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Celtic Christianity

Celtic Christianity refers to the early medieval Christian practice of the British in Wales, the Irish, the Scottish and of the mainland Europeans, particularly the Gauls. Christianity entered Britain in the fourth century after the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized the flourishing religious sect. When Roman influence over Britain waned as a result of the political decline of the Roman Empire the development of Celtic Christianity as a distinct sub group of the early medieval Catholic Church began to rise, and Celtic Christianity developed its own distinct practices and traditions.

Celtic Christian Beliefs

The early Celtic Christians who lived during the first centuries following the death of Jesus Christ, developed a unique form of spirituality. At the center of this spirituality were the themes of love and respect for Godís creation, as well as the significance of human relationships.

The Celtic Christians of this period believed that the universe was filled with Godís presence and as such every element of creation was created to God, including the smallest particles or atoms that made up matter.

In addition, the early Celtic Church taught that Jesus represented the ultimate example of human life. To be united with Jesus in spiritual prayer was to understand what it meant to be fully human. Jesus also represented a harmonious balance between the energies of the body and of the mind, as well as an ideal example of the Celtic Christian principles of wisdom and of love.

Community also held a central role in the early Celtic Christian Church. Emphasis was placed on sharing food, work and financial assistance to oneís neighbors, a principle that fostered an environment of altruism.

Some Celtic Christians chose to live as hermetics and in monastic communities so as to follow the example of Jesus, who live in remote areas as an outsider in order to preach the word of God.

Celtic Christian Symbols

There are a variety of symbols associated with early Celtic Christianity. Some such symbols include:

  • the sun wheel: this symbol derives from the Druids, who were the priestly class of ancient Celtic societies. The sun wheel was representative of the wheel of Taranis, who was a Celtic sun god. The sun wheel is symbolic of the solar calendar, the solar cross, as well as the Celtic cross which was derived from the sun wheel symbol.
  • Brighidís cross: this ancient Celtic Christian symbol is more commonly known as the Brideís cross. It honors St. Brigid of Ireland (who is also referred to as Brighid, Bride and Bridget), however some experts believe that St. Brigid did not actually exist and was instead a cover for a Celtic goddess. The cross likely represents a form of solar cross, and both the symbol and its woven appearance are believed to predate Christianity in Ireland.
  • the Celtic cross: the emblem of the Celtic Christian Church, the cross is, according to Irish legend, to have been introduced to Ireland by St. Colomba. The Celtic cross was an early symbol of the sun god Taranis and is a variation of the sun cross. While its origins are unknown, variations of the cross date as far back as 5000 BCE.
  • the salmon of wisdom: representative of wisdom and prophecy, this symbol was featured in the legends of King Arthur. As the fish symbol is associated with Jesus, this symbol became increasingly popular during the spread of Christianity to the Celtic islands, during which time it became associated with Jesus.
  • the tree of life: the tree represented life for the Celtics because it provided them with basic sustenance, as well as material to make weapons; also, in Celtic creation stories, trees were the ancestors of humankind. Wood from trees considered to be sacred was believed to have healing properties. The oak tree had particularly significant spiritual meaning for the early Celtic Christians, as it was symbolic of the center of the universe. Also, the Celtic word for oak is daur, which is the origin for the English word door. As such, the root of the oak tree was believed to be the doorway to the otherworld.


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