Women in Celtic Society

It is a stereotype that women in the Dark Ages (and the Middle Ages for that matter) had two career options:  mother or holy woman, with prostitute or chattel filling in the gaps between those two.  Unfortunately, for the most part this stereotype is accurate.  The status and role of women in any era prior to the modern one revolves around these categories. This is one reason that when fiction is set in this time, it is difficult to write a self-actualized female character who has any kind of autonomy or authority over her own life.  Thus, it is common practice to make fictional characters either healers of some sort (thus opening up a whole array of narrative possibilities for travel and interaction with interesting people) or to focus on high status women, who may or may  not have had more autonomy, but their Read more…

The Anam Cara

The role of the anam cara or ‘soul friend’ in Celtic pre-Christian religion appears to have been that of a spiritual advisor.  I say ‘appears’ because I’m not sure that the position isn’t the product of a neo-pagan/new age spiritual tradition. This post is a product of a long discussion with a hospital chaplain (waiting for my husband’s colonoscopy–all is well).  We shared an interest in history and Celtic people, and he brought up the existence of the ‘anam cara’.  He stated that within the pre-Christian tradition among the Celts, the ‘anam cara’ was a spirituall leader or ‘soul friend’ who saw a person through birth (even perhaps, as a midwife), maturity, and death.  ‘Anam cara’ were true spiritual advisors. With the coming of Christianity, the Catholic church encountered significant resistance against conformity to Rome and one way to co-opt the Celtic Read more…