The term Celtic is often considered synonymous with Irish, but it is considerably larger than that Historically, the Celts originated as tribal groups as early as 3,000 B.C Many epics and legends describe the Celts as barbarians who invaded and conquered peoples and lands, overtaking a large portion of Europe and beyond. Some of these early Celtic tribes were always on the move, while others eventually settled and became an agricultural and seafaring people.
Most of these Celts were from the British Isles and kept their spiritual customs and traditions alive much longer than continental Europe. They were a hospitable, rural people who lived a simple life in communion with earth, sea, sun, and moon. It is from these Celts that the current movement of "Celtic Christian spirituality" has emerged.
Early Christian Celtic spirituality evolved gradually, beginning around the fifth centuty. This transition brought with it some spiritual traditions of earlier Celtic life that Christians kept and developed into their own beliefs and practices. Among these were the keen bond between creation and divinity; women's equality with men; the power of protection, which later formed the Celtic breastplate prayer; the symbol of the triad and the circle, an influence for a strong devotion to the Trinity; the presence of mentors and healers; the use of music, stoiytelling, dance, and art as expressions of life; appreciation for the beauty and power of the sea; symbols such as light and darkness; relationship with trees, fire, stones, and other elements of nature; and an ability to move back and forth between this world and an "otherworld," later reflected particularly in the devotion of Celtic Christians to their saints.
An example of the intertwining of pre-Christian and Christian practice is described by Esther deWaal in The Celtic Vision (St Bede's). She tells of a Christian ceremony atthe birth of a child where the child was "handed across the fire three times and then carried sunwise three times around the fire." After this there was a blessing in the name of the Trinity.
|This artile is published in the March 2001 issue
of the U. S. Catholic magazine. It is reprinted
here with permission of the U. S. Catholic magazine. (http://www/uscatholic.com)