Celtic Heroines: Golden Age of Warriors and Queens

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly know. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path…And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all of the world.”—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Introduction

The epic historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, is the first novel in the Spirit Warrior Chronicles set in 1st Century Britain and Rome. The primary character is Catrin, a Canatiaci warrior princess in southeast Britain. Not only is she trained as a warrior, but she uses raven mystical powers to help her parents defend their kingdom against a rival tribal king and her half-brother. She meets the great-grandson of Marc Antony, Marcellus, when he accompanies his father, a Roman senator, to arbitrate a settlement between the rival tribal kingdoms. Catrin and Marcellus bridge their cultural differences and form an unlikely friendship that develops into a deeper relationship which could threaten the political powers in Britain and Rome.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spirit Warrior

This unpublished novel is inspired by historical accounts and mythology of Celtic heroines who had significant roles as warriors, rulers, and spiritual advisers in the Celtic society. Celtic women were distinctly different from their Greek and Roman counterparts, as they had more liberty, legal rights, and status. This may be due, in part, because females often fended for themselves at home while their menfolk plundered, invaded, or served as mercenaries in foreign lands. Ancient classical historians also provided accounts that women incited, participated, and led battles.

Celtic Heroine Warriors 

Classical writers described Celtic females as not only strong and courageous warriors, but they were beautiful with comely bodies. Classical writer Diodorus wrote Celtic women were “nearly as tall as the men, whom they rivaled in courage.”

Roman historian Marcus Borealis further elaborated: “The women of the Celtic tribes are bigger and stronger than our Roman women. This is most likely due to their natures as well as their peculiar fondness for all things martial and robust. The flaxen haired maidens of the north are trained in sports and war while our gentle ladies are content to do their womanly duties and thus are less powerful than most young girls from Gaul and the hinterlands.”

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

Ammianus Marcellinus wrote a lively description of Celtic woman in battle as follows: “…a whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one [Celt] in a fight if he calls on his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, begins to rain blows mingled with kicks like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult.”

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic woman warrior in sword fight

Though men usually held the highest political authority, it was not uncommon for women to rule as queens and military commanders. The 1st-century Roman historian Tacitus wrote the Britons “are used to women commanders in war,” and offered detailed reports on the exploits of two warrior queens—Cartimandua and Boudicca.

Celtic Heroine Queens

The Sleek Pony

Cartimandua, known as the sleek pony, was queen of the Brigantes, a vast tribal confederation in north-central Britain. Although Cartimandua ruled with her husband, Venutius, she held the real power to the kingdom. When the Romans invaded in 43 AD, both Cartimandua and Venutius realized the political advantages of siding with the aggressors and thus their kingdom because a thriving Roman client state around 50 AD.

However, Cartimandua lost popularity among her subjects when she betrayed the famous rebel leader Caratacus, turning him over to the Romans after he had sought asylum in her court. Her power eroded when she divorced Venutius and then married his armor bearer who she made the new king. Her actions prompted a civil war with her former husband, the Romans entering the fray and helping her to defeat Venutius in 71 AD. Though she may not have been viewed favorably in history, she still nonetheless was a powerful leader.

Celtic Woman Warrior with Sword

Celtic Woman Warrior with Sword

Boudica

Boudica was a charismatic warrior queen who united several British tribes to drive the Romans out of Britain in 61 AD. A bronze statue of Boudica driving her chariot is prominently displayed on the bank of the Thames (London) in honor of her valiant attempt to overcome her oppressors. Roman historian Dio Cassius described her as “very tall in stature, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, harsh in voice…and with a great mass of bright red hair falling to her hips.”

Boudica Statue

Statue of Boudica

Like the Brigantes, the Iceni had formed an alliance with the Romans that at first gave them prosperity and independence. That changed when her husband, King Prasutagus, died in 60 AD and she became the leader of the Iceni. He willed half of his personal estate to Rome in the hope the gesture would demonstrate his fealty and appease the Roman Nero. The other half was bequeathed to Boudica.

But Nero would not settle for half the fortune—particularly to a mere woman. He ordered his subordinates to seize Boudica’s estate and annex the Iceni territory. When Boudica protested, the Roman soldiers flogged the queen and raped her two teenage daughters.

But the Romans would soon face her fury. The details of this rebellion will be provided in the next post.

References

Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D., Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History Hidden Heroines; 2002; Warner Books, Inc., New York.

Cassius Dio: The Neronian Revolt of the Iceni under Suetonius Paullinus; Book LXII, Chapters 1-12 (AD 61)

Ammianus Marcellinus: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1935; Book XV, 12 The Manners and Customs of the Gauls.

Golden Age of Celts: Status Built by Battle or Feast


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The whole race [Celts] is made for war. High-spirited and quick to battle.
— Strabo, Greek Historian

GOLDEN AGE OF CELTS

Status-Building in Battle

During the Golden Age of the Celts (Le Tène Period), cattle thievery, slave raiding, and vendettas between clans and tribes formed the basis of low-intensity warfare that permeated the Celtic society. Such conflicts were a starting point for a young warrior to demonstrate his bravery and skills at weapon-handling. But in a society that took personal courage for granted, something more was required to establish a reputation.

One way was to serve as a mercenary in many of the armies during the classical period. Renowned Celtic mercenaries served Hannibal during his invasion of Italy during the Second Punic War that helped establish Rome’s image of Celts as fierce warriors. They also fought in the armies of Syracuse and the successor kingdoms that followed the break-up of Alexander’s empire in Egypt.

Dying Gladiator

Statue Dying Gaul

A distinct group of Celtic mercenaries called the Gaesatae joined the Cisalpine Gauls in the battle of Telemon against the Romans. These mercenaries were outside the normal social structure of the clan and tribes. The Celtic word geissi—bonds, taboos, or sacred rule of conduct—suggests these warriors had a strong spiritual aspect to their life, which will be further examined in later posts. It was the custom of Gaesatae to fight naked in battle which could be interpreted as a ritual action.

Talamone

Location of Battle of Telemon (Wikipedia)

Clearly, many Celts looked for fame and future in the lucrative Mediterranean world with the hope of returning home with their reputations established. Mercenary service also removed young warriors from the tribe at a time when their drive to achieve high status was at their most intense. Control of imported goods, especially gold coins and Italian wine, also guaranteed a large following.

Replica Celtic Helmet Britain

British Celtic Helmet

Potlach

Previous posts highlighted that trade with the Mediterranean had significant impact on the Celtic society. Nobles rewarded warriors and other clients with foreign luxuries, the value of which was measured by the influence it could command by giving it away. This method of redistributing prestigious items to increase status is called potlatch.

The 1st Century BC Greek historian, Poseidonius, gave an account of Lovernius, a Celtic noble who attempted to win popular support by driving his chariot across his territory and distributing gold and silver to those who followed him. Moreover, he set-up separate enclosures one and one-half miles on each side within which he filled vats with expensive liquor and prepared food for all who wished to feast—an important social gathering not unlike today’s celebrations. The feasts were usually wild and drunken, sometimes even deadly. Nonetheless, strict ritual rules were adhered.

Celtic Roundhouse of Chieftain (Interior)

Ancient Celtic Roundhouse of Chieftain (Interior)

Wild Celtic Feasts

Strict ceremonial rules were observed for seating participants according to rank and prowess. Poseidonius describes the arrangement as follows:

“…they sit in a circle with the most influential man in the center, whether he is the greatest in warlike skill, nobility of family or wealth. Beside him sat the host and on either side of them were others in order of distinction. Their shield bearers stood behind them while the spearmen were seated on the opposite end. All feasted in common with their lords.”

Celtic Hearth in Roundhouse Used for Popular Assembly

Hearth in Celtic Roundhouse Used for Popular Assembly

Also in attendance were bards who sang praises of their patrons’ lineage, bravery, and wealth. Their songs could praise and satirize their patron, thus encouraging nobles and warriors to be even more generous during the feast. Strangers could also share the meal before they were asked their name and business.

Celtic Sword

Celtic Sword and Scabbard

Everyone had a piece of meat according to the status. Traditionally, the greatest warrior had the choicest cut, consisting of the thigh. When the hindquarters were served, another warrior could claim it and fight in a single combat to the death against the champion to elevate his status. Others sought to reinforce their status through mock battle engagement that might escalate into more serious violence, possibly death. Poseidonius writes:

“The Celts engage in single combat at dinner. Assembling in arms, they engage in mock battle drill and mutual thrust and parry. Sometimes wounds were inflicted, and the irritation caused by this may even lead to the killing of the opponent, unless they were held back by their friends.”

Celtic Shield British Museum

Celtic Shield La Tène Style

Conclusions

According to Caesar, the bravery of the Celts sprang from their lack of fear of death, the result of their belief that the soul does not die. The classical authors, Caesar, Lucan, and Diodorus Siculus, in particular, emphasized the Celtic belief in metempsychosis—that after death the soul passes from one body to another, or reincarnation after death. This may, in part, explain the Celts’ belief in the importance of establishing their status in preparation for the journey to the Otherworld.

Not only did Celtic men fight bravely in battle, but historical accounts and mythology provide evidence that women held equal standing to men and often fought in battles and served as military and spiritual leaders. This will be discussed in the next post.

References:

John Davies, The Celts: Prehistory to Present Day;  2005. United States: Sterling Publishing Co., New York.
Stephen Allen, Celtic Warrior: 300 BC — AD 100; 2001. Osprey Publishing LTD., Westminster, MD, USA.
Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.

Historical Fantasy–Balancing History and Spiritual Beliefs

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One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth


Balancing History and Fantasy

I envision my project as a historical fantasy trilogy set in Celtic Britain and Ancient Rome in the 1st Century. The first unpublished novel of the series, APOLLO’S RAVEN, has been completed; the second manuscript, RAVEN’S BLACK FIRE, is nearly finished. One of the challenges I have faced in writing historical fantasy is balancing historical accounts with fantastical elements of Celtic spiritual beliefs.

The story is about the heroine, Catrin—a spiritual warrior destined to become a queen in her Celtic kingdom. Enslaved by the Romans, she begins a perilous odyssey where she meets her Roman ally and lover, Marcellus—the great-grandson of Marc Antony. The trilogy will provide both the Roman and Celtic perspectives of the political unrest in Rome and Britain, where powerful Celtic kings competed for power before the Roman invasion of Claudius in 43 AD.

Fantastical Elements

Based on Celtic ritual and spiritual beliefs, Catrin believes everything in the physical world is alive and has a spirit, including: humans, animals, plants, and watercourses. Certain animals are revered by the warrior for specific qualities, such as valor, speed, ferocity and fidelity. By adopting the raven’s emblem on her clothing, armor and face, Catrin believes she will be granted the same qualities as her animal protector. The everyday physical world exists side by side with the Otherworld of the gods and the dead. Catrin can enter the mind of her raven protector to obtain guidance and prophesy. The most important ceremonies takes place within sacred groves of trees.

The evolution of introducing the raven spirit into the story gives fantastical elements to the historical setting of the trilogy. Further, both Celts and Romans believed omens foretold their destiny, and they could base decisions on these prophetic visions. Catrin and Marcellus believe divine powers have predestined them to be together despite their cultural differences.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Roman Influence in Celtic Britain

Another challenge in writing this story is the limited written accounts of major events in Celtic Britain during the time span between the Roman invasions of Julius Caesar in 55 – 54 BC and of Claudius in 43 AD. Although Romans did not occupy Britain for almost a century after Caesar’s invasion, they still had cultural contacts and political alliances with some of the powerful tribal rulers. Archaeological findings of minted coins, wine amphorae, pottery, and other Roman goods strongly suggest active trading between southeastern Briton tribes and Roman merchants.

Not unlike today where countries protect their global interests, Rome influenced political maneuverings between the Celtic tribes. Emperor Augustus maintained close ties with Britain through agents. In 9 AD, he may have used his power to negotiate a peaceful compromise between two powerful Celtic kings, Cunobeline and Dubnovellous, both who had legitimate claims to the Trinovantes kingdom. A civil war could have empowered anti-Roman factions. It was in Rome’s interest for an amicable agreement to avoid strife resulting in disruption of its lucrative trade in Britain.

Overview White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Britain

The next series of posts will provide more detailed background as to what is known about Celtic Britain prior to the Roman invasion by Claudius.

References:

Stephen Allen, 2001. Celtic Warrior. New York: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Graham Webster, 1993. Roman Invasion of Britain.  New York: Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group

 

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 7)

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Furthermore, we have not even risked the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world. Joseph Campbell

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure — Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 7)

Impressions of a Heroine

Before completing the series of the photographic adventure of Catrin, the heroine in my unpublished historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, I wanted to post some comments from my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin, about her experience posing as a Celtic warrior princess. Needless to say, it is not everyday a crazy grandmother asks her granddaughter to dress up as a warrior and re-enact sword fights and summoning a raven. In addition, I asked Maylin about her favorite mythological characters and young adult novels she enjoyed reading.

My granddaughter was quite the trooper during the photo shoot and interview. But Maylin finally admitted that at first she wondered if she had been thrown under the bus when her mother graciously volunteered her to do the photo shoot.

Thank you, Maylin, for sharing this wonderful adventure with me.

Interview with Maylin

Question 1. What were your first thoughts when your mother volunteered you to pose as a young Celtic woman warrior?

Answer: At first I wasn’t  happy. I asked my mother, “Why would you want to throw me under the bus?” I did not want to go through the fuss of make-up and dressing up like a warrior. The only reason I did it was because I loved my mother and grandmother. (Note: Always the perfect answer for a grandmother.)

Question 2. What type of characteristics would you like to see in a heroine?

Answer: Heroines should be fighters and stand up for what they believe in. Yet they should protect people who they love. I liked Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games because she traded places with her sister to protect her. Heroines should have a soft side, too.

Question 3. What is your favorite mythological character?

Answer: Poseidon is my favorite because he is a god associated with the sea and water. I liked the character Percy Jackson because he was the son of Poseidon, a demigod, in the series of novels written by Rick Riordan. I like to swim on my school team. My favorite monster is the serpent-like hydra that has many heads. For each head cut off, it grew two more heads back in place of one.

Question 4. If you were given the opportunity to have supernatural powers, what powers would you like?

Answer: I would like to have the power of telekinesis. Specifically, I would like to read the minds of other people and levitate objects. I would like to read my friends’ thoughts to know if there is anything wrong. Possibly I could help them.

Question 5. What comes to mind when you think of a raven? What types of powers would you envision a raven to have?

Answer: A raven is a bird. Nothing comes to mind as to what raven powers would be.

Question 6. How did you feel as you were being transformed into a Celtic warrior princess for the photographic shoot?

Answer: I was pretty amazed at what could be done with make-up, particularly the raven tattoo. The whole process of dressing up and re-enacting Catrin in an ancient time was pretty amazing. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic Woman Warrior Sword Fight

Question 7. What were the favorite aspects of the photo shoot for you?

Answer: I like the photographic shoot of the sword fight in the forest. Not until I saw my facial expressions in the photographs did I realize how much I really got into role-playing the part of a warrior. I particularly liked the scenes where I had to sword fight with Shevek, an assistant off-camera.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior in Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

Question 8. What are your favorite books and authors?

Answer: My favorite series of novels were the mythological adventures of Percy Jackson written by Rick Riordan. What I liked best is Rick Riordan actually went into some of the original Greek myths in his book. I also liked the Harry Potter series and the world created by J. K. Rowling. Finally, I liked Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins.

Reference: Joseph Cambell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers; Published by Doubleday; New York, July 1991.

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 6)


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 The images of myth are reflections of the spiritual  potentialities of every one of us. Through contemplating these, we evoke these powers in our lives — Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 6)

Photographic Journey

On June 13, 2012 the photographic adventure was completed with my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin. She posed as the heroine in my unpublished novel, APOLLO’s RAVEN, a historical fantasy about Catrin—a Celtic spiritual warrior from Ancient Britain.  Below is a continuation of the photographs  and excerpts from APOLLO’S RAVEN which best captured my vision.

Excerpts APOLLO’S RAVEN

Catrin took the red-jeweled sword from Mor and pointed the blade toward a raven flying over the chalky cliffs.

Soaring Raven

Raven Over White Cliffs Britain

The brilliance of the sun escaping the cover of the horizon momentarily blinded her.

Celtic Warrior Princess

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior Summons Raven

A biting wind carrying the smell of salt roared across the water as she beseeched the raven’s spirit. “Let me see my enemies.”

Celtic Woman Warrior Summons Raven Spirit

Catrin Summons Raven

Her spirit shot like an arrow into the soaring bird. A light flashed in her mind and she became one with its spirit. Sparks burned through her legs and into her spine and arms; her muscles contracted in synchrony with the bird’s wings. Now she could see the world through raven eyes.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin Spiritual Warrior Joins Raven

 

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure; Photographs and Excerpts)

 

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 5)


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Since brevity is the soul of wit, I will be brief,” said Polonius in HAMLET—wise advice for writers.

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure of Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 5)

Photographic Journey

Finally on June 13, 2012 the photographic adventure was completed with my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin, who posed as Catrin—the Celtic spiritual warrior in my unpublished novel, APOLLO’s RAVEN, a historical fantasy set in Ancient Britain, 24 AD.  All the challenges for this shoot had been successfully met:

  • Maylin was costumed in leather chest and wrist armor based on actual replicas from archaeological digs.
  • The hills next to Fairview High School in Boulder, CO provided an ideal landscape similar to the Dover Cliffs hillsides in Britain.
  • A stencil was uniquely designed as a template to paint a raven on Maylin’s forehead.
  • Maylin’s long hair was braided; leather strips and feathers were tied into her hair.
  • Maylin was armed with a Celtic sword.

Isabelle Kai made-up Maylin at the South Boulder Recreation which took approximately 1 ½ hours. Some young girls watched with fascination as Isabelle transformed Maylin into a Celtic warrior princess—not a typical event one would expect to see before a workout.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior Close-up

Catrin–Celtic Warrior Princess

After Maylin was made-up and dressed, she met Rebekah West and three of her assistants (Isa, Emily, and Shevek) beside the high school’s concrete wall, the backdrop for a stone fortress. Amazingly right before the shoot, a raven landed on the roof and cawed at us—a wondrous start for the shoot. Maylin embodied Catrin and the scenes from the story came alive.  At sunset, a hilltop and a pine tree grove close to the school set the stage for the final photographs.

Below are photographs and excerpts from APOLLO’S RAVEN which best captured my vision.

Excerpts APOLLO’S RAVEN

Catrin silently walked through a grove of trees and stepped over a few brambles to find several warriors sharpening their swords. Catrin waved to one thirteen-year-old girl. She thought to herself, I’m the same age as that girl. Why wasn’t I asked to fight? 

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

 

The breaking dawn provided light for Catrin and Mor on the cliff top pathway. When they reached the summit, they could see clouds in the eastern horizon aflame with orange. Mor tied feathers into Catrin’s golden braids and using blue woad, painted wings on Catrin’s forehead.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure; Additional Excerpts and Photographs)

 

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 4)


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Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 4)

On his first expedition to Britain in 55 BC, Julius Caesar wrote in Conquest of Gaul the following description of the coastal white cliffs: “…on his approach the whole line of hills crowned with the armed forces of the enemy. There was so little space between the sea and the rising wall of rock, that the shore was easily commanded by any spear thrown from above.”

 

White Cliffs Overview Britain

Coastal White Cliffs Britain

The final challenge in the photographic shoot for transforming my eleven-year-old granddaughter into Catrin, the Celtic spiritual warrior in the historical epic fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, was to provide a realistic backdrop of the hillsides leading up to the white cliffs along the British Channel. The adventure is set in 24 AD Ancient Britain where the army of Catrin’s father battles with Roman who have allied with his Celtic rivals in their plan to overtake his kingdom.

Hillside White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Hillside Britain

Rome’s Influence on Ancient Britain

Although Caesar mounted two expeditions to Britain in 55-54 BC, Rome did not invade and occupy this island until 43 AD. Even so, coins minted after Caesar’s expeditions suggest Rome heavily influenced the process of establishing dynasties in the two most powerful tribes in southeast Britain. Establishing loyal client-kingdoms outside the areas under Rome’s direct control was standard foreign policy. Celtic client kings may have spent their youth growing up in aristocratic Roman circles to learn the Roman culture and even to gain experience in the Roman army. In addition, there is archaeological evidence of extensive trading between Britain and the Continent as early as 100 BC.

Although the narrowest point between the Strait of Dover is only 21 miles between Britain and France (Roman Gaul), the logistics of moving soldiers, cavalry, and supplies proved to be a formidable task. Invasion of Britain was a high priority for Augustus, but other crises in the Empire may have influenced his decision not to invade. The Roman historian, Tacitus, records that in 16 AD some Roman soldiers were cast ashore in Britain and promptly returned to Rome by a local ruler.

Wildflower Hillside White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Hillside Britain

The above historical assumptions of Rome’s influence on the political climate in Ancient Britain set the backdrop to APOLLOS’ RAVEN.

Photographic Challenge – Setting

The photographer, Rebekah West [Rebekah West Photography and Creative International; Website: http://rebekahwest.com] had to find a suitable location in Boulder that looked similar to the grassy and forested landscape of the white cliffs’ hillsides. The British coastline is known for encroaching fog while in Colorado most days are arid and sunny. Further complicating the shoot, Colorado had a severe drought. Throughout Colorado, several forest fires raged, creating a smoky haze along the front range.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic woman warrior in sword fight

The final location of the shoot was Fairview High School situated next to open space in Boulder. The school building served as the backdrop for a stone fortress while the open space provided a grassy hillside and groves of trees.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior on White Cliffs

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

 

On the evening of the photographic shoot, the air cleared and the approaching sunset provided fabulous lighting for the photographs.

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

Celtic Woman Warrior in Battle

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure)

References:

“The Conquest of Gaul,” Julius Caesar; translated by F. P. Long; The Barnes and Noble Library of Essential Reading, 2005, pg. 94.

“AD 43 The Roman Invasion of Britain,” John Manley; Tempus Publishing, Inc., 2002.

Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure—Celtic Spiritual Warrior (Part 3)


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I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech —Taliesin’s Song of his Origins, 6th century

Raven Tattoo

One of the challenges in the photo shoot was to transform my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin, into the adolescent Celtic warrior princess, Catrin—the heroine in APOLLO’S RAVEN. Isabelle Kai, a makeup artist from Boulder, worked with Rebekah West (Rebekah West Photography), and myself to design a raven tattoo for placement on Maylin’s forehead. The raven is the protector animal that guides Catrin and helps her prophesy.

Isabelle created a unique stencil template that was used to spray paint the raven on Maylin’s head. The British Celts were known for tattooing their bodies by using the leaves of the Woad plant to create a viscous blue dye. The indigo paste was tapped into the skin with needles to force the stain under the skin layers. In addition, feathers were pasted on Maylin’s face to highlight the strength she garners from her raven spirit.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Mythological Raven

The mythology of ravens is widespread throughout the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Ravens have been associated with prophesy and wisdom, but they also conjure dark images of bad luck and death (discussed below).

Raven Animal Protector

A spiritual warrior society, the Celts revered animals as protectors and teachers. They believed the physical world is one level of existence. Overlaying this mortal world is the Otherworld, the world of spirits and forces which can guide and help us. Ravens, in particular, were revered for their ability to bridge these two worlds. They served as messengers from the Otherworld and acted as guardians and protectors.

Celtic Warrior Princess

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior Summons Raven

Raven Light Symbolism

In Greek and Roman mythology, the raven was associated with both Athena (Roman: Minerva) and Apollo—deities closely affiliated with the sun and the light of wisdom. Apollo was an oracular god, and thus, the association between the conversational raven and the god of divination made sense.

Mythological Raven

Apollo’s Raven

In Norse mythology, the god, Odin, was pictured with two ravens on his shoulders: Hugin representing the power of thought and active search for information; Mugin, representing wisdom and its ability to understand by intuition. Odin would send these two ravens out each day to spy upon the lands. They would return to tell him what they learned on their journeys.

Raven Dark Symbolism

Ravens are associated with predators, particularly wolves, which kill prey for ravens to scavenge. As human civilization became more war-like, fostering conflict and the spread of disease, ravens often picked at the bloody remains of fallen warriors in battle. People interpreted this predictable biological response as a supernatural sign and came to view ravens as omens of bad luck and harbingers of death. The sight of elongated beaks pecking into corpses reinforced the nightmarish images of ravens.

The Morrigan was the shape-shifting Celtic Goddess of war, fate, and death. She soared over battlefields in the form of a raven and frequently foretold or influenced the outcome of the conflict.

Soaring Raven

Raven Over Battlefield

The Norse god, Odin, was also known as the Raven God. His daughters, Valkyries, would transform into ravens and whisper to the souls of fallen Norse warriors to follow them to Valhalla in the sky.

My next series of posts will continue to unfold how Rebekah West prepared for the photo shoot that transformed Maylin into a Celtic warrior princess based on historical accounts in Ancient Britain.

(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure)