What does "Celtic" Mean?
Celtic is an ethnic entity consisting of the Irish, Scottish, British (Great Britain, Gaul, Welsh, Cornish). Celtic Paganism refers to the geographical distinction of the Continental Celts (the Celts of Gaul - early period) and the Insular Celts (the British Isles/Ireland - later period)
What is Celtic Paganism?
Obviously Celtic Witch's follow the Celtic Pantheon - the list of Gods & Goddesses worshipped by the ancient Celts. But to be a Celtic Witch is much more than that. Respecting the history, mythology, traditions and holidays of the ancient Celts - and learning from them, then converting them to fit todays lifestyles are important parts to being a modern Celtic Witch.
Celtic Paganism is based on Earth - meaning almost all the beliefs and practices - and Elemental Spirits - the elements, spirits, psyche. Ancient Celts had a vast knowledge of the magickal properties of herbs and roots and used them in both healing and magickal practices. This allows the Celtic Witch to work magick into every aspect of daily life - from jewlery, to cooking to how they decorate their homes and interact with people.
Celtic Paganism is also Polytheistic - meaning a Celtic Witch believes in many Gods/desses. There is the Great Mother, Danu, who is the most powerful, but all other deities (much like candle colors, gems, scents, etc) have their own magickal associations. Because each deity has their own associations there was not much distinction of importance between male and female deities (Danu excluded), however the female deities often have more accessible associations to daily life - Deities were also believed to appear at any place and any time.
As the most important (powerful) Deity to a Celtic Witch is Danu and the fact that Goddesses were readily available or accessable - women in ancient Celtic societies were revered and treated better than in other ancient societies - for instance women could become warriors and warrior queens as well as mothers. Don't get me wrong, their life was still oppressive, men still ruled the roost, but they didn't treat the women as bad as the Romans or Greeks.
Along with following the general traditions, many modern Celtic Witches also follow this path to becoming an active Celtic Pagan Practitioner - After initiation into Celtic Paganism, one begins a journey to discover their Warrior Self and how that self can aide their spiritual developent. Therefore the Celtic Warrior is equivelant to a beginner to intermediate Celtic Pagan. The Shaman is the second stage of Celtic Paganism. They are the healers anddiviners, learning to use the interconnectedness of the universe fro each persons benefit. Therefore they are teh intermediate to advanced level of Celtic Pagan. Finally, there is the Druid. They are the Priests and Priestesses of the Celtic Pagan Path. They are all of the other two designations (warrior and healer) as well as divinors and teachers. See additional posts for further development into these catagories.
Differences between Wicca and Celtic Paganism?
Quite obviously Celtic Paganism follows the Celtic Pantheon. Where one can be a Wiccan and call upon the Celitc Pantheon - this does NOT make one a Celtic Witch. There are marked differences between Wicca and Celtic Paganism. Some of these differences are:
- Wicca assigns the sun a male deity - Celtic Paganism has both a male and female deity associated with the sun.
- Wicca is (mostly) Duotheistic whereas Celtic Paganism is Polytheistic.
- Most Wiccans set up a permanant sacred space - or use the same space for each ritual. Due to a Celtic Witch's connection to the land their rituals can be performed anywhere.
- Wicca does not require the understanding of mythological stories or elements in their magickal practices while Celtic Paganism does.* Wicca does not require a connection to ancestors or the land (many Wiccans chose to honor the land and their ancestors, but it is not required).
- Probably the most important difference between Wiccan and Celtic Paganism is Wicca follows a "An it harm none" Law - Celtic Paganism does not. Instead of this law Celtic Pagans follow a Values System. The Celtic Values are the following:
Honor (oineach): If you have Honor (personal honor) then people will respect you and you can make a difference in the lives around you.
Loyalty (tairise): Steadfast. Unchangeable - people can rely on you to always believe and act the same way - also you will not change your mind once you have given an oath. Hospitality (aiocht): Helping people who are not related to you is an important aspect of the Celtic Witch.
Honesty (indracus): Integrity, openness, guilesness, friendliness in dealing with people.
Justice (coir): Brehorn Law is the ancient justice system (often ruled by druids) Ancient Celtic laws were all about comparing behavior with a cosmic rightness - you know whats right and wrong.
Courage (meisnech): Maintaining control no matter the situation; being able to see all sides of an issue, and all solutions.
THE CELTIC TRIUMVERIATE
STAGE 1: THE WARRIOR
The warrior self is an essential part of any Celtic Pagans spiritual journey. As Celtic Pagans do not follow the Wiccan Reed, and intead follow the Values system including Honor, Justice and Courage; it is obvious that being able to protect ones loved ones and those under your protection is an important aspect fothe Celtic Pagan. So, Think of the Celtic Warrior as the beginer - to - intermediate manifestation of the Celtic Pagan.
But, Celtic Pagans also believe in the interconnectedness of all aspects of the universe. This being the case there will always be repercussions to descisions. Do you fight to protect ones family to the death - thus causing the death of anothers family member? For the Celtic Warrior Honor and Justice are the most important aspects of the value system. If you take an oath to protect someone - then you are honor bound to defend them even if you do not agree wit the reasons for the battle. So, no Celtic Warrior takes an oath without considering all possible ramifications.
The ancient Celts were a bit kinder to their women - often allowing them to be warriors as well as mothers - for who would defend the home while the men were off hunting or fighting in a war? Also, Ancient Celts had many feminine "Goddesses" who would protect them and lead them in war - which further proves the feminine attributes were not shunned from teh battlefield but honored.
A major portion of the Celtic Warriors persona is sexual freedom - the idea that women are the earth-bound representation of Warrior Goddesses. Again in ancient customs teh Warrior Female would often initiate Warrior Generals and Kings through a sexual rite similar to sacred Pagan practices still performed today. This being the case a Celtic Warriors initiation often involes ritualistic sex as a means of gaining power from the Warrior Goddesses.
While the modern woman may not be called upon in a time of war (unless she is in tharmed services) all women are called upon to defend themselves from harm, their children from danger or even to defend their self-esteem.
Becoming a Celtic Warrior may not have the same physical conotations it had in ancient times, the modern women must still come to terms with being a women. That the very fact that she is a woman - capable of bringing life into the world, her menstration cycle following that of the saced birth, death, rebirth cycle in almosth all Pagan beliefs - is essential in all other aspects of spiritual growth. You can not grow in spirituality if one week a month you are ashamed of your bodily functions.
You cannot allow others, or your self, to make you feel shame - this is the core of the Celtic Warrior. Knowing you are a part of the Goddess.
Therefore you must make your choices based on the cosmic right vs wrong - and follow through with them no matter what.
The Celtic Warriors Dedication Ritual exposes much of what it means to be a Celtic Warrior Woman. There are 11 parts of the dedication: Cleansing of the mind and body. Shielding. Arming both physically and mentally. The naming of Arms. The declaration of Intent. The Sacred Vows. The naming of the Warrior Self. The bestowing of the Torque. Assuming the Warrior's stance. Drinking a Warriors Brew and Consuming the Hero's postion.
The Sacred Vows taken by the Celtic Warrior are written by each woman in the time prior to the dedication. They contain the intent to defend yourself and your family. An acknowledgement of your strength and power as a warrior woman; dedication to the way of the Goddess; a willingness to protect those weaker than yourself.
STAGE 2: THE SHAMAN
Shaman's have appeared in many traditions as well as across the ancient world. People are most familiar with Native American tribes' as well as African tribes as having a shaman or a medicine person who connects the energies ofthe realms - but it was also comonin the ancient Celts as well as Asia.
Shamanism is a major portion of being a Celtic Pagan. Think of it as the intermediate to advanced practitioner of the Celtic Pagan. This is the healer, one who spends their time and spirituality in the assistance of others. Some will focus their time and energy on only being a Celtic Shaman while others use a triumverate of power connecting all forms of Celtic Paganism - the Warrior, the Shaman and the Druid.
A shaman is the master of meditation and altered states of consciousness. Once this altered state, or deep meditation, has bee achieved the shaman is able to contact as well as use energies from the Otherworld - this can be used to gain knowledge, heal people or to see the future. Essentially, the shaman is the master of astral projection - believing their soul leaves the body to travel to otehr realms or Otherworlds - where they can obtain the necessary knowledge or power for any given goal.
This is an ancient mystical practice - the shaman may not only travel to Otherworlds but they may communicate directly with the Gods and spirits from this plane of existance and others. This is how they collect power and knowledge - through communication, learning and self-sacrifie - as traveling within the realms is done for the help of others rather than the gaining of power for themselves.
Celtic Shamans believe everything - all aspects of the universe - is interconnected. So by changing one thing one must take into account the ramifications of the change. Healing one might take healing energy away from another, for instance.
Generally, Celtic Shamans are most commonly healers first and mystics or prophets second. They require their patients participate in the healing process - through belief that the techniqus work as well as relying on the shamans experience and knowledge in interpreting the energies and symbols fromthe Otherworlds in solving a problem. Sometimes the shaman will take the believing and practicing patient with them on their astral journeys. If the patient is a non-believer than the shaman will travel alone and try to fit their revelations into a belief mode more comfortable to the patient.
All travel by the Celtic Shaman is along the spiral path or laborynth which is the central axis between Earth (our realm) and the Upperworld and Underworld. A Tree is the cetner of the universe and is often where the Celtic Shaman will convene with guides to gather knowledge.
The Underworld is essentially identical to this plane of existance (Earth) the major difference being all animals, plants and inanimate objects (like stones) are capable of communication - mythical beings are also common in this realm. This realm is usually reached by the Celtic Shaman through a tunnel.
The Upperworld is usually reached by ascending a spiral staircase or a tree. The Upperworld is essentially the land of spirits and th Gods (although the Gods also travel between all the realms in Celtic Pagan beliefs). There are essentilly two halves of the Upperworld - the joyous side where sould are enjoying this time before re-birth; and the gloomy side, where souls are tormented by mistakes in the past - like a murderer driven mad by his klillings. A shaman will travel between both halves of the Upperworld though rarely travels to the gloomy side without the aide of an animal guide, or the empathic nature of the astral travel can be overwhelming.
As I said previously, Celtic Shamans believe everything is connected. This aids in the believe that each person as animal guides and spiritual guides. When in the astral state a Celtic Shaman will often meet up with these guides for learning as well as guidance through the realms.
STAGE 3: THE DRUID
The Druid was a pivotal person in Ancient Celtic Society. These were the advisor's to Kings, the Priests/Priestesses, Teacher, Bards, Judges, Astronomers, Diviners, Healers, Warriors, etc. These were among the most learned in ancient society - yet they would on occasion fight along side the warrior class. Therefore, it was not a portion of the religion fo Celtic Paganism that was open to the general public - one had to be learned and had to have a desire to immerse themselves i their chosen field for up-to 20 years. The Catholic Church designed its priesthood and seminaries based on the seminaries of the Druidic Order.
There are 3 levels of being a leader as a Druid or an advanced Celtic Pagan - the Bard (poets), the Ovates and the Priests/Priestesses. The common person who followed Celtic Paganism would not work their way up to becoming a druid - although popular and particularly gifted craftsmen were considered the Druidic followers.
The Bard - wore Blue Robes. The Bards job was to teach using rhyme and song. This requires a certain level of creativity as the rhymes are NOT the dark/spark/lark variety but the riveting and soul searching variety. In order to make up the riveting rhymes to teach others the Pagan religion - you need to have an understanding of it yourself. Therefore the Bard classification can last from anywhere from 1 to 10 years based on the skill level of the Druid, and their capability of teaching others.
The Ovate - wore Green Robes. The primary function of the Ovate was to compile knowledge. Think of the Ovate in terms of the Monks of old - transcribing knowledge and soaking it up like a sponge. Again this classification can last from 1 to 5 years based on the Druids level of learning.
In some texts the Ovate and the Bard were further classified together as Filid. The filid are classed with the lords, and the Priestesses are classified with the Kings/Queens. In some translations of Filid or the plural Fili, it means seer, prophet or prophecy, and satire.
The High Priestess/Priest - wore White Robes. This is the diviner, the ancient psychologist, the royal consultant, teacher, diviner, etc. Essentially The Druids and Druidesses formed the professional class in Celtic society. They were often the most educated in the ancient world as knowledge is revered by Druids. The High Priestess was responsible for the people in her area, much like royalty, but her responsibilities included ensuring the fertility of the land, all divination, coronations, weddings, blessings, healings, etc. The Druid was also the Lawyers and Judges of Ancient society - keeping the knowledge of the laws of the land and issuing punishments to the transgressors. The Head (or highest) level of Priestess-hood is the Priestess of the Grove - it requires 20 years of dedication to the Celtic Pagan Path.
Druidic Belief System - There are a few metemorphosis' that take place with the Celtic Pagan Belief structure by the time one is declared a High Priestess/Priest.
The biggest is the Afterlife - all Celtic Pagans believe in re-incarnation. But, the Druid believes the soul is immortal. Once a life ends on this - the mortal plane - it moves onto the Otherworld where it has another life. When this Otherworld Life ends the soul comes back to this plane for re-incarnation. At the births in Ancient Celtic Societies - the Druid Priestess would mourn for the death of the Otherworld self.
Once the soul has learned as much as it can through many rounds of reincarnation, it returns to The Source. This is a private section of the Otherworld. It is the literal source of all - even the Gods were birthed here. Think of it like a flame - sparks that rain down are each a soul - be it God or man, eventually the sparks return to the flame to add energy to the creation of another spark. So, a piece of our soul will be used in the creation of the new.
The way I teach the difference in the Druidic Belief Structure from the Generalized Celtic Pagan Structure is that they become more detailed and specific. The Moral Code, for instance, states in Celtic Paganism that honor and loyalty are of utmost importance - the Druid agrees but expands to include Loyalty and honor even unto the death (as the soul is immortal, who cares if we move onto another plane) and you essentially speak the truth only - nothing but the truth. To falter from the Hospitality, Loyalty, Honor, Truth moral code is a grave offense in the Druid - the soul cannot move on - all it has learned in this reincarnation's rotation has been lost and must be done over. So, breaking the code - even a little - is of grave concern and taken extremely seriously.