Celts are an ancient tribe that inhabited most part of the Northern Europe between 800 BCE and 400 CE. Their unique culture has always attracted attention of people. Especially interesting and popular is Celtic diversity – Celtic spirituality. Celtic religion is appreciated and honoured by all Christians: Catholic and Protestant. They are interested in different sides of this religion but it goes without saying that Celtic culture should be observed and analysed.
Celtic spirituality has some distinguishing features, one of them is its diversity: it combines polytheistic and monotheistic features, earthy rituals and transcendental mysticism. The appearance of Celtic spirituality is dated back to first mythological mentions. Second feature of Celtic spirituality is its natural character, ties with earth. The Celtic spirituality is contained in sky, earth, sun, and sea – in all nature. Celts believed in sanctity of nature and tried to take care of it. The third thing is mystical and relational directivity. Celtic diversity comes more from experience than from theological dogmas. Celts are looking for the religious origins in their hearts and souls; they don’t accept philosophical substantiation of the belief.
Celts see the necessity of collaboration between people and the earth, people and the spirits of nature and the Holy Spirit that is the head of all living creatures and is beyond all names. Celts believe in existence of many gods and angels and image them as living beings, not just abstract creations. According to the Celtic understanding of the world, these divine beings can communicate with people in their own mystical way.
Another interesting thing about the Celts is their love to poetry, beauty and creativity. Celtic diversity, which combines mysticism, love of nature and comes from the relational spirituality, is in natural harmony with beauty and poetry. The development of Celtic culture is the way of unique, rich culture. Every religious and philosophical doctrine can find familiar features just to itself but the understanding of Celtic culture needs neutrality and objective sensation. Celtic culture can be compared with a magnificent tree with a lot of branches. These branches got their further development and now have become common values.
The pre-Christian world was the world of Celts, who worshiped nature. To the Celtic outlook, the land was the main goddess, the rivers were her helpers and they enriched the earth. Celts used to live in forests, where they were close to the nature and could learn the language of trees and wisdom of animals. With the appearance of Christianity ancient Celts didn’t disturb their close ties with nature, they connected their love to nature with the main principles of Christianity. Celtic monks lived in deep forests and wrote their religious works for the gifts of nature. The most important thing was to understand the divine origin of all things and god’s existence in nature. Celts saw life as a constantly changing circulation of life and death. Everything moved in a spiral and nature’s observation gave a possibility to find mechanism of development of the world. Nowadays we have practically completely lost the awareness of spiral development and it’s difficult to gain an understanding of the world.
Life of Celts is an integration of spirit, community and nature, and these concepts were a single whole and couldn’t exist separately that can be scarcely imagined in our modern society. The returning to these Celtic dogmas can help us understand who we are.
Celtic Christians strongly believed in Holy Trinity. By the Celtic outlook the world is created by the main god who surrounds the entire world with his two arms of love: the left arm is the spirit and the right one is Christ. Christ is the supreme example of human life. Being close to the Christ means the understanding and getting of supreme and eternal love and wisdom. Early Celtic Christians didn’t go to church they preferred worshipping in small communities and sharing their food, money, work with the representatives of this small group. They saw Christ in their neighbour and shared everything with him.
Celts had a lot of traditions and cults that were directly connected with nature, animals and different gods and spirits. Every family had special rites aimed to protect all the members of the family from evil spirits. Feasts and banquets were one of the components of ritual including special food and atmosphere. During a feast a minstrel usually sang songs about deeds of famous warriors. After the minstrel’s songs his listeners began to boast of their own brave deeds. As they all had drunk too much, they began quarreling and fighting and even some men could be killed. Early Celtic spirituality is characterised by animal divinity. Even now we can find statues of horses, bears, birds created by the Celts. Only later with the influence of Mediterranean culture it took anthropomorphic element. Not all animals were thought sacred and this explains specific sensitive attitude to horses and cattle.
Celtic hierarchy of Gods combined Christianity and Greek religion and at the same time developed its own peculiarities. Cernunnos is the god that is responsible for money and grain and is correlated with variety of both domestic and wild animals. There are also such Celtic gods as Jupiter Taranis, Sulis Minerva, Lenus Mars, Rosmerta, Mercury, Epona and other. Celts were polytheistic, so believed in many gods. They thought gods to be inhabitants of the thickest and darkest parts of the forest. Such plants as mistletoe and oak-tree were considered sacred. There is a big group of historians that think that the Celts were headed by a class of priests called Druids. Stonehenge was the temple of Druids. Druids’ way of worshiping was rather cruel and proposed sacrifices of human beings to get god’s pardon. The Druids put the men in huge baskets and burned them in the presence of people. But this historical opinion isn’t still improved or disapproved.
So, to sum up, Celtic spirituality is characterised by love of nature, art and poetry; relationship between saints and gods; respect for Mary and the importance of Liturgy; union of secular and sacred; the power of abbots; monasteries; ancient calendar system for celebrating Easter; closeness between natural and supernatural; importance of family and kinship. Celtic historical motherland is Ireland and territories around it. The isolation of Ireland didn’t allow spreading Roman authority on it. Monasteries were the places of holly atmosphere and looked just like big tribal villages inhabited by all people: monks, slaves, freemen, usual men and women and priesthood. These people used to be representatives from the one clan of relatives. Some monasteries were situated in isolated places and others were just the crossroads of main towns.
Celts also made invaluable deposit in the development and making of the educational system. They took part in the spreading of the literacy among Ireland and other Celtic lands and reservation of dogmas of learning during “dark ages”.
Celtic liturgy started its existence in ancient times and included components that are eternal and won’t lose its actuality with the further development of the society. Their main themes are monasticism, closeness between God and nature, importance of the family and kinship, storytelling, love and respect of the Mother of the god, peace and justice, hospitality and education. Irish monks are still famous for their inestimable work as educators of Europe.
Many modern seasonal festivals have Celtic origin. From a lot of sources we can find information about assemblies of Druids but exact dates are not given. The building of the Imperial temple at Lugdunum was probably dedicated to the feast of Lugh. The lack of dates makes it difficult to determine the origin of some traditions and feats that are rooted in the Celtic culture.
The invention of the Coligny Calendar is the oldest inscription in Celtic language and gives us the flavour of the development of Celtic civilisation. It was invented between first century BCE and first century CE and contains reconciliation between two years. According to this calendar the year is divided in 12 months with 29-30 days each. Every two years the 13th month has to be added. By this calendar ancient Celts hold their feasts and every five years had a great sacrifice. It was the first attempt to lock in the changes of constant motion of nature and so of time. This calendar became the foundation of the modern one.
Votive offerings are a kind of Celtic worshipping that helps us to dive deeper in Celtic outlook and understand reasons and motives of these ceremonies. Workers and artificers were fastened to big temples and produced special holy souvenirs and mass-produced offerings. They were usually made from wood, later from clay and metal. The most popular and common offerings were coins. Special tiny coins were invented that could be used just for offerings. For example, there were coins devoted to the Goddess and were her properties. The number of these coins is high and they can be find practically in every Celtic temple during diggings. The next votive offerings were personal jewellery, such as rings, bracelets, earrings, pins, and necklaces. Sometimes special rites of “killing” the personal spirit of these things were hold before the sacred deposition. Even now we don’t know the exact purposes of this rite.
Another type of offerings was creation of anatomical models and representation of diseases on the statues of ancient Celtic gods. For example, Seguana, Goddess of the River Seine was depicted with models of eyes, limbs, heads and internal organs. Sometimes particular diseases that had pilgrims were reflected on the statues these pilgrims worshiped. Celtic spirituality is not just a form of ancient religion, even now it has a lot of followers and is very popular. The number of sources, which refer to Celtic civilisation is great and you can find practically everything you want to know. The rebirth of Celtic culture is growing stronger and there are a lot of groups practising Celtic religion. One of the most popular religious groups, Neo-Pagan Druids of Ar n’Draiocht Fein takes the basis of the Celtic religion and combines them with main features of Indo-European cultures. Another groups such as “Celtic Wicca”, “Celtic Magic” and others try to render Celtic culture. Such popularity is explained by relevant and eternal principles of this religion.
Sometimes modern follows can have nothing familiar with Celtic spirituality except of names of the gods. The best method of finding your place among numerous religions is to follow the summons of your voice. You choice can be based on knowledge about different religions and but it’s important to make own you conscious choice. Just basis on your own experience can lead you to all mysteries and wonders of religious world. Following ancient kind of religion, for example Celtic one, is a very important and meaningful choice. You should research and understand Celtic worldview.
All the religions are good and unique. I think that religion is very personal choice and it should be made individually. The religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitutional law and can’t be limited or neglected. The main aim of the Church is to unite people, to bring peace to the earth. It’s very painful for me that sometimes exactly religion is the reason of wars and conflicts. I have a strong determination that religion mustn’t judge the representatives of other confessions. Celtic religion gained its popularity among people because of its generality and eternity. It advocates main principles of humanity: love and respect for family and kin; love of nature, poetry and other kinds of art. Celtic spirituality assumes communication with god and spirits that are closely connected with nature. It combines natural and supernatural and pictures the god as a supreme human being with perfect intelligence and power.
The esoteric traditions of Celtic spirituality allow us develop our inner capacities and contact many resources for healing and wisdom. We may develop a relationship with Brigit, who used to be a goddess of the abundant earth and life-giving sun, later a Christian saint; or Morgan of the Isle of AvalonArticle Search, known for her skills in herbal medicine. Celtic spirituality is the way to open supernatural powers for those who believe in this.