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v1.12 preface
v1.12 cover
v1.12 contents


The Celtic Art Coracle volume 1 issue 12
Symbolism of the Centre

In China, moreover, there was the custom, at the centre of each feudal state, of raising a mound in the form of a rectangular pyramid, the four faces connoting the cardinal points, and the summit symbolizing thee navel of the world.

The word "navel" derives from the Indo-European root "naf" or "nab", meaning navel and also centre. The word survives with this meaning in most of the old European languages, including Celtic. Today in Wales the word means centre, navel, but also chieftain (as in Irish naomh, pronounced "neev", which means saint, holy). In Ireland also the five provinces recur, with the "standing stone of the chief" raised in the central domain, upon a mound. This central region, called Meath (Old Celtic Medion), means precisely the middle, and had portions donated from each of the four provinces of the country, Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught (see footnote). A huge stone was erected at Usnagh, called "the navel of the earth" and also "the stone of the portions" since it represented the meeting place of the four provinces and the portions each donated to the fifth kingdom. Each year on the first of May a general assembly was held there, comparable to the reunion of Druids in the consecrated central place in Gaul (J. Caesar, De Bello Gallico, 6.13), known at least until the eighteenth century as the Pais Chartrain, in a place called Dreux (John Tolland, 118).

* Coincidentally, Tara in Sanskrit means star, corresponding to archis, which refers to the polar star (Guenon). Coomaraswamy gives a translation of a Buddhist canonical prescription for artists to invoke a detailed vision of the Lady Tara - the deva of deliverance -  in his The Intellectual Operation in Indian Art (op. cit., ch.10). By coincidence, in County Meath was the seat of the High King of all Ireland, and his palace was at Tara.

The five provinces with the central fifth allotted to the supreme or royal court demonstrate a pattern not confined to Ireland. In India there is the tradition of the four masters, or great kings (Maharajas), the Lords of Creation. The supreme master, a fifth, resides at the centre on the sacred mountain, representing the etheric realm (Akasha), above of Shambala, or "headquarters" of the spiritual hierarchy (comparable  to the Western tradition of the communion of saints), the alchemical "quintessence of concentration". Saint Patrick was originally known as Cothraige, "servant of the Four". Ireland itself was sometimes called the Island of the Four Masters; the traditional history of Ireland is a manuscript called: "The Annals of the Four Masters." Guenon suggests that the eponym of Ireland as Island of the Four Masters refers to a wider tradition, and applies, like the appellations "Emerald Isle" and "Erin", to another island more northerly, Thule -- once the principle, if not supreme, spiritual centre. (With respect to Thule, see John Tolland, History of the Druids (Montrose: Watt, 1814), 190-228; also Magnus Magnusson, Hammer of the North (London: Orbis, 1976), 9. On the Vinland Map, Thule denotes the Russian polar fringe).

Artwork Copyright Aidan Meehan 1983


The Celtic Art Coracle Vol 1
Contents Coracle Press 1983
ISSN 0828-8321 
All Rights Reserved

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