Tag Archives: Celtic

The Celtic Triads

The Celtic Traids

500px-Triple-Spiral-Symbol.svg

 

Wikipedia notes that “The Triple Spiral symbol, based on motifs found at the prehistoric site at Newgrange, Ireland, and used as a neo-pagan or Triple Goddess symbol.”

Well that’s fine as far as it goes, but notwithstanding the oversimplification of The Divine Feminine (i.e. the Triple Goddess  – something I commented upon in the article on Bath in the Cornwall School of Mystery and Magick)) – there is something more to be said about the importance and nature of triads, triples and three-somes within Celtic culture.

Whilst the Celts may not have been much for writing, their oral tradition survived through the telling of tales and the speaking of laws. Many of these laws, traditions and tales are summarised in the form of Triads are have been recorded in numerous manuscripts albeit in an Christianised form.

So whilst we can agree with Ronald Hutton that :-

“All that we know about the Druids is that they were the most highly respected magical practitioners and spiritual experts of the tribes of
northwest Europe. The trouble is that we don’t have a single word of writing left by a Druid, and we don’t have a single archeological artifact that
everyone agrees is associated with the Druids. We know so little about  them in fact that they are almost legendary characters.”
Prof. Ronald Hutton

we are able to make some useful inferences from what does exist in early writings. Indeed it is these writings upon which much of the reconstructed (reinvented) Druidic practices rely.

One commentator writes:-

” It is a proven fact that most the old ways of the Celtic people were held onto. The olds ways were simply hidden under a thin veneer of the Christianity. With the Triads it was simply a matter of having the context of one or two words changed ; this then brought the old Pagan into line with the new Christian ; and in such a way as to bring into the Christian fold the stubborn traditionalists.”

John F. Wright

No I’m not overly happy with the ‘proven fact’ opening to the quote, but there is a very real sense in which the acculturalisation of pre-existing systems was common within Christian expansionism.

The Three Fold Universe

There are numerous sources which note the Celtic, and in all likelihood Ancient Briton’s (as they could be seen as one in the same, certainly in the later periods of pre-history ??)  notion of the three worlds of the Sea, Earth and Sky. – and we infer from this the idea that is from the sea that life emerges (consider the stories of discoveries and colonization of early people by Gods who came from the Sea); that the Earth is that space not only upon which we stand but also the place of our ancestral connection to place and Sky as being the realm of the ‘cosmic spirits’ and starry deities which influence and in some cases direct us.

This ‘evolutionary triad’ then forms a framework for laws of moral, ethical and civil conduct – also it is possibly easier to remember things in groups of three especially of there is some kind of rhyme involved.

In the Druid Path materials produced by The Reformed Druids of Gaia we read..

“”There are Irish Triads, Scottish Triads and Welsh Triads. Most of these are concerned  with history. The Triads were a method used by the Bards to remember things by associating them in groups of threes. A large body of the Triads concerns ethics. Following are some  examples we found were the most pertinent”

El Arseneau

To list all of these Triads is (a) to complex and task and (b) beyond the scope of this piece but we can get a flavour of them in the following. twenty-one celtic triads  …

 

  1. Three false sisters: “perhaps”, “maybe”, and “I dare say”
  2. Three keys that unlock thoughts: drunkenness; trustfulness; love
  3. Three things from which never to be moved: one’s oaths; one’s Gods; and the truth.
  4. There are three things excellent among worldly affairs: hating folly; loving excellence; and endeavoring constantly to learn
  5. Three manifestations of humanity: Affectionate bounty; loving manner; and praiseworthy knowledge.
  6. IIn three things a person may be as the Divine: justice , knowledge , and mercy.
  7. Three roots of every evil: covetousness, falsehood, and arrogance
  8. There are three foundations of law and custom: order, justice, and peace.
  9. Three chief obligations of a person to their country and family: to gain possessions by diligence and integrity, to profit their country and their kindred in all they do, and to seek lawful learning wherever they go.
  10. Three things which the good poet preserves for posterity: memory of the praiseworthy, delight in thought, and instruction in knowledge
  11. Three to whom it is right to give food: the stranger, the solitary, and the orphan.
  12. Three things which we cannot control: the Void , the planets , and truth.
  13. There are three things that are never at rest in anyone: the heart in working, the breath in moving, and the soul in purposing.
  14. Three things which keep their word faithfully: death, retribution, and remorse.
  15. Three things never end: the flowering of charity, the soul, and perfect love.
  16. Three kinds of knowledge : the nature of each thing , the cause of each thing , the influence of each thing.
  17. There are three springs of knowledge: reason, phenomenon, and necessity
  18. Three things necessary for the doing of every act: knowledge, ability, and desire
  19. Three things essential for the wise to know: their Gods, themselves, and the deceits of the world.
  20. Three teachers of humankind: one is event, that is from seeing and hearing; the second is intelligence, and that comes from reflection and meditation; and the third is genius, individual, a gift from the Mighty Ones.
  21. Three counsels of the yellow bird: do not grieve greatly about what has happened, do not believe what cannot be, and do not desire what cannot be obtained.

I had no particular message ti give in choosing these twenty-one triads other than that each will provoke some reaction and  I would hope inspire some meditation.

For those of you new to exploring aspects of what we could call ‘Celtic Spirituality’ there may be more here than you could have imagined and for those who are on a path spiritual development there is much you can learn.

In the Druid Prayer presented to Ross Nichols in the Book of Druidry we read that love can have three manifestations. This prayer exists in various forms but perhaps owes its orgin (or popularity) to – Iolo Morganwg,,,

Grant, O God/Goddess Thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences,

Perhaps you might like to create meaningful personal ‘triads’ from it…

The Three Paths of Druidry

Modern, reconstructionist Druid movements have within them a Three Fold system of training ..

Year 1 : The Bardic Tradition

The theme here is one of connection to ancestors and ‘traditional tales’. Self-discovery comes through exploring personal relationship between ourselves, each other the land and the cosmos.

Creativity, Ritual, Storytelling and Self Expression are linked to a study of the Celtic peoples, what we know of their culture and values and what myth has suggested. We explore altered states and grasp what may be meant by The Awen.

Year 2 The Ovate Tradition

The key themes are healing, divination and service. The Bard knows and connects and the Ovate develops intuition to become wise.

Year 3 The Druid Tradition

Broadly a ‘priest;y’ role in which all of the arts, crafts and magicks of the Bardic and Ovate grade are interwoven in a more complex tapestry of understandings. Shamanic based counselling and therapy will be developed within this grade and decisions on how best the Bard, the Ovate and the Druid can serve the land and their communities will be explored.

This framework forms the syllabus of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, The British Druid Order and The Cornwall School of Mystery and Magicks own training and Drudic Clan of  Celliwig. The Reformed Druids of Gaia also have a three-degree system.

The symbol of the Triskele is often used to denote someone who has walked the three paths..

aurora tr

 alan /|\

 

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Published: April 21, 2014

The Four Directions

The Four Directions

fourtreasuresThe Four Treasures of Ireland Mandala is (c) Marg Thomson

Initially published with this piece and should be correctly credited to Marg Thomson

fullcirclemandalas.weebly.com

My bear met me in the meadow and led me to a cliff overlooking a vast plain. I could see four kingdoms….

A kingdom of  towers which reached like slender fingers into the sky, piercing the clouds…

A kingdom of fertile plains, where rivers and lakes were in abundance; fields were green and bore crops of all colours…

A kingdom of the forest in which tall trees crowded together and created dark shadows and even darker pathways. Here wolves ran free.

A Kingdom of mountains, standing rocky and bare, their slopes and peaks bestrewn with rock; route ways where only the sure footed belonged.

It was a new view of an older understanding.

From the ridge I was led to the cave in which were resting two cubs. One dark with a golden chevron on their chest, one gold en with a darker chevron.

This was a new understanding, one which reminded that each year had two halves, complementary and necessary.

The cave was dark with crystals that danced and sparkled with gold and green hues we call it nuummite, the stone of the  sorcerer , the magician.

 

A Meditation

This then was to be the theme of this post – the four cities and the four directions.

The Book of Invasions tells us that the Tuatha de Dannan or the Children of Danu, flew in from the north bringing their four treasures with them; the Sword of Nuada, the Cauldron of the Daghda, the Spear of Lugh and the Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny.

The Sword of Nuada it was said that no one could escape it once it was unsheathed. But a sword was not just a battle implement in ancient times. It was a symbol of wisdom, skill, creativity, honor, truth and discernment. In legends a noble sword uncovered truth and slayed falsehood.

The Cauldron of the Daghda was a magical inexhaustible container of food from which no one left unsatisfied and Druids were said to be able to bring slain warriors back to life by dipping them into magical cauldrons of healing

The Spear of Lugh was said to make its bearer invincible, it belonged to the bright shining God who was “Master of Every Art”.  Lugh was a great warrior and also a magician, a goldsmith, a harper, a healer and many other things besides. His bright spear symbolized mastery of talents, the growth of wisdom, intense focus on a skill or an art, profound intelligence, the fire of Otherworldly inspiration, the fires of thought and the fire in the head.

The Stone of Fal or the Lia Fáil was the magical coronation stone that roared when the true king put his feet upon it. A “Lia” is a worked or inscribed stone, not a rough natural stone. With its base in the ground and its top in the air it is a boundary marker between one world and another just as the true king must be a bridge from this world to the divine realms. The color of the stone is grey, symbolic of wisdom and knowledge and a “Fail” is an enclosure or protective ring that surrounds and guards the kingdom. Thus this stone, which was said to reside at Tara and which was later taken to Scotland (and then purloined by the English crown) is an ancient stone that has been inscribed in a sacred and mysterious way so that it guards the kingdom. When the true ruler, one who is a wise and a true protector of the land approaches it will speak out clearly. Until then the stone will stay silent, holding its secrets and guarding their power for the rightful king who is to come.

In the Yellow Book of Lecan we read ….

There were four cities in which the Tuatha Dé Danann learnt wisdom and magic, for wisdom and magic and deviltry were of service to them.

These are the names of the cities: Failias and Findias, Goirias and Murias. From Failias was brought the Lia Fail, which is at Tara, and which used to cry out under each king who assumed the sovereignty of Ireland. From Gorias was brought the sword which belonged to Nuada. From Findias was brought the spear of Lug. And from Murias was brought the caldron of the Dagda.

Four wizards were in these cities. Fessus was in Falias, Esrus was in Gorias, Uscias was in Findias, and Semias was in Murias. From them the Tuatha Dé Danann learnt wisdom and knowledge. No battle was maintained against the spear of Lug or against him who had it in his hand. No-one escaped from the sword of Nuada after he had been wounded by it, and when it was drawn from its warlike scabbard, no-one could resist against him who had it in his hand. Never went an assembly of guests away unsatisfied from the caldron of the Dagda. And the Lia Fail, which is at Tara, never spoke except under a king of Ireland.

From this we derive …

The Spear

Ruling Deity                 Lugh

Ruling Element             Fire

Direction                      South

City of Origin               Gorias

 

The spear of Lugh is not simply about battle and hunting it can be  a symbol of single-minded aim. direct action; channeled attention.

The Stone

Ruling Deity                 Fal

Ruling Element             Earth

Direction                      North

City of Origin               Falias

 

Fal’s stone is the grounding agent in the realm Celtic symbols. It seems to know ‘what is in mens hearts’ and recognizes a worthy and wise leader.

The Sword

Ruling Deity                 Nuada

Ruling Element             Air

Direction                      East

City of Origin               Findias

 

Nuada was the king of the Tuatha de Danann, and so, his sword (claideb) among Celtic symbols extremely powerful. It is the sword which can shape will.

 

The Cauldron

Ruling Deity                 Dagda

Ruling Element             Water

Direction                      West

City of Origin               Murias

 

Cauldrons are associated with the moon, water, the womb, openings – all female attributes. However, Dagda is a god – and so masculine. The cauldron is his talisman and he is a Good God, a God of fertility and abundance.

Are these are the stations, the points we can use to locate ourselves, the four tools we can acquire and the four qualities to which we can aspire?

Alan

 

 

 

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Published: April 1, 2014

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