September 18 heralds a new piece of Minnesota Pagan history: a Celtic Pagan temple, in Northeast Minneapolis, opens to the public. Andrew Jacob, priest of the Temple of the River, (TOR) will lead a purification ceremony in the Mississippi River. After the ritual, participants can dry off in the new temple, also called the Irish Cottage Building.
The temple is the first official structure of the Old Belief Society, a community intended to train Celtic priests by combining academic and spiritual teachings. Temple of the River, a smaller subset of that society led by Jacob, formerly occupied a space in Dinkytown before moving their meeting space to his home in Northeast. He conceived of building a physical temple after helping construct a Native American style pavilion in 2006. “We made it a priority to have a physical temple in a permanent space – because a welcoming meeting space is one of the first things you need for community.”
While contractors built the initial foundation, roofing and stucco of the temple, community members constructed the rest. Volunteers poured the earth floor, put a lime wash on the exterior and have painted moldings and performed other small construction tasks. Originally, TOR members intended to build an Iron Age style roundhouse, but could not engineer a solution to make it possible. Setbacks ranging from inspections to funding challenged the building process over the course of three years.
According to Jacob, the Irish Cottage is the first – and at present only – temple of its kind in North America. “I like to say we’re the ‘first’ because I really do hope other organizations will do the same. Having a temple is important.”
While the temple does not offer regular hours, it welcomes the public for monthly scheduled events, holiday feasts and classes. Jacob hopes to offer a biweekly meditation time in the fall. Current programs offered by Temple of the River include a comprehensive Druidic training program, Crows of Nuadu that teaches Celtic warrior arts and other related apprenticeships.