For the second part of our special series on spiritual & ritual charms, we will explore Celtic Wiccan belief charms. You can read the first part of the series here.
Where Did Celtic Wiccan Belief Charms Come From?
Celtic symbols and charms all hail from a singular source – an interested group of people called the Celts.
Celts, Germans, and Vikings, all names given to various peoples of northwestern Europe by those who suffered their attacks, appear to have been possessed by boundless energy and vigor, propelling them out of their homelands and wreaking havoc in numerous parts of Europe. There are connections between these peoples’ cultures and striking similarities between the religious symbols they used and their depictions of a supernatural world.
Although there are enormous gaps in what modern experts know, traces of their beliefs survive in their art and later literature. At the same time, archaeology and descriptions left by foreign observers have revealed glimpses of their religious rituals. The Scandinavian Vikings did not convert to Christianity until approximately 1000 AD. Thus, most of our knowledge of gods, sacred places, and supernatural realms comes from their records; the Viking Age represents the final flowering of Germanic religion.
When men from western Norway and other parts of Scandinavia migrated to Iceland in the late ninth century, an island devoid of inhabitants except for a few Irish hermits, they established a religious system resembling the Germans and Celts centuries earlier. They prayed to Thor and Freyr, powerful deities of the sky and fertility, to guide their small wooden ships to land and point out the best locations for their new homes.
They sought out holy places in the new country, rocks, and hills to replace ancestral burial mounds, a volcanic cleft to mark the location of their law assembly under the protection of the gods, and fields, waterfalls, and oddly shaped stones to serve as new cult sites. They constructed shrines to house their gods’ figures, uprooting carved pillars associated
with them from Scandinavian structures and reinstalling them in Iceland and held annual feasts in honor of their deities.
When Did “Celtic” Appear in History?
Celtic has also come to refer to a particular style of art. Sir Augustus Franks of the British Museum was the first to use it to describe the culture of western Europe’s early Iron Age. Outstanding discoveries at Hallstatt in Austria and La Tene in Switzerland established the existence of this culture, which appears to have flourished in Europe from approximately the 8th century BC to the second-century ad and continued in the British Isles later than this. In 1846, Hallstatt’s salt mines director discovered a vast cemetery beside the lake, where the mountains rise steeply from the shores. The earliest graves are believed to date from around 700 BC, and traces of the people who worked in the mines were discovered in the salt, as fragments of their clothing, food, iron tools, and simple possessions were preserved.
There was a thriving local industry there, and the wealthy residents were buried in elaborate graves in the nearby cemetery. Both men and women were buried in wooden chamber graves alongside wagons, riding equipment, ornaments, drinking vessels, and food as if they were intended to live in luxury and feast in the Other World.
During the same ‘Hallstatt’ period, impressive stone carvings representing gods or ancestors were erected in the Celtic territory. The artisans of this era were skilled in metalwork and employed a decorative style influenced by foreign art. Particular objects appear to have religious significance; for example, the so-called cult wagon of Strettweg, from an Austrian burial mound near Graz, is a small, wheeled platform on which a group of human figures and a stag are arranged. The central figure is a prominent female figure who appears to be a goddess, while the stag may be a sacred and possibly sacrificial animal.
What are Popular Celtic Wiccan Belief Charms and Symbols?
Celtic symbols are at the heart of what we now refer to as “Celtic culture.” Numerous of them have withstood the test of time, having originated hundreds of years ago but retaining relevance and significance in modern times. The Claddagh ring, the Celtic cross, the triskele, and the triquetra are just a few of the most well-known Celtic symbols.
The Claddagh ring is an iconic symbol of contemporary Celtic jewelry. It was possibly invented in the seventeenth century but was not widely available until the nineteenth century. The term “Claddagh” refers to a town near Galway, Ireland, where a man named Robert Joyce lived with his wife before being kidnapped and sold into slavery by pirates. According to legend, he was compelled to work in a goldsmith’s shop, where he invented the first Claddagh ring. The hands symbolize friendship, the heart is symbolic of love, and the crown is symbolic of loyalty.
According to a romantic tradition, the direction of the ring on the owner’s finger indicates whether they are in a relationship or not. The Celtic legends and symbols continue to ring accurate and meaningful to many ears. The love story remains relevant today, using the ring to symbolize the status of one’s relationship.
The Cross is a powerful symbol that originates in the biblical story of Jesus. Celtic Crosses, in particular, date from the early Middle Ages, roughly from the eighth to the tenth centuries. According to jewelers at Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold store in Galway, the Cross retains its significance
Experts noted that in the 1853 Irish Industrial Exhibition in Dublin, the apparent displays of crosses in the Antiquities Hall were intricate monuments indicative of the Celtic “devoted piety” and reverence for Christianity. According to experts, the omission of pagan Celts and medieval Christian culture reflects the contemporary desire to conflate the two historical periods into a single, overarching cultural trait.
The triskele symbol, also known as the “wheel of life,” has been discovered on ancient carvings throughout Europe; as shown in the image above, it is frequently found on maintenance hole covers throughout Galway. The Celts believed that in nature, groups of three were significant: earth, water, and sky; body, mind, and spirit; birth, death, and rebirth; and past, present, and future.
Archaeological excavations in Ireland have revealed that the ancient inhabitants frequently favored curvilinear designs and spirals. Additionally, experts believe that their preference for organic forms and intricately swirling patterns influenced the development of Christian iconography in Ireland.
The triquetra or the Trinity Knot, is believed to predate the cross by hundreds of years. The uninterrupted knotwork represents the Celts’ belief in an afterlife. The triquetra represents “the maiden, mother, and crone; the earth, heavens, and underworld; the past, present, and future; as well as the body, mind, and spirit.” The symbol predominately represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to many jewelers. The distinction between these two mindsets in the jewelry industry exemplifies how various parties frequently appropriate symbols for their purposes.
A portion of this appropriation is attributable to the Celtic symbol’s capacity to symbolize both the individual and the collective.
Most customers who enter vintage shops or jewelry stores are not interested in purchasing random items. Instead, when they seek out Celtic Wiccan belief charms, they are interested in the meanings associated with the various symbols.
Four facets of Celtic culture are discussed: the center, the journey, the complexity, and the weave. The center alludes to the focal point and center of Celtic culture, namely God or the divine; the journey alludes to the personal journey that begins at the center and the collective, cultural journey that the human race began.
By employing the spiral symbol to convey meaning, the speaker demonstrates the Celtic fascination with the complexity of life through a reference to the “whorls of illuminated, knotted letters” found in ancient Celtic art. The weave symbolizes the unification of what many of the symbols discussed previously have always symbolized: the harmony of spirit, mind and body; the harmony of birth, death, and the afterlife.
From a Celtic perspective, the universe’s nature is to be entwined, connected, and everything that we see or not is in a relationship with one another. Mary and the saints are daily companions who come calling in any croft or barn and are received as intimates, alongside the dead heroes of history with whom present friends converse.
This, I believe, is significant because it explains why so many people wish to connect with their Celtic ancestors through their association with Celtic symbols, whether through jewelry, tattoos, or other means. These symbols were always intended to endure and given modern society’s obsession with commodification, their capacity to represent both the individual and the collective is unquestionably a selling point. Images can collapse history so that most texts or other forms of cultural production cannot.
Symbols’ visual nature makes them quickly appropriated, commodified, and used for individual and collective purposes. In this sense, symbols can maintain a state of timelessness and adaptation indefinitely.