Celtic Myth and Religion

A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs


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About the Book

This book provides a comprehensive overview of Celtic mythology and religion, encompassing numerous aspects of ritual and belief. Topics include the presence of the Celtic Otherworld and its inhabitants, cosmology and sacred cycles, wisdom texts, mythological symbolism, folklore and legends, and an appreciation of the natural world. Evidence is drawn from the archaeology of sacred sites, ethnographic accounts of the ancient Celts and their beliefs, medieval manuscripts, poetic and visionary literature, and early modern accounts of folk healers and seers. New translations of poems, prayers, inscriptions and songs from the early period (Gaulish, Old Irish and Middle Welsh) as well as the folklore tradition (Modern Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Manx) complement the text. Information of this kind has never before been collected as a compendium of the indigenous wisdom of the Celtic-speaking peoples, whose traditions have endured in various forms for almost three thousand years.

About the Author(s)

Sharon Paice MacLeod is a Harvard-trained Celticist, grant-funded researcher, historical consultant and professional musician. She has taught Celtic literature, mythology and folklore at the university level, and her areas of expertise include Celtic religion and belief, early Irish and Welsh poetry and wisdom texts, cosmology, and visionary traditions.

Bibliographic Details

Sharon Paice MacLeod
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 244
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6476-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8703-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction: Journeying to the Well of Wisdom      5

Part One: Celtic Religion and Mythology
1. The Sacred Elements of the Tradition      9
2. Sources of Knowledge      18
3. Druids, Seers, Poets and Priestesses      25
4. The Celtic Otherworld      34
5. The Gods of Britain and Gaul      39
6. Irish Gods and Goddesses      48
7. The Ritual Year      58

Part Two: Celtic Shamanism and Wisdom Traditions
8. Elements of Celtic Shamanism      65
9. The Feathered Cloak      73
10. The Song of the Shaman      81
11. Celtic Cosmology      89
12. Celtic Wisdom Traditions      100
13. The Knowledge of Trees      107
14. Symbolism of Animals and Birds      115

Part Three: Celtic Legends and Folklore
15. The Wisdom of the Ancestors      123
16. The Legend of Arthur      132
17. The Mabinogi      141
18. Fairies, Healers and Seers      148
19. Folklore of Spring and Summer      159
20. Folklore of Autumn and Winter      169
21. The Path of the Old Ways      180

Appendix A: The Rights of Women in Early Celtic Culture      185
Appendix B: The Celtic Folksong Tradition      194
Appendix C: Suggested Reading and Further Study      204
Chapter Notes      207
Bibliography      221
Index      231

Book Reviews & Awards

“this well-organized, readable book unites a widely scattered body of primary information on the myths, ritual practices, songs, cosmology, poetry, folklore, and symbolism created within and shared among the Celtic cultures of western Europe…a good general volume on Celtic myth and religion. Recommended”—Choice; “excellent”—Witches and Pagans; “well researched and richly diverse scholarly study”—Story Circle Book Reviews.