Exploring Magical Powers of the Celts

Exploring Magical Powers of the Celts

Summoning Celtic Magical Powers

Female Warrior Summoning Celtic Magical Powers

Contributed Post

The post, Exploring Magical Powers of the Celts, was contributed by Jane Johnson, a freelance writer and editor. She has written for both digital and print across a wide variety of fields. Her main interest is exploring how people can improve their health and well being in their everyday life. And when she isn’t writing, Jane can often be found with her nose in a good book, at the gym or just spending quality time with her family.

 

Overview of the Celts

The earliest pre-Christian Celts were mysterious and captivating pre-Christian individuals with a history filled with legends and romance – a history of wizards, fairies, wizards, heroes and above all, magic. Julius Caesar was once quoted as saying that the Celts were brave but impetuous and headstrong. The various clans migrated from Central Europe and went on to populate much of Western Europe, Ireland and Britain until they were ultimately displaced by first the Romans and later Christianity.

Statue of Dying Celt

The various Celtic clans and tribes were unified by their common priesthood known as the Druids who were said to possess magical powers. These Druid priests preserved religion, scholarship, science and law, and had supreme influence over everyone due to their sacred authority. The Druids were known to yield psychic abilities firmly yet responsibly. One of the most famous of Celtic legends involving Druids is that of King Arthur and the wizard Merlin. Merlin was a Druid wizard, bard, tutor and keeper of arcane secrets. He was also rumored to be the son of an incubus (demon) and a mortal woman who was first a princess and later became a nun.

Druidic Ritual at Stonehenge

Druid Magic

The ancient Druids were also clergy as well as Shamans with their costumes including long white robes, feathered capes and elaborate headdresses. They also would often be seen wielding a rowan wood scepter as a sign of their power and that was often used as a magic wand when performing spells. The magic of Druids is all dependent on a strong and healthy awareness of nature itself as well as the gods and spirits who dwell in nature and is deeply rooted in the four elements earth, air, water and fire. Most Druid spells correspond to one or more of the elements with the 4 compass points each displaying a significant corresponding color:  North-black, South-white, East-red, West-grey.  Druid magic was known to combine the four natural elements with magic stones, color, direction, the lunar calendar and incense.

Horn God Surrounded by Animals; Inner Panel Gundestrup Cauldron

Sacred Symbols

Birds such as the swan, goose, owl, raven and eagle were all considered sacred in Celtic culture.  Other sacred animals included the cat, dog, wolf, bull, stag, boar, horse and butterfly with these animals often being depicted in very complex knotted patterns.

 

Knotted Celtic Raven Symbol

 

The number 3 was also considered sacred to the Druids and was believed to have numerous magical powers. This belief is exemplified in the Celtic triquerta, trefoil, nonegram and the Triangle of Manifestation. Hallowed trees included the hazel, oak and yew, with the worship of the oak tree being very commonplace in both Celtic and non-Celtic Europe.

 

Cork Oak Tree in Southern Britain

 

The Little People

Dwarfs, Brownies, Elves and Fairies made up a very intriguing aspect of Celtic culture and folklore. These tiny life-forms were seen as spiritual beings to whom the imprudence of mankind has assigned an imaginary existence. Fairies were referred to as the ‘good neighbours’ and were beautiful miniature versions of a divine human form. These cheeky little beings resided below ground or in little green dwellings and wore the most brilliant clothes. Leprechauns have become the self-appointed guardians of ancient treasure burying it in pots or crocks. Their association with rainbows and finding the pot of gold at the end of it has forever been associated with prosperity.

Classic representation fairy with butterfly wings by painter Ricardo Falero

Healing powers

The esteemed Druids were the learned elite and the authority on just about everything including medicine and healing spells. Healing magic would often involve invoking a deity of health and healing such as Airmid (Irish), Diancecht (Irish), Meg the Healer (Scottish) or Ariadne (Welsh) to help heal the ill. Astrology and astronomy were also used extensively while making a medical diagnosis. The Celts worshipped the moon and the sun and had a rudimentary veneration of the closest planets in the solar system. Various plants and herbs were employed for medicinal purposes and often had associations with certain Celtic deities.

Wildflowers on Dover Cliffs, Kent

The beauty and history of Celtic culture and magic have been preserved in various customs, legends, music, art, antiquities and literature for everyone to explore and enjoy. Through the continued study and appreciation of the magic and myth of the legendary Celtic culture, we are able to fully enjoy and treasure the influence of the most captivating of all people, the Celts.

Upcoming Posts

Upcoming posts based on my research to support the Apollo’s Raven series and another novel under development about a shipwrecked Roman tribune serving under Germanicus are as follows:

  • Celtic Goddesses
  • Mark Antony
  • Annihilation of Roman Legions in Germania and Aftermath

Apollo’s Raven Coming Soon

 

APOLLO’S RAVEN on the Horizon

New exciting changes are on the horizon for the APOLLO’S RAVEN series and a new website. In the next few weeks, the current website will transition to an author website in anticipation for the release of the first book, APOLLO’S RAVEN.

The two blogs maintained for APOLLO’S RAVEN will be melded into one blog on the new website. Topics on the new blog will include my research and travels to sites described in the books, author interviews, and other topics of interest to readers. The new site will provide the latest news on the release of my books, events I will be attending, and a reader’s guide that can be used in book clubs.

My journey for writing the APOLLO’S RAVEN series began in 2010. My blog went live on January 4th, 2012. I’ve met wonderful authors, writers, friends, and readers who have been very supportive. The photographs of the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin which inspired me were taken by my friend and photographer, Rebekah West.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin

I’ve also met roadblocks. But constructive feedback from authors, writers and agents prompted me to re-envision the APOLLO’S RAVEN series as historical fiction that weaves epic Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, intrigue and betrayal in Ancient Rome and Britannia.

Overview White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Southeast Britannia

The first book of the series is set in 24 AD Britannia, where the magical world of the Celtic tribal kingdoms is explored. The historical backdrop of the epic story is based on new archaeological findings that strongly suggest that Rome not only had strong political influence, but also a military presence in southeast Britannia. The political situation is similar to Egypt under the rule of Cleopatra.

APOLLO’S RAVEN will ultimately be available in print, e-book, and audio format. It has now been formatted for print and is undergoing final proofing. The release date will be announced soon after the new website goes live in the next couple of weeks.

I invite you to take an adventure into the vastly different worlds of Ancient Rome and Britannia, where Celtic tales are inspired.

What happens when forbidden love and loyalty create a tangled web of deception?

The Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is swept into a political web of deception when the Emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren.

Celtic Woman Warrior Prepares for Battle

Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin

Catrin is drawn by the magnetic pull she feels for Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, who is caught under the shadow of his scandalous forefathers. When King Amren takes Marcellus as a hostage, he demands that she spy on him. As she falls in love, she discovers a curse that foretells a future she desperately wants to break.

Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her people, Caitlin urgently calls upon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that awaits her.

Celtic Woman Warrior Summons Raven Spirit

Catrin Summons Magic of Ancient Druids

Will she save her lover? Will her father succumb to the Emperor? Discover the truth in APOLLO’S RAVEN.

Celtic Druid History: Magic

Memories of animal envoys still must sleep, somehow, within us; for they wake a little and stir when we venture into the wilderness. They wake in terror to thunder. And again they wake, with a sense of recognition, when we enter any one of those great painted caves. Whatever the inward darkness may have been to which the shamans of those caves descended in their trances, the same must lie within ourselves, nightly visited in sleep.

– Joseph Campbell, The Way of the Animal Powers

Introduction

The word ‘Celtic’ conjures images of magic, rituals, and spells based on the rich mythology of a people who at one time spread from the British Isles across continental Europe to Russia and Turkey. The history of the Celts has been derived, in part, from their symbolic lore. An example is the ‘Arthurian’ myth which provides insight into how the Celtic mind works. For Arthur is the myth of a king with a predestined envoy, the myth of the sleeping man who will wake to save the world, and the myth of a cuckold king who must share his sovereignty with his people in the shape of the queen’s lover.

To explore the Celtic religion from its past requires a wand to piece it together. The original Celtic rites that were maintained through oral traditions have been lost. Historical accounts and archaeological evidence present both horrific and awe-inspiring images of Celtic religion.

On one hand, the Celts demonstrated a spiritual kinship to nature and love for the Mother Goddess which is based on the Celtic penchant for sacred groves.

Cork Oak Tree at Arundel Castle and Gardens

Cork Oak Tree; ‘Druid’ derived from ‘dru-wid’ — “Oak Knowledge.”

 

Whereas, there is evidence that Celts sacrificed humans in their ceremonies.

Teutates Celtic God of War on Gundstrup Cauldron

Human Sacrifice to Teutates, God of War Gundestrup Cauldron

Although Irish Christian monks wrote down the original Celtic legends based on oral traditions, their manuscripts were heavily redacted and rewritten in accordance with their beliefs. The monastic scribes rejected the notion that any pagan god in the legends was worthy of worship and, thus, they were turned into heroes with magical powers which echo their one-time divinity.

Thus, the Irish sources, while offering a wealth of mythology, provide no direct evidence for the Celtic religion. In one version of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, the scribe distanced himself from the account by saying “I, who have written out of this history, or more properly fiction, for some things are diabolical impositions, some are poetical inventions, some have a semblance of truth, and some are meant to be the entertainment of fools.”

Magical powers attributed to Druids in Celtic literature and historical accounts include: control the elements, prophesy, heal, cause invisibility, shape shift, levitate, curse the ungodly, and perform other forms of magic.

Celtic Druid History: Magic

In Celtic literature and tradition, Druids have been popularly referred as magicians—wizards possessing supernatural powers. By the time of the advent of Christianity in both Ireland and Britain, Druids were identified by the word magi, a name used for the priests of Ancient Persia who reputedly had power over supernatural entities.

The Roman historian, Pliny the Elder (23 AD – 79 AD), referred to Druids as the magi and said, “Even today Britain is still spell bound by magic, and performs its rites with so much ritual that she might almost seem to be source of Persian customs.”

In Irish and Welsh literature, there is common reference to the Druid as a wielder of magical powers. Druids could influence the course of events or control nature. Early Celtic Christian writers who believed in Druidic magic gave these supernatural powers to saints in their church.

Below is a summary of these  magical powers.

Control Forces of Nature

Druids could summon magical fog and storms to destroy or disperse their enemies. Broichán, the chief Druid of the Pictish King Bruide, raised a terrific storm to stop Colmcille from crossing Loch Ness. The great magician Mathgen summoned the mountains to crush the enemy by proclaiming: “Through my power I can throw down all the mountains of Ireland on the Fomor, until their tops will be rolling on the ground. And the twelve chief mountains of Ireland will bring you their help and will fight for you.”

Dagda Gundestrup cauldron

Depiction of Celtic Warrior & Irish God Dagda, Protector of Tribe (Gundestrup Cauldron)

Muirchú says the Druids of Laoghaire sent heavy snowfalls and darkness to impede St. Patrick’s approach to Tara. In the Life of St Moling, Mothairén conjured up a fog to protect the Christian missionaries from their enemies. These are examples of Christian saints taking over the power of the Druids.

Cloak of Invisibility

The Druids could also produce a cloak of invisibility to protect them from their enemies. In an Irish version of the Aeneid, Venus puts such a cloak around the hero Ulysses to protect him entering the city of the Phaeacians.

The concept of this mantle of protection continued into Christianity. When the mother of St. Finnchua was being pursued by a pagan king, she invoked the mantle of protection, a cloak or a fog of darkness, so that she might escape.

Druidic Wand

Some texts refer to the Druidic wand that consists of a branch on which little tinkling bells hung. When Sencha, the chief bard of Ulster, waved his hand, the roar of battle hushed.

Celtic Woman Warrior Summons Raven Spirit

Celtic Druidess Warrior Summoning Raven Spirit

Shape Shifting

Shape shifting was another gift ascribed to Druids. When Fer Fidail, a Druid, carried off a maiden, he did so by assuming the form of a woman. Humans could also be turned into animals. Fer Doirche changed the beautiful Sibh into a deer when she rejected his love. The female Druid, Dalb, changed three men and their wives into swine and Aiofe, wife of Lir, changed her step-children into swans.

Raven Protecting Tower of London

Raven Watching Over Tower of London

Druidic Sleep

Bobd, suspecting his daughter of lying, casts her into a Druidic sleep, similar to hypnosis, so she would reveal the truth. A drink of oblivion is another tool of the Druids that makes people forget even their closest friends and loves.

To be Continued

In the next posts, Druidic dark rituals, philosophy, and pantheon of will be explored.

References:

Peter Berresford Ellis, The Druids; 1995; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.
John Davies, The Celts: Prehistory to Present Day;  2005; United States: Sterling Publishing Co., New York.
Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers; Printed in USA by First Anchor Books Edition, NY; 1991.