A seventh characteristic of the Celts, reflected in their ecclesiology and spirituality, was their profound appreciation of the spoken and written word; that is, of storytelling. They knew first hand that stories feed the soul the way food feeds the body. As a result, they had many types of storytellersfrom the seanchai, the humblest teller of tales around the hearth in the home, to the fili, the learned bard at the courts of the Irish kings, to the monastic scribe seated with his quill pen in a cold scriptorium transcribing on vellum the stories of the saints. The responsibility of all of these storytellers was to remember and narrate the great sagas of their tribal and spiritual ancestors whom they considered, even if long dead, intimate members of their families. The stories and legends they told were about both secular heroes and honoured saints, mortal and immortal beings who had strange visions, made voyages to other worlds, endured great hardships for tribe and gospel, and travelled in companies of friends. Whenever and wherever they were told, these stories about their heroes were perhaps the clearest expression of the Celts' religious beliefs, values, and spirituality.
Celtic spirituality, a spirituality which has a future, precisely because it has much to teach our contemporary world. In Ireland, where the purest forms of Celtic life survived, since the armies of Rome never conquered it, the social system consisted of three main classes: the landowning aristocracy who were the tribal kings and their retinues of warriors, families and relatives; the serfs, some of whom were free, while others were slaves taken in battle or, like the youthful St. Patrick, kidnapped from foreign shores; and, finally, but not least, the scholars and artists called the aes dana, Gaelic for "people of learning" or "of poetry." This latter group included poets, historians, experts in genealogy, lawyers, physicians, skilled craftsmen, and the story-tellers themselves, the bards. Many of these aes dana were druids and druidesses, advisers to the kings and teachers of the tribes. In fact, the highest position [ollam] of the druids was equal to that of the king, a position of spiritual authority that was eventually replaced by the monastic leader or Christian bishop when the pagan Celts had been baptized. All of these aes dana in Ireland were held in high esteem and had the privilege, as did the aristocracy, of travelling anywhere without permission. This respect and the freedom which went with it reveals how much Celtic society valued people of learning, of poetry, and of artistic skills, considering them as essential as any king or warrior to the well being of their society, culture, and spirituality.