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Did the Celtic Druids Worship the Darkness? — Part II

Did the Celtic Druids Worship the Darkness? — Part II

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher concludes the answer to the question: Did the Celtic druids worship the darkness? Specifically, did they worship spiritual darkness?

The Role of the Celtic Druids

Last time, we looked at the role of druids in ancient, Celtic society—how they were the keepers of the law, the judges, the healers, and the mediators between the clan and the spirit world.

We looked at the animistic world they lived in, where spirits lived in every tree, rock, stream, waterfall, cave, and mountain. We mentioned the “little people”, an invisible race of  sprites whose habitats one must be careful never to disturb, lest they curse your cattle, children, or your household with casualty or illness. And we also looked at a sampling of Celtic gods,  most of which would give anyone nightmares. Finally, we discussed how a people living beside such a spirit world reacted. They lived in constant fear of offending a multiplicity of gods, spirits, and demons.

Their “worship” consisted of appeasing as many of the spirits and gods that inhabited their world as possible. These were gods whose anger, capricious nature, and untrustworthiness everyone feared. One misstep, one breaking of a taboo, could bring ruin on one’s clan and family.

Did the Celtic Druids Worship Spiritual Darkness?

Back to our original question: Did the druids worship spiritual darkness? Did they worship that which was evil?

When St. Patrick came to Ireland in AD 432, he brought a message of love, hope, and salvation. The ancient Irish heard what he taught and recognized at once he spoke the truth. There is only one God, not the many deities with which the druids bedeviled them—one God who created the universe and all that was in it; one God whose nature was peace, joy, kindness, forgiveness, and love; one God who was infinite and eternal, who knows all things, is everywhere, and who is all-powerful; one God who is three persons in One Being; one God who loves so much that he sent his only Son into the world—as a man, yet still God—to live as a man, to work as a man, and to die as a human being, so that those who believed in Him would have eternal life.

Yes, the Irish listened and, for the most part, quickly abandoned the false gods of the druids. Before Patrick, the people lived in spiritual darkness. Afterward, they embraced the truth, and they realized that the God of the Bible was the only God. All other gods were false. To worship them was to deny that the one Creator, the one God, was the true God. And to worship anything that was not God is, by its nature, evil.

The True Spirit World

Patrick also brought them knowledge of the true spirit world, for the Creator God also created spiritual realms. The true spirit world is divided into two camps. In one camp is God, the Creator of all things, the heavenly realms, and his angelic beings in Heaven. And in the other are Satan and his demons, banished from Heaven. Satan was once one of the angels. But because of his pride and  disobedience, the Lord of Heaven and Earth banished Satan and his angelic followers from Heaven. These former angels became demons, and are now working against God’s interests. When this world ends, Satan and his demons are promised a new, eternal home in the lake of fire, along with all who have rejected Jesus as God’s Son. Satan is fighting with all his might against that prospect. But because he is a created being, his doom is certain.

And that, not the world of the druids, is the context for the real spirit world.

Sacrificing Children—Anyone, Really—is Evil

So when the druids sacrificed a child to Crom Cruach, that kind of worship was pure evil. They were giving homage, not to God, but to a worthless idol. And Satan, seeing the peoples’ embrace of this evil, would have hardened their hearts, sent his demons to continue the practice, and rejoiced. In the real spirit world—invisible to our eyes, but real nonetheless—Satan is fighting God in a battle for the hearts and souls of men.

Worship of anything other than the one true God is, by definition, false worship. And such worship will lead one to an afterlife in Hell. And that, my friends, is evil. So did the druids worship the darkness and evil?

In the battle of darkness versus light, the druids tried unsuccessfully to poison St. Patrick. They tried to sway the kings they advised not to listen to him. Because when Patrick brought people the truth, within a generation or so, the rule of the druids was over.

Mark is the author of The Bonfires of Beltane, a novel of Christian historical fiction set in ancient, Celtic Ireland in AD 432. Click on the link to learn more about his book.

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The Ancient, Celtic Otherworld, Part II

The Ancient Celtic Otherworld, Part II

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher concludes his look at the ancient Celtic Otherworld with Part II. The Otherworld was the mythological place of the spirits, the dead, and the Celtic deities. (Click here for Part I.)


Mound Tombs Were Otherworld Gateways

Where Was It? What Was It Like There?

Last time, we saw that the Celtic Otherworld was often below ground or on an island across the sea. The portals leading there were mound tombs, caves, waterfalls, or certain streams. Called Emain Ablach by the Irish, some believed it was a happy place. Yet if Manannán mac Lir, the sea god, ruled its domain, as some believed, how could any place ruled by he who brought the raging storms and ruled the monsters of the deep ever be happy? And then there’s this: All who went there and returned paid a terrible price, in disfigurement or the deaths of their companions.

Time Was Different There

The Celtic Otherworld was similar to this world, only far different. Trees grew and rivers flowed. But colors were enhanced. And sounds were brighter, clearer. Even the music was more enchanting. The fruit was sweeter and tastier. Often, travelers who spent only a week in the Otherworld found, on return to this world, that hundreds of years had passed and everyone they had known was dead. In the Otherworld, time did not move on and no one aged.

[As a side note, this description is remarkably similar to the reports of “near death experiences”–minus the time warp. Though we cannot discount such experiences, we caution that all such temporary travelers to the next world have only stepped on the threshold of what lay beyond. Since they never really died, none ever reached their final destination, did they? Who knows what lays beyond the foyer? Is it Heaven? Or is it Hell?]

Who Lived in the Otherworld?

Supernatural beings inhabited the Otherworld. Some were forces of nature. Others were gods and goddesses. Still others were the fairies, or “the little people”. Also inhabiting the Otherworld were the spirits of the dead. At one time, the ancient Irish believed in a separate Underworld belonging to the dead. But over time, both Underworld and Otherworld became a single supernatural realm, where the spirits of the dead also dwelt. The druids taught that humans went to an eternal afterlife. And the Otherworld was mankind’s next destination.


Contrary to one popular belief today, the Celts did not believe in reincarnation. Yes, they believed the soul lived on in an afterlife. What folks might be doing today is confusing a Celtic belief in shapeshifting for reincarnation after death.


Modern Depiction of Balor

Celtic Deities in the Underworld

If we examine the gods and goddesses who inhabited the Otherworld, we also wonder what kind of place it really was. With fearsome visages and a history of murder, mayhem, and fickle alliances, these are not gods to be trusted, admired, or worshiped. Consider for a moment Balor, the god of death. He is described as a giant with a single large eye. When its seven lids begin to open, one at a time, the eye progressively heats up all in his sight until everything burns. Great companion for an eternal rest, huh? Indeed, most of the images of the Celtic gods would give most people nightmares. To appease these gods, goddesses, fairies, and spirits was an endless, thankless task.

St. Patrick Brought a New Worldview

This was what the ancient Irish believed about the Otherworld. Into this belief system came St. Patrick in A.D. 432. He brought the message that there was only one God, and that all who believed in Jesus as the Son of that God would have eternal life. No wonder he made so many converts. For within a short time after his arrival, the Irish Celts abandoned the old beliefs and embraced Christianity.

Next week, we’ll have a change of pace and look at An Irish Christmas, Part I.

Sources for this post were “Deities, Natural Forces, and Ancestors” by Francine Nicholson, from Land, Sea, and Sky. (http://homepage.eircom.net/~shae/index.htm), Wikipedia, and The Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis.

Mark is the author of The Bonfires of Beltane, a novel of Christian historical fiction set in ancient, Celtic Ireland at the time of St. Patrick. To learn more about his book, follow the link above.

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The Ancient Celtic Otherworld, Part I

The Ancient Celtic Otherworld, Part I

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher begins a look at the ancient Celtic Otherworld, the mythological place of the spirits, the dead, and the Celtic deities. We’ll concentrate mostly on the beliefs of ancient Ireland.


Hunt the White Stag to Find the Entrance?

Where Was the Celtic Otherworld?

Called Emain Ablach by the ancient Irish, the Otherworld was often said to be somewhere underground. What were the portals by which one could travel there? The mound tombs, or raths, was one method. One myth said that, to find the way to the Otherworld, you must hunt a particular kind of white stag. But this was no earthly beast. Glowing white, with red ears and a huge set of antlers, this buck was supernatural. If you hunt this stag, it would lead you to the underground tomb that was the doorway to the Otherworld.

More Routes to the Otherworld

Water was often viewed as the conduit between worlds. Thus did the Celts look askance at waterfalls. For who knew what spirits or demons could pass through the falls from the other side to this world? Did some rivers and streams have their source in the Otherworld? Some believed they did. And perhaps they brought with them the Otherworld’s power and knowledge. Salmon were thought to be wise creatures, and eating a salmon from a certain river or drinking water from certain streams might imbue one with special Otherworld knowledge.

Others said the gateway to the Otherworld was somewhere “over the sea” on the island of Tech Duinn, where the spirits of the dead gathered. The god Donn was its gatekeeper. To go there, one traveled by boat.

What Was It Like?

The druids taught that mankind had an eternal afterlife, and in the next life man’s destination was Emain Ablach—the Otherworld. What was it like there? Though translations are hard to come by, Emain Ablach might be roughly translated as “Stream of the Apples”. It was often described as a happy place where all the tables were burdened with delicious fruit, meat, and bread; where all the inhabitants were handsome and beautiful; and where age and sickness was unknown. Yet Manannán mac Lir, the sea god, ruled there, he who brought raging storms, wind, and waves to the ocean. And he ruled over a dark undersea world populated by fantastic, dangerous creatures. So if the Otherworld was his realm to rule, how much of a paradise was it really?


The Otherworld–Like Our World, But Different

But the Journey Was Costly

In Irish mythology, mortals often traveled to the Otherworld seeking its gifts. For one could return with incredible musical talent, the gift of healing, or some other magical power. But the trip often proved costly. The mythological Irish figure, Fionn Mac Comhaill, on his sojourns into the Otherworld, not only loses companions, he returns disfigured, with gray hair, and a burnt thumb.  Bóann, the Irish goddess of the River Boyne, journeys to the Otherworld to bring back wisdom from the Well of Segais. But she pays for her seeking by leaving behind an arm and a leg. So beware, all ye mortals who dare enter this place. And again, we wonder what kind of place it really was.

Who lived in the Otherworld? The dead. Supernatural beings and creatures. And the ancient Celtic gods and goddesses of legend. Next time, we’ll look at their role in the Otherworld and learn more what it was like to travel there. And we’ll show why, when St. Patrick arrived on ancient Ireland, the Christian heaven proved such an attractive alternative to a dark, underground realm populated with fearsome, fickle deities.

We’ll finish next week with Part II.

Sources for this post were “Deities, Natural Forces, and Ancestors” by Francine Nicholson, from Land, Sea, and Sky. (http://homepage.eircom.net/~shae/index.htm), Wikipedia, and The Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis.

Mark is the author of The Bonfires of Beltane, a novel of Christian historical fiction set in ancient, Celtic Ireland at the time of St. Patrick. To learn more about his book, follow the link above.