Tag Archive | celtic

Why the “Celtic Triads” are important

What are called the “Celtic Triads” are the basis for most Druidic thought according to what historical documents we have and yet very little is said about them in modern Druidry. They can be difficult to find which considering that every Druid had to memorize them, you would think more of them would have survived whole but they haven’t unless you go looking for them. Most that I have found are still in Gaelic.

The main thing about them is that all three pieces of the triad are equal. They never appear to be weighted in any way which makes the combinations interesting to study and a big window into the thought processes of the Druids.

Here are a few:

Three things that make a fool wise: Learning, application and patience. We in the West tend to emphasize Learning and not pay attention to the other two. How often is patience stressed in this age of fast food information and when you are teaching to a test, how do you learn to apply what you have learned to the real world?

Three paths to downfall: To allow one’s passions to rule, to be self indulgent and to refuse to learn by example. Having grown up in a house with people whose ancestry was primarily Scottish and my mom was half Swedish, we were always taught that our passions and our emotions should never be what rules us. Passions should be hidden from the world. It’s something I got in trouble for over and over again. It was just considered bad manners to emote all over because everyone had things to be passionate or emotional about but you shouldn’t impinge on another’s personal space. But it was equally important to not indulge yourself because someone might not have as much as you and you might make them feel less than and that was not okay. The hardest for me was to learn by example. I tend to like going my own way and making my own mistakes but I have learned a lot from watching and deciding what I didn’t want to be and the main thing I didn’t want to be was my mother.

There are three things from which one should never stray: Belief in one’s self, Belief in a higher self and belief in the truth. I find it interesting that truth and one’s self are not the same thing but they are equal in importance.

Know that there are three things that illumine every darkness: Truth, Nature and Knowledge. Too many times in today’s world everything is about pursuing “the truth” (“The Truth is out there”) or knowledge, and nature is something to ignore, drive past or exploit but to be a well-rounded interesting person one does have to be grounded in the natural world and I know I have to be to even be a little sane.

There are three things that are better than riches: Health, Freedom and Honour. Sometimes I think we forget that any of these three are important. We do damage to our health by polluting and using chemicals the companies that make them say are safe and then 20 years of use or more later it’s, “my bad, oops that stuff can kill your but oh well we’re filing for bankruptcy so you can’t hold us accountable, we made our money.”

We get less free every day with every piece of date we give up about ourselves and every time different governments tell us we can’t speak our truth or assemble with people who think like us. And who talks about their honour anymore. It’s gotten me called a nutjob at work more than once when I have failed to comply with an unethical request or demand.

So, if everything in a triad is of equal importance than other triads are also equal, goddesses like Brighid or the Morrigan or the Tres Madres that have three parts and all of those parts are equal so for Brighid, inspiration, healing and artisanship are equal faces of who she is and of equal importance.

Day and night and the liminal spaces in between are of equal importance as is being awake, sleeping and the times in between something a lot of us who short our sleep time should remember more often.

The Gaelic* peoples saw all life as a triad and all of it holy, something maybe we should remember more often in this modern world.


*I say Gaelic because the culture of the Celts was very far spread and not necessarily the same but the Gaels, and in particular the Scots and Irish and Welsh had very well defined cultures that still exist in their people today.

thoughts on Chapter 2 of Mist Filled Path

People of Shapes, Children of the Mists


The Egyptians believed the soul had 5 parts: the Ib (Heart), the Sheut (shadow), Ren (Name), Ba (everything that makes you, you), Ka (your life force), Akh (your thoughts or intellect). The Old Irish believed the soul was in three cauldrons that maintained the health of the soul: the cauldron of warming (your life force) in your belly, the cauldron of vocation (that which dwells in your heart, and the cauldron of knowledge (wisdom) which was in your head.

All these parts of the soul can cause what has been referred to as soul loss and at times may need to be regarded as “lost”. Frank Mac Eowen has some techniques in this chapter for seeing whether your soul is missing anything and gives some advise about recovery of the soul and if you may need help doing that recovery.

He says that interaction with nature can help you integrate your spirit and shape us. That we shape ourselves by what we hold in our minds, that we shape ourselves and others by our actions. And that we are all shaped by things we can’t even grasp such as the elements.

He states that the Celtic people are water people and are shaped and built by the landscapes of the people, that the people of Wales, Brittany and Cornwall are people of the shore. Some are surrounded by water such as the people of the Ireland, Isle of Man, the inner and outer Hebrides. The people of Scotland are shaped by the lochs and that all Celts are influenced by the holy wells and streams. I’m not sure I agree with all of that because I think the Irish and the Scots are very much influenced by the earth also. The Irish live in a land that is green and fairly fertile and is somewhat gentle compared with the mountains and crags of the Scottish Highlands, People who flourish there have to have a different kind of mindset than a people where the land provides a slightly easier living. It’s why the Scots set sail on the sea and does make them more watery for having to get their living from the oceans but it grounds them and makes them feel the need to fight for their living. And it did translate to the need to explore and seek new places, in a new land. The US Navy was founded by a Scot after all, John Paul Jones.

Because of all this water he calls us the Children of the Mist, and he tells part of the story of Clan MacGregor and equates it with the Highland Clearances. As some one who is a MacGregor on both my mother and father’s sides of the family, I know there is much more to the MacGregors and why they were Children of the Mist and it wasn’t just their fight with the Colquhouns. If that were so the MacFarlanes would have been proscribed also since the Colquhouns were one of their favourite targets for cattle thievery and other activities. Just as the full moon was named MacFarlane’s lantern because that was when they did a lot of their raiding, the Children of the Mist, could disappear not just because the proscription which actually happened more than once, but from their ability to fade away out of sight. “Fight and run away and live to fight another day”. Something Clan MacDonald forgot and got walloped for by the English and the Campbells. The Clearances did, however, lead to the diaspora.

The English landlords were ruthless in clearing the lands for sheep and wool which was the backbone of the English economy. The troops would arrive in the night, give little time to pack and place you on ships to America, Australia and Ireland. And lest you think of returning, burn all that you had left behind. A fighting and proud people who depend on land for their identity were wiped away and forced to find new roots. And because the are a people who value stories they romanticized it to make the stories easier on their hearts. For a people whose greatest punishment was exile and their greatest good was hospitality these are traumas to the very soul of a people when they were exiled from their lands. The potato famine did much the same to the Irish. It wasn’t that there wasn’t enough food, it was that what good food like wheat was being sent to England and all the Irish were left with was the potato and the English weren’t exactly heartbroken to see the troublesome Irish have to leave.

And so two proud peoples went into exile and took with them a hate of the English, this lead to something like the Revolutionary War, the Law of Unintended Consequences in action and that behaviour of the English is still hated even today. The English taught the Scots and the Irish how to hold a grudge. Frank MacEowen says this and the historical and mythological migrations of the Celts led to having a spirit of longing, that it made us seekers. He may be right about that.

There is no goddess, the Cailleach of Winter!

This because I’m spiritually cranky today, but it still pisses me off. There are two beings that do not exist in history that pagans love to create, one is Lord Samhain. THERE IS NO SUCH GOD! And the other is The Cailleach, WHO ALSO DOES NOT EXIST!

I did a bunch of research today to try to confirm what I have always been told and did not find one single source that refers to a goddess named the Cailleach. Cailleach is a descriptive term meaning old woman. Old men in the Outer Isles of Scotland refer to their wives as the Cailleach which is the equivalent of a biker referring to his partner as my old lady. See the book “Crowdie and Cream” for an example.

Every primary source I could find equated a reference to the word Cailleach as a reference to an aspect of Brighid. The word itself refers to some one who wears a shawl or a veil. Women in the Highlands wore shawls as part of their everyday dress and it was often worn over their head.

The word is used as part of several terms: the cailleach oidhche is an owl, literally old woman of the night. The cailleach dhubh is a nun or the veiled woman in black. Cailleach feasa is a wise woman. Cailleach phiseogach is the old woman magic maker or sorceress. Cailleachanta is to be old wifish or to be cowardly though why being an old woman would be cowardly I do not know since I would not mess with any old Scottish woman, especially one like my grandmother or her mother.

After harvest the last grain sheaf is the Cailleach rather like the last corn kernel unpopped is the Old Maid. The only reference I could find to a being even close was the Cailleach Bheur which is the Old Woman of Bearra and a gentleman in the 20th century by the name of Donald Alexander MacKenzie invented her as a compilation of all the winter gods and goddesses in Scottish myth. Why he felt the need to do this when all those winter goddesses hae proper names I do not know. So there was no Cailleach of Winter until he invented her that I can see.

Some of the references were really stretching it. One cited the Carmina Gaedelica. Um, which of the 10 volumes and where? And did they refer to the English translation or did they actually read the Gaelic? That’s rather like using the King James version of the Bible and citing the verse about, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” when the Hebrew says “thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live.”

So I wish people would stop making up Celtic goddesses. If you want to flaming call Brighid. CALL HER!

Okay, after much searching the Carmina Gaedelica I found what they think is the passage about the Cailleach. It isn’t. It’s called The carlin of Beinn Bhreac. (lower case letters in the citation) Carlin is another form of the word cailleach but and it’s a HUGE BUT! The two songs are about one of the Fae. The Fae are not deities and it very well might offend them to call them so. They are the Fae, unique unto themselves, and I don’t mean little cutesy Victorian faeries. If you want to know more about the Fae I suggest reading some of RJ Stewart’s work or better yet, take one of his classes. Again there is no Cailleach that is a deity nor Carlin. And if you look at the stories at the end of how Alexander collected them the woman in the song is referred to as using Fath fith (also fith fath, and it pronounce it the th s are silent). An occult power that changes women into in a deer, cat or hare form. (Men change to horses, bulls and stags. MacClennan) This is a faery power.

There are plenty of quite awesome, in the true sense of the word, Celtic/Scottish deities with out inventing one and using it in ignorance.

MacClennan, Malcolm, Gaelic Dictionary

Carmichael, Alexander, Carmina Gaedelica, not found as Cailleach, see song 517 & 518 the second is clearly titled “the fairy woman and the hunter”. In the chapter called Fairy Songs.

Logan, James, The Scottish Gael Celtic Manners being a historical and descriptive account of the inhabitants, antiquities and national peculiarities of Scotland. 1830 edition, also no reference found.

Only newage sources mention a goddess called the Cailleach and they are not good sources and Wikipedia also only references her newage sources and vague other sources with no exact citing.

I have over a hundred books on Scottish traditions and lore some of which are very old and fragile. I trust my sources.

I’m not the only one with a hair (hare?) up their butt about this. I once heard Steve Blamires go off at Harvest Moon about it one year.

Weird dreaming

I must have spent entirely too much time yesterday researching the cailleach. I dreamed I lived on an island that practiced several forms of traditional regional Celtic spiritualities. I’d gone away to do more research and when I returned a modern subdivision of New Agers had appeared behind a new iron fence. The rest of the dream was about how to eradicate the pests??!!

more Celts

Okay for Mary another 10 Celtic music artisans

11. Cherish the Ladies
12. Alex Beaton
13. Arthur Cormack
14. Deanta
15. Aine Minogue
16. Maire Brennan
17. Jenny Schaub
18. Karen Matheson
19. Gaelic Storm
20. Talitha Mackenzie

Oops, can’t stop

21. Loreena McKennit
22. Maddie Prior
23. Brother
24. Bad Haggis
25. Wicked Tinkers
26. Ewan McColl
27. Alaisdar Fraser
28. Alison Kinnaird
29. Mac-Talla
30. Altan

Top 10 favourite Celtic groups and Artists

Not in any particular order because my favourites change constantly.

1. Runrig
2. Ossian
3. Mary Black
4. Silly Wizard
5. Capercaillie
6. Christine Anne MacPhee
7. Emerald Rose
8. Connie Dover
9. Andy Stewart
10. Tannahill Weavers