Skull Meanings in Celtic Myth and Legend
Celtic skull symbolic meaning deals with some very deep themes. Stuff like transience, power, spirit and portals of new understanding. There are a lot of reasons the skull was a pervasive and powerful symbol to the ancient Celts, and I've done my best to offer you a well-rounded study of Celtic skull symbolic meanings in this article.
Personally, I'm enamored with skulls. In fact, I always carry 5 tiny stone skulls in the left pocket of my jeans. I like the feel of them, their rounded smoothness is calming for me. And, I love how they rattle around in my pocket. :-)
Macabre? Maybe. But I'm certainly not the only one who identifies with potential power in the skull symbol. To wit, check out the quick-list of skull symbol meanings listed below:
Celtic culture viewed the head or skull to be the seat of power. Some texts point to the skull as the house of the soul.
Archeological findings show us the Celts tossed skulls into sacred wells as offerings. What's the symbolism of this?
We can look to the symbolism of water, and know it carries meanings of cleansing, purification and fluidity of motion (emotions are also a water symbol). Then, if skulls symbolize the seat of the soul and power, perhaps hurling them into the dark depths of sacred well water indicates an intent to cleanse the soul or offer divine clarity and renewal for the soul.
Sacred wells aren't the only place ritualistic skull symbols and heads pop up in Celtic realms. We see carvings of heads used to decorate doorways and hallways of ancient ceremonial grounds and sanctuaries. A warning sign perhaps?
Celtic lore speaks of talking heads too. The severed head of Bran the Blessed (a legendary Celtic god of giant proportions) remained animated after its disembodiment. Bran knew he was going to die anyway ( from an injury made by a poisonous spear), so he asked his men to cut off his head and inter it upon holy ground. Legend has it Bran's head kept the men entertained during the journey. Talking, singing and cracking jokes all the way. Hmmm.
Of course, I can't speak for the legitimacy of the talking Bran's head claim, but I have observed a few things about the Celts that might put the whole skull symbol cult into perspective.
These people were enraptured with the idea of openings. Doorways, gateways, orifices - if it has an opening, the Celts seemed to be completely drawn in.
Now consider the openings of the human skull. There are five (two eyes, two nose cavities and one mouth). The number of orifices in the skull dovetails sweetly with the mystic power the Celts related to the number five. I've written about the magic of five to the Celtic mind here.
Moreover, there are three major openings in the skull, and three is also a sacred number to the Celts, it signifies a progressive dance between banal and cosmic, ultimately birthing a new direction in perception.
More interestingly is the triangular lay-out of these three human portals. See:
The triangle is another strong, prolific motif among the Celts, reinforcing a theme of binding together power to create something altogether new and magical. If the triangulation concept could speak, it might say something like: "two forces joined together shall create a unification and/or an energetic offspring of great portent."
While on the subject of symbolic geometry, the head or skull itself is circular. The eyes are particularly round too, and circles are common Celtic symbols for cycles (time) as well as immortality and wholeness. Circles represent an essence of energetic connectivity that is vast and endless.
Perhaps the Celts, in their own vastly connected way, held the skull symbol as an oracle. Perhaps in the depths of trance or meditation, the eyes and mouth of the skull would open, like cosmic tunnels, serving as gateways into etheric knowledge.
It's not a far fetch to imagine. Particularly if the head or skull symbol represented the seat of divine power to the Celtic way of thought.
As the house of thought, it would make sense the head or skull would hold profound significance for these people. Their prolific presence in historic findings (in the form of offerings, artwork and writings) attest to the symbolic importance of the skull in Celtic lore.
I hope this page on skull symbol meanings offered you a broader perspective of what could potentially be a gruesome subject. Take some time to think about the Celtic perspective of skulls. Then take stock of your own beliefs and views.
I keep my tiny skull stones in my pocket as a reminder of my human potential and as a symbol of humility. They are symbolic of the duality between divine and mortal housed within one vessel.
What does the skull symbol mean to you? Can you find divine potential in these symbols? Something to think about, for sure.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on Celtic skull symbol meanings. Check out more keen Celtic meanings via the in-site links listed at the end of this page. Thanks for reading!
Special thanks to David J. Crotty, who provided the skull image shown at the top of this page.