I grew up in a family that was tremendously proud of its European immigrant roots, which included a large proportion of Irish ancestors. As a child, I had a tremendous love of fantasy and fairy tales, especially when I discovered that my quite ordinary first name was in fact a variant of the name of a legendary queen — Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur. And although I was raised far away from ancestral haunts, I grew up convinced that the woods of upstate New York were as magical as those of Ireland. I believed that the fairy-folk had traveled with us, remaining just out of sight in the woods surrounding us. In a sense, I was sharing the same communion with the natural world that was a way of life to my distant ancestors.
Eventually, I discovered that my appreciation for nature and my love of fairy stories were more closely connected than I ever thought possible and that the characters in the stories I read were based on the exploits of the ancient Celtic gods and heroes, then real “fairy-folk.”
The Celts emerged as a recognizable people thousands of years ago. They were brilliant poets, skilled artisans, adept farmers, and fierce warriors. But because of their reliance on oral tradition, they left no written record to tell of their accomplishments. Until recent times, this left the historical Celts with no voice with which to defend themselves from the history recorded by their political and religious enemies, who portrayed them as bloodthirsty, intemperate barbarians. Their Roman and Greek observers admired their skills in war but viewed Celts on the whole as largely violent, crass, and drunken. Likewise, the Christian missionaries who set out to convert druidic Celts were convinced that the whole of druid spirituality was violent sacrifice and superstitious omens.
Having little or no knowledge of the Celtic languages, these recorders were almost completely unaware of the complex and deeply spiritual oral traditions of the Celtic bards and druids. Archaeological evidence has gone a very long way toward establishment of an accurate depiction of the Celts, who represent one of Europe's greatest civilizations. Celtic artifacts, coupled with the very few firsthand accounts of Celtic life and religion, paint a picture of a rich culture of wealth, intelligence, and above all, spiritual accomplishment.
Celtic religion prized wisdom and study, but also focused on the liminal — Celtic belief focused on the threshold between man and the divine, using complex symbolism to express a doctrine of transformation, interconnectedness, and communion with the natural world. This spiritual wellspring runs so deeply in the hearts of the Celts that it has survived for thousands of years, creating a spirituality that is uniquely distinguished and crosses religious boundaries, inspiring both Christianity and paganism.