First and foremost, I want to add this little disclaimer: I am only one of many Gaelic Polytheists and thus am presenting only one viewpoint on what makes one a “Gaelic Polytheist.” That said, I like my definition quite a lot — enough that I’m putting it out there! But do not be surprised if you come across differing opinions either in the comments or elsewhere.
To start, let’s break down what “Gaelic Polytheist” literally means:
- “Gaelic” refers to the Irish, Manx, and Scottish cultures
- “Gaelic culture” is a subcategory under “Celtic cultures”
- “Polytheist” simply means “someone who believes in multiple gods”
So, for me, the MANDATORY requirements to call yourself a Gaelic Polytheist are:
- Acknowledge the Gaelic entities to some extent
- Believe in multiple gods
- Call yourself a Gaelic Polytheist
That’s it! That’s my mandatory requirements for calling yourself a Gaelic Polytheist.
But there are some more lavish ways to be a Gaelic Polytheist. These are things that I’ve noticed that a lot of Gaelic Polytheists end up doing. Do you need to do everything on this list to be considered a Gaelic Polytheist? Nope! Not at all! You can do anywhere from nothing on this list to everything, but this list is just gravy on top of the mandatory requirements.
These are the optional things you can do:
- Be hospitable – Hospitality is a huge virtue in the Gaelic lore and in the Gaelic cultural communities.
- Be Honorable – Honor is another theme found in Gaelic lore that many modern Gaelic Polytheists incorporate into their character.
- Be an Animist – Animism is the belief that everything has a spirit. To what extent someone is animist varies (I personally view everything has having a spirit–from rocks to computers), but the pre-Christian Gaels were most definitely animists so a lot of modern Gaelic Polytheists are also animists.
- Be a plasma-to-hard polytheist – By this, I basically mean don’t believe all deities are facets of One Entity. This is certainly a valid belief, and you can be a “soft” polytheist and still be a Gaelic Polytheist, but historically the Gaelic people are plasma-to-hard polytheists, meaning that most if not all deities are their own separate being. The “plasma” comes in since there are some overlaps and wishy-washy boundaries with some deities.
- Celebrate the Gaelic Festivals – These are Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine, and Lughnasa. Most Gaelic Polytheists end up at least giving a nod to these four important holidays/festivals/whathaveyou, but of course you can be more lavish in your celebrations.
- Celebrate the Solar Events – These being Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumn Equinox. Again, how much of an observance you have will vary (I personally only observe the Solstices.)
- Celebrate other Gaelic Holidays – Such as Hogmany or Michaelmas.
- Participate in the Gaelic Polytheist Community – This is hard to do for a lot of people who are living isolated from any in-person communities, but there are online communities as well!
- Give offerings to Gaelic entities – It is common to give offerings to fae, nature spirits, and even the deities
- Have a Gaelic Polytheist shrine and/or altar – This isn’t something our pre-Christian Gaelic ancestors probably did, but it’s something a lot of modern Gaelic Polytheists find meaningful
- Honor or venerate your ancestors – Whether these ancestors are blood-related or significant to you in other ways, honoring one’s ancestors is almost a practice found in every culture–including the Gaelic one.
- Learn a Gaelic Language – Such as Irish, Scottish-Gaelic, Manx, or Old Irish. This may be hard to do, but a few Gaelic Polytheists I know as well as myself find it meaningful to try to keep these languages alive.
A lot of these “optional” requirements are discussed elsewhere on this blog in better depth. Again, they are not “mandatory” requirements but as something a lot of Gaelic Polytheists end up finding meaningful in one way or another.
Lastly, what you do NOT need to do to be a Gaelic Polytheist:
- You do not need to have years of studying done prior
- You do not need to be dedicated to a Gaelic deity
- You do not need to honor only the Gaelic entities