Entering the Magic Mists: Irish Contemporary Paganism, Celticity and Indigeneity
Jenny Butler [+]
University College Cork
This chapter explores the ways in which contemporary Pagans in Ireland engage with traditional culture, as well as with notions of the Celtic, in forming identities that are regarded by some practitioners as being indigenous identities. Drawing from ethnographic research into Irish Pagan beliefs, practices and worldview, this examination will include examples of rituals and other activities that modern Pagans utilise in order to connect to ancient European ancestral cultures as well as specifically to the traditional culture of pre-modern Ireland. Pagan culture reflects a desire to restore older spiritual traditions, particularly pre-Christian ones, and Pagans are known for combining disparate cultural elements in unique and novel ways. The sources that Pagans draw from for information and inspiration are examined, including the ancient myths recorded in medieval times (in the Irish context), archaeological sources, and antiquarian folklore collections of the eighteenth and nineteenth century; all of these resources are used to garner information about native Irish cosmology and lifeworlds and also inspiration for a new type of Irish indigeneity. This analysis includes a detailing of some of the ways in which Pagans innovatively utilise Celtic and pre-Celtic symbols, as well as Irish myth and folklore, in creating rituals, artwork and material culture. Also explored is the relationship between modern Irish Pagans and magical practices understood as native tradition, especially in relation to the Sídh (fairies) of popular belief which has strong roots in the traditional Irish context. In claiming a lineage to ancestral cultures now shrouded in the mists of time, modern Paganism in Ireland involves an interesting re-contextualisation of tradition. Folk religious customs and native Irish cosmology are reinterpreted in a new milieu. This chapter will provide an overview of the processes by which Pagans employ tradition in constructing their ‘indigenous’ identities and to communicate why this inventive creation of new Pagan traditions is culturally significant in the Irish context.