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Did the Celtic Druids Worship the Darkness? — Part II

Did the Celtic Druids Worship the Darkness? — Part II

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher concludes the answer to the question: Did the Celtic druids worship the darkness? Specifically, did they worship spiritual darkness?

The Role of the Celtic Druids

Last time, we looked at the role of druids in ancient, Celtic society—how they were the keepers of the law, the judges, the healers, and the mediators between the clan and the spirit world.

We looked at the animistic world they lived in, where spirits lived in every tree, rock, stream, waterfall, cave, and mountain. We mentioned the “little people”, an invisible race of  sprites whose habitats one must be careful never to disturb, lest they curse your cattle, children, or your household with casualty or illness. And we also looked at a sampling of Celtic gods,  most of which would give anyone nightmares. Finally, we discussed how a people living beside such a spirit world reacted. They lived in constant fear of offending a multiplicity of gods, spirits, and demons.

Their “worship” consisted of appeasing as many of the spirits and gods that inhabited their world as possible. These were gods whose anger, capricious nature, and untrustworthiness everyone feared. One misstep, one breaking of a taboo, could bring ruin on one’s clan and family.

Did the Celtic Druids Worship Spiritual Darkness?

Back to our original question: Did the druids worship spiritual darkness? Did they worship that which was evil?

When St. Patrick came to Ireland in AD 432, he brought a message of love, hope, and salvation. The ancient Irish heard what he taught and recognized at once he spoke the truth. There is only one God, not the many deities with which the druids bedeviled them—one God who created the universe and all that was in it; one God whose nature was peace, joy, kindness, forgiveness, and love; one God who was infinite and eternal, who knows all things, is everywhere, and who is all-powerful; one God who is three persons in One Being; one God who loves so much that he sent his only Son into the world—as a man, yet still God—to live as a man, to work as a man, and to die as a human being, so that those who believed in Him would have eternal life.

Yes, the Irish listened and, for the most part, quickly abandoned the false gods of the druids. Before Patrick, the people lived in spiritual darkness. Afterward, they embraced the truth, and they realized that the God of the Bible was the only God. All other gods were false. To worship them was to deny that the one Creator, the one God, was the true God. And to worship anything that was not God is, by its nature, evil.

The True Spirit World

Patrick also brought them knowledge of the true spirit world, for the Creator God also created spiritual realms. The true spirit world is divided into two camps. In one camp is God, the Creator of all things, the heavenly realms, and his angelic beings in Heaven. And in the other are Satan and his demons, banished from Heaven. Satan was once one of the angels. But because of his pride and  disobedience, the Lord of Heaven and Earth banished Satan and his angelic followers from Heaven. These former angels became demons, and are now working against God’s interests. When this world ends, Satan and his demons are promised a new, eternal home in the lake of fire, along with all who have rejected Jesus as God’s Son. Satan is fighting with all his might against that prospect. But because he is a created being, his doom is certain.

And that, not the world of the druids, is the context for the real spirit world.

Sacrificing Children—Anyone, Really—is Evil

So when the druids sacrificed a child to Crom Cruach, that kind of worship was pure evil. They were giving homage, not to God, but to a worthless idol. And Satan, seeing the peoples’ embrace of this evil, would have hardened their hearts, sent his demons to continue the practice, and rejoiced. In the real spirit world—invisible to our eyes, but real nonetheless—Satan is fighting God in a battle for the hearts and souls of men.

Worship of anything other than the one true God is, by definition, false worship. And such worship will lead one to an afterlife in Hell. And that, my friends, is evil. So did the druids worship the darkness and evil?

In the battle of darkness versus light, the druids tried unsuccessfully to poison St. Patrick. They tried to sway the kings they advised not to listen to him. Because when Patrick brought people the truth, within a generation or so, the rule of the druids was over.

Mark is the author of The Bonfires of Beltane, a novel of Christian historical fiction set in ancient, Celtic Ireland in AD 432. Click on the link to learn more about his book.

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Did the Celtic Druids Worship the Darkness — Part I?

Did the Celtic Druids Worship the Darkness — Part I?

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher addresses the question: Did the Celtic druids worship the darkness?

It’s an interesting and provocative question. Modern-day pagans would bristle at the suggestion that the druids worshiped evil. But then they’re following in the druids’ footsteps, aren’t they? So naturally, they would object.

The question goes to the root of a person’s world-view. What kind of worship is evil and what is not? What kind of worship is true and what is false?

The Role of the Celtic Druids

Let’s start by looking again at this question, briefly: What was the role of druids in ancient, Celtic society? Druids were a major player in the clan’s hierarchy. It’s likely that the clan’s local king, or Rí Tuath, sought the druids’ advice or even deferred to them in many, if not most, decisions. The druids were the keepers of the law and the ones who passed judgment for crimes committed against the clan. They also held the ancient knowledge of healing, passed down from druid to druid by word of mouth, for it was taboo to write anything down. All knowledge must be memorized. Like many ancient cultures, Celtic society held to an oral tradition.

The druids were also the mediators between the people and a panoply of ancient gods and spirits. And this is where we come to our question. The ancient Celts lived close to the natural world, and like many such peoples, they were animistic. They believed that trees, waterways, caves, forests, mountains, etc… were inhabited by spirits, sprites, and demons. They believed in leprechauns, called “the little people”, whose invisible comings and goings could cause harm if  a person inadvertently offended them. If you disturbed the habit of such sprites, perhaps by cutting down their favorite tree or building a pasture on their meeting place, they might visit harm on your cattle or bring illness to your children.

Celtic Theology

The druids also developed a theology based on a multiplicity of gods—polytheism. The list of Celtic deities is legion, numbering in the hundreds. (See my posts on the Celtic Otherworld.)

There was Balor, a demonic one-eyed god of death and evil. As one after another of his eyelids opened up, his victims would experience increasing levels of heat until they burned up.

There was Crom Cruach, the sun god, before whom the druids at Killycluggin sacrificed children. Archaeological evidence attests to this. (This features prominently in my novel, The Bonfires of Beltane.)

Let’s not forget the Morrigan, one of the original members of the Tuatha de Danann, the mythical race of deities that made Ireland their home in the distant past. She’s a shape-shifter, changing from a ravishing woman to a crow to a hag. Badb, a warrior goddess, and Nemain, another battle goddess, are her sisters. The Morrigan is the military mother goddess.

Manannán mac Lir is the Irish sea god and god of the Underworld. Sea monsters and storms inhabit his realm, and he sometimes has affairs with mortals.

We’ve only covered a tiny handful of Irish deities. These were not benign, easily worshiped gods that inhabited the Celtic spiritual realms. Even looking at their statuettes and figurines in the archaeological evidence would give anyone nightmares.

Appeasing a Panoply of Gods

A people saddled with animism and polytheism is a people living in constant fear, never knowing which god, spirit, or demon they might offend next. Appeasement was key. And to appease all these deities, the people had to make constant sacrifices, leaving bits of food or drink in secret offering places in the forest, often under little piles of rocks. The ancient druids also sacrificed people, sometimes even children, to their ancient gods. For who knew what calamity might befall the clan if the spirits were offended and not satisfied with one’s sacrifices?

This, my friends, was the state of worship in ancient, Celtic culture. You can see where we’re going. But I must leave it to next time to finish the answer to our question: Did the druids worship the darkness?

Mark is the author of The Bonfires of Beltane, a novel of Christian historical fiction set in ancient, Celtic Ireland at the time of St. Patrick. To learn more about his book, click on the link.


Adrift in Alien Worlds: The Spec-Fiction Writer, the Casino, and the Celt

Adrift in Alien Worlds: The Spec-Fiction Writer, the Casino, and the Celt

In this post, Christian author Mark Fisher, having spent the week at a writer’s conference in the Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada, departs from his usual subject. In a roundabout, rather paranoid manner, he compares the bizarre world of a modern, mega casino with the far simpler worlds-realm of the Celts.

I’ve been spending the week adrift in an alien culture so far removed from anything I know, I feel I’ve been transported to a different planet. I’m in the Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada, at a gathering of like-minded writers of Christian speculative fiction. That’s science fiction and fantasy, folks. Yes, a Christian writer’s conference in a casino.

The Writer of Speculative Fiction–Already a Bit Weird, No?

Already we’re a different lot, we spec-fiction writers. Who else sits up half the night dreaming up worlds that never existed, putting our characters in places they don’t want to be, and then dragging our unsuspecting readers into our carefully ordered, but chaotic and dangerous universes? Right off the mark, we’re different from our families, friends, and neighbors. And because we Christians insist on putting God and his Son somewhere in our stories, we’re even more the outcasts.

So here we are, already a bit weird, and now we find ourselves in this casino in Reno, Nevada, surely one of the biggest gambling establishments on the planet. But I could be wrong about that. Remember, this is not my world.

The Machines Await

The Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada

The glass-enclosed elevator ride down from the nineteenth floor presents a stunning view of blue-green, snow-capped mountains. Outside is the earth. But then I arrive on the first floor of planet casino. It’s simply one massive amusement park for adults—its own world, really, and a big one. At seat after seat, row after row, people sit at machines, punching, pressing, slapping, hitting, and swiping at colored numbers and digital buttons. Everywhere as I walk, the flashing of red, blue, yellow, green, white, and purple lights hits my eyes. The machines fill the air with their beeps, their music and whirring and tinkling. If gambling is your thing, this is your place.

The Machines Have a Plot

On the second floor, children are standing, jumping, and sitting at large, child-sized video games that do not randomly and frugally dispense monetary rewards. I believe this is a plot. Somehow, the upstairs machines are learning to train the children of the adults below, so that when these youngsters grow up, they, too, will devote themselves to the machines’ downstairs cousins. For down the stairs lies the machines’ true goal of world domination.

They’re Mesmerized, Hypnotized

On the first floor, a middle-aged Chinese man, a cigarette dangling between two fingers, sits and stares at a video poker machine. I think he was there this morning. And possibly yesterday evening. And maybe the day before that. Is that the same, endless cigarette? Has he won anything?

A couple sit side-by-side, punching the slots. Tattoos decorate both their arms. One of the woman’s arms presents the smiling face of a woman etched on flesh. When her arms move, the tattooed cheeks also move. She keeps hitting the screen. Her husband sips his beer and hits his own screen. But the payoff is elusive. The couple doesn’t seem to care. They keep on punching.

An old man well past retirement wearing a wide, floppy, red hat walks with a cane and plops himself before another flashing, beeping device, beside other retired folks, some in wheelchairs. He’ll be there for the evening.

A young woman in short pants, tattoos crawling up her legs and down her arms, sits by the sidelines in an easy chair, drinking wine, resting from a long and fruitless battle with her own personal nemesis. Her machine is so close to a payoff. She just knows it is. But the thing has a grudge and is withholding what she’s owed. In a few moments, she’s going back at it. I can tell. Once–was it yesterday?–she might have won ten dollars. So the big win must be just around the corner. How could it not be?

Intermittent reinforcement, say the psychologists, is the strongest kind.

The Matador

Another man approaches his slot device with his own, unique style. He stares at his blinking antagonist with the narrowed eyes of a matador. His hand rises in slow motion, as if he holds an imaginary sword. This time, he thinks, this bull has met its match. Through sheer force of will, and perhaps skill, he’s going to make it happen. Perhaps if he sneaks up on it, the machine will forget who, here, is in charge and just die. His hand falls slowly, so slowly I stop to watch, fascinated. The hand nears its target button. The fingers punch for the kill. He has style, I’ll give him that. The lights whir, the screen changes, but again, no payoff. This time, as every time before it, the bull wins. But then the hand rises again.

Drinks sit beside nearly everyone. Beer. Wine. Cocktails. I even have one in my hand. How did it get there, I wonder? The waitress stops and asks a grizzled, rough-looking dude in a cut-off tee-shirt what he wants. He orders another beer and returns to his flashing, whirring, grinding companion with a look of concentration. If it doesn’t pay off soon, maybe he’ll punch out her lights?

People fill other entire rooms, sitting at tables before short monitors playing Keno. I don’t want to know how the game works. They’re going to lose. There’s too much cigarette smoke. And everyone seems mesmerized.

Espionage, Thwarted

I accidentally try to walk through the area reserved for blackjack tables. “No, sir. You must go around,” says the serious, uniformed woman guarding the half-moon tables with her life. I could be a spy. Or someone in the know, someone who might cheat and win. Only the house can cheat so it always wins. That’s in the rules somewhere. So I go around.

Tonight, the dice and roulette tables are also full. It’s the weekend and people are desperate to lose their money.

World Domination?

I wend my way through more and more people, room after room, until I’m lost. This place is  so big, I’m always lost. Maybe that’s the plan. Then a terrible thought grips me. The machines have hypnotized all the people. They’ve lost their wills—every last one of them. They used to be normal neighbors and friends. But now they’re mesmerized, punching and pressing and staring at all the colored lights in a never-ending, repetitive dance that has no point, that will never end, that can only lead to total, world-wide disaster.

The machines know a secret no one else seems to know. Tonight, folks—actually, yesterday, today, and tomorrow night, and on and on, forever—it was, and is, and will be a losing game. Once in a rare while a single, devious device decides to spit out a few coins—they’re really paper slips. The other machines wink to themselves and smile. Because it’s all part of the master plan. It’s all to encourage another stunned, hapless, hypnotized victim. Eventually, the machines will have fooled everyone.

In the end, they’re going to have all our money. They’ve already made rooms and rooms full of zombies, and who knows where it will stop? For the last few hours, I’ve even had this compulsion to go downstairs and sit before one. Its name is “Road Warrior”. Its lights are beautiful. And it’s been calling me. After they take over this casino, they’ll learn how to walk, take over the banks, and then it will be on to politics. Could they be marching up the stairs to my room even now?

Ah, But the Celts!

But wait!—This blog is supposed to be about the Celts.

So how different is the ancient world from all this! A man spent his days in the field, out in the wind, under the sky, in the heat of the sun, herding cattle or sheep. Or he’d go hunting, spear in hand, his companions at his side, singing a hunting song, searching the dirt for signs of his quarry. His game didn’t beep, or flash, or whir, or steal his coin. He didn’t even have coin yet. His goal was meat in the pot. His goal squealed or squawked or grunted, and then it sprinted or flew or swam for its life. The hunter would track it down, spear it, and kill it. Sometimes, the quarry had tusks or horns or teeth, and it would fight back. But the hunter was practiced, and he almost always won. Then he and his jovial companions, tired from the day’s exertions, would carry their prize back to the village. Soon, there’d be pork roasting on the spit, or venison dropping into the stew pot, joining cabbage, turnips, and onions. There might also be bread, butter, and honey. And to finish off the day—a mug of ale and blessed sleep on the furs, rest for tired bones.

Oh, how far we’ve strayed! How different our worlds have become! Can we ever go back?

Tomorrow, I’ll be back in planet Minnesota. Next week life will return to normal. Then let’s look at the question: Did the druids worship the darkness?