Towering oak trees silohuetted a full moon scudding through
charcoal clouds over the midnight forests of northern Europe. A
broad lake rippled the moon's image. Two crackling fires fed on
sacred oakwood and offerings jetted skyward from square and
round pits set in a spacious rectangle clearing-defined by a
water-filled moat. Surrounding the fires in a designated order
were lean men called druids, sitting erect, eyes closed or
mystically fixed, their long hair-white, blonde, auburn,
brunette-stirred by stiff breezes. They wore white and dark
blue cowled robes. A hundred yards away-mixed with owl hoots
and forest murmurs-their chanting could be heard, a flowing
acoustic river: sonorous, metered, slightly musical with
alliterated phrases. Out on the lake were boats stacked with
huge, gleaming heaps of cauldrons, swords, vases, mirrors,
trumpets, lyres, furniture, jewelry-all wrought of gold, silver
and copper. At the auspicious apogee astronomically calculated
by a druid, the treasure was pushed overboard, sinking like
metallic fish to the bottom. It was a forever gift to Lugus,
the Celt God of Light, perhaps to use as a conduit of
supernatural energy for blessings.
This was a Celt high ceremony, and such treasure
offerings-sometimes representing 25% of a Celt tribe's
economy-have been found by archeologists in lakes, ravines and
votive wells all over Europe. It is one of dozens of mysteries
of a people that are now ghosts of European history, but who
were kindred spirits of the Vedic Hindus in India 3,000 to 1,500
years ago. Like giant mirrors set in the Alps and Himalayas,
the two societies reflected images ranging from cosmology to
The Celts were a complex, spiritual, vivacious, artistic,
business-smart people speaking an Indo-European language much
like Sanskrit , German or Greek, grouped into socially
sophisticated tribes that fanned across Europe 3-4 millennia ago
and leapt to Britain and Ireland-from eire, a Celtic Goddess
overlighting land. Eventually, they even made Turkey their
home, and came very close to turning Rome into a Celtic eire.
The Celts were a handsome people, tall and muscular-no fat
allowed by law. The men sported burly mustaches and elaborate
gold torcs banded their necks. The women wore colorful
chequered skirts, blouses and cloaks. The druids were a
mystical order, trained for 20 years in memory, oration, law,
metaphysics, ritual, magic, meditation, science, medicine. They
roamed like free spiritual stallions among all the Celt tribes,
and annually a grand council of all the druids was held on a
broad hill or deep glen.
The Celts weren't the only Indo-Europeans settling the European
idyll. Balts, Slavs, Germans and Nordics nestled in-all the way
north to the frozen scrags of Iceland. They each radiated a
language, spiritual mindset and culture that tracks that of the
early Vedic. At dawn, Germans daily slipped into cold, sacred
rivers for ablution, chanting and wearing loose-flowing robes
and a topknot in their long hair "so emblematic of the
brahmins." So recorded Tacitus, the adventurer Greek historian.
The Slavs took seven steps around a holy fire in marriage. The
Icelander saga-the Edda-contains creation passages that are
Upanishadic in tone.
Imagine a wide swath from Iceland, Ireland, the European west
coast across southern Russia, the Caucus mountains, through
Afghanistan and into India; that is the common ground for this
unnamed mutual spiritual/cultural system. But there is more.
The early Persians, the Hittites in ancient Turkey, and Greeks
and Romans also spoke Indo-European language branches, and
practiced parallel religions. The European, Asia Minor and
Indian geography was blanketed by peoples speaking shared
languages and following a single, multi-faceted mosaic of
religions. Only Hinduism survived in India, though it mutated,
and was nearly eclipsed by Buddhism. The Celtic religion
survived most apparently in the ancient Irish faith and culture.
Like the Vedas, the extant Old Irish literatures-memorized and
transmitted through a 12-year training by an Irish bard/priest
class who were the inheritors of the druids-are a window into
Celtic thought and lifestyle. Again, like the early Vedas, the
Old Irish sagas and hymns are at times locked in metaphor that
we don't hold the keys to. There are also vast gulfs of
knowledge missing from the Old Irish literature, for the only
existing material is that put into writing-for the first time-by
Irish Christian monks in the 7th century ce. By that time, 700
years of Roman warfare and punitive politics (all the way to
Britain) followed by Holy Roman Church hegemony (including
Ireland) virtually extinguished the flames of the European pagan
religions. What remained was a Europe brightly misted in folk
wisdom and sagas and inlaid with thousands of temple sites, holy
groves and springs, stoneworks, fortresses, towns, cremation and
burial grounds, sacred rivers, mountain eeries, seaside grottoes
and treasure lakes all bearing names, artifacts and wisdom of
the Celtic Gods, druids and culture, and other Indo-European
pantheons. Most of what is considered Christian Europe is
actually pagan Europe. Christmas day (December 25th) was
usurped and inaccurately fixed by Christians from the Roman
festival of Mithra. It came in turn from the Celt festival of
the winter solstice, an astronomical event the druids observed
to set the exact beginning of the new solar year-the same
calculation brahmins made in India.
The connections between Celtism and Vedism are dazzlingly
profuse, but they aren't entirely dead branchings. They arch
right into a hotel in County Kerry, Ireland, where historian
Bryan McMahon plays a telling game with every Indian guest he
meets. He hums some Irish folk music and asks them to complete
the tune however they like. He says almost every time they will
sing it like they already knew the song. "For me that is an
indication that Indians and Irishmen have a common past." A
Celt/ druid renaissance is brewing in Europe and the US.
Part II next month.
Like two rivers cascading from the same mist-shrouded mountain,
Celtic and early Vedic culture share astonishing similarities.
Assembled here, for the first time, is a side-by-side comparison
between the two kindred societies that were congruent in time
and 3,000 miles apart in space. Our knowledge of the Celt
society is rather sparse, and these listed parallels are
probably a small percentage of the full extent of common ground.
1) Celtic cosmology cognizes four interrelating worlds of
existence: netherworld, earth realm; heavenly realm of dead and
demi-gods; white realm of supreme Deities and energy source of
Vedic cosmology perceives three interrelating worlds-physical;
astral world of dead and demi-gods; causal universe of Deities,
Supreme Being and primal energy; plus a fourth netherworld.
2) These worlds further divided into lands and cities occupied
by spirits and disincarnate people of similar character. Time
is slower in these realms.
The three worlds divide into loka habitats of existence,
occupied by spirits and like-minded disincarnate people. Time
is dilated in the lokas.
3) Celtic earth realm is called bitus. Celtic Gods are called
deuos, meaning "shining one."
Vedic earth world is called bhu. Gods of Vedas are invoked as
deva, meaning "shining one."
4) Departed souls dwelled in refined or hellish lands until
their next reincarnation as a human or animal.
At death, souls continue existence in subtle or hellish realms
until entry into the next human or animal body.
5) Celtic priests taught that human souls were indestructible,
but the universe ends and rebuilds through fire and water in a
The universe existence span-called kalpa-ends in a repeating
creation/destruction cycle through fire and water, symbolic of
primal light and sound.
6) Celtic deities included Gods who actualized nature forces,
promulgated ethics, justice, knowledge, speech, arts, crafts,
medicine, harvests, gave war courage and battled forces of
darkness, and Goddesses of land, rivers and motherhood. Gods
often did multiple functions.
The early Vedic pantheon included deities of fire, solar,
atmospheric and nature forces, ritual stimulants, speech,
crafts, arts, harvests, medicine, justice, ethical/ecological
order, war, battlers of malevolent beings, river Goddesses.
Gods often had overlapping functions.
7) Celtic God of thunder was Taranus who carried thunderbolts.
God of fire is Aedh (pronounced uh-ee), meaning fire. The sun
Deity is Sulios. The Celtic word for invocation is gutuater.
Vedic God of rain and thunder was Indra who carried
thunderbolts. Vedic God of fire is Agni, meaning fire. The
solar Being is Surya. The Sanskrit term for invocation is
8) Celtic cosmology conceived of cosmic creation as a primal
Person sacrifice. The Celt term for breath is anal. For soul,
the Celt word is anam.
Vedic cosmology describes cosmic creation as the sacrifice of
Primal Being. The Vedic word for breath is prana. The soul in
the Vedas is atman.
9) The central Celtic ritual was the fire sacrifice, conducted
in geometric pits with offerings of herbs, mead and flour cakes,
conducted by chanting druids, the Celtic priests.
The central Vedic ritual was the fire sacrifice, performed in
geometric pits with offerings of ghee, spices, rice-conducted by
10) Celtic priests were called druids, meaning "knowers of the
tree, or truth." They memorized the entire knowledge of the
Celts and passed it on orally, forbidding written transmission.
They were divided into several classes: seers, judges, royal
advisors, hymn chanters, poet bards, sacrificers. They were
also astronomers, healers and magicians.
The Vedic priesthood-the brahmins-memorized the scriptural and
societal law knowledge of the Hindus, passing it on orally,
forbidding writing. Brahmins formed several divisions
associated with the fire ritual duties. Enlightened brahmins
became rishi seers. Others advised kings and some specialized
in medicine and astronomy/astrology.
11) Druids studied for 20 years in strict discipleship to master
their oral, ritual, law, science and psychic arts.
Brahmins studied for 12 years in a gurukulam to master oral,
ritual, mathematical, astronomical knowledge.
12) Druids memorized extremely lengthy poetic sagas that
communicated spiritual metaphysics and civic laws. The poetic
metre was a fixed syllable line, free form, with 3-part cadence
Bards of the Vedic literature memorized lengthy poetic sagas
conveying spiritual knowledge and dharmic duty. The poetic
metre was a fixed syllable line, free form, with 3-part cadence
13) Druids practiced breathing, posture and meditation
techniques that gave degrees of ecstacy, often accompanied by
intense heat in the body.
Vedic ascetics practiced breathing, posture and meditation
skills in a spiritual unfoldment process called tapas (heat),
generating high body heat.
14) Celtic society was divided into three hierarchical stratas
of life: priests, warriors and producers (inclusive of
merchants). Druids advised warrior-kings known as rix. Upward
progression through classes was possible.
Vedic society divided into four hierarchical castes: priests,
warriors, merchants, workers. Brahmins counseled warrior-kings
(rajas). Upward mobility was sanctioned in Vedas, but later
frozen in societal law books.
15) Celts prized the magical power of telling truth, honor/piety
among men and eloquence in conversation and oration.
Vedic society prized the supernatural power of truth-saying,
piety and honor, and eloquence in gatherings.
16) Celts honored women, guarded their virtue, and allowed by
law daughters of sonless fathers to inherit property or to marry
kinsmen to bear male heirs to the father. Seeresses were
sanctioned, and priestesses for Goddesses favored.
Vedic Hindus prized womanly virtues, and by law sonless fathers
could bequeath property to daughters or arrange her marriage to
relatives for male heirs. Female seers were countenanced, and
female ascetics tended Goddess rites.
17) Celts recognized 8 forms of marriage from arranged to love
to abduction. A bride gift was given by the groom.
Vedic Hindus followed 8 forms of marriage from arranged to love
to abduction. The groom paid a bride price.
18) Celts defined life stages, columns of age: infancy (0-1),
boyhood (2-11), adolescence (12-18), young adult (19-45), old
age (46-65), decrepitude (65+) in which enlightening inspiration
Vedic society taught four ashrama stages of life: studentship
(12-24); family life (25-48); elder advisor (49-72); religious
solitaire (72+), in which the individual seeks enlightenment.
19) The Celtic ideal measure of life was to live 100 years.
The Vedic ideal of a fulfilled life was to live 100 autumns.
20) Celt family unit was a group of four generations from a
The ancient Hindu family unit is four generations from a
21) One Celt calendar was based on 62 lunar months (5 years +)
intercalated to a 3-year solar cycle for solstice correction.
Druids studied stellar motion, navigation and contemplated such
abstracts as the size and nature of the universe.
Vedic astronomy is based on lunar months daily aligned to star
positions and related to 3-year and 5-year solar cycles. Vedic
astronomy was applied to astrology, and the rishi seers
contemplated the universe's nature and genesis.
22) By Celt law a man owed money could fast at the door of the
debtor-who must join the fast-forcing the debtor to pay or enter
By Hindu law, a creditor could fast at the door of the past due
debtor, who then was obligated to protect the health of the
creditor and pay the debt.
To be continued in Part II