Culture

Seeing With Ancestral Eyes: Language and Celtic Worldview

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All images: Public domain

Hello everyone, and the bright blessings of early summer to you all! Today I would like to talk about ways to deepen our practice of Celtic Paganism. One the many  important tools that people may choose to utilize when walking a Celtic path is learning one of the modern Celtic languages – Scottish Gaelic, modern Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Manx. By dedicating ourselves to learning one of these languages we are contributing to protecting the survival of the language as well as the traditional culture embedded in that language.  Some people feel that they may not have sufficient time to learn a Celtic language, but there are free online sources that a person can use in their own timing. For example there is the app Duolingo where you can learn Irish or Welsh. For Scottish Gaelic there are some wonderful resources at learngaelic.scot.

Each of these languages is a portal into one of the Celtic cultures, including their history, beliefs and worldview. If we only look at the mythology and folklore, we are taking those things out of context, and as a result there can be many misunderstandings or confusion that can arise. For traditional cultures, the ancestral language is incredibly important for a sense of identity, both personal and tribal, and it encapsulates how that culture looks at the world.  That includes cosmology, social relationships, and the intricacies of religion.


scotland-802321_640When I began to learn Scottish Gaelic as my great grandmother had spoken, I instantly began to see how the language provided me with a new way of seeing, and a new way of exploring that culture. Eventually I learned Old Irish and studied other early Celtic languages so that I could read the mythology and the ancient literature in the original.  That really cracked open the geode, so to speak,  so that I could see the interior, the shining mysteries, and the sacred ways of seeing.

Around the world there are individuals, small groups, and organizations dedicated to teaching Celtic languages and cultures. You may want to get in touch with some of these groups or foundations, to help provide you with a sense of connection as you learn about Celtic languages and culture as an important step towards deepening your understanding of the mythology and religion.


Sharon’s much anticipated book, entitled Celtic Cosmology and The Otherworld is currently on back-order at McFarland Publishers. Check it out here!

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“Despite censorship and revision by Christian redactors, the early medieval manuscripts of Ireland and Britain contain tantalizing clues to the cosmology, religion and mythology of native Celtic cultures. Focusing on the latest research and translations, the author provides fresh insight into the indigenous beliefs and practices of the Iron Age inhabitants of the British Isles. Chapters cover a broad range of topics, including creation and cosmogony, the deities of the Gaels, feminine power in early Irish sources, and priestesses and magical rites.”


Sharon’s other publications: 978-0-7864-6476-0.jpg

Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief (McFarland)

Celtic Myth in the 21st Century: The Gods and their Stories in a Global Perspective  

The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe: Goddesses, Sacred Women and the Origins of Western Culture (McFarland)

Queen of the Night: Rediscovering the Celtic Moon Goddess (Red Wheel / Weiser)

Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium (see also Harvard University Press website) 

The Moors (CD Baby / Itunes – Collector’s copies / Digital downloads)


Sharon Paice MacLeod

Writer, Teacher, Musician

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Sharon is a professional scholar trained in Celtic Studies through Harvard University. She has taught at the university level, and published and presented academic work in North America and Europe. Her areas of expertise include Historical Celtic culture and religion, mythology and folklore, Early Irish and Welsh Literature, languages and music, ritual and visionary traditions.

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