Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search
ENCYCLOPEDIA
Glossary
What's New
Most Popular
List of Articles

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

March/April 2015 Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Encyclopedia
Print this Term Print this Article

Rebirth in the Celtic Tradition

This article was written by Tadhg MacCrossan on May 29, 2002
posted under Druidism

In Old Celtic (Gaulish-Brittonic and Goidelic), the word for rebirth was ategenos (Old Irish aithghen). In this doctrine of limited reincarnation the spirit of an ancestor was reborn among his or her own kin. This means that certain inherited characteristics and even Deuoi (Tuatha Dé Danann gods) would sometimes appear or reappear in a family lineage.

More often, though, it meant that a particular deity would choose to befriend a particular lineage and incarnate him or herself within that lineage, and thus a child could be born possessing certain characteristics of that deity. The child would not necessarily embody the personality of that spirit or divinity (though this sometimes happened in the cases of great heroes), but certain attributes or talents would develop as gifts from that divinity.

Such a phenomena was interpreted as rebirth in much the same way that a mother might say that her infant son "has his father’s eyes," or a father might say that his son "has his grandmother’s talent for music." Today most people are likely to interpret these familiar family traits as genetically inherited, but this was taught by the Druids to be a form of rebirth and well-known as such in the Celtic faith. Spiritual possession was another aspect of this belief, but ategenos differed very greatly from modern-day conceptions of reincarnation and karma borrowed from theosophy and certain sects of Hinduism, which also state that people are punished for sins by paying for them in the next incarnation. The Druids never taught that people were rewarded or punished according to principles associated with the reincarnation process of karma. The Druids would have thought such ideas absurd.

The Deuoi, or higher divinities, were creative, shape-shifting spirits and could incarnate in many forms through their magic. The Deuoi were in fact manifestations of a force greater than themselves. They are capable of taking many forms or guises as well as walking the earthly realm of the manifested world. This is very probably the reason the Druids avoided representations of the Deuoi as human in art until they were conquered by the Romans. It is also why the Romans equated Lugus, like Woden, with their own Mercury (Hermes), who was considered the messenger of the Gods. Celtic gods were like the Devas of Vedic religion.

I've written a number of books for Llewellyn over the years—believe it or not, my upcoming release is number eight—but far and away the most popular one was my third, The Goddess Is in the Details. And I have to confess, it was my favorite too. (Shhh…don't tell the other books. They'll cry, and I'll have to give them each a... read this article
Tarot: Let's Talk About Strength
A Week of Psychic Development
The Magic of Stars
Hacking Life, the Universe, and Everything through Afro-Cuban Ifá, Santería’s High Priesthood
Choose Your Thoughts, Choose Your Life

Most recent posts:
Which Interpretation?
As we study the cards, we realize that each card has many meanings. A common question is “how do you know which meaning to use in a...

Tarot Fundamentals
The publishing industry has been changing for a long time now. Publishing can be a very slow behemoth, very conservative. So it was really refreshing...

The Five Minute Tarot
This weekend, at the North Star Tarot conference, Melani Weber presented a workshop. That workshop was the most fun I’d had in a very long time. And...




Evidence of Eternity Evidence of Eternity
Communicating with Spirits for Proof of the Afterlife

By: Mark Anthony
Price: $15.99 US,  $18.50 CAN
Everyday Witchcraft Everyday Witchcraft
Making Time for Spirit in a Too-Busy World

By: Deborah Blake
Price: $16.99 US,  $19.50 CAN
Witch Upon a Star Witch Upon a Star
By: Jennifer Harlow
Price: $14.99 US,  $17.50 CAN
The Oathbreaker's Shadow The Oathbreaker's Shadow
By: Amy McCulloch
Price: $11.99 US,  $13.95 CAN
Crystal Resonance Crystal Resonance
Combining Gemstones, Essential Oils & Flower Essences for Enhanced Well-Being

By: Kerry Nelson Selman
Price: $19.99 US,  $22.95 CAN