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Scottish History and Culture
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The Fivefold Centre

presented by Sconemac


Like all the world's religions, Time and changing situations and the ceaceless pace of time coupled with experience evolved the system to what we now call the Golden Age of Celtdom.

Two traditions of the Fivefold Centre exist, each having a differing point of centre.

Even now it is fiercely debated among the academics on Celtic Studies as to which of the two centres have precedence in antiquity. The evidence of archaeology and ancient text it can be seen that both centres existed at the same time but the academics from both sides of the argument refuse to accept such a possibility.

To the student this concept causes no problem, the two centres did co-exist at the same time, one Temhair (Tara) and the other Uisnech (Ooshna) - both being different levels of the same thing, Tara the political centre and Uisnech the spiritual centre. On this basis let us look to Tara for an explanation of the meaning of the Fivefold centre of both and try to see one as a mirror image of the other. Tara, this world and Uisnech the Otherworld.

An ancient legend tells us that at Tara, Fintan the God of chronicles since the beginning of time, had all the nobles of Ireland seated around him and that he proceeded to divide Ireland into five parts by taking five berries from a magical branch he had brought from the Otherworld. One was planted in ULSTER, one in LEINSTER, one in MUNSTER and one in CONNAUGHT. The fifth berry he planted in the CENTRE, this being Tara. This he did in accordance with the law of the TUATHA DE DANAAN. This was how MEATH came into being as the boundaries of the four provinces overlapped in Tara.

Fintan then took the men of Ireland west to the hill at UISNECH. There he set up a pillar stone with a circular boundary after which he gave the divisions of Ireland according to the laws of the FOMOIRE, the ancient primordial Gods before the coming of the Tuatha. These divisions were the same as the previous with the exception of MUNSTER which he divided into two parts, East and West, thus giving a central point at Uisnech which, within its circle had a part of itself in each of the five provinces. It was decreed by Fintan that at the four fire festivals no fire could be kindled at Tara until the fire at Uisnech had been lit. Also no speech could be given at a gathering by the King of Tara until the priest of Uisnech had spoken. This is why in later times the King could not speak before the druid priest at Tara.

What does all this mean in the terms of Celtic beliefs? First, we must remember the Celtic threefold concept of chaos and order bonded by Spirit. Also eternity is made up of Day and Night, Realms of the Sun and Moon. It is proper to see Uisnech as representing the Otherworld realm of the Moon, chaos and ancestral night of the Old Gods of Creation. In our world this was the raw elemental nature of the forest unbroken by the Plough. This is the world of the Hunter Gatherer, the people of the Earth Mother Domnu, the Fir Bolga, the Fir Domnu, latterly referred to as the Picts.

The first people to follow the receding ice northwards with their stone tools. The first of the five invasions of our Isles.

Also in keeping with the Celtic idea of ierarchy, direction of the compass was related to social standing. These proto-Celtic people were to share Munster in the South - the Servant half - as serfs with the first of the Celtic speaking races to arrive, the people of Partholon.

The rest of the invasions are an article in themselves and another subject that, if interested, the reader can find in the book 'Celtic Myth and Legend' by Charles Squire. For our purposes of the five fold centre, we see the division of Ireland not merely into provinces but also social status and by the time of the Milesian Q-Celts, also divided into functions, as follows:

NORTH - Ulster - Earth, Shield, warriors, battle, bull, Fir Bolg
- Munster - Fire, Spear, serfs, music, boar, Partholon
EAST - Leinster - Air, Sword, farmers,prosperity, Eagle, Nemed
WEST - Connaught - Water, Cauldron, priests, learning, salmon, Tuatha De Danaan
CENTRE - Tara - Lia Fail, kings, sovereignty, Sons of Mil.

Tara represents the elemental forces of Nature being brought into order by the gods of light, the De Danaans, as they struggle in perpetual battle with the dark forces of chaos. As Uisnech is bounded by a circle, the symbol of eternity, Tara is bounded by its ramparts that consist of the North and South triangles of the two fold system forming a diamond, divided into four quarters and the fifth, the centre. The straight lines of the diamond represent imposed order of Mankind and their Gods on the land.

A pattern forms, a pattern of how the Celts saw the structure of the cosmos reflected in the social and political divisions of the land. We also see the religion of the Celts embodied within this structure of the fivefold division. These ideas of Cosmic and Political divisions are found in a further microcosm of Self. Any Celt with knowledge of the Old Ways would tell you the Universe has three centres, TIR-NAN-OUGE, TARA and pointing to the breast, here the HEART.

It is important to understand the basic concept of this structure to have any insight into the Celtic system. We are each the centre of our Universe and carry Uisnech and Tara within. Indeed within self is reflected the Whole. Uisnech relating to our subconscious, our instinctive feminine centre of origins. Tara is our conscious, our centre of self awareness and intellect relative to the masculine principle of order. Thus we stand between Uisnech and Tara with the influences of chaos and order. Tara is Time, its ramparts divide Ireland into quarters, also the year into 4 seasons and its central Sun room is the spiral link with the Summerlands.

The High King is the symbol of the Ildanach, the perfected One who has attained Spiritual evolution and has no further need to remain on the wheel of life. Uisnech is the Navel, the umbilical cord between the Worlds, at its centre there is a well called Tobar-na- Ghorn from where flows the stream of the five SENSES.

Down through its depths is the entrance to the Celtic Otherworld the great Womb of the Earth. From this timeless place of the Dead flows the stream of Life in the endless cycles of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth.

The Celts have always seen the Trees as being the Teachers of Nature through the elemental spirit beings that inhabited them as much like the Zodiac, divided the year into 13 lunations. It is well known the Celts reckoned the year by lunar cycles, new moon to new moon, which does not synchronise with the solar year. In fact only every 19 years does any reasonable solution occur, this being the 19 year cycle. The point of this, relative to the aforesaid is the resolution of the two centres.

If we see ourselves as the Centre with Uisnech representing our Earth selves, instinctive, emotive and inspirational. Then Tara as our aspirations, intellect and higher ideals. We have Tara as our Chieftain half and Uisnech as our Servant half. As resolution between these two is always sought by Spirit and as Uisnech is the first in line, the dark before the dawn, the understanding we seek is first found in the subconscious part of Self, the inner journeys to the Realms of the Moon.

After we complete these journeys through many life times, then like the God Lugh in legend we can seek admission at the gates of Tara as a perfected one. The Grail of the Lance and the Cauldron is perceived. The Celtic cross is an example embodying this idea, first, the circle of eternity is overlaid with the Solar cross, its straight lines being the uniformity of the four quarters of Tara.

Source: S. McSkimming, 19987
Presented by Nancy MacCorkill, F.S.A. Scot
Historian of the Ancient Clans of Scotland



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