The sun and the light it bestows are especially honored in the Celtic world.  Bard and theologian John O’Donohue informs us that among the Celts the most venerated among the ancient gods was Lugh, the god of light and giftedness.  He was called “The Shining One.” * 

Sunrise over a ripe wheatfield. The Celtic festival of the first harvest honors Lugh. Photo by Keira Siobhan on Unsplash

Says O’Donohue, “The Celtic mind adored the light.”  We desperately need today, “a new and gentle light where the soul can shelter and reveal its ancient belonging.” 

When we lost a cosmos, as the West did in the modern era, we lost an ancient sense of belonging.  Loneliness takes over the soul.  Psyche or soul is starved because it is cut off from the whole, cut off from its great connection to the cosmos, cut off from its history and its roots. 

O’Donohue calls light

the mother of life.  Where there is no light there can be no life.  If the angle of the sun were to turn away from the earth, all human, animal, and vegetative life, as we know it, would disappear.  Ice would freeze the earth again.  Light is the sacred presence of the divine.  It keeps life awake.

Sunrise meditation, Joshua Tree, United States. Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

In “The Deer’s Cry” poem, the poet attributes his arising in the morning to the

Strength of heaven,
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire. 

Hildegard of Bingen, raised and educated in a Celtic monastery in Germany, also celebrates light.  She says that light or fire is the “first” of the four elements.  She calls the Holy Spirit, “radiant life, worthy of all praise.”   She says, “the sun is lit with life” and “the moon, when waning, is again rekindled by the sun, waxing with life once more.” 

Sunrise over the Earth as seen from space. Photographer unknown.

We see in Hildegard’s consciousness the deep Celtic wonder at the cosmos and its light from which all life derives.  As she puts it,

The stars shine,
Radiating with life-light.
All creation is gifted with the ecstasy of God’s light.

Light is an ecstasy, a divine ecstasy, a gift from God that permeates “all creation.”  Hildegard’s theology and psychology are profoundly cosmic and creation centered.  Thus, profoundly Celtic.

The universe alight: “The Cosmic Egg,” Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias.

For Hildegard, God is light, a “true light that gives light to all lights” and God “lives in every created thing.”  It is all the Cosmic Christ at work, the Word is “the light of all lights, and it gives light of itself.”  Indeed, “we are flooded with light itself in the same way as the light of day illuminates the world.”

God is the one “from whom all light is enkindled” and Christ is the true Light that gives light to all lights.  The Cosmic Christ or word is “the Light of all lights, and it gives light of itself.”  She herself encounters a “living light” on many occasions that dictates teachings and revelations to her.

This parallels O’Donohue’s teaching that “in the Celtic tradition, thought has often been compared to light.  In its luminosity, the intellect was deemed to be the place of the divine within us.”  Another take on “enlightenment.”

*John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (NY: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 100.  Subsequent citations from pp. 4f., 3f., 56.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 56f. 

Also from Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint For Our Times, pp. 27-30.

Banner Image: Golden Sunrise. Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What is your relationship to light?  Do you sometimes feel yourself “flooded with light”?

Recommended Reading

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century

Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.


Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.

Join Rabbi Rami Shapiro and Rev. Matthew Fox for a 1.5-day Virtual Teach-in on “Cosmic Wisdom and the Divine Feminine: Lost Insights for an Emerging World.” Friday, June 25, 4:00 PM to Saturday, June 26, 2:30 PM Pacific (GMT/UTC-7). Enroll HERE.

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7 thoughts on “The Celtic Mind and the Love of Creation’s Light”

  1. Avatar

    Halo, also called nimbus, in art, radiant circle or disk surrounding the head of a holy person, a representation of spiritual character through the symbolism of light. In Hellenistic and Roman art the sun-god Helios and Roman emperors often appear with a crown of rays. – Sacred Art & Music

    Intuition called the Higher Mind combines with intellect to synthesize received information broadcasted from the Universe in all ways.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you Gary, for what you have shared concerning “halos,” etc. I also see auras behind these various expressions of the similar phenomena…

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Through eastern spirituality I learnt about my light body within my physical body, what we have come to know as the chakras and the auric field. These energy centers emit not only light, but also sound as well as consciousness and each energy center has a particular movement… which rotates, radiates, expands and contracts. We can sense it with our hands and see it with our inward eyes. Through these centers our soul is eternally linked through our soul vine connection to the Divine Light, the Great Spirit or Great Mystery of Eternal divine love. Carolyn Myss and Mathew Fox have written of this, as well as other mystics like Hildegard. I also learnt of this reality in my indigenous spirituality apprenticeship through the Star Nation teachings. Recently I came across a book of the writings of the beguine Beatrice of Nazareth, titled The Minne-journey…The Seven Ways of Eternal Divine Love and The Mystical Process, which also teaches of this reality… which was written in the 1200’s by this woman mystic whom was immersed in the Cistercian mystical traditions. To me, when you find similar teachings from a variety of spiritual paths, throughout a vast period of time and place, they are to me universal eternal truths intuited. We discover both our human and divine nature. This reminds me of the words spoken by Wayne Dyer, whom said we are spiritual light beings having a human experience, with the purpose of manifesting the light of Divine eternal love.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you for your comment Jeanette. You really have demonstrated your knowledge of what Matthew calls “deep ecumenism.” I would only add two comments myself. First, if you or any of our readers get a chance read Matthew’s book, SINS OF THE SPIRIT, BLESSINGS OF THE FLESH where he compares the seven chakras with the “seven deadly sins.” Also, while Wayne Dyer did say what you quoted him as saying, the actual quote: “We are spiritual beings having a human experience” originated with the Catholic scientist, philosopher, and theologian Pierre Teihard de Chardin

  3. Avatar

    Again Matthew Fox speaks to my own personal truth and identity as a descendant of ancient Celts and Germanic people, later sprinkled by the Lakota Way. }:- a.m. “en Christo”

  4. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    On another note, I just wanted to thank you Mathew Fox for writing your book A Spirituality Named Compassion, which I am currently reading. It is most helpful, especially to me with my work of tending to the elders whom are living out the last part of their journey, in community within long-term retirement care homes. Imperfect as these institutions may be, it also the place I have been sent to, to practice and learn the very things you speak of in this book, in solidarity with others.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Thank you so much for your compliment on Matthew’s book, A SPIRITUALITY NAMED COMPASSION, and for the gift you are to the elders you work with. Having been a minister for over 35 years, I have spent a good amount of time in long-term care homes, visiting the sick and lonely, and I agree with you–whereas they are imperfect, they are what we have to work with now–with the hope that we will continue to develop better places for the elderly to be elderly in the future…

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