Why I am interested
I’ve always been interested in the classical cultures, particularly Rome. Plus, it was a sign from Jupiter that brought me into paganism
Why then add something Celtic to the Mix?
1) It’s part of my ancestral heritage. I’m an ethnic mutt like many Americans, but I feel most drawn to my Celtic roots.
2) While I have respect for the achievements of Hellas, I learned that culture is not quite who I am. At least, I can’t quite warm up to the mystical pantheism of the philosophers whose views seem to dominate in discourse. That fact has made my attempts at Greco-Roman syncretism a bit difficult, and I have found I simply don't fit in with existing Hellenic and Roman pagan groups.
Classical studied have heretofore focused on Greco-Roman civilization. Recent studies suggest the Empire was far from a monolithic Greco-Roman entity. Local cultures retained something of their identity, finding a new expression for it under a broad banner of Romanatis. In the Western provinces of the Empire, some mix of Celt and Roman seems to have been the norm. Along the Mediterranean areas the fusion was far more Roman than Celt, while in parts of Britain the opposite was true. Whatever ratio one wants to claim, the point is many of us with roots in Western Europe can see this as our heritage.
How I intend to pursue this
No doubt there will be as many different approaches as there are members. Diversity is a good thing and will lead to learning experiences. But let me tell you what my intentions are right now. Let’s look at various levels:
Cosmology/Worldview – The available literature suggests the Celts had an involved and mystical view of the universe. As a generalization, they seemed to view the universe in three realms represented by land, sea and sky, with constant interaction between the manifest world and the other world. The Romans, by contrast, were practical and legalistic, and not overly interested in metaphysical speculation. Nonetheless they did perceive the world as inhabited by numerous divinities who must be propitiated for the Peace of the Gods. Reconciling Celtic mysticism and Roman legalism should not be too difficult – they are different approaches to the universe, but they both have at their core a respect for a world full of divinity.
Ethics and Values. The aristocracies of the two civilizations were more alike than not, both valuing honor and glory as they understood it. There was an emphasis on one’s standing in the community, perceived in relation to the services and relationships one had to the community. It has been said that a major difference is that the Celts were more individualistic, passionate and provincial while the Romans were more bureaucratic, sober and cosmopolitan. If this generalization holds truth, it is still more a difference of style than of substance.
Gods, Spirits and Ancestors. Both cultures revered their deified ancestors. Both honored the spirits of home and the local natural areas. As far as major gods, attempts were made in the classical era to equate deities from the two civilizations. Cults of Jupiter Taranis and Sulis-Minerva, among many others, were born. Every pagan has their own favorite deity or three, and I intend to focus on mine and how historically they were honored by both cultures. I also think reconciling ancestor and local spirit worship should not present a major problem.
Seasons and Liturgy. The Romans had many, many holidays, while throughout the Celtic world 2-4 major festivals predominated. Attempts can be made to reconcile the Celtic festivals with Roman equivalents. For instance, Nick Ford has suggested the Roman festivals for the dead, held in February and May, should be moved to November eve to coincide with the Celtic Samhain. This would also coincide with the modern Halloween. This is a brilliant idea.
So much for theory. How about practice?
In so many words, I would start out with a Roman skeleton. We have much more information on the Romans than anyone else, and their mark on our culture is evident. It makes sense to use them for a foundation. But on that Roman skeleton, I would like to see how we can add some Celtic flesh.
And perhaps what we get is something that is akin in spirit to what one might have found in the Romano-Celtic provinces of the Western Empire. But anything we do has to take into account that:
1) there are a lot of gaps in this area, particularly from the Celtic side of things, so we have to make certain allowances and adaptations
2) We live in the modern world, not back in the Iron Age, and while we pay homage to history we can’t be constrained by it.