So, John Becket wrote an article called “The Lore vs. UPG – A False Dichotomy” filled with an opinion that makes it clear he is talking to the wrong (and at this time, minority) crowd. It is a re-hash of a stereotype that has been diminishing over the past 10 years to the point of being an annoyance to many of us who have used to the term “Celtic Reconstructionist” at some point in our careers. In working on my response I realized that arguing his points is not worth the energy spent and it would be better to provide a positive resource on the same topic.
To that end I want to share the article Aisling, Ársaíocht, agus Agallamh: A Modern CR Triad by Erynn Laurie in which she provided a triad for how we should be combining scholarship, UPG, and open discourse in the reconstruction of our faiths. In her terms, all appropriately in Irish:
Aisling is the power of vision. It’s a word that means “dream” and is also one of the classes of tales memorized by the filidh in their studies. This, in the context of CR, could be classified as UPG, though aisling is a term recognized within Gaelic culture, where UPG is not. Dream, vision, Otherworld work and journeying, and oracular work all fit here. All of them were recognized and, in fact, necessary aspects of the original cultures and spiritualities of the
larger Celtic world. Prophets, oracles, dreams, and diviners were an immensely important part of public life in Celtic cultures and, in fact, in all ancient cultures.Ársaíocht is “antiquarianism” and fills in for “archaeology” in the original dyad; it stresses the importance of the past, of the physical record, of the textual and the problems of the textual within the tradition. It signifies history and tradition. It also explicitly implies (given the nature of “antiquarianism”) that our knowledge of history and tradition is incomplete and ever-evolving as new discoveries are made and new theories in scholarship are proposed.
Our understanding of the past is not static. When new information is brought forth, we must decide whether, or how, we are going to readjust our understandings and our practices.Agallamh is the word used for a colloquy: a conversation, a discussion, a debate between those with knowledge that serves to generate a process of critical discernment wherein the other aspects of tradition and practice are brewed. Without learned discourse within the tradition, little can be learned and nothing can be fruitfully passed on to a new generation. This is the place where history and mysticism meet, where the insights of imbas are
brought into practice, where ideas are examined critically and with respect for both the past and the needs of the present and the future. – Erynn Rowan Laurie