Category Archives: Celtic Symbolism

Presenting Celtic Symbols at Women’s Retreat

I’m Giving a women’s winter retreat presentation next month for Gaia’s Womb. Won’t you join me?

A Winter Retreat for Women
March 2, 3, & 4th, 2012
DeKoven Center, Racine, WI

This presentation explores the importance symbols and markings in connection with ancient Celtic queens and goddesses. Findings and historical connections are based upon studies of Celtic anthropological research paired with Celtic legends as well as Celtic lore, folk tales and Avia’s own observations. Discussions will include relevance of symbols such as the triskelle, moon markings, agricultural symbolism, and highlighted Ogham properties. Special attention will be paid to goddesses such as Epona, Danu, Macha as well as Celtic warrior queens such as Boudicca and Cartimandua. We’ll look at how these powerful women are a reflection of this era of Celtic life (La Téne Iron Age) and how Her symbols still empower modern women today. The goal of this presentation is to tap into prime Celtic anima (feminine) energy via her symbols, step back in time and come back into the present with renewed understanding about the rich heritage of the goddess and global womanhood.

To learn more and register, visit the Gaia’s Womb website via this link: Gaia’s Womb Women’s Retreat

See you there!

Samhain and the Seven Swans of Virtue

Samhain and the Seven Swans of Virtue

As we approach the cross-quarter holiday of Samhain, it’s a great opportunity to dive into ancient myth and stories.  Why?  Because ancient parables connect us with our ancestry and offer magnificent lessons we can apply to our modern way of life – thus making our experiences richer and more meaningful.

Now, I realize surface research into Samhain uncovers some potentially disturbing and macabre symbolism involving death and dark powers.  But, as with anything worthwhile, we’ve got to explore beyond the surface before striking true gold.  There is priceless philosophical gold surrounding Samhain.

One of these golden nuggets is nestled deep in the folds of Bardic wisdom (the realm of sacred Celtic storytelling).  It’s the story of the Seven Swans of Virtue, and it unfolds, thusly:

Once upon a time (I know, how trite…indulge me), there was a behemoth egg and the Universe was curled within it, growing steadily over millions of years.  At the moment of its fullest development the Universe quaked inside the egg and cracked open.  The yolk poured out of the egg and formed all matter/mass and this energy ruled the day (light).  The albumen (egg white) spilled out to create all the heavens and this energy ruled the night (dark). But that’s not all that emerged from the great egg.  From the intimacy shared between light and dark whilst incubating within the cosmic eggshell, seven magical swans were born and their names were:

Faith
Truth
Purity
Strength
Patience
Kindness
Temperance

These were known as the Seven Swans of Virtue and although they lived brightly in the heavens, they had the ability to shift between the two realms (Light/Material/Earth and Dark/Immaterial/Skies) at whim.    Now as the ever-progressing wheel of time continued making its revolutions, humankind evolved from the mix of heaven and earth.

In the beginning, humans were content to simply swim in the cosmos, satisfied with reveling in limitless bounty.  But after awhile, humans craved more diversity, and so they were offered a choice to experience a new way of life.  In this new way of living humans could experience their world through tactile (physical) form while simultaneously having access to heavenly (spiritual) experience too.  The contrast between physical and ethereal would be distinct, but access to both realms could still be obtained.  This offered humans a greater dimension of experience.

Unfortunately, the choice to live in enhanced contrast backfired for many humans.  The physical aspects of life proved to be utterly consuming.  The body and all the physical trappings that came with it caused humans to lose focus on their heavenly, celestial connections.  Eventually, the human race forgot their lineage and denied their divine connections to the heavens altogether. Throughout humankind’s blindness, the Seven Swans of Virtue remained vigilant in their celestial connection to the human soul.  The choice to ascend self-imposed prisons of physicality was always available to mankind.

By simply acknowledging their eternal connection to the seven virtues, the heavenly Swans were able to bridge the gap between light and dark and the soul of man would be balanced; renewed.  But it required fortitude and commitment from mankind to sustain the memory of their divine lineage.  Sadly, most humans at this point were simply maddened by the compulsive wants and cravings perpetuated by physical illusions.  These compulsions continued to feed a deep imbalance within humankind and led to manifestations of lust, greed, lack, sloth, envy, gluttony, hate (the antithetical flip-side of the Seven Virtues). Observing this difficult transition over the ages, the Seven Swans of Virtue conceded humankind was doomed to live out a endless cycle of illusory strife and struggle.  Without some kind of guidance, humankind would be lost in a chaotic abyss of misdirection.

Wanting to honor their choice to experience diversity, the Swans vowed to intercede on behalf on mankind, but with conditions.  So, the Seven Swans of Virtue agreed to shapeshift to earth and make themselves abundantly accessible to humankind, but only twice a year: Once on Beltane in honor of the cosmic yolk (light) and Once again on Samhain in reverence of the celestial albumen (dark).  These dates were chosen because of they are at their peak of cosmic balance.  It was during these times that the channels connecting physical and spiritual are opened at their widest, affording humankind to retrieve their Truth and reestablish their hereditary balance.

And so, upon midnight on Samhain, these majestic beauties begin their descent to earth whereupon they gather up the virtuous of heart who truly wish to know the Truth of their divine births as well as know the true ways of the Universe.  The Seven Swans of Virtue make themselves more openly known during this time so humankind may be apt to transcend the prison of illusions and re-embrace its cosmic connections.

The Seven Swans of Virtue still descend to Earth today.  The Celts knew this, and that’s why the constellation of Pleiades marked the cosmic opening from which the celestial Swans flew to visit the Earth.  These two dates (Samhain and Beltane) are the gateways to transformation for humankind.  So, this time of Samhain affords each of us the grandest opportunity for renewal, enlightenment and metamorphosis.

-The End-

If nothing else, the Seven Swans of Virtue is a great story to tell ’round your Samhain or Halloween hearth fire this year.

Other links of interest:

Symbolic Meaning of the Swan (on Whats-Your-Sign.com) includes Celtic symbolism.

Halloween Symbols and Meanings (on Whats-Your-Sign.com)

Meaning of Halloween (on Whats-Your-Sign.com)

Symbolic Meaning of the Celtic Torc

Symbolic Meaning of the Torc
Symbolic Meaning of the Torc


This page on the symbolic meaning of the Celtic torc was inspired by a gift.

The torc is one of the most characteristic and showcased of Celtic adornments for the body. 

Indeed, Cassius wrote how Boudicca went into battle wearing nothing but a “great necklace of twisted gold” (which was a torc worn snuggly around the neck).

Worn with or without clothes, the symbolism of the torc is weighted with power.

There are schools of thought that indicates torcs were symbols of:

  • nobility,
  • strength,
  • status, and
  • hierachy within the clans. 

I’ve wondered if the balled ends of the torcs press against certain meridian points (around the neck where they are worn, as well as around ankles and wrists) that cause heightened awareness and arousal.

I rather like the “C-shape” connotation…the torc is symbolic of a stylized C-moon – a crescent moon.  In this case, we are dealing with a lunar principals dealing with:

  • intuition,
  • metamorphosis,
  • emotion,
  • creation,
  • transformation…all of these which would play back into the symbolic theme of the triquetra  (and its implied phases).

If entertaining the crescent moon symbolism, we may recognize feminine energy.  Further, we may also research the Celtic triple goddess concept in which the great feminine houses three aspects of the Divine:  Maiden, Mother and Crone.   

Each aspect of the divine feminine containing profound symbolism and wisdom to her own devices – shown together with the symbolic triquetra – her forces are unanimously intense (although, there are infinite number of power-triads upon which to draw). 

Maybe this bit on the symbolic meaning of the Celtic torc may inspire you to design one for yourself.  Or, purchase one from your local metalsmith for your beloved.

Other links of interest:

Symbolism of the Moon

Symbolic Full Moons

Celtic Symbol for Warrior

Symbolic Jewelry: An Artists Interview and Perspective

Two Celtic Symbols for Freedom

Image from Aon-Celtic.com

Two of my favorite and (IMHO) more profound Celtic symbols for freedom:

1)
The hawk was considered an animal symbol of victory and freedom to the ancient Celts. It is typically depicted in Celtic art clutching or devouring a rabbit which was symbolic of lust, greed or frittering away resources to the Celtic symbolic mind.   Philosophically, we could interpret this symbolic illustration as freedom (the hawk) from limiting behaviors (rabbit). I’ve written a bit on the symbolism of the hawk (in general) here.

2)
In the Ogham, we find the Ur (or Heather) is considered a legitimate symbol of freedom in the Celtic language.  Specifically, the Ur indicates an outpouring of the soul, a release or catharsis.  Once the inner conflicts have been expelled, we are free to express ourselves with effective clarity.

Other pages of interest:

Celtic Symbol Meanings

Celtic Animals and their Symbolic Meanings

Celtic Symbolism of Trees

Animal Symbolism & Totems