Celtic spirituality and photography

I chose a Celtic knotwork logo for my photography business, because I was born and bred in the  Hebridies of Scotland, and most probably am a thoroughbred Celt.  There is always the possibility that I have some Viking blood because they did occupy the islands of Scotland for a time, but I have never fancied myself with horns!  More importantly, I like to imagine that I get my creative drive from my Celtic Heritage. The Celts were known for their art, their poetry, their imagination, their love of nature, their use of symbolism. Recently I went to a Supernatural Creativity Conference at Courtenay Northgate Church because my heart for my business is to let God direct it and use it however he wants to.  I was not quite expecting for God to speak to me so directly about my business.

My jaw just about dropped when the speaker based much of what he had to say about supernatural creativity around the Celtic Christians and their use of art.

A concept widely used in Celtic Chrisitianity is the idea of ‘thin places.’  A thin place is a place where the division between heaven and earth seems especially thin, where the supernatural is tangible, where God is near.    Celtic Christians used the Arts to ‘create’ thin places, as a bridge between the natural and supernatural.  They used imagination, symbols, metaphors, poems, music and icons to open up the windows and catch a glipse into heaven.  Ultimately I believe that the division between God and man was ripped away with the death of Jesus, symbolized by the curtain that veiled the holy of holies being torn apart in the moment of his death.  The way is open  to anyone who chooses, and it is paved with  blood.  However I also recognize that in our experience on earth there are times and places when we experience God more directly.  For me the first three that come to mind are – worshiping with other Christians, being in nature, and setting aside a space in my day to be with God.   At this conference, however, the speaker was discussing whether thin places can be created with Art.  A biblical example of this is when Saul was oppressed by a demon and David ministered deliverance to him by playing his harp.  The Old Testament temple was also a place of God’s presence with art of extravegant worth and beauty.   Did the intricate Artwork help the Israelites feel the nearness of God?  It is not explicitly stated, but I can imagine it functioned in that way.  I certainly have stood in beautiful intricate majestic cathedrals in the UK, and had my thoughts turned to the majesty of God.  I have had the same experience looking at mountaintops.

The Book of Kells is exquisitely decorated with Celtic knotwork, and images from heaven and earth, as though they were bringing together the sacred and secular into one reality.  I was privileged to see the Book of Kells myself on a day trip to Lindisfarne.  It is hard to believe the painstaking attention to detail and labor of love that the Celtic Monks  poured into this book.  An act of worship.

The most moving part of the creativity conference for me was listening to the historical account of Caedmon’s Call.   Caedmon was a Celtic monk who, like David, tended sheep, but who, unlike David, did not play the harp  During the song circles that the monks enjoyed in the evenings, he would pass his turn to share, because he said “he had no songs.”  One night in a dream Caedmon dreamed that a man came to him and asked him to sing  “principium creaturarum,” a song about the creation of all things.  True to his modesty he refused, but then in his dream he began to worship God in an original poem of praise.  This was considered to be his calling to be a bard or poet.  After that he took history and theology and turned them into the most beautiful verse.  This was moving to me because I felt like God was telling me that it was no mistake that I had chosen a Celtic knot work as the logo for my business, but that it signified something of a ‘calling’ for me – not to sing songs of creation, but to capture them with my camera.  To seek His presence wherever I am, to see and find the eternal in the ordinary, His beauty in every face, His revelation in creation.

Below my daughter crouching in front of the Farr Stone in the north of Scotland, an ancient Celtic preaching stone that they used like a pulpit.



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Meredith - June 23, 2011 - 9:19 pm

Awesome Agnes! What a wonderful calling! Now hurry up and take me to Scotland!!! LOL!

Katey - June 24, 2011 - 9:57 am

Agnes – This just touched me so much. I have had a great love for all things Celtic all my life – always imagined this came from my Irish ancestors. I have always felt very close to God amid the celtic ruins, in the churches, and amid the beauty of creation in Ireland and Scotland.

I am so delighted that you received such an affirmation of your calling. I am in awe of the many ways God calls us to honour and praise him. Some, like you mentioned, in music and song, some, like you, in the beauty of art, and some of us in ways that may not be so spectacular, but are still equally meaninful.

You bring such joy and beauty for your photos, and share those with the rest of us so freely.

You are such a blessing to us all, in your love for God, your love for your family and friends, and in your photography. I am so blessed to have you as part of my life.


Sarah - June 25, 2011 - 2:07 am

Wow! This is such a great post! Thank you for sharing!
It truly does give new insight into what it means to use our talents for the Lord =)