Celticsprite’s Blog

Celtic Symbolism : The Celtic Hounds
July 8, 2011, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism
The Celtic hounds were dogs well respected by royalty and warriors. They were given as gifts to men of honour and many warriors and chiefs took the name as a title to show their loyalty and courage.

Many argue Celtic hounds to be either the Greyhound, Scottish Deerhound, Irish Wolfhound or even a mix of all these breeds.

This enclosed design is based on the similar from Folio 29r of the “Book of Kells”.

Just look in the upper right and you will see the circled hounds, a zoomorphic design much related to a “triskell” the triple spiral is an ancient Celtic symbol related to the sun, afterlife and reincarnation.

Celtic Hounds can be found in celtic jewelry designs and paintings as far back as the 17th century. Celtic Hounds symbolize hunting, healing, and the Otherworld in Celtic legends. Hounds were the traditional guardian animals of roads and crossways and are believed to protect and guide lost souls in the Otherworld.

Irish Filidh (seers) chewed the meat of a dog in a ritual to gain prophetic vision. To be called “hound” was an honorable nickname for a courageous warrior; the name of the god Cuchulain is literally “Hound of Culann;” violating a geas (sacred taboo) on the eating of dogflesh leads to the hero’s death.

The mother of the god Lugh, in whose honor the Lughnassa festival was celebrated, was killed while in the form of a small dog.

In Legends

Many Irish myths and legends include mentions of hounds. The most famous involves the Celtic hero Cuchulainn (The Hound of Ulster) or (The Hound of Culann) who killed a blacksmith’s Celtic hound with his bare hands. When Culann, the blacksmith asked who would now guard his shop the young Cuchulainn offered to take the dog’s place thus gaining himself the title of ‘The hound of Culann’. The offer was turned down and Cuchulainn went on to become one of the greatest warrior legends of that era, but the nickname stuck. Other famous Irish hounds were Bran and Seolan who belonged to the warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill. The mother of Bran and Sceolan was Tuiren, and was Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s aunt, transformed into a hound by a fairy or Sidhe.

You can hear an audio podcast of one version of Bran’s first adventures with Fionn Mac Cumhaill at http://www.podcasts.ie/armchair-ireland/myths-legends/

The Story of Mac Da Tho’s Pig is very singular too, centered on a rivalry started for a spectacular hound, Ailbe, belonging to Mac Da Tho, and a champion’s boasting match that develops between those of both sides in regards to the Champion’s Portion of the giant pig, hence the title.

In Welsh mythology, Gwyn ap Nudd was the ruler of Annwn (the Underworld) and escorted the souls of the dead there, leading a pack of supernatural hounds, called the Cŵn Annwn (Hounds of Annwn) (see also Wild Hunt). Another well known Welsh legend is that of Prince Llewellyn ‘s hound Gelert, who was unjustly slain by his master after being wrongly thought to have killed a child.


The Irish Wolfhound was used to hunt Wolves and Deer, but they were also used as war dogs to attack men on horseback and knock them from their saddles to be killed by others. The Deerhound being more placid was a somewhat reluctant wardog and was more used for the hunting of Deer. The Greyhound being lighter and smaller was more suited to the hunting of hares and small mammals. These Celtic hounds were often called the Irish Greyhound and the Scottish or Rough Hound and had many other names according to area.

Another breed of dog the “Galgo Español” is also though to be a descended of the Celtic hound as is the Austrian black and tan hound and the Tyrolean Hound.

"The Rhyddion Chronicles" by Jenny Dolfen
July 7, 2011, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Celtic Harp, Memorable Data
It was a few days after joining the wondrous deviantART community, I got acquainted by chance of this gorgeous watercolour of a harpist with a wired strung medieval Irish harp.

Without hesitation I set my way to know more about the artist responsible of such cute work. It was Jenny Dolfen, a teacher/illustrator from Germany, currently living near Aachen (close to the Dutch/Belgian border).

She has done artwork for several role-playing games, such as Fuller Flippers’ Quest Cards, Action Studios’ Realms of Wonder, Final Sword Productions’ The World of Erien and the German Das Schwarze Auge.[1]

She is also known for her fan art based on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien (chiefly The Silmarillion) and George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire).

Here’s a brief bio in her own words:

“I was born in Bremerhaven on the North Sea but left in 1994 to study English and Latin in Cologne. During my studies, I worked in England for a year, as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school in Shropshire before marrying and settling here in Western Germany. I never actually aimed for a career in illustration, only did it so often and for so long that, at one time, I went pro. It sort of happened. Nothing planned. I’ve been doing illustrations for RPGs, card games, and loads of personal character art since 2003.

Her inspiration: Fantasy literature, Role-playing. Artists (in chronological order): Ilon Wikland, Edwin Biukovic, Enrico Marini, Todd Lockwood, Alan Lee.

She kindly allowed me to share with you her work ,which actually is part of a captivating project for a novel book: “The Rhyddion Chronicles”; hereby her comments:

“The Rhyddion Chronicles” (working title)

It is a novel I’ve been working on since 2001. It’s seen several incarnations and rewrites, but here’s the outset:
Set in an alternate mediaeval Wales, the “Rhyddion Chronicles” tell the story of Aedan Cameron, a bastard with minor magical talents, and that of his family in the middle of a war. The historical side is loosely based on the English/Welsh freedom wars that ended in 1282, and its latest incarnation is influenced by the Mabinogion, the Welsh legends.

Now I share with you the corresponding passage for this plate (all rights reserved by the author):

“The sword and the harp,” said Dafydd. “The true bard must wield both. And where would one be without the other?” “The sword can live without the harp,” Aedan said. “Can it? The harp cannot live without the sword, no. Of what would it sing, if not of the struggle of princes, the blood and dust of battle? But the reverse is just as true. The monk that sits in dusty, ill-lit scriptoriums, faithfully entrusting his histories to rolls of parchment, what, in the end, does he do? He only produces more dust as those faithfully recorded histories crumble and are forgotten. The harp that fills the halls and the hearts, that takes the dust and blood of battles and turns it into glory – that is immortality.”

The “Harp and Sword” Watercolour

Hereby Jenny gives us in detail more background about this specific plate

Inspiration: “The Mabinogion” illustrated by Alan Lee. This man is awe-inspiring. And plain inspiring. Very loose reference (moved further and further away from it when I incorporated the harp): [link] from *SenshiStock Harp loosely referenced from the 15th century harp of Brian Boru [link] (probably not accurate for the time I’m writing about, but what the heck, it looked so damn cool). Watercolour, pencil. Harp strings touched up in Photoshop.

External links

Suggested Albums: Nolwenn Leroy – "Brettone" -2010-
July 6, 2011, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Suggested Albums
Nolwenn Le Magueresse (aka: Nolwenn Leroy) released “Bretonne”her fourth studio album, on December 6, 2010. Most of the songs are associated with Britain, the birthplace of the singer, four of them sung in Breton. John Kelly collaborated with the musical arrangements. The album topped the French charts for 7 weeks.

“Brittany Finistère … … I see myself as a small fragment of rock, a small stone attached to its wild coastline, separated by contrary winds and violence, a piece of granite that has resisted and maintained at the bottom
of memory, rock songs, songs of the sea “

Born and on September 28, 1982 in the Breton village of Saint Renan, spent many years torn between the music and a career in law. After winning the second series of the “Star Academy”reality show, chose the former, thus making a place for herself as one of the leading young French “chanteuse” of her generation.

With this new album “Bretonne” , she invites us to rediscover the most songs of his native Brittany. A home that was preparing for several years. It brings together songs included in the collective memory of sounds mixing pop and traditional instruments. A very personal album, beyond modern styles and timelessness.

Recorded in London with producer Jon Kelly (who had worked with Kate Bush and Tori Amos), chose a selection of classic Breton as “jument of Michae” by Tri Yann and “Martolod Tri” was made popular by Alan Stivell. But it has also chosen some of the more recent titles like “Le Lann-Bihoué Bagad” Alain Souchon and “Brest” by Miossec (who also wrote the album just for her original song, “Je ne serai jamais ta Parisienne”) – . Nolwen sings in French, Breton and Gaelic on this album, accompanied on Violin – John McCluster in Accordion – Eddie Hession, Guitar, Bouzouki – John Parricelli, and the acclaimed Mike McGoldrick on flute and Irish bagpipes – English,Scottish and Irish musicians, give thus through soul songs of yesterday and today, this land so beloved, which is Celtic Brittany.

With 200,000 copies sold. Recognition encouraged her to prepare a tour for spring 2011.


Ecouter "Tri martolod" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "La jument de michao" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Suite sudarmoricaine" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Greensleeves" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Brest" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Bro gozh va zadoù" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Mna na h-eireann" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Ma bretagne quand elle pleut" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Je ne serai jamais ta parisienne" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Karantez vro" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Le bagad de lann-bihoué" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Dans les prisons de nantes" (Nolwenn Leroy)
Ecouter "Rentrer en bretagne" (Nolwenn Leroy)


2003 Nolwenn
2005 Histoires Naturelles
2009 Le Moi et Cheshire Cat
2010 Bretonne

Official Site: http://www.nolwenn.org/

Celtic Cookery : Gwledd y Cybydd (The Miser’s Feast)
July 4, 2011, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Celtic Cookery
Gwledd y Cybydd (The Miser’s Feast) is a traditional Welsh recipe for a classic, frugal supper of potatoes, onions and bacon rashers boiled together until tender. The full recipe is presented here and I hope you enjoy this classic Welsh version of: The Miser’s Feast (Gwledd y Cybydd).

Original Recipe

Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/cym/fetch-recipe.php?rid=gwledd-y-cybydd
Copyright © celtnet


665g potatoes, peeled and sliced
225g onions, peeled and sliced
450g bacon rashers, sliced salt and black pepper, to taste


Place the potatoes and onions in a pan of lightly-salted water and bring to the boil. Once the mixture is boiling add the bacon pieces and season with pepper. Reduce the mixture to a simmer, cover and cook for about 100 minutes. Drain and serve hot.

A variant of this dish, includes Eggs + Back Bacon + Potatoes + Onions + Garlic


  • ½ tsp. Olive Oil
  • 3 small Potatoes (sliced into smallish pieces)
  • ½ to ¾ cup Back Bacon (sliced into smallish pieces)
  • 1 small Onion (diced)
  • 1 tsp. Crushed Garlic
  • 3 Large Eggs

Coat a medium frying pan with the olive oil and add the potatoes. Cook the potatoes over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes–until they begin getting soft. As the potatoes are cooking, stir and flip them fairly frequently. Add the back bacon, onions, and garlic; cook for another 5 or so minutes, continuing to stir and flip the ingredients. Add the eggs and keep on the heat, while continuing to stir and flip, until the eggs are cooked through.

All rights reserved by the authors.

Loreena Mc Kennitt : Forthcoming Appearences
July 4, 2011, 1:00 pm
Filed under: Loreena McKennitt

Keynote speech for folk conference

Loreena has been invited to deliver the keynote address Saturday, Oct. 15 during the 2011 Ontario Council of Folk Festivals Conference in Niagara Falls.

Over 900 delegates will attend the biggest folk conference in Canada, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. The three-day event is open to industry professionals, part-time volunteers and the general public, and promises to celebrate folk music in all its forms while providing new artists with opportunities for community networking and professional development.

Loreena performing at awards gala

The seventh annual Canadian Folk Music Awards will be held on Sunday, December 4, 2011 at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto and Loreena will be a featured performer. Awards will be presented in 19 categories throughout the evening, hosted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Shelagh Rogers and Benoit Bourque of Quebec’s folk super group, La Bottine Souriante.

About the Canadian Folk Music Awards

The mission of the Canadian Folk Music Awards is to celebrate and promote Canadian Folk Music in all its forms. Until their creation in 2005, there existed no awards to celebrate the breadth and depth of folk music in Canada. Awards such as the Junos, East Coast Music Awards or the Western Canada Music Awards have a few categories that apply to folk and roots music but they offer only a restricted view of the genre. The judging process is similar to that of the two-stage elimination model used by the Junos via a randomly selected jury drawn from our community.

Please contact them if you are interested in becoming involved: http://folkawards.ca/contact

Source: SPRING & SUMMER 2011 Official Press

Druidry: The Practice of Magic
July 1, 2011, 7:03 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Druidry

Posted from the book “The Religion of the Ancient Celts” – By J. A. MacCulloch – [1911] – (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!)

This book, is one of the best scholarly treatments of the ancient Celtic religion. Written early in the 20th Century, “Religion of the Ancient Celts” includes extensive treatment of that perennially fascinating subject, the Druids.

The Celts, like all other races, were devoted to magical practices, many of which could be used by any one, though, on the whole, they were in the hands of the Druids, who in many aspects were little higher than the shamans of barbaric tribes.

But similar magical rites were also attributed to the gods, and it is probably for this reason that the Tuatha Dé Danann and many of the divinities who appear in the Mabinogion are described as magicians.

Kings are also spoken of as wizards, perhaps a reminiscence of the powers of the priest king. But since many of the primitive cults had been in the hands of women, and as these cults implied a large use of magic, they may have been the earliest wielders of magic, though, with increasing civilisation, men took their place as magicians.

Still side by side with the magic-wielding Druids, there were classes of women who also dealt in magic, as we have seen. Their powers were feared, even by S. Patrick, who classes the “spells of women” along with those of Druids, and, in a mythic tale, by the father of Connla, who, when the youth was fascinated by a goddess, feared that he would be taken by the “spells of women” (brichta ban).

In other tales women perform all such magical actions as are elsewhere ascribed to Druids. And after the Druids had passed away precisely similar actions–power over the weather, the use of incantations and amulets, shape-shifting and invisibility, etc.–were, and still are in remote Celtic regions, ascribed to witches.

Much of the Druidic art, however, was also supposed to be possessed by saints and clerics, both in the past and in recent times. But women remained as magicians when the Druids had disappeared, partly because of female conservatism, partly because, even in pagan times, they had worked more or less secretly. At last the Church proscribed them and persecuted them.

Each clan, tribe, or kingdom had its Druids, who, in time of war, assisted their hosts by magic art. This is reflected back upon the groups of the mythological cycle, each of which has its Druids who play no small part in the battles fought. Though Pliny recognises the Priestly functions of the Druids, he associates them largely with magic, and applies the name magus to them.

In Irish ecclesiastical literature, drui is used as the translation of magus, e.g. in the case of the Egyptian magicians, while magi is used in Latin lives of saints as the equivalent of the vernacular druides.

In the sagas and in popular tales Druidecht, “Druidism,” stands for “magic,” and slat an draoichta, “rod of Druidism,” is a magic wand. The Tuatha Dé Danann were said to have learned “Druidism” from the four great master Druids of the region whence they had come to Ireland, and even now, in popular tales, they are often called “Druids” or “Danann Druids.” Thus in Ireland at least there is clear evidence of the great magical power claimed by Druids.

That power was exercised to a great extent over the elements, some of which Druids claimed to have created. Thus the Druid Cathbad covered the plain over which Deirdre was escaping with “a great-waved sea.” Druids also produced blinding snow-storms, or changed day into night-feats ascribed to them even in the Lives of Saints. Or they discharge “shower-clouds of fire” on the opposing hosts, as in the case of the Druid Mag Ruith, who made a magic fire, and flying upwards towards it, turned it upon the enemy, whose Druid in vain tried to divert it.

When the Druids of Cormac dried up all the waters in the land, another Druid shot an arrow, and where it fell there issued a torrent of water. The Druid Mathgen boasted of being able to throw mountains on the enemy, and frequently Druids made trees or stones appear as armed men, dismaying the opposing host in this way. They could also fill the air with the clash of battle, or with the dread cries of eldritch things. Similar powers are ascribed to other persons. The daughters of Calatin raised themselves aloft on an enchanted wind, and discovered Cúchulainn when he was hidden away by Cathbad. Later they produced a magic mist to discomfit the hero. Such mists occur frequently in the sagas, and in one of them the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland. The priestesses of Sena could rouse sea and wind by their enchantments, and, later, Celtic witches have claimed the same power.

In folk-survivals the practice of rain-making is connected with sacred springs, and even now in rural France processions to shrines, usually connected with a holy well, are common in time of drought.

Another custom was that a virgin should clean out a sacred well, and formerly she had to be nude. Nudity also forms part of an old ritual used in Gaul. In time of drought the girls of the village followed the youngest virgin in a state of nudity to seek the herb belinuntia. This she uprooted, and was then led to a river and there asperged by the others. In this case the asperging imitated the falling rain, and was meant to produce it automatically. While some of these rites suggest the use of magic by the folk themselves, in others the presence of the Christian priest points to the fact that, formerly, a Druid was necessary as the rain producer. In some cases the priest has inherited through long ages the rain-making or tempest-quelling powers of the pagan priesthood, and is often besought to exercise them.

Causing invisibility by means of a spell called feth fiada, which made a person unseen or hid him in a magic mist, was also used by the Druids as well as by Christian saints. S. Patrick’s hymn, called Fâed Fiada, was sung by him when his enemies lay in wait, and caused a glamour in them. The incantation itself, fith-fath, is still remembered in Highland glens. In the case of S. Patrick he and his followers appeared as deer, and this power of shape-shifting was wielded both by Druids and women. The Druid Fer Fidail carried off a maiden by taking the form of a woman, and another Druid deceived Cúchulainn by taking the form of the fair Niamh.

Other Druids are said to have been able to take any shape that pleased them.These powers were reflected back upon the gods and mythical personages like Taliesin or Amairgen, who appear in many forms.

The priestesses of Sena could assume the form of animals, and an Irish Circe in the Rennes Dindsenchas called Dalb the Rough changed three men and their wives into swine by her spells. This power of transforming others is often described in the sagas. The children of Lir were changed to swans by their cruel stepmother; Saar, the mother of Oisin, became a fawn through the power of the Druid Fear Doirche when she rejected his love; and similarly Tuirrenn, mother of Oisin’s hounds, was transformed into a stag-hound by the fairy mistress of her husband Iollann.

In other instances in the sagas, women appear as birds. These transformation tales may be connected with totemism, for when this institution is decaying the current belief in shape-shifting is often made use of to explain descent from animals or the tabu against eating certain animals. In some of these Irish shape-shifting tales we find this tabu referred to. Thus, when the children of Lir were turned into swans, it was proclaimed that no one should kill a swan. The reason of an existing tabu seemed to be sufficiently explained when it was told that certain human beings had become swans. It is not impossible that the Druids made use of hypnotic suggestion to persuade others that they had assumed another form, as Red Indian shamans have been known to do, or even hallucinated others into the belief that their own form had been changed.

By a “drink of oblivion” Druids and other persons could make one forget even the most dearly beloved. Thus Cúchulainn was made to forget Fand, and his wife Emer to forget her jealousy. This is a reminiscence of potent drinks brewed from herbs which caused hallucinations, e.g. that of the change of shape. In other cases they were of a narcotic nature and caused a deep sleep, an instance being the draught given by Grainne to Fionn and his men. Again, the “Druidic sleep” is suggestive of hypnotism, practised in distant ages and also by present-day savages. When Bodb suspected his daughter of lying he cast her into a “Druidic sleep,” in which she revealed her wickedness. In other cases spells are cast upon persons so that they are hallucinated, or are rendered motionless, or, “by the sleight of hand of soothsayers,” maidens lose their chastity without knowing it.

These point to knowledge of hypnotic methods of suggestion. Or, again, a spectral army is opposed to an enemy’s force to whom it is an hallucinatory appearance–perhaps an exaggeration of natural hypnotic powers.

Druids also made a “hedge,” the airbe druad, round an army, perhaps circumambulating it and saying spells so that the attacking force might not break through. If any one could leap this “hedge,” the spell was broken, but he lost his life. This was done at the battle of Cul Dremne, at which S. Columba was present and aided the heroic leaper with his prayers.

A primitive piece of sympathetic magic used still by savages is recorded in the Rennes Dindsenchas. In this story one man says spells over his spear and hurls it into his opponent’s shadow, so that he falls dead.

Equally primitive is the Druidic “sending” a wisp of straw over which the Druid sang spells and flung it into his victim’s face, so that he became mad. A similar method is used by the Eskimo angekok. All madness was generally ascribed to such a “sending.”

Several of these instances have shown the use of spells, and the Druid was believed to possess powerful incantations to discomfit an enemy or to produce other magical results.

A special posture was adopted–standing on one leg, with one arm outstretched and one eye closed, perhaps to concentrate the force of the spell, but the power lay mainly in the spoken words, as we have seen in discussing Celtic formulæ of prayer. Such spells were also used by the Filid, or poets, since most primitive poetry has a magical aspect. Part of the training of the bard consisted in learning traditional incantations, which, used with due ritual, produced the magic result.

Some of these incantations have already come before our notice, and probably some of the verses which Cæsar says the Druids would not commit to writing were of the nature of spells. The virtue of the spell lay in the spoken formula, usually introducing the name of a god or spirit, later a saint, in order to procure his intervention, through the power inherent in the name.

Other charms recount an effect already produced, and this, through mimetic magic, is supposed to cause its repetition. The earliest written documents bearing upon the paganism of the insular Celts contain an appeal to “the science of Goibniu” to preserve butter, and another, for magical healing, runs, “I admire the healing which Diancecht left in his family, in order to bring health to those he succoured.” These are found in an eighth or ninth century MS., and, with their appeal to pagan gods, were evidently used in Christian times.

Most Druidic magic was accompanied by a spell–transformation, invisibility, power over the elements, and the discovery of hidden persons or things. In other cases spells were used in medicine or for healing wounds. Thus the Tuatha Dé Danann told the Fomorians that they need not oppose them, because their Druids would restore the slain to life, and when Cúchulainn was wounded we hear less of medicines than of incantations used to stanch his blood. In other cases the Druid could remove barrenness by spells.

The survival of the belief in spells among modern Celtic peoples is a convincing proof of their use in pagan times, and throws light upon their nature. In Brittany they are handed down in certain families, and are carefully guarded from the knowledge of others. The names of saints instead of the old gods are found in them, but in some cases diseases are addressed as personal beings. In the Highlands similar charms are found, and are often handed down from male to female, and from female to male. They are also in common use in Ireland. Besides healing diseases, such charms are supposed to cause fertility or bring good luck, or even to transfer the property of others to the reciter, or, in the case of darker magic, to cause death or disease.

In Ireland, sorcerers could “rime either a man or beast to death,” and this recalls the power of satire in the mouth of File or Druid. It raised blotches on the face of the victim, or even caused his death. Among primitive races powerful internal emotion affects the body in curious ways, and in this traditional power of the satire or “rime” we have probably an exaggerated reference to actual fact. In other cases the “curse of satire” affected nature, causing seas and rivers to sink back.

The satires made by the bards of Gaul, referred to by Diodorus, may have been believed to possess similar powers. Contrariwise, the Filid, on uttering an unjust judgment, found their faces covered with blotches.

A magical sleep is often caused by music in the sagas, e.g., by the harp of Dagda, or by the branch carried by visitants from Elysium. Many “fairy” lullabies for producing sleep are even now extant in Ireland and the Highlands. As music forms a part of all primitive religion, its soothing powers would easily be magnified. In orgiastic rites it caused varying emotions until the singer and dancer fell into a deep slumber, and the tales of those who joined in a fairy dance and fell asleep, awaking to find that many years had passed, are mythic extensions of the power of music in such orgiastic cults.

The music of the Filid had similar powers to that of Dagda’s harp, producing laughter, tears, and a delicious slumber, and Celtic folk-tales abound in similar instances of the magic charm of music.