The History of Celtic Magic
Celtic witchcraft has as its basis a strong sense of spirituality and a love of the earth. Central to this love are the Goddesses and Gids, who play a strong role in Celtic worship. The Celtric religion recognises two main deities; the Earth Mother Goddess and the Horned God. But Celtic Wiccans also worship many othre minor deities who each represent specific qualities important to Celtic individuals. Celtic worshippers celebrate the same Sabbaths, perform rituals and magic, and have a strong faith in their spirituality, just like any member of the Craft. The main differences between Celtic witchcraft and other forms of the Craft is that with Celts, magic is everywhere. Magic is woven into their jewellery, their tattoos and all their artwork and everyday items such asclothing and cutlery.
The Druids are the religious leaders of the Celtic people,the wise and magical priestd and priestesses whose special blend of wisdom and magic provided a powerful role model for all the Celtic people. The Druidic priesthood was orginally all-female, which male initiates only becoming accepted after many years.
According to Laurie Cabot, Druidesses were divided into three levels, or classes: the highest class were celibate and lived in convents, and were eventually assimilated into Christianity as nuns. The other two levels could be married and lived either with their husbands, or in the temples. With the onset of Christianity these wise women were called witches.
Spirituality is of primary import to Celtis, and their devotion to the earth, their goddesses and gods and the effeort which they put into their worship is proof of their highly spiritual nature. Although the names of the deities worshipped and the titles of the SAbbats may be different to other Pagan practices, despite the regional dialects which occur in the Celtic rituals, there are strong similarities between Celtic witchcraft and Wicca practiced elsewhere on the globe.
Despite the interest in the Celts, there is a great deal of confusion as to who the Celtic people actually were, and where they came from. DJ Conway in her book Celtic Magic explains that the Celts were not only inhabitants of Wales Ireland and Scotland, as is commonly thought, but resided in much of Western Europe. They were a strongly spiritual, artistic and creative people, with a distinctive artwork, orginal alphabet (the Ogham) and a deep respect for faeries, elves, pixies and gnomes.
One need not be of Celtic heritage to practice Celtic magic. Each person who is interested in Paganism will follow a basic set of guidelines, but will adapt the rituals and spells to suit her/himself. One aspect which sets Celtic magic apart from others is their respect for the “little people”: faeries, elves and gnomes, whom the Celts called “Good Neighbours” and treated with honour. Much of the Celtic magic calls for the assistance of their Good Neighbours, with those who were familiar often using the little folks’ fairy circles of mushrooms found in fields, rather than casting their own magic circle. However the Celts realised that it is very important to use another’s circle with respect, and with permission, they are aware that you should never encroach upon another’s magic.
The Warrior Goddess
The Celts were unique in the level of power they attributed to their female Gods. Warrior Goddesses were relatively common, and it was not unusual for Celtic women to fight alongside the male warriors during wartime. Subsequently, women were highly regarded in the Celtic community, with children taking their mother’s name, and daughters inheriting the mother’s property upon her death.
Celtic magic is rooted strongly in the four natural elements: earth, air,fire and water, with many spells and rituals corresponding to at least one of these elements. As in all Wiccan magic, each of the elements is associated with a colour, and with certain powers. For the Celts the colours were North, black; South, white; East, red and West, grey. The Celts also placed a great deal of faith in stones and plants and in their ability to heal. Therefore any practitioner of Celtic magic would be well versed in plants and herbal medicine.
Ritualsinterwined the use of colours, stones, incense and elements representing the natural elements, which are all extremely powerful tools in Celtic magic.
With the Celts, magic was a common part of everyday life, completely accepted and never questioned. In order to practice Celtic magic one needs to suspend disbelief, turn around the conventional ideas and accept magic into your life. Magic becomes s natural as breathing, sleeping and smiling : a completely normal part of life. As one becomes more familiar with magic, the more accepting one becomes, until there’s not even a second thought about the magic in one’s life.
The White Moon Goddess and the Honrned God are the two deities which personify nature for the Celts, and while the Celts, like Wiccans, believe that all Gods and Goddesses are one God united, is is these two which are the most prominent. Celts worship the triple Goddess: the deity recognised as the maiden, mother, crone. The maiden is Anu, the mother Badb and the crone Ceridwen: each representing woman at three important phases of her llife cycle.
Just as the lunar calendar is important to all witches, it plays a strong role in the Celtic lifestyle. The thirteen lunar months in the Celtic calendar are all named after certain plants and trees. The new year for the Celts starts the day after Samhain (on November 1, its origins being in the Northern hemisphere). Nights were counted, not days, and feasts, rituals and celebrations were always based around the moon. The Celtic day began at midnight.
The Celts were an extremely spiritual people, so when Christian leaders looked down upon their magical tradition, the Celts moved underground: or more specifically to the nearest forest. The Celts were not a sexually repressed people, sexuality was encouraged, and women with children were paid a higher dowery than virgins to become wives – so much was fertility prized. Beltane was considered a most auspicious festivals were often held during this time.
In Celtic witchcraft, rituals honour the essential elements of earth, air, fire and water, and the deities that personify them. Rituals are held in honour of the seasons, the Sabbats and to celebrate auspicious moments in pagan history. Numbers are extremely important to the Celts, with three, five, seven, nine and thirteen holding special significance. Therefore it is auspicious to repeat rituals or affirmations a specific number of times.
Ritual is vital for Celtic magic. The wearing of ceremonial robes, the burning of incense and candles, and the tools on the ceremonial altar – all play an important role in setting the scene for magic. Magic is an oft overused term, but those in the Craft know that it works. With spellcraft one can practice and see the results of magic, constantly gaining strength with each day that passes.
Candle magic was greatly favoured by the Celts, although they preferred tallow lamps and bonfires using specific woods to modern candles we use today. Candle rituals are specific to the individual, but there are a few simple rules to follow unless the ritual specifies otherwise. To perform a spell to increase or obtain, burn during a waxing moon (the period leading up to the full moon). To decrease or remove, burn during a waning moon (the period after the full moon).
Use candles of a specific colour relevant to your spell. Anoint the candle with incense or oil, working from bottom to top for a spell to increase or from top to bottom for a spell to remove. You may also wish to etch words, such s your desires or the name of the deity to whom you are appealing, along the side of the candle to strengthen the purpose of the spell. When performing a ritual with a candle, unless otherwise stipulated, allow the candle to burn out to the end.
Celtic Witchcraft – A Distinct Tradition
In the last decade or so, people have been obsessed with anything that is Celtic, from myth to music.
While witchcraft based on the Celtic tradition has been increasing in popularity, there are many followers who are still not very sure about how this kind of witchcraft is different from the other types of Pagan worship.
This is the kind of witchcraft that loves the earth and it also believes strongly in theology. As such, Gods and Goddesses are important to the followers of this form of Wicca.
The Celtic witchcraft identifies two chief deities. These are the Horned God and the Mother Goddess. Celtic Wiccans do worship other deities as well apart from these two deities, but these are by far the most prominent figures in this tradition.
The Celtic Wiccans are of the opinion that all goddesses and gods are one – but that the Horned God and the Earth Mother Goddess possess real authority. Another deity who is worshipped to a similar degree the Triple Goddess who is identified as the maiden, the mother and the crone. This underlines the female aspect to Celtic Mythology.
The followers of this religion carry out the same magic/rituals as other Wiccans. They tend to celebrate the same holidays or sabbats and they are also very dedicated to spirituality – just like any other Craft member.
Perhaps the main difference between the Celtic followers and other Wiccans is that when it comes to the Celtic tradition, their brand of Magick pervades everything, and it has a very ancient sense of history. Celtic-themed tattoos, jewelry, everyday items and artworks have the presence of magic and they hark back to an ancient but much cherished past.
The religious leaders of the Celts were the druids, a profession that now has a strong modern follower. Those were intelligent priestesses and priests that possessed the perfect blend of magic and wisdom. Only the most respected members of Celtic society rose to the level of becoming a druid. There was a time when the priesthood of the druids included only the females. However, this changed later on and the druidic orders started to accept males too. Again, this points to the very strong female basis that underpins the Celtic outlook on life.
Druidesses were said to be of three classes or categories.
DruidsThe first class was the celibate class and the priestesses of this class lived in convents. The other two levels of Druidesses had the freedom to marry and live with their husbands. They could also live in the temples.
The Celtic Wiccans of today are extremely spiritual people and you will be able to see this when you see how much work they put in to their worship. They are also very dedicated to earth as well as their gods and goddesses. While at first glance there seems to be very little difference between the Celtic followers and other Wiccans from all over the world, they have an outlook and a world view that is quite unique.
However, the fact remains that the Celtic Wiccans have a lot in common with non-Celtic Wiccans worldwide. The philosophy and ‘world view’ which emphasizes the power of nature remains central amongst all Wiccans.
When it comes to Magick, the Celts have woven it into each and every aspect of their lives. This outlook often has complete acceptance amongst all followers. If a person wishes to become a Celtic Wiccan then he or she will have to completely believe in magic and accept it into his or her life. People consider magic as normal as smiling, sleeping and breathing.
The Celts honor the earth’s essential elements like air, water, earth and fire in their rituals and they also pay respect to the deities that represent these elements. Rituals are held by the Celtic Wiccans to pay respect to the Sabbats, the different solstices and the various seasons. Harking back and celebrating the ancient past in a constant in these ceremonies.
The Celts believe that numbers are of vital importance to them and some of the numbers that have special meaning. These include 13, 9, 7, 5 and 3. The Celts are also of the opinion that rituals are of vital importance for their magic.
They pay attention to each and every minute aspect when it comes to creating a setting for Magick, such as using candles and incense, the necessary tools and wearing the correct ceremonial robes.
What you may not know is that the Celts are very religious people. In the ancient Celtic nations, women who had children were given a higher ranking in society than women who were virgins. This was because the Celts prized fertility.
For many, the Celts represent a freedom and an alternative society to the modern day one. The ancient Celts of northern Europe strongly resisted the advance of ‘civilization’, in the form of the Roman Empire, upon their lands.
They were outsiders and connected directly to the land, so the idea of instead aligning themselves with a foreign emperor clashed directly with their beliefs. It is this free-spirited nature that still attracts people to the Celtic ideal.
Cormac O’Dwyer, Librarian and Senior Witch
7 Witches Coven