The images you'll see as you scroll down to the current text are all part of the story telling in my novel, Realms of Gold:Ritual to Romance.

Bianca Caldwell, pen name, Bianca Fiore, is a writer for an art magazine. In each of her monthly stories she describes an object used in ancient ritual.

Celtic Mirrors

Desborough Mirror 

One of the most beautiful items of Celtic treasure are mirrors. These were owned by well-off ladies and were made of bronze. One side was polished brightly for the lady to see herself. The back and handle were usually decorated, with engraved lines and shapes.

Often spaces between lines were filled with 'hatching' - little marks cut into the bronze, to make an area 'darker', so the overall pattern stands out better. It is these decorations that make many Celtic mirrors great works of art.

The Celts are oft portrayed as barbarians only interested in drinking and fighting. This mirror alludes to another facet of Celtic culture: fashion and grooming. This artifact has an intricate swirling design that may have been mapped out with a compass, which is typical of La Tene art. There are several faces hidden in the design that had not been discovered until a while after its initial excavation and examination.

The level of detail certainly indicates the prestige of the owner and also sheds some light on Celtic culture. Roman historians would have us believe that the Celts were an uncultured people, however this artifact proves they also would appear to have an interest in personal hygiene and appearance. Dating to 100 BC, the mirror accentuates the social standing of women in Celtic Society, indicating that they may have had a similar role to that of Anglo Saxon women holding authority over men in certain social situations.

The Great Chesterford Mirror

The Great Chesterford Mirror, though only twenty three and one half centimeters, displays a magnificent design.  This Celtic bronze mirror, much like the Old Warden Mirror from Bedfordshire, contains a design based on three-sided voids, rather than lobe patterns.  Six matted shapes are located around the perimeter of the mirror.  These shapes appear in different form, yet all are connected by the interwoven basket-hatching.

The artist who created this mirror included a Celtic trademark found in many other mirrors, metamorphosis.  First, one bird-like image and one human image appear in the design.  When holding the mirror in hand, a human face emerges near the top of the mirror.  Two closed roundels form the eyes, while the nose is formed by a three-sided void.  After hanging the mirror from the wall, the bird-like image pops out causing the human face to disappear.  Again, a closed roundel forms the eye, while the nose is created with an elongated three-sided void.

Another Celtic trademark included in this design is tripilism.  As mentioned earlier, three-sided voids dominate the mirror back.  Two tiny triskeles are present, one located to the far left of the design and the other located to the far right of the mirror.  These triskeles consist of three appendages.  Four rosettes are present, three of these rosettes have closed roundels while one rosette is open.  Tripilism is also seen in the mirror handle.  Three circle-in-circle figures attach the handle to the mirror.

Nothing about his design is symmetrical, thus making it extremely unique.  At first glance, many other Celtic Mirrors appear symmetrical, however, upon closer examination, the viewer notices slight asymmetry.  The design on the Great Chesterford Mirror does not at all appear to have symmetry.  The mirror handle, on the other hand, does have symmetry; much like handles on Celtic Mirrors.

The Great Chesterford mirror
Essex, England
1st century BCE
British Museum, London

Cong Abbey

Cong Abbey is a historic site located at Cong, on the borders of counties Galway and Mayo, in Ireland's province of Connacht. The ruins of the former Augustinian abbey mostly date to the 13th century and have been described as featuring some of finest examples of medieval ecclestial architecture in Ireland.

In the early 7th century, a church was built at this site, reportedly by Saint Feichin. A later building was destroyed by fire in 1114. Within the next twenty years or so, Turlough Mor O’Connor, the High King of Ireland, refounded the abbey.

 In 1198, his son, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory O'Connor), Ireland's last High King, constructed new buildings and also lived the last 15 years of his life at the abbey.  He died here and was reportedly briefly buried in the abbey before being re-interred and buried at Clonmacnoise.

Doorway with carving of Rory O’Connor
Stone carving of Rory O’Connor

Cong Abbey was suppressed in 1542 during the reign of Henry VIII. Although it was at times used by monks after that point, it later fell into ruins.

The last (nominal) abbot was Father Patrick Prendergast, parish priest of Cong from 1795 until his death in 1829. He was the preserver of the Cross of Cong. After his death, the cross was bought by James MacCullagh for the Royal Irish Academy.

The remains of Cong Abbey have been praised as featuring some of the finest examples of early gothic architecture and masonry in Ireland.The present church, and possibly the fragmentary cloister where the monks worked and prayed, belong to the rebuilding of the early 13th century.

Cong Cloister

The north doorway of the church, and the elaborate doorways that open onto the cloister from the east range of the monastery, may pre-date the attack by William de Burgo. The doorway with two fine windows on either side belongs to the chapter house, where the monastery’s daily business was conducted as well as a chapter of the rule being read each day. This was also where the community gathered to confess their sins publicly. The sculpture in the abbey, which is some of the finest in Ireland, suggests links to French styles of the period.

North Doorway

The grounds of the abbey also contain a monks’ fishing house, probably built in the 15th or 16th century, on an island in the River Cong leading towards nearby Lough Corrib.

The house is built on a platform of stones over a small arch which allows the river to flow underneath the floor. There is a trapdoor in the floor in which the fish may have been kept fresh. According to local tradition, a line was connected from the fishing house to the monastery kitchen to alert the cook to fresh fish.

Cross of Cong and the Clonmacnoise Crozier

The cross consists of an oak cross, covered in gold, silver, niello, copper, bronze, brass, enamel, coloured glass, and is highly decorated in interlacing animals and serpents. It measures 30 inches tall and 19 inches wide and was used as a processional cross. It is said it contained a piece of the true cross.

The cross of Cong was made in 1123 in Roscommon at the order of the High King of Ireland of the time, Turlough O'Conor. It is oak covered in plates of gilt-bronze.

There is an inscription which reads: In this cross is preserved the cross on which suffered the Founder of the World, and Pray for Turlough O'Conor, King of Ireland, and Abbot O'Duffy, and for the artist Maol Iosa O'Echan.

Detail Cross of Cong Ireland

The cross is now on display in the National Museum, Dublin.

Clonmacnoise crozier, eleventh century

A crosier is the stylized staff of office (pastoral staff).

 The most evocative aspect of the decoration is the snake-like animals in figure-of-eight patterns that decorate the sides

Ancient Celtic Gold Crosses

Holderness Cross

This high-status gold and garnet cross was found in Burton Pidsea on the Holderness Peninsula, East Yorkshire. It dates to the seventh century and is an early example of the Christian symbol of a cross being made in Anglo-Saxon England using a technique known from pagan jewellery of the period. The cloisonne cell work is filled with shaped garnets; only fifty-eight of the original ninety-five garnets survive. X-Ray diffraction has indicated that the garnets were set in a bedding of calcium carbonate, a technique common for Anglo-Saxon jewellery. This technique was being used in Anglia which is where the cross may also have been made.

There are similarities between the Holderness cross and another found in a grave at Ixworth in Suffolk in about 1856.

Ixworth Cross
The cross was found in a grave at Ixworth in Suffolk in about 1856.

The grave also contained a jewelled disc brooch (AN1909.454) and some iron staples thought to be from a coffin.

Ixworth Brooch
These items suggest the owner was certain wealthy and probably important to their community.

Cross from the Anglo-Saxon Ship-Burial at Sutton Hoo

More Celtic Gold

Hollow gold balls. Late Bronze Age, Ireland. Graduated sizes and with holes suggest that these balls could have been strung together to form a necklace.

An Amber necklace and a gold dress fastener. 800-700 BC. Ireland. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Treasures of Early Irish Art 1500 B.C. - 1500 A.D. New York.

The Derrinboy armlets are a pair of magnificent gold bracelets that were found deep within a County Offaly bog in 1959. Dating from the Late Bronze Age, these precious artifacts formed part of a small hoard of objects that were discovered by Mr. Patrick McGovern as he was digging turf. 

 They are decorated with raised ribs of alternately plain and patterned repoussé work.  They come from what is termed as the Bishopsland Phase.  The repoussé technique involved hammering a design onto a piece from the back.

Celtic Hammered Gold Bracelet

Gold Bulla

Found in the Bog of Allen, Co. Kildare and dates to about 700 B. C. it can be seen in the National Museum of Ireland. These were enigmatic objects of lead covered in gold foil decorated with repoussé designs of concentric circles, semi-circles, triangles and other patterns.  It is believed they may have served as an amulet or an object to ward off evil or ensure fertility.


These gold lock-rings come from the Dowris phase of the Late Bronze Age and date to circa 800 - 600  B. C.  They have a diameter of 10 cm. and length of 5 cm. with an internal width of 1.35 cm.  They were found in Gorteenreagh, County Clare in 1948 and are now on view at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

These gapped conical ornaments, thought to have been used for holding hair in place, such as at the end of a plait, demonstrate the highest skill of the early Irish goldsmith.