There is an ever increasing number of people claiming to be following the Celtic Tradition and this can take on so many varied forms it can leave the head spinning. There are also an increasing number of unscrupulous folk who have realised that putting the word Celtic to any old nonsense can almost guarantee sales. What I would like to do in these few words is to cut through the layers and try and share with you all what is essentially the heart of being Celtic.
In the world today and in the New Age movement especially there are a serious of buzz words which people throw around like confetti at a wedding. They use these words often as if they were interchangeable and very often it seems without any real knowledge of what they mean. These words are Religion, Spirituality and Sacred.
Before we get to these three words let us look at Spirit. The word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus which means breath. It was seen as that essential force present in all living things which made the difference between being alive and being dead. Just for a moment forget all that school science you have learned and go back like our ancestors to just using your five senses. When something was alive there was movement. There was respiration. When death came that movement of the chest stopped and the air was not drawn in. Yet they also knew that a person could hold their breath and this was not the same as death, they could stop the movement of the chest but did not die and so they answered that by pro-positing the idea that the physical air was one thing and there was also vital spirit which came with the air but was separate. Spirit was present in all things. Fix this idea firmly in your minds. Spirit is present in all things. Therefore we can say that the original use of the word spirituality was in fact the non sectarian recognition of the vital spark or the divine within everything.
Religion – Our word religion comes from the Latin word religionem meaning sacred, reverence for the gods, obligation, the bond between man and the gods. This word in term was developed from the word religiō. The roots of this word are basically lost but scholars have told us that this word has the meaning to bind or to obligate. From this we can see that Religion in this sense in very much man made social institutions which we can choose to accept or not. If we accept a religion then we accept to be bound by the rules and norms of that religion.
Sacred – This word comes from the Latin too. Sacred is one of a wide range of English words that go back to the latin word sacer – Sacred or Holy, which itself came from the same base that produces the latin word sancire – to consecrate. This is the source of the English words like saint and sanctuary. This is one of the most used words in Paganism. We hear of the Sacred Space. We hear what it is and also what it is not. We seem to have so many rules about what is sacred and why. What is not sacred and why. What we can assume from this is that in fact the sacred is based on human delineation. We have decided what is and what is not sacred within the frame works of our religions.
Our Celtic ancestors would not have really understood this idea of sacred as being separate. They had a more circular idea of the world a more inclusive idea. They did not have the same dualistic ideas that we have grown up with. Yes they had special place and ritual but they truly found their sacred in the world they lived in. The sacred was truly part of daily life. Sacred was not a thing or a place or a separate state of mind it is truly being fully immersed in the daily dance of life.
People talk a lot about spirituality and use the word to describe what is essentially religion. When you read about woman's spirituality or Native American Spirituality what we are really talking about are a set of beliefs with teachings and practices i.e. Religion.
Spirituality as we have seen is in fact nothing more that a response to the spirit within all things. True spirituality is a response to being alive, a response to being constantly in contact with spirit. It does not require tools, trappings and dress up. True Spirituality is walking the dog, playing with the children, making love, cleaning out the pigs, even just eating your food.
This is what we are trying to achieve within the OSN. Yes we pray and have rituals but these are really only techniques to help us actually contact the Spirit. We are developing a life style which helps us to realise we are constantly in the Sacred Space. We are living the truly sacred life.