The Celtic Triplicities
When we study the true Celtic expression of Paganism in the ancient law texts and other writings we find a moral and ethical code that includes ideas such as:
Respect (for Nature and all its creatures)
Honour (as defined by the community)
Truth (as simple purity)
Service to the Community (the greater common good)
Loyalty to friends, family, and local community (trusting each other)
Hospitality (sharing food and comforts)
Justice (the spirit of the Law)
Although we are repeatedly told that the Druids never wrote anything down - it was recorded by others that the Celts recognised Three Realms and that the Celtic Gods are divided into three groups:
Sky (the otherworld), the Upper Realm,
Land (this world) the Middle Realm and
Sea (the underworld) the Lower Realm.
These are the three planes of existence and they were / are inhabited by different beings.
( .... The above triple spiral image is to be found in the end chamber of the cruciform chamber of the passage cairn at Newgrange (Br� na Boinne) - it is shown the correct way up as found in the temple. Be wary of books showing versions of this potent pre-Celtic three spiral symbol shown rotated through 90* as their stories may have also been turned on their side ..... )
Three types of gods were honoured by the ancient Celts:
Personal (ones that provide special inspiration and guidance),
Tribal (when working in a groups) and
Spirits (genius loci / guardians) of the land they live on.
Ancestors (who were actual people that history has confused by turning them into gods) and land spirits (temple guardians) are honoured as separate entities but sometimes they were the land spirits or were attached to the land and the spirits of the land.
The Celtic way of spirituality shows us that sacred places are found and not created. This is why Celtic Druids would hold ritual ceremony in a natural setting. The Celtic Druids way knows that the Spirit or Source flows through everything and because of this any place is a good place to hold a ceremony. But when we look into this a bit further we see other deeper things such as some places even being too special to be used (i.e. modified) as a location for a ceremony. These would be the natural places of remoteness and wild beauty. At the same time there are places that are instantly recognised as highly suitable for a ceremony. The unique dignity of a place had / has to be seen in its own right - in the wilderness - just being there was a ceremony of connectivity. Today we might call this a Vision Quest.
Locations for regular ritual would be identified and these sites would be annotated by a raised bank or a multiple circle of standing stones (please see the essay under Water - Divining Sacred Sites). The spirits of the place would have been contacted by waking dream (meditation) and an agreement or mutual acceptance would have been set up. By this method - the spirits of the place (genius loci) would be honoured and respected for their co-operation.
In the Celtic way of life that we today refer to as a path, we can see that the individual was very important, regardless of rank - each had real rights and could rise him or her self in status by deeds of honour or by developing a high connection to spirit. The importance of the individual was connected directly to their duty to family and to their tribe. Again we see the three-fold system. This may seem confusing to us today, but every tribe was made up from secure extended families and these were made up of many individuals and some of these individuals were very unique. It can be understood as a mutual dependency generating safety and comfort for everyone.
We have been sold a false history by the Roman army generals who presented the situation in the Celtic lands (they sought to conquer and own) purely in ways to get more support, money and soldiers. We have the image from the Romans that all Celts were wild and mad and wanted to die in battle and so on but in reality it was much different. Maybe only one in a thousand Celts was a �Warrior� by profession, maybe everyone else was just a happy citizen with a basic way of life such as farmer, leather worker, wife, weaver, husband and so on.
The fireplace or hearth was the centre of the home and the home was the centre of the tribe and the tribe was again the centre of the people. At the hearth you get fed, warmed and sleep, but maybe most importantly of all you hear the old stories. The lineage of your tribe, the deeds of great women and men, the fantastic stories of famous girls and boys and the excitement of things to come - these were all shared around the hearth or fire. The hearth was the central strength of the spirituality of the people.
When a wrong doer was caught and punished he or she still had rights to sit by the fire. The old Irish Celtic way did not have jails because it was considered wrong to have a good man locked up to mind a bad man. What often happened was a severe haircut and beard removal and this easily identified the wrong doer. He could still work for the tribe and eat well but he lost all rights to vote and so on. If this wrong doer ran away to join another tribe - he would have to wait until his beard and long hair grew back before his �prison shave� would be replaced by a respectable amount of growth. Even then he would not be easily accepted into another tribe. Each tribe had a couple of persons who would know the names and lineage of every tribe for a huge area and a stranger would have to be able to identify him or herself under rigorous scrutiny. This survives even today when say a visiting Dublin man to a village pub in Co Kerry would say he had relatives nearby - he would be questioned to a great depth and many trick questions would be placed in front of him. If he answers correctly - he gains a welcome like a long lost family member (tribal welcome).
From the hearth grows the sanctity of the home and from this we get the strength of the family. Family does not mean blood only because it also means people who have been adopted. This may be a child or a teenager or an adult who has lost his or her own family or tribe through war or natural disaster. If an adopted person worked to better the tribe and contributed to the spirit of the group need by deed, work, study or just total commitment to the best of his or her ability - then they were full members of the tribe.
The Celtic system did not need priests to work as go-between for the individual to the gods because everyone could connect with the gods directly. The excitement in the storyteller�s magic would inspire those who were ready to seek understanding of the mysteries. This system meant the highest truth was available to all who had a mind to seek it. The telling of the myths and the ancestor stories around the hearth was the main expression of the oral tradition of the Celtic culture.
It was through the myths and story-cycles that the high magic of the Celtic way was shared with the whole tribe. This was teaching each member to play their part in the tribe as best as they could and many of the stories contained core elements such as - you should fulfil your appointed duty, you must always be honourable and you must stand for the truth before the whole world. In a sense these were the rules of Celtic society.
The Celtic Path for the tribal member and the Druid contained basics such as meditation (guided dreaming), visualization, chanting, drumming, singing and fast dancing. The entire tribe would make special time to honour the tribal gods and ancestors at the appointed times. The intention would have been (and is today) about proper focusing of the individual, the family and the tribe with Nature so that we can realise who we are in the greater scheme of things. This is referred to today by Druidschool as the spiritual alchemy of self-transformation or simply �turning your lights on and up high�.