Celtic Magic: A Beginner’s Guide

Celtic Witch: A Beginner's Guide to Celtic Spirituality

Discover the wonder and beauty of Celtic magic.

Today, I offer you a (necessarily brief) introduction to this ancient spirituality, which continues to inform and inspire people today.

My connection to Celtic spirituality.

I am the product of the Celtic diaspora.

My paternal grandfather was first-generation Irish.

On my mother’s side, our Appalachian heritage was deeply influenced by the imported Celtic traditions, music, and language of our Welsh European ancestry.

None of this makes me an expert on Celtic spirituality or the gatekeeper of who may practice it.

However, my heritage inspired me to dig deeper into the subject of Celtic spirituality, and I hope my quest inspires you to dig into your own to discover the magic there.

All that said, as a general rule, practitioners of Celtic spirituality generally welcome anyone interested in their traditions, including outsiders and those not born with Celtic bloodlines.

Celtic Reconstructism vs. Everyone Else

Celtic reconstructionism is a form of neo-Celtic spirituality that attempts to either revive or preserve the continuity of ancient Celtic traditions.

Reconstructionists rely heavily on historical records and folklore to guide them.  Their efforts tend to emphasize rigid adherence to their understanding of these records.

They also tend to argue a lot among themselves about these matters.  🙂

One might regard all forms of pagan reconstructionism as a kind of fundamentalist movement with little patience for a modern interpretation, except to fill gaps in the historical record.

And while I certainly respect the rigor and devotion these practitioners possess, the inflexibility of this approach often intimidates beginners or scares them away altogether.

So, this guide mainly serves as a broad introduction to general concepts that (hopefully) offer usefulness to anyone interested in either reconstructionism or in incorporating Celtic ideas into their own spiritual framework.

Celtic Tribes

The term “Celtic” actually encompasses a wide-ranging collection of peoples, regions, and spoken languages.

Scottish, Irish, Gaelic, and Welsh traditions, among several others, all fall under the term “Celtic.”

As a natural extension of this diversity, the gods, goddesses, and folk magic practiced by ancient Celts varied from region to region and even town to town.

Gods & Goddesses

The Celtic pantheon consists of hundreds of gods and goddesses.

Like those of other pre-Christian European religions, these deities tend to correspond to varying “domains” or arenas of life and nature.

Some gods (such as the antlered god, Cernunnos) transcended tribal boundaries and appeared nearly ubiquitously in the Celtic world.

Many more remained specific to a region or tribe.

The aforementioned Celtic Reconstructionists generally regard these gods and goddesses as separate, distinct deities with none of the borderless characteristics of the “many aspects of one god” perspective.

More modern/progressive practitioners often consider these gods different facets of a universal godhead, whilst acknowledging that this is not likely how they were worshipped historically.  

Magic & Spells

Folk magic was so deeply ingrained in ancient Celtic life, it’s difficult to extract it from the daily lives and culture of the time.

Historical spells (at least the ones that survive) rely heavily on incantations and charms for everything from exorcism to childbirth.

Like all folk magic, this form of spell casting tended to address the daily needs, desires, and pain of the common person.

Nature, Celtic Spirituality & the Holidays

Most Celtic practitioners revere natural settings for ritual and spell work.

However, shrines in the home to honor deities are common among modern practitioners and ancient ones alike.

And while nature is inherent in nearly every aspect of these collective traditions, it is of particular focus during the major holidays.

As noted above, due to the wide-varying regional nature of indigenous practices in Europe, the Celts celebrated many holidays specific to local gods or seasonal cycles.

However, 4 major ones are notable in nearly all of them. 

(They are not to be confused with the Wiccan/neopagan Wheel of the Year, which borrows heavily from the imagery and associations of the Celtic holidays but are almost completely departed from them in practice).

Imbolc

Restyled as “St. Brigid’s Day” in the post-Christian era, Imbolc begins on the evening of January 31st and ends on February 1st. 

References to Imbolc are made in early Irish texts indicate it was a celebration of the first signs of spring and associated with the flow of lamb and sheep milk.

Beltane

Falling on May 1st, Celtic practitioners regarded Beltane as the official transition from spring to summer.

Beltane is considered a fire festival.  Bonfires, torches, and candles are used on this night for ritual cleansing of the home, and, historically, the livestock was driven between two bonfires for blessing.

Lughnasadh/Lúnasa/Lammas

A festival of many names, this one arrives (depending on whom you ask) sometime between early and mid-August.

Lughnasadh is associated with the wild berry harvest.  Modern practitioners often go wildberry picking or make pies from seasonal berries, such as blackberries and blueberries.

It’s also a time to commune with family and neighbors, as well as the beginning of the wedding season.

Samhain

Although it bears some resemblance to its modern version, the holiday of Samhain was originally specific to the Celtic tradition.

Falling around October 31st, it is considered a time to honor the dead, especially those who have crossed over in the past year.

Many practitioners set up altars to honor their ancestors at this time, as well as seek insight through acts of divination.

Finally . . .

Know that like any other spiritual tradition, Celtic practices vary widely and often inspire lively debate.

Feel free to respectfully discuss your experiences with or understanding of Celtic lore, magic, and mythology, especially as it relates to witchcraft.

While you should definitely speak up and correct blatant inaccuracies, shaming people who ask sincere questions or make good faith factual errors will not be tolerated.  Seriously, you have better things to do.

Amiright?

Need a crash course in Celtic magic?  Reconnect to your roots with this fascinating form of witchcraft.

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