Posts Tagged ‘Celts’


Cloud is down over the hills again.
It drifts and rolls between field and forest.
The valley is lain out soft and still green;
It does not mind the warm rain.
There is not silence, but it feels like silence.
Sheep shorn and the hay is in.
The thistles have a royal flower:
In deserted places, proud,
Like ancient tribes before the Romans came,
They gather and stand still.


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If you look at the white pattern above, the peltas can be seen at six, ten and two o-clock, they resemble cross-sections of mushrooms.


Well, it was a long time ago that I covered Celtic Art in Art History, and I was never particularly happy with the name labels often given to Celtic motifs, so I suppose confusing a pelta with a trumpet spiral is to be a little expected (particularly when one can be made up of elements of the other). Nonetheless ,that error was mine. As I was playing with the comma-like form of the magatama it morphed into the cresent-like, arced, spiral-ended, mushroom cross-section known as a ‘pelta’.

This name, ‘pelta’ comes from a type of light shield used by the Greeks and Romans, deriving from an original used in Thrace. This itself tells us more about the natural territory and training of Classicalocentric art historians than about the direct connections between a Classical object and a Celtic motif. Look at the prevalent lines in any Early Celtic design and there is a predominance of curvilinear and vegetal forms. Add to that a predeliction for mirroring, reflection and interaction between foreground and background patterns and it is easy to see ‘pelta-like’ forms sprouting up in abundance. The logic of associating the ‘pelta’ motif with a meaning of ‘shield’ is stretched when it can so so much more easily be read as ‘tree’, ‘leaf’, ‘simplified palmette’, ‘reflected crescent moons’ or ‘horns’. In some Classically rendered and stylised imagery, this shape may indeed refer to a martial attribute. But to carry that meaning over onto a similar looking, purely Celtic motif may be far too simplistic, or just simply, inaccurate.


What drew me in the first place to look again at the pelta motif was the realisation that it, or its negative shape, closely echoes the shape of the neck collar or ‘torc’, a connection that I am not sure has been noticed before. Looking at a lot of Celtic art, and especially redrawing the imagery, one comes to understand the importance of what is not there – negative space, void, background….


First then
There is no object,
No thing that does not trawl
A train of intent and opinion,
That does not feel,
Draw with it more of itself
From the invisible.
Nothing that does not speak.
(if you hear nothing but silence, go within it, find its shape and you shall here the words come in and out, for nothing, no thing is voiceless)

That has not been born
From a before.
Has been born
From something else.
Nothing not jealous of its edges. Nothing that will not melt and merge one day into becoming somewhere else. Nothing, in essence, that does not hunger to remain, that does not hunger and feed.

Where to start? It makes no matter where you start. Simply begin. The road is twist and dip but leads to the same shining place…



Beauty is for the gods alone.
This gold – no use for plough or warrior,
No use, no use on Earth.
Beauty belongs to the gods,
And to those who talk to them,
To those who speak to them,
To those who belong to them.

A torc, an open ring of twisted wire, often gold, with terminals, cast and decorated finials. Worn as a neck ring. Wires, strings, ropes, woven light, woven and woven, golden rope to tie the soul, to show adherence, obedience, obeisance,obligation to the spirits….

A circle not a circle, an arc, a passage of time, a record of space.
A perforation, the head pushed through
To the airs of heaven,
Upper world,
A division of head from body,
No longer just human:
Owned, illuminated,
Ardour, radiant.
The weight of it:
Not easy to ignore,
It is meaning, a glow..

If the pelta symbol is the negative space of the torc- its contained space – then the pelta occupies the same space as the head. Pelta is head. Head is home of spirit. Pelta is spirit. In some coins of the tribes of Brittany the horse rider’s heads have transmuted into pelta shapes.



I am the passage of the sun
From dawn to dusk
A woven line of light
To the top of heaven,
To the horizon’s edge.

I am the river of night,
Golden river underground
From dusk to dawn,
A gold thread
Through ancestors’ bones.

Torc is map, halo, sun glow.
A mirror moon, empty,
Crescent, full, crescent,
Empty. Woven around
Each other, silver, gold,
Day, night, copulated,


Seed of the sun
Spilt at sunset
Mated with earth,
Gathered up, gathered up,
Cold made hot once more,
Melted, breathed upon,
Revived, ensouled,
Sung to, given song,
Given name, given sinew,
Given nerve, wound about.
Gold, giver of glory,
Animated, it whispers,
All the time, it whispers.

Should you know its spells
You will prosper,
Should you know its songs
You will be victorious,
Should you know its name,
You shall be returned home
Golden and ever-young.
For it has no end
And its wearer shall remain.
Its giver shall be blessed,
And blessed the receiver.


So how should one receive a torc? Many images show the torc being held in the hand. It is held at the centre, midway between the terminals. Displayed, it is held with open ends upwards toward heaven, like a cup to receive the blessings from above. It is shown offered in the same way, with open end towards the recipient. Is it taken possession of by the two hands grasping the finials? Does the giver carefully hold the ring so that the receiver can echo the hold on the opposite side, both joined in obligation for a moment,and then forever, by that golden link, like the passing of a goblet? Is the name whispered? The promise named? The duty proclaimed? In that moment one and one become roped, twisted, bound together, charged with divine power…


And as to the making: that wire beaten, stretched, thin and thinner. Taken with others, woven, wound, round, wrapped, mated, united. What spells added, what songs, what promises, what life, what given birth to. ( There are images of swords with dragon spirit beings attached -their sharp souls, snake fast, embedded, the metal a home for other life, given honour, given flesh food). Do the finials give face and eyes to the embedded spirit? Are they of one kind? Are they many? Are they moulded each to each, to be hunted out like fast hounds scent their masters, bound by similarity of spirit?

Here shall be a list,
A reckoning,
A call of names,
A summoning of spirits:


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Tight arc
Hard as stone
Open eye.

Rigid curl
Weighed tight

Foetal curl

What is it?
What is it not?

Worn smooth


One skin
Rubbed smooth
Inner, outer.

Taking form

Rising head

Eagle beak
Bear claw
Worn smooth.

Incontrovertible proof
A previous universe

Worn away
All that remains:
First universe.


Hollow seed
Throwing curved edges,

Hollow centre
Regarding flow
Back to nothing.

Becoming precious
Passed down:
What remains.

One surface:

Oldest unknown
First limit


Every now and then, the magatama awakes, whispers into half-sleep. It is a strange being, a shape so simple, so involuted. A seed, a genetic meme. Casting around, I wondered if there were other antediluvian icons that would stir that ancestral well so surely. So far, the closest approach is by the Celtic torc. Like the magatama to the first Japanese peoples, the torc epitomised what to be a Celt meant. A real, tangible object, an object of trade, of status, of power. I shall have to listen to their whispers also……


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Soaring over whin and wild barley,
Watched and watching,
The eagle, cloud-friended, glorious.
The small ones, still, bright eyed,
Amongst the grey rock, stoat and hare.
The grey rock, the grey rock,
Still they stand, scribed and measured,
A dancing floor, a gaming board,
Dyed bright as day, mist-cloaked, wild.
We claim the heights,
For they are hers.
The Highest, folded, pleated,
A plaid of keeping.
Bright, uttermost, tower of light,
Our home, our name.

We hear the voices from the deep dwellings.
The liquid tumble falls towards the dark centre,
Scouring the grey smooth, a constant choir
Feeding the stone, feeding the soil.
From the heights we descend
And return spiralling, victorious.
Radiant cloud, rainbow mist, sharpened rain,
A slingshot of ice, a glance of gold.
Exultant, we look down, we look down,
We who dwell within the Highest,
Look down, reach down, sweep up.
Clasped firm, swinging, sky-borne.


The Brigantes were a powerful confederation of peoples across the North of England, specifically focused on the high lands of the Pennines, the central limestone lands that run down the centre of the country as far south as Derbyshire. The name means ‘high ones’, ‘upland peoples’, ‘people of the High One’. Brigantia is the name of a deity, translating as ‘Highest One’ or ‘Highest Goddess’. Limestone country is characterised by exposed platforms of rock, water-eroded into ‘pavements’, and deep sinkholes that open into complexes of water-carved caverns.

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I promised 47whitebuffalo that I would write something on the names of ancient Celtic tribes. This is not exactly what I originally had in mind, but it is how things seem to be arriving in these early grey deserts of pre-dawn!

petersfield cernunnos3

THE GIVING OF NAMES (a beginning)
The day alights wrapped in cloud,
A gift given to memory.
Trees wait, their eyes lidded,
Savouring those names rich and round –
The roots and seeds so swallowed,
Buried, taken up, changed.

Hollow sweet, the pierced song:
The puffed, cold-breasted birds
Chant, waiting for warmth.

Huddled all, by the crackled fickle flames,
Memory feeds
( shapes and faces, laughter, even).

The light is hungry for names.
It reaches behind ice-stiffened grasses,
Bitter ivy and brown yarrow.

Lost in fog and short horizons are we,
Diminished at each forgetting.

Remote, aimless paths are the paths we move
Without their remembrance.

Small-minded, shadowless,
Pinched and petty,
Fogged and mired do we proudly become:
Stretched ghosts without root or reason,
Withered, starless, slack-handed.

I shall sit, mind naked, pool eyed
Drinking rippled waters.
Stirring, stirring the surface patterns
Resolving, returning, resonant syllable.

A speckled, dull dunnock, unexpected sweet song.
A circling crow, mist moving, lifting a world,
Stumbling between doors of dream.

The first are the shaping ones,
The givers of form, far-famed,
Makers and singers.
Gold of sunlight, silver of moon, movement of stars,
Hammered, forged, chased into meaning.
The returning spirals,
A path in and out of time.

A clatter of magpies
Searching root, rock, wood, chill clear water.
A house for the invisible, clothing mystery.
The laughter of ravens,
The warm agreement of cattle.

These islands, named from them,
Whom no-one has superseded.
Their knots and philosophy
Sewn into the landscape,
The manifestors of story,
Witnesses of return.

The upright ones, the proud ones,
The stiff ones, the tumescent ones.
Upholders, unbending.
A fountaining tree from our loins
Showering gold bowls of grain,
The seed of fat lands, high lands.
The tree of our lord, a king of horizons,
A shelter to all, a song of breezes,
A tumult of battle hymns.

snake rider

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Here are some flashing, slippery shoals of words trawled from scrawled diaries. They come from the same period, around 2007, but are in my mind as we have just returned from a teaching trip to Japan. The world has moved on: media feeding on juicier, more ephemeral pastures, people tired of the same terror, the same politics. But there, they live with invisible threats of death, unknown forces foisted, though accepted, by those whose microscopic arrogance allows the possibility of endless rot to infest all future histories. Plutonium is not an “acceptible risk”…….

Spells are songs that sink below the surface to the deepest tides of Mind. If nothing else they bring strength and succour. The only thing we may possibly, ultimately control is our own orientation, our own perspective. Hope is a self-replicating energy. Language is its vehicle. Please use these words if you need to raise your energy integrity.

As usual, most of the charms and spells flow from the English and British traditions of pagan Celt and Anglo-Saxon. They flow from the bardic perception of the weaving of words is equivalent to the weaving of worlds. Resonance that leaps off one tongue into listening, nodding minds. Resonant because it carries the echoes of numberless generations of ancestors and forebears….



Listen the way is
Cold. It burns, in
darkness, the treasure
Hid in secret.

Advice to act according
To Nature’s law.
Revealed to memory,

Ask the way.
The unexpected
Can be seen, treasure

Hold steady,
Will bring completion.

Words (spells) and actions
Break down rigidities.
Fire brings light
To see what is yours (true treasure)
Can be uncovered.


Thorn to throne:
What hinders hides.
Hard turns haven, harbour,
Well-woven, wrought right.
The road ready,
Naught stays,
Sleek, slender, slides safely.

Before stands day’s door:
A way.
Sunlight’s splendour,
Storm’s silence.

Giant becomes stone
Stone becomes ice
Ice melts to water
Water sinks to earth
Seed stirs strong
Green shoot of life.

Snake sloughs skin.
River of sunlight:
Golden road
Glory road.
Sun’s shaft
Breaks cloud.


Song called shield.
Three times cast,
Three times it falls short:
No way through.
The song called shield
Is strong as rock,
Strong as air,
Strong as water,
Strong as fire,
Will not break
Will not shatter.
Shielding safe:
Strong shelter
Breath of life,
Never faltering.
Blood of life,
Never stilling.
Heart of life,
Never stilling.
Heart of life,
Strong and safe.
Singing the song called shield.
The earth is my witness,
Never shall it fail.



From here our souls reach out
From here our spirits reach out
From here our hands reach out
From here our voices reach out.
We are the star protectors
Present within the smallest dust of life,
In the moment of dissolution,
In the second of creation,
In the breath between breathing
Regardless of time
Regardless of space
The well of light
Sustains all
Look up
Look in
Look out
Insistent dwellers of forever,
From here we begin.



No words
No thoughts
Breathing in
Breathing out.
Stars, songs,
Memories, feelings.
Not choosing
But life flows through me.
Not choosing
But power flows through me.
Not choosing
I am sustained.
Not choosing
But all dissonances
Fall away.
Not choosing
But falling into harmony.
Not choosing
Not moving
Not deciding
Not thinking
Not speaking.
Breathing time,
Breathing light,
Breathing stars.



Sky is blind eyes
Earth is cold bones
Night birds
Night birds
Cold wind crumples leaves.



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