I had wanted to do a blog post on Celtic Polytheism for a while as it recently became my new religion and it is something I am very passionate about and committed to. Celtic polytheism, much like other polytheistic religions, isn’t widely talked about so I am making a post with general information on it as well as my own experiences with it! If you find it intriguing ask me questions! I love talking about this
What exactly is Celtic Polytheism?
Celtic Polytheism or Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheism is a pagan religion centering around the deities in the various Celtic pantheons and the restoration or reconstructing of historical religious practices of the Celtic tribes.
Within the religion of Celtic polytheism there are a few different groups of gods. The Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Britannian and Gaulish. Celtic polytheists can focus on one group of deities or they can worship a variety of deities from across the different locales.
The word polytheistic means to believe in many gods and thus most Celtic polytheists (or any polytheist) will believe in all the gods in the pantheons and will pay their respects when they need to but most polytheists will only work intimately with a few. I personally work closely with four but I will touch on that in a later section.
Who practices Celtic Polytheism?
As the name suggests Celtic polytheism has its roots in the Celtic nations but the area occupied by the Celts is very broad and it extended from the British isles all the way down to France and northern Italy.
In modern society anyone can practice Celtic Polytheism. It is an open religion so you don’t need to be a certain race or ethnicity in order to practice it. People who practice Celtic polytheism do it because of a variety of different reasons ranging from women empowerment, a love of nature, a belief in magic, a love of the British isles, as a tie in to their witchcraft, or even just because their parents practiced it.
When are important dates for Celtic Polytheists?
The holidays for Celtic polytheism are the same as the Sabbats and Esbats for witchcraft and a few other pagan religions. (NOTE: Witchcraft is not a religion. It is a craft and thus not all witches will use the Sabbats and Esbats). The wheel of the year is the cycle of our holidays. There’s no real start but if you are looking chronologically throughout one year the beginning would be Imbolc.
Imbolc takes place on Febuary 1 and it represent the beginning of spring, or the start of the new year. The main activities done on Imbolc revolve around cleaning and the historic practice of Imbolc could arguably be what started the idea of spring cleaning.
The next holiday is Ostara. Ostara can take place anywhere from March 19-22 and it is the pagan equivalent of Easter although it pertains more to the spring equinox. Homes are decorated with eggs and rabbits, similar to Easter and the name Easter comes from the Germanic goddess Eostre, a spring goddess who was worshiped on this day.
Next comes Beltane, arguably my favourite. Beltane takes place on May 1, halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Beltane is a celebration of fire, fertility and abundance. It’s a way of praying for good fortune in the upcoming year in regards to the harvest and child birth. Beltane is my favourite because it is a very social event where bonfires are lit and there is dancing and socializing. There is also an old tradition that if a couple jumps over one of the fires together they will be blessed this year.
Then there is the summer solstice or Midsummer, often called Litha. Litha is a very informal holiday and isn’t super widely celebrated. Litha is just for staying up late on the longest night of the year and celebrating the beauty that is summer. Bonfires, beach magic, and holding events are some of the most common things to do on Litha.
Lughnasadh is the celebration of the first harvest and is also extremely important for Celtic polytheists as it is named after one of the major gods in our pantheon, Lugh the god of skills, craft, the sun and truth. It is celebrated on August 1 and also deals a lot with fire, similar to Beltane and Litha.
Mabon is the second harvest holiday and it is a holiday entered strongly on balance. The thought that you reap what you sow is extremely important and it can be likened to Thanksgiving in the mindset and how it is celebrated. Mabon is on the autumn equinox and is celebrated September 19-22.
Samhain is probably the most recognizable holiday in the Wheel of the Year. It’s Halloween! Celebrated on October 31, this holiday is when they veil between our world and the Otherworld is the thinnest and when the fae and other spirits are most likely to play tricks. Samhain is very fun and is celebrated pretty much the same as Halloween, we just have bonfires as well (the Celts really liked fires apparently). A fun little fact about Samhain, if you leave a bowl of milk outside on Samhain the Cat Sidhe or cat fae (cats the size of a German Shepherd and all black with a small white marking on their chest) will bless your household in the upcoming year. If you don’t you can expect lots of misfortune in the form of small pranks like objects going missing, lights flickering, and other small annoyances like that.
The final holiday in the wheel is Yule. Yule is the winter solstice celebration and it is celebrated December 19-22 but often parties and other festivities can push up all the way until the new year. Yule is all about introspection and planning for the new year, as well as the rebirth of the sun as it is the longest night of the year. Yule is very similar to Christmas with its wreaths and candles and feasts and present giving but there is also the Yule log which can be an actual wooden log with three candles in it or it can be a log shaped cake.
Where is it practiced and where does it come from?
As previously stated Celtic Polytheism is practiced all over the world by all manner of people. Both men and women and people of any and all ethnic backgrounds.
It comes from the Celtic nations of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, The Isle of Man, and Cornwall. Parts of northern Portugal and France can also lay claim as Celtic nations.
Why do I practice it?
It’s a fairly long story of why I began practicing Celtic polytheism in the first place and honestly I’m going to be leaving out many details. It all started with looking for certainty. For those who didn’t know me well in middle school I was devotedly Mormon but as I grew older I began to doubt the church and found myself not quite believing as firmly as I used to.
Then I discovered Celtic Polytheism.
Celtic polytheism intrigued me at first just because of my own ethnic background and interests then as I began to research more about it I discovered just how easily it clicked in my life. I felt a connection I’d never felt before with my old religion. It helped bring certainty into my life where before I didn’t have any and so almost a year later and I’m still learning, still practicing, and still feeling the most confident I have in a long time.
It was especially interesting to see how many little quirks I had and little things I did that ended up lining up perfectly with Celtic polytheism. It was almost as if I had been practicing it most of my life and I just never realized. I felt like I belonged in this religion, and so I stayed.
How do I practice it?
Celtic polytheism is interesting because it is extremely individualistic when it comes to practicing it. First I’ll introduce you to the four main deities I worship and then I’m go over what I myself do to practice my religion.
The first deity I worshiped was Flidais. When first looking into Celtic deities I was instantly drawn to her because of my own personal connection with nature. Flidais, also called Lady of the Wilds or Foltchain, is the Irish goddess of woodlands and wild things (animals). She’s heavily associated with deer and owns a large herd of them that produce enough milk to feed an army of men for three months straight, or so says her main myth anyways. Flidais is also a goddess of travel as she rarely stayed in one spot and was extremely free spirited. Flidais is a fairly minor Celtic deity and not a whole lot is known about her so much has to be learned just through interacting with her. She’s of a fairly gentle nature but also has no qualms about telling me when I’ve done something she doesn’t approve of. She is also fairly easy to please, my main method of worship just being going on walks and picking up any litter I find or otherwise taking care of her wild spaces.
The next goddess who I began to worship is Scathach or Scatha, also known as
She Who Strikes Fear and The Shadowy One. Scathach is the Scottish goddess of battle, sports, strength and discipline. She resides on the Isle of Sky and taught one of the most famous Scottish and Irish heroes. Scathach joined my pantheon in an interesting manner. I use tarot cards occasionally to communicate with Flidais and during a spread Scathach decided to hijack it..and then the next one… and the next one… and the next one until I finally gave her some attention and began worshiping her as well. At first it was hard finding a way to successfully worship her with an activity like I do with Flidais but then I joined karate. Scathach is a very serious goddess and is probably the most formal of the four of my deities.
This next goddess is arguably the most influential in my life and is potentially my patron god (the main god/goddess that a polytheist worships, they have a closer relationship then others the individual worships). The Morrigan, The Great Queen, The Phantom Queen. The Celtic goddess of death, fate, battle, magic and sovereignty. Morrigan is an extremely complex goddess with multiple facets and many faces. Luckily for me, she acts almost like a meddlesome but supportive aunt. She can be intimidating and fierce but she also cares deeply for her followers. When talking with her she often tells me I need to be more confident and stand up for myself more, but in the early stages of my worship, and sometimes even now, whenever I feel that sliver of doubt start to creep in every time, without fail, a crow shows up. Crows and ravens are symbols of the Morrigan and while they often are seen as bad omens, for me seeing one is comforting because it often means Morrigan is looking out for me.
The last god is Cernunnos, also called Herne the Hunter or The Horned God,
Cernunnos is a fertility god but he is also the main nature god throughout the Celtic nations. Cernunnos is an extremely elusive god as he is hard to reach when not in a nature filled space, thus worshiping him in the city can be strenuous and difficult. As such I haven’t been able to work with Cernunnos too much but I still consider him a part of my mini pantheon and I still pray to him. Cernunnos is notoriously easy going and free spirited, he is very evenly tempered and can be a bit bawdy. In the past he has been known to accept offers to duels from humans but he tends to play dirty, using nature magic instead of weapons, and incapacitating his opponent with plant growth.
My practice is actually fairly simple and not all that involved. I say prayers like any other religion would, I have certain activities I do to worship specific deities, I have a small alter on top of my dresser where I add decorations that I feel the different gods might like. I also have a slightly more mystical aspect in my worship where I practice magic and use tarot cards and my pendulum. Honestly though, Celtic polytheism and other polytheistic religions aren’t as strange or as backwards as some may think. There’s no blood sacrifice or rituals under the full moon naked. I leave a small piece of bread or a cup of milk out for the fae every full and new moon, I take walks around my neighborhood, I cook using certain spices when I want a bit of an energy boost, I get made fun of by my tarot cards when I ask them dumb questions and I grin like a fool every time I see a crow. I love my religion and all the quirks that come with it and I also love to share my religion because it makes me happy.