The historical Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age Europe. Proto-Celtic culture formed in the Early Iron Age in Central Europe (Hallstatt period, named for the site in present-day Austria). By the later Iron Age (La Tène period), Celts had expanded over a wide range of lands: as far west as Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula, as far east as Galatia (central Anatolia), and as far north as Scotland.

The earliest direct attestation of a Celtic language are the Lepontic inscriptions, beginning from the 6th century BC. Continental Celtic languages are attested only in inscriptions and place-names. Insular Celtic is attested from about the fourth century AD in ogham inscriptions. Literary tradition begins with Old Irish from about the eighth century. Coherent texts of Early Irish literature, such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge, survive in 12th century recensions.

By the early first millennium AD, following the expansion of the Roman Empire and the Great Migrations (Migration Period) of Germanic peoples, Celtic culture had become restricted to the British Isles (Insular Celtic), and the Continental Celtic languages ceased to be widely used by the sixth century. “Celtic Europe” today refers to the lands surrounding the Irish Sea, as well as Cornwall and Brittany on either side of the English Channel. (From Wikipedia)

 

A comparison between Vedic and Celtic traditions.

 

By Torc, P.A.C. Bloos 

Before I got involved in Druidry, now 7 years ago, I was a Vedic brahmin in the Srí Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, which roots can be found in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in India, for 12 years.
 
It’s probably the many similarities between these ancient traditions that made me feel comfortable when I started exploring Druidry. I felt the same energy and heard the same kind of sound vibration by listening to a Celtic harp that played a slow ballad as to an Indian raga, played on a sitar. The importance of the sound vibration was evident in the Vedic culture, as traditionally no-one sang along, as the instrument reveals the raga, the mood, the time of the day, … I encountered the same experience with mantras, a local druid friend has called his spiritual gathering AwenAum. The Vedic brahmin, much like the ancient druid (from what we know from the few historical sources) served the greater community with different capacities: as a doctor, seer, judge, priest, astronomer, storyteller and so on.
 
The following comparisons are my personal reflections, good to know, as not all of this can be traced back historically and on some subjects others might have other opinions. I don’t have any problem with that and welcome any feedback as we will always remain students, no matter the years of experience.

Cosmology

Vedic
Posits four major interrelated worlds, or planes: the Physical Plane (the earth as we perceive it), the Astral Plane (the realm of demigods and various non-carnate spirits) and Causal Plane (the realm of Supreme Deity and Primal Energy), and the Lower Plane (a sort of hell where one suffers for extremely bad karma).
 
Celtic
Four major interrelated worlds, or realms; the Nether Realm (Subconscious mind, through which we reach the non-physical realms or planes of existence), the Earth Realm (Conscious mind), the Heavenly Realm (Super conscious mind), and the Star Realm (Cosmic consciousness, transcendent of mind, the abode of all primal energy).

Discipline

Vedic
Brahmins studied several (10 to 20) years to learn oration, mathematics, ritual, astrology, medicine and Vedic scriptures. Some of them lived in temples or in ashrams, where their Guru teached them by his own example. In this way their culture was passed on for centuries. For them the learning of mantras stood central and in ancient times these were really powerful. Besides brahmins there were lots of yogis (with different backgrounds and practises) performing amazing physical austerities through yoga. For them breath (prana) control  stood central.
 
Celtic
Druids studied for up to 20 years to learn oration, mathematics, ritual, astrology, statecraft, diplomacy, and medicine. They also practiced severe austerities, also involving breath (anah) control.

Ethics

Vedic
The Vedas show a special appreciation for satyam (honesty), even as a supernatural power. Honor and eloquence are highly valued. eg “Satyam eva Jayate!”: “The (Absolute) Truth will always conquer!” Honesty is one of the prime virtues of abrahmana and he should be udara, passing his knowledge to others.
 
Celtic
The Celtic sense of honour is strong and deep. Truth-sayers and orators were held in the same respect as kings among the Celts.

Pantheon

Vedic
The Vedic demigods are called devas. They sometimes appear with multiple arms, representing their various skills; several are married and give us an understanding of how the female energy is supporting the male and vice versa. They are representing ethics, forces of nature, … There’s different brahminical traditions (sampradayas) based on worshiping one personal Deity that they see as Supreme such as Krishna, Vishnu, Rama,…seeing the devas as demigods who are aspects and servants of that One Supreme as is clearly described in Vedic scriptures  as the Bhagavata Purana, … The clearest example of the God and the Goddess we find in the sweet relationship between Radha and Krishna. These Deities are still worshiped in numerous temples and on householders’ (married couples that don’t live on temple compounds) house altars.
 
Celtic
Celtic gods are called deuos. Based on a Shamanic, animistic polytheism, the advent of the Druidic order into Celtic society injected a more pantheistic view of deities. The God and the Goddess are worshiped in similar ways in different countries, but these deities are often more directly related to the forces of nature and the seasons than those in Vedic Society.

Scriptural Cadence

Vedic
The ancient Vedic scholars were noted for memorizing the lengthy epics conveying spiritual knowledge and dharmic duty. The poetic metre for these sagas was typically fixed syllable line, free form with 3-part cadence. Prose and metres are the oldest form of Indian narrations; there are examples in Sanskrit from which becomes clear that epic poems originated from dialogues in metres. This metric system can be found in later times in several other cultures such as Greek, Irish, Scandinavian, …
 
Celtic
The Bards of the Druidic order were required to memorize the Celtic sagas conveying metaphysical truths and civic duty. The poetic metre for the Celtic sagas was also fixed syllable, free form with a 3-part cadence.

Reincarnation

Vedic
The soul (atman) incarnates again and again due to karma, or the effects caused by actions taken and accumulated life after life until one attains moksha, or liberation (which is temporary) and finally enlightenment (which is eternal, one resides as a happy servant on the planet of the Supreme Deity) from samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
 
Celtic
Reincarnation was an accepted fact of life among the Celts, who also tended to worship their more successful ancestor, judging their need to be reborn by the physical accomplishments of life. The Gaelic term for soul is anam.

Ritual

Vedic
The central part of puja, or worship is the fire sacrifice, performed in a fire pit, with offerings of spices and rice, accompanied by the chanting (singing) of mantras. These fire sacrifices are performed for initiations, weddings, … to make vows before and to ask blessings from the God(s) and the Goddess(es).
 
Celtic
The focal point of a Celtic ritual is the fire, in a central pit. Offerings to the gods of food and wine were thrown into the fire, usually with chanting.

Societal structure

Vedic
Vedic society is divided into four major castes of priests (brahmanas), warriors (ksatryas), merchants (vaisyas) and labourers (sudras). These were originally not hereditary and meant to keep society in balance. Qualified brahmanas served as counsellors and advisors to those ksatryas that were kings.
 
Celtic
Celtic society was divided into three basic classes of priests, warriors, and producers. These classes were not imposed by birth. The Druids were a class unto themselves, serving as counsellors and advisors to kings.

Women in society and religion

Vedic
Vedic scriptures elevated the feminine virtues, though in daily life women served their husbands and children, which was not looked upon as an inferior task at that time. In some sampradayas there are woman sages who are fully realised and accepted as acaryas (those who teach by their own example and often bring a deeper insight in the understanding of the scriptures, …) in their disciplic succession of teachers.
 
Celtic
Celts prized strong women, who fought along side the men in war. Celtic women could own property and serve the goddess as priestess.

To end in a poetic way (which needs no further explanation, let the poems do the talking!).

Amergin:
I am the wind on the sea
I am the wave of the sea
I am the bull of seven battles
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun
I am the most beautiful of plants
I am a strong wild boar
I am a salmon in the water
I am a lake in the plain
I am the word of knowledge
I am the head of the spear in battle
I am the God that puts fire in the head
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
Who can tell the place where the sun rests?
  
Krishna:
I am the taste in the waters, O Son of Kunti.
I am the syllable Aum in all the Vedas.
I am the sound in ether and manhood in men.
I am the pure fragrance in earth and brightness in fire.
I am the life in all existences and the austerity in ascetics.
Know Me, O Partha, to be the eternal seed of all existences.
I am the intelligence of the intelligent.
I am the splendour of the splendid.
I am the strength of the strong, devoid of desire and passion.
In beings I am the desire which is not contrary to dharma, O Lord of the Bharatas.
And whatever states of being there may be, be they harmonious, passionate, slothful–
know they are all from Me alone.
I am not in them, they are in Me.
 
 
Torc
dutch@druidnetwork.org
January 2005

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