Celtic Creation Myth
by Celtic Bard Jeff
What is the Real Celtic Creation Myth? Well there are more than one.
Our ancestors created mythology to explain all the things that happened around them. Unlike today, when we have science to help make sense of the world around us, they explained natural phenomenon as acts of divine power. For us they may be simple myths, but for the ancients it was their reality. It was the same for the Celtic people who saw no borders between the natural and supernatural. Thus, like most ancient societies, everything in nature had a religious significance.
When one thinks about the Celtic people, one imagines painted warriors and mysterious Druids. They were a nomadic, war-like people, whose origins can be traced back to the second millennium BC and to the city of Hallstatt, from where archaeologists believe the Celts emerged. It wasn’t until the start of the first millennium BC that the Celts began their expansion across Europe.
In lands where the Celts came as conquerors, it is no surprise that they may have had a significant impact upon not just languages and traditions, but also upon mythology. As history teaches us, whenever people are conquered, they adopt, whether by coercion or free-will, the religious beliefs of the conqueror.
Unfortunately, the ancient Celts left virtually no written records of their own existence, much of what we know comes from archaeological evidence. Writings from Greece and Rome shed some light into the life of the Celtic people, how
ever, we must be careful about believing what is written. The authors are providing us with a second-hand account of what they believe the Celts were like and there may be biases.
The Druids were among the learned class, acting as priests, teachers, healers and judges, among other things. They were the ones who held the primary role of passing down knowledge to the next generation, to ensure that their religion continued. Unfortunately, they passed that knowledge down through oral tradition. The myths of the Continental Celts were never committed to writing. They were contained in the sacred verses taught by the Druids, but it was not lawful to write them down; they were tabu, and doubtless their value would have vanished if they had been set forth in script.
Because of the lack of written data about the Celts, it is impossible to be sure of their true creation myth; but people still speculate. Myths as we know them, seldom existed as the Celtic people knew them.
One version is told in “A tale of Great love: A reconstructed Gaelic Creation Myth” that was written by Iain MacAnTsaoir. Within the story, Donn and Danu are the first two gods and it is from them that creation stems.
Another Celtic creation myth is the ‘Tree of Life’.
“Once upon a time, when there was no time, no gods or humans walked the surface of the land. But there was the sea, and where the sea met the land, a mare was born, white and made of seafoam. And her name was Eiocha. Not far from where the land met the sea, a tree grew, a strong and sturdy oak. On the oak grew a plant whose seeds were formed of the foam tears of the sea. To sustain her, Eiocha ate the seeds, these white berries, and they were transformed within her. Eiocha grew heavy with child and gave birth to the god, Cernunnos. So great was her pain in childbirth that she ripped bark from the one tree and hurled it into the sea. The bark was transformed by the sea and became the giants of the deep. Cernunnos was lonely and he saw the giants of the deep who were numerous, so he coupled with Eiocha and of their union came the gods, Maponos, Tauranis, and Teutates, and the goddess, Epona. From then onwards the oak tree was used by the gods to create the first man and woman, as well as all the animals of the world. The gods used the tree to create thunder and lighting, a harp which was the creation of music.
There is another Celtic myth that involves giants as the original gods who created the earth. It goes: “The tale is related that in the first winter, an enormous powerful giant was created from “hoarfrost.”
Fire came and then melted the giant. The remnants of his body formed the various parts of our universe. The giant’s body formed the world. His blood flowed freely creating the seas and oceans. The mountains were created from his bones. The forests and trees sprung from his hair and his skull became the sky. At the core or heart of the earth within, the gods were thought to live on mountainous hills, and below in the valleys the Underworld boiled with secrets and was the home of the dead.”
Lastly, is the Irish creation myth of the Tuatha De Danann, who were a god-like race that travelled to Ireland. Their name literally
translated means “the people of the god whose mother is Dana.” According to records, they travelled to Erin from the northern islands of Greece around 2000 BC. In the story, they possessed gifts of magic and druidism, which gave them the power to rule the country undefeated. That is until they were defeated by the Milesians, ancestors of the Irish.
Source: Ancient Origins Image: Mystical shamanic ritual Photo By: Andrey Kiselev / Adobe Stock