Celtic High Crosses

As Christianity began to develop in Ireland, the symbol of the sun was united with Christ and His cross

Celtic High Crosses

The spiritual development of the Celtic folk soul – Part 10

(Return to part 9)

When traveling to Ireland, you have the opportunity to visit numerous high crosses. These crosses were not intended as burial crosses, but were dedicated to Christ, to certain persons from the New and Old Testaments, and to the four evangelists. They all belonged to a monastery enclosed by an annular circular wall. On the east was usually the Christ cross, which was compared with the sunrise. Seldom was there a text written on it, but very occasionally people were asked to pray for X who had erected the stone.

The pre-Christian crosses show similarities with those of early Christianity. This is because the transition from mythical religiosity to Christianity was not a sharp delineation, but a gradual one. The ancient myths were supplemented and enriched with the Christian mystery. The ancient mythical man felt connected to the cosmos. Hence, in Megalithic and Celtic times, the sun was seen as the cosmic center of the gods. From the sun came forth the creative Logos which manifested all.

The decorations on the crosses can be divided into four groups related to the four elements.

1. Geometric decorations

2. Flowers and plants

3. Animals

4. and men

The animal element of the dragon represents the lower instinctual life of man which must be overcome. In the northern mythology, the Edda, this is indicated by the wolf Fenris. He spawned from Loki, who represents Lucifer and obscures the path of man. Fenris, the wolf, is always devouring the light and is at full activity during this time! He is like the lying wolf that must be overcome! The dragon has the same meaning as the wolf and on the serpent-dragon cross of Killamery a dragon pounces on the solar center. He is the enemy of the light, and is also called the “sun demon.”




Serpent-dragon cross of Killamery


As Christianity began to develop in Ireland, the symbol of the sun was united with Christ and His cross. Many erected stones, called menhirs, were further worked with Christian symbolism in Irish Christian times. The treatments applied to the stones therefore serve not only as decorations, but reflect the Christian vital forces that have their effect on man and the earth.


Stela of Gallen

Cross stela of Gallen  

On Gallen’s cross stela, the sun is depicted as a swastika, around which four dragons wind and they pounce on the four heads. The head is the symbol of the thoughts and this representation is thus an attack of dark forces on the consciousness of man. The figure below raises his hands in unresisting surrender, thus imagining that he bravely faces this threat.

The center of the cross is almost always the Christ who is often symbolized by the sun. He is like the Light of the world. Read an old lore:

The whole earth began to shine when God’s Son came to the earth.

Christ is therefore seen by the Celts as the King in heaven, who pours out his Light over the earth. In these crosses the ring can already be seen at the location of the solar disk. This ring is associated with the pouring out of the Light forces of Christ.

The high crosses contain three secrets that can still be discerned in the form for the observant viewer:

Firstly, we can see the cross as coming out of the earth. Psychics of the ancient Indian era saw a cross deep in the earth with an androgynous creature hanging from it. In the right hand the sun, in the left the moon and on the rest of the body the seas and lands. This clairvoyant sight saw in this vision how the earth was waiting for the mystery of Christ and how the earth would pass from a pure form to a new life. The cross is thus not only the symbol of death, but also the symbol of a new life.

Secondly, we see the development of the solar disk behind the cross. When Christ incarnated on earth, man started a new development: man can absorb the Christ light and therefore has the possibility to change. The road is still long, but the start has been made. The meaning of the round disc on the cross symbolizes Christ as the Sun Brother of man living on earth.

Thirdly, the solar disks on the crosses turned into transparent sun rings. The high crosses now show something that tells how deeply privy the Irish sages were in the secrets of Earth’s evolution! When we take up the Christ impulse, we change: something in our etheric body does not perish when we meet death. Those parts of the etheric body are imperishable and these forces are poured into the universe. In this way an ever larger spiritual sphere is created around the earth as a living etheric body. That is the meaning of the ‘transparent’ ring around the high cross! The Irish sages thus show that they had a great insight into the future of human development and this can still be seen on the high crosses!

At the same time, this sheds light on the four nodes that we often see depicted on the Irish crosses and which play a dominant role. The four points relate to the four ether forces: heat, light, chemical and life ether and are related to the four aggregates of fire, air, water and earth. The etheric body is related to the soul activities. Thus the will expresses itself in the heat ether, the feeling in the light ether, the thought-life in the chemical or tone ether, and the interior of the thoughts expresses itself in the life ether. The inner part of our thoughts is not the outward attention as a response to the outer world. It is the working inwards when a new inspiration is born in man and is only active in a student who is making progress on his path. Man does not yet have control over his thoughts: they constantly storm him. This has to do with the so-called fall into sin.

When Christ went into hiding in a human body at the Jordan baptism, he cancelled this fall for everyone who opens himself to the Christ light. In His incarnation He purified the ethers; He radiated this with spiritual power. The four etheric forces, which have become pure, radiate outward and create a luminous circle around the earth. The etheric forces cannot be observed with a material organ. That is why the Irish were looking for a way to properly represent these four points. The process went from omitting the dots, to four holes in the crossbars of the cross, to showing the tetrad in the outermost ring. The latter is of course the right place, because the etheric body eventually pours out into the world space.

This proves that the Irish, with their clairvoyant gifts, have a special place in the world and served a pioneering role that will be fulfilled in the future.



Cross of Ahenny

While in the first centuries we saw Christ depicted by a circle, as a symbol of the sun, in later times he takes the human form on the crosses. However, never as a deceased, but as the triumphator over death, with blessing hands. This is the big difference with the crosses in most churches: there is only a corpse!



Cross of Durrow

Cross of Durrow

On the cross of Durrow we see the triumphant Christ with in his left hand the death cross and in his right hand the symbol of the tree of life, the Druid staff with the two spirals. On this cross we see the four studs, the etheric forces, in the right place: in the ‘transparent’ ring.





Cross of Kilfenora, 11th century

On the cross of Kilfenora we again see Christ as triumphator with arms outstretched in blessing. His sacrificial blood flows down the long trunk in two streams and is distributed over the earth.




The cross of Patrick and Colomba

On the cross of Patrick and Colomba there is something else interesting to see, because here it is not Christ in the middle, but seven studs that represent the divine Seven Spirit.

Much would be gained for the future if the Irish Celtic High Crosses were not only regarded as an artistic object, but also recognized for their profound spiritual significance!


(To be continued in part 11)


[1] Jakob Streit, Sonne und Kreuz [Sun and Cross], Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 1977

[2] Hans Gsänger, Irland. Insel des Abel. Die irischen Hochkreuze [Ireland. Isle of Abel. The Irish high crosses]Verlag Die Kommenden, 1969

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Date: November 22, 2021
Author: Benita Kleiberg (Netherlands)
Photo: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash CCO

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