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