Adbertos: Literally means “sacrifice,” coming from a very old word hailing from the British Isles and Brittany from Celtic Gaul. Adbertos, in the Celtic religious view rather than in its English counterpart, was a positive idea signified by the giving to others, the clan, and the larger community as well as the deities. The giving or receiving of sacrifice was seen as being inherent in every living moment.
Adept: An individual who through serious study and accomplishments is considered highly proficient in a particular magickal system.
Aileach (AW-loch or EE-loch): A ruined fortress in Ulster supposedly built by the Tuatha De Danann.
Akasha: The fifth element of spirit that is an omnipresent power which permeates the universe. It is the energy from which the elements are formed.
Alba: A name once used for Scotland.
Albion: Believed to be derived from the Latin word, albus, meaning “white.” It is an old Greco-Celtic name for Britain, still used today in poetic forms. The Latin word Britannia replaced Albion in common usage.
Amulet: A natural object which is charged with positive energy to repel negative energy. Amulets consist of stones and fossils, and are not be confused with talismans, which are of man made materials.
Anglesey: An island off the north coast of Wales. In history, it was known as Ynys Mon, a major Druidic seat of power at the peak of Celtic dominion in Britain.
Annwfn (AWN-noon): Sometimes called Avalon in English. A synonym for the Welsh Otherworld.
Archetype: Used most often in pathworking. Universal symbols which are defined as standard prototypes. Archetypical symbols are subconscious images that form our dreams, the power of our deities, and allows all forms of divination to be possible.
Ard-Ri: Also spelled Ard-Righ and Ard-Ridh. An Irish or Scottish High King.
Armor: Meaning “on the sea,” this is the original Celtic name for Brittany.
Armorica: The Latin name for Brittany.
Aspect: The part of the Creative Life Force which one works with at any given point. The Goddess, for instance, has three aspects: Virgin, Mother, and Crone. Brid is a Mother aspect of the Goddess; Lugh is an aspect of the God.
Asperger: A bundle of fresh herbs or a perforated object used to sprinkle water during or preceding a ritual for purification purposes.
Astrology: The study of the stars and planets and their movements as well as their affects on the lives and behavior of human beings.
Athame (ATH-aah-may): The ritual knife associated with the element of air and the direction of east. Originally the athame was black-handled, but modern Pagans sometimes seek knives with hilts of wood. It is used to direct personal power during ritual workings, but seldom used for actual, physical cutting. The term is of obscure origins, with a variety of spellings and pronunciations. In Ireland, it is referred to as the scian.
Autumn Equinox: See Mabon.
Avalon: See Annwfn.
Balefire: The traditional communal bonfire of the Sabbats. The name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word boon, meaning “gift.” The modern word bonfire is synonymous with balefire, but has no magickal significance. Balefires are traditionally employed in Yule, Bealtaine, and Midsummer celebrations.
Bane: That which destroys life, which is poisonous, destructive, evil, or dangerous.
Bards: The bards (bardoi) were a class of Druids who carried oral traditions through song. They were poets and singers. These songs, called cetel in Ireland and lay in Brittany, could be used as magickal spells to both curse and bless.
Besom (BEE-sum): An old English word, sometimes pronounced in the Gaelic fashion, BAYSH-um. The broom of the witch. It is used to sweep sacred areas, ground a circle, or to brush away negative influences. In history, they were often mounted and “ridden” through fields during fertility rites. European folklore has witches riding their brooms through the sky, which could be interpreted as being an explanation for astral projection.
Bodhran (BAOW-rahn): A goat skin drum used in Celtic music.
Bolline: Comparable to the athame, this is the white-handled knife that is used for practical magickal purposes, such as cutting herbs. It is customary to use only this blade for cutting herbs once used for the first time.
Book of Shadows: Also called “Book of Lights and Shadows.” It is a spell book, diary, and ritual guide used by a solitary practitioner or a coven. It is said that the name came about when witches were forced to hide their work from church authorities, and others say it stems from the fact that an unworked spell or ritual is only a shadow, not taking form until it is performed.
Brehon: Called Breithamhain in Old Irish. Druid judges of the old Celtic world whose decisions were held in very high revere.
The Brehon Laws: The code which governed old Ireland. “Even in retrospect the Brehon Laws are very fair, indicate a well-educated and thoughtful people, and its equitable system of land division based on clans helped prevent the installation of the English feudal land system after their invasion,” says Edain McCoy’s Celtic Myth and Magick. (See Laws of Hywel Dda.)
Breiz (Braise): The native name of the Breton’s Celtic language, called Brezonek.
Bretagne (bra-TAhG-na): The French name for Brittany.
Breton: The name applied to people from Brittany.
Britain the Greater: A Celtic term referring to the British Isles.
Britain the Lesser: A Celtic term referring to Brittany.
Brownie: A dwarf-type house faerie from rural Scotland. The brownie does good deeds for the house’s family and helps to protect the dwelling.
Brythonic: A Celtic language group; can refer to the Pagan traditions of Wales, Cornwall, and England.
Brugh (broo or burr): The small grassy hills of Ireland, Scotland, and Man where the faeries live.
The Burning Times: The time from the start of the Spanish Inquisition through the last outbursts of persecution and witch killings. The last known capital sentence in the West was in Scotland. Figures vary from fifty thousand to as many as nine million on how many were killed.
Cailleach (CAWL-y’ahc): Literally means “old woman,” but is often a term used derogatorily except in Pagan circles, where it is used for a witch. At one time it was most likely used to refer to the Crone Goddess.
Cairn: The stone burial mounds used by the Celts, honored at Mabon. Cairns were so sacred that a particular breed of dog was developed to guard them, the Cairn Terrier (an example of which is Toto in The Wizard of Oz).
Caledonia: The old Roman name for Scotland, still used in practical ways today.
Carmina Gadelica (Car-MEEN-ah Gaw-DEL-ee-cah): A collection of Gaelic lyric poetry and lore of Pagan emphasis, collected by Alexander Carmichael in the late nineteenth century from oral tradition. It is a primary source of knowledge about Celtic folk magick. It compares in scope and worth to the famous Carmina Burana.
Cauldron: A primal Goddess image used like a chalice or cup. It was commonly used in Celtic traditions because it was practical. It could be used for magick and then used to fix supper, for example. In myth and folklore, the cauldron symbolizes the Mother’s womb. The Tuatha De Danann constructed a life-renewing cauldron in which dead bodies were placed to be brought back to life.
Ceilidh (KAY-lee): Literally means “visit.” A Scottish or Irish dance.
Celtic Games: Friendly, albeit rough, competition at Celtic gatherings, often at festivals, some of which are still played today. These were taken very seriously, and sometimes high stakes such as kingdoms and lovers were put on the line. Some of these games still exist, such as chess and brandubh, and several field games, such as hockey, got their origin from the Celtic Games.
Celtic Lands: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. Before the Celts’ migration, they had scattered kingdoms in Europe and the Middle East, such as Gaul, Galatia (central Turkey), Galacia (northwestern Spain), Gallia Cisalpina (between the Alps and Apennine mountain chains of Italy), and several settlements in the modern countries of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and southern France.
Censer: A heat-proof container in which incense is smoldered.
Ceol (kyole): Scottish and Irish Gaelic word for music.
Chaplet: A crown for the head usually made of flowers and worn at Bealtaine.
Charging: The act of empowering an herb, stone, or other magickal object with one’s own energies to aid a magickal goal. It is synonymous with empowering and enchanting.
Circle: The sacred space where all magick is to be worked and all ritual contained. It contains raised energy and provides protection for the practitioner.
Clan: The extended family system of the Celts. Clans were originally designated through a female ancestor, but by the third century CE clans were designated through a male ancestor. The clan raised children, had an internal justice system, provided education, and formed armies for mutual protection.
Clas Myrddin: An ancient name for Britain which literally means “Merlin’s Enclosure.”
Coibche: An Irish word for dowry.
The Collective Unconscious: Synonymous with “deep mind” and “higher self.” A term used to describe the sentient connection of living things, both past and present. It is believed to be the energy source that contains all human knowledge and experience which is tapped during divination.
Coming of Age: The ritual taking place at age thirteen for boys and whenever a girl begins her menstrual cycle. The Celts saw this as a time when the child became an adult and was capable of joining in religious rituals and covens. It is celebrated through parties and rituals, a time at which ritual tools are gifted to the young adult.
Cone of Power: The cone of energy which is released at the end of a ritual. The power is released when the cone reaches its peak. Dancing deosil while chanting or singing is the most commonly used way to raise the cone of power.
Conscious Mind: The part of the brain we have access to during normal day to day activity. It holds retrievable memory and easy to recall information.
Corn Dolly: A figure the Celts used in fertility rites, most often at Bealtaine. It was a doll shaped out by plaiting dried wheat or other grains. Some Pagan traditions still use the corn dolly in fertility rituals today.
Corpus Callosum: The connecting tissues which join the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Cosmology: The study of nature and the origin of the universe and creation.
Coven: A group of witches who worship and work together. It may contain any number of witches, male and female, but the traditional number of members is thirteen, reflecting the solar calendar.
The Craft: A generic term describing witchcraft. This name is not often used among Pagans, as it tends to have trendy connotations due to the movie that was titled thus.
Cromach (CROW-mawk): A Scottish walking stick with a crooked handle.
Crone: The aspect of the Goddess representing old age and wisdom. She is symbolized by the waning moon, the carrion crow, the cauldron, and the color black. Sabbats in which to worship her are Mabon and Samhain.
Cross-Quarter Days: A name sometimes applied to those Sabbats which do not fall on an equinox or solstice.
Crossroads: The point where two roads intersect to form an X. In folklore, the Celtic Goddess Epona, envisioned as a white centaur, was said to appear there for those who would come to invoke her aid.
Cumdach: A lavishly decorated shrine most often used for a resting place of sacred books.
Cyfarwydd: The Welsh word for a storyteller. Oral tradition was an integral part of the old Celtic world, and the cyfarwydd were largely responsible for passing along oral tradition. Its Irish and Scottish counterpart is seanachai.
Cymraeg: Coming from the word cymru meaning Wales, it is the Welsh word for their language.
Cywydd (K’EE-oo’eth): A Welsh artform of poetry that was difficult to master. It dominated Welsh writing until the eighteenth century, and was studied in the bardic schools.
Dirk: The ritual knife of the Scottish tradition.
Divination: The act of predicting the future by reading potentials currently in motion. Divination can be done through scrying, meditation, astral projection, with cards, stones, et cetera. The most popular forms are tarot, runes, pendulums, scrying, and the controversial Ouija Board®.
Divine Power: The unmanifested, pure energy that exists within the Goddess and God.
Dolmen: The standing stones of Celtic countries which are shaped like altars with one large capstone being held in place by two endstones.
Druids: Thought to come from the Greek drus, meaning oak, but most likely comes from the old Indo-European word dru which means “steadfast” or “forthright.” The precise role of the Druids is still unknown. It is known that they were the Celts’ priest class, consisting of magicians and writers, poets and royal advisors. Their power flourished from the second century BCE to the second century CE. They are credited with the creation of the Celtic Tree Calendar, communicating with faeries, and possessing powerful divination skills which required living sacrifices. Eventually they insisted that only men be Druids, which paved the way for the Roman church’s victory over the British Isles.
Duality: When used as a religious term, this denotes the separation of two opposites and places those characteristics into two God forms. For example, good and evil, as characterized by the Christian God and Devil.
Dun (doon): A Gaelic word literally meaning “enclosure” or “shut in.” It was used in mythology when referring to a home or stronghold of a deity or heroic figure. Remnants of these can be found all over the British Isles, and are thought to be occupied by faerie folk.
Earth Plane: A metaphor for consciousness.
The Elements: The four alchemical elements once thought to make up the entire universe. These are earth, air, fire, and water, plus the invisible yet omnipresent element of spirit. Every Pagan tradition has these elements corresponding to different cardinal directions, tools, and correspondences.
Ellan Vannin: The Manx name for the Isle of Man.
Eric: A quest of honor similar to the geise.
Familiar: A witch’s coworker who is not human. Animals are most commonly the witch’s familiar, such as the ever popular image of the witch’s cat. Familiars can also be spirits, spirit guides, or elementals. It is not mandatory to have a familiar.
Faerie: See Sith and Sidhe.
Fili (FEE-l’eah): An Old Irish word translating to “poet” or “bard.” This is a specific division of Druidic practice (not a word for Druid).
Fir Fer (FEAR-fair): The rules which governed Celtic battle, meaning fair play.
Folklore: The traditional sayings, cures, fairy tales, and folk wisdom of a particular area which is separate from their mythology.
The Four Cities of the Tuatha: The four cities of the Tuatha De Danann: Gorias, Falias, Findias, and Murias. These cities have been the subject of many uninformed interpretations in the past.
Gaeltacht (GAUL-toch): A term denoting an area where the language and customs of a Celtic people are still preserved.
Geimhreadh (g’yim-ray-ah): Means “winter;” one of the two recognized Celtic seasons. It begins at Samhain.
Geise (gaysh; gaysh-uh plural): An obligation which bound someone to do or not do something. It was a sacred bond with magickal and divine ties. To break it brought horrible misfortune and even death, usually inflicted by the deity in which the geise was made.
The Golden Statute: The first known law enacting religious freedom, enacted in Ireland in late Celtic times.
The Great Rite: Also known as the sacred marriage. The symbolic sexual union of the Goddess and God, most often enacted at Bealtaine.
Grimoire (greem-WARR): A book of magickal spells and rituals, similar to the Book of Shadows.
Grounding: To disperse excess energy generated during any ritual or occult rite by sending it into the earth. It can also mean the process of centering one’s self in the physical world both before and after any ritual or astral experience.
Gwlad Yr Haf: A name for the Welsh Otherworld. It translates as “The Land of Summer” and is the origin of the name of the Wiccan Otherworld: Summerland.
Handfasting: Pagan marriage, traditionally enacted for a given period of time, renewed only if both parties agree. It is most commonly enacted for a period of a year and a day.
Herbalism: The act of using herbs to facilitate human needs both magickally and medicinally.
Hibernia/Ivernia: The old Roman name for Ireland, still used poetically.
Laws of Hywel Dda: Named for the tenth century king of Wales, this is the Welsh legal system equivalent to the Brehon Laws of Ireland.
Imbolg (em-bowl’g): A festival observed on February 2nd which honors the marriage of the Virgin Goddess to the Sun God.
Initation: The process by which an individual is admitted into a coven, interest, skill, or religion.
Invisibility Spells: A synonym for astral projection.
Isle of Iona: A center of Druidic teaching in the Hebrides Islands off the west coast of Scotland.
Kabbalah: The mystical teachings stemming from the Jewish-Gnostic tradition upon which both ceremonial magick and the Alexandrian Pagan traditions base their practice.
Keltoi: The ancient Greek name for the Celts.
Kernewek: The native name for the Cornish language.
Kernow: The Cornish name for Cornwall.
Korrigans: A sea faerie from Brittany and Cornwall, which appeared as blonde females who lured human mates into their watery depths.
Labrys: A ritual tool representing the Goddess originating in Crete. Some Pagans still use this today for the same purpose.
Law of Responsibility: A law meaning that one must not inadvertently violate someone’s free will or harm them in any way, and that if one does so, they must accept responsibility for their actions and seek to make restitution.
Leprechaun (LEP-ri-kawn): A treasure-hoarding, hard-drinking, Irish dwarf.
Lia Fail (lia-ah FAWL): “The Stone of Destiny” which was used in crowning High Kings of Ireland. Many regard it as the Irish equivalent of Excalibur in Arthurian myths.
Libation: A portion of food or drink given ritually to a deity, nature spirit, or disincarnate.
Litha: See Midsummer.
Magick: This word is spelled with a “k” to differentiate between the magic of stage illusions. The best definition of magick was invented by Aleister Crowley: “Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity to will.”
Megaliths: The large standing stones of the British Isles which were probably erected as astronomical observation points or holy sites. Stonehenge on England’s Salisbury Plain is probably the most well known.
Menhirs: The standing stones of Celtic countries which are single stones or a circular series of stones. Brittany is famous for its menhirs.
Monotheism: The belief in one supreme deity that has no other aspects. Judaism and Islam are both monotheistic.
Music Magick: Also called a Song Spell. A spell created in song, which is a popular Celtic method of spell casting often used in myths.
Myth Cycles: The body of lore about any land or people which makes up their mythology.
Mythographer: Someone who collects and records myths.
Mythologist: Someone who studies mythology.
Neo-Pagan: Name applied to the various Pagan movements of the mid twentieth century after the repeal of the British anti-witchcraft laws.
The New Religion: A Pagan term used to refer to Christianity or sometimes any other non-Pagan religion.
Nine: A Celtic sacred number which represents the beginning and ending of all things.
Norse Tradition: The Pagan traditions from Scandinavia, which includes the beliefs and practices of the early Vikings and Lapps. Nordic invaders were a strong influence on the Pagan practices of Ireland and Scotland.
Ogham: The ancient alphabet of the Celtic people, consisting of a series of marks in relation to a center line. It is used today for sacred writings and divination.
Old Religion: A name sometimes used for Paganism, particularly Celtic.
Ostara (O-star-ah): The Sabbat observed at the Vernal Equinox, celebrating balance and life renewed. It is named for the Teutonic Goddess Eostre and is symbolized by the egg.
The Pagan Rede: The basic tenet of witchcraft: “As ye harm none, do what thou will.” The Rede prohibits Pagans from harming any other living thing or from violating anyone’s free will.
Pantheism: The belief in many deities who are really joined one, all as aspects of a supreme life source. Paganism is pantheistic.
Pantheon: The major deities in any religious system which make up the supreme life source.
Pentacle: A pentagram surrounded by a circle and carved on a circlet of wood or other natural object. The pentacle is used in some covens to represent the element of earth. It is often embellished with carvings of significance to the witch or coven which owns it.
Pentagram: A five-pointed star which has come to symbolize western Paganism. Always seen with its apex pointed upwards, it is an ancient symbol of multiple meanings. It can represent the four elements plus the omnipresent spirit, or a human with its arms and legs spread-eagled to represent mind over matter. Satanic cults often take the pentagram and invert it to signify matter over spirit.
Picts: A small, dark people who came to Scotland and northern Ireland before 2000 BCE.
Pobel Vean: The Cornish name for the faerie folk.
Polarity: The belief that everything has two sides within it that are not wholly separate. For example, we can draw both good or evil from our Gods, for they are both contained within the God and Goddess.
Polytheism: The belief in the existence of many deities which are not even remotely related to each other and are completely individual. Paganism is not polytheistic, for we believe every aspect of our God and Goddess come together as one, which makes us pantheistic.
Reincarnation: A basic tenet of Paganism. This is the belief that the souls of human beings return to the earth in a different form after death. Celtic Paganism supports reincarnation, but without the ideas of karma.
Sabbat: Any of the eight solar festivals celebrated in the Celtic Wheel of the Year. The word comes from the Greek word sabatu, meaning “to rest.” All Sabbats begin at sundown the night before the date prescribed.
Sacra: The name used for Ireland by Phoenician explorers of the sixth century.
Samhain (SOW-in, SOW-een, or SAV-awn): The Sabbat celebrated on October 31st. This is the beginning of the Celtic new year, and the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. It celebrates the Crone Goddess and the dying God.
Samhradh (SAV-rah or SOW-rah): Meaning “summer” in Irish Gaelic, this is the recognized season of summer in the Celtic seasons. It begins at Bealtaine.
Saxon Tradition: A Germanic tradition practiced by the people of Saxony.
Scota: An old name for Ireland taken from the name Scota, a Mother Goddess.
Scourge: A small device made from leather or hemp, resembling a whip, which is used in flagellation rites.
Scrying: To gaze at or into an object (such as a mirror or still-water pool) in order to still the conscious mind and utilize the psychic mind. This allows the scryer to divine possible events that might happen in the future. A form of divination.
Shaman (SHAY-men): The word Shaman comes from an extinct Ural-Altaic language called Tungus. They are the priests and medicine men of old tribal societies. Shamans (Shamankas in the feminine form) practiced in every known culture, many of which are still active today.
Shamrock: A green, trifolaiate clover. In its rare form of four leaves, it represents the four elements and is thought to bring the finder luck.
Shillelagh (shuh-LAY-lee): The magickal tool corresponding with the staff, made of blackthorn wood.
Sith and Sidhe (shee): Also Daonie Sidhe and sidh. This literally means “faerie.” This name is generically applied to all faerie tribes of Ireland and Scotland. Other names for them are the Little People, the Wee Folk, the Gentry, and Them That Prowl.
Skyclad: Ritual nudity.
Snakes: Symbols of reincarnation.
Spell: A magickal ritual designed for the specific purpose of banishing, gaining, exorcising, or changing one particular thing or condition.
Subconscious Mind: This is sometimes referred to as the Super Conscious Mind. That part of the mind which is below the normal waking levels of consciousness. It symbolizes dreams, symbolic knowledge, and the most minute details of every experience ever had by a person.
Thistle: The principal symbol of Scotland, like the shamrock is of Ireland.
The Threefold Blessing: The Celtic custom in which the Triple Goddess blesses the feet, womb/genital area, and head.
The Threefold Law: The only karmic principal of Celtic Paganism. The Threefold Law states that any energy released comes back to the practitioner three times over, no matter if it is positive or negative energy.
Tirn Aill (TEERN eel): Literally means "Other Land." It's another name for Tir-na-nog.
Touta: A clan which was really a small chiefdom. Sometimes this word is used in place of coven in Druidic circles. It differs from a clan because those who meet regularly in a touta do not have to be related in any way.
Tradition: The branch of Paganism followed by any individual or coven. There are hundreds of traditions, most drawn along ethnic of cultural lines. The word is synonymous with path. Witta is an example of a tradition of Paganism.
Transmigration: A Druidic belief that the life essence of a living thing passes immediately from their old vessel (body, if you will) into a new lifeform after their physical death. It is a belief on reincarnation.
Triplicity: A word used to indicate a divine threesome which is really a being with three faces. The primary example of such an occurrence is the Triple Goddess. Triplicity is most often found among the Celts.
Triscale: Also known as Triskele. A Celtic symbol utilized by the Druids to represent the sacred number three. It was a circle with three equal spaced divisions separated with swirling lines with radiate out from the center.
Tuatha De Danann (TOO-ah day THAY-nann, or DAWN-un, or DAY-nun): Literally, "The People of the Goddess Dana." A divine race of people that were one of the invader races of Ireland in the Irish myth cycles. The Cauldron of Abundance was one of their treasures.
Wake: An Irish Passing Over ritual still used among the Irish, regardless of their religious affiliations. Families would hold a wake over a deceased loved one, for in the older days, a doctor could occasionally pronounce a person dead when they were not. Wakes were held for these cases, to make sure that the person was indeed dead.
Warlock: A derogatory word that literally means "oathbreaker." This word does not have any association with Paganism, despite the fact that it is often misused in reference to male witches.
The Wheel of the Year: An image of the eternal cycle of time. In Pagan mythology the Goddess turns the Wheel of the Year, bringing everything to its season. It is symbolized by a wreath, a ring, an eight-spoked wheel, or a snake biting its own tail.
Widdershins: The opposite of deosil. A word from the Teutonic Tradition. It means to go backwards, and is the act of moving, walking, or dancing counter clockwise in order to banish, diminish or counter negative energy.
Yule: The Sabbat which is celebrated at the Winter Solstice. It celebrates the return of the Sun God to the earth. Most of its traditions come from the Roman Pagan holiday, Saturnalia.