The Battersea Shield, and what it means

Most experts are blind to the obvious in front of their noses.

I am sitting writing this blog in an internet cafe, this time it may cost me nothing as someone forgot to log out.  Little opportunities like this is what I consider as one of those happy lucky events in life, those events we pray that will happen to us on a regular basis, as opposed to the misfortunes of life.

The ancient Celts considered that events were causal rather than lucky, the effect of the interplay of archetypes; and thus a Celt would try to win influence by offering gifts to these archetypes.  The Battersea Shield is an example of a gift given to an archetype, in this case to the Mother Goddess. 

The Mother Goddess

The Mother Goddess is to the ancient Celts the top archetype, “God”, the Venus archetype, which I call the “Source” archetype.  This archetype is the source of everything, life, strength, and abundance.  The reader may know about the tradition of throwing coins down wishing wells and making wishes; well the one that grants the wishes is this archetype, and the Celts throw expensive items like the Battersea Shield into rivers for their wishes from the Source archetype.  The river is a telephone line direct to the Source, since this flows from and to the Source.

The Celts

Name, or reputation, is important to the Celts.  The Celtic was arrogant, boastful and vain; modesty was a negative trait in Celtic society.  Often the Celt would make their name through display, perhaps holding great feasts, or by wearing expensive gold torcs, or by giving expensive donations to the Celtic archetypes, especially to the Source archetype.  At feasts Celtic warriors could end in fights for the right of taking the “champions portion”, the best part of the roast pig.   The gifting of the Battersea Shield to the Source would have been a mark of great prestige for a Celtic chieftain, and done to mark a major event.

The Battersea Shield

This shield was especially commissioned for the purpose of being dumped into a river.  The shield is useless for combat, but was expensive to produce.  The shield was found in the River Thames at Battersea, London, and dates between 350 BCE to 100 CE.  The shield is in the British Museum.

The Meaning of the Shield

I have found no source amongst the experts who has observed what the patterns mean on the shield, something so blindingly obvious to me.  To the ignorant observer the patterns are random beautiful things, but the Celts hide considerable knowledge inside their artwork. 

To see the shield in greater detail I advise the reader to Google it to find the many images that exist on the internet.  I shall run through the symbolism in brief.

The square boomerang

The spinning boomerang of five squares, one centre with four spirals ending in four squares.  This is a solar symbol, it conveys change and the four quarters of the Celtic solar year.

The centre circle

The centre circle is the moon, a symbol of the Source archetype, and is primary over the sun.  The Source is the top archetype in the Celtic philosophy, and is the same top archetype as expressed by Ice Age people in their cave paintings.  Around the centre circle are four patterns: look carefully at two of these and you will see the face of the “owl”, a symbol of death, and the full moon symbol in its head; the other two patterns are “cross-eyed” and a little baby is emerging, the symbol of the new moon is in the head of these patterns. Thus the Source is shown in the centre of the shield, with its two death and rebirth attributes, and associations with the moon.

The two side circles

The two side circles show the sun symbol, often shown as two circles, and secondary to the moon.  Note the horned archetype, variously described as Silvanus, Belenus, or Cernunnos; the “Solar” archetype is associated with deer and abundance.  The “Solar” archetype’s mouth becomes a circle within which are four other patterns: note the jester-like appearance of two of the patterns, this is horns curving downwards like a goat or ibex, the symbol of the “Thief” archetype called Gwyn Ap Nudd, the winter archetype that steals everything; the other two patterns look like a bug-eyed creature, I think is a bear, the opposing archetype is Lugh, the “Bridge” in that it makes available anything to mankind, in contrast to the “Thief” who takes and hides things from mankind. The two archetypes reflect the eternal duel between summer and winter in the solar year.


8 responses to “The Battersea Shield, and what it means

  1. Glad to see that there is someone else who has seen the faces. Celtic art is full of those two faces. I call them Summer Lord and Winter Lord, but rather than seeing the Winter Lord as a thief, I see him as the protector of the Mother as she slept during the winter. That was the role of Cernunnos or Cern un nos, Horn one night, since ‘un nos’ means one night in Welsh. He was considered to be the consort of the Mother. He looked after all of the Mother’s children (all life on Earth) while she slept. He was welcomed with joy at Winter Solstice. One does not welcome a thief joyfully.

    • Hi J Rankin, the Solar archetype is a complex archetype, and in the Celtic stories there is often a conflict going on between the Summer and Winter archetype.

      Those that abuse the Source archetype (Mother Goddess) fall outside of the positive patterns in nature, and thus come against the Winter archetype with negative consequences.

      I think it was me reading your articles on the Book of Kells that got me to look at the Battersea shield more closely.

      • A good book about Celtic art is Celtic Art by Ruth and Vincent Megaw. You will find many hidden formations in their art. You just need a new way of seeing, and since you have found the faces on the shield, you already know what to look for. Understanding many of the symbolic meanings helps also. At first I thought I was just seeing things, but they really are there. Their art it far from simple, it generally has several layers of meaning.

      • Hi J Rankin, I have started looking at the Celtic coins and see the same hidden faces there. I did a complete reveiew of all the Celtic images I have and have revised a lot of my ideas on Celtic symbolism. I am going to have a closer look at the Book of Kells when I get my home internet connection restored. Thanks for your recommendation.

      • I’ll be doing a piece about the Book of Kells soon. I have been looking at the Battersea Shield and can see many other things.

      • I would be interested in what other things you see in the Battersea Shield. I look forward to your article on the Book of Kells.

      • I see male and female things. When the shield is standing upright I see a woman giving birth in the top circle, and there is also a doggie face there. In the bottom circle I see a man with the ‘jester’s hat, he has his arms out around two balls, equalibrium. Going back to the top, the small decoration between the top circle and the big central circle, looks like the head of a bull with his horns becoming the outline of the top circle.
        Looking at the central circle I see two owl eyes but feminine with a small crown on the head. Below the central circle the owl eyes belong to a man, The little decoration between the circles now becomes a curly moustache, mouth and small beard. In the bottom circle with the little man, this whole thing can look like a….cow. The horns are a little strange but still cow.
        The other faces inside the large circle, are a woman with long hair, she’s looking inward, and if you turn that over, it looks like a man with a turban, moustache, mouth and beard.
        The thing that is in all the circles is the Celtic Cross formation. The large circles in the centers are the Glass Castle, and the four other filled circles, the four cities of the gods. The Glass Castle connects the three planes of existence.
        So I see balance and equalibrium, male and female, cattle and dogs.

      • It is amazing what is hidden in what seems to be just a nice pattern 🙂

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