Researching the ancient Celtic roots of Europe
As we sit in the Igreja Matriz in the town of Mertola, we muse over the word Matriz. The word refers to Mary, the Mother, but it also has other meanings: womb, uterus, matrix, and form. If the world is made up of energy and matter, then this is the feminine pole: the mater, “matter,” that which gives form and tangibility to our existence. In the quest for spiritual development and enlightenment, this aspect is sometimes skipped or, indeed, demonized. We strive for the “light,” the divine, the higher, progress, but we forget the lower, the earthly, the dark, the mother. The trick is probably to unite and honor both equally: to embrace both the light and the dark, the higher as well as the lower, the superconscious as well as the subconscious, the masculine as well as the feminine, the Divine Father as well as the Divine Mother.
Portugal in her past, like almost every European country, has been dominated by the Catholic Church. But where in Spain the Church grew into an institution of power, leading to the Inquisition and countless conquests, Portugal seems to have recovered somewhat. Portugal feels more feminine than Spain. The Catholic Church, while present, is not extremely dominant. Perhaps that is partly due to the country’s ancient Celtic history.
The Celts populated the country centuries before our era. DNA research shows that (a branch of) this sailing people initially moved from the Black Sea via the Mediterranean Sea toward the Atlantic Ocean. They settled first in cities such as Porto and Lisbon, making them perhaps the very oldest cities in Europe. Then they expanded their culture further toward northern Europe. Celtic settlements arose all along the coast: Galicia, Asturias, Normandy, Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, etc. Several languages, as in Wales, recall these Celtic origins. Currently, eight areas are considered Celtic, but current historiography seems to know little about the original origins of the Black Sea. Probably the most modern method of DNA research was lacking until now.
GREAT MOTHER GODDESS
The Celts brought with them from the Black Sea not only their language and culture, but also their black earth goddess, the goddess Cale. We encounter the word Cale in many forms again in the West. First, in the naming of Portugal. The city of Porto was first called Cale. When the Romans added a port, a Porto, the name Portogale was born.
Across from Porto is the town of Vila Nova di Gaia. The words Gaia, Cailleach, Galicia, Celts and Gauls also derive from the Great Mother Goddess. Cale is also the goddess of time, hence her name is also reflected in the word calendar. She represents both winter in the form of the ancient crone, – death-, and summer in the form of the fertile mother and new life. The Cailleach is often depicted as the ancient witch, the goddess of ice, winter and death. But on our journey through Portugal we discover behind the “witch” also her other appearance: the young woman, the wise mother and the goddess of the future.
Other words that refer to Cale, such as the Arabic Cafe, or Cacao, or the Indian goddess Kali, all seem to have to do with the color “black. Black is often associated with darkness, negativity and death, but if we penetrate her deeper, darkness is actually fertile, pregnant with magic and bearer of the new. The black Madonna and Mary Magdalene are archetypes that fit this, in contrast to the heavenly, light Mary.
In the history of patriarchy, the light goddess has been extolled and the dark side of the feminine often reviled. Cale or Gaia, the Great Mother, has been obscured and darkened from the most sacred, the origin, source or matrix. While we used to see the land, nature and earth as sacred, in our modern culture we have come to abuse, conquer and exploit her until she has given everything and is dying. We have entered the sixth “mass extinction,” in which animal and plant species are rapidly becoming extinct, forests and jungles are disappearing, oceans and water are being polluted, and our planet’s temperature is becoming disrupted. In short: we are sick. And with us Mother Earth.
Only by bringing back the Mother, honoring her again, allowing the goddess into our consciousness and our bodies – or acknowledging that she has always been there – are we possibly able to stop our disease process and recover, become whole.
The church in which we sit, the Igreja Matriz, is built on several layers of history. The church was formerly a mesquita, an Arab mosque. The round gates, the layout of the building, the sanctuary facing Mecca are reminders of a previous, Islamic, period in history. Beneath it presumably lies an even older layer. Many churches and mosques were built on sites that used to honor the goddess. For example, a little further down the coast, in the Spanish city of Malaga, the Phoenician goddess Malak used to be worshipped before her temple turned into a mosque and later became the Cathedral of Malaga. Here we again encounter the syllable MA, the origin of the word ‘mama,’ matrix and matter. Malak in Arabic means “queen” or “angel,” while Malek means “king. Malek is a corruption of the word Malak.
In Portugal, we encounter other remnants of the goddess cult. For example, the river that separates Portugal and Spain in the south, the “Guadiana,” is a corruption of the Latin Aqua Diana, the water or river of the Roman goddess of hunting Diana. In the town of Alcoutim, which lies on the banks of the Guadiana, we find a statue of Diana across the street in a small flower bed with four trees. It may be a reference to the four trees, four directions of paradise.
In Fatima, the apparition of Mary to three shepherd children during World War I is commemorated. The angelic apparition initially came on May 13, and later on every thirteenth of the month, to relay various messages to the children. The number 13 is the number of the goddess, with her thirteen moons a year, thirteen menstruations, a calendar of thirteen.
Although the shepherd children – and the church – interpreted the apparition as Mother Mary, it is also possible that the apparition is a primal image of the Great Mother. But perhaps the form does not matter, as long as the message is understood.
The latter, however, is the question: While two messages are public, the third message, “the third secret,” was made public by the Vatican only years later. It is said to have to do with a Turkish man’s attack on Pope John Paul the second. However, many doubt this explanation by the church and suspect that the Vatican does not want to reveal the true message. Could the message have to do with the importance of the Great Mother and the end of the Vatican and patriarchy?
We ourselves were told a “message” in Fatima that pointed to this: “Connect 1,000 women on the lunar eclipse of Nov. 8, 2022.”
THE LAND IS THE TEMPLE
On our journey of discovery through Portugal – from north to south and east to west – we visit several places that used to be Celtic temples. Cities like Braga and Braganza in the north, Lisbon and Porto in the west, Faro and Sagres in the south: all point to an older past. Faro in Greek means lighthouse, but also beacon of light or torch. The words Faro and Phallos both have to do with light. The city of Sagres comes from the Latin Sacra, sacred.
In the Azores, we encounter the story of Atlantis. The Atlantic Ocean and Atlantis owe their name to the Roman god Atlas, who carries the globe on his shoulders. In these islands, with a group of 15 participants, we dive into the story of the Inuit goddess Sedna, a deep-sea goddess reminiscent of Cale and Cailleach. She is sometimes fierce, primal, angry and vengeful, but also life-giving, wise, the old woman who passes on the lessons of life.
All over Portugal we come across Templar castles. Wolfram von Essenbach, in the medieval epic “Parzival,” calls the Templars the “Guardians of the Grail. They too apparently honored the female principle – the grail – sometimes in the form of Sophia, the feminine wisdom, or in the form of Mary Magdalene. They took their oaths to the “Lady of Bethany.
In 1307 – on Friday the 13th – when the Templars were arrested by the French King Phillippe the Handsome, tortured and their Grand Master Jacques de Molay burned at the stake, the remaining Templars fled to two places: to Scotland to the north and to Portugal to the south.
In Portugal, they were taken into protection by King Dinis, who could use their help in the fight against the Moors. The order changed its name to “Knights of the Order of Christ” in 1344, allowing it to continue to exist. In exchange for their help, the Knights Templar were given possession of much of central Portugal. There they built their main temple in Tomar: a round chapel that served as an initiation site. The round shape of this chapel was inspired by the octagonal Golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is there that their name originally referred to: the Temple of Solomon located under the Golden Dome of the Rock. Could it be that they wanted to build a New Jerusalem in Portugal?
While traveling around, we imagine that all these castles, holy places and temples together form a kind of network of places of power, points on the Tree of Life, various pillars of the same temple. In ancient times, the land itself was the temple. Each power spot formed a pillar to emphasize the holiness of the land. Each place had its own function, its own contribution to the greater whole.
Our own dream is to build a “Temple of the Heart,” a temple where the masculine and feminine come together. A place that symbolizes not only the heart of man, but also the heart of the land and the heart of the earth. In the Tree of Life, the heart is represented by Tifferet, the sephira that is central to the tree of life and connects all the other points. Whoever on the kabbalistic path of life gets in touch with the heart also has access to all higher powers, such as Binah, (understanding), Chochmah (wisdom) and Keter, that which transcends all knowledge.
Perhaps at this time the land will be re-sanctified by collectively building “the temple,” each in his or her own place and own way. The trick in this is to follow our hearts, and put our lives at the service of ‘the Great Mother’. The Indian holy Mother Meera stated, “To be in service of the divine is the quickest way to self- realization. While in the New Age movement the emphasis was primarily on one’s own fulfillment, one’s own feelings and desires, and personal development, the next step lies precisely in service to the collective. Giving up the ‘cult of personality’ to make our contribution to the survival of humanity and the earth as a common goal. In doing so, we move from “I” to “we,” from individual to collective, from consuming to creating.
We conclude our exploration at a beachside cafe on the Atlantic Ocean, in the town of Vila Nova de Milfontes, or the New Town of 1,000 Springs. The land unmistakably carries the energy of the future through its connection to the ocean. Water represents new life. And new life is what we all need….
Thank you for reading along, and traveling in your thoughts. We will no doubt return with new stories in due course. And for those who want: on July 22, Mary Magdalene’s name day, we will gather live in the Pyrenees for a “Gathering of the tribe.
Kind regards, Ton and Anne
NOTES. If you would like to read all the messages that we received during our journey, go to: MESSAGES