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Various Traditions #16 by Yair Davidiy
adapted from:
"Lost Israelite Identity.
The Israelite Origin of Celtic Races" (1996).

Early Hebraic Practices of the Celtic Peoples

We have shown before that at least part of the Celtic inhabitants of Britain at some time must have practiced part of the Mosaic Law before they became Christian. We know however that most of the Ancient inhabitants of Britain, before they became Christians, were pagans. They had worshipped pagan gods and they had pagan priests named Druids. The religion of the Druids was a mixture of ancient pagan Canaanite practices from the Middle East together with some Hebrew customs. There were some Hebrew elements in Druidism. When the Celts became Christian they carried over into Christianity some of the customs of the Druids. There were Biblical Laws among the customs of the Druids that the British and Irish Celts continued to practice after becoming Christians. This explains in part why the original Celtic Christians of Britain adopted many "Old Testament" practices of the Law of Moses.
Concerning the Druids: Julius Caesar (in his book "The Conquest of Gaul") wrote:

          "The Druidic doctrine is believed to have been found existing in Britain and thence imported into Gaul; even today those who want to make a profound study of it generally go to Britain for the purpose...It is said that these pupils have to memorize a great number of verses so many, that some of them spend twenty years at their studies. The Druids believe that their religion forbids them to commit their teachings to writing, although for some other purposes, such as public and private accounts, the Gauls use the Greek alphabet".

The Romans conquered Britain and began to persecute the Druids. The Romans persecuted the Druids and many Druids fled to Scandinavia according to Welsh tradition and this has been confirmed by archaeological finds in Scandinavia. Those Druids who remained in West Britain and Ireland founded colleges and communal settlements that were based at least partly on their clans, on their clan relationships. When the Celts were converted to Christianity the colleges of the Druids and the settlements of Druids were transformed into monasteries. T. W. ROLLESTON, ("Myths And Legends of  the Celtic Race", 1911, London) quotes from Bertrand ("L'Irlande Celtique")- Very soon after the conversion of Ireland to Christianity the country was covered by monasteries whose complete organization seems to indicate that they were really Druidic colleges transformed en masse into monasteries. These monasteries at first accepted married members. Saints and customs of the early Celtic Church were taken over from Druidical belief and practice. These included customs that were later identified as Jewish customs since a similarity existed in several matters between the Celtic Druidical practice and the Laws of Moses. The Druids like the Hebrews had practiced social ostracism as a means of coercion. They had an Oral Law that it was forbidden to write. They gave tithes and first fruits. Their sacrificial modes were similar to Biblical ones. They practiced ritual purity in ways that are reminiscent of Laws in the Bible about purification. Traditions exist that some of the Celts of Britain and Ireland practiced the Mosaic Law before the coming of Christianity.

Leslie Hardinge says that the Celtic Christians of the British Isles placed a "strong emphasis on the legal aspects of the Old Testament".

Leslie Hardinge "The Celtic Church in Britain", London, 1972, quoted and summarised by Deborah K. E. Crawford, "St. Joseph In Britain: Reconsidering The Legends. Part 2", Folklore 105 (1994): 51-59.

An Irish work ("Liber ex Lege Moisi") from ca.800 CE uses Old Testament Law as "a prime directive, for the proper conduct of everyday life". It is said that the Celtic Church was closer to Judaism than any other branch of Christianity.

         Harding says:
"The shared elements include the keeping of the Saturday Sabbath, tithing, the definition of "first fruits'' and offerings, the establishment of walled precincts for the priestly/monastic families, inheritance of religious office, and fasting and dietary restrictions. It also appears that the Celts kept Easter by older methods of reckoning, one of which caused Easter to coincide with the Passover".
         "Other scholarship suggests that Irish Churchmen of the seventh and eighth centuries actually considered themselves to be Priests and Levites, as defined under Old Testament law".

         The Celtic British historian Gildas in the 500s CE believed the British Celts ("Britones") to be of Israelite descent (Crawford p.52 quotes from O'Corrain  and Breen, "The Laws of the Irish", 1984, p.394). Gildas accused the British Celts of wanting to join the Jews.

         Crawford says: "Theodore, Gildas, and Wilfred all associated the Celtic practices with the Jews".

          Celtic Christianity was a cultural continuation of Celtic Druidism that emphasized Oral tradition and the learning by rote of ancient law.
         There existed a cultural continuity between Druidism and Celtic Christianity which was especially apparent in relation to Galastonbury
Crawford says that: "The stories brought by the Irish monks, and the brief references written on the margins of manuscripts, demonstrate the ongoing existence and importance of traditional Celtic accounts".

MRS. WINTHROP PALMER BOSWELL, ("The Roots of Irish Monasticism", California, 1969) adds to the above listed Jewish features of Celtic religion:
         "...the prominence of Hebrew features in Irish canon law collections (including Biblical cities of Refuge and Jubilee Years) together with Mosaic prohibitions on diet and injunctions on tithes...There was also a Hebrew treatment of the sanctuary ...and finally there were many Hebrew words occurring in cryptographic monastic Irish works such as Hisperica Famina".

         Mosaic parallelisms found amongst early Celtic Christians include the prohibition of sex in the menstrual period and after birth, also ritual animal slaughter was kept, and usury was prohibited (Baigent, Leigh, & Lincoln. "The Messianic Legacy",1986, 1987 U.K.)      
Old Testament Biblical injunctions were generally regarded as binding.. Members of the Celtic Church were suspected by the Roman
Catholics of Judaising and its members in Scotland were accused of really being Jews (Baigent, Leigh, & Lincoln. "The Messianic Legacy", 1986, 1987 U.K.).

We also find that in various parts of Britain the Celtic Church kept Saturday as the Sabbath Day. Incidentally, John Brand ("Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain", London, 1841) describes the great lengths the Church went to, to extinguish all possible traces of 7th-day Sabbath keeping amongst the English.

An article tracing the early observance of Saturday as the Sabbath noted:

In the 500s CE: 6th CENTURY: SCOTLAND. "In this latter instance they seem to have followed a custom of which we find traces in the early monastic church of Ireland, by which they held Saturday to be the Sabbath on which they rested from all their labours" (Life of St. Columba, page 96) Columba specifically referred to Saturday as the Sabbath and this was the custom of that early church on Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland).

In the 600s CE: "It seems to have been customary in the Celtic Churches of the early times in Ireland as well as Scotland, to keep Saturday as a day of rest from
labour. They observed the fourth commandment [that you should not work on the seventh day] literally on the seventh day of the week." (The Church in Scotland, Moffatt, page 140) "The Celts ...kept Saturday as a day of rest." (The rise of the Medieval Church, page 237).
In the 900s CE: 10th CENTURY: SCOTLAND "They worked on Sunday, but kept Saturday in a Sabbatical manner." (A
History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation, vol.1, p.96).
In the 1000s CE: 11th CENTURY: SCOTLAND "They held that Saturday was properly the Sabbath on which they abstained from work." (Celtic Scotland, vol.2, p.350).

 During the 11th century the Catholic Queen of Scotland, Margaret, tried to stamp out those that kept Saturday as the Sabbath Day and who refused to honor Sunday as the Sabbath Day.
We see from what we have just studied that the early Christians in Celtic Britain identified with the "Old Testament" Laws and thought they were obligated to observe them even though the official Church was against these Hebrew-type ideas and persecuted the Celtic Christians for trying to keep the Laws of Moses. We also see that this attitude was due at least in part to the traditions and customs they had held before they became Christians since within the Druid religion there had existed a Hebrew element.

The Druids were however pagans as were all of the Celtic Peoples. They worshipped pagan gods and kept pagan practices. Even their paganism however in many respects may be traced back to the Canaanites and the area of Ancient Israel. The Ten Tribes had been exiled for worshipping the gods of the peoples around them.

2-Kings 17:
7 For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, 8 and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 Also the children of Israel secretly did against the LORD their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. 11 There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger, 12 for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this thing."

15. The Ladder of Jacob and the Stone of Scone.

17. The Chronicles of Eri.

Various Celtic Traditions
List of Contents.

See also:
A list of Articles on similar themes:
Western Hebrew-Celtic Culture.