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  • Writer's pictureHannah McQuilkan

Sovereignty, the Celts and Covid

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

Sovereignty is a quality I’ve been exploring deeply over the past year. Its something the Celtic people understood as intrinsic to human life and this powerful ideal still has much offer us today.

The Merriam-Webster definition of Sovereignty is:


: supreme power especially over a body politic


: freedom from external control : AUTONOMY


: controlling influence


: one that is sovereign

especially : an autonomous state

For the Celtic peoples, this supreme power lay in the land under their feet, often represented by a Goddess of Sovereignty, the being who could give life and take it away, the Earth herself, Mother of all.

Many of their most influential Goddesses were Sovereignty goddesses, who bestowed bountiful harvests to the people, as long as the King was true and the people honoured her. When a new King was inaugurated he had to undergo a ritual marriage to the Goddess of the land which occurred at Tara in Ireland at Samhain. The King promised to honour the land, who in exchange would be fertile and productive. If the King dishonoured this sacred union then the Earth would become a wasteland. Many Celtic stories warn us of the disasters that follow a King who betrays the Goddess.

These old stories teach us a lot about the importance of honouring our personal Sovereignty and the risks of being seduced by the wasteland of our times - using societies definition of success to shape our lives, rather than the calling of our own minds and hearts.

Sovereignty is your true north, alignment with your values, inner conviction, claiming your inner power and protecting yourself if your Sovereignty is challenged. Its about staying true to you no matter what. This doesn’t mean you can’t accept and be with the differences in others but that you know unequivocally where you stand and stand strong you do, despite pressure or coercion.

Sovereignty is a close friend of personal responsibility. It gives you the power to make the choices you need to make in your life, to be clear about what those choices mean, the freedom to change your mind and the power to accept the consequences of your choices.

At different times in our lives our Sovereignty might be challenged, we risk losing ourselves under the pressure to conform or to please others. In many ways, upholding our Sovereignty is a value we need to take steps to honour and protect everyday.

As the Celtic stories warn us, our lives can become as barren as a wasteland when we do not honour our personal sovereignty. We forget who we really are, we begin to live a life that isn’t in alignment with our values and the light of our soul gets hidden from even ourselves. We compromise our values to keep a job or to make money, we deny our true feelings to stay in a relationship or allow ourselves to be coerced into doing something to fit in with society.

Where have you given away your Sovereignty?

I lost mine in a decade long relationship, so desperate to be loved and wanting to prove so badly that this impossible love could work, I betrayed my Sovereignty by trying to bend myself to fit his view of the world. I’m still ashamed about how I treated my parents and lost sight of what was important during this time. Ironically it was this same person and relationship that taught me how important Sovereignty is. If you lose it once, you’ll do everything in your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As a Naturopath and Medical Herbalist I was taught that all bodies are different and that therefore all treatment plans need to be carefully tailored to meet the needs of an individual. Holistic health care looks at all parts of a person, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual, the body is seen as an interconnecting system, with the entire system taken into consideration before offering treatment.

Given my professional background in natural health, when the New Zealand Government announced that anyone who didn’t partake in the Pfizer vaccine would be effectively banned from many areas of life, my Sovereignty was deeply challenged. Seeing a one size fits all medical approach, with almost no possibility for exemptions, that used coercive tactics such as ‘no jab no job’ in our beautiful country New Zealand was and still is horrifying.

This time however, although the desire to fit in and be liked was still there, I honoured what was right for me. I can’t say what was right for anyone else during this time but I stood by my convictions and deeply contemplated Sovereignty. I felt powerful, sure of myself, true. It was hard at times, very hard but also satisfying to be standing for something I truly believe in - the right of all people to choose medical treatment freely and without pressure or coercion. So to be clear for the sake of this contentious issue, whatever choice you made regarding the vaccine, if it was freely made, I stand by you.

And so what do you stand for? Do you even know? Sometimes we don’t know until its challenged.

Sovereignty asks us to grow a spine, to risk it all for our own integrity. The Sovereignty Goddess in the Celtic stories isn’t mucking around, if she’s not honoured she will not be able to provide for humanity and the world will die, becoming a wasteland. This is a big price to pay.

How have you paid the price for not honouring your personal Sovereignty?

One major obstacle to being Sovereign is the desire to be liked and wanting to fit in. This need can sabotage your ability to be true to yourself and it can blind you to your path, so strong is the desire to be a success in the eyes of others. Obviously sometimes choosing to fit in or not stand out might indeed be the most sensible choice, the real danger comes when you don’t even realise what you are doing, you believe you are the square peg, convinced you fit into that round hole, confused about why life seems hard for you.

Its a huge and risky thing as a human being to go against the crowd, its uncomfortable, edgy, as tribal beings it goes against our deepest conditioning.

Orion Mountain Dreamer puts in beautifully in her poem ‘The Invitation’ when she says:

“I want to know if you can

disappoint another

to be true to yourself.

If you can bear

the accusation of betrayal

and not betray your own soul.”

The wonderful thing is that in not betraying our own souls, we won’t allow that in others either. Sovereignty honours diversity, it allows freedom in others as much as in oneself. It wants everyone to do whats right for them, even if this flies in the face of their own values and beliefs, it understands that somehow in this chaos, balance and harmony will be found.

Claiming your Sovereignty gives you a sure footedness so you can stay aligned to your true north no matter what. It makes you trustworthy, people might not always agree with your choices but they can be sure that at least they are really your own. When you give your opinions they will be given in good faith, not to be liked but to offer something of value to the world.

I see at this time a greater need than ever for human beings to find and stand in their own Sovereignty. In a world with too much information to process, with total confusion as to what information is correct or what is false, with big business having a vested interest in what they would like us to believe, having clear values and a clear sense of what we stand for is critical.

A healthy eco system needs diversity to flourish and in society we also need a diversity of cultures, opinions and view points to be healthy and balanced. Todays western trajectory of a one size fits all moral code, where unpopular or controversial views are censored by the government and media is, I believe a dangerous threat to our individual and world wide Sovereignty. In this kind of climate, more extreme views become hidden as they are pushed to the side lines and become potentially even more extreme as they fester and grow on the fringes, unable to benefit from robust discussion and scrutiny.

How in this kind of culture are we as human beings to explore the entirety of ourselves when some thoughts or ideas are considered ‘wrong’, when political correctness gets so extreme that we feel censored whenever we speak and judged if we have something to say that goes against popular culture?

If I have learned anything during this covid time, it is to be more tolerant of others. I was totally blind to how intolerant I was to different types of people I struggled to understand, whose values are clearly different to mine. People who play loud music on the beach used to make me mad and I felt smokers were weak willed and must be lacking in intelligence, to give you two examples. I’m pleased to say I have revised these views and it is having gone through the experience of having my own Sovereignty threatened that allowed me to do this.

I now realise the importance to live and let live, to have the grace to allow others their full expression as much as I can, while at the same time acknowledging my boundaries - it’s a dance to be sure. I can say that now when I hear loud music on the beach I either decide to enjoy it or move somewhere further away but generally recognise that their humanity expressing itself is a beautiful thing. Regarding people who choose to smoke, it is their God given choice to do this, its their body, not mine and who am I to say what is best for them? Just because I’m a health freak doesn’t mean everyone has to be! Sovereignty doesn’t control or judge others, it gives space and appreciates that people are different and (my goodness!) how I now realise just how important those differences are.

Sovereignty is a beautiful concept that deeply recognises the needs of an individual set within the context of a larger world. To be free to make choices, even if we later feel we made a mistake, to fall and stumble, to rise again, to be forgiven, to honour all life as sacred. Sovereignty becomes its own moral code, as long as all parties are treated as Sovereign there is safety, everyone is protected from betrayal.

So are you willing to betray another to be true to yourself? Are you willing to risk looking like a fool for something you love? Are you willing to allow another freedom of expression even when its inconvenient or unpleasant for you? Are you willing to fight for your deepest truth?

I wanted to end with some suggestions on how to reclaim Sovereignty but realised that life gifts us with opportunities to do this every single day. The only question is will you take them?

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