Celtic spirituality has a big influence on the way I interpret and see Naturalistic Pantheism and Paganism. Part of that influence can be seen in certain sections of the rituals I do e.g the “Three Realms” section. Therefore, we shall look at the way the ancient Celts saw the cosmos in this post.
For the Celts, the number three was sacred and they saw many things in three’s e.g. triple goddesses. They also saw the world as split into three realms – Land, Sea and Sky. They believed that there were three elements related to these – Nwyfre, the life force or air, was related to the sky. Gwyar, blood, was fluidity and was related to the sea. Calas, solidity, was related to the land, earth and stone. These contrast with the Greek system where there are four elements – earth, air, fire and water.
When I do rituals, I include the following words –
“The primal sea surrounds me”
“The sacred land supports me”
“The shining sky stretches out above me”
“Here I stand in this holy place.”
I do this because it helps to centre me and ground me in the wider world. It helps me to acknowledge the elements around me and it helps me to connect with the worldview of the Celtic people’s who once inhabited the country I live in.
I always do my rituals before an altar and in the centre of that altar I place a bonsai tree, bowl of water and some incense. This is a practice I have adopted from ADF Druidry, who “create the cosmos” by placing representations of a tree, well and fire as the centre piece of their altars. For me the the Tree is related to the land but is also a representation of the interconnectedness of all things – the web of life and of evolution. The bowl of water is representative of the sea and is related to the ancient Celtic belief in the otherworld and ancestors. It also represents my subconscious and memories and is almost a “gateway” (again ADF) to them. The incense represents the sky and reasoning/ imagination.
The ancient Celts were animists and saw the world as inhabited by spirits and gods. These lived in both natural and man-made objects. They were worshipped and sacrificed to in many places including forests, hill tops and water features e.g. lakes, river and springs. Notice the connection of forests with the land, hill tops with the sky and water features with the sea. While the whole world was seen as divine, there were particular places that were acknowledged as especially sacred – these were liminal or “in between” places where it wasn’t quite one thing and it wasn’t quite another. Good examples include the sea shore – where the sea and land meet and it is really neither, or sunset, when day and night meet but again it is neither one or the other. I always try to do my rituals at sunset if possible to reflect this liminality.
Finally, the Celts saw the physical world as “good,” not something that was spiritually lacking – in fact their gods were natural gods, not supernatural gods, they inhabited nature and were not “apart” from it. They made no statues of their gods for this very reason. Nature was not profane or fallen as Christianity and some other religions suggest. Instead, it was good, it was our home and it was sacred. This belief inspired in them a reverence for the earth and similarly should inspire a reverence for nature in Naturalistic Pantheists today.