For the Druids and the ancient Celts, to consign their religious practices, massive knowledge of the natural world and cultural secrets to paper was to risk losing everything should they be conquered by another nation. This of course, eventually happened anyway. And now all we have to provide us with information about the more mystical side of their nature are the burials we find, remnants of epic poetry, and of course, their art.
|Jesus and his virgin mother, likely known in the Celtic world as Brigid. |
The Book of Kells
What excites me about it is the fact that The Book of Kells also serves as one of the only living documents that can provide us with a visceral and incredibly unique glimpse into the minds of the Celtic people at that time. We know very little about the state of Celtic life post Roman occupation throughout the British Isles, which is precisely the time period I'm writing about. The Celts themselves wrote nothing down, so I'm nothing short of grateful for the studious Celtic Christian monks who dedicated their lives to the writings of history, such as they heard it, and gave us this incredible work of faith/art. The book is filled with animistic representations that offer tantalizing glimpses of the Celtic people's close connection to the natural world. Dogs, lions, peacocks, cats, eagles, cows and more fill the pages, the Apostles themselves are even represented as winged creatures (see second caption below).
|Prior to its adoption in this text|
the Stag was a common symbol found in the pagan Celtic world.
|Early Celtic-Christian Symbolism: |
Luke represented by a calf and John represented by an eagle, as found in The Book of Kells
The value of this particular edition is exponentially increased by it's author, too. Bernard Meehan is Head of Research Collections at Trinity in Dublin and has been studying the Book of Kells for over 30 years. His written insights on the symbolism and history of the book are among the best and most informed one could hope for.
You'd better believe I'll be using this book to build the religious world of the Celtic people you'll be meeting in book 2.
I have a feeling I'm going to need a magnifying glass.