Snippets about Celtic Saints
A FEW SNIPPETS ABOUT CHRISTIAN CELTIC BELIEFS AND LEGENDS:
- THIN PLACES: these were special places where the veil between heaven and earth was permeable.
- They were influenced heavily by the desert fathers of Egypt and Syria and their monasticism. Drawn to the edges of the world: cliffs, islands, coasts, boundaries. They were drawn to strange ‘otherly’ places. Seeking spiritual purity.
- ISLES OF SCILLY: Historian Doble claims that the easternmost Isles of Scilly were inhabited entirely by monks and hermits in Celtic times.
- JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: brought Jesus to Cornwall whilst buying tin. Some Celtic crosses do depict Jesus as a young boy and it’s possible he did come and maybe even landed at Fowey.
- GIANTS: There are legends of saints fighting and overcoming giants at Looe Island, St Michael’s Mount and Bedruthan, as well as the Trencom giant and his friend Cormoran who lived on St Michael’s Mount. In the legend where there’s giants there’s also buried treasure.
- CELTIC CROSSES: Tregaminion Chapel Menabilly has Celtic crosses outside it. One was found in the stones of the footbridge at Milltown. They are dotted right across the Cornish and Irish countryside.
- WATER was believed to be sacred – streams, springs, rivers. These were also gathering places around wells where village gossip was shared and the gospel was preached, as well as miracles performed. Full immersion for healing and baptism occurred at the wells too. Some have a stone pool for such purposes.
- CELTIC MONASTERIES: These were often temporary structures made of wattle and daub huts on a stone base. They were grouped around a central tree or church eg Skellig Michael N Ireland. Columba described them as colonies of heaven. Known for hospitality, solace, healing, prayer, study, and art. Ian Bradley called them a combination of commune, retreat house, seat of education, learning, mission station, hotel, school, hospital, university, arts centre (knot work, clothing, pottery, metal work, woodwork, masonry), powerhouse for the community, source of spiritual energy, hospitality, learning, cultural enlightenment, a stopping off place for travellers and a place of respite.
· Some RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL CENTRES
1 LLANCAFARN Wales: associated with Cadoc and Brendon. Malo trained here
2 LLANILLTUD FACH, Wales: Llantwit Major, led by Illtud
3 LLANDOUGH, Cornwall led by Drocco
4 GLENDALOUGH, Ireland led by Kevin
5 CLONMACNOISE, Ireland founded by Kieran
6 LINDISFARNE, Northumberland founded by Cuthbert
7 IONA, Scotland founded by Columba
- GENERAL BELIEFS of Celtic Saints: They loved ‘thin places’ such as cliffs, hill tops, woods and streams and were in harmony with the natural world of creation. They believed in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They were pioneers in travel, education, and the arts. They travelled across seas in rudderless coracles.
- WHITE MARTYRDOM: They left home and family and were open to God’s leading. They travelled solo or 2-3 at a time. They didn’t expect to return home.
- CLOTHES: They wore a monk’s habit of skin or woven material, with a sewn hood. They carried a staff, a pack which hung from their shoulders which carried a store of food, cup, book of prayer and sometimes their altar stone.
- HABITS: They begged food and shelter, stopped by pools and streams. They were renowned for miracles and healings. They were giants in faith. Some lived in communities such as Glendalough or Clonmacnoise in Ireland. Others travelled as ‘peregrinus’ to evangelise and share the gospel. Whilst some retreated to very isolated places such as remote islands and lived as hermits. Cuthbert from Lindisfarne and Kevin from Glendalough both did this at times.