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The Celtic religion was based on a pantheon of gods and sets of rituals and beliefs. A lot of our superstitions and sayings come from the original Celtic belief system. The Celtic community celebrated their religion through a series of festivals, presided over by Druids. They were strict in their rituals and would do anything not to offend the gods and spirits.

The Christians came to Celtic lands not long after Jesus Christ made his appearance in the world. They came to "convert the pagan", and many succeeded. The ones who did, embraced elements of the Celtic beliefs, festivals and gods and incorporated them into the Christian religion, mainly to make the integration of the Celtic peoples an easier task by offering them a structure with elements they knew and understood.

Some of the Celts wholeheartedly converted, most just continued the way they had, under the guise of Christianity. Druids became priests, and eventually they became, to all outward appearances, a Christian culture. Celtic art and sculpture became part of the Celtic/Christian religion, used in their churches and religious parafinalia, a fine example of which is the Book of Kells, now kept in Trinity College, Dublin, but which had it's beginnings on the Isle of Iona in Scotland. Many of the religious holidays and festivals we now celebrate as Christian, have direct ties to Celtic origins.

Once the religions combined, many of the Celtic gods were merely worshipped in the guise of the Christian religion - the easiest to recognise being Brigit becoming the handmaiden of the Virgin Mary - in the eyes of the Celts.

One of the most striking similarities between "Christian" and "Celtic" beliefs, is the rule of three, or the Trinity. In Christianity, there is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost - in Celtic culture, there is the three aspects of the Goddess: the Virgin, the Mother and the Crone. In both belief systems, the element of Three is very strong and the basis for each religion. Hence, when they combined, the Three ritual remained in place.

The most obvious change to the concept of Trinity from Celt to Christian was the strong slant towards female rule, which was moved very definitely to the male. Until this point, this was unheard of in Celtic society. Before Christianity entered the British Celtic Isles, women had held equal, and in some instances higher, status than men in matters of inheritance, law and spirituality.

 The Aiding

May Brigit shield me,
May Mary shield me,
May Michael shield me,
On sea and on land:
To shield me from all anguish
On sea and on land,
To shield me from all anguish.
May Father aid me,
May Son aid me,
May Spirit aid me,
On sea and on land:
In the shielding of the City everlasting
On sea and on land,
In the shielding of the City everlasting.
May the Three succour me,
May the Three follow me,
May the Three guide me,
On sea and on land,
To the Vine-garden of the godlike
On sea and on land,
To the Vine-garden of the godlike.

In this section you will find a breakdown of the Celtic Festivals and a brief outline of the first Christian monastary founded on the Isle of Iona by St. Columba.

[back to the high court]

Painting by Miranda Gray © Arthurian Tarot Pack

You will find credits and links to the generous souls who have provided the Celtic art, music, poetry and reference material free on the Web, as well as a bibliography of the books and publications that make up a large part of my library and have been a rich resource for these pages in the Credits list.

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