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The Green Man
The Sun and the Moon

The Celts
Dragons and Serpents
Whales and Dolphins

Faerie Folk
The Knight's Templar

A large number of festivals celebrated in the Western world can be attributed to the ancient traditions of the Celts. The festival of Halloween, on October 31st, is likely to have stemmed from the Celtic holiday of Samhain, the last day of the Celtic year in which the boundaries between the world of the living and the dead were at their closest. Samhain traditionally began at the sundown of October 31st and extended into the following day. According to the Druids, the spirits of those who had died in the preceding year roamed the earth on Samhain evening. The Celts would seek to ward off the spirits with offerings of food and drink.

Samhain was one of four feasts of Druidism which marked the cycle of the seasons. Lugnasad celebrated the light at its zenith on August 1st, Beltana, the festival of fire, was held on May 1st and Imbolc was also celebrated as a key festival in the Pagan calendar.

Celtic rituals were spectacular events. They often involved the building of immense fires at sacred hilltops, where they could be close to the gods. Standing stones and columns of wood were often erected at the ritual ground in specific patterns. The rituals themselves consisted of wild, sacred dance, songs and chants. Offerings were frequently made, sometimes in the form of animal sacrifices. The early Celts even practised human sacrifice to make the lands fertile, but as time passed this tradition was replaced by the performances of magical spells and preaching of Druids and poets.

The Celtic religion was strictly oral, and in order to preserve it the Druids learned a large number of sacred texts and teachings by heart. They travelled widely, in order to conserve the sense of unity between the many tribes. As the priests, wise men and prophets, it was their duty to keep alive learning and morality.

The Celts had great respect for the Earth, so many natural elements and areas were considered sacred. The great oak tree was honoured, and the mistletoe which grew on its branches was gathered during services. Lakes and rivers too were revered, notably the river Avon in Bath, England, which was attributed with mysterious healing powers, attributed to the goddess Sulis. The river Seine in France was also a place of Celtic pilgrimage, where Sequana, goddess of healing, was worshipped.

For the Celts, the soul was immortal and death simply a passing from one world to the next and the places of the living and the dead were continually exchanged. The warrior princes of early Celts were buried in their chariots with all their weapons and household possessions, as well as their rank insignia. The tomb was then covered with a funeral mound, known as a tumulus, and often a statue was placed on top.

The art and architecture of the Celts was widespread and diverse, and today is still considered one of the first great contributions to European art as a whole. It was influenced by ancient Persian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman and Scythian art, yet developed and retained a distinct style of its own. In showing their respect for nature, the Celts most often depicted entwining plant and animal designs, such as oak trees, vines, flowers, deer, hounds, serpents, dolphins, boars birds, lions, griffins and dragons. Few representations of humans exist in comparison. Much of their artwork was more abstract, incorporating knotwork, elliptical curves, spirals, chevrons and labyrinthine patterns. These designs were composed in a highly sophisticated and geometric patterns, in which the dynamic elements were harmoniously balanced.


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"Celtic Labyrinth" CD, inspired by Celtic folk music, available at the Spiral Online Shop

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