|dc.description.abstract||Early Irish literature, other Celtic literatures and later folklore are rich with
descriptions of personal contact with the sacred. The Otherworld, or spiritual aspect of
reality, is a constant and vivid presence in the legends. This reality does not seem
distant, but rather, always ready to break through into physical reality, transforming
those who encounter it. In earlier times, druids, and sometimes heroes and saints, seem
to function fully as shamans as described by Mircea Eliade in his definitive work on
shamanism, undertaking spirit journeys into the Otherworld. and returning with gifts
for their people.
In later times, when overtly primal shamanic practice was increasingly repressed,
personal contact with the sacred became in many cases less defined and more
individual. However, we continue to see contact with the Otherworld in folklore.
hagiography and the mystical experiences fostered by later spiritual movements.
While scholars such as Carey, Nagy and Melia have recognised and explored
some of the shamanic themes present in Early Irish literature, the full complex of these
themes, along with their implications for our understanding of Early Irish and Celtic
culture, have not yet been hlly examined.
A holistic approach to these difficult issues indicates that one must not just
dissect the texts themselves for meaning, but take into account the research of
archaeologists, anthropologists, psychologists and neuroscientists as well as Celticists.
By doing so, I hope to show not only the evidence for Celtic shamanism itself, but
suggest possible fbnctions of shamanic experience in Early Irish, and more broadly,
Celtic culture, Because shamanic traditions typically have a clear cosmology and ideas
about spiritual growth, I have also considered if the early Irish and, more broadly, the
Celts may have had such a cosmology and ideas of harmonising with the sacred they
came into such intense contact with.||en