We are often asked similar questions by different people. We aim to list generic versions of these questions here, so that you can find the answers you are looking for. Please keep visiting this page as we add to the list of questions.
If you mean, "Can I be a part of this tradition even though I am not a 'Celt'?" Then yes, certainly... There are probably more non Tibetans following Tibetan Buddhism these days than native Tibetans, for instance. I have heard a Tibetan Lama say that there are certain nuances to the cultural aspects of Tibetan Buddhism that a non-Tibetan will never entirely appreciate and that is likely to also be the case with the Céile Dé Tradition, but these things are not what is really important. At the end of the day, this path (and other paths too of course) is not here to offer us yet another set of ego-based identifications, such as 'I am Celtic' or 'I am Gaelic'. It is more about losing the need for adjectives and nouns and simply being 'I Am'... Whether we are Buddhist, Céile Dé, Sufi or anything else, we will all have the same experience when we attain our Ultimate State.
If you are asking from another perspective, such as that of a person's readiness or ability to undergo real inner work, that may be another matter; perhaps you might like to read an article about states of being and powerful transformative work on our Articles page - the article is called 'Advice at the Threshold'.
I'm afraid that we don't offer any form of distance learning such as a correspondence course, other than the foundational teachings we give to newcomers to the tradition. This is a one-to-one course that utilises a combination of online audio teachings with accompanying handouts, email and Skype. This represents a serious investment of energy from both sides, and there would really be no purpose in offering such a course to people who were not able to continue with the tradition afterwards.
Our tradition is built around heartfelt contact between people who are dedicated to following the Tradition together. There is no point in trying to condense its essence into written form which cannot convey the inner truths that pass from teacher to student in an oral esoteric tradition.
As well as the above, we feel that there are many correspondence courses available to the public that can take a person to a certain level of knowledge, and there probably is no need for yet another one. We prefer to concentrate on what such courses cannot offer - actual physical contact and a life-long soul friendship, for those who seek that community as well as commitment. It is perhaps our weakness and our strength; we do not aim towards "mass-production" in any way.
What happens next if I want to join a Céile Dé group? What sort of commitment do you ask at the level of group membership?
Here is an excerpt from a document that is given to anyone who is considering joining a Céile Dé group. It has been slightly adapted in order to best answer your question:
THE COMMITMENT LEVEL OF THE CÉILE DÉ COMMUNITY (Called the 'Caim')
The very nature of any transformative tradition means that we need to actually apply the teachings we are given in order for them to take real effect. Some spiritual communities do not set the bar clearly with regard to effective practice; Céile Dé asks for a specific commitment because we want to walk our talk, and we hope that is why you are interested in joining the caim. Because we ask you to experience your year as a guest member exactly as though you were a full caim member, please be willing from the start to allocate sufficient time and energy to the six caim commitments listed below, so that you can make an informed decision at the end of your guest year.
1 - Rùn: the Tradition’s foundational daily meditation practice.
Please commit to doing your best to practice rùn twice a day, for the length of time recommended in the rùn teachings. Naturally we appreciate that life sometimes gets in the way and a rùn or two has to go by the wayside, but please aim to do two rùns every day and hopefully you will succeed in your aim more often than not.
2 - Study and integrate into your life what you have learnt.
The teachings cannot live until they are off the page and in your life. Please study the teachings you receive and use them. One of the main purposes of group meetings is to share and integrate understandings of the teachings and also to talk about ways in which they have worked for us, as well as times when we experience struggle; this will only be possible if you have done the work between meetings.
3 - Please commit to attending your group’s regular meetings.
Here, we are defining ‘commit’ as ‘give high priority in your life to the attendance of group meetings’.
In group meetings, the focus is on your inner life within the vehicle of the Céile Dé tradition; meetings are not an opportunity for people to get mentally excited (a popular diversion from soul-growth!) by passing on many ‘interesting facts’ or teachings from all kinds of other sources, except if a passing comparison is truly useful. In each meeting, Rùn is the practice around which the rest of the meeting is built. Meetings may also include other Céile Dé practices, or discussing an aspect of the inner life or a particular teaching; these sessions are the ideal time for group members to share their personal insights and understandings that have arisen from previous teaching gatherings.
As well as the above, individual Céile Dé Groups also observe the nine annual major festivals together.
4 - Please commit to the Annual Teaching Retreats.
Here, we are defining ‘commit’ as ‘do your very best to attend the annual teachings every year'.
All caim members are asked to place the attendance of the annual teaching gatherings high on their list of priorities. Teaching retreats are residential and are anything up to four days long. The more teaching gatherings you miss, the more difficult it will become for you to take part in group meetings, where the teachings you have not received are being discussed. So missing two or three annual teaching retreats in a row may mean that you have to leave the caim until you are once again able to commit more fully.
5 - Please do not teach the tradition to others outside of the caim.
... unless you are an ordained teacher of the tradition. This is a heart-felt request. We have so many good reasons for this, and you will find that many ancient traditions and esoteric paths ask the same of their community. For more information about this, please see the question - “I have been to one or two of your workshops and would like to pass on the teachings to my friends. Is that all right?” on the FAQs page of our website. Thank you...
6 - Please get the foundational teachings of the tradition within your first year as a caimeach.
Even if you have already had some, or all, of these teachings at a Céile Dé Introductory retreat, we ask all guest members to enrol for our on-line introductory teaching course called ‘Forus Feasa’ (The Foundations of Wisdom) and to commit to completing the course within their guest year. In Forus Feasa there is the opportunity to engage far more deeply with these teachings than is possible at a teaching retreat. This course also helps newcomers get a sense of the kind of study and shared exploration they should experience as a member of a Céile Dé group.
There are no Céile Dé teachings and no Céile Dé groups anywhere near where I live. Does that mean I cannot follow the tradition?
It is not possible to join the caim without getting regular ongoing teachings from an ordained teacher within the tradition - and this may present a challenge for those who live far from where annual teaching retreats take place. At this time, teachings are given once a year in Scotland, England and in the East and West Coast USA (see our Events page).
If you are sincere and passionate enough in your desire to follow the Céile Dé tradition, distance need not be an insurmountable obstacle, as long as you are willing and able to travel to one of the above places once a year for teachings.
To become part of the Céile Dé community of practitioners, called the 'caim', you must also join a Céile Dé group. If there are no Céile Dé groups within easy travelling distance, a newcomer would be introduced to one of our 'Disertach' (lone practitioner) groups. These groups consist of others in the same position, who meet regularly online.
With members who, in some cases, live as far afield as Australia and Switzerland, disertach group meeting times need to be compatible with all of their members' varying time zones. All the members of a particular online group attend the same annual teaching retreat too, so they at least get to meet in person once a year.
I'm unsure of the difference between the Céile Dé represented on your website and the Céile Dé referred to in the ‘The Anam Cara Project', run by the Sacred Art of Living Center, based in the USA. Are you branches of the same organisation?
Certainly a few people think we are... and it has caused confusion now and again in recent years, which is why we decided to address this here in our FAQs...
A few of the teachings of the Céile Dé tradition are referred to in the rich and varied body of teachings available to apprentices of the course known as 'The Anam Cara Project' (ACP) offered by the Sacred Art of Living Center (SALC).
Apprentices of the ACP meet in groups, called 'Céili Dé’; the terms 'Céili Dé' and 'Anam Cara' were both adopted by SALC, inspired by the book 'Anam Cara' by John O'Donohue, which is especially popular in America. SALC became aware of the continued existence of the Céile Dé Order after they had established these terms within their own organisation.
In 2011, Sister Fionn was invited to create a series of 20-minute-long teaching videos about the Celtic festivals, to be included in the course materials of SALC's Anam Cara Project. Although these recordings refer at times to a few Céile Dé teachings, their content is only partly representative of the Céile Dé tradition and how we observe the festivals is different in most cases. These recordings were specifically created so that they could be be understood - and the festivals observed - by people who are not involved in the Céile Dé tradition.
The ACP course also refers to parts of the Céile Dé tradition in its course material. It is likely that their interpretation of these subjects differs from ours, because they would not be approached from within the context of the Céile Dé teachings as a whole, but rather within the context of their course.
Some people who have done the ACP course find their way to our website and attend our teaching retreats; a number of them experience a little confusion at some stage, when they discover that our teachings and practices differ from those they have learned with ACP. Our aim as a community is also different; ACP apprentices will sometimes come to us expecting to find an emphasis on working with the dying, because this forms a significant part of the ACP. Céile Dé is a spiritual path and so naturally death is a part of that, but it is not a predominant focus in our tradition... nor is the role of the Anam Chara in Céile Dé especially concerned with tending to the dying (see another FAQ for more information about the Anam Chara).
Occasionally people come to a Céile Dé retreat believing that the teaching they will receive there is part of a SALC course. We have heard of people attending one of our introductory retreats believing that it is an introductory SALC course; others believe they do not have to take our introductory teachings because they have "done them already" as part of the ACP course.
It may be worth adding that we do not teach 'courses' from which participants graduate - we offer a spiritual path in which our many teachings and practices work together to gradually reveal a way of life, for life... and this process takes a life-time, if not longer.
Sometimes we receive requests for teaching support from apprentices of ACP; we are unable to help with these because we are not part of the SALC staff, who facilitate AC apprentices in this way.
To compound the confusion, we have noticed other organisations or individuals come and go in America, teaching their own variations of the Céile Dé teachings and practices that their founders have sometimes received from the ACP - these are further adaptations of the ACP adaptations. We cannot offer teaching support for anyone who has received teachings from sources other than our own teachers, as they are often barely recognisable to us as our tradition (see also the FAQ immediately below this one).
The Céile Dé Order and the Sacred Art of Living Center respect each other's work - but we are separate communities. We’re sure that SALC have to address similar confusions sometimes too! If you are an apprentice of the Anam Cara Project and you have any questions about a part of your course that refers to the Céile Dé tradition, it is best that you speak with the Sacred Art of Living Centre. If you are a member of our Céile Dé community (the Caim) you will know how to seek teaching support from us.
We are very grateful to you for having the sensitivity to ask this question. We need to ask you not to pass on any Céile Dé teachings that you have received.
Within the Céile Dé community there are certain people who are recognised as elders of the tradition. If and when an elder feels called to teach and has adequate being, understanding and the right skill-set, they may be trained and ordained as teachers. This ongoing training, level by level, takes years. Only ordained teachers are trusted to pass on our teachings - and even then, a level-one teacher (called an 'Oide') is only permitted to pass on those particular teachings that they have shown themselves capable of fully understanding and communicating to others. It usually takes years for an Oide to attain the next level of teacher, one who is ordained to teach all aspects of the tradition.
More and more, we are realising that what we have until recently assumed would go without saying (as it did in the old days - see also 'Fonn-ed memories' on our Articles Page) now needs to be clearly stated: These teachings need to be properly transmitted by tradition-bearers. We are now clearly and openly requesting this from everybody we teach at any Céile Dé gathering. Please allow me to do my best to explain why we work this way.
In the past few years, since we began to teach the tradition more widely, a few people have passed on bits of the teachings here and there, usually because they find the tradition so 'wonderful' and they want to share it with people whom they think it would 'help'. Some people even believe they are helping the tradition in this way, by 'getting it out there', so that it is more widely known. But part-knowledge can only be part-taught and part-received.
The Céile Dé path is not an exoteric tradition, it is an esoteric stream. This means that its deepest teachings are not resident in the words, but in the energy that the teacher transmits through the words. This energy activates the methods of inner transformation that are taught and that combination of ingredients is what produces results in people. The teachings take years of dedication to assimilate into one's whole being. This being-development (called 'growing a soul' in the tradition) forms a part of our deeper teachings, which must be accompanied by a guide who cares more for your inner life than you are often able to yourself.
So... if we appear to some to be over-cautious with regard to how parts of our tradition are 'missed-taken', it may be because we are experiencing something that you are not. The reason the tradition affects many newcomers so powerfully is BECAUSE it still possesses its power. For centuries many dear souls have held the teachings intact within their brim-full hearts, allowing the power to do its work in that innermost sanctum. What would it say about us in this age... how would we be remembered by the future... if we were to strip it all to nothing within the space of one generation?
I've heard alot about Anam Charas and believe that they are a part of your tradition. Can you tell me something about the Anam Chara?
Anam Chara is a Gaelic term, meaning 'Soul Friend'.
The main focus of an Anam Chara relationship within the Céile Dé tradition is always spiritual growth and soul-nourishment.
It is said that the private confessional of the Roman Catholic Church grew out of the Celtic Anam Chara tradition, which in turn, some believe, grew out of the mentoring relationship between a Druid and his/her pupil. However, Anam Chairdeas (Soul Friendship) is not a form of confession. It seeks, above all, to foster a depth of relationship that is both mentoring and sharing, both challenging to the False Self and encouraging the emergence of the True. It is most often a relationship for life and can often endure beyond death.
Anam Chara conversation is not life coaching. It is not about focussing on or solving issues in your everyday life, job, relationships, etc... although, of course, these problems can sometimes tangle up our relationship with the spiritual.
Anam Chara conversation is mostly about finding new ways, or strengthening old ways of realising our spiritual dimension as our centre of gravity and source of Selfhood.
Because Anam Chairdeas is rooted in the Céile Dé tradition, it is natural that teachings from the tradition are also woven into these conversations. The difference between Anam Chara conversation and group teachings is clearly that these one to one exchanges would be entirely addressing the requirements of the individual. The level of the conversation will be pitched directly to where you are within yourself, so the teaching at this level can be more intense. It is also implicit within the vows of an Anam Chara that they seek at all times to address your needs, not your wants. This can be challenging for some... as it encourages you to have the ability to discern the difference between your (surface) wants and your (deeper) needs. It is often the conflict between these two that can cause dis-ease in our lives.
Members of our Caim (community of Céile Dé practitioners) have the opportunity for Anam Chara conversation if they choose to take a personal Anam Chara retreat with Sr Fionn in Central Scotland.
We regret that we are unable to provide Anam Chairdeas for people who are not members of our caim as we do have have sufficient resources for this.
"In... the early Irish church, the term Céle Dé was used prior to the ninth century to refer to religious persons in service to God, but thereafter came to mean an adherent to teachings of the new movement."
- Michael Byrnes
Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia
St Maelruan founded a movement that is now commonly known as the Céile Dé Reformation. His aim was to return back to an earlier, simpler spirituality that was more Irish in flavour. The result seemed to be an incredibly severe form of asceticism that bares very little resemblance to the life of our Céile Dé Order.
Perhaps the only similarity that the current Order shares with the Céile Dé Reformation is that of being called to manifest a vision inspired by an earlier form of Celtic Spirituality. But in the case of the current Order, that form was never entirely extinct, so there was no need to "reform" it. It has always been a living inner flame held by a few stalwart souls throughout the centuries. We have merely sought to blow new life into the ever-glowing embers of the tradition and feed and be fed by its fire.
The term Céile Dé is often found in writings with reference to a time before the 8th century. It is mostly used as a term for holy men and women who lived in solitude. When they occasionally were moved to live together in community, these monasteries were formed and held together by a founder, or Érlam. The Érlam is and always was an individual who felt inspired to draw people together to live under his/her vision. Each community or federation of communities had their own Rule, which was either written by the Érlam or was passed on or adapted from the Rule of another community.
One might call St Maelruan an Érlam, but he is not our Érlam.
In Scotland particularly, the term Céile Dé - or Culdee - has been used by the people for centuries to denote either a religious hermit or an older expression of Celtic Christianity, that is not under the patronage of the Roman Church. The name of our Order is related to this usage, rather than being directly related to St Maelruan's Reformation.
It is impossible to know when the term Céile Dé was first used; history dissolves into Mythstory very quickly in all things Celtic! It is interesting to note that 'Céile Dé' is Irish rather than Scots Gaelic. There must be a reason why the Irish linguistic form was always retained here in Scotland, eventually corrupting or anglicising itself into 'Culdee'. For certain, the term is much older than the 8th century and was used in very early times to single out those who experienced the One God as opposed to the many. Ancient Céili Dé (plural) often also called themselves Clan Bethad - the Children of Life - as indeed we still do today.
Céili Dé is the plural of Céile Dé.
We have been asked that question several times... so often in fact that one Order member has taken the time to read one or two of his books! It would seem that Stephen Lawhead's books are fiction that is inspired by a blend of Celtic Myth and history. It is likely therefore that the Céili Dé in his books are similarly presented.