From as early as 1200 B.C., tribes were collecting in central Europe, with most common traditions, languages, culture, and beliefs. One such common religious belief was in the divination of the natural world around them.
What are the Celts?
The tribes grew larger and spread across northern Europe and then eventually into the British Isles. They came to be known as the Celts; derived from the Greek “Keltoi” meaning barbarians and wanderers. The correct pronunciation is “Keltic”, although many still say “Seltick”. Especially in New England, since Boston’s basketball team is pronounced that way.
Between 750 B.C. to around 12 B.C., this growing collective tribe of Celts was the most powerful throughout central and northern Europe.
Who were the Druids?
Within the Celtic tribes were the teachers and priests known as the Druids. The word Druid is Celtic for “Knowing the Oak Tree”, as these Druids would be found in the Oak forests practicing their divination. The earliest written records of the Druids dates back to around 300 B.C.
Knowing the Oak Tree
Every season has a tree that represents it. The Druids understood the profound energy that the trees possessed and utilized their knowledge of the cycles of Earth, with which they would equate it to a human’s life path.
The Ancient Celtic Divination practices of the Druids of the Oak forests is where Merlin came from.
Celtic Ogham Divination
Ogham, or Celtic Tree Alphabet, named for Ogma, an Irish god of literacy, is one of the earliest scripts of the alphabet used by the Celts to represent letters, phonetic sounds, and then eventually divinatory symbols to express aspects of the human emotions, actions, and feelings. These Oghams would be carved into the wood of an oak tree branch called staves. The Druid priest would use these staves in his divinations by tossing them and interpreting their alignments, not unlike the runestones of the Norse, which came into being some 500 years later.
Methods of Celtic Divination Practices
Though Divination was mostly left to the Druid priests, as to the decisions that affect the entire tribe; the Celtic people used the same methods for healing, predicting crop planting and harvesting, and support in daily decisions that they felt required the divine to lead them.
The Celtic people and the Druids utilized all of nature in their divinations. They would use symbols on wood, but not any unnatural methods.
Understanding Nature and the Elements
They would utilize the elements of air, fire, water, and earth. Such as CelticWeather witching; reading the clouds – known by the Irish Celts as ‘Neldoracht’, or listening to the wind, muttering desires of what is wished to be known – then watching for changes in the skies. Reading the flickering flames of a fire or watching the flights of birds as they invoke the spirit.
These ancient methods are still used by indigenous people all over the world. Augury or predictions could be read into any aspect of nature. Even to the simplest things as which way the grass is pointing. The elements were used in all aspects of healing, as well as their knowledge of plants, herbs, flowers, and gemstones. They were probably the first to read tea leaves. Water scrying or water gazing was also widely used to envision the future in the reflections of the water.
Utilizing their knowledge of the Animal kingdom
They would observe any creatures that crossed their path as they ask their questions and interpret the heavenly alignments of the planets and stars to predict future events.
In Irish Celtic Divination known as ‘Tarbhfeis’; the oracle or priest would wrap themselves in a Bull hide to heighten clairvoyance while channeling the divine for answers of the future.