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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Associated with death transitions in Celtic mythology.
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,
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.
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
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-
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).
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.
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).
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.
Animal Symbolism in Celtic Mythology
A paper for Religion 375 at the University of Michigan
by Lars Noodén, 22 November 1992
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,
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-
Return to: birds as omens in dreams.
Powell, T.G.E. The Celts. New Ed., Thames and Hudson: New York, NY,
Return to: boars and warriors or horses, cattle, and pigs in Celtic
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
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thank you for shareing,,,my roots are celtic
Thank you for shareing ,,,my roots are celtic