The Celts started as a Central European Iron Age people, moving outwards to cover most of Europe, including the British Isles, by the third century BC. They were pushed westward by other cultures, particularly the Romans, and today Celtic culture is only found in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.
Image from Wikipedia
Christianity was known to have come to the Celtic people
by the second century AD and grew as an important form of Christianity in the British Isles till the sixth century - particularly after the Romans withdrew from Britain around 400 AD. Although it was never a unified body in the way the Roman church had become on continental Europe, it had a distinctive style - focussing on grace, creation and mysticism.

In 597 AD Augustine led a Roman mission to Britain. The Roman form of Christianity was by this time much more hierarchical, male and uniform with a strong form of governance. There were various disagreements between the Celtic and Roman 'camps' until the Synod of Whitby in 664 when Roman Christianity won the day over a number of issues - in particular the calculation of the date of Easter. After this time Celtic Christianity began to slowly wane in the British Isles and the Roman practices came much more to the fore, with Benedictine monasteries gradually replacing the older Celtic communities.

In the following centuries, the Celtic Christians became more localised and restricted. They were further pushed aside at the time of the Reformation, when suspicions were raised about past pagan influences on the Celtic forms of worship.

However, in the twentieth century interest was again sparked and new research into Celtic forms of spirituality began to grow. Some of what is now publicised as 'Celtic' is rather romanticised, but a new understanding has grown of the richness and vitality of Celtic spirituality and the legacy that it can pass on to us.

Well, enough of history! Here is a lovely blessing with a Celtic flavour from the Iona Community:


May the blessing of light be on you,
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine upon you and warm your heart
till it glows like a great fire
and strangers may warm themselves
as well as friends.

And may the light
shine from your eyes,
like a candle set in the window of a home,
bidding the wanderer to come in
out of the storm.

From 'An Iona Prayer Book' by Peter Millar

6 comments

  1. Anonymous  

    1 October 2009 at 13:33

    Thank you for history and prayer.
    I was introduced a couple of years ago when I had the priviledge of leading a retreat with Margaret Silf...an amazing Celtic theologian.
    She taught me so much..and her books are inspiring.....I loved the simplicity of her talks and worships but a tremendous depth to the spiritual aspect.
    Thanks for reminding me of my great Celtic retreat xx

    Col

  2. Jean Wise  

    1 October 2009 at 16:22

    Celtic spirituality is one area I know little about,yet am drawn to. Perhaps it is my Gaelic roots. You wrote a nice brief overview of their history which I enjoyed reading. It renewed a desire in me to explore them in more deeply. Thank you.

  3. rogue_theologian  

    14 October 2009 at 15:32

    the link to Augustine links to Augustine of Hippo who was not the same Augustine who led the mission from Rome.

  4. Kath Williamson  

    18 October 2009 at 22:43

    Thanks RT

  5. Kath Williamson  

    18 October 2009 at 22:50

    I've changed the link to point to Augusine of Canterbury. That was laziness on my part - just copying a link from another post!
    Sorry folks.

  6. Diana  

    14 March 2012 at 14:33

    I think celtic spitituality is one of the most difficult to know but it is certainly on of the most interesting to understand. It is a very interesting culture.
    :-)