Accepted Paper:

The modern nemeton: Celtic festivals as cohesive spiritual pilgrimages  


Javier Campos Calvo-Sotelo (UCM)

Paper short abstract:

This study examines Celtic festivals as experiences permeated by a religious substrate close to animist cosmologies. Celtic festivals become spiritual sites, fostering the re-enchantment of reality and restoring the cultural balance broken in Western societies since the rise of rationalism.

Paper long abstract:

With the triumph of Enlightenment thought, reason began to alienate magical and religious beliefs in Western societies. However, the tendency towards the supernatural is quite strong in our time. Specifically, Celtic mythology displays an overwhelming power to generate new cosmologies that re-enchant reality. European 'Celtic' sanctuaries like Glastonbury, Aosta, Iona, Locronan, Stonehenge, Ortigueira, Selja, Ukonsaari, or the Aran islands, currently embody and celebrate the spirit of old nemeta (sacred shrines to ancient Celts), where the place, bagpipes or the ancestors are sacralised and worshipped as animated realities. Our study addresses the following hypotheses:

A) Celtic festivals (CFs) are permeated by a strong underlying animistic-religious substrate, although frequently at a non-conscious level. They point to a special communication with specific environments, which is very much demanded by CFs attendees in their search of identity.

B) CFs develop integrative religious and cultural diversity into festive formulas. In fact in many of them there is a surprising sense of discipline, group cohesion and fraternity among the attendees, despite (or altogether with) massive consumption of alcohol and drugs.

C) CFs fulfil an important social function by restoring the cultural balance broken in the West since the unstoppable rise of technology and rationalism/secularization. They actually improve the psycho-emotional state of the audience, as evidenced by several fieldworks.

The faith in CFs semiology shown by many participants suggests that renewed analytical tools are needed to approach the nature-culture debate, and to better understand the relationship between the human and the non-human.

Panel P071
Legacies and futures of animism in the anthropocene