Celtic Symbolism


Irish Celtic traditions date back to pre-Christian times. While many of the beliefs come from ancient Druidism, most of the basic beliefs emphasize nature and its cycles. In Ireland, an iconic symbol is that of the Celtic cross, which some believe was introduced by St. Patrick when he brought Christianity to Ireland. Just as St. Patrick himself explained the holy trinity by using the three-in-one shamrock, he also helped the native Irish understand that Christianity need not be separated from their beliefs in the continuity and cyclical nature of life, hence the emergence of the Christian cross with a circle touching on all four arms of the cross, with the intersection of the arms at the center of the circle.

In making my journey to the thin places, one of the most relevant Celtic traditions concerns the continuing cycle of life as marked by the seasons that observe the earth’s journey around the sun. The Celts recognized that all of life is connected and that for every ending, there is a new beginning. The second tradition relevant in my journey is that of the elements, those materials that give form and substance to and shape our world: Fire, and its anthesis, Water; Air, and its converse, Earth. The links below will take you to more detailed information about the seasons and the elements.

The hymn below, referred to as St. Patrick’s Breastplate or The Deer’s Cry is attributed to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, translated by Kuno Meyer is considered to be one of the earliest recorded prayers in Ireland, dating to the fifth century AD.

Deer’s Cry or Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

Access the entire prayer at A Taste of Ireland’s Poets,  http://www.rc.net/wcc/ireland/early7.htm.

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