The Three Cauldrons: Celtic Myth and Spiritual Wisdom

Historically based study and exploration of Celtic religion, mythology, folklore, and shamanism.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Síthearan NicLeòid

Síthearan NicLeòid

Born on the eve of Lugnasad, your guide and ban-fili is a published author, teacher, and Celtic singer and musician. She trained in Celtic Studies through Harvard University, and has taught Celtic mythology and folklore at the university level. Her research in Celtic myth and religion has been presented at the University of Edinburgh, University College Cork, and the Ford Foundation Lectures.


She has served as Faculty at the Celtic Institute of North America and the Omega Institute, and her books include 'Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief' (McFarland), 'The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe' (McFarland), and 'Queen of the Night' (Weiser).


Currently she is Director of the Eolas ar Senchas research project, with grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Scottish Clans Association of Canada to research ancient Celtic music and ritual. Her previous group, The Moors, has cult status in the pagan world. She leads workshops and distance training programs, with new books, CD's and research on the way.

     In previous posts, we discussed places within the earthly realms which were seen as portals to the Celtic Otherworld. We have also begun an initial discussion of the names and attributes of the inhabitants of the Otherworld. In this post we will explore the nature and appearance of the Otherworld realms, as they are described in early Irish literature.

     We have some inkling of how the Continental Celts may have viewed the Otherworld in terms of where the souls of the dead were believed to travel. The graves of noble or important people were richly outfitted with clothes and jewelry, food and drink, tools and weapons, and even chariots - either for passage into the next life or for use therein. Classical reports state that the Celts appeared to have believed in the immortality of the soul, that our spirits inhabit another body after this one. 

...
Last modified on

In previous posts, we explored the cosmology of the Celts and the concept of Sacred Reciprocity. In traditional cultures, it is understood that human beings live in relationship with many other beings - plants, animals, birds, fish, insects, and features of the natural landscape. In addition, what appears to the modern mindset as 'empty space' is in fact often filled with other beings more difficult to see or identify. This is the realm of the gods and spirits, who may inhabit cosmic realms like the sky, ocean and underworld, or whose domain may be part of the world they share with us.

In western materialist culture, acknowledging, perceiving or discussing this traditional perception of reality is grounds for being labeled delusional or even insane. However, as modern physics is beginning to understand (and catch up with ancient wisdom), there is a great deal going on in the 'empty spaces' around us. Indeed, in some scientific models, what we perceive in our world can only be explained scientifically and mathematically if there are a number of other planes of existence. I have to admit I often picture a group of indigenous shamans sitting around the fire and having a jolly laugh as they watch the struggles of scientists to finally figure out what they have known for millennia!

...
Last modified on

Last New Moon, we explored the spirit-filled world of the polytheistic Celtic-speaking tribes. Of course, this is the same spirit-filled world we inhabit today, whether we currently live in one of the modern Celtic nations or are the far-flung biological or spiritual descendants of the ancient Celts, living in many other countries around the world. The call of these ancient traditions runs deep, as attested by the more than 22,000 people who viewed The Three Cauldrons blog last month!

Think about it... all of those people, on some level, are your tribe. In the wake of the industrial revolution and the information age, we enjoy many conveniences, but also suffer tremendously from a lack of connection. We hunger for community, tribe, elders, and connection with nature and spirit. This hunger for connection boils down to one word: Relationship. Why else are we on the internet looking for like-minded souls? Seeking peers, friends and colleagues, looking for common ground, support and inspiration, we reach out into the etheric web, and are sometimes rewarded with connection.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In some of the earlier posts we began an exploration of key questions like 'What is a Celt?' and 'How do we know what we think we know?' No doubt we will return to these themes as we go along, but for now, let's delve into some primal thinking about what it may have meant to 'be living as' a Pagan Celt, and how that world view is relevant in this day and age.

From the evidence of archaeology and native writing, it is clear that for many (if not all) of the ancient Celts, their religion was polytheistic (having many gods and goddesses) and probably also animistic (perceiving the living presence of the divine in the natural world). This cultural tradition is important to keep in mind if people are promoting divergent views, such as claiming the Celts worshipped 'The Goddess' (a resonant but quite modern path) or the Wiccan 'Lord and Lady.' (ditto)

...
Last modified on

One of my favourite Irish myths of all time has to be 'Cormac's Adventures in the Land of Promise.' In the story, the Otherworld goes to great lengths to get Cormac's attention, eventually luring him (or guiding him) into an Otherworld encounter. At one point he is shown a vision of a fountain with five streams flowing from it. The god Mannanàn mac Lir explains that what he is seeing is the Fountain of Knowledge, and the five streams are the senses through which knowledge is obtained. He adds that the 'Folk of Many Arts' are those who drink from both the streams (the senses) and the fountain (the source of knowledge).

In modern paganism, we enjoy the freedom to 'drink up' through the wonders of the senses, through time spent in nature, ritual, study, exploration and song. Drinking at the Source, however, can be a little tricker. How can we know if the things we are doing, sensing and experiencing are 'Celtic' or 'personal,' if the beliefs and concepts we are discussing are Celtic or from some other path (new or old), and if the ways in which we are expressing our inner experiences are in fact 'Celtic' at all?

...
Last modified on

In our society, we feel more and more the disconnection with those things that are meaningful and which truly nourish us... nature, spirit, community, wisdom traditions, and a sense of belonging. For some, connecting with the ways and wisdom of the ancestors is an important way of remembering who we are, and of reconnecting with the wisdom we once knew. But beyond an Irish grandmother or connection to a Scottish clan, those connections can seem tenuous... in place of a strong remembered lineage, it can be very easy to fill the gap with modern ideas or projections, no matter how sincere those may be.

A quick google search for 'Celtic wisdom' or 'Celtic paganism' and the like reveals a remarkable array of websites all professing to be a direct line to 'the' ancient Celtic knowledge... regardless of the fact that the information presented directly contradicts the other sites (as well as historical evidence), or that the vast majority is a blend of medieval (male upper class dominated) non-Celtic magic, Victorian perceptions of pan-European folklore, and modern occult and NeoPagan traditions. Apparently by paying for a two year program in Celtic shamanism (4-6 weekend meetings) one becomes qualified to start one's own website and proclaim oneself ready to transmit an entire ancient tradition.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Welcome to The Three Cauldrons, where we will explore the historical background, authentic indigenous sources, and modern application of ancient wisdom associated with the Celtic-speaking peoples. The name was chosen because of its multi-faceted symbolism, reflected in an early Irish wisdom text that scholars refer to as ‘The Cauldron of Poesy.’ In actual fact, the text is untitled, and although it occurs in a fairly late manuscript, the language of the text shows that its origins are quite early. What are the three cauldrons, and what is it that they represent?

The cauldrons are described in a text associated with the training of the Irish poet-seers, who were known as the filid (pronounced FILL-idh, the ‘dh’ is the ‘th’ sound in ‘other’; singular form fili, ‘FILL-ih’). Their name comes from a root word meaning to see; the same root occurs in the English word ‘surveillance’ (middle syllable). This learned group came into being in the sixth century, and were trained in Ireland until the early 1600’s and in Scotland until around 1750. They are believed to have preserved some of the knowledge and functions of the druids; more about these fascinating people later…

...
Last modified on

Additional information