Celtic witchcraft is a practice that uses Celtic lore and folk magic as its basis. This blends well with the basic structure and ritual format of Wicca, so many Celtic witches are also Wiccans. This gives their spells and rituals a unique and distinct cultural flavor, distinguishing them from other traditions.
What is Celtic Witchcraft?
Though all Celtic witchcraft draws on the culture of the ancient Celtic peoples, it can vary in how its practices. While many practitioners are Celtic Wiccans, not all are.
Other witches may follow a solitary practice that doesn’t draw on Wiccan structure. Even some Neodruids incorporate Celtic witchcraft into their practice.
Most modern Celtic witchcraft doesn’t actually draw from historic sources. Instead, this branch of magic came out of the Romantic revival.
This movement was a reaction against Neoclassicism in artistic and literary circles, which spurred an interest in folklore. From this came the Celtic revival, which increased interest in Scottish Gaelic culture in particular.
While these movements created an interest in Celtic culture and folklore, they weren’t interested in historical accuracy. Instead, as the Romantic revival’s name implies, they romanticized Celtic culture.
Witchcraft based on the culture of this movement is beautiful, with a very Celtic flavor, but not necessarily historically accurate.
Nonetheless, many modern witches see it as a way to connect with their ancestral roots and bring old traditions into the modern age.
On the other end, there are Celtic reconstructionists. These witches seek to keep their practices as culturally and historically accurate as they can.
Differences to Wicca Traditions
Cetic witchcraft can follow any ritual structure the individual chooses, from Neodruidry to a fully eclectic practice, in which case the differences would be too numerous to name here.
Celtic Wicca, though it’s still Wicca, also has some key differences when compared to other traditions. These include:
- A Celtic pantheon. While Celtic Wiccans still revere the Mother Goddess and Horned God, they are represented by Irish, Scottish, or Welsh deities.
- Belief in the fae. The fae are regarded as powerful, potentially troublesome outsiders who are able to render assistance when and if they see fit. Some witches attempt to work with the fae, while others avoid them entirely.
- Commonalities with Neodruids and kitchen and hedge witchcraft. The Druids were a huge cultural force in the Celtic world for a long time, and echoes of Druidic practice still persist to this day. Celtic witches also see magic as inherent in everything, and instinctively weave magic into recipes, herbal medicine, and other aspects of their daily lives without the need for a formalized ritual.
Beliefs & Practices in Celtic Witchcraft
Certain beliefs and practices underpin Celtic witchcraft, including:
- Veneration for the earth. Like all earth-centered practices, Celtic witchcraft reveres nature.
- Belief in the fae. As mentioned above, these magical beings may be treated as welcome helpers, or a natural force to avoid.
- Eight Sabbats. Celtic Wiccans still celebrate the eight Sabbats. Most of these come from Celtic solar holidays to begin with, so including them in Celtic witchcraft is natural. Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain are the four major Sabbats.
- Thirteen Esbats. Celtic Wiccans celebrate thirteen lunar Esbats throughout the year. Even non-Wiccan Celtic witches may celebrate them in a different form.
- Ancestor veneration. Many Celtic witches turn to this path because they have Irish, Welsh, or Scottish ancestry. Working with those who have passed on is a common practice.
Getting Started With Celtic Witchcraft
Getting started with this form of witchcraft requires a little bit of research, and a lot of introspection. What draws you to this path? Do you have Celtic ancestry, or a deep respect for their magical and artistic traditions?
Having Celtic roots is by no means a requirement — many people incorporate elements of Celtic culture into their magical practice purely out of a cultural, magical, or even aesthetic appreciation.
Next, it’s important to do as much research as you can. Even if you don’t choose a reconstructionist path, it’s good to understand who the Celts were — warts and all.
While Celtic witchcraft is a beautiful path, it was filtered through the Romantic and Celtic revival periods and therefore somewhat whitewashed. To really appreciate Celtic culture, it’s vital to understand it first.
You will also need to choose your path. If you wish to be a Celtic Wiccan, you should look to see if there are any covens in your area.
Even if they aren’t necessarily Celtic, they can give you an education in basic Wiccan principles and rituals that will allow you to build your own practice.
If you don’t, you still may wish to find witchcraft-based social groups either in your area, or online. This will give you the opportunity to socialize with other witches, talk about your craft, and learn from each other.
Lastly, never stop learning. One key element of Celtic culture is its emphasis on the arts. Between a strong bardic tradition and deities like Brigid, Goddess of smiths and poets, it’s easy to see that the arts were held in high regard.
Celtic witches never rest on their laurels, and always seek to refine their work. Read all of the books you can, even the bad ones. Practice as much as you are able. Understand that perfection is impossible, but the journey to improving is always worthwhile.
The ancient Celts are a very misunderstood people. Many aspects of their culture were lost to the Romans conquest and Christianization of Europe, and much of what remains comes to us through colonizers.
No matter what type of Celtic witchcraft you choose, it can help put you in touch with history, and resurrect ancient folklore, beliefs, and traditions.