Celtic Mythology and Religious Beliefs Depicted in Dagger’s Destiny
By Linnea Tanner
The fantastical elements in Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2: Curse of Clansmen and Kings) are based on mystical powers of heroes and heroines from the Celtic legends of Ireland and Wales. One of the Celtic beliefs used in the book to explain how some of the magic works—prophecy, shape-shifting, changing the future—is the soul can reincarnate into other living entities. This concept is consistent with the philosophy of the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, who believed the soul can reincarnate into other living entities after death.
Another Celtic tradition that was used in the book is the symbolic joining of the goddess of the land with a mortal king in a fertility rite that confers sovereignty to him. If times turn bad during the reign of a king, Celts could ritually sacrifice him to appease the goddess of his territory.
Below is further discussion of these beliefs and the mythology of the sovereignty goddess.
The Fate of the Soul— Transmigration
Diodorus Siculus, a 1st Century Greek historian, wrote: "The Druids studied the nature of moral philosophy, asserting the human soul is indestructible, and also the universe, but that some time or other, fire and water will prevail.”
Julius Caesar remarked that the belief in the immortal soul accounted for the Celts’ bravery in battle.
The Druids taught souls move between this world and the world of the dead—the Otherworld. Death in the physical world results in a soul moving to the Otherworld, whereas death in the Otherworld brings a soul back to this world. Flavius Philostratus (170-249 AD) observed that Celts celebrated birth with mourning for a death in the Otherworld while they regarded death with joy for the birth in the Otherworld.
The Celtic philosophy is similar to that of the 6th Century BC Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, who believed in the soul's reincarnation or transmigration. The soul, by its actions, determines how it will be reincarnated—in human, animal, or even plant form. A similar philosophy was widely accepted in India where it was believed that due to its karma a soul transmigrates from one life to another in a never-ending cycle which could be broken in Nirvana—a state of supreme bliss which, once achieved, liberates the soul from the repeating circle of death and rebirth.
Interestingly, there has been a lot of debate whether Pythagoras adopted his philosophy from the Celts, or did he influence them? Most likely, the concept of immortal souls evolved in parallel. Not only did the Celts believe the soul is reborn into human bodies from one world to the other, but their literature reveals that souls could migrate through various births from one form to another. In Irish texts, Fintan survives the Deluge by changing into a salmon while, in the Welsh texts, Gwion-Bach reincarnates as a hare, fish, bird, and a grain, which is then swallowed by a chicken before he is eventually reborn as Taliesin.
Death and rebirth is a consistent theme throughout Celtic mythological sagas and tales. The warrior's resurrection can be found in the story of the battle between the Tuatha Dé Danaan and the Fomorii in which bodies cast into magic cauldrons return to life. There is a scene of a god accompanying a group of warriors as he drips one of them in a drinking vessel on the Gundestrup Cauldron. The rest are symbolically carrying a tree – perhaps the crann na beatha or tree of life.
|Gundestrup Cauldron Depicting Reincarnation.|
The inaugural rite of the king described in Dagger’s Destiny is based on Celtic mythology and traditions. The term sovereignty goddess denotes a goddess of the land confers kingship to a mortal man by marrying or having sex with him. The key element of the sacred marriage is the consummation between the mortal king and the goddess of the territory over which he is to rule. The goddess only enters this marriage if she considers the king suitable. After marriage, she can reject a weak ruler in favor of a man who is better suited.
One of the best-known figures in Irish mythology is the queen-goddess of Connacht, Mebd, from the Ulster cycle. A man becomes king of Connacht only by participating in a ritual drunkenness that opens him up to an ecstatic state to contact with the divine. Mebd is sexually active, mating with nine kings. She allows no man to rule at the royal court unless he has had sex with her.
Ritual Sacrifice of Kings
Another depiction in Dagger’s Destiny is the ritual sacrifice of the king. Based on archaeological evidence, the king was sometimes sacrificed to the goddess of the land when times turned bad during his reign. The king had great power, but he also great responsibility to ensure the prosperity of his people. Through his marriage to the goddess of the land, he is meant to guarantee her benevolence and thus ensure the land is productive. If the weather turns bad, or if there is plague, cattle disease, or losses in war, he is held personally responsible. By using a range of methods to kill the king, the ancient Irish sacrificed him to the goddess in all her forms. This manner of the horrible death is unique to the ritual killing of Celtic kings.
1. Peter Berresford Ellis, The Druids; 1995; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.
2. Stephen Allen, Celtic Warrior 300 BC – AD 100; 2001; Osprey Publishing Ltd, New York.
3. John Davies, The Celts: Prehistory to Present Day; 2005; United States: Sterling Publishing Co., New York.
4. Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005, The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
5. Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces—Bollingen Series XVII Third Edition; 2008; Joseph Campbell Foundation; New World Library, Novato.
6. Miranda Green, Celtic Goddesses; 1995; British Museum Press, London.
The rich and vibrant tale continues for Catrin and Marcellus that began with the awarding-winning novel, Apollo’s Raven, in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Book 2: Dagger’s Destiny sweeps you into an epic tale of forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia.
War looms over 24 AD Britannia where rival tribal rulers fight each other for power and the Romans threaten to invade to settle their political differences. King Amren accuses his daughter, Catrin, of treason for aiding her Roman enemy lover, Marcellus. The ultimate punishment is death unless she can redeem herself and prove her loyalty to her father by forsaking Marcellus and defending their kingdom. Forged into a warrior, she must overcome tribulations and make the right decisions on her quest to break the curse that foretells her banished half-brother and the Roman Empire will destroy their kingdom.
Yet, when Catrin reunites with Marcellus, she is torn between her love to him and duty to King Amren. She must face her greatest challenger who could destroy her life, freedom, and humanity.
Will Catrin finally break the ancient prophecy that looms over her kingdom? Will she abandon her forbidden love for Marcellus to win back her father’s trust and love? Can King Amren balance his brutality to maintain power with the love he feels for his daughter?
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Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series, she has extensively researched and travelled to sites described within each book.
A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.