What is Celtic Shamanism?

 

A Celtic shaman is a traditional medicine man of Europe. Throughout

the world, all indigenous people have always had medicine men and

women who work with the energies of the land they live upon to

effect healing and insight. The shamanic roots of the Celts goes way

back into pre-history and is especially centred around Britain and

Northern France with their magnificent stone temples and other

centres of ritual.

 

My source of inspiration for creating this community is:

 

 

Andy Baggott is featured in Shamanic Wisdomkeepers by Tim Freke as

a representative of the Celtic Shamanic Tradition. It tells some of

the story of how Andy discovered shamanism and includes an

introduction to his teachings. In it Tim writes:

 

'Andy Baggott is a Celtic shaman and healer. Like many westerners

who have been drawn to Shamanism his life has been an inspiring

story of spiritual awakening...Andy's understanding of Shamanism has

been shaped by many traditions, but it is his indigenous Celtic

tradition which he feels is the ground from which he works. Although

often regarded as a "dead" tradition, for Andy Celtic spirituality

is still very much alive.'

 

 

 

 

 

The Celtic Path

 

So what does it mean to follow a Celtic path? I am sure every

follower of the path has their own set of ideas but they each have

the same foundation in truth and respect. I have followed a Celtic

path for many years now and the longer I do; the more my

understanding of my purpose and destiny becomes clearer. I believe

it is the destiny of everyone to be happy, healthy and fulfilled, if

they choose to seek it. Surely if you are following your soul

purpose, you will naturally be happy, healthy and fulfilled.

Likewise, if you seek your own happiness, health and fulfilment, you

will be naturally seeking your destiny. I believe that the answers

to all questions and the cure to all illnesses lie within the mind

of each individual. You have the power within you to find the

answers you seek and with all the help and guidance that creation

can offer, there is not limit to what you can achieve. If you can

imagine something, you can make it reality in your life.

 

... The Celtic world is a rich landscape of limitless possibilities

where you can learn from everything be it human, animal, plant or

stone. If you close your mind to the possibility of other realms of

existence, then you deny yourself the wisdom and understanding that

can show you how to find happiness, health and fulfilment in your

life. However, ... with an open mind, you will see the world as I

see it, a multi-dimensional adventure playground full of fun and

profound learning. This does not mean my life is easy, on the

contrary, I would say that my life is more challenging now than it

has ever been.

 

What the Celtic path has taught me is to embrace everything with

pleasure. Even when you are at your weakest and most disempowered,

you can still relish the experience safe in the knowledge that you

will emerge stronger and wiser because of it. To understand

strength, you must first experience weakness. To understand joy, you

must first experience pain.

 

Neither is good nor bad until you choose how you interact with it.

The Celtic path gives an understanding of how processes of learning

unfold allowing one to embrace change rather than fight it.

 

From "The Celtic Wheel of Life"

 

--------------------------

 

Animal Symbolism in Celtic Mythology

by Lars Noodén

 

 

 

 

Sacred to the faeries of Ireland and Scotland probably because they

were held in high regard by the Tuatha de Danann. Many Celtic myths

involve dogs or dog familiars, which belonged to heroic figures or

deities, and wars were often fought for and over them such as the

one between Fionn MacCumhal and King Arthur. Examples of the

importance of Celtic dogs are found in the myths of Gwyn Ap Nuad,

Cuchulain, Amaethaon, and Taliesin. Dogs are also the archetypal

symbols of shapeshifters.

 

 

 

Animals in Celtic and Welsh mythology are tied in with fertility and

vitality, because they are living, moving, and growing. They also

provide vitality and continued life for the tribes through their

meat, skins, and bones. In addition, they are a connection to the

realm of spirits and the gods. This connection is seen through their

use in the hunt, search for secrets and wisdom.

 

Specific animals have specific associations depending on the

characteristics of the type of animal. Birds, fish, serpents, deer,

cattle, swine, and so on all tend to be used as symbols. Boars,

fishes, serpents, birds, and herd animals are the most frequently

described.

 

 

 

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The boar is a symbol of masculine power. The meat of the boar was

served at Otherworld feasts for the deities. The sow is associated

with some Crone/Mother Goddesses, such as Cerridwen, and with

Otherworldly feasts. The pig is theimages/ archetypal symbol of

plenty, healing, and shape shifting.

 

Boars

In addition to representing fertility and wealth, boars symbolize

courage and strong warriors (MacCulloch, 356) for they are strong,

dangerous, and very hard to kill. Their appearance in dreams and

visions also indicates warriors. Isolt's forewarning of the death of

Tristan, a great warrior, came in a dream about the death of a great

boar (Spector, 85-86). Statues of boars are occasionally found in

the company of statues of armed warriors, (Powell, 176) further

indicating an association between boars and warriors.

 

Great importance is attached to the bristles of the boar. Perhaps

they are the distinguishing characteristic of the animal or

symbolize its strength. For example, Fion is killed by stepping on a

boar's bristle after breaking a geasa against hunting boars

(MacCulloch, 150). Some of the extraordinary boars, that King Arthur

fights in Culhwch and Olwen, have bristles that are gold or silver.

Conversley, when Menw tries to steal treasures from Twrch Trwyth, he

is only able to take a bristle. The pig herders at the start of the

Táin, Friuch and Rucht, are named after the bristle and the grunt of

the boar, respectively. It is the bristle of the boar, Friuch, that

proves to have the most power; in the end, Friuch reborn as Donn

Cuilnge destroys Rucht as Finnebach Ai. The bristles of the boar are

mentioned many other times implying that they are an important part

of the animal.

 

 

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While the airborne creatures archetypally linked the Celts to the

Underworld, sea creatures linked them to great knowledge, sacred

mysteries, and deep emotion, (typically, only deities of great

wisdom and temperament ruled the Celtic seas). Most prominent among

these wise sea creatures was the Salmon of Knowledge. The myths of

Nudons and Fionn are among the many dealing with this fish. It is

said to have acquired its great knowledge from eating the Nine

Hazels of Wisdom that fell from the Tree of Knowledge. This fish is

was said to be among the oldest of living creatures.

 

Salmon

Fish, salmon in particular, are associated with knowledge. The child

that grew to be called Taliesin, the wise magician, was found in a

fish weir. The significance of the salmon can be seen in many

places. Gwyrhr questioned a series of wise animals, each one wiser

than the previous, the oldest and wisest of all was the salmon of

Llyn Llyw (Ford, 148-149). Cúchulainn used the hero's salmon leap

across the Pupils' Bridge to get Scáthach's stronghold in order to

gain access to Scáthach's advanced knowledge of arms. To gain the

secrets Cúchulainn had to use the hero's salmon leap to Scáthach

herself in order to gain the secrets reserved for her family. Each

leap in the land of sorcery brought Cúchulainn to greater knowledge.

Their wisdom can also be passed on by eating. The magic salmon gain

the power of wisdom by consuming the hazel nuts that drop into

sacred springs (MacCulloch, 377). By symbolically eating the salmon

of wisdom, Demne gained such enormous wisdom that he was renamed

(Ford, 20). Perhaps this is at the root of the modern practice where

children are told to eat fish to increase their intelligence.

 

 

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The dragon is another mighty magical animal that appears in British

and Welsh stories. It is, of course, a creature of fire but is also

related to the Power of the Land. Another word for Ley Lines is

Dragon Lines. Another name for raising power is to invoke the "Eye

of the Dragon". The whole Earth was viewed by the Druids as the body

of the Dragon. Menhirs and stone Circles were located at great Power

nodes. The Celts also called Dragons 'Fire Drakes'.

 

 

Serpents/Dragons

Serpents and dragons symbolize trouble. Whenever they appear, strife

and infertility follow. King Arthur's troubles with the future of

his kingdom are presaged by dreams of dragons and serpents at the

time of Sir Mordred's conception. King Arthur drives them out, but

is wounded (Baines, 36). King Arthur is finally devoured by them in

his last dream, subsequently his next battle is when Sir Mordred

kills him. It is interesting to note that it is the appearance of a

snake that initiates the battle. The swine herders before the Tain,

Friuch and Rucht, ruin each other's land with snow during their

magical fight, while in the forms of dragons (Ford, 48). Dragons

should be particularly troubling to a king, because the king is the

symbol of the fertility of the tribe and its land and the dragons

are the counter symbol, laying waste to the land and preventing new

growth.

 

 

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Associated with death transitions in Celtic mythology.

 

Birds

Birds are usually used to represent prophetic knowledge, (Davidson,

91) bloodshed, and skill. In an omen, birds can be either the

message or the messenger. For example, Morrígan came in the shape of

a bird to warn the Brown Bull (Kinsella, 98). The interpretation of

their calls and movements can lead to knowledge of future events.

Birds, especially ravens and crows, usually presage bloodshed and

battle, when they are associated with it, sticking with the theme of

prophesy. Deirdre's dream of three birds drawing blood foreshadowed

death and Lleu Llaw Gyffes was shedding rotting flesh and maggots

while in the form of an eagle. The Irish war goddesses were said to

call the ravens down to battle fields to feast on the flesh of the

slain (Davidson, 98). Even normal, modern crows and ravens descend

to feed on corpses along the road.

 

Birds can also be used to demonstrate a warrior's prowess by their

method of capture. Lleu Llaw Gyffes was so skilled he could hit

birds with a stone without killing them outright (Ford, 101).

Cúchulainn demonstrated even more prowess capturing birds

skillfully, but his son, Connla was still more skilled. He could not

only stun them with a stone, but also with only his voice (Kinsella,

39, 91).

 

 

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Horses were sacred to many Indo-European Goddesses, and often filled

the archetypal place given to cats in other cultures. They were

linked to the night, the moon, mystery, and magick. Nightmares, a

name which is derived from that of the female horse, were thought by

the Celts to be brought by a visiting horse Goddess such as Epona or

Mare. In most Celtic myths the horses are black or white.

 

Horses, cattle, and pigs represent fertility. Horse, cattle, and pig

bones are found in Welsh and Celtic graves, (Powell, 28) indicating

that they were very important to those cultures. The prosperity of

the clan is reflected in the prosperity of its herds. Cattle were a

major Celtic food source (Davidson, 52)and as such, would be

proportionally important to the success and survival of the tribe.

Later, pigs became added to the diet of the Irish. Horses were also

seen to symbolize fertility. Davidson (54) Davidsondescribed rituals

where the leader of the tribe mated with a horse. The bull, which is

the leader of the cattle, symbolized the herd and its fertility just

as the king would symbolize the clan and its fertility, thus joining

the fertility of the horse with the tribe's.

 

 

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The deer was the principal animal hunted by the Celts for food. The

doe was associated with most woodland Goddesses, such as Saba and

Flidais, and is their totem animal. The stag was often seen as the

incarnate form of woodland Gods such as Cernunnos. White stags were

considered to be from the Otherworld and, in myth, their appearance

always heralded some profound change in the lives of those in the

story. Considered in Celtic mythology to be among the oldest

creatures in existence.

 

 

The theme of the hunt uses animals to pass to and from the realm of

magic and the gods in Celtic and Welsh mythology. For example,

during the excitement of the hunt, the chosen party pursues an

unusually fleet of foot, magical prey out of the world of the

mortals and into a place of magic. Other ways to enter the other

world are by charm, like the song from magical birds (Ford, 71), or

by spell, like the mist descending over land (Ford, 77). Wells,

springs, rivers, and earthen mounds are some of the magical places

that border with or co-exist in the other world. In these places,

magic is much more prevalent and sometimes even time passes

differently there.

 

The magical animals are noteworthy in appearance and get the

attention of the hunter by their supernatural shape, color, speed,

and power. There are many other examples of the pursuit of

supernatural beasts throughout Celtic and Welsh mythology with the

common characteristic being their unnatural, white color. While

pursuing a large, white deer, King Arthur arrives at Sir Pellinore's

well, a magical site, without his hunting party or his horse

(Baines, 37). Pryderi and Manawydan pursue a "gleaming white boar"

(Ford, 80) which leads them and their dogs to a magical trap. The

bright white animals from the other world sometimes have bright,

glowing, red ears, but they are not a natural type of white or red.

Prince Pwyll encounters king Arawn's dogs from the other world. The

dogs appear with "glittering bright white" and red ears that glitter

as brightly as their white bodies (Ford, 37). Rhiannon arrives from

the other world on her white horse at an earthen mound (Ford, 42-

45).

 

Fertility and continuation of the clan was a major concern of the

Celtic and Welsh peoples. Here again, animals figured strongly with

fertility in Celtic and Welsh mythology. A prosperous tribe was

indicated by healthy, plentiful animals.

 

A few animals are associated with infertility because their success

is incompatible with the survival of the tribe. For example, dragons

indicate lack of fertility. Two dragons were heard screaming on the

island of Britain every May 1st, and this caused sterility in all

living creatures of the land and water (Ford, 113-116). A dragon

briefly ravaged Ireland, ruining the land and preventing daily

activities (Spector, 17-18). The dragons had to be destroyed in

order to restore the fertility of the land. No specific causes were

given for the arrival of the dragons. A vague, magical power, but no

clear purpose was given to the nine scores of birds that consumed

the fertility of the fields of Ulster (Kinsella, 21). They just

happened. So, it is quite likely that they are merely symbols of

hard times. However, more earthly explanations, like revenge or a

curse, have been the cause for destruction or loss of fertility.

Under a spell, hoards of warriors disguised as mice ravaged

Manawydon's wheat, destroying the fertility of his land as revenge

for Gwawl (Ford, 82-87).

 

 

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Usually spelled Ouzel in the United States. This water bird is known

for its tenacious and deceptive personality. While it looks harmless

enough, it is revered for its ability to staunchly defend itself and

its flock. In myth, the Ouzel of Cilgwri once picked a smith's

hammer down to the size of a small nut.

 

Birth and rebirth are fertility. The Celts believed that souls were

manifested as tiny animals or beings (MacCulloch, 160). Lleu Llaw

Gyffes was grown from "some little thing" (Ford, 98-99). If such a

magical being was eaten by a female, then it would grow until she

gave birth to it. This is illustrated in the rebirths of Taliesin,

Sétanta, Finnebach Ai, and Donn Cuailnge who were all consumed by

their mothers as tiny creatures and then reborn. Taliesin had been

Gwion Bach disguised as a grain of wheat (Ford, 164, 173) and

Sétanta, later known as Cúchulainn, had been a vague, tiny creature

in a drink, possibly the soul of the god Lug (Kinsella, 23). Both

Taliesin and Cúchulainn had extraordinary abilities extending to the

supernatural, and Taliesin even described himself as having

previously been Gwion Bach. Friuch and Rucht changed into maggots,

very small creatures, and were consumed by cows while fighting each

other in a battle of magic. They became reborn as the extraordinary

bulls Finnebach Ai and Donn Cuailnge. They continued to escalate

their combat by involving the tribes of Ireland, suggesting at least

partial survival of their personalities.

 

Animals are used to bring knowledge directly by speech, through what

they symbolize, and through their use in rituals. Eating special

animals provided Celts with knowledge. When Demne tastes by accident

the salmon of wisdom caught by Finn Éces (Ford, 20) he gains such

great wisdom that he is renamed. Davidson (143) mentions the use of

animal hides to enhance the contents of dreams. However, the most

common way of gaining knowledge from animals in Welsh and Celtic

mythology was to talk with them or to interpret their actions.

 

 

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The Crow is deeply linked to Crone Goddesses such as Badb, and to

Goddess of war or death like the Morrigan. The Raven is similar to

the crow in that it is deeply associated with death deities. But,

while the crow is usually reserved as a spirit form for feminine

deities, the raven has been the Otherworldly body for both Gods and

Goddesses. Like the crow, it flew over Celtic battlefields as the

deity incarnate. The raven is most closely associated with the

Irish/Welsh God Bran.

 

Exceptionally magic or ancient animals speak the language of humans

and can pass on their wisdom through speech. By and large birds are

associated with speech. Branwen took an ordinary starling and taught

it to understand enough speech to find her brother (Ford, 65).

Gwyrhyr & Arthur's messengers conversed with an eagle, an owl, a

stag, a blackbird, and a salmon to learn ancient knowledge from them

(Ford, 148-149). A special understanding of the speech of animals

can yield a great advantage. Some heros have gained knowledge of the

speech of birds, enabling them to be warned of danger or told

secrets by the birds. Davidson (87) mentions a less mythical middle-

Irish manuscript describing how to determine the approach of

visitors through interpretation of bird calls.

 

Animals appear as an omen by their appearance and activity through a

symbolic message. The type of animal and their activity is the

substance of the message. On the eve of his battle with Sir Mordred,

King Arthur dreamt of being devoured by serpents, dragons, and other

water beasts. The serpents and dragons alone mean great troubles

within the land. King Arthur was destroyed by this mass of troubles,

because the next day, he was defeated in a battle during the civil

war with Sir Mordred (Baines, 497-498). Another example of an omen

is Deirdre's dream of the three great birds. They arrived bearing

honey and left with blood, symbolizing treachery on the part of king

Conchobar (Pilkington, 177). Movements of smaller animals, such as

birds and rabbits, have also been interpreted to divine the future

(Davidson, 11, MacCulloch, 219, 247).

 

 

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Eagles were the feared scavengers of Europe and were usually linked

to death Gods, such as Beli, in the same way as the crow was linked

to death Goddesses. In Welsh mythology, Llew was turned into an

eagle at the moment of his murder.

 

 

Shape changing is another theme generally involving animals.

Sometimes humans are changed into the shape of other humans. Merlin,

King Uther Pendragon, Pwyll, and King Arawn are examples. However,

the forms changed into are most often those of animals. MacCulloch

and Davidson make several references to people being changed into

animals as punishment. This happens in the story Math Son of

Mathonwy. Generally, the animal shape is usually taken voluntarily

in order to guard something or to gain an advantage in combat.

 

Spirits and supernatural beings also take animal forms to guard

something. According to Celtic myths, each holy place generally has

a spirit guardian in the form of an animal. Each well, a spring, a

river, a mound, or a grove often is likely to have its own spirit.

Water places would have a guardian in the form of a fish

(MacCulloch, 186). Gods from the other world can assume animal forms

for other reasons, also. The god Lug may have become the small life

that Deichtine consumed in order to become Cúchulainn, the guardian

of the tribe of Ulster.

 

Battle while in animal form is commonly seen during a fight between

two powerful opponents. The two pig keepers, Friuch and Rucht,

assumed the shapes of many creatures to try to gain an advantage

over one another after their rivalry escalated into a long fight

(Kinsella, 46-50). On a smaller scale, Morrígan fought against

Cúchulainn using three different animal shapes in her efforts to

gain an advantage (Kinsella, 132-137). Kinsella, 77, 150-153, 195).

Not all shape changes in battle are offensive. One example that

describes shape changing in a defensive manner is Gwion Bach's

attempt to escape from Ceridwen by using different animal forms

(Ford, 164, 173). Another is Lleu Llaw Gyffes' escape from an

assassination by fleeing in the shape of an eagle (Ford, 106-107).

 

In conclusion, the most frequently used animal symbols of the boar,

fish, serpent, bird, and herd animals are closely connected with the

physical well being of the tribe. Divination of future events and

past wisdom can be gained through proper use of animals. Very

powerful opponents take the shapes of animals for extra power.

Spirits and supernatural beings also take animal forms, often

temporarily, before being reborn to guard a land or clan and thus

its fertility. Thus, animals symbolize the essence of fertility and

vitality in Welsh and Celtic mythology.

 

 

Unlike many other Indo-European cultures, the Celts did not revere

cats, though there are many references to them in Celtic mythology.

Archtypally they serve the same guardian function as demons/angels

in the Judeo-Christian myths. Three mythic references to cats which

are prominent are; one, a cat which helps to guard the gates of the

Otherworld; two, one who is able to shapeshift into a ball of fire;

and three, one called Irusan of Knowth who stole humans like the

faery. Cat-like monsters were also believed to dwell in dark caves.

 

 

 

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Animal Symbolism in Celtic Mythology

A paper for Religion 375 at the University of Michigan

by Lars Noodén, 22 November 1992

 

Bibliography

Baines, Keith, trans. Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur: King Arthur and

the Legends of the Round Table. Penguin Books: New York, NY, USA,

1962. xi-xx, 22-43, 118-136, 472-512

Return to: King Arthur's dragons and serpents, white deer, dreams of

water beast as omens.

Davidson, H.R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early

Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse University Press:

Syracuse, NY, USA, 1988. 87, 90, 107

Return to: birds, ravens and battle, cattle as food for the Celts,

Horses as fertility symbols, horse and tribe's fertility, divination

from animal movement, shape changing as a punishment, animal skins

to enhance dreams, or birds as converyors of secrets.

 

Ford, Patrick K., trans. The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh

Tales. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA, USA, 1977.

Return to: wisdom of the salmon, gaining wisdom through eating

salmon, dragons as infertility, use birds to demonstrate prowess,

bird songs or mist to leave mortal world, pursuing a magical boar

into other worlds, supernatural dogs, Rhiannon's arrival on a

supernatural horse, dragons and sterility, and mice and hard times.

 

Kinsella, Thomas, trans. The Tain. Oxford University Press: Oxford,

England, 1969.

Return to: birds as messengers, Connla's use of birds to demonstrate

prowess, flock of birds consuming crops of Ulster, small creatures

as souls, shape changing in battle.

 

MacCulloch, J. A. The Religion of the Ancient Celts. T. and T.

Clark : Edinburgh, Scotland 1911.

Return to: boars as symbols of strength and courage, boar bristles,

salmon gain wisdom, tiny animals as souls, divination from animal

movement, shape changing as a punishment, spirit guardians.

 

Pilkington, F. M., ed. "Deirdre and the Sons of Uisne." The Three

Sorrowful Tales of Erin. The Bodley Head: London, England 1965. 127-

232

Return to: birds as omens in dreams.

 

Powell, T.G.E. The Celts. New Ed., Thames and Hudson: New York, NY,

USA, 1980.

Return to: boars and warriors or horses, cattle, and pigs in Celtic

graves.

 

Sharkey, John. Celtic Mysteries: The Ancient Religion. Crossroad:

New York, NY, USA, 1975.

 

Spector, Norman B., trans. The Romance of Tristan and Isolt.

Northwestern University Press: Evanston, USA, 1973

Return to: boars as warriors or dragons and infertility.

 

text from: http://www-personal.umich.edu/%7elars/rel375.html

pictures and subtitle information from:

http://www.celticfolklore.com/

 

 

Views: 103

Replies to This Discussion

         thank you for shareing,,,my roots are celtic   

  Thank you for shareing ,,,my roots are celtic  

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