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Celtic Symbolism: "Fertility Believes and Rites"

I will draw my attention today on an aspect much related to the Moon himself, "Fertility".

There are some interesting believes and rites to discuss about, a passionate subject as life itself.



Goddesses

Arianrhod was the Welsh goddess of beauty, fertility and reincarnation. She was also known as a sky goddess, Keeper of the Silver Wheel of Stars and her ship carried dead warriors to Emania (Moon-land).

Anu was the Irish goddess of plenty and Mother Earth as well as the deity of cattle, health, fertility, prosperity and comfort.

Feel free to find out more information on my previous related post

Animals

Animals were held in reverence by the Celts because they displayed many of the attributes such as strength, fertility, etc. that the Celts prized.

The Serpent or Snake represents the cyclic nature of life due to the annual shedding ot its skin. It is a phallic symbol, a symbol of the Triple Goddess and of the earth mysteries. It is important to the Druids, and is found on much old Celtic jewelry. Snakes represented the procreative ability of both genders and the mystery of both physical and metaphysical procreation. Druid's were also known as "Adders" and it's possible that the story of St. Patrick ridding Ireland of snakes refers to the Druids.

The Horse was sacred to many Goddesses. They were linked to the night, the moon, myster and magick. Nightmares, a name which is derived from that of the female horse, were thought by the Celts to be brought by a visiting horses Goddess such as Epona or Mare. In most Celtic myths the horses are black or white.

The Stag associated to ‘The Horned One’, Cernunnos is depicted with ram horns or antlers. His most famous depiction is on the Gundestrap cauldron, where he is the main figure and has exaggerated antlers that recall the Scythian stag art. As a god of fertility and wild animals, his nature and name suggest a link to the Hittite Karhuhas.
The antlers of the stag are compared to tree-branches and thus may represent fertility. Since they are shed and re-grown every year, they may also symbolise rejuvenation and rebirth. Cernunnos, the Celtic Horned God, was depicted with the antlers of a stag; he is said to be a god of fertility and plenty, and to be the Lord of the Beasts. According to some, his antlers symbolise a radiation of heavenly light. Images of stags were supposedly used to symbolise Cernunnos in non-human form.

Trees

For centuries, the Celts also embraced another symbol of nature in its ability to produce fertility – the Hazel tree. Celts of ancient times are said to have believed that string together hazelnuts around doorways and in rooms would bring fertility to couples and abundant life to their offspring. Celts believed in the power of nature, and thus trees were seen as symbols of life-giving energy.

Rings produced by Celtic cultures often feature Pine cones. As art, this depiction of nature is effective, but they also represent an icon for fertility because of the similarity in appearance between a pine comb and a woman’s womb.

The habit of adding a sprig of Furze bloom in a bridal bouquet is thought to allude to this, the all-year-round blossom being a symbol of continuous fertility.
According to Pliny the Elder, the Celts considered the Mistletoe as a remedy for barrenness. Because mistletoe cannot grow in earth but has to parasitize a host tree, Celts believed the shrub to be a physical aspect of the tree that held its soul. Mistletoe was believed to be an aphrodisiac--to enhance fertility, an antidote for poisons and as a protection against evil spirits. Mistletoe was ritually cut from an oak tree with a golden sickle by the Druids of Celtic Europe on the sixth night after the winter solstice.
In winter, while all the leaves of the sacred Oak had fallen away, the mistletoe remained green; it was thought to contain the life of the tree.

Sacred Waters and Holly Wells

The sympathetic link between water and fertility led, as one might expect, to a number of wells gaining a reputation for curing childlessness. In Oxford, for example, Child's Well "had vertue to make women that were barren to bring forth children" , while St.Agnes Well at Whitestaunton in Somerset gained fame when Henrietta, the wife of King Charles I, was rumored to have wished for a child there, and became pregnant soon after.

Sculpture

The well, therefore, was viewed as leading into the womb of the earth- mother herself, a concept graphically illustrated by the presence of the Sheela-Na-Gig in the vicinity of some holy wells in Ireland. This female "fertility figure", carved in stone, stands with legs wide apart, holding open her vagina: close by stands the well - it, too, being an orifice from which life springs forth.

The vulva is the main door, the mysterious divide between life and nonlife. For more information on Sheela na Gigs, check out : SheelaNaGig.org


Festivals

Imbolc (an old Irish word) (February 1-2 (also known as the Festival of Lights) was sacred to the fertility goddess. The goddess usually associated with Imbolc was Brigid (Bridget, Brighid, Bringindo, Brigantia, Brigandu, Bride,) she is the Irish goddess of agriculture, fire, healing, inspiration, learning divination, occult knowledge, poetry, prophecy and smithcraft. The Celts often referred to her as a triple goddess Imbolc placed emphasis on the quickening of the year, the strengthening of Light that was beginning to pierce the winter’s bleakness and associated with the coming into milk of the ewes.

Beltaine, May 1 was to honor the god Bel (Belenus, Belinos, Beli Mawr). He was a god of life and death, cattle, crops, fire, healing, hot springs and prosperity and the festival was seen as a purification. It was a way of visualizing the Great Father who impregnates the Great Mother. The May Eve/May Day festival celebrated fertility and fire. This festival was also to encourage the sun in its annual cycle and to persuade it to return from its seasonal death.

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