other scho larly understandings of pagan and New Age religions. For Sarah Pike, the distinction between the New Age and paganism involves a temporal focus, where New Agers tend to look toward the future, when a new age of expanded consciousness wi ll dawn, while Neopagans look to the past for inspiration in order to re vive old religions and improve life in the present, though in American they both derive from the same pr ecursor traditions (Pike 2004, 34). Adrian Ivakhiv, on the other hand, argues for a spatia l distinction between ecospirituality, which values embodiment and an imminent di vinity, and ascensionism, which focuses upon otherworldly realms of consciousness a nd awakening. Like Pike, Ivakhiv believes that ecospirituality and ascensionism shar e similar historical origins and social

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80 orientations, as he says, one seeks to rekindle the c onnection with Earth's power directly, while the other looks for wisdom beyond our planet's weakened frame, but both aim to challenge, largely through spiritual means, the status quo of late modernity (Ivakhiv 2001, 8). In other words, they both de rive from the countercu ltural cultic milieu and serve as responses to dominant cultural and social trends. Bron Taylor also notes a continuum within nature-based spir itualities. This continuum includes supernaturalistic and non-supernaturalistic na ture spiritualities with added elements of cosmological or earthly focus (Taylor 2001b, 238). Traditions may be supernaturalistic-cosmological (many New Age traditions), non-supernaturalisticearthly (scientific spiritualities such as so me forms of Gaia theory), or any other combination of these four elements (Taylor 2001b, 239). Taylor notes that tensions exist among different parties, but that they generally agree upon the sacredness of the earth and the necessity of proper action toward the ea rths preservation (Taylor 2001b, 238). The creationism of Celtic Christianity a nd perceived connections with the past place it on the ecospirituality or Neopagan side of the alternative religious spectrum, while the retention of a transcendent G od and the wisdom of disembodied saints represent more ascensionist or New Age trai ts. Clearly, Celtic Christianity is not a perfect example of either type. In Taylors continuum, Celtic Christianity finds a more specific place between supernaturalistic-cosmol ogical and supernatural istic-earthly nature spiritualities. Celtic Christianity is an emerging ecospirituality, or nature spirituality, based in both worldly pagan and ascensionist Christian beliefs and pr actices. Like LviStrausss bricoleur Celtic Christians construct thei r tradition from the diverse cultural and religious elements available. Lvi-Strauss employed the term bricolage as an

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81 analogy to explain the creativ e incorporation of diverse cultural elements into the mythical thought of so-called primitive peoples during the construction of social structures from observed events (Lvi-St rauss 1967, 18-22). The methods of the bricoleur for Lvi-Strauss, existed in contrast to the methods of the scientific engineer. While the engineer applied a structured sy stem (science) to the world in order to understand its parts, the bricoleur pragmatically utilized all available elements to construct the structures. Th e Western scientific worldview for Lvi-Strauss, operated like the engineer while traditi onal cultures operated like the bricoleur though he argued neither approach was in any way better th an the other (Lvi-Stra uss 1967, 22). In the context of religious studies, bricolage may refer to the adoption of different beliefs and practices into single trad ition. Taylor explains bricolage as the amalgamations of many bits and pieces of diverse cultural systems, and believes that the term captures better the reciprocal and ever-evolving processes of religious production (Taylor 2001a, 178). Celtic Christianity is part of this reciprocal process of nature-based religious production, and further study could potentially provide valuable information concerning the interactions between re ligions and nature. Celtic Christianity and Nature Religion Catherine Albaneses nature religion al so helps understand th e place of nature within Celtic Christianity and the diverse interactions between cu ltures, religions and nature. In Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age (1990) and Reconsidering Nature Religion (2002), Albanese examines some of the diverse ways in which nature-focused re ligions in America draw on and manipulate nature. For Albanese, nature religion is a system of orientations based in nature or natural themes, or a term for all religious phenomena in which nature is an important

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82 symbol or conceptual resource, whether or not the individuals involve d actually consider nature to be sacred (Albanes e 1990, 6-7). Elsewhere, she says that the term the natural dimension of religion, remains somewhat mo re appropriate and accurate than nature religion, meaning that it is more an element of religious life than a specific belief system in itself (Albanese 1990, 13). Al banese argues that focusing on nature religion has value because it reveals important be liefs and practices that are often ignored in American religious history, but th at have great power bot h for individuals and th eir societies. She says, it isgiven the right places to lookevery where apparent. But it is also a form of religion that slips between th e cracks of the usual interpretive gridsor that, more slippery still, evades and circumvents a dventurous ways to name it (Albanese 1990, 199). According to Albanese, nature religi on is a vague but nonetheless meaningful term. Albanese cites numerous examples incl uding of American nature religion the Transcendentalists, represented by Ralph Wa ldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century popular fictional stor ies of Davy Crockett, the wild erness writings of John Muir, and several 19th and 20th century natural health a nd New Age movements including Spiritualism and Theosophy, to name just a few. In Albanese's understanding, each of these examples represents a specific orientati on toward the natural world based in certain value and meaning systems, so they each help constitute American nature religion. Importantly, though Albanese discusses nature religion in the American context, it may still include international feat ures, such as the arrival of the macrobiotic movement from Japan (Albanese 1990, 190). Celtic Christiani ty, likewise, is a movement that crosses borders. Though based in the history and mythology of Britain and Ireland, Celtic

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83 Christianity is very much associated with roots and frequently appeals to persons in North America and Australia with Celtic or hoped-for Celtic roots. Therefore, even Albanese's discussion of nature religion in the American context remains meaningful for the study of Celtic Christianity. American nature religion, though, involve s both positive and negative aspects. Albanese argues, nature religion, as an idea and phenomenon, reiterates democratic values, to be sure, by acknow ledging the essential similar ity and equality of human experience embedded in the reality that constitutes nature. But it also acknowledges forces and factors that delimit the human projectaspects of life over which humans, literally, have no control and before wh ich they must bow (Albanese 2002, 24). Albanese also argues that although it is commonly thought to promote social and ecological wellbeing, American nature religi on often masks an impulse to dominate nature as well as other people. She states the impulse to domi nate was, in fact, everywhere in nature religi on (Albanese 1990, 12). She cites the work of Thomas Jefferson as an example of this domination and patriotic imperialism, saying, nature religion meant communion with forces that enlarged the public life of the nation. And with Jefferson and other American patriots alwa ys on top, it meant conquest to insure that nature's forces would flow as the life blood of the body politic (Albanese 1990, 70). Notions of harmony and the rural ideal, for Albanese, masked or intentionally supported the domination of America's Native peoples. In many ways this resembles the arguments of Meek and Bradley concerning the domination inherent in mode rn Celtic Christianity. Nature religion is a scholarly lens through which to in terpret religious orientations toward and understandings of nature. Recently, some scholars have

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84 attempted to utilize nature religion as a t ool for reevaluating definitions of religion. Barbara Davy argues, for example, that Alb aneses idea of nature religion can help make visible practices in popular culture and political activity of all religions as religious expressions, and thus broaden the understand ing of religion beyond its most identifiable institutional expressions, a nd help religionists more eas ily to understand religious activities that do not easily correspond to categories of study derived from religious institutions like churches and scriptures (Davy 2005, 1173). Davy continues, arguing that nature religion does not ex actly mean nature religions, or simply religions with special veneration for nature. Instead, natu re religion is a them e found in numerous religious and apparently non-religious expres sions. Davy says, nature religion is not opposite to the religions of histor y or of ethics, but is a type of religion that can be found within the practices of Christ ianity and other mainstream religions as well as marginal traditions (Davy 2005, 1174). For Davy and othe rs, nature religion becomes a tool to interpret religion in general. Scholars need not emphasize on ly the issues of power and domination in nature religion but examine all aspects of its operati on without taking sides on what is right or wrong. Such an approach provides a clearer picture of multiple exchanges and interactions i nvolved in normal religious development and change. Celtic Christianity as Modern Nature Spirituality Celtic Christianity, then, may be seen as an example of contemporary nature spirituality, to use Taylors term (2001b, 238). Employing Chidesters (1988) model of religious studies and other interpretive tools such as nature religion and new religious movement theory helps provide a more complete picture of Celtic Christianity as modern nature spirituality worthy of considerat ion among religionists. Analyzing Celtic Christianity in this light reveals important information regarding popular attempts to

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85 green Christianity from within the traditi on itself and can aid th e further study of the interactions between religions and nature, particularly in a time of the increasing popular awareness of ecological crises. The example of Celtic Christianity might reveal the increasing importance of religious solutions to current ecological and so cial crises. Adrian Ivakhiv says, as large numbers of people perceive so ciety to be in the midst of a thoroughgoing crisis, an ecological, cultural, spiritual, and political crisis of an unprecedentedly global scale, attempts are made to reconceive the myths or master stories of society to respond to this crisis (Ivakhiv 2001, 5). Modern Celtic Chri stianity represents just this type of reconception. Ian Bradley, a critic of Celtic Christianity, nonetheless accepts the ecological and social values of the popular tr adition, if we are to chase Celtic dreams, and history suggests that we always will, better surely that they be about unpolluted waters and intact ozone layers than about having bigger and better re lics than the church down the road (Bradley 1999, 232). Celtic Christianity represents a way for its believers to deal religiously with real social and ecological crises. The popular texts analyzed in this thesis provide one form of evidence regarding Celtic Christian perceptions of nature and the active role of humans within it. More field work would be needed to fully explore Celtic Christian values in practice. Much of the scholarly analysis of Celtic Christianity, such as Meeks work, focuses mainly upon issues of inaccuracy, secula r individualism, and improper cultural impropriation. As this thesis has argue d, however, historically inaccurate claims constitute only part of the foundation of m odern Celtic Christian belief. There is an important practical and functional side as well. As Alastair McIntosh argues, the issue, I

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86 think, is not whether Celtic spirituality ever existed, but the fact that a living spirituality connecting soil, soul and society manifes tly can and does exist (McIntosh 2001, 19). Marion Bowman similarly says of the Celtic revival in Britain, that New Age knowledge about the Celts and Druids is not always based on research acceptable to academic historians, archaeologists, lit erary scholars or Celticists is not the point. What is important is that this received wisdom has b ecome a part of the re ligious map of Britain today. Some may despair of it, but students of religion would be well advised to note its growth and potency (Bowman 1993, 155). This statement a pplies just as well to the modern, international Celtic Christianity move ment. The academic historians and others mentioned by Bowman provide only part of the story on Celtic Christia nity. It is a real spiritual orientation for many people and, if we study it as such, can perhaps inform us about the role of religion in modern societies. This argument essentially follows David Chidesters call for further religious studies analysis of issues of religious a ppropriation. For Chidester, religion is, among other things, that dimension of culture invo lving the stealing back and forth of sacred symbols (Chidester 1988, 157). Chidester us es the term stealing as a shorthand designation for complex negotiations over the ownership of symbols (Chidester 1988, 157). Chidester agrees with G eertz that religion is a system of symbols, but adds that different parties claim owners hip over these symbols as we ll (Chidester 1988, 157). In his analysis of popular Christ ian reactions to the Unifica tion Church and the Peoples Temple, Chidester argues that symbols re main contested by both mainstream and alternative traditions, and that all interested parties enga ge in competing claims of ownership over sacred symbols and the relate d right to designate what counts as orthodox

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87 belief. For Chidester, many of those who cr iticize religious appr opriations do so from places of power and out of needs to preserve the authority of speci fic interpretations. Referring to American perceptions of the Un ification Church and the Peoples Temple, Chidester argues that percepti ons of danger, therefore, ar ise not only through anxieties over defilement, but also by way of percei ved threats to the personal or collective ownership of central symbols by forces on the periphery (Chidester 1988, 139). This might apply to certain critics of Celtic Christianity as well. For people who believe that Christianity needs no changes to deal with modern problems, the claims of Celtic Christians would certainly be unwelcome. The role of the religious st udies scholar, in Chidester s understanding, is not to take one side or the other in this process but to recognize the mul tiple and competing claims of ownership. In situations of contested ownership, dia lectics of appropriation and alienation appear (Chidester 1988, 158). In other words, groups alternately claim ownership of symbols and alienate those ot her groups which contest that ownership. When scholars take the side that one group should or should not appropriate symbols, they perhaps unwittingly enter into this dialectic as well. Instead, Chidester offers the availability of symbol s mode of engagement with issu es of cultural appropriation. In this scholarly mode of enga gement, while appropriation and alienation operate on the battlefield of symbols, religious studies opens up a demilitarized zone for the academic investigation of the underlying patterns and processes of religion (Chidester 1988, 158). This does not mean that religious symbols belong to all or that appropriations do not occasionally have damaging effects. Instea d, it is a method of objectively deconstructing claims of ownership and perhaps gaining a cl earer understanding of re ligious and cultural

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88 processes (Chidester 1988, 159). He conc ludes, by exploring the morphology and history of the sacred, the academic study of re ligion reveals the ways in which religious persons, religious communities, and religious traditions themselves, are owned, shaped and conditioned by the patterns and processe s of the sacred (Chidester 1988, 159). Applying this approach to Celtic Christianity reveals a new tradition equally engaged in battles over the ownership of symbols. As examined in Chapters 2 and 3, Dona ld Meek and others criticize Celtic Christianity for the domination inherent in the cultural appropriations involved in the formation of the tradition. Employing Chides ters availability of symbols mode of engagement, though, shows that scholars may move beyond critiques like those of Meek into a deeper analysis of the ways in whic h Celtic Christianity works on the ground, or how adherents apply their beliefs in their da ily lives. We need not defend or condemn the claims and actions of Celtic Christians. Instead, to recognize the processes involved in the development and continuation of Celtic Christianity and to situate the tradition within broader trends is enough. Applying th e approaches of new religious movement and nature religion theory, Celtic Christianity may be categorized as a specifically Christian modern nature spirituality (Taylor 2001b). As a nature spirituality, Celtic Christianity is included within a greater trend toward nature-venerating religious traditions, or those which offer religious solutions to recognized environmental crises, including forms of paganism, the New Age, e nvironmental activism, other ecotheologies. Scholars of religion may add important elem ents to the study of Celtic Christianity, and new religious formations in general, by an alyzing Celtic Christia nity as a functioning spiritual tradition and belief system for many persons alive today. With its call for the

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89 protection of the earth and soci al justice, Celtic Christianity might well serve a positive social function and help people de al effectively with very real present day crises. If the ecological and social crises worsen, and if it is true that people frequently confront these issues religiously, then it is possible that nature-based new sp iritual traditions like Celtic Christianity will only grow in popularity. If beliefs translate into practices, then such traditions may also provide needed solutions to these crises.

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90 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION In his now famous 1967 articl e The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis, Lynn White, Jr. identified the Christian dichotomy between humanity and nature as largely responsible for the rampant abuse of resour ces and ecological destruction found from the medieval period in Europe to the present. His article also include d, though, a proscriptive element sometimes overlooked by his critics. He said, we shall co ntinue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Ch ristian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man (White 2003, 36). For White, this did not mean a full rejection of Christianity. He cited the ex amples of Eastern Orthodox traditions and St. Francis as potential sources for environmenta lly friendly Christianity. He might have cited Celtic Christianity as well. To summarize the key points in this thesis Celtic Christianity is a relatively new Christian spiritual development based in the broader milieu of Celtic spirituality, which includes pagan and New Age traditions as well. Popular writers on Celtic Christianity connect their tradition to older beliefs and practices in the Celtic regions of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For writers such as Philip Newell, Timothy Joyce, Sen Duinn, Philip Sheldrake and others, early Christians in Celtic lands retained certain pagan practices and worldviews while blending them, in a fully orthodox manner, with Christianity. Many modern Celtic Christians ar gue that the revived Ce ltic traditions offer important insights and useful perspectives, in cluding responses to ecological and social crises, suited to the needs of persons around the world today. In other words, Celtic

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91 Christianity counters Whites anthropocentr ic Christian axiom and offers a more inclusive and environmentally frie ndly Christian alternative. Historical examination of Christianity in Celtic lands, though does not support all of the claims of popular writers such as Newell and Joyce. For example, as Ian Bradley shows (1998), little evidence exists for inte ntional environmentally friendly behaviors among Irish monastic communities. This leads some, such as Donald Meek and Bradley, to question the usefulness of Celtic Christianity and even the motives of some of the traditions promoters. For Meek, many who popularize Celtic Christianity engage in damaging cultural appropriation, either intent ionally or unintentionally. Modern Celtic Christian claims, Meek argues, simplify, id ealize and romanticize Celtic history and primitivize modern Celtic peoples Celtic spirituality, he co ntinues, is not so much a feature of Celtic peoples as a created tradition applied to the peopl e of Ireland, Scotland and Wales by outsiders. The appropriation, creation, and popularization of Celtic themes, according to some scholars, represent the continued cultural domination of certain powerful groups over the marginalized. For scho lars such as Meek and Bradley, the easy marketability of Celtic spirituality, including Ce ltic Christianity, shows that it is basically a creation of wealthy, dominant cultures (American and Britis h) and part of the general trend in the modern, secularized world, toward individualistic syncretistic, and materialist spiritualities. Debates such as these surrounding th e legitimacy of the tradition occupy much of the scholarly literature devoted to Celtic Christianity. Religious studies, though, offers a different approach to Celtic Christianity. Rather than taking sides on the issue of appropria tion and domination, th e religious studies perspective (or what Chidester calls the avai lability of symbols mode of engagement

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92 [Chidester 1988, 158]) understands th at all religions exis t in constant states of change and conflict surrounding the ownershi p of sacred symbols. This perspective allows the scholar to analyze more objectively all power interests involved in religious production and to situate individual traditions within broader trends of religious belief and development. While this position does not ignore the real possi bility of culturally damaging appropriations, it also does not neglect to analyze the claims to power made by critics of appropriation. As Chidester and Taylor (1997) argue, sometimes those who challenge the religious appropr iation of symbols do so to pr eserve their own authority over the tradition in question. Instead of siding with believers of Celtic Christianity or its critics, this perspective allows this thesis to accept that appropriation and syncretism occur in religions and move toward ex amining how popular beliefs work on the ground, particularly regarding care for the en vironment. Using Chidesters work with theories of new religious movements and natu re religion helps place Celtic Christianity as a kind of supernaturalistic na ture spirituality (to use Tayl ors [2001b] term), or an ecospirituality (to use Ivakhi vs [2001] term). Because it places great value upon the earth as Gods basically good creation, Celtic Christian literature calls for engageme nt in the world to alleviate environmental and social crises which are seen as damagi ng to the works of God. Organized groups of Celtic Christians, such as those in th e Iona Community or in Dara Molloys An Charraig Community, sometimes engage in activism in support of positive ecological change (organic gardening at An Charraig ) and issues of non-violen ce and world peace (the members of the Iona Community present at the Faslane protest). Scholars interested in the relationships between reli gion and modern ecological and social crises, particularly

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93 those interested in ecotheologies, should examine the popular Celtic Christianity movement. More work revealing actual numbers of believers and identifying communities with particularly strong activis t interests would be helpful for further projects, and further analysis of Celtic Christ ian beliefs and practices may help scholars understand patterns of re ligious change. Beyond purely social scientific interest, how ever, Celtic Christianity might provide a framework for certain believers to deal religiously with ec ological and social crises. Compared to the believers of the anthropo centric Christian axiom criticized by White, Celtic Christians might actually be bette r equipped to help slow human-induced ecological destruction and to construct mo re sustainable and nurturing communities. They may also express values needed among other Christian groups and, given the increasing intensity of ecologi cal and social crises, may represent an aspect of the green future of religious development. Lynn White, Jr. concluded his article, saying, since the roots of our [ecologi cal] trouble are so largely re ligious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we ca ll it that or not (White 2003, 36). Celtic Christianity, based on the practices of its adhe rents, might represent one such attempt at a remedy and deserves further scholarly study as such

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94 LIST OF REFERENCES Albanese, Catherine L. Reconsidering Nature Religion Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 2002. -----. Nature Religion in America : From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Alcock, Leslie. Arthur's Britain London: Penguin Books, 1989. Barker, Eileen. New Religions and New Re ligiosity, in Eileen Barker and Margit Warburg (eds), New Religions and New Religiosity Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1998, 10-27. Bellah, Robert N., Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler and Steven M. Tipton. Habits of the Heart: Individualis m and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. Bowman, Marion. Druids and Druidry, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 507-509. -----. Contemporary Celtic Spiritu ality, in Joanne Pearson (ed.), Belief Beyond Boundaries: Wicca, Celtic Spirituality and the New Age Milton Keynes, UK: The Open University, 2002, 55-101. -----. Cardiac Celts: Images of the Celts in Paganism, in Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman (eds), Paganism Today: Wiccans, Druids, the Goddess and Ancient Earth Traditions for the Twenty-First Century London: Thorsons, 1996, 242-251. -----. Reinventing the Celts. Religion 23, 1993: 147-156. Bradley, Ian. Celtic Christian Communities: Live the Tradition Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing, 2000. -----. Celtic Christianity: Ma king Myths and Chasing Dreams Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999. -----. How Green was Celtic Christianity? Ecotheology 4, 1998: 58-69.

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95 Burns, J. Patout. The Unicorn and the Rh inoceros: A Response to Matthew Fox, in Michael Barnes (ed.), An Ecology of the Spirit: Religious Reflections and Environmental Consciousness Lanham, MD: The College Theology Society, University Press of America, 1994, 75-82. Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization: Th e Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe New York: Doubleday, 1995. Campbell, Colin. The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularization, in Jeffrey Kaplan and Helne Lw (eds), The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Subcultures in an Age of Globalization Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2002, 12-25. -----. The New Religious Movements, the Ne w Spirituality and Post-Industrial Society, in Eileen Barker (ed.), New Religious Movements: A Perspective for Understanding Society Studies in Religion and Soci ety, v. 3. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1982, 232-242. Carmichael, Alexander, C. J. Moore (ed.). Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and IncantationsCollected in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the Last Century Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2001 [1900]. Chapman, Malcolm. The Celts: The Cons truction of a Myth New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. -----. The Gaelic Vision in Scottish Culture Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1978. Charles-Edwards, T. M. Early Christian Ireland Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Chidester, David. Stealing the Sacred Symbol s: Biblical Interpretation in the Peoples Temple and the Unification Church. Religion 18, 1988: 137-167. Davies, Oliver. Celtic Spirituality New York: Paulist Press, 1999. -----. Message in a Bottle: The Spirituality of the Welsh. Ecotheology 3, 1997: 9-22. Davies, Oliver and Fiona Bowie (eds). Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Modern and Medieval Sources New York: Continuum, 1997. Davy, Barbara Jane. Nature Relig ion, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 1173-1175. Delaney, John J. Pocket Dictionary of Saints Abriged ed. New York: Doubleday, 1983. Deloria, Philip J. Playing Indian New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

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96 de Waal, Esther. The Celtic Way of Prayer New York: Doubleday, 1997. Ferguson, Ron. George MacLeod: Founder of the Iona Community Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications, 1990. Foster, Sally M. Picts, Gaels and Scots London: B. T. Batsford, 2004. Fox, Matthew. Creation Spiritu ality, in Michael Tobias and Georgianne Cowan (eds), The Soul of Nature: Vi sions of a Living Earth New York: Continuum, 1994a, 207-216. -----. Creation Mysticism and the Return of a Trinitarian Christianity, in Michael Barnes (ed.), An Ecology of the Spirit: Relig ious Reflection and Environmental Consciousness Lanham, MD: The College Theol ogy Society, University Press of America, 1994b, 61-73. Glacken, Clarence J. Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. Gould, Rebecca. Book of Nature, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 210-211. Graves, Robert. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1966 [1948]. Green, Miranda J. Exploring the World of the Druids London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. Hanson, R. P. C. The Mission of St. Patrick, in James P. Mackey (ed.), An Introduction to Celtic Christianity Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1989, 64-100. Harvey, Graham. PaganismContemporary, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005a, 1247-1251. -----. Stonehenge, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005b, 1600-1601. -----. Contemporary Paganism: Listen ing People, Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press, 1997. Heaney, Seamus. Sweeney Astray: A Version from the Irish New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983. Hubert, Henri. The Rise of the Celts New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934a. -----. The Greatness and Decline of the Celts London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1934b.

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97 Hunter III, George C. The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity can Reach the West . Again Nashville: Abington Press, 2000. Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. -----. The Pagan Religions of the Ancient Brit ish Isles: Their Nature and Legacy Oxford: Blackwell, 1991. Introvigne, Massimo. The Fu ture of New Religions. Futures 36, 2004: 979-990. -----. Christian New Religious Movements: A Catholic Perspective, in Eileen Barker and Margit Warburg (eds), New Religions and New Religiosity Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1998, 243-261. Ivakhiv, Adrian J. Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona Bloomington: Indian a University Press, 2001. Jasper, David. Romanticism in European Literature, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 1422-1424. Joyce, Timothy J., OSB. Celtic Christianity: A Sacred Tradition, a Vision of Hope Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998. Kinsella, Thomas (trans). The Tain: Translated From the Irish Epic Tin B Cuailnge Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969. Kresge, Andrea A. Fox, Matthew, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 669-670. Laviolette, Patrick and Alastair McIntos h. Fairy Hills: Merging Heritage and Conservation. ECOS 18, 1997: 2-8. Lehane, Brendan. Early Celtic Christianity London: Continuum, 2005 [1968]. Lvi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967. Low, Mary. Celtic Christianity and Nature: Early Irish and Hebridean Traditions Edinburgh: Edinburgh Un iversity Press, 1996. MacCana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology Feltham, UK: Newness Books, 1983. Mazzeo, Tilar J. RomanticismAmerican, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 1424-1426. McIntosh, Alastair. Faerie Faith in Scotland, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature London: Continuum International, 2005, 633-634.

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98 -----. Soil and Soul: People ve rsus Corporate Power London: Aurum Press, 2001. McIntosh, Alastair, Andrew Wightman and Daniel Morgan, Reclaiming the Scottish Highlands: Clearance, C onflict and Crofting. The Ecologist 20 (2), 1994: 64-70. McNeill, John T. The Celtic Churches: A History, A. D. 200 to 1200. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. Meek, Donald E. The Quest for Celtic Christianity Edinburgh: The Handsel Press, Ltd., 2000. Melton, J. Gordon. Perspective: Toward a Definition of 'New Religion.' Nova Religio 8 (1), 2004: 73-87. -----. Encyclopedia of American Religions 7th ed. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2003. Newell, J. Phillip. Echo of the Soul: The Sac redness of the Human Body Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2000. -----. The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality New York: Paulist Press, 1999a. -----. One Foot in Eden: A Celtic View of the Stages of Life New York: Paulist Press, 1999b. -----. Promptings from Paradise New York: Paulist Press, 1998. -----. Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality New York: Paulist Press, 1997. Nicholson, M. Forthomme. Celtic Theology: Pelagius, in James Mackey (ed.), An Introduction to Celtic Christianity Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1995, 386-413. Crinn, Dibh. Early Medieval Ireland: 400-1200 London: Longman, 1995. O'Donoghue, N. D. St. Patrick's Br eastplate, in James Mackey (ed.), An Introduction to Celtic Christianity Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1995, 45-63. Duinn, Sen. Where Three Streams Meet: Celtic Spirituality Dublin: Columba Press, 2002. hgin, Dith. The Sacred Isle: Belief and Relig ion in Pre-Christian Ireland Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 1999. O'Loughlin, Thomas. Journeys on the Edges: The Celtic Tradition Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000. O'Meara, John J. Eriugena Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.

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99 Rordin, John J. The Music of What Happens: Celtic SpiritualityA View from the Inside. Dublin: Columba Press, 1996. Pike, Sarah M. New Age and Neopagan Religions in America New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Richardson, James T. Definitions of Cult: From Sociological-Technical to PopularNegative, in Lorne L. Dawson (ed.), Cults in Context: Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements London: Transaction Publishers, 1998, 29-38. Rutherford, Ward. Celtic Mythology: The Nature and Influence of Celtic MythFrom Druidism to Arthurian Legend London: Thorsons, 1987. Saliba, John A. Understanding New Religious Movements 2nd ed. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003. Santmire, H. Paul. Celtic Saints and the Ecology of Death. Dialog: A Journal of Theology 41 (4), 2002: 302-309. -----. Nature Reborn: The Ecological and Cosmic Promise of Christian Theology Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000. -----. Is Christianity Ecologically Bankrupt? The View from Asylum Hill, in Michael Barnes (ed.), An Ecology of the Spirit: Relig ious Reflections and Environmental Consciousness Lanham, MD: The College Theol ogy Society, University Press of America, 1994, 11-25. Sellner, Edward C. Wisdom of the Celtic Saints Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1993. Sheldrake, Philip. Living Between Worlds: Place and Journey in Celtic Spirituality Boston: Cowley Publications, 1995. Storrar, Krissy and Robert Stansfield. A Peace of Cake. Scottish Daily Mirror July 5, 2005: 6-7. Taylor, Bron. Religious Studies and Enviro nmental Concern, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature Continuum Intern ational, 2005, 1373-1379. -----. Earth and Nature-Based Spirituality (Part 1): From Deep Ecology to Radical Environmentalism. Religion 32 (2), 2001a: 175-193. -----. Earth and Nature-Based Spiritual ity (Part 2): From Earth First! and Bioregionalism to Scientific Paganism and the New Age. Religion 31 (3), 2001b: 225-245. -----. Earthen Spirituality or Cultural Genocide?: Radical Environmentalisms Appropriation of Native American Spirituality. Religion 27, 1997: 183-215.

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100 Trevarthen, Geo Athena. Celtic Ch ristianity, in Bron Taylor (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature Continuum International, 2005, 280-282. Wallace, Mark I. Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. Wessinger, Catherine. New Religious Move ments: An Overview, in Lindsay Jones (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion 2nd ed. 2005, 6513-6520. White, Jr., Lynn. The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis, in Richard A. Foltz (ed.), Worldviews, Religion, and the Envi ronment: A Global Anthology Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003 [1967]. York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion New York: New YorkUniversity Press, 2003.

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101 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Joseph Witt was born, raised and educated in Conway, Arkansas. In 2003, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in reli gion and philosophy from Hendrix College. He now lives in Gainesville, Florida, and plans to enter the Ph.D. program in religion and nature at the University of Florida in the Fall of 2006.


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CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGIOUS PRODUCTION


By

JOSEPH DYLAN WITT













A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2006
































Copyright 2006

by

JOSEPH DYLAN WITT
















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Bron Taylor and Anna Peterson for their guidance in writing

this thesis and my friends for their support.




















TABLE OF CONTENTS


IM Le

ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .........__.. ..... .__. .............._ iii..


AB S TRAC T ......_ ................. ............_........v


1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............1.......... ......


2 HISTORY OF CELTIC CHRISTIANITY: POPULAR AND CRITICAL
ACC OUNT S ................. ...............8.......... .....


Pre-Celtic Britain and Ireland ................. ...............11................
The Celts .................. .. ......... ...............14.......
Christianity in Celtic Lands ................. ............... ...............22. ....
Romantic Revivals and the "Celtic Twilight" ............. ...............29.....

3 MODERN THEOLOGY AND PRACTICE .............. ...............38....


Issues of Legitimacy and Authority............... ...... ............3
Important Themes in Modern C elti c Chri sti an Theol ogy ................. ............... .....50O
Modern Communities and Environmental Concern ................. ........................60


4 CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND NEW RELIGIONS: A RELIGIOUS STUDIES
ANALY SI S............... ...............6


Celtic Christianity and New Religious Movements .............. ....................6
Celtic Christianity and Paganism............... ...............78
Celtic Christianity and Nature Religion .............. ...............81....
Celtic Christianity as Modern Nature Spirituality ............__.....___ ..............84

5 CONCLU SION................ ..............9


LIST OF REFERENCES ....__ ................. ...............94......


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................. ...............101......... ......
















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE FUTURE OF RELIGIOUS PRODUCTION

By

Joseph Dylan Witt

May 2006

Chair: Bron Taylor
Major Department: Religion

In this thesis I analyze the debates and issues surrounding the modern Celtic

Christianity movement largely through an examination of relevant popular and scholarly

literature. Celtic Christianity is a modern Christian spirituality movement allegedly

based in the beliefs and practices of pre-Christian and early Christian Celtic peoples,

generally in present-day Ireland, Scotland and Wales. As a Christian tradition, several

popular writers offer works on Celtic Christian theology, which generally emphasize the

basic goodness of God' s Creation and the need to protect that Creation from harm.

Some critics, though, challenge the historical and theological claims made by Celtic

Christians. These critics point to inaccuracies in popular Celtic Christian historical

accounts and the borrowing of Celtic religious and cultural themes by non-Celtic peoples

in their arguments against the modern movement. They sometimes conclude that Celtic

Christianity is part of a larger trend of secularized, individualistic religious production

that ultimately harms the cultures from which it borrows.









Rather than accepting as true the claims of believers and critics, my point in this

thesis is to examine the contesting claims of authority and accuracy from a religious

studies perspective. Through this perspective, I understand religious appropriation and

invention as part of the general processes of religious creation and evolution. As a

creation-centered, or nature-centered, tradition, Celtic Christianity represents a modern

attempt to address ecological and social crises from a Christian religious framework.

Celtic Christianity, then, may be seen as a modern example of nature-based spirituality.

Adopting a religious studies perspective in this thesis helps to situate Celtic Christianity

beyond its historical inaccuracies and within a broader milieu of nature-based religious

production. Much more research is needed to discover in what ways Celtic Christians

engage in activities to alleviate ecological and social crises. Such research could provide

valuable information not only about Celtic Christianity but about the interactions of

religion and nature in the modern world as well.















CHAPTER 1
INTTRODUCTION

Celtic Christianity is a modern form of Christian spirituality based in traditional

belief structures and practices of the Celtic cultures of Britain and Ireland. Celtic

spirituality, as defined by the British religious studies scholar Marion Bowman, includes

Celtic Christianity, Celtic Paganism, Druidry, and Celt-influenced New Age beliefs

(Bowman 2002, 56). While noting interrelations between other non-Christian forms, in

this thesis I primarily examine Celtic Christianity and analyze the debates concerning its

historical development and spiritual authenticity. I adopt here a religious studies

perspective in which the task is to "properly analyze religion rather than to defend or

engage in it" (Taylor 2005, 1374), and utilize David Chidester' s "availability of symbols"

mode of engagement with religious appropriation to analyze the dynamics of conflict and

exchange between critics and supporters of Celtic Christianity (Chidester 1988, 158).

Such an approach allows me to situate Celtic Christianity within more general trends of

religious development. Because modern Celtic Christianity, through its popular literary

expressions, values nature and encourages engagement with the social and ecological

crises of the world, it may be seen as representative of a new type of nature-based

religion. Hopefully, this perspective regarding the modern Celtic Christianity movement

will aid future studies of the interactions between religions and nature.

Popular authors on Celtic Christianity claim that when Christianity first arrived in

Britain and Ireland, the native Celts incorporated some of their own pre-Christian beliefs,

such as those regarding the immanence of deities in the natural world and the importance









of the number three (which provided a natural affinity for Christian Trinitarianism), into

their regional Christian beliefs and practices. These beliefs continue, they claim, in the

particular Celtic worldview of some of the modern inhabitants of Ireland, Scotland,

Wales and England and help create a generally orthodox though nonetheless unique form

of Christian spiritual orientation. Today, Celtic Christianity is represented by several

popular books and intentional ecumenical communities, such as the lona Community and

the Community of Aidan and Hilda. Some historians and theologians, however,

challenge certain historical and theological claims of modern Celtic Christians and

criticize many popular writers for their readiness to misrepresent the people of Celtic

lands.

As part of this analysis I will examine two important and interrelated areas of

Celtic Christian scholarship--the differing historical accounts and their related evidence

and the theologies and practices of modern writers and practitioners--in order to

understand the place of this emerging tradition among other spiritual orientations. Many

of claims made by Celtic Christians find little or no support in historical evidence. Some

critics of Celtic Christianity, though, rather than offering neutral analysis of the

tradition's anemic historical grounding, become partisans in debates of authenticity by

subtly claiming authority to speak for a tradition, then seeking to preserve it from what

they consider damaging, syncretistic influences.

Scholarly literature on new religious movements offers, in contrast, a different

approach to claims or critiques of historical continuity. Many new religions inaccurately

appropriate historical evidence, or invent for themselves a "history" altogether, in support

of their theological claims. But this is a common feature of most religions, especially









noticeable in those seeking legitimacy within the dominant culture. These claims relating

to the ownership of the "true" tradition and the legitimacy of belief deserve further

analysis within religious studies (Chidester 1988, 157). Modern pagans, for example,

often face similar criticisms of invention and historical inaccuracy. Because of their

shared relationships as alternative religious movements and because they sometimes draw

upon the same Celtic mythology, scholarly literature concerning modern paganism offers

valuable resources for understanding Celtic Christianity and helps to situate it among

other religious developments as well. The study of Celtic Christianity through religious

studies lenses, including primarily the perspectives of new religious movement theory,

and understanding it as a form of contemporary nature religion, provides an illuminating

vantage point for observing contemporary religious production in an ecological age.

While situating Celtic Christianity within the study of new religious movements,

this paper also examines its potential ecological and social benefits. A central tenet of

Celtic Christianity, for example, involves a deep concern for life, justice and ecological

wellbeing. Modern Celtic Christianity represents an attempt to construct a form of

Christianity capable of engaging with the social and ecological crises of the world today.

Much of Celtic Christianity's historical support is certainly invented or based on

questionable historical and archaeological data, but the historical element provides only

part of the Celtic Christian story. Religious studies scholars should not so quickly reject

Celtic Christianity solely for its historical inaccuracies and inventions but understand it as

part of an ordinary process of religious change as well as a meaningful and very human

attempt to engage with and address real problems in the world.









It is not the purpose of this thesis to demonstrate that environmental degradation is

serious, threatens many species, and causes great suffering; this is, rather a starting point

for it. Moreover, as human populations grow and the distance between rich and poor

lengthens, human-induced ecological crises and social problems, such as war and

poverty, will likely intensify further. As long as these issues remain important to people,

mainstream religions and new religions must engage these ecological and social problems

if they are to remain meaningful to their believers. Celtic Christianity provides one

means of positive religious engagement in the world. By examining the Celtic Christian

call to engagement with social and ecological problems, I hope to provide a more

thorough account of modern Celtic Christian beliefs and practices than would be

available from historical evidence alone and to perhaps add valuable information for

further scholarly analyses of the relationships between religion and nature.

Chapter 2 of this thesis examines the historical component of Celtic Christian belief

and the important debates and interpretations of historical evidence regarding Christianity

in Celtic lands. Historical claims regarding the continuation of pagan practices and

beliefs into the Christianity of Celtic lands remain crucial to Celtic Christian belief.

Issues of historical inaccuracies also provide central points in the arguments of Celtic

Christianity's skeptical critics. Using archaeological, literary and linguistic evidence, this

chapter explores the Celtic cultures of Britain and Ireland from their emergence through

the introduction of Christianity and into the Romantic Celtic revivals of eighteenth and

nineteenth centuries. Historical evidence shows that many features of the modern Celtic

Christianity movement derive, like many modern forms of European-based paganism,

from the Romantic period of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Popular accounts of









pre-Christian cultural stability in the rural areas of Britain and Ireland and the application

of a modem term, "Celt," to peoples who did not identify themselves as such reflect this

romantic rural ideal. While certain crucial aspects of the popular stories regarding early

Celtic Christian belief may be highly innovative, they nonetheless create an important

counter-narrative to dominant historical stories and help distinguish modem Celtic

Christianity as a unique spiritual orientation.

Chapter 3 turns to an analysis of Celtic Christian theology and practice as

expressed through several popular writers. Related to the popular historical accounts,

Celtic Christians often cite the teachings of Pelagius and John Scotus Eriugena and the

lives of early Celtic saints such as Patrick, Columba and Brigit as the foundation of Celtic

Christian theology. The repression of these teachings by the medieval Church represents,

for many believers, one stage in the long history of oppression of Celtic peoples. Celtic

Christianity is often presented as an alternative to this oppressive Church history in its

respect for the roles of women and the value placed on ecological stability. For Celtic

Christians, God is not a distant being, barely involved in the fallen material world.

Instead, God, through the members of the Trinity and the saints, remains highly active in

a basically good world, covered only by the works of sin. Though they claim historical

continuities with pre-Christian beliefs, many modern Celtic Christians, or at least most

popular writers on the subj ect, nonetheless emphasize the orthodoxy of their tradition.

For Celtic Christians, this theology presents an important alternative to the cold, distant

theology of the Church (or the theology responsible for the damages analyzed by Lynn

White, Jr. [2003]) but does not involve a break with what they conceive to be essential

aspects of Christian belief. Popular writing on Celtic Christianity also often includes a









call for environmental and social engagement. Chapter 3 therefore examines Celtic

Christian activism at events such as the Faslane protest and through organized

communities such as lona. The call to social and ecological activism and the practice of

such beliefs remains crucial to truly understanding the modern movement.

Chapter 4 situates Celtic Christianity within religious studies theory, particularly

theories of new religious movements and nature religion. This chapter compares the

experiences of Celtic Christians with those of modern European-based pagan groups,

many of which also originate in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Romantic revivals.

This will facilitate a better understanding of the place of Celtic Christianity, and its

mutually influential relationships with various other religious thinkers, groups, and

movements, within what Colin Campbell called the "cultic milieu" (Campbell 2002).

Examining Celtic Christianity from a religious studies perspective, particularly using the

work of David Chidester, Bron Taylor, and Marion Bowman, helps reveal the contesting

claims of authenticity made by numerous interested parties and to understand Celtic

Christianity as part of much larger processes of religious evolution. As a spiritual

orientation directly engaged with the created world, Celtic Christianity also contains

elements of what Catherine Albanese calls nature religion. In other words, Celtic

Christians, in some ways, incorporate certain religious orientations toward the natural

world within their belief systems. Beyond its elements of nature religion, Celtic

Christianity consciously attempts to recognize and offer solutions for, in a religious way,

the social and ecological crises facing the world.

When we examine Celtic Christianity through these lenses, beyond just historical

and theological critiques, we gain important information about current religious










responses to ecological and social crises in the world. If ecological and social crises

persist through the future, as evidence shows they may, then ecologically-ori ented

religious traditions such as Celtic Christianity might continue to emerge as well. It is

important for scholars of religion to note that individuals are attempting to resurrect and

construct more ecologically-friendly and socially beneficial religious traditions, and

hopefully, this thesis adds something to this growing area of interest.















CHAPTER 2
HISTORY OF CELTIC CHRISTIANITY: POPULAR AND CRITICAL ACCOUNTS

Accounts of the historical development of Celtic Christianity remain crucial to the

modern movement, as John O Riordain says, "to understand Christian Celtic spirituality

to any degree, it is helpful to have some appreciation of the religious and cultural

attitudes and imagery that informed the minds and hearts of the pre-Christian ancestors"

(O Riordain 1996, 36-37). Popular claims, however, are not always supported by

archaeological, literary and linguistic data, leading some scholars to doubt the viability of

modern Celtic Christian belief. In other words, for some, historical inaccuracies and

appropriations of sacred symbols are problems for Celtic Christianity that should be fixed

by believers in some way if the tradition is not to be abandoned as useless altogether.

This chapter examines the histories of Britain and Ireland from Celtic times through the

introduction of Christianity and into the Romantic Celtic revivals of the 18th and 19th

centuries and evaluates the different historical arguments made by believers and critics.

Although Celtic Christians can find some support for their historical accounts, the

modern movement emerges largely out of the romanticism of the eighteenth and

nineteenth centuries as well as the Romantic "Celtic Twilight" at the turn of the twentieth

century. Embedded in these differing critical and popular historical accounts, however,

are often issues of religious and historical authority, or issues regarding who has the

"right" to define the tradition and its history. Examining more deeply the claims and

arguments made by Celtic Christianity's believers and critics will help bring forward

these issues of authority.









In regular usage, the term "Celt" encompasses several similar but nonetheless

distinct cultures with different languages. Much of the present scholarly knowledge

concerning the origins and history of the Celts derives from linguistic studies. Indeed,

Celtic Studies today remains a primarily linguistic affair. Donald Meek, a Celtic Studies

scholar and vocal critic of the modern Celtic Christian movement, says of the vagueness

surrounding the identification of historical Celts, "the linguistic anchor is undoubtedly the

most secure mooring which can be provided for the term" (Meek 2000, 8). The Celtic

languages exist as a branch of Indo-European languages. While there certainly may have

been many more Celtic languages, most linguistic evidence comes from the western-most

groups in Brittany, Britain and Ireland. These Insular Celtic languages divide into two

branches, namely, P-Celtic (including Welsh, Breton and the extinct Comish and

Cumbrian languages) and Q-Celtic (including Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and the extinct

Manx) (Chapman 1992, 16). These languages remain definitive of Celtic peoples, though

some scholars such as Malcolm Chapman have recently begun to doubt the existence of

the Celts as a distinct people. Donald Meek says of the more loose modern usage,

"nowadays, while the term 'Celtic' is still used by scholars in its linguistic and cultural

sense, it is widely employed as a form of shorthand to denote more or less anything

which is believed to be associated with the non-English aspects of the cultures of

Scotland, Ireland, Man, Comwall and Brittany" (Meek 2000, 8-9). For Meek and

Chapman, current popular understandings of the term "Celt" derive from romantic or

simplistic constructions of an idealized past by modem persons. Though it is important

to note these issues of power and the presence of romantic ideals involved in modern

popular accounts of the Celts, the term itself serves as a working descriptor of very real









and distinguishable historical peoples and serves as a symbol for modern believers in

Celtic spiritualities (McIntosh 2001).

Several problems exist regarding the study of pre-Christian Britain and Ireland. As

non-literate peoples, the Celts recorded none of their own stories. Rich material evidence

remains, however, including ornate metalwork, indicating certain religious beliefs and

practices. Beyond this, many of the earliest recorded versions of Celtic stories come

from Christian monks, primarily in Ireland, and Roman military invaders like Julius

Caesar. The works of Greek and Roman travelers often painted the Celts negatively, as a

warlike and brutal people. The Christian monks, from whom we receive much of our

knowledge of Celtic mythology, recorded stories that frequently reflected Christian

events, such as in the Irish Book oflnva~sions, written in early medieval Ireland, which

claimed that the first inhabitants of Ireland descended from Noah. Writers influenced by

the popular romanticism and primitivism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also

greatly influenced modern understandings of the Celts. These writers connected the Celts

to sites like Stonehenge and Glastonbury, connections now known to be false, and gave

them particularly Christian concerns, such as the anticipation of a future savior-figure.

Many of these imagined historical details continue into modern popular accounts of

Celtic spirituality and Celtic Christianity, and it is these details to which scholarly critics

of Celtic Christianity often react. Much of the literary and oral history regarding and

composed by the Celts originated in Wales, Scotland, and especially Ireland. This is

because the land now known as England witnessed numerous invasions after the Celts,

including by the Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, each of which pushed the Celts









further to the "fringes," into the hills of Wales and Scotland, or across the Irish Sea to

Ireland (Hubert 1934b, 165-184).

Pre-Celtic Britain and Ireland

The history of the inhabitation of Britain and Ireland, however, does not begin with

the Celts. Humans have lived in the present-day British Isles, or at least those parts not

covered by glaciers during ice ages, since the Paleolithic age. The oldest burial, in

southern England, dates from about the year 25,000 BCE (Hutton 1991, 2). The

emergence of agriculture around 5,000 BCE marked the shift to the Neolithic age. This

period, from c. 5,000 to c. 3,200 BCE, also witnessed the emergence of stone

construction in the north and large tombs, or barrows, around the region (although some

individual tombs such as Carrowmore 4 in Ireland possibly date earlier in the Middle

Stone Age) (Hutton 1991, 20). Barrows and other large construction features became

more unique in differing regions. The presence of male and female figurines in these

tombs as well as evidence for ritualized burials reveals a strong social structure and

perhaps religious orientations.

The nature of this Neolithic religion remains hotly contested. Whether these

Neolithic inhabitants of Britain and Ireland worshiped a mother Earth goddess, male

warrior deities, or numerous local spirits remains unclear. Differing claims, though,

remain very important for modern believers and critics of paganism and goddess

spiritualities. These historical debates also remain important in the arguments

surrounding Celtic Christianity. Modern historical accounts are always nested in political

and religious controversies, with all sides often attempting to prove more than the

evidence actually reveals. Adrian Ivakhiv notes, "the past is and has always been

contested territory, and the more distant the past, the wilder and more varying the claims









about it" (Ivakhiv 2001, 31). The evidence of Neolithic religion remains unclear, and as

Ronald Hutton notes, studies of modern hunter-gatherers have "demonstrated that such

peoples can believe in a large number of spirits inhabiting the natural world, in a varying

number of goddesses and gods, in a universal deity, or in differing combinations of all

three. So it may have been with the New Stone Age peoples" (Hutton 1991, 44). The

religious beliefs of these people may forever remain a mystery. What remains most

significant for this study is how the different interpretations influence, support and are

contested with regard to the various claims involved in modern religious constructions,

including in the case of Celtic Christianity.

In the fourth century BCE, significant changes in lifestyle occurred around Britain

and Ireland. People at this time took up agriculture, domesticated animals and lived in

permanent or semi-permanent dwellings (O hOgain 1999, 6). Along the Boyne River in

eastern Ireland emerged the massive grave complexes of Knowth and Newgrange after

3,200 BCE. These complexes contained tombs much larger and with more chambers

than had previously existed. They also included, for the first time, many petroglyphs and

decorative motifs involving spirals and circular forms. This period also witnessed the

emergence of large rings created by the erection of monoliths in circular patterns. The

Avebury complex, for example, included large earthen mounds, large stone rings, burial

sites and evidence of wooden construction. Interestingly, the emergence of the ring

complexes corresponded with the general abandonment of the older-style tombs. Some

of the old tombs were even sealed. While this shift happened at different times and at

different rates across the regions, it perhaps marked a period of significant social or even

religious change. Scholars in the past have suggested that these changes represented the









effects of an invasion. The archaeological evidence, however, vague as it is, might only

prove an internal shift in political and social organization due in part to the change to

sedentary lifestyles (Hutton 1991, 52-87).

Around 3,000 BCE, persons erected ceremonial wooden structures on Salisbury

Plain in Wessex. Later, around 2, 100 BCE, local inhabitants abandoned other ritual

centers, including stone circles and tomb sites, and raised several stone monoliths around

the area of the wooden structures. By around 1,500 BCE, major construction was

essentially complete on what is now called Stonehenge. Precisely because it has inspired

the imaginations of people for centuries, many of Stonehenge's secrets may never be

known. Ronald Hutton says, "to prehistorians it is probably the most tragic monument in

the entire world, for its very fame has ensured the destruction of the evidence which

might have permitted us to know its story" (Hutton 1991, 97). Archaeologists generally

know that Stonehenge originally included burial sites and related wooden structures.

Contrary to many popular and Romantic views, it was constructed relatively quickly, as

evidenced by the instability of many of its monoliths, and of relatively poor stone, or at

least the stone not taken from other monuments (Hutton 1991, 99). For Hutton,

Stonehenge likely represented a maj or condensation of power in Wessex. The

ceremonial practices of Stonehenge reflected certain social stratifications, as he said,

"Stonehenge itself appears to be a very elitist monument, for the space at its heart is

about half the size of a modern tennis court and the great stones would have blocked off

the view from outside" (Hutton 1991, 99). Importantly, Stonehenge was not built by

Celtic peoples. The last evidence of new construction and burial activity predates the

arrival of the Celts in Britain by nearly a millennium. Popular legends originating among










Romantic writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though, persist today and

influence modern pagan and Celtic Christian ideas and practices.l

The Celts

Archaeological evidence shows that sedentary lifestyles helped increase

populations across Britain and Ireland. These increases in population, among other

things, led to increases in resource depletion. Temperatures dropped after 1,000 BCE,

bringing more rain and exacerbating erosion in recently cleared areas. River valleys

across Britain filled with silt, creating and enlarging the broad moors observable today.

Areas inhabited for at least a thousand years, such as southwest Ireland, became

unoccupied by the year 500 BCE (Hutton 1991, 134-135). Into this changing region,

probably quite slowly, arrived the Celts.

Traditionally, historians place the first arrivals of Celtic peoples to Britain in the

fifth century BCE and to Ireland by the third century BCE (MacCana 1983, 7).

According to popular Irish mythology, recorded in the early medieval Book oflnva~sions

(Leabhar Gabha~la), the Milesians from Spain, led by Donn and the poet Amairgen,

defeated the previous inhabitants of the island (the Tuatha De Danann or People of the

Goddess Dana) and established the first Celtic kingdom of Ireland (Low 1996, 25-26).

Scholars such as Ronal Hutton, on the other hand, argue that the people we now identify

as Celts arrived slowly to Britain and Ireland, not through definite periods of military

conquest (Hutton 1991, 139). From where, though, did these Celts come?

SFor many modern pagan groups, Stonehenge is an important ritual site. Government regulations on
public access to Stonehenge have generated certain conflicts among groups, though. For example, in 1995,
English Heritage authorities arrested Arthur Uther Pendragon for entering the site without a permit on
Midsummer Day. Pendragon, a leader of the Glastonbury Order of Druids, considers himself to be the
reincarnation of King Arthur. Harvey (2005b) provides a succinct history of modern religious uses of
Stonehenge. Green 1997 and Ivakhiv 2001 analyze modern pagan constructions of sites such as
Stonehenge and Glasonbury.









Archaeological, linguistic and literary evidence places the emergence of the Celts

in central Europe in the second millennium BCE. Archaeologists define three main

stages in the development of Celtic culture. The first stage encompasses early cremation

sites and remains somewhat vaguely defined and understood. The second, called

"Hallstatt" based on significant Einds of iron artifacts near an Austrian village in the

1870's, represents localized cultural development from around 800 BCE to approximately

600 or 500 BCE. The third stage, called "La Tene" after an area of Switzerland,

represents the most artistically advanced form of Celtic culture. The Celtic peoples

spread from central Europe and occupied much of present-day Europe by the third

century BCE. It was these people, mostly La Tene style cultures, that the Romans

encountered in their military conquests of Europe and that the first Christian missionaries

found in Britain and Ireland (Chapman 1992, 6-7; Hubert 1934a).

Though scholars disagree upon the dates of the arrival of the Celts in Britain,

important evidence exists regarding their presence on the Continent. Greek historians

such as Herodotus spoke of Celtic peoples as early as the fifth and sixth centuries BCE.

Timaeus (in the third century BCE) and Posidonius (in the first century BCE) also spoke

of keltoi and galatoi (Celts and Gauls) (Green 1997, 14). Romans such as Strabo,

Diodorus Siculus and Julius Caesar, in their military outings through Europe, described

the Celts as well. Roman incursions into Gaul began in the 1st century BCE and

continued through their 43 CE arrival in Britain (Hutton 1991, 200). Julius Caesar wrote

of the religion of the Celts of Gaul, particularly involving the druids, or the priestly and

intellectual class of Celts. In his works, Caesar drew upon his own experiences and the

accounts of others to describe the Celtic pantheon and the practices of the druids. Much









of the present popular knowledge regarding Celtic religion and the druids continues with

Caesar's assumptions.

Caesar described the Celts as a warlike people who practiced human sacrifice and

followed a religion led by the druids who revered the oak tree and mistletoe (Green 1997,

46). He compared the pantheons of the tribes he encountered with his own Roman

deities, assuming that all Celts accepted this local Gaulish pantheon and that each

individual deity performed a specialized function, like the Roman deities (MacCana

1983, 20). The details of Caesar's account of the Celts of Gaul were generally accepted

as true through most of the modern period of Celtic scholarship. Modern Celtic studies

scholars remain skeptical of Caesar's account, though, largely for its imperialist

perspective and perhaps inaccurate connections to Roman beliefs. Popular literature on

Celtic Christianity and spirituality, however, remains largely indebted to the accounts of

the Romans in Celtic lands. Therefore, it is important to address the central tenets of

Celtic religion as constructed through the accounts of Caesar and other travelers through

Celtic lands.

Irish Celtic society, for example, was divided into systems of clans, much like the

modern Scottish system. A chieftain led each clan and held a certain territory with a seat

of power located near a sacred tree or hill. The gods of these Irish societies associated

themselves with specific clans and regions. Deities included the Daghdah (meaning

"good god," a kind of leader of the pantheon), Goibhniu (a smith associated with the

underworld), Lugh (a craft god associated with light), Macha (goddess of war), and Anu

(an earth-mother goddess) (MacCana 1983, 32; O Riordain 1996, 28). Perhaps the most

important Celtic goddess to Celtic Christians, though, is Brighid (also spelled Brigit), a










goddess of teaching, healing and prophecy (MacCana 1983, 33-34). Some argue that the

attributes of this goddess were later applied to the Christian St. Brigid. Edward Sellner, a

popular writer on Celtic Christian saints, says, "it is clear that St. Brigit stands on the

boundary between pagan mythology and Christian spirituality" (Sellner 1993, 69). The

resemblance of these Celtic deities to Greek and Roman gods, though, is readily

apparent.2 Caesar definitely explained Celtic deities in his own Roman terms, and the

early Christian recorders of Celtic mythology may have been influenced by this Roman

and Greek literature and may have proj ected that influence onto the Irish and other Celtic

cultures.

In some instances, Celtic gods and goddesses existed with three personalities, or

three aspects. For example, the goddess Brighid, in some accounts, is one of three sisters,

all named Brighid and each with her own particular skill. The war goddesses Morrigan,

Badb and Macha also frequently appear as a trinity (MacCana 1983, 86). These religious

groupings of three are somewhat confirmed by sculpted figures with three faces found in

France, Britain and Ireland. This also leads many Celtic Christians to assume that the

Celts had a natural affinity for Catholic Trinitarianism (see Chapter 2). Though based in

some material evidence, this idea of Celtic Trinitarianism owes much to modern

imaginative literature as well. Robert Graves first promoted the image of the triune

goddess as maiden, mother and crone in his work The White Goddess (1948). This idea

has since been adopted by many pagan groups, particularly those associated with Wicca.

Ronald Hutton notes that literature reveals no fewer than twenty goddesses with names

similar to "Brighid," meaning that each "aspect" of the goddess more probably refers to a


2 For example, Daghdah = Zeus, Goibhniu = Hephaestus, Lugh = Apollo, and Macha = Athena.










regional deity (Hutton 1991, 153). Based on other archaeological evidence, however, the

number three probably held a special place in Celtic society and religion long before the

arrival of Christianity (Hutton 1991, 214).

Graves is also largely responsible for promoting images of loving Celtic mother

goddesses. Citing the example of Morrigan in Irish epic poetry, who sweeps onto the

battle field and devours the dead like a raven and whose appearance to a living man

means his impending death in battle, Hutton doubts the presence of any nurturing mother

goddesses in Celtic culture. He says, "goddesses rarely feature in the Irish literatures as

maternal or nurturing, being more often aggressive and voracious in both their sexuality

and their bloodlust. Whether they represented role models for self-assertive Celtic

women, or the fantasies of pagan Celtic male warriors, or the nightmares of the Christian

monks who wrote the stories, is an open question" (Hutton 1991, 152). Indeed, they

could have represented all three of Hutton' s options.

Along with the Roman and Greek accounts, some information regarding Celtic

mythology comes from Christian sources as well, primarily monks working in the early

medieval period in Ireland and Wales. These myths are expressed in lengthy poems,

recorded by medieval monks but presumably recounted orally since pre-Christian times.

In Ireland, these are divided in the Ulster Cycle, the Fionn Cycle and the Mythological

Cycle. The Ulster Cycle consists of tales involving the kingdom of Ulster (located in

Northern Ireland) and its famous warrior hero Cu Chulainn. The Ta~in Bo Cuailnge ("The

Cattle Raid of Cuailnge") involves the exploits of the hero Cu Chulainn and Queen Medb

of Ulster, a possibly historical figure from the first century of the Common Era (see

introduction to Kinsella 1969). The Fionn Cycle involves tales concerning the










adventures of the fiana, or roving bands of warriors, primarily the group led by Fionn

mac Cumhaill. Finally, the Mythological Cycle includes various other local stories which

do not fit within one of the other cycles such as those involving the Tuatha Dd Danann,

who moved to the underworld upon the arrival of the Celts in Ireland and became the

sidh, or faeries (MacCana 1983, 16; Low 1996, 44).3 Though, like the Illiad and the

Odyssey for Greek culture, these stories reveal a great deal about Irish mythology, they

are infrequently cited by writers on Celtic spirituality. This might be because they tend to

not promote environmentally friendly or peaceful values. The Ta~in, like the Illiad,

involves exceptionally violent descriptions of battles and the cold indifference of the

gods, primarily Morrigan, the goddess of death and war. Another tale, "Sweeney

Astray," set and written in the early medieval period in Ireland and recently translated by

Seamus Heaney, likewise fails to conform to more Romantic ideas of Celtic beliefs.

Sweeney is turned into a bird after the Battle of Moira and cursed to fly across Ireland.

Though Sweeney richly describes the landscape below his flight, he laments his

transformation and seeks his return to humanity. Nature in "Sweeney Astray" is not a

happy place but a kind of prison, though the attention to detail by the poet and references

to real places remain impressive (Heaney 1983). There also exist cycles of stories from

the Welsh tradition, primarily the Four Branches of the Mabinogi. These stories were

compiled by a Christian monk or group of monks sometime in the eleventh century and,


3 Many of the "faerie mounds" found throughout Britain and Ireland are actual Iron and Stone Age burial
sites. This leads some to conclude that the Tuatha Dd Danann represent the pre-Celtic inhabitants of the
region. See MacCana 1983, Rutherford 1987, Low 1996, and McIntosh 2005. Patrick Laviolette and
Alastair McIntosh (1997) offer a very interesting argument that faerie hills, as liminal zones associated with
mystical powers and cursed spirits and therefore largely avoided by developers through the years, represent
islands of biodiversity in Britain and Ireland. Further exploration of this possible connection would be
quite valuable to further study of the relationships between pagan beliefs and environmentally friendly
practices.









like their Irish counterparts, involve the activities of Celtic gods and heroes such as Lleu

Llaw Gyffes, Branwen of Llyr and Rhiannon (MacCana 1983, 72).

The druids, by many popular accounts, occupied the ecclesiastical and intellectual

elite class in Celtic society. The Roman sources paint druids as both philosophical

mystics and fearsome, power hungry sorcerers. It is certainly possible that they were

both (Hutton 1999, 9). Along with the druids were the filidh and the bards, at least in

insular Celtic areas. The filidh and bards composed and maintained poetry and legends,

including the dinnshencha~s, or stories related to historical and mythological events

surrounding specific places. The offices of flidh and bards may have continued through

the Christianization of Celtic lands, an important claim for the argument of a continued

Celtic tradition. Proinsias MacCana says, "whereas the Druids, as the foremost

representatives of pagan religion, had borne the brunt of the Church's opposition until

they finally disappeared as a distinct order, the flidh succeeded in establishing a

remarkable modus vivendi with the ecclesiastical authorities which allowed the two

bodies separate but complimentary spheres of authority and permitted the filidh to

continue many of their ancient functions and prerogatives, including some of which had

formerly belonged to the druids" (MacCana 1983, 12-13). The bards and filidh survived,

argues MaCana, by moving underground.

Some individuals resurrected the offices of bard and filidh during the Romantic

pagan cultural revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1791, Unitarian

minister Edward Williams, later renamed Iolo Morganwg, organized a Welsh Gorsedd

(or meeting of bards) on Primrose Hill and in 1819 j oined the Welsh Eisteddfod (a kind

of bardic society). The Welsh Gorsedd and Eisteddfod, and the related Cornish Got \Ieth










(founded in 1928), were founded as secular celebrations of Welsh and Cornish culture

and the bardic traditions of storytelling, singing and poetry but were later emphasized by

persons such as Morganwg as continuations of pre-Christian religious tradition (Bowman

2005, 507). This tripartite division of Celtic religious culture-druid, filidh, and bard--

remains influential for modem pagan groups. For example, the Order of Bards, Ovates

and Druids, founded in 1964, promotes a hierarchical elevation through levels of learning

through international mail and Internet correspondence courses (Bowman 2002, 83).

Whether or not medieval bards and jilidh retained their pre-Christian importance, or even

existed, many popular writers today assume that the present traditional and esoteric

knowledge of Celtic religion derives from their continued activity.

A final important aspect of Celtic religion, emphasized by modem pagan and Celtic

Christian groups, involves the ritual calendar. This calendar includes eight main

festivals, namely, Samhain (October 31i-November 1, the beginning of the new year and

time to remember the dead), Midwinter (the winter solstice, also called Yule), Imbolc

(February 1, sacred to Brigid, celebration of fertility), Spring Equinox, Beltain (May 1, or

May Day, important day for weddings), Summer Solstice (Midsummer, special for

communion with non-human beings), Lughnasadh (harvest festival falling around August

1), and the Autumnal Equinox (Harvey 1997, 3-13). This ritual year is celebrated by

many modem Celtic-based Druidic and Wiccan groups.

Though these festivals certainly refer to real traditions from Britain and Ireland,

they may not have been shared by Continental Celts. Important for many Celtic

Christians, however, is the correspondence between these Celtic holidays and Christian

days. Imbolc, the day sacred to the goddess Brigid, is also the feast day of St. Brigit of









Kildare (de Waal 1997, 165-166). Samhain also corresponds to All Saints Day. These

apparent holdovers from Celtic religions provide some support for the popular historical

claims of modern Celtic Christians regarding cultural continuity in Ireland, Scotland and

Wales. As Edward Sellner asserts, "this Celtic Christian spirituality was very much the

child of the pagan culture which preceded it, one that valued poetic imagination and

artistic creativity, kinship relations and the warmth of the heart, the wonder of stories and

the guidance of dreams" (Sellner 1993, 16). Before turning to a more involved analysis

of modern Celtic Christian beliefs, though, the history of the coming of Christianity to

Celtic lands must be addressed in further detail.

Christianity in Celtic Lands

Christianity was most likely brought to Britain by Roman soldiers and to Ireland by

traders, though exact dates remain vague. Tertullian celebrated the rapid conversion to

Christianity in Roman lands, including Britain, as early as the year 200 (McNeill 1974,

18-19). Literary evidence also points to three British martyrs in the third century, shortly

before the 312 conversion of Constantine. In 314, three British bishops attended the

council of Arles. The presence of bishops suggests that British Christians lived in

relatively organized diocese. Little else is known of these early British Christians,

however (Alcock 1989, 132). The development of Christianity also corresponded with

the late fourth century withdrawal of Roman military forces from Britain and the

subsequent fall of Rome to Alaric the Goth in 410. Saxons from the east quickly took

lands in the former Roman territories of south Britain, and eventually solidified the small

kingdoms of Britain into the Land of the Angles, or England. Exactly how it was done

remains unclear, but in the transitional chaos, Christianity emerged as a powerful force in

British culture. By the end of the fifth century, St. Germanus traveled to Britain from










Gaul in order to counter heresies among certain British Christian communities. The

presence of heretical groups suggests an increasing number of Christians in Britain at this

time (Hutton 1991, 261).

Christianity arrived in Ireland only shortly after its emergence in Britain. In the

first centuries of the Common Era, the Celtic Irish occupied lands far beyond the present

nation of Ireland, including present-day Wales, Cornwall and Scotland.4 The first literary

evidence for Christianity in Ireland comes from the year 431, when Pope Celestine I

consecrated Palladius as the first bishop of Ireland. As R. P. C. Hanson notes, there must

have been a substantial number of Christians already in Ireland for the pope to send a

bishop, for "in the ancient world no bishop was ever sent to a place totally devoid of

Christians" (Hansonl995, 31). These Irish Christians surely had contact with the

relatively well-established groups in Britain.

In Ireland, Palladius coordinated the establishment of monasteries and attempted to

counter the political powers of the druids and the teachings of the monk Pelagius

(Charles-Edwards 2000, 191). Pelagius, a native Briton and Roman citizen who lived

from approximately 360 to 430, emphasized original goodness and the free will of

humans to choose a life of salvation or sin. Since humans are born good and in the image

of God, in Pelagian thought, the ability to choose a sanctified life comes from God as

well, not just the human mind. Pelagius' teachings of free will and original goodness

conflicted with the theological positions of many African bishops, including Augustine of

Hippo. In 418, Augustine and others successfully petitioned Pope Zosimus to condemn



SThe Roman name for Ireland was Scotia, from which comes Scot and Scotland. Scotland, therefore, was
named by the Romans after its Irish inhabitants, the DMl Riata, not the native Scottish Picts (Foster 2004, 9-
10).










Pelagius for heresy by denying the power of grace (Nicholson 1995, 386-394).

Supporters of modern Celtic Christianity, though, argue that the condemnation of

Pelagius derived more from Church power politics than from unorthodoxy. According to

M. Forthomme Nicholson, Pelagius' teachings and their popularity represented only

regional interpretations of Biblical tradition, as he says, "Pelagius survived in Celtic

Britain and in Ireland because his ideas were part of the local idiomatic expressions of the

Christian faith" (Nicholson 1995, 392). Modern Celtic Christian theologians such as J.

Phillip Newell also emphasize the particularly Celtic nature of Pelagian thought while at

the same time arguing for his essential orthodoxy. The conflicts surrounding Pelagius

show that Christianity in Britain and Ireland in the 5th century was active and highly

dynamic, with connections to Continental churches and authorities.

Beyond Palladius and Pelagius, one of the most important early figures for modern

Celtic Christianity is St. Patrick. Patrick, originally named Patricius, was born to a noble

Romanized Christian family in modern England. The dates of his life remain vague and

contested, though scholars general date his life from around 390 to 460, or roughly

contemporary with Palladius and Pelagius (Hanson 1995, 28; Delaney 1983, 390). At the

age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders (a frequent occurrence at the time) and

forced to work as a shepherd. After a few years, he escaped back to Britain and entered

monastic training.' Patrick was then sent as bishop to Ireland by the British church,

perhaps shortly after the mission of Palladius. In his life, Patrick wrote only two known

documents--the Confessions, a kind of autobiography, and the Letter to Coroticus, a

theological letter to a warlord who recently killed fellow Christians. These documents

5 According to Cahill, he did this in response to conversations with angels during his time as a shepherd in
the wilds of Ireland (Cahill 1995, 116).










provide only a vague image of Patrick the person. According to R. P. C. Hanson (and

perhaps contrary to popular accounts), Patrick had no particular love for the Irish people.

After all, he lived there as a slave for several years. Instead, Patrick ventured to Ireland,

the western edge of the known world, because "he believed that he was living in the last

times and, in accordance with the perennial call of Christ to evangelize, he must preach

the Gospel among the last people" (Hanson 1995, 33). According to Hanson, Patrick was

only doing his part to bring about the return of Christ to the world.

Patrick's hagiographers, Muirchu and Tirechan, credit the saint with the foundation

of the monastery at Armagh and the general conversion of the Irish people. According to

his own writings, Patrick successfully adopted the children of several important Irish

landholders into lives of monastic service and evangelism (Hanson 1995, 41). In his

Confessions, Patrick notes much hostility regarding Christian conversion among the Irish

people. He claims that he and his followers frequently experienced threats and

occasionally purchased protection from warlords (O Cr6inin 1995, 28). Patrick

ultimately succeeded in the general conversion of Ireland, though, and by the year 500,

shortly after his death, most of the island conformed to Christianity. In 560, the king

Diarmait Mac Cerbaill conducted the last recorded pagan right of the sacred wedding to

the local goddess. After his death, accounts of pagan Celtic religion in Ireland

disappeared, at least for a few centuries (Charles-Edwards 2000, 240; Hutton 1991, 262-

263).

Along with Palladius and Patrick, several figures spread Christianity across Celtic

lands through the foundation of monasteries. Enda and Finnian, working in the middle of

the sixth century, founded several monasteries around Ireland (Delaney 1983, 162).









Columba, also called Columcille, who lived from about 521 to 597, left his royal family

in Ulster (Northern Ireland) and founded the abbey at lona, a small island off of the

southwest coast of Scotland, in 563 (Delaney 1983, 125-126). David, who lived

sometime in the 5th and 6th centuries, founded monasteries across Wales (Delaney 1983,

141). Brigid, who lived from about 450 to 525 and whose parents, according to legend,

were baptized by St. Patrick, founded the large monastery and convent at Kildare around

the year 470 (Delaney 1983, 92-93). These saints founded many of the first monasteries

around Britain and Ireland which trained later monks who continued monastic

development through the ninth century. Columbanus, who lived from about 540 to 615

and who trained at Bangor, left Ireland in 585 and traveled across France, Switzerland

and Italy founding monasteries, including the large monastery at Bobbio (Delaney 1983,

126-127).

With such strong foundations and because of their relative remoteness, the

monasteries of Ireland and Britain survived the chaos caused by the fall of Rome due to

the invasions of pagan groups from the east in the sixth century. After the fall of Rome,

Christians lost a maj or center of authority and Europe entered the so-called "dark ages."

The invading pagan armies of Goths, Visigoths and Vandals destroyed many churches

and libraries across Europe and finally removed the drastically weakened political

infrastructure of the Romans. During this period of crisis in Rome and other important

Continental Christian centers, Irish monks such as Columbanus re-established

monasteries and centers of learning across Europe and helped solidify Christian

structures during the sixth and seventh centuries. Indeed, this is the thesis of Thomas









Cahill's 1995 book How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Thitold Story oflrelan2d's

Historic Role f~om the Fall ofRome to the Rise of~edieval Europe.

Although Britain and Ireland were becoming rapidly Christianized, the region

remained politically chaotic. After the withdrawal of Roman troops, Britain divided into

many small tribal kingdoms, much like Celtic Ireland. These kingdoms existed in almost

constant warfare with each other, forming and breaking alliances frequently. At the same

time, Saxon armies from Germany and France established kingdoms in southwest Britain,

pushing Celtic peoples into Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. One of these Saxon kings,

Oswy, perhaps desiring alliances with the increasingly powerful British Christian

monasteries, called a council in 664 to solidify Christian doctrine in his lands and gain

official monastic support. Delegates attended the synod at Whitby from Rome and from

British and Irish churches. Because Bede recorded the proceedings of the Synod of

Whitby, originally called Strenaeshalc, in his Ecclesia~stical History of the English

People, much is known about the debates during the meeting (O'Loughlin 2000, 149).

The Roman party, led by a Saxon monk named Wilfred, challenged the Pelagianism of

the British and Irish churches and requested that they adopt the Roman style of tonsure

and the Roman dating of Easter. After days of debate, Oswy accepted the arguments of

the Roman contingent and enforced the conformity of churches in his lands to the Roman

system (Lehane 2005, 191-203).

Among modern Celtic Christians, the Synod of Whitby represents the official

defeat of the unified Celtic tradition by the overpowering forces of Rome. For Philip

Newell, a popular writer on Celtic Christian theology, the victory of the Roman

contingent at the Synod of Whitby alienated and ostracized the Celtic Christians of the









time, as he says, "the Church was the poorer for forcing Celtic spirituality underground,

so that for centuries it survived primarily on the Celtic fringes of Britain, among people

unsupported in their spirituality by clergy" (Newell 1997, 106). Donald Meek disagrees

with Newell and says, instead, that Whitby involved only the unification of belief and

teaching among the many British and Irish churches, not the repression of a distinct

tradition by the powerful forces of Rome (Meek 2000, 138). While issues of political

power probably influenced certain decisions made at the Council of Whitby, it probably

did not represent the official repression of one distinct tradition over another. Numerous

teachings competed throughout Christendom in the early medieval period, and councils

meant to establish orthodoxy in a region were not an uncommon occurrence.

According to modern writers, the Celtic view of Christianity, despite the unification

at Whitby, occasionally reappeared through the middle ages. Many modern Celtic

Christians adopt the 9th century philosopher John Scotus Eriugena along with Pelagius as

an early articulator of Celtic Christian theology. Eriugena, whose name means "John the

Irishman from Ireland," lived and trained as a monk in Ireland before moving to France

to serve as a teacher under the patronage of Charles the Bald. While in France, Eriugena

composed his maj or philosophical works, including the Periphyseon. Like Pelagius,

Eriugena believed that the material world, as a creation of God, remained basically good

and could reveal the wisdom of God. In his work De Divisione Naturae, Eriugena

explained a certain interrelation between God and creation, where each creature existed

as part of God while God remained, in a mysterious way, within each creature as well

(Glacken 1967, 209-212). For Eriugena, God is the substance of creation, or as Geo

Trevarthen explains Eriugena' s theology of creation, "creation ex nihilo is actually









creation ex Deo" (Trevarthen 281, 2005). Eriugena also believed that the material world

of nature was not inherently evil. John O'Meara summarizes Eriugena's position as

follows: "there is no natural cause for the illicit misuse of free will or of evil. Just as evil

is uncaused and none can discover whence it comes, so the unruly misuse of natural

goods arises from no natural cause" (O'Meara 1988, 149). While Eriugena is somewhat

separated from the "golden age" of Celtic Christianity in the fourth through seventh

centuries, his thought resembles that of Pelagius and is often taken by modern writers as

another example of a particularly Celtic interpretation of Christian doctrine.

After the Council of Whitby, Christianity remained dynamic and diverse

throughout Britain and Ireland. The Celtic tradition, though, as argued by Newell and

other popular writers, went underground (except for occasional related theologies like

that of Eriugena) only to fully reemerge a millennium later. Popular writers of the 18th

and 19th centuries, inspired by works like Alexander Carmichael's Calrmina Gadelica,

argued that Celtic Christian knowledge, or the syncretistic pagan and Christian teachings

of the Celtic Church, remained on the outskirts of Britain and Ireland after the Council of

Whitby and could hence be revived.

Romantic Revivals and the "Celtic Twilight"

In the eighteenth century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edmund Burke, Friedrick

Wilhelm Schelling, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe developed the literary and

philosophical elements of Romanticism (Jasper 2005). Romantics, as Tilar Mazzeo

explains, "sought to reinvigorate those aspects of human knowledge and experience that

the Enlightenment had pushed aside. These included: attention to mysticism and

psychological supernaturalism and a thematic emphasis on the value of the imagination,

sentimentalism, natural spiritualism, and pastoralism" (Mazzeo 2005, 1424). In Britain









and Germany, Romanticism led some to reexamine pagan traditions, though usually from

a Christian or deist context. Goethe, for example, expressed admiration for Greek and

Roman pagan deities as "symbols for his own deep experiences" while at the same time

retaining belief in the one Christian God (Hutton 1999, 21-22).

At roughly the same time, William Stukeley, an English Anglican minister, wrote a

popular history of Stonehenge in which he argued that the druids "had a religion so

extremely like Christianity that in effect it differed from it only in this: they believed in a

Messiah who was to come into this world, as we believe in him that is to come" (quoted

in Bradley 1999, 107). In his work, Stukeley both promoted the false belief that Celtic

druids constructed Stonehenge and articulated the position that British pagan traditions

and Christianity needed not be contradictory. In the early 19th century, George Petrie, a

Protestant Scot whose family relocated to Dublin during his childhood, wrote popular

accounts of the spiritual power found around ruined Irish monastic sites. His work

promoted some of the earliest spiritual tourism to Ireland, especially to the monastic ruins

at Clonmacnoise (Bradley 1999, 112). The works of Stukeley and Petrie also represented

early attempts to establish roots through Celtic culture. Stukeley and Petrie, both

Protestants, found historical precedents for their Romantic Christian beliefs in

prehistorical Celtic culture. As early as the writings of Stukeley and Petrie, Celtic

Christianity involved a continuous, rooted tradition, available to all who believed, not just

those who fit any required ethnicity.

In the nineteenth century, these Romantic currents led to an explosion of alternative

religious development across Europe and North America. This "nineteenth century

spiritual hothouse," a term used by Sarah Pike and borrowed from Jon Butler, witnessed









the emergence of Transcendentalism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, and health movements

such as Christian Science (Pike 2004, 42). Each of these traditions, in its own way,

offered alternative approaches to life and spirituality and, through their popularity, helped

generate an environment amenable to the blending of pagan and Christian beliefs.

Another maj or event in the history of modern Celtic Christianity came with the

1900 publication of Alexander Carmichael's Calrmina Gadelica, or "The Songs of the

Gaels." Working as a tax collector, Carmichael traveled Scotland's remote western

Islands. As a native Gaelic speaker, Carmichael became interested in the prayers spoken

by the local inhabitants, and from 1855 to 1899, recorded them (Meek 2000, 60). For

Carmichael, these prayers and incantations represented examples of a continuous

tradition which blended pagan and Christian beliefs. In the introduction to his work,

Carmichael speculated, "some of the hymns may have been composed within the

cloistered cells of Derry and lona, and some of the incantations among the cromlechs of

Stonehenge and the standing-stones of Callarnis" (Carmichael 2001, 30). The people

Carmichael questioned also lived on the fringes of British society, far from the Victorian

culture of London, as he said, "these poems were composed by the learned, but they have

not come down through the learned, but through the unlearned--not through the lettered

few, but through the unlettered many--through the crofters and cottars, the herdsmen and

shepherds, of the Highlands and Islands" (Carmichael 2001, 30). For Carmichael, the

prayers and incantations of the Calrmina Gadelica represented a continuous oral tradition

held by those with little contact with the intellectual fads of the cities. In 1906, Douglas

Hyde conducted a similar proj ect in Ireland with his Religious Songs of Connacht.









The integrity of the oral tradition remains important for modern Celtic Christians,

and for scholars such as Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie, the recorded oral tradition

provides perhaps the best account of true Celtic Christian spiritual belief (Davies and

Bowie 1997, 17). Whether the works of Carmichael and Hyde reveal pre-Christian

beliefs among late nineteenth century Scots and Irish people, they have certainly inspired

later thinkers to develop what is now called Celtic Christianity.

Celtic spirituality received another important advocate in 1893 when the Irish poet

W. B. Yeats coined the term "Celtic Twilight." Yeats examined the folk stories of rural

Ireland in an attempt to construct an Irish Celtic mythology. Yeats himself was involved

in Alastair Crowley's Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a precursor to modern

witchcraft, and other mystical and esoteric organizations such as the Rosicrucians and the

Theosophical Society. Within the "Celtic Twilight" movement, Yeats and others

attempted to elevate the pagan Celtic tradition as itself a mystical system of esoteric

knowledge and situated early Christian saints such as Patrick and Brigid as vessels of that

knowledge (Bradley 1999, 139-140). Though his works on Celtic folklore and

mythology remained influential to Celtic Christians, Yeats was more interested in the

pagan and mystical elements of Celtic history. These more mystical and pagan elements

of the "Celtic Twilight" influenced the development of modern Celtic New Age and

Neopagan traditions.

Donald Meek, a Gaelic-speaking native of the Scottish island of Tiree, argues that

many of the modern problems with Celtic Christianity solidified within the "Celtic

Twilight" movement. Speaking of Celts as a single group and Celtic spirituality as a

single thing, he asserts, misrepresents the diversity of belief and culture around Britain









and Ireland (Meek 2000, 6). Meek also notes that the Celts themselves would not have

considered themselves at the fringes of society--they only appear on the outskirts of the

world from British and Continental perspectives (Meek 2000, 81). Finally, the emphasis

upon the primitive purity of the Celts continues, for Meek, in the British tradition of the

oppression of the other by romanticizing simplicity and effectively removing from

modern Celtic peoples their ability or right to modernize (Meek 2000, 76). Malcolm

Chapman also notes this issue of oppressive colonialist anthropology in his 1978 work

The Gaelic Vision in Scottish Culture, arguing that British anthropologists mapped their

primitivist perceptions onto their analyses of local rural communities. He argues that,

"when European anthropologists began to turn their attention to European societies, they

tended to choose areas that approximated in 'primitive' status to those that their

Africanist colleagues had studied" (Chapman 1978, 181). Not all of the early modern

promoters of Celtic spirituality, however, followed Yeats' Romantic views of Celtic

culture or accepted his emphasis upon mysticism. An early example of Christian Celtic

spirituality came with the Reverend George MacLeod.

George MacLeod, who founded the lona Community in 1938, was an important

figure in the evolution of modern Celtic Christianity. After serving in World War I,

MacLeod followed in his family tradition and became a Presbyterian minister, serving in

Glasgow (Ferguson 1990, 71). In Glasgow, MacLeod began preaching in the Govan

region, an impoverished industrial area greatly affected by the economic depressions of

the 1920's. MacLeod believed that Christianity, with its traditions of works and

community, offered a solution to the problems of the impoverished residents of Govan.

Ron Ferguson, MacLeod' s biographer, said of MacLeod's beliefs, "he believed the









Christian gospel was the answer to the problems of society, and that the main obstacle to

belief was the fact that the Church was not living its message in ways which commended

it to ordinary people" (Ferguson 1990, 142). In the 1930's, MacLeod sought a location for

the development of a Christian community based on works and service. He found the

historically-rich isle oflIona. Columba built the first abbey on lona in 563 which was

abandoned sometime in the twelfth century. In 1203, a group of Benedictines

reestablished the abbey. It became an important spiritual center and the burial place of

local kings. During the Reformation, though, the community of Benedictines was pushed

out and the abbey left to crumble. In the 1800's, based on the Romantic writings of those

such as George Petrie, the ruins became a popular attraction for those seeking inspiration

from the Celtic past (Ferguson 1990, 153-154). In 1899, the Duke of Argyll donated

funds for the refurbishment of the abbey, which was completed in 1910. The basic

structures existed when, in 1937, MacLeod proposed the establishment of a semi-

permanent community in the Abbey (Ferguson 1990, 163). In 1938, the Scottish

Heritage authorities granted permission to MacLeod's scheme and the lona Community

was born.

The lona Community continues today as perhaps one of the most recognizable

Celtic Christian communities, although its headquarters moved to Glasgow. The

community sponsors educational and spiritual workshops across Scotland and offers

regular non-denominational services in the abbey. To become a member of the lona

Community one must undertake a two year training program and live and work on the

island, although the community also includes associate members who attend regular

workshops. Currently, there are nearly 250 members who have completed the program









and nearly 3,000 associate members and friends around the world who support the

community.6 The lona Community also operates the Wild Goose Press in Glasgow,

which publishes many books related to Celtic spirituality and spreads MacLeod's

message of ecumenical Christian service for peace and equality (Bradley 2000, 45-48).

While MacLeod cared mainly about issues of social justice, the lona Community later

moved to include issues of ecological justice among its concerns.

Though lona remains among the most well-known modem Celtic Christian

communities, it is not alone. The smaller Community of Aidan and Hilda, founded by

Anglican ministers in 1994 and based on the isle of Lindisfarne, also supports a small

group of permanent resident members, sponsors spiritual workshops, and engages in

community works. Dara Molloy, a self-identified Celtic priest, also conducts Celtic

Christian services and weddings on the Arran Islands in western Ireland. Molloy was

ordained as a Marist Priest but left in the mid-1980's to start a family and live as a Celtic

monk in the rural Arran Islands. His An Charraig community, in which he and his family

live, operates organic gardens and recruits international volunteers for cultural restoration

projects around western Ireland. Molloy also operates an Intemet magazine called 7lhe

Aisling which publishes articles, poetry and stories related to Celtic spirituality.'

In North America, the Celtic Christian Communion represented several Celt-

inspired Christian congregations, including the Anamchara Celtic Church, the Church of

the Culdees, and the Celtic Christian Church. Though the Celtic Christian Communion

dissolved in 1997 due to theological disagreements, its former member congregations


6 The lona Community. "About the Community." 2003.
Last viewed March 16, 2006.

SSee www.aislingmagazine.com for more information on Molloy and his community.









remain and sponsor missions of evangelism around the world (Meek 2000, 18). For

many North American communities, as the Methodist theologian George C. Hunter III

argues, Celtic Christianity offers useful models for evangelism and aids in the conversion

of the non-Christian masses (Hunter 2000, 53-54).

In the modem context, Celtic Christianity generally refers to a spiritual orientation

based in the historical lives and practices of medieval Christians in Celtic lands. This

includes ecumenism, evangelism and education. Individual Celtic Christians generally

remain active within a particular Christian tradition, such as Anglicanism,

Episcopalianism and Catholicism (except for rare examples like Dara Molloy), but refer

to the inspiration of the Celtic tradition for modem Christian life.

Celtic Christianity emerged out of Romantic religious revivals of recent centuries

involving resurgences of interest in Celtic peoples. This chapter has shown that several

popular claims made by Celtic Christians and others influenced by the general Celtic

revival, as many critics argue, lack historical support. For modern believers, though,

Celtic Christianity is a reconfiguration of a continuous spiritual tradition situated within

regular patterns of Christian belief. As a reinterpretation of Christian belief and practice,

some argue that Celtic Christianity poses no real threat to modem peoples in formerly

Celtic lands. Philip Sheldrake, in his popular works on Celtic Christianity, responds to

historical criticisms and seeks to provide a more historically accurate version of the

tradition, as he argues, "I believe that the Celtic tradition of Christianity deserves to be

retrieved .. however, it also deserves a less romanticized and more balanced treatment"

(Sheldrake 1995, 3). Oliver Davies also attempts to situate the emergence of Celtic

Christianity within normal processes of religious development, arguing that "in many










ways Christianity lives by its ability to rediscover its past. The history of Christianity

shows a constant tendency toward invigorating revival and rediscovery of its roots as

well as to polemics surrounding the varying definitions of tradition. Celtic Christianity

offers just such a renewal" (Davies 1999, 24). Despite its close relationships with pagan

and New Age traditions, or at least those based in Celtic mythology and inspiration,

modern Celtic Christianity represents a fully Christian spiritual orientation, accepting the

divinity of Jesus, the transcendence of God and the reality of the Trinity. Chapter 3 turns

to a deeper analysis of many of the basic theological beliefs and ritual practices of

modern Celtic Christians.















CHAPTER 3
MODERN THEOLOGY AND PRACTICE

As the previous chapter has shown, much less is known about early Christian and

pre-Christian Ireland and Britain than many supporters of Celtic spiritualities presume or

claim. Nonetheless, Celtic Christians base their emerging theologies in historical

contexts, claiming the historical support of saints, scholars and institutions. This chapter

turns to a deeper analysis of the theology of modern Celtic Christians in order to better

understand Celtic Christianity as a spiritual tradition. Beyond the historical story, this

includes arguments for the legitimacy of modern Celtic Christian belief, historical and

contemporary theological statements, and practices related to ecological and social

justice. Analyzing these arguments from the religious studies perspective identified by

Chidester (1988) helps situate Celtic Christianity among other Christian movements.

While Celtic Christianity remains a diverse movement, without any official

doctrinal position, some common features exist through the works of popular writers.

Adherents often value the natural world as God's creation and hold it as essentially good

and as a source of knowledge concerning God. This manifests itself in creation-centered

theologies, such as those of J. Phillip Newell and Sean O Duinn, and in support of

environmental care and sustainability, as with the efforts of members of the lona

Community. Many also emphasize the powers of the saints and members of the Trinity.

Though further surveys regarding the beliefs and practices of self-identifying Celtic

Christians would be helpful, popular writers nonetheless reveal important general aspects









of modern Celtic Christian theology, and so, help construct an image of the beliefs of

modern Celtic Christians.

Issues of Legitimacy and Authority

Many popular Celtic Christian writers employ several strategies for claiming

authority for the modern construction of the Celtic past. These strategies include

establishing historical continuity for certain important Celtic Christian beliefs, including

the care for creation, the power of the saints, and Trinitarianism, and arguing for

indigenous status for the Celts. Many critics challenge the accuracy of popular notions of

historical continuity and point to issues of power and domination in the appropriation and

syncretism noted in modern Celtic Christianity. Examining these differing supportive

and critical arguments, though, shows that most parties seek to legitimate some historical

account and vision of a proper religion over others.

For some, the Celtic tradition remains constant from the introduction of

Christianity in Celtic lands to the present day because of a certain cultural conservatism

among Celtic peoples. Phillip Newell, a prolific writer on Celtic Christian themes,

summarizes this historical perspective as follows: "Celtic spirituality is neither simply a

thing of the past nor a twentieth-century phenomenon. Rather, it is a spirituality that

characterized the young British Church from as early as the fourth century. Although it

was pushed out to the Celtic fringes after Augustine of Canterbury's Roman mission in

597, it has always managed to survive in one form or another, usually on the edges of

formal religion" (Newell 1997, 2-3). According to Timothy Joyce, an American

Benedictine monk, Celtic culture retains its essential features well, despite outside

influences and historical change. He says, "because of that slowness to change, we are

able to reach back into the ancient mind with some ease" (Joyce 1998, 4). Such









statements directly contradict the arguments made by historians that, because of the lack

of written evidence, the "ancient minds," to use Joyce's terminology, of Celtic peoples

remain forever shrouded in the mists of time.

Popular writers sometimes establish this continuity by reference to theological

holdovers from pre-Christian religions, including the care for creation due to a

recognition of the immanence of deities, the importance of the saints and Trinitarianism.

According to writers such as Newell, care for creation, which remains a central

theological tenet of modern Celtic Christianity, derives from pre-Christian nature

worship. As Newell claims, "the Celtic tradition has a strong sense of the wildness of

God" (Newell 1999a, 20). Esther de Waal, another popular writer on Celtic Christian

spirituality, expresses the continuity of care for creation through a discussion of the broad

Celtic family. She says, "Celtic spirituality is corporate spirituality with a deep sense of

connectedness to the earth itself and the natural elements, to the human family, not only

the present immediate family into which each of us is born, but the extended family as it

stretches back in time through the many generations" (de Waal 1997, 38). Philip

Sheldrake situates Celtic Christianity within broader trends of medieval religious

syncretism, arguing, "as any student of medieval 'magic' knows, continuities with a pre-

Christian past were quite common throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. However,

it is fair to say that the Church in Celtic lands took over wholesale so many of the

existing cultural and social structures that it seemed to Christianize traditional religion in

a more systematic way" (Sheldrake 1995, 9). Citing historical precedents, Newell, de

Waal and Sheldrake claim historical continuity between medieval Celtic Christianity and

their own modern beliefs.









Though it is rooted in pre-Christian cultures, many popular writers seek to

distinguish Celtic Christianity from paganism by retaining the importance of God and

emphasizing the peaceful coexistence of Christianity and paganism. In an important

historical claim, Newell says of medieval Christians in Britain and Ireland, "it was typical

of the Celtic Church to see its worship of Christ as building on the truths and symbols of

the mysticism that had preceded Christianity in Britain. Aspects of its ancient mythology

and nature religion were the equivalent of an Old Testament for the Celtic mission.

Christ was the fulfillment of all that was true, whether that was of the priestly and

prophetic traditions of Judaism or of its own Celtic druidical past" (Newell 1999a, 21).

He also says of Christian interactions with pre-Christian beliefs, "the gospel was seen as

fulfilling rather than destroying the old Celtic mythologies" (Newell 1997, 27). For

Newell, Christianity and paganism coexisted peacefully in Celtic lands and even

exchanged certain beliefs and practices. This connection between pre-Christian druids

and Celtic Christians mirrors claims made by early British druid revivalists of the

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As early as 1680, historian John Aubrey connected

the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury with druidic activities, based upon the

literature available at the time and his own imagination. Anglican vicar William Stukeley

continued Aubrey's arguments and claimed that the Celtic druids basically accepted the

tenets of Christianity (Green 1997, 141-143).

Newell and other modern Celtic Christian writers, however, avoid fully equating

Celtic Christianity with paganism. He says of a poem celebrating the moon in the

Calrmina Gadelica, "it was not the light of the moon that was being worshipped but the

Light within the light" (Newell 2000, 100). Oliver Davies similarly argues that









Christianity integrated certain pagan traditions in Britain and Ireland without

compromising important Christian beliefs and teachings. He argues that this willingness

to coexist peacefully with other belief systems distinguishes Celtic Christianity from

Roman Catholicism in general and other modern Protestant traditions. Davies says,

"those aspects of 'Celtic' Christianity that most appeal to us today are precisely the

sources that convey the sense of this integralism, and do so in a distinctively Christian

coding" (Davies 1997, 21-22). In this way, Celtic Christianity becomes a tradition rooted

in pre-Christian culture that nonetheless retains basically Christian beliefs.

Stories of the saints provide a second important connection between modern Celtic

Christians and historical Christians in Celtic lands. The saints, in popular accounts,

remained important to early Christians in Celtic lands largely because they occasionally

took on the attributes and duties of pre-Christian gods and goddesses. Prayers in the

Carmina Gadelica call upon saints such as Patrick, Brigid and Columba for help with

daily chores, revealing a belief in the real agency of saints as supernatural aids (Bradley

1999, 157). For example, Esther de Waal says, "Celtic saints are approachable, close at

hand, woven quite naturally into life just as would be any other member of an extended

family. It is this that sets them apart from the great saints of the Western Church, who

were made saints by formal canonization through the process of a centralized

ecclesiastical machinery" (de Waal 1997, 162). Of course, de Waal neglects to say that

the Celtic saints, too, were formally canonized by the "centralized ecclesiastical

machinery." Like de Waal, Edward Sellner argues that the lives of Celtic saints represent

spiritual tools for awareness and a deepening kinship with the love and suffering of Jesus

(Sellner 1993, 43). In his Wisdom of the Celtic Saints (1993), Sellner provides









summarized accounts of the lives of nineteen saints from across Ireland and Britain. His

work is not meant to be a history of the saints, though, but a spiritual guide to be read

"with an openness to what the stories themselves can teach us about God, holiness, and

our own great mysteries" (Sellner 1993, 42). The Celtic saints, like many aspects of

Celtic Christian spirituality, exist in a nebulous world between historical accuracy and

spiritual inspiration. For writers like Sellner, what "really" happened does not matter so

much as what stories of what happened might tell us of our relationships to the world and

God.

Trinitarianism is a third theological feature claimed by Celtic Christians to connect

to pre-Christian religious beliefs. As earlier mentioned, there is evidence that the number

three held special significance in pre-Christian Celtic religion and society. Some modern

Celtic Christians argue that pre-Christian Celts adopted Church Trinitarianism early

because of these pre-existing affinities for triple deities. For example, Timothy Joyce

states, "to the Celts, who already thought in terms of threes, this must have seemed very

natural. They had already thought of their pagan deities in symbolic and abstract images"

(Joyce 1998, 19). Several popular anthologies of Celtic spiritual writings include the

Lorica Sancti Patritii, or "St. Patrick's Breastplate," a poem allegedly written by St.

Patrick but tracing only to the eighth century. "St. Patrick's Breastplate" is a prayer for

protection, "a deeply Christian protection prayer that yet carries along with it some of the

flavour of pre-Christian invocations that were no less sincerely spoken and sung for the

same purpose of protection" (O'Donoghue 1995, 49-50). Importantly, this eighth century

prayer begins with a strong statement of Trinitarianism: "For my shield this day I call / A

mighty power / The Holy Trinity / Affirming threeness / Confessing oneness / In the










making of all / Through love" (O'Donoghue 1995, 46). Esther de Waal mirrors the

sentiment of the Lorica almost exactly, as she says, "the God whom the Celtic people

know is above all the Godhead who is Trinity, the God whose very essence is that of a

threefold unity of persons, three persons bound in a unity of love" (de Waal 1997, 38).

For de Waal and others, the Trinitarianism of the medieval author of the Lorica remains

an applicable spiritual orientation for Celtic Christians today.

Another related strategy for developing authority for modern Celtic Christian

beliefs is to claim for the Celts indigenous status. For example, Timothy Joyce says of

the Celts, "they are recognized as the 'European Aborigines,' like Native American tribes

already on the land with their own developed culture prior to being conquered, driven

out, or assimilated by more powerful invaders" (Joyce 1998, 1). Alastair McIntosh, a

Scottish activist and scholar, reports similar instances of identification between modern

Scottish activists and Native North Americans. After viewing a television program on

Native Americans, Torcuil MacRath, an elderly friend of McIntosh's, commented, "they

said that their culture is dying. They said it's because the Circle, the Sacred Hoop, has

been broken .. It's the same for us. It's the same for the Gael .. Because when I heard

them on the television, those Indians, I understood instantly what they meant" (quoted in

McIntosh 2001, 51). Interestingly, Sulian Stone Eagle Herney, a Mi'Kmaq activist

brought to Scotland by McIntosh, recognized this indigenous connection as well. While

visiting a community development proj ect in Glasgow, Stone Eagle said, "your situation

is the same as ours," referring to the inner-city poverty and dislocation of the Scottish

people (quoted in McIntosh 2001, 244). The idea of "Celticity" provides a sense of roots









for modern, industrialized individuals who might feel separated from their cultural

heritage.

As indicated by the quote from Joyce above, this argument for indigenousness

often includes the story of the oppression of the Celtic tradition by the powerful forces of

the Roman Church at the Synod of Whitby, and later, by the Protestant British. McIntosh

frequently cites the oppression of the Scottish highlanders by the British ruling elites,

beginning with the 1746 Battle of Culloden Moor, when the British forces defeated the

Scottish, forcing the nobles to cede their land to British lords. This initiated the period of

lairdship which led to the Highland Clearances of the early 19th century, when thousands

of Highland crofters were moved off of their land by the British lords in order to provide

grazing land for sheep (McIntosh et al. 1994, 64-65). The Irish point to the period of

famine in the mid-19th century caused by the spread of potato blight as an example of

British oppression. The British lords who controlled the Irish farms refused to reduce the

potato export during the famine, forcing the Irish to live on the bare remainders. To

rediscover the Celts, then, is to rediscover a people long marginalized by the dominant

British culture, according to some Celtic Christians.

Some scholars, however, reverse this argument of oppression and say that the

popular equation of Celtic culture with Native American and other indigenous cultures

involves the continued cultural exploitation of these traditions from dominant social

groups. Marion Bowman, a scholar of modern British religious movements including

Celtic Christianity, argues that the Celts have become "Britain's Noble Savages," or that

they represent an idealized, environmentally friendly past (Bowman 1993, 154). For

Donald Meek, appropriations of indigenous traditions and inventions of indigenous pasts









come from issues of power and guilt. He says, "the romantic repossession of regions and

cultures which have been abused by imperialism seems to be one of the ways by which

the well-heeled, modern descendants of the conquerors come to terms with their own and

their forefathers' misdeeds" (Meek 2000, 32-33). Celtic Christianity, for Meek,

represents one such instance of the repossession of an oppressed culture by members of a

dominant culture. This resembles Phillip Deloria's arguments regarding the place of

Indians in American identities and power dynamics. The possession and repossession of

native traditions occurs in a kind of reciprocal dynamic of power. Deloria argues, "the

self-defining pairing of American truth with American freedom rests on the ability to

wield power against Indians--social, military, economic, and political--while

simultaneously drawing power from them" (Deloria 1998, 191). This argument might be

applied to Celtic Christianity as well. The Irish, Scottish and Welsh people, who have

been historically marginalized in British society, nonetheless serve a legitimizing

function for their very oppressors.

It should be noted, though, that critics of appropriation such as Meek are not simply

neutral parties in debates over cultural ownership, but subtly claim for themselves certain

rights to speak for a culture as well. For Meek, as noted above, Celtic Christianity

involves the guilt-inspired repossession of and identification with oppressed cultures.

Although he criticizes the Romanticism of the oppressors, Meek' s own position

simplifies Celtic peoples as well. As Bron Taylor notes, "some critics of appropriation

seem to assume, for example, that cultural traditions can or should be immutable and

geographically enclosed. Such assumptions are historically naive and contain logic that

would relegate all religion to the 'dustbin of history', unable to adapt to cultural and









evolutionary developments" (Taylor 1997, 199). While issues of oppression remain

vitally important, it also remains important to analyze the perspectives of those who

would so readily criticize all appropriation. Again, as Taylor notes, a study by Andre

Droogers "shows that opponents of syncretic processes are often resisting threats to their

own hegemony over religious production" (Taylor 1997, 199). In the Celtic context, it is

worth examining to what degree critics such as Meek seek, though their criticisms, to

preserve a specific idea of the past as well.

Beyond the issue of cultural appropriation, connections between ethnicity and

belief remain highly problematic for many scholars as well. Malcolm Chapman notes,

"the Celts, therefore, have a long history of being tied up in a discourse of race, language

and culture--a discourse which has indeed, in an important sense, created them"

(Chapman 1992, 20). Meek warns against the ethnification of the Celts and points to the

work of the nineteenth century philologist Ernest Renan as an example of the possible

problems of creating an ethnic-based religion with Celtic Christianity. Renan painted the

early Celtic Church as a "pure" institution, valuing only Celtic saints and pre-Celtic

pagan beliefs (Meek 2000, 47). When believers speak so freely of "Celtic" spirituality,

they perhaps unwittingly connect belief to ethnicity. One might ask if one must be a Celt

to follow Celtic Christianity.

Modern writers, however, frequently take pains to avoid the identification of Celtic

Christianity with one specific race. Philip Newell says that, since the original insights of

the medieval Celtic Christians came from God, they remain open to all, as he says of his

spirituality, "its starting-point is not an experience that separates one group of people

from another but a gift that we all have been given" (Newell 1999a, xi). Marion Bowman









also notes the emergence of "cardiac Celts," or those who "feel in their hearts that they

are Celtic" (Bowman 1996, 246). In this way, "Celticity" becomes more a state of mind

than an ethnic designation. Alastair McIntosh, who has done much to promote the

inclusion of diverse cultural traditions in Scotland, argues that "'Celticity' therefore takes

on a meaning that can be bigger than ethnographic and linguistic definitions alone: it

becomes a code for reconnection with human community, with the natural world and

with God" (McIntosh 2001, 20). The Celt is a symbol for the Celtic Christian, not an

ethnically idealized ancestor.

Along with revealing historical inaccuracies and the problems of ethnification,

many critics point to issues of consumerism, secularization and individualism as reasons

to doubt the validity of Celtic Christianity. Ian Bradley notes that the term "Celtic" has

become a marketing tool for books, tourism and other items such as Celtic crosses

(Bradley 1999, 218-219). Donald Meek similarly notes that "to be 'Celtic' is to be trendy,

cool, 'other' and even marketable. The word moves easily from the market to the

monastery, and back again, as secularisation takes its toll of even the most hallowed

spiritual icons" (Meek 2000, 9). Celtic Christianity loses its meaning for Meek and

Bradley when it becomes something that any individual may buy or find on the Internet

without any connection to historical communities.

Celtic Christianity is certainly heavily marketed, but so are many other religions

and Christian traditions. Criticizing religious consumerism does not help explain why it

occurs or what it means for those engaged in it. Furthermore, those who market Celtic

culture to tourists (and those who buy it) are not necessarily the same as those who find

deep inspiration in the modern Celtic tradition. Again, Meek and to a lesser degree









Bradley seek an idealized Celtic past, before consumerism desacralized its most holy

features. Issues of consumerism and the related radical individualism go deeper,

culturally, than Meek and Bradley seem to accept. In the American context, for example,

Robert Bellah and his colleagues argue that religious individualism is part of American

culture, as they say, "religious individualism is, in many ways, appropriate in our kind of

society. It is no more going to go away than is secular individualism" (Bellah et al. 1996,

247). Consumerism, or the excessive emphasis placed upon the act of consumption of

goods, seems to be a general feature of modern Western cultures. To point at the

consumerism and individualism in Celtic Christianity and to base a critical argument

around it, as do Meek and Bradley, inaccurately withdraws forms of Celtic spirituality

from the greater consumerist cultural milieu.

In contrast to Meek and Bradley, supporters of Celtic Christianity offer their

tradition as a potential sohttion to the problems of secularization and individualistic

consumer culture. Sean O Duinn, for example, says, "while death beckons menacingly at

the once great [Celtic] civilization, a lingering breath still remains which perhaps could

be the breath of life for the j aded victims of the consumer society" (O Duinn 2002, 21).

John O Riordain similarly says, "as we struggle today to humanize and Christianize our

industrial and consumerist urban society, we might learn from our pagan and Christian

ancestors something of their healing and harmonious relationship with the permanent

underlying realities of earth and sea and sky, and the changing seasons of the year" (O

Riordain 1996, 85). Others, rather than focusing solely upon individual spiritual

attainment, emphasize the community involved in the modern Celtic tradition. Timothy

Joyce says, "Celtic spirituality will not allow us to go it alone. It is never just between









me and God. The community is important for that is where I know who I am" (Joyce

1998, 156). While O Duinn, O Riordain and Joyce might not represent all Celtic

Christians, and while their words might not translate into actual practices, they show that

Celtic Christianity itself contains important tools for believers to counter the harmful

effects of individualist consumer culture. Critiques of Celtic Christianity as

individualistic consumer spirituality, then, neglect important points made by the popular

writers of the tradition.

Celtic Christianity is a complex movement, involving several sometimes competing

and contradictory historical and theological claims. Issues of historical legitimacy and

authenticity, though, provide only part of the Celtic Christian system of belief. Celtic

Christianity also includes now well-developed theologies, based in historical precedents,

but also shaped by and relevant to modern cultural contexts.

Important Themes in Modern Celtic Christian Theology

The popular works of J. Phillip Newell, Sean O Duinn, Esther de Waal, Timothy

Joyce, Philip Sheldrake and others provide important information about general

theological beliefs of many modern Celtic Christians. These writers, particularly Newell,

often draw upon the works of Pelagius and Eriugena to define Celtic Christian theology

against what they view as the harmful doctrines of Augustine. Though they align

themselves with persons considered heterodox by the Roman Catholic Church, these

popular writers and theologians still claim for Celtic Christianity a basic level of

orthodoxy. Popular writers often use the emphasis upon creation and the goodness of

God, Trinitarianism and the importance of saints to help distinguish their Christian

spirituality from other New Age and Neopagan spiritualities which also draw from the

Celtic context.









J. Phillip Newell, a Church of Scotland minister from Canada, former Warden of

lona Abbey and current scholar in residence at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, is

perhaps one of the most prolific writers on Celtic Christian theology. In his several

volumes he outlines some of the most important general characteristics of modern Celtic

Christianity. Though his work provides a basis for this section, it is not definitive of all

Celtic Christian theology. Other writers are introduced to emphasize agreements on

certain points and to reveal important differences in popular Celtic Christian thought.

In his work, Newell emphasizes God's revelations in the natural world in a form of

the "two book" metaphor. The "two book" metaphor involves recognition of the Book of

Nature or "the Christian concept of nature as a book, written by the hand of God and

serving as a companion volume to the book of Scripture" (Gould 2005, 210). Utilizing

this idea of the Book of Nature in a meditation and prayer guide entitled Promptings fr~om

Paradise (1998) Newell says, "hearing the Word in the church and hearing the Word in

the world are not opposed to each other" (Newell 1998, 13). Philip Sheldrake agrees

with Newell's Book of Nature approach and states that, for medieval Celtic Christians,

"nature was a kind of second sacred book, parallel to the scriptures, that revealed the

divine" (Sheldrake 1995, 73). This Book of Nature teaches beyond the reach of Christian

literature, as Newell says, "the mystery of God was being communicated in the world,

through creation and in the lives of men and women, long before religion came into

being. In fact it was the hearing of God in the world that gave rise to religion. In the

Christian tradition we may claim a two-thousand-year tradition of hearing God in the

church's mysteries of word and sacrament. It needs always, however, to be set in the

context of the fifteen-billion-year tradition of God speaking in creation" (Newell 1998,










14). In this quote, Newell reveals a certain universalism and acceptance of geological

science in his creation-centered theology.

Newell argues that this focus upon creation, or the Book of Nature, is and has

always been a critical feature of Celtic Christianity. He emphasizes this point in several

of his writings. He says, "where do we look, therefore, to learn of God? It is not away

from ourselves and away from creation, but deep within all that has life. That is where

the truth of God is hidden, like treasure, buried in a field" (Newell 1999a, xvi). He also

states, in a meditation upon the seven days of creation, "at the heart of all that has life is

the light of God. This is a fundamental belief of the Celtic tradition" (Newell 1999a, 3).

Elsewhere Newell says, "the feature of Celtic spirituality that is probably most widely

recognized, both within and outside the Church, is its creation emphasis" (Newell 1997,

3). God's truth inhabits creation and remains knowable and accessible to those with

sufficient sensitivities.

Sean O Duinn, a Benedictine monk from Limerick, also asserts that there is a

special attention placed on creation within the Celtic tradition. O Duinn also makes clear,

however, that the medieval Celtic Christians also accepted the transcendence of God,

remaining theologically orthodox, as he says, "there was no difference in belief in this

matter between the Celts and other Christians; both parties held that God was both

transcendent and immanent, as is necessary for orthodoxy, but the Celts tended to place

particular emphasis on the immanence of God" (O Duinn 2002, 8). The Lutheran

theologian Paul Santmire also argues for the orthodoxy of early Celtic Christians,

asserting that the reverence for nature seen among the Celtic saints derives from a deep

love of God and the future of salvation. He says, "their oft-noted ecological sensitivities









and their celebrated affirmations of nature were, for them, profoundly rooted in their

universalizing eschatological and christological convictions" (Santmire 2002, 308).

Scholars such as O Duinn and Santmire, while supporting certain aspects of modern

Celtic Christianity, attempt at the same time to establish the tradition as essentially

Christian and avoid any movement toward the denial of a transcendent God or of the

divinity of Jesus.

Because God is present within the world, creation is inherently of God and

therefore good for modern Celtic Christians. In One Foot in Eden (1999b), a book of

meditations upon the stages of human life, Newell says, "the basis for this book is the

Celtic belief that grace is not opposed to what is natural. Rather grace is given by God to

liberate the goodness that has been planted at the heart of life. Grace is opposed to what

is false in us but not to what is most deeply natural" (Newell 1999b, 5). Nature and

God's grace are intertwined for Newell, who asserts that "an important feature of Celtic

spirituality, that appears again and again in a variety of ways over the centuries, is the

refusal to divorce the gift of nature from the gift of grace. Both are seen as of God"

(Newell 1999a, 13). God remains accessible and wants to be known. In her work, Esther

de Waal explains this experience of "God here and now, with me, close at hand, a God

present in life and in work, immediate and accessible" (de Waal 1997, 69). Like the rest

of nature, Newell says, "we are created out of the essence of God, not out of nothing"

(Newell 1999a, 83). He adds, "it is God's Life that sustains all life, and it is God's Soul

that indwells every living soul" (Newell 1999b, 13). Creation, then, is a basically good

place where humans may find Divine love and salvation.









For Newell and de Waal, God is radically immanent and accessible within the

created world, but also transcendent and necessary for salvation. Newell explains the

problem of evil as follows: "the divine likeness within us may be hidden or forgotten. It

may be held in terrible bondage by wrongdoing but the image of God remains at the heart

of who we are, even though we may live at what seems an infinite distance from it. We

have distorted the image but not erased it" (Newell 1999a, 85). Again, the solution to the

problem of evil lies in God's immanence. For Newell, "Eden is not a place from which

we are distant in space and time. Rather, it is a dimension within ourselves from which

we have become separated" (Newell 2000, 61). We need the grace of God present within

the world, though, to realize this essential goodness. While accepting many of the

doctrines of Pelagius, Newell avoids what orthodox Christians consider to be the heresy

of Pelagianism, by retaining the necessity of God's grace.

Newell and other Celtic Christian writers, such as Timothy Joyce, often oppose this

creation-centered theology to the original sin doctrine of St. Augustine. The problems

with Augustine began, according to Newell and Joyce, when the Bishop of Hippo

actively challenged the creation-centered theology of Pelagius. St. Augustine's dislike for

Pelagius, in Newell's understanding, emerged from Augustine's own personal power

designs. Newell claims of Pelagius' excommunication that "the forces which moved

against him that year were primarily political in nature" (Newell 1997, 20). Joyce also

believes that St. Augustine's work shrouded the essential features of Pelagian theology, as

he says, "I believe Pelagius has something to say to us today if we can cut through the

extremes to which the Augustinian criticisms may have pushed him" (Joyce 1998, 59).

Newell and Joyce note that Pelagianism also differed dramatically from Augustine's









theology, though. For example, Newell argues that Augustine differed with Pelagius's

"practice of teaching women to read Scripture and his conviction that in the newborn

child the image of God can be seen" (Newell 1997, 13). This summary, of course, paints

Augustine in a quite negative and perhaps inaccurate light.

This demonization of St. Augustine is pervasive through the works of many Celtic

Christian writers, as Ian Bradley says, "Augustine of Hippo became the bogeyman for a

new breed of pro-Celtic theologians who blamed him for giving Western Christianity its

obsession with sin and guilt" (Bradley 1999, 202). Other scholars challenge such quick

rejections of Augustinian thought, though. For example, in his extensive survey Traces

on the Rhodian .1/un e 1 (1967), Clarence Glacken summarizes St. Augustine's ideas as

follows: "the earth and earthly things are to be spurned when we compare them with the

greater glories of the City of God, but neither are life on earth and the beauties of nature

to be despised because they are on a lower order in the scale of being or because they

represent an order inferior to the Divine Order. The earth, life on earth, the beauties of

nature, are also creations of God" (Glacken 1967, 196). Paul Santmire finds an emerging

ecological consciousness in the works of Augustine, saying, "his mature theology

represents a flowering of the ecological promise of Christian theology, which later was to

be practically expressed in the life of St. Francis:" (Santmire 1994, 22). Glacken warns

against simplistic readings of early Church writers and imposing modem concerns upon

past thinkers, saying, "through selection of materials, the thought of some Church Fathers

can be presented so that they appear more ascetic and less tolerant, having less love of

life, nature, and learning, so that their thought becomes 'incompatible with any high

valuation of nature.' Many expressed both viewpoints; one cannot assume consistency or









that contradictions or differences in emphasis will be reconciled" (Glacken 1967, 202).

To some degree, Newell and others apply this unfriendly and perhaps simplistic reading

to the works of St. Augustine.

Newell's creation-centered theology and critiques of original sin, however, are not

unique to Celtic Christianity; other theologians mirror Newell's emphasis upon creation

and ecological consciousness. Mark Wallace's recent work promoting "Christian

Paganism" provides one example (Wallace 2005, 13). According to Wallace, Christian

Paganism is a "transcendental animist" tradition that understands God as both

transcendent and "radically immanent" (Wallace 2005, 43). Wallace calls for recognition

of the Holy Spirit as the "green face of God," or the member of the Trinity most relevant

to spiritual orientations toward the world (Wallace 2005, 7), and concludes, "one of the

most compelling religious responses to the threat of ecocide lies in a recovery of the Holy

Spirit as God's power of life-giving breath who indwells and sustains all life-forms"

(Wallace 2005, 38).

Wallace's Christian Paganism resembles in some ways the immanent creationism

of Newell. An important image of the Spirit for Wallace is the "mother bird god," an

image found in Hebrew sources and related to Pagan and Native American conceptions

of divinity (Wallace 2005, 40). Recognizing the Spirit in the world helps to create a

Christian deep ecology which "envisions all things as bearers of God's presence through

the agency of the Spirit" (Wallace 2005, 97). Like Celtic Christians such as Newell,

Wallace seeks to produce a scripturally justifiable and ecologically friendly Christianity.

Matthew Fox's Creation Spirituality provides another related example of an

environmentally friendly Christian theology. Like Newell, Fox calls for a creation-based










spirituality, or "a spirituality that begins with original blessing instead of original sin"

(Fox 1994a, 210). For both Fox and Newell, creation is basically good, covered only by

the acts of sin, largely because God still inhabits the creation. Fox embraces the

panentheism of several mystics, as he says, "it teaches us that everything is in God and

God is in everything. That is the proper way to name our relationship with the divine"

(Fox 1994a, 212). Fox calls this animating force the Cosmic Christ. Like Celtic

Christianity, Creation Spirituality involves engagement for change within the world. For

Fox, true Christian environmental and social activism entails an abandonment of duty-

based and anthropocentric stewardship ethics and an acceptance of mysticism. He states

that "stewardship still denotes a dualistic relationship between humans and creation .. it

is still one species taking upon itself the right to manage another" (Fox 1994b, 64). Such

statements against anthropocentrism place Fox on the more radical end of the Christian

environmentalist spectrum.

Newell and Fox share a belief in the essential goodness of creation. Fox argues

that, because creation is essentially good, evil and any unsavory aspects of creation (like

predation) remain crucial parts of God's plan and should be embraced. He says, "the fact

is, my friends, all creatures are imperfect--let us celebrate that. Divinity purposefully

matched our imperfections with one another, so we need one another and that way we

build relationships with one another" (Fox 1994a, 213). The ecological and social crises,

though certainly bad and in need of response, represent positive occasions for true

spiritual growth and even mystical union with the suffering God, Fox believes. He

claims that "today our whole species is involved in the dark night of the soul, but that is

not necessarily a bad thing; it can be the beginning of radical conversion, the beginning










of life" (Fox 1994a, 213). Such optimism is also an important part of Newell's Celtic

theology.

While not a Celtic Christian, Fox's theology resembles that of Newell, primarily

regarding his creationism and call for engagement with evil forces in the world, and he

accepts important points of the Celtic Christian historical story. For example, Fox says,

"the creation-centered Celtic people in the seventh century had their nature-mysticism

smothered at the Council of Whitby" (Fox 1994a, 210). As with Celtic Christianity,

though, several theologians rej ect and criticize Creation Spirituality as theologically

wrong or unorthodox, and question its value with regard to real-world applicability.l

Patout Burns argues, for example, that Fox reduces God from transcendent to the

cosmos itself, as he says, "by neglecting both the divine transcendence and the

distinctiveness of the human, his theory tends to reduce both the divine and the human to

the cosmos" (Burns 1994, 82). Paul Santmire, a Lutheran theologian and one of Fox's

more vocal critics, claims that Fox's Creation Spirituality neglects important realities of

suffering and inequalities in the world. He says, "his approach resonates all too

disquietingly with the anti-urban, romantic individualism of the Thoreauvian tradition.

When all is said and done Fox leaves us in the sweat lodge. His thought is not

fundamentally at home in urban America" (Santmire 2000, 21). Santmire believes that

Fox avoids the realities of evil and, by vilifying the theology of St. Augustine, removes a

crucial doctrine for truly understanding evil in the world, namely, original sin. He argues

that, for struggling people, the doctrine of original sin provides some explanation for their


SFox's theology has also alienated him from the Catholic Church. A former Dominican priest, Fox left his
order and became an Episcopal priest after pressure from the Vatican regarding his pantheism, denial of
original sin, and certain other teachings and activities at his University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland,
California. See Kresge 2005 and Introvigne 1998.










suffering as well as a way out. For Santmire, mystical approaches to suffering such as

Fox's do not feed starving children or help the sick, rather, this "tends to become an

occasion for mystical participation in the dark side of the cosmos, rather than an occasion

to struggle with alien powers that wreak havoc in this world, come what may" (Santmire

2000, 22). Humans can bring about true social and ecological change, for Santmire,

when they have a real evil presence to remove. Ultimately, according to Santmire and

Burns, Creation Spirituality fails to provide practical solutions to the real ecological and

social crises of the world. This critique might apply just as well to Newell, who also

avoids the doctrine of original sin. Arguments concerning whether or not a belief system

actually works to solve practical problems, however, require more than just theoretical

evidence.

Interestingly, although he criticizes the Creation Spirituality of Matthew Fox, Paul

Santmire looks toward the Celtic tradition as a possible source of environmentally-

friendly Christian attitudes and practices. For Santmire, the Celtic saints provide

examples of Christian spirituality fully in tune with the ecological realities of death and

suffering. They are "well-equipped to be our spiritual mentors in this our ecological era

preeminently because they can lead us through the valley of the shadow of death"

(Santmire 2002, 302). The Celtic monks and saints of the early medieval period did not

view nature romantically, "on the contrary, death was their daily bread--and still they

embraced nature as the gracious gift of God, their creator and redeemer" (Santmire 2000,

96). These Celtic Christians2 lived in communion with God, the angels, the saints, and



2 Santmire uses the term "Celtic Christian" to refer to persons living "in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, from
about the fifth to the tenth centuries C. E." (Santmire 2000, 96). While he records his own inspiration from
these historic Celtic Christians, Santmire does not explicitly address modern Celtic Christian communities.










the spirits of deceased monks (Santmire 2000, 108). Rather than providing examples of

romantic and idealistic perceptions of nature, the Celtic saints and monks, for Santmire,

provide examples of a religious consciousness fully in tune with the ecological realities

of death and predation. The differences between Newell, Fox and Santmire, therefore,

reveal the power of Celtic themes and images in the creation of environmentally-friendly

Christianity. The Celtic saints are many things to many people, and theological attempts

to "green" Christianity referring to their examples deserve further study.

According to Santmire, the reverence for nature seen among the Celtic saints

derives from a deep love of God and the future of salvation. Because they recognized the

realities of evil and death, the Celtic saints provide meaningful examples for a truly

Christian ecology. The debates between Santmire, Fox and Newell, however, focus

especially on the possibility that theology might inspire activism. They each seek a

theology that works to solve recognized social and ecological problems. It is important

now to note some ways in which contemporary Celtic Christians address this issue of

real-world function.

Modern Communities and Environmental Concern

The concern for creation often becomes a call for ecological and social justice

among modern Celtic Christian writers and organizations. In this section I examine some

of the resources drawn upon by believers to support these calls for justice, recognizing

that much more empirical data is necessary to draw more definitive conclusions. Some

modern communities, such as the lona Community and An Charraig, list environmental

and social issues among their most significant concerns, but they do not necessarily

represent the beliefs and practices of all Celtic Christian groups and individuals.









For believers, Celtic Christianity remains not Romantic but distinctly concerned

with creating a better world. Phillip Newell claims that "those who consider that the

Celtic tradition is merely a romanticized nature-mysticism need to hear the hard-hitting

words of the Celtic teachers again and again over the centuries. To claim that both nature

and grace are gifts of God given for all is to offer a spirituality that engages deeply with

the life of the world and that calls emphatically for a just distribution of the earth's

resources" (Newell 1999a, 45). Timothy Joyce supports this statement, arguing that "to

follow the spiritual worldview of the Celtic Christians is to embrace a way of life that is a

real commitment to the belief that the Trinitarian God is alive in this world, that Christ

remains incarnate in his church, that each Christian is called to active discipleship in

building the kingdom of God" (Joyce 1998, 153-154). While these statements do not

explicitly support action for environmental justice, they reveal attempts by popular

writers to counter critiques that Celtic Christianity is only disconnected mysticism with

no real world applicability. Matthew Fox more explicitly calls for direct action and the

acceptance of "ecological virtues," saying, "political organizing to defend creation,

including civil disobedience when necessary, is ecological virtue" (Fox 1994a, 215-215).

According to Newell, Joyce and Fox, a spiritual emphasis upon creation necessarily

involves a divine call to protect that creation from damaging forces.

The Celtic tradition, according to its supporters, offers a more environmental and

socially friendly worldview than more dominant Christian traditions. Reflecting his

sense of the repression of the Celtic tradition, Newell asks, "would not the Church and

the world have been better prepared to meet the challenges of the modern world--

including the ecological crises--if they had learned from Celtic spirituality instead of










rejecting it?" (Newell 1997, 106-107). Though only a suggestion, this comment includes

a very strong claim. What makes Celtic Christianity unique, for Newell, is its ability to

justly provide solutions to modern social and ecological problems, with the assumption

being that other forms of mainstream Christianity have not done so. Celtic Christianity,

in Newell's understanding, provides a necessary Christian alternative to other dominant,

oppressive and harmful Christian teachings. Importantly, Newell and others retain

important Christian teachings, arguing that their spiritual tradition remains orthodox with

other mainstream traditions, though they challenge more traditional and dominant

Christian forms for their alleged inabilities and failures to address ecological and social

problems. Celtic Christianity, for Newell, is a spiritual tradition better adapted to face

modern challenges from within the Christian context than those traditions more

influenced by what he considers to be the world-denying Augustinian example.

Examples of community and individual actions make Newell's claims plausible, but

much more research is needed in order to evaluate them definitively.

Many of the modern Celtic Christian groups discussed in Chapter One, such as the

lona Community, emphasize actions for peace and justice. On the official lona web

page, members declare that the community is "committed to rebuilding the common life,

through working for social and political change, striving for the renewal of the church

with an ecumenical emphasis, and exploring new more inclusive approaches to worship,

all based on an integrated understanding of spirituality."3 Important issues for the

Community include "opposing nuclear weapons, campaigning against the arms trade and

for ecological justice .. political and cultural action to combat racism .. [and] action


SThe lona Community. "About the Community." http://www.iona.org.uk/community/main.htm 2003.
Last viewed March 16, 2006.










for economic justice, locally, nationally and globally."4 COmmunity members sometimes

engage in direct actions in response to these issues.

Members of the lona Community attended demonstrations surrounding the 2005

G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. On July 2, 2005, the Make Poverty History

organization, founded and supported by numerous public figures including Bob Geldoff,

Bono and Pat Robertson, led a march around Edinburgh's city center and sponsored a

large benefit concert, called Live 8, in London.s The movement to Make Poverty History

found support among several Christian groups, including a small band of sign-carrying

members of the lona Community.6

On July 4, 2005, approximately 700 people gathered to protest Britain's nuclear

weapons program at Her Maj esty's Naval Base on the Clyde, near Faslane, Scotland.

Unlike the Make Poverty History march, this event included the real threat of arrests and

potential violence from both "anarchistic agitators" and police (Storrar and Stansfield

2005, 6-7).7 Included among those present were members and associates of the lona

Community, holding a green sign with a white dove and the words "The lona

Community" and wearing shirts which read "Adomnan of lona Ploughshares Affinity

Group." The shirts revealed important information about the group's Celtic Christian

identity and relationships with other activist groups. Adomnan was an abbot of lona and

hagiographer of Columba who lived in the latter half of the seventh century. Adomnan

4 "About the Community." http://www.iona.org.uk/community/main.htm 2003. Last viewed March 16,
2006.

5 See www.makepovertyhistory.org.

6 Details on events surrounding the G8 Summit come largely from the author's field notes, recorded from
July 1 to July 9, 2005.

SSee www.faslane.co.nr for more about the local peace camp.










also generated a "law of the innocents" doctrine for the kings of Britain which defined

the proper treatment of noncombatants it war. For members of the modern lona

Community, Adomnan represents the Celtic Christian tradition of non-violence.

The other half of the t-shirt slogan, "Ploughshares Affinity Group," refers to the

Ploughshares organization. Ploughshares is an international network of Christian anti-

war and anti-nuclear activists. In Britain, Trident Ploughshares organizes many protests

against England' s Trident Missile Program housed at the Faslane naval base. The

Ploughshares network was inspired by the 1980 work of the "Ploughshares Eight," a

group including Jesuit priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan, two famous Catholic anti-war

activists who have devoted much of their adult lives to civil disobedience. Daniel

Berrigan, for example, stole and publicly burned government draft files in protest of

American activities during the Vietnam War. The Berrigans and others also served time

in prison after damaging materials related to nuclear warheads at a Pennsylvania

munitions factory.9 By identifying their affinities with the Plowshares network, these

individuals revealed some of the links between Celtic Christians and other Christian

activist groups. In the afternoon, several of those present, including many of the lona

group and others from a Quaker group, sang hymns and a priest offered a sermon on

Jesus' teachings against violence in front of the main gate of the base. 10 Celtic Christians,

or at least those associated with the lona Community, join other Christian groups such as

the Quakers and organizations such as Plowshares in their commitment to nonviolence

"Wikipedia. "Daniel Berrigan." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DanielBerrign March 19, 2006. Last
viewed March 24, 2006.

9 See http://www.plowsharesactions.org/ and b1lip un \\ \ tridentploughshares.org/index.php3 for more
about the Ploughshares network.

'OAuthor's field notes, July 4, 2005.










and activism in support of ecological and social justice."1 Of course, this does not mean

that all self-identifying Celtic Christians engage in similar forms of activism. Some

communities, such as the Celtic Christian Communion and the Community of Aidan and

Hilda, may approach environmental and social issues primarily by providing education

and community outreach programs, while others, such as the members of the "Adomnan

of lona Ploughshares Affinity Group," may engage in direct action and civil

disobedience. More research and fieldwork would be necessary to fully identify the

levels of commitment to activism among Celtic Christian individuals and communities.

Some critics, though, question the actual environmental attitudes of medieval Celtic

Christians upon which modem groups sometimes base their inspiration. Ian Bradley

argues that "it is pretty meaningless to label people living in the eight or ninth century as

environmentalists. They lived at a time when there was no perceived, nor probably any

significant actual threat to the environment from humans" (Bradley 1998, 59). Excluding

Welsh praise poetry dating from as early as the ninth century, Bradley argues that

monastic writings reveal no real environmentally friendly attitudes. Thomas O'Loughlin

likewise cautions against applying modem concerns to medieval peoples, saying, "when

any early medieval text feels warm and cosy to our religious sensibilities, then we should

watch out" (O'Loughlin 2000, 31). Bradley also argues that any avoidance of

exploitation of natural resources among the Celtic monks derived more from their simple

monastic lifestyles than from any 'green' theological perspective. As he put it, "their


11 In my own research I have encountered a few interesting connections between Quakers and Celtic
Christians. During research with the Gainesville Friends Meeting, several of my interviewees expressed
interest in Celtic themes of Christian spirituality, though none identified themselves as Celtic Christians.
Alastair McIntosh also combines the two traditions well. A Quaker activist and scholar from the Isle of
Lewis in western Scotland, McIntosh blends the Quaker call for justice and peace with inspiration from his
own Celtic culture. See McIntosh 2001.









extreme austerity and asceticism almost certainly did more to preserve the natural

environment around the monastic vallum" than any of their ideas about the sanctity of

creation (Bradley 1998, 67). Philip Sheldrake, a supporter of the modem Celtic Christian

resurgence, also warns against misapplying environmentally friendly ideas and behaviors

to medieval monks. He argues, "neither the Irish Celtic hermits of the eighth century nor

the nineteenth-century Hebridean islanders of Carmichael's collections were concerned

about nature in our modern sense. In contrast the Celts, whom we tend to romanticize,

simply livedsl ithr nature because they existed in constant contact with it and could not

afford to be disrespectful to it" (Sheldrake 1995, 71). The important point, though,

remains that the works and teachings of medieval Celtic Christians, idealized though they

may be in the present, inspire modern activity.

In their critiques of modem Celtic Christianity, scholars such a Bradley,

O'Loughlin, and Meek point to historical inaccuracies and issues of improper cultural

appropriations. Chapter 2 examined the historical development of Celtic Christianity and

several of the related historical claims on both sides. This chapter examined several of

the important theological claims and practices of modern Celtic Christians and critical

responses to them. Religious studies scholars need not become partisans in theological

disputes, but they can examine the contested nature and impacts of such disputes.

Moreover, they can draw on theories related to new religious movements, paganism and

nature religion, to understand Celtic Christianity as an example of the general process of

new religious formation. Because Celtic Christianity, or at least as represented by its

chief writers, brings to the center of its theology and practice issues of social and






67


ecological justice, its emergence and growth may reveal important trends for the future of

religious change.















CHAPTER 4
CELTIC CHRISTIANITY AND NEW RELIGIONS: A RELIGIOUS STUDIES
ANALYSIS

Many of the historical claims made by popular writers on Celtic Christianity find

little archaeological, literary or linguistic support. As Chapter 3 revealed, however,

Celtic Christianity remains a functional spiritual orientation for many adherents. Rather

than simply accepting the claims of the critics or the believers, religious studies scholars

have begun to take a different approach to such revised religions, analyzing them as new

or emergent religions, and not criticizing them for inventing their traditions or distorting

those from which they draw inspiration. This chapter employs David Chidester' s (1988)

model of religious studies along with theories of new religious movements and nature

religion to gain a better understanding of Celtic Christianity from a religious studies

perspective. While Celtic Christianity may not without complication be considered a new

religious movement, theories regarding the social functions of new and alternative

religions nonetheless help to situate Celtic Christianity as a new and emerging tradition

worthy of further study. As a new religious tradition that values nature, Celtic

Christianity shares certain historical and ideological features with nature-based pagan and

New Age religions as well. This relationship can be illuminated through the lens of

Catherine Albanese's "nature religion." Utilizing this religious studies model allows for

a fuller picture of Celtic Christianity, without normative evaluations, and helps place it

within more general trends of religious production and countercultural bricolage (Levi-

Strauss 1967, 18; Taylor 2001a, 178).










Celtic Christianity and New Religious Movements

Scholarship on new religious movements shows that all religions exist in states of

reformation and revision. Celtic Christianity, then, may be seen as a new religious

revision of more traditional Christian beliefs and practices based in specific contexts and

needs. New religious movement theorists, primarily Colin Campbell, show how new

religions emerge from countercultural social trends and then define themselves as

alternatives to dominant social norms. This section examines these arguments more

closely.

Definitions of the term "new religious movement" often remain ambiguous and

tend to identify types instead of providing any common features. The term itself comes

from the study of cults. Scholars of cultic behavior sought more neutral terminology

after it became evident that the term "cult," in popular usage, carried the negative

connotation of violent, brain-washing groups such as the Manson Family and Jim Jones'

People's Temple. Many scholars now argue for the abandonment of the term "cult"

altogether, as James Richardson says, "to make any use of the term 'cult' offers solace to

those promoting the new, negatively-loaded definition of the term, and such use should

be stopped" (Richards 1998, 37). One still finds the term "cult" used in older new

religious movement literature, however.

Perhaps one of the more influential typologies of religious groups comes from J.

Gordon Melton. In his Encyclopedia ofAmerican Religions (2003), Melton divides

historical and contemporary American religious groups into twenty-four categories or

"families", most involving some form of Christianity. A central and innovative aspect of

Melton's typology, though, is the acceptance of non-mainstream traditions. Along with

the Baptist Family and the Lutheran Family, Melton acknowledges the Pentecostal









Family, the Christian Science-Metaphysical Family and the Mormon Family. Celtic

Christianity, though, occupies no single place in Melton's typology, but several places.

Different aspects of it could place it within the Liberal Family (which includes Unitarians

and Universalists), the Spiritualist, Psychic and New Age Family (including

Spiritualism), the Ancient Wisdom Family (including Theosophy), and the Magick

Family (including forms of paganism). As Chapter 2 revealed, elements of modern

Celtic Christianity derive historically from each of these families. Melton himself places

some modern Celtic Christian churches within the Ancient Wisdom Family, perhaps

because of their claims regarding the continued tradition from pre-Christian times

(Melton 2003, 163). Clearly, this typology does not efficiently place Celtic Christianity.

Melton accounts for such groups with the Unclassifiable Family, into which fall

syncretistic and other groups. Though his typology represents a positive scholarly move

toward the acceptance of new and alternative traditions as genuine religions worth

scholarly study in their own right, and while it helps to some degree to situate Celtic

Christianity within the American context, Melton's Families do not describe well the

general Celtic Christianity movement (Melton 2003; Saliba 2003, 24-32).

Along with listing types of new religions, many definitions refer to the social

situation of new religions. For example, after listing several examples of new religions,

Catherine Wessinger explains their function, saying, "new religions provide social spaces

for experimentation in alternative theologies, gender roles, sexual relations, leaderships

structures, and group organizations" (Wessinger 2005, 6514). J. Gordon Melton likewise

prefers to emphasize social relationships in defining new religious movements. He says,

"new religions are thus primarily defined not by any characteristics) that they share, but










by the tension in their relationships with the other forms of religious life represented by

the dominant churches, the ethnic religions, and the sects. They are all those groups

designated in some measure as unacceptable by the dominant churches, with some level

of concurrence by the ethnic churches and sectarian groups" (Melton 2004, 81). For

Melton, new religions must exist in some tension with more traditional ways of life and

belief. A maj or claim of modern Celtic Christians is that their tradition has been

marginalized by mainstream Roman Catholicism and world-denying Protestant groups.

So, according to the popular insider understanding of Celtic Christianity, the movement

occupies Melton's countercultural space. This new religious counterculture may be

better understood through Colin Campbell's work on the "cultic milieu."

Studying cults in the 1960's and 70's, sociologist Colin Campbell formulated his

theory of the cultic milieu. Working with Ernst Troeltsch's typology of religious

organizations, Campbell noticed that many cult groups emerged and disintegrated

frequently. While individual groups often failed, Campbell believed that a certain

supportive milieu, keeping the production alive, must have existed. He said, "there is a

continual process of cult formation and collapse which parallels the high turnover of

membership at the individual level. Clearly, therefore, cults must exist within a milieu

which, if not conducive to the maintenance of individual cults, is clearly highly

conducive to the spawning of cults in general" (Campbell 2002, 14). This cultic milieu

remained a countercultural feature of society, as he argued, "thus, whereas cults are by

definition a largely transitory phenomenon, the cultic milieu is, by contrast, a constant


SCampbell meant by "cult" basically what scholars mean by new religious movement today, operating
from what Richardson (1998) calls the "sociological-technical" definition instead of the "popular-
negative." In other words, "cult" held no negative connotation for Campbell but neutrally and effectively
described observable social orientations.









feature of society" (Campbell 2002, 14). The cultic milieu exists as a continuous

alternative ferment for heterodox beliefs and practices. While Campbell's cultic milieu

fails to adequately account for tensions within and among countercultural groups (Taylor

2001, 178) it does explain the general, amorphous body of countercultural beliefs and

practices which dialogically shapes much new religious production. Celtic Christianity,

which draws from pagan, New Age, alternative Christian, and environmental activist

cultures, fits within and continues to draw from this cultic milieu.

The emergence of the cultic milieu, for Campbell, is directly related to the

increasing secularization of society. He argues, "the decline in the power and influence

of the Christian churches has inevitably weakened their role as custodians of 'truth' and

reduced the extent to which they can draw upon society for forays against indigenous

'pagans' and 'heretics'" (Campbell 2002, 20). The decline in power of traditional religious

institutions as well as increasing pluralism and syncretism add to the general acceptance

of the cultic milieu, as Campbell says, "the relativism and tolerance of cultural pluralism

which, it is claimed, are concomitants of secularization have greatly assisted the

increased acceptability of these 'heretical' beliefs" (Campbell 2002, 21). The cultic milieu

existed in eras of more extreme centralized Church authority, in Western cultures, but it

only emerged into the mainstream when the Church lost its authority through the

secularizing tendencies of industrialization and modernity. Campbell's argument is

somewhat affirmed by noting that the rationalistic Enlightenment of the seventeenth and

eighteenth centuries and the scientific industrial modernization of the nineteenth and

twentieth centuries correspond with the development of many alternative religions.










Campbell used witchcraft in Britain as an example of the general emergence of the

cultic milieu during a period of secularization. According to Campbell, decreasing

church power and increasing tolerance made possible the emergence of new witchcraft

traditions such as Wicca, even in a place where, only a few hundred years earlier, witches

accused of heresy were often executed. Importantly for Campbell, along with decreasing

church power and increasing tolerance, secularization includes the acceptance of

scientific rationalism. This does not, however, produce secularism. For Campbell, the

incompatibility of science and religion exists primarily in philosophical and theoretical

understandings of the terms, as he says, "although such an incompatibility can be

demonstrated at a philosophical level, it is by no means clear that the scientific and

religious outlooks are behaviorally incongruous" (Campbell 2002, 21). Rather than

replacing churches as a dogmatic force of conformity, Campbell argues that increasing

scientific rationalism cannot suppress the cultic milieu, "for it is to be doubted whether

science as a body can compare with the churches in either their desire or their ability to

repress heterodox views in the society at large" (Campbell 2002, 22). Importantly,

Campbell wrote this long before the explosion in access to the Internet, which added

further support to his argument and seemed to defy many cultural regulations from

churches, scientists, or others.

Like Melton, Campbell defines the cult (or new religious movement) against the

social and religious norms of the dominant society. If new religious movements must

always remain countercultural, however, how might they gain legitimacy? Massimo

Introvigne argues that individual countercultural movements enter the mainstream over

time, but antipathy remains among members of the mainstream culture toward the cultic









milieu in general. He says of popular media claims of brainwashing levied against new

religious movements, "it will remain as a psycho-cultural artifact, capable of limiting the

expansion of minorities perceived as part of a marginal fringe, or as kitsch. As such, the

fringe will not really over-expand, much less 'explode', although individual movements

may move from the fringe to the mainline, as Christianity did once and as groups such as

the Pentecostals or the Mormons are doing now" (Introvigne 2004, 989). Ideas of

acceptability shift over time in cultures, particularly in Campbell's secularized age

without the institutional authority of churches. Definitive aspects of the counterculture

change as alternative movements, like Mormonism and Pentecostalism, gain adherents

and move into the mainstream. The cultic milieu, though, remains as a source of and safe

haven for countercultural ideas. Using Campbell's terms, Celtic Christianity may be

understood as a Christian movement heavily influenced by environmentalist and pagan

currents of the cultic milieu.

It is important to note, however, that Colin Campbell questions functionalist

definitions of new religious movements, or those in which "the rise of new religious

movements is presented as revealing something significant about the nature of

contemporary society" such as the inability of maj or religious to satisfy spiritual needs

any longer (Campbell 1982, 232). This functionalist argument for the increasing

popularity of new religious movements assumes that people move to them out of

dissatisfaction with older traditions. Campbell argues that this functionalist position

leaves a gap in satisfaction of needs among religious persons. In other words, according

to the functionalist argument, individuals feel unsatisfied for some period of time before

finding satisfactory elements within the cultic milieu. Instead, Campbell argues that "the









decline of the churches may, however, be seen as a necessary rather than a sufficient

condition for the growth of cults" (Campbell 1982, 235). In this view, people did not

leave maj or religions to j oin new religious movements. Instead, the decline in the power

of the maj or religions removed the earlier barriers to the spread of heterodox beliefs.

According to Campbell, it is not that specific teachings of new religious

movements suddenly appeal to people, drawing them away from their traditional

religions, but rather that, with the diminishing authority of religious structures,

individuals become more aware of the ever-present cultic milieu in ways that they never

could before. Campbell says, "there has been a major shift in recent decades, not so

much from belief to unbelief as from belief to seekership. That is, away from any

commitment to doctrine and dogma towards a high valuation of individual intellectual

growth and the pursuit for truth coupled with a preparedness to believe in almost any

alternative or occult teaching" (Campbell 1982, 237). This movement away from

doctrine and an increasing valuation of the individual correspond with the rationalism of

secularization. Campbell warns against assuming that new religious movements arise to

fulfill a societal need. For him, new religious movements always exist as part of the

vague cultic milieu of ideas and practices. Only when Church structures lose their

authority do elements of the cultic milieu emerge into general society, gaining popularity

as more people gain knowledge of their existence.

In the American context, though, this loss of authority does not correspond to a loss

of religious devotion. Christianity remains a powerful force in American society, but the

increasing diversity of denominations opens the door for a public acceptance of more

general diversity in religion. Individuals, however, may select elements within the cultic









milieu most applicable to their own needs. The cultic milieu, for Campbell, includes

many diverse elements--envi ronmentali st, New Age, pagan, racist, communal, to name a

few. What elements gain popularity following the decline in centralized religious power

is determined by which element responds to the awareness and needs of a society.

Campbell's argument against purely functional understandings of the cultic milieu just

warns against assuming that this availability of choices precedes the popular emergence

of the cultic milieu.

So, more people become aware of the cultic milieu as it gains exposure due to the

withdrawal of traditional religious authorities. Though it contains diverse and perhaps

contradictory elements, individuals chose aspects of the cultic milieu most appropriate to

their own needs and current religious perceptions. Philip Sheldrake summarizes the

appeal of Celtic Christianity in the modern Western world as follows: "there is a serious

dissatisfaction with the institutional Church. This is leading an increasing number of

people to seek in the past a version of Christianity that seems to be free from all that they

find unattractive about the Church's present institutional forms .. the importance of

pilgrimage and j ourney in the Celtic tradition, balanced with a strong sense of place, are

sentiments that aver very much in tune with the experience and temper of our own age.

We seek both firm roots and yet a capacity to deal with continuous change" (Sheldrake

1995, 2-3). For Sheldrake, Celtic Christianity offers mechanisms for establishing cultural

and spiritual roots while at the same time acknowledging the need for change. His

summation, while addressing the novel aspects of the modern movement, presents Celtic

Christianity as a purely Christian tradition. Though many Celtic Christians consider

themselves orthodox Christians, popular presentations of the tradition are often









influenced by other New Age and pagan sources. Celtic Christianity, then, involves the

acceptance of pagan, New Age and environmentalist themes within a Christian context.

Because it draws upon several elements of the cultic milieu to satisfy needs left

unsatisfied by mainstream Christianity, Celtic Christianity represents a Christian new

religious movement.

Some, though, might rej ect the application of the term "new religious movement"

to Celtic Christianity. Unlike generally recognized new religious movements like

Scientology and Mormonism, Celtic Christianity makes few if any novel religious claims.

As shown in chapters One and Two, many of the main theological and historical claims

of Celtic Christians have been made by others who do not associate themselves with the

tradition. Celtic Christianity, then, might represent more an emerging Christian spiritual

orientation, or what Massimo Introvigne calls "non-traditional Christianity," than a new

religious movement in itself (Introvigne 1998, 259). Celtic Christianity is still enmeshed

within processes of religious production, however, and historically associated with the

countercultural and romantic cultic milieu which has spawned many new religious forms.

By challenging the anti-ecological aspects of dominant forms of Christianity, Celtic

Christianity exists within this alternative milieu and represents and innovative approach

to Christianity. It mediates between traditional and alternative belief systems, accepting

the historical accounts of certain New Age, pagan and environmentalist groups while at

the same time retaining belief in a transcendent Christian God. If, as Eileen Barker

argues, new religions may be new interpretations of traditional religious doctrines, then

Celtic Christianity certainly counts as a new religious movement (Barker 1998, 18).









Theories of new religious movements help explain the social context for the

development and acceptance of Celtic Christianity. It remains to be seen, though, how

Celtic Christianity relates to other elements of this cultic milieu, specifically, paganism.

Celtic Christianity and Paganism

Celtic Christianity reflects the increasing creation and acceptance of new religious

movements based on the valuation of nature. It exists within a milieu of new religious

formation, much of which is elucidated by new religious movement theory. Like certain

forms of modern paganism, it emerges out of environmentalist and pagan streams within

what Campbell called the cultic milieu. A further analysis of scholarship regarding

nature-based paganism will help to situate Celtic Christianity within this milieu of new

religious formation.

Perhaps one of the most important and influential scholars of paganism in recent

years has been Michael York. In Pagan Theology (2003), he attempted to establish

paganism as a legitimate religious system: "paganism represents a theological perspective

and consequent practice that, despite its plethora of micro and local expressions, is a

viable and distinguishable religiospiritual position" (York 2003, 14). Paganism for York

is a "root religion," or "the root from which the tree of all religions grows" (York 2003,

167). As a root religion, the study of paganism reveals valuable information regarding

other religious formations, including Celtic Christianity.

Nature remains central to definitions of paganism. For York, "the earth and nature

constitute the seminal and unifying sacred text for the various localized expressions of

what can be identified as pagan religions" (York 2003, 16). Graham Harvey follows

York's emphasis upon nature, saying, "paganism labels a set of religions centered on the

celebration and veneration of nature that understand and engage it in one way or another









as sacred" (Harvey 2005a, 1247). More succinctly, Harvey says, "paganism is a

polytheistic Nature religion" (Harvey 1997, 1). Occasionally, scholars seem to use the

terms pagan and Neopagan interchangeably. Following York, however, "paganism" is a

general term encompassing most earth-based religions while "Neopaganism" refers to a

set of specific, modern Western-based pagan religions such as Wicca, Asatru, Odinism,

Druidism and others (York 2003, 60). Modern Celtic spirituality (not Christianity) is

generally Neopagan. Celtic Christianity, continuing with York's distinction, is a form of

Christianity more in tune with its nature-based pagan roots.

Paganism is frequently defined in relation to New Age religions. York argues that

religions fit on a continuum with paganism and gnosticism occupying each end and

where, ideally, "paganism posits the world or matter as real and valuable, while

gnosticism sees the same as something to be penetrated, as something fictive or worthless

or even evil" (York 2003, 159). This distinction between materialist worldliness and

immaterialist other-worldliness exists in several other scholarly understandings of pagan

and New Age religions. For Sarah Pike, the distinction between the New Age and

paganism involves a temporal focus, where "New Agers tend to look toward the future,

when a new age of expanded consciousness will dawn, while Neopagans look to the past

for inspiration in order to revive old religions and improve life in the present," though in

American they both derive from the same precursor traditions (Pike 2004, 34). Adrian

Ivakhiv, on the other hand, argues for a spatial distinction between "ecospirituality,"

which values embodiment and an imminent divinity, and "ascensionism," which focuses

upon otherworldly realms of consciousness and awakening. Like Pike, Ivakhiv believes

that ecospirituality and ascensionism share similar historical origins and social









orientations, as he says, "one seeks to rekindle the connection with Earth's power

directly, while the other looks for wisdom beyond our planet's weakened frame, but both

aim to challenge, largely through spiritual means, the status quo of late modernity"

(Ivakhiv 2001, 8). In other words, they both derive from the countercultural cultic milieu

and serve as responses to dominant cultural and social trends.

Bron Taylor also notes a continuum within nature-based spiritualities. This

continuum includes "supematuralistic" and "non-supematuralistic nature spiritualities"

with added elements of cosmological or earthly focus (Taylor 2001Ib, 23 8). Traditions

may be supernaturalistic-cosmological (many New Age traditions), non-supernaturalistic-

earthly (scientific spiritualities such as some forms of Gaia theory), or any other

combination of these four elements (Taylor 2001Ib, 239). Taylor notes that tensions exist

among different parties, but that they generally agree upon the sacredness of the earth and

the necessity of proper action toward the earth' s preservation (Taylor 2001Ib, 23 8).

The creationism of Celtic Christianity and perceived connections with the past

place it on the ecospirituality or Neopagan side of the alternative religious spectrum,

while the retention of a transcendent God and the wisdom of disembodied saints

represent more ascensionist or New Age traits. Clearly, Celtic Christianity is not a

perfect example of either type. In Taylor' s continuum, Celtic Christianity finds a more

specific place between supernaturalistic-cosmological and supernaturalistic-earthly nature

spiritualities. Celtic Christianity is an emerging ecospirituality, or nature spirituality,

based in both worldly pagan and ascensionist Christian beliefs and practices. Like Levi-

Strauss's bricoleur, Celtic Christians construct their tradition from the diverse cultural

and religious elements available. Levi-Strauss employed the term bricolage as an









analogy to explain the creative incorporation of diverse cultural elements into the

mythical thought of so-called primitive peoples during the construction of social

structures from observed events (Levi-Strauss 1967, 18-22). The methods of the

bricoleur, for Levi-Strauss, existed in contrast to the methods of the scientific engineer.

While the engineer applied a structured system (science) to the world in order to

understand its parts, the bricoleur pragmatically utilized all available elements to

construct the structures. The Western scientific worldview, for Levi-Strauss, operated

like the engineer while traditional cultures operated like the bricoleur, though he argued

neither approach was in any way "better" than the other (Levi-Strauss 1967, 22). In the

context of religious studies, bricolage may refer to the adoption of different beliefs and

practices into single tradition. Taylor explains bricolage as the "amalgamations of many

bits and pieces of diverse cultural systems," and believes that the term "captures better

the reciprocal and ever-evolving processes of religious production" (Taylor 2001a, 178).

Celtic Christianity is part of this reciprocal process of nature-based religious production,

and further study could potentially provide valuable information concerning the

interactions between religions and nature.

Celtic Christianity and Nature Religion

Catherine Albanese' s "nature religion" also helps understand the place of nature

within Celtic Christianity and the diverse interactions between cultures, religions and

nature. In Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian lndians to the New Age

(1990) and Reconsidering Nature Religion (2002), Albanese examines some of the

diverse ways in which nature-focused religions in America draw on and manipulate

nature. For Albanese, nature religion is a system of orientations based in nature or

natural themes, or a term for all religious phenomena in which nature is an important










symbol or conceptual resource, whether or not the individuals involved actually consider

nature to be sacred (Albanese 1990, 6-7). Elsewhere, she says that the term "the natural

dimension of religion," remains somewhat more appropriate and accurate than "nature

religion," meaning that it is more an element of religious life than a specific belief system

in itself (Albanese 1990, 13). Albanese argues that focusing on nature religion has value

because it reveals important beliefs and practices that are often ignored in American

religious history, but that have great power both for individuals and their societies. She

says, "it is--given the right places to look--everywhere apparent. But it is also a form of

religion that slips between the cracks of the usual interpretive grids--or that, more

slippery still, evades and circumvents adventurous ways to name it" (Albanese 1990,

199). According to Albanese, "nature religion" is a vague but nonetheless meaningful

term.

Albanese cites numerous examples including of American nature religion the

Transcendentalists, represented by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the

19th century popular fictional stories of Davy Crockett, the wilderness writings of John

Muir, and several 19th and 20th century natural health and New Age movements including

Spiritualism and Theosophy, to name just a few. In Albanese's understanding, each of

these examples represents a specific orientation toward the natural world based in certain

value and meaning systems, so they each help constitute American nature religion.

Importantly, though Albanese discusses nature religion in the American context, it may

still include international features, such as the arrival of the macrobiotic movement from

Japan (Albanese 1990, 190). Celtic Christianity, likewise, is a movement that crosses

borders. Though based in the history and mythology of Britain and Ireland, Celtic









Christianity is very much associated with "roots" and frequently appeals to persons in

North America and Australia with Celtic or hoped-for Celtic roots. Therefore, even

Albanese's discussion of nature religion in the American context remains meaningful for

the study of Celtic Christianity.

American nature religion, though, involves both positive and negative aspects.

Albanese argues, "nature religion, as an idea and phenomenon, reiterates democratic

values, to be sure, by acknowledging the essential similarity and equality of human

experience embedded in the reality that constitutes nature. But it also acknowledges

forces and factors that delimit the human proj ect-aspects of life over which humans,

literally, have no control and before which they must bow" (Albanese 2002, 24).

Albanese also argues that although it is commonly thought to promote social and

ecological wellbeing, American nature religion often masks an impulse to dominate

nature as well as other people. She states, "the impulse to dominate was, in fact,

everywhere in nature religion" (Albanese 1990, 12). She cites the work of Thomas

Jefferson as an example of this domination and patriotic imperialism, saying, "nature

religion meant communion with forces that enlarged the public life of the nation. And

with Jefferson and other American patriots always on top, it meant conquest to insure that

nature's forces would flow as the lifeblood of the body politic" (Albanese 1990, 70).

Notions of harmony and the rural ideal, for Albanese, masked or intentionally supported

the domination of America's Native peoples. In many ways this resembles the arguments

of Meek and Bradley concerning the domination inherent in modern Celtic Christianity.

"Nature religion" is a scholarly lens through which to interpret religious

orientations toward and understandings of nature. Recently, some scholars have









attempted to utilize nature religion as a tool for reevaluating definitions of religion.

Barbara Davy argues, for example, that "Albanese' s idea of nature religion can help

make visible practices in popular culture and political activity of all religions as religious

expressions, and thus broaden the understanding of religion beyond its most identifiable

institutional expressions, and help religionists more easily to understand religious

activities that do not easily correspond to categories of study derived from religious

institutions like churches and scriptures" (Davy 2005, 1173). Davy continues, arguing

that nature religion does not exactly mean "nature religions," or simply religions with

special veneration for nature. Instead, nature religion is a theme found in numerous

religious and apparently non-religious expressions. Davy says, "nature religion is not

opposite to the religions of history or of ethics, but is a type of religion that can be found

within the practices of Christianity and other mainstream religions as well as marginal

traditions" (Davy 2005, 1174). For Davy and others, nature religion becomes a tool to

interpret religion in general. Scholars need not emphasize only the issues of power and

domination in nature religion but examine all aspects of its operation without taking sides

on what is right or wrong. Such an approach provides a clearer picture of multiple

exchanges and interactions involved in normal religious development and change.

Celtic Christianity as Modern Nature Spirituality

Celtic Christianity, then, may be seen as an example of contemporary nature

spirituality, to use Taylor' s term (2001b, 238). Employing Chidester's (1988) model of

religious studies and other interpretive tools such as nature religion and new religious

movement theory helps provide a more complete picture of Celtic Christianity as modern

nature spirituality worthy of consideration among religionists. Analyzing Celtic

Christianity in this light reveals important information regarding popular attempts to










"green" Christianity from within the tradition itself and can aid the further study of the

interactions between religions and nature, particularly in a time of the increasing popular

awareness of ecological crises.

The example of Celtic Christianity might reveal the increasing importance of

religious solutions to current ecological and social crises. Adrian Ivakhiv says, "as large

numbers of people perceive society to be in the midst of a thoroughgoing crisis, an

ecological, cultural, spiritual, and political crisis of an unprecedentedly global scale,

attempts are made to reconceive the myths or master stories of society to respond to this

crisis" (Ivakhiv 2001, 5). Modern Celtic Christianity represents just this type of

reconception. Ian Bradley, a critic of Celtic Christianity, nonetheless accepts the

ecological and social values of the popular tradition, "if we are to chase Celtic dreams,

and history suggests that we always will, better surely that they be about unpolluted

waters and intact ozone layers than about having bigger and better relics than the church

down the road" (Bradley 1999, 232). Celtic Christianity represents a way for its believers

to deal religiously with real social and ecological crises. The popular texts analyzed in

this thesis provide one form of evidence regarding Celtic Christian perceptions of nature

and the active role of humans within it. More field work would be needed to fully

explore Celtic Christian values in practice.

Much of the scholarly analysis of Celtic Christianity, such as Meek' s work, focuses

mainly upon issues of inaccuracy, secular individualism, and improper cultural

impropriation. As this thesis has argued, however, historically inaccurate claims

constitute only part of the foundation of modern Celtic Christian belief. There is an

important practical and functional side as well. As Alastair McIntosh argues, "the issue, I









think, is not 0I haltrll Celtic spirituality ever existed, but the fact that a living spirituality

connecting soil, soul and society manifestly can and does exist" (McIntosh 2001, 19).

Marion Bowman similarly says of the Celtic revival in Britain, "that New Age knowledge

about the Celts and Druids is not always based on research acceptable to academic

historians, archaeologists, literary scholars or Celticists is not the point. What is

important is that this received wisdom has become a part of the religious map of Britain

today. Some may despair of it, but students of religion would be well advised to note its

growth and potency" (Bowman 1993, 155). This statement applies just as well to the

modern, international Celtic Christianity movement. The academic historians and others

mentioned by Bowman provide only part of the story on Celtic Christianity. It is a real

spiritual orientation for many people and, if we study it as such, can perhaps inform us

about the role of religion in modern societies.

This argument essentially follows David Chidester' s call for further religious

studies analysis of issues of religious appropriation. For Chidester, religion is, among

other things, "that dimension of culture involving the stealing back and forth of sacred

symbols" (Chidester 1988, 157). Chidester uses the term "stealing" as a "shorthand

designation for complex negotiations over the ownership of symbols" (Chidester 1988,

157). Chidester agrees with Geertz that religion is a system of symbols, but adds that

different parties claim ownership over these symbols as well (Chidester 1988, 157). In

his analysis of popular Christian reactions to the Unification Church and the Peoples

Temple, Chidester argues that symbols remain contested by both mainstream and

alternative traditions, and that all interested parties engage in competing claims of

ownership over sacred symbols and the related right to designate what counts as orthodox









belief. For Chidester, many of those who criticize religious appropriations do so from

places of power and out of needs to preserve the authority of specific interpretations.

Referring to American perceptions of the Unification Church and the Peoples Temple,

Chidester argues that "perceptions of danger, therefore, arise not only through anxieties

over defilement, but also by way of perceived threats to the personal or collective

ownership of central symbols by forces on the periphery" (Chidester 1988, 139). This

might apply to certain critics of Celtic Christianity as well. For people who believe that

Christianity needs no changes to deal with modern problems, the claims of Celtic

Christians would certainly be unwelcome.

The role of the religious studies scholar, in Chidester' s understanding, is not to take

one side or the other in this process but to recognize the multiple and competing claims of

ownership. In situations of contested ownership, "dialectics of appropriation and

alienation" appear (Chidester 1988, 158). In other words, groups alternately claim

ownership of symbols and alienate those other groups which contest that ownership.

When scholars take the side that one group should or should not appropriate symbols,

they perhaps unwittingly enter into this dialectic as well. Instead, Chidester offers the

"availability of symbols" mode of engagement with issues of cultural appropriation. In

this scholarly mode of engagement, "while appropriation and alienation operate on the

battlefield of symbols, religious studies opens up a demilitarized zone for the academic

investigation of the underlying patterns and processes of religion" (Chidester 1988, 158).

This does not mean that religious symbols belong to all or that appropriations do not

occasionally have damaging effects. Instead, it is a method of objectively deconstructing

claims of ownership and perhaps gaining a clearer understanding of religious and cultural









processes (Chidester 1988, 159). He concludes, "by exploring the morphology and

history of the sacred, the academic study of religion reveals the ways in which religious

persons, religious communities, and religious traditions themselves, are 'owned,' shaped

and conditioned by the patterns and processes of the sacred" (Chidester 1988, 159).

Applying this approach to Celtic Christianity reveals a new tradition equally engaged in

battles over the ownership of symbols.

As examined in Chapters 2 and 3, Donald Meek and others criticize Celtic

Christianity for the domination inherent in the cultural appropriations involved in the

formation of the tradition. Employing Chidester's "availability of symbols" mode of

engagement, though, shows that scholars may move beyond critiques like those of Meek

into a deeper analysis of the ways in which Celtic Christianity works "on the ground," or

how adherents apply their beliefs in their daily lives. We need not defend or condemn

the claims and actions of Celtic Christians. Instead, to recognize the processes involved

in the development and continuation of Celtic Christianity and to situate the tradition

within broader trends is enough. Applying the approaches of new religious movement

and nature religion theory, Celtic Christianity may be categorized as a specifically

Christian modern nature spirituality (Taylor 2001b). As a nature spirituality, Celtic

Christianity is included within a greater trend toward nature-venerating religious

traditions, or those which offer religious solutions to recognized environmental crises,

including forms of paganism, the New Age, environmental activism, other ecotheologies.

Scholars of religion may add important elements to the study of Celtic Christianity,

and new religious formations in general, by analyzing Celtic Christianity as a functioning

spiritual tradition and belief system for many persons alive today. With its call for the









protection of the earth and social justice, Celtic Christianity might well serve a positive

social function and help people deal effectively with very real present day crises. If the

ecological and social crises worsen, and if it is true that people frequently confront these

issues religiously, then it is possible that nature-based new spiritual traditions like Celtic

Christianity will only grow in popularity. If beliefs translate into practices, then such

traditions may also provide needed solutions to these crises.















CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION

In his now famous 1967 article "The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis," Lynn

White, Jr. identified the Christian dichotomy between humanity and nature as largely

responsible for the rampant abuse of resources and ecological destruction found from the

medieval period in Europe to the present. His article also included, though, a proscriptive

element sometimes overlooked by his critics. He said, "we shall continue to have a

worsening ecologic crisis until we rej ect the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for

existence save to serve man" (White 2003, 36). For White, this did not mean a full

rejection of Christianity. He cited the examples of Eastern Orthodox traditions and St.

Francis as potential sources for environmentally friendly Christianity. He might have

cited Celtic Christianity as well.

To summarize the key points in this thesis, Celtic Christianity is a relatively new

Christian spiritual development based in the broader milieu of Celtic spirituality, which

includes pagan and New Age traditions as well. Popular writers on Celtic Christianity

connect their tradition to older beliefs and practices in the Celtic regions of Ireland,

Scotland and Wales. For writers such as Philip Newell, Timothy Joyce, Sean O Duinn,

Philip Sheldrake and others, early Christians in Celtic lands retained certain pagan

practices and worldviews while blending them, in a fully orthodox manner, with

Christianity. Many modern Celtic Christians argue that the revived Celtic traditions offer

important insights and useful perspectives, including responses to ecological and social

crises, suited to the needs of persons around the world today. In other words, Celtic









Christianity counters White's anthropocentric Christian axiom and offers a more

inclusive and environmentally friendly Christian alternative.

Historical examination of Christianity in Celtic lands, though, does not support all

of the claims of popular writers such as Newell and Joyce. For example, as Ian Bradley

shows (1998), little evidence exists for intentional environmentally friendly behaviors

among Irish monastic communities. This leads some, such as Donald Meek and Bradley,

to question the usefulness of Celtic Christianity and even the motives of some of the

tradition's promoters. For Meek, many who popularize Celtic Christianity engage in

damaging cultural appropriation, either intentionally or unintentionally. Modern Celtic

Christian claims, Meek argues, simplify, idealize and romanticize Celtic history and

primitivize modern Celtic peoples. Celtic spirituality, he continues, is not so much a

feature of Celtic peoples as a created tradition applied to the people of Ireland, Scotland

and Wales by outsiders. The appropriation, creation, and popularization of Celtic themes,

according to some scholars, represent the continued cultural domination of certain

powerful groups over the marginalized. For scholars such as Meek and Bradley, the easy

marketability of Celtic spirituality, including Celtic Christianity, shows that it is basically

a creation of wealthy, dominant cultures (American and British) and part of the general

trend in the modern, secularized world, toward individualistic, syncretistic, and

materialist spiritualities. Debates such as these surrounding the legitimacy of the

tradition occupy much of the scholarly literature devoted to Celtic Christianity.

Religious studies, though, offers a different approach to Celtic Christianity. Rather

than taking sides on the issue of appropriation and domination, the religious studies

perspective (or what Chidester calls the "availability of symbols mode of engagement"









[Chidester 1988, 158]) understands that all religions exist in constant states of change and

conflict surrounding the ownership of sacred symbols. This perspective allows the

scholar to analyze more objectively all power interests involved in religious production

and to situate individual traditions within broader trends of religious belief and

development. While this position does not ignore the real possibility of culturally

damaging appropriations, it also does not neglect to analyze the claims to power made by

critics of appropriation. As Chidester and Taylor (1997) argue, sometimes those who

challenge the religious appropriation of symbols do so to preserve their own authority

over the tradition in question. Instead of siding with believers of Celtic Christianity or its

critics, this perspective allows this thesis to accept that appropriation and syncretism

occur in religions and move toward examining how popular beliefs work "on the

ground," particularly regarding care for the environment. Using Chidester' s work with

theories of new religious movements and nature religion helps place Celtic Christianity as

a kind of supernaturalistic nature spirituality (to use Taylor' s [2001b] term), or an

ecospirituality (to use Ivakhiv's [2001] term).

Because it places great value upon the earth as God's basically good creation,

Celtic Christian literature calls for engagement in the world to alleviate environmental

and social crises which are seen as damaging to the works of God. Organized groups of

Celtic Christians, such as those in the lona Community or in Dara Molloy's An Charraig

Community, sometimes engage in activism in support of positive ecological change

(organic gardening at An Charraig) and issues of non-violence and world peace (the

members of the lona Community present at the Faslane protest). Scholars interested in

the relationships between religion and modern ecological and social crises, particularly









those interested in ecotheologies, should examine the popular Celtic Christianity

movement. More work revealing actual numbers of believers and identifying

communities with particularly strong activist interests would be helpful for further

proj ects, and further analysis of Celtic Christian beliefs and practices may help scholars

understand patterns of religious change.

Beyond purely social scientific interest, however, Celtic Christianity might provide

a framework for certain believers to deal religiously with ecological and social crises.

Compared to the believers of the anthropocentric Christian axiom criticized by White,

Celtic Christians might actually be better equipped to help slow human-induced

ecological destruction and to construct more sustainable and nurturing communities.

They may also express values needed among other Christian groups and, given the

increasing intensity of ecological and social crises, may represent an aspect of the

"green" future of religious development. Lynn White, Jr. concluded his article, saying,

"since the roots of our [ecological] trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also

be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not" (White 2003, 36). Celtic

Christianity, based on the practices of its adherents, might represent one such attempt at a

remedy and deserves further scholarly study as such
















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