The Celtic Circle

Ewan Buckingham, cuchulain@elizium.co.uk

 

The information comes mainly from translations of Gaelic poetry and the 3rd/4th branches of the Welsh Mabinogion.  Although I’ve relied heavily on the writings of Alexei Kondratiev to put them into some semblance of order.

 

 

The "History" of the Celtic Circle

 

The Celtic view of the Earth was that it was divided into 3 worlds.  The plane of the land upon which we walk (terres) the sky above us (nemos) and the dark below it - seen as the realm of the sea (mori).  These three were seen to be spanned by an enormous tree -often termed Bilios, although closely associated with the Nordic Ysgaddril- the world tree.  Looking down on our plane it was seen to be divided into four quarters (although sometimes the South was divided in two to create the well known pentagram arrangement - based on complex astrology that I’ll skip over)  These four quarters were represented in the Celtic world as the well known Celtic Cross arrangement with the longest branch being the southern one.

 

The orientation of this type of circle is markedly different from the traditional as the direction of emphasis is to the East (the rising Sun - the Celts were after all a Solar tribe).  The symbolic associations are:

 

Firstly a ½  and ½ split - The North and East are seen as a light (samos) state, balanced by the South and West as the dark(giamos) half of the circle.   Each quater is then seen separately:

 

WEST (Death) - Knowledge - The Spear - Associated with Lugh who wins his battles not through brute force but by the use of magic and guile.  He is seen as the arbiter of all tribal things.

 

NORTH (Battle) - The Sword - Presided over by the God of Battles and Goddess of Death (eg. CuCulhainn, Morrigan, Bran) Can be viewed as a struggle and a counterpoint to the quiet giving qualities of the South.

 

EAST (Plenty) - The Cauldron - The Cauldron of a Dagda like God of Fertility and Growth,  Counter pointed with the West.

 

SOUTH (Song) -  Stone (of Tara/Scone) All not covered by the other quarters - This is the dark unknown of the Goddess, the province of artistic talent.

 

THE TREE in the centre symbolises sovereignty and holds all the quarters in balance - they balance themselves against each other and the tree stands at this point of balance and traverses all planes of existence.

 

Each of the Quarters has associated with it also the Celtic version of a “watchtower” which was a fortress or castle inhabited by the spirits of the qualities of the quarter.  So that:

 

WEST - Gorias - The Burning, blazing fort of Lugh.

NORTH - Findias -  The Bright, bustling fort of Nuada Airgetlam (king before Lugh).

EAST - Murias - A sea fort from which comes the “undry” couldron. (Mannan mac Lir)

SOUTH - Failias - A dark underground fort of hidden depths. (Fomor/Goddess)

 

 

Hence each quater is the keep and strong hold of an element of Celtic life.  Each fort is also symbolised by a “treasure” or weapon of its champion - so that each weapon conjures the qualities of the whole in the same manner that the elemental associations do in later Witchcraft.

 

Sorry for the history lesson but I’m sure you agree with me that you kneed to know the mechanics before you can play with the toys.  I shall now be brief - if anything is unclear just ask me and I’ll tell you what I can.

 

TO ACTUALLY CAST THE SACRED SPACE

 

As always the space can be cast with all inside or people can be brought in afterwards. 

 

1. ESTABLISH THE SACRED SPACE BY MARKING THE BOUNDARY WITH WATER

-simply asperging the perimeter of the group to break away from the mortal plane.  This should as always be assisted by intense visualisation of separation, really more like a moat than a sphere...  Also a solid feeling of what is above and below should be established as is you feel the world tree ephemerally near you and stretching away to great heights.

 

2.  THE CANTALONS (QUARTERS)

 

The ARCH gestures a large Celtic Cross in the direction he addresses, the assembly should imagine it expanding to fill a quater of the ritual sphere - ie imagine a ball cut into 4 segments with a plane running through the centre on which we stand.  This opening out of the centre of the Celtic cross fills the quater with the elements that it conveys :

 

 

ARCH- “I turn to the North, to Finias the shinning white fort , home of the Lord of Battles, Keeper of the Swords, Master of the Eagle and the winds of Heaven”

 

ALL “ Thig anochd” phon. Thee Anoch. (Ess. Hail & Welcome)

 

ARCH - “I turn to the East, to Murias, the Fort of the Sea, Home of the Lord of Riches, Keeper of the Cauldron, Master of the Salmon and of all fountains and springs.

 

ALL - Thig Anochd.

 

ARCH - I turn to the South to Failias, the Fort of Fate, home of the Great Mother, Keeper of the Stone, Mistress of the Boar, of all deep things.

 

ALL - Thig Anochd.

 

ARCH - I turn to the West to Gorias, the burning fort, home of the many gifted Lord,  Keeper of the Spear, Master of the Stag and of all illumination.

 

ALL - Thig Anochd.

 

Having made our consciousness aware of the cantalons eternal presence, we must then visualise them moving together at the centre of the circle, and unifying to establish the sovereignty and rule of our constructed space.  This allows the power of the world tree to be unleashed and we may become aware of the many levels of existence - recalling legends, such of those of Maelduin or Odin may assist.  Above us inspirational enlightenment from the light  (awen) - below us the creative forces of the dark unknown (eg. The power of the ocean) and between the two is the consciousness of ourselves to harness and direct it.

 

To end the  process is repeated in an anticlockwise direction, first all pause while the influence of the different levels is felt to converge back to the single plane then the ARCH bids farewell to each Cantalon: calling “Slan libh” and it is repeated by ALL as they visualise the Cantalons shrinking back from the edge of the circle into the eye of the Celtic Cross, then fading away to resume their unconscious presence in our lives.  Finally we are left with our little moat created by our own visualisations.  This can either by broken by thought and left to fade away (as in the case of more familiar circles) or it can be dissipated by the deliberate scattering of salt about  the boundaries.

 

(ON a decorative note the corners of the circle are marked by candles/foliage, while the centre by anything from a large pole to a full grown oak.  Also in the centre is placed the feast, a bowl of water that is often used in the ritual phase and a the “treasures” of the circle - especially the cauldron which is used for offerings where an offertory pit is not present.

 

END OF THE CIRCLE CASTING...

 

 


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