The matter of human sacrifice by the Celts and the Druids is a topic that creates, at once, a sense of horror and wonder for us in this modern age. In our present age, separated from the phenomena of death as we are, even animal sacrifice shocks our senses. The much more controversial subject of human sacrifice is almost beyond our comprehension. We must endeavor to look beyond our immediate "surface reactions" to this sensitive topic. As we delve a little deeper into the primal Celtic soul and psyche, perhaps our study will allow us to understand why such sacrifices occurred.
Searles: In today's Celtic workshop, we shall attempt to cover the available evidence for such acts of sacrifice among the Celts. We shall also attempt to classify the many types of such sacrifices, their methods and their means, as well as their meanings.
Searles: We have evidence that the Celts and Druids performed human sacrifices. Today's Celtic workshop will allow us all to discuss this sensitive topic interactively. Before we start, I thought I would list the available sources that I've studied and considered in preparing for this workshop:
Searles: What was the purpose of human sacrifice? <any takers?> <G>
M & R : How about the concept of carrying a message or petition to the gods?
Searles: excellent R & M
M & R : Thank you teacher
Searles: I'm going to talk about that soon...it is one of the primary points today. <G> OK
LAW / MAGICK: Several surface reasons, Fertility, appeasement, connection with the Divine.
Searles: Thank you for that Llew.
Searles: Thank you
cherokee : To ask that the gods bestow favor for a victory to show that the people were willing to die in the god/dess name
Searles: Yes, excellent point as well and one more I hope to cover in detail today.
Wren : to intercede on behalf of their people.
Searles: OK thanks.....another excellent point.
DoveHawk : I wonder if what we describe generally as human sacrifices, didn't have various shapes in terms of the purpose of the sacrifice and, the consent of the "victims".
Searles: I'm certain they were different as to form and purpose.
Searles: <I'm really loving all of these excellent points today> Maybe I should have each of you elucidate about your points? <G>
cherokee : In some traditions the sacrifice of an enemy or a powerful person allowed the leader or the group to take that persons power for themselves
Searles: yes that is yet another way that sacrifice was done...maybe even still is done in some places. ?
Searles: I have not seen any writing on that subject but I have often wondered if perhaps the "champions" of the clan were empowered through ritual to take clan Magick with them to combat. This would be very similar to how a sacrifice might go to the gods.
Searles: There are some instances where the Scots made clay dolls like a "voodoo" doll almost and then stuck pins and other things into the dolls to wreck havoc on their enemies. This is an area that I want to do more research on before commenting further. I had best continue now....we will touch on most of these points later. Hopefully more comments and explanations will be available then.
Searles: In some religions, sacrifice is an act performed to influence the gods. In others, it is a symbolic return to the gods of their blessings. In still others, it is a freeing of life-force to empower Magical workings. Sometimes, the giving of life in ritual demonstrates belief in deity. Other times it is done to redeem the spiritual cost of mundane actions done in this world. This is done by sending a tribal member to the Otherworld. The sacrificial victim then becomes the representative of the people performing the sacrifice. Also, custom/tradition might dictate that victims are to be sacrificed in response to certain events (such as: funerals, droughts, bad harvests, rain, volcanoes, auguries, battles, plagues, comets, meteors, astrological signs, building foundations, earthquakes, etc.). So far we have defined the following reasons for human sacrifice:
Searles: I'm sure there are other reasons that humans were sacrificed but they escape me for now. I thank the Workshop for all of their inputs particularly. :) My "gut feeling" is that the Celts and Druids engaged in human sacrifice for just about all of the above reasons.
Searles: Who was sacrificed? I suppose this varied, based upon the need. The list of sacrificial victims goes from kings to criminals, from priests to babies, from prisoners of war to witches. Just about anyone could have been sacrificed at any time for what was thought to be a sufficiently good reason.
Searles: Kings were sacrificed for the biggest Magicks. This included better weather, victory in war, improving the harvest and protecting the tribes. Children and babies were also sacrificed for improving the crops as well as for dedicating buildings and sacred sites. Prisoners (whether criminals or war captives) were the normally preferred sacrifice for most mundane reasons. This was a matter of practicality as well as religion. The tribe could not afford to house and feed large numbers of prisoners. Letting them go, meant they would return to fight and destroy another day. Knowing you would be sacrificed by your enemies tended to dampen one's enthusiasm for making war in the first place. Using prisoners for sacrifice was the easiest way to generate a lot of energy for "Blood Magick" quickly. This was simply a case of turning the enemy's Power back upon them.
Searles: In the next part of my presentation, I will give the details (archaeological, literary, historical and Magical) that show how, why, where and when such sacrifices were done by the Celts and the Druids. For those interested in reading more about Celtic/Druidic sacrifices, I'd recommend:
"The Life and
Death of a Druid Prince" by
Other excellent supplemental readings include:
(F) above stands for historical fiction.
Searles: Many other excellent works exist on the Celts as well as the subject of sacrifice and blood Magick, but these are the sources I've reviewed preparing for this workshop.
Adam of Bremen refers to a sacrifice of animals and men held
every ninth year at
"It is the custom moreover every nine years for a
common festival of all the provinces of
Searles: It's typical that opposing sides in a conflict
would attempt to pervert the most sacred practice of the opponent. A willing sacrifice for the clan is a noble
deed, whereas, an involuntary sacrifice or execution is just the opposite. Accounts by
Searles: In his 'Gallic War,
they have determined on a decisive battle, they dedicate as a rule whatever
spoil they may take. After a victory
they sacrifice such living things as they have taken, and all the other effects
they gather into one place. In many
states heaps of such objects are to be seen piled up in hallowed spots, and it
has not often happened that a man, in defiance of religious scruple, has dared
to conceal such spoils in his house or to remove them from their place, and the
most grievous punishment, with torture, is ordained for such an offence. (
Searles: In "Ynglinga Saga", Snorri tells us about a Swedish ceremonial sacrifice of their king Domaldi:
"The first year [of the famine] they sacrificed
oxen, and there was no improvement in the harvest. The next autumn they sacrificed men, but the
harvest was as before or even worse. and
the third autumn many Swedes came to
Searles: Posidonius tells us about the Celtic custom of taking heads: "They cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and carry off as booty, while taking part in a triumphal march and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar-oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies and preserve them carefully in a chest."
Searles: According to
Searles: Some of the sources are from
Searles: Children were sacrificed to the idol called
Searles: "For him ingloriously they slew their wretched firstborn with much weeping and distress, to pour out their blood round the Bent One of the Hill. Milk and corn they used to ask of him speedily in return for a third of their whole progeny; great was the horror and outcry about him."
Searles: In another story,
Searles: Now we have listed some of the ancient comments about human sacrifice by the Celts, along with our modern ones. Let's see what a shamanic source has to say about life-force as well as sacrifice:
Searles: The nature of power as life-force: Why is it
important? Without life-force (which is
also known as "power") Spirit cannot manifest (nor hold a
manifestation) within the physical realm.
The smaller the life-force the less Spirit is able to manifest. The greater the life-force the more Spirit is
able to manifest itself and its
Searles: When the body can no longer produce, channel, & contain life-force we say it "dies". The only difference between a body which is "dead" and one which is "alive" is the amount of life-force in each of them. When a body looses so much life-force that it can no longer maintain/contain the physical manifestation of Spirit, then the spirit MUST leave that body. In order to manifest spirit on the physical plane you need 3 things:
There are spirits in other realms which wish to come to this plane of existence. One of these realms is that of "crystal people". These are certain spirits which resonate particularly well with crystals and who very much want to come to the earth plane. In exchange for assistance in manifesting in this realm they will perform certain "services" for the person who makes this possible. Some of these might include protecting the keeper of the crystal in which they live, giving them the ability to discern truthfulness from falsehood, the ability to journey to a certain realm or plane more easily. The shaman going to the other plane to negotiate the arrangement will find out what the entity/spirit is capable of doing for him. He will then find out what the spirit needs in return (must be empowered daily, kept in salt water when not being used, smudged with cedar once a full moon, whatever, etc.). If the service offered and the price asked are agreeable to both parties the shaman extends a crystal which he has cleared/cleaned and empowered and the entity enters the crystal and is brought back to this realm when the shaman returns from his journey to the land of the crystal people. Had the crystal not contained enough power to "hold" the spirit within it then the crystal spirit could not have manifested life on this plane. If the crystal becomes disempowered then the entity within it will literally "die". It is a great responsibility. Rather like having a physically dependent child to care for who must be fed, exercised, and companioned regularly or they cannot live.
Searles: Another use of empowered/enlivened objects is to use an arrow or weapon of some kind either for protection or as a form of hunting medicine (in the Native American or tribal sense). I have seen a spirit caught and placed within an arrow. The shaman then used that arrow by directing the spirit in the arrow to "guard his back" or "assist him in bringing down game to feed his family." This focused intention and empowerment then becomes the entity's "prime directive" until it is released, the directive is changed, or the physical body loses its power and the entity/spirit slips free from it.
Searles: Power is something that must be continually (or at least regularly) supplied. It's like supplying your body with fuel so that it can continue to live. You can't eat once or twice a month and still expect to live... let alone do any kind of work, play, or activity (like magick maybe <G>) if it's has no fuel to run on. It's like expecting a car to run the Indy 500 with no fuel in the tank.... just doesn't work.
Searles: I don't know of a reading resource to direct you to. The experience came from working with a man who was shaman who took several of us on the journey there and back. Do you have a specific question about them?
Searles: They are spirits who exist in a different plane from us who are very interested in manifesting here on the earth plane.
Searles: My perception of them was that they are rather small in size, non humanoid, and the realm is not anything that I have a physical earth correspondence for. it was rather light, sparkly and not well focused (could have been my own lack of ability to see on that plane) <G> NO. It is a journey through specific landscape and not so much of an "inner journey"
Searles: cool. back on the topic of Druid sacrifice. <G>
Searles: OK we are covering a lot of ground today.... so bear with me....we will eventually get to Lindow Man and his threefold death.
Searles: I wanted to talk more about the principals of life-force, energy and sacrifice. and How that is all directed.
Assuming a willing sacrifice exists (and religions have been founded on just that basis), the person to be sacrificed should build as much power within himself as possible prior to the actual sacrifice and he should practice "loading up" on power and releasing it beforehand. He must "stretch" himself in his ability to hold more and more power every day so that he can hold the maximum amount of power possible for the sacrifice.
Searles: Other people can assist with this by "pouring" power into him. Be very careful not to pour too quickly nor provide so much that his power envelope is stretched to the point where it would develop "holes". The group should stand in a circle and build the power by whatever means they choose, and then the head of the circle should funnel the power through him to the sacrifice through a golden power conduit/cord into the third chakras or from the leader's hands into the third chakra of the sacrifice. This should be practiced for some time before the day of the actual sacrifice to stretch and strengthen the sacrifice's power carrying "muscles", as it were. When "fully loaded" the sacrifice's body should feel as light as a feather to him... almost as though it's not there it is so easy to carry. When he feels that he is almost about to "float away" or when his envelope has gotten thin like an overfilled balloon and is beginning to show thin spots (before there are actually holes) stop pouring the power. <<People who are low on power report that they can barely drag themselves around from day to day. People who are stoked up hardly even notice that they are carrying a body with them at all - just a side note.>> A second note here.... the person being sacrificed should be in good shape physically. A well toned/muscled, healthy body is capable of holding and carrying much, much more power than is an old, worn out or overweight or sick body. The sacrifice should be as whole, hale and hearty as possible. If he does have a problem (overweight, out of shape, tumor, broken bones etc. these should be healed or fixed before the time of the sacrifice. Never sacrifice anything or anyone but your absolute best. I mean think about it. Would you prefer to have a healthy warrior guarding you, fighting to protect you, working on your behalf... or would you rather hand your best sword to someone who can't even lift it or who will tire before the battle is halfway over and thereby leave you defenseless?
Searles: The power should be returned to the people gifting it or grounded into the earth or sent out on a specific working once it is built and transferred successfully. This refines the sacrifice's technique of releasing the power to do work. At the appointed day and time the power is once again built and poured into the prepared sacrifical vessle. The person has built his own power as high as it will possibly go. He has been gifted with as much power as he can possibly carry. At the height of this gathering of power he is sacrificed. His spirit is released... is set free from his body. It takes all of the power that used to be used to animate his body (which is considerable), all of the power he has personally built on this day, and all of the power that he has been gifted with in once massive, powerful "discharge". (I always see it in my mind as almost being like a rocket taking off or a "super eagle" taking flight.<personal note>) Once on the other side, freed from the limitations of incarnation on the earth plane and able to see things more clearly, the sacrifice takes the accumulated power and does whatever working he has been chosen to do. He becomes a warrior/guardian/magician on the other side working in connection with and for the benefit of this side of the curtain.
Searles: I imagine that there is at least one person on this side of the curtain who is chosen to continue to work with the spirit/sacrifice on the other side for at least a year. In some tribes it was a common practice when someone crossed over for a close relative/friend/mate to be relieved of duties for the span of one year so that they could "funnel" information to this side from the one who just crossed over. This is done by prior arrangement, at least with the people that I have talked to. It was done so that the tribe could benefit from having someone able to see, hear, and understand things affecting the tribe and give advice/information from that freed/unlimited persective of being on the other side of the curtain.
Searles: Now we all ready to discuss the events leading up
to the sacrifice that was made at Lindow Bog in 60
C.E. by a Celt that we have come to know as Lindow
Man or as he is called by
Searles: The Romans were led by their general
Searles: In the nights after the battle a Druid prince
landed on the Isle of Mona too late to help stop the carnage but not too late
to be the focus for one of the most powerful workings in the history of the
Druids. The Sacred Grove had been
destroyed and cut down so this mysterious Druid Price who we shall call Lovernios made his way up the river past were present day
Searles: When the body of Lindow
Man was recovered from the bog it was discovered that he had suffered a
threefold death. His skull had been
crushed by a blow from a war ax or a ceremonial ax that came from above. His throat had been garroted and at the
moment of death his throat had been cut with a knife strike from below.... bleeding his blood ritually into a
cauldron. This threefold death is
symbolic of his dedication to three different Gods. These gods represent the three different
worlds. The Skyworld, the Middleworld, and the Otherworld.
Searles: Why the threefold death? And what elements do these
deaths represent? It is my contention
that death occurred because he was sacrificed to the Three Worlds and the
primary elements that they represent. The blow from above crushed him to the
element of earth below in the form of the ax. The middle death was given to the
element of air due to the garrote (cutting the connection between Earth and
Sky). The upward blow of the knife, that cut his throat, represents the element
of water due to the loss of blood. It also freed his Spirit to the Sky. These three elemental deaths: loss of breath,
loss of blood, loss of awareness, left Lovernious as
a being of Fire and Spirit. He became a
shamanic entity, a willing sacrifice to focus the lifeforce
of the Druids on their magickal working. His body was cast into the lake at Lindow, its name meaning "
Searles: This date, this Dark Year of the Druids, 60 C.E.,
marks the time when the
Searles: To my brothers and sisters in Europe where this story still lives and where this magick still works I say: when you visit a sacred site... when you touch the spirit of a stone monolith or circle... open the pathways within yourselves and talk to our brothers and sisters from the past. Within each of these circles is a fellow Druid and Celt. The spirit of each of these rocks talks to us. They live for us. They are there to connect and reconnect us to the land. Many a foundation was secured by such as sacrifice. Merlin himself narrowly escaped being sacrificed to secure Vortigen's Tower. These sacrifices were all willing. They were all a threefold death to free the fire of the spirit and to lock the magick of the "devoted ones" to the sites.
Searles: I'm not sure where I read this but someone once did
a psychic working at a sacred site in
Searles: I have rambled a bit today....<G>
Searles: There is so much more to say and discuss about this particular topic.
M & R : What's your opinion of the symbolism of the torc? Ross & Robbins.. suggest it may symbolize the sacrificial garrote, but you... seemed to suggest earlier that it could be a conduit to the chakra points.
Searles: I suggest that the torc is emblematic of the chakra associated with communication. It is the point at which the head connects to the body... the Celts believed that the soul lived within the head. That is one reason they kept heads... to control their enemies and not allow them to reconnect with their bodies.
Searles: I could never really accept that the torc and the garrote were equivalent. I'll think some more about this....
DoveHawk : I would think the self
sacrifice of Lovernious is not much different than
the self sacrifice one performs when, going to perform a suicidal commando war
operation, since the purpose was rallying the passed druids against
Searles: Lovernios made a one-way trip into the divine realms.
Searles: He is similar to those that gave their spirits to the stones themselves.
Searles: His death was probably done after he had left his body anyway. The suddenness of the threefold death completely separated him from the physical allowing him to be a spiritual commando of sorts.
Searles: We are keeping track of questions here?<G> Next is Parsifal (though I sense DoveHawk will require some additional answers)!
Parsifal : In my rather limited knowledge of the Celtic past, I though that torcs were a warrior's right, only to be worn after one had been "blooded" (i.e. been in battle, killed a foe)? BTW many other cultures have had/ have the belief about heads (Montagnard tribesmen in Vietnam took the heads of foes, US Marines got the name "leatherneck" from a leather neck band they wore in the late 1700's for fear of their souls wandering the earth if their heads should be cut off)
Searles: I believe that women also wore torques as well as Druids who were not warriors.... The Gods themselves were depicted as wearing torcs. Cernnunos was shown with two of them in one depiction. A torc was a symbol of ranking.... so, one had to achieve something significant to wear one. You couldn't just wear one because you could afford one for instance.
Searles: Excellent point about the taking of heads going across cultures.
Searles: I've wrestled with that point. Some deaths were one-way....I'm almost certain of that...based on the account of the psychic I gave.
Searles: Lovernius's leg had been broken to prevent his spirit from wandering from its purpose. Other bodies have been found that buried without jaws...
Searles: this to prevent them from uttering harmful curses after death. OK...sorry I jumped in so soon.
Searles: The only thing Lovernios wore was a fox fur arm band (a symbol of his clan/totem?)
Searles: To always be connected to the clan was a great honor. Perhaps the fact that Lovernios
body has been returned from the Mother is a sign to us all? Maybe now is the
time of the return of the Druids? Maybe the thousands upon thousands now all
walk the earth again? Maybe there will be a new gathering at the "
DoveHawk: My question is in line
Searles: Spirit lives in all the world around us. The form that it takes is seemingly important to us as we perceive the physical world. In the larger scheme of the Cosmos or Bith.....we are all brothers.
Searles: Becoming a consort of the Mother is not a fate that prevents evolution of the spirit....it is a transcendence of the spirit. The Earth is a Goddess and we are Her children. Those within stone speak for us to the Mother, The Dagda and through them to the Universe itself. Perhaps there comes a point in our spiritual evolution where we go beyond the need to have a body?
M & R : Do you think that Lovernios deliberately chose the blackened cake, or... was it, as with the later rituals, a random choice from a number.. of potential victims. Maybe the torc denoted acceptance of and... acceptability for the role of victim?
Searles: <really thinking>
M & R : <G>
Searles: My feeling is that the choice of victim is always
left to the gods. There had to be many
candidates..... There were after all at
least three sacrificers or Vates
present to perform the triple death. The
torc of Lovernios was not
found with him.
M & R : No fair! You're the teacher! Will think and get back to you!
Parsifal : DoveHawk, perhaps the spirit is being held within the stone - prevented for a time from moving on while it fulfills duties in the stone? (in reference to earlier question)
DoveHawk : Seems another good possibility ...
M & R : How do you feel about
Searles: LOL! I would recommend going to the
Parsifal : lol
M & R : The body in the museum is extremely impressive. Very moving. Bit flat though <G>
Searles: The photos were impressive to me as well....though I would love to see a virtual representation of him. He is the original boneless wonder as his body currently exists....the peat bog dissolved his bones.
M & R : There is a hologram which they exhibit when the body's not there(sorry!)_
Searles: night AC Sweet Dreams and Safe Journeys
DoveHawk : B*B An
M & R : BB AC!
Parsifal : good night, B*B!
Searles: So there we have it......Druids to holograms....what will they think of next?
DoveHawk : good night!
Searles: What's the verdict? Do the Europeans vote for having another Celtic Workshop on a Sunday afternoon/evening?
DoveHawk : YES !
Parsifal : Only makes sense - cyberspace ritual, now Druid holograms <g>! Yes (vote from the Euro-block)
M & R : You have our vote - you give great workshop! A
good extension of
Searles: Thank you all!<GGG> Warms my Celtic
soul....if any of you care to come to
M & R : Thank YOU for making the effort for Euro time - much appreciated.
Searles: remember the door here is always open...as the sign
Parsifal : Yes - a big danke sch n aus Deutschland for your time Searles!
Searles: TS tells me that is Ce'ud Mi'le Fa'ilte (Scots Gaelic:() My sign got removed.
Searles: sure thing
Searles: Sure come on down folks....might have to kick
Searles: OD... your sign got a bit tattered during the painting o' the door dear.
M & R : So when are you coming this side of the pond to visit some of these sites??
Searles: May if we're lucky!!! <G>
Searles: possibly late
Searles: At least we will be at Brugh na
DoveHawk : Thanks for the Euro workshop OD, you're very welcome to come this side too .
Searles: (You'd think the two of us were not in the same room!<G>)
M & R : Hey, let us know if you're over this way
Searles: OD! pfft pfft pfft P',',',',
Searles: DoveHawk....My pleasure entirely....and for the more adventurous among you
Searles: we will do another workshop tommorrow night.
M & R :
Parsifal : There's several sites near me (
M & R : OK, gotta go, thanks again everyone and goodnight!
Parsifal : bye M&R, B*B
Searles: Goodnight to my favorite animals!
DoveHawk : bye
Searles: Beannacht libh a M&R!
Parsifal : gute nacht, alle! Have a great coming week! B*B
DoveHawk : Boa noite Parsifal, B*B
Searles: Until tommorrow night
DoveHawk : Good night everyone, got to go too, B*B !
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