The Religion of the Ancient Celts (Celtic, Irish)

The Religion of the Ancient Celts (Celtic, Irish)

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 048642765X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Scant records remain of the ancient Celtic religion, beyond some 11th- and 12th-century written material from the Irish Celts and the great Welsh document Mabinongion. This classic study by a distinguished scholar, first published in 1911, builds not only upon the valuable hints supplied by the surviving texts but also upon the still-extant folk customs derived from the rituals of the old cults. A masterly and extremely readable survey, it offers a reconstruction of the essentials of Celtic paganism. The Celt is portrayed as a seeker after God who links himself by strong ties to the unseen, eagerly attempting to conquer the unknown by religious rite and magic art. The earliest aspect of Celtic religion lies in the culture of nature spirits and of life manifested in nature, and this book offers fascinating glimpses into primitive forms of worship, depicting Celtic rites centered on rivers and wells, trees and plants, and animals. The Druids maintained an optimistic view of the afterlife, and the author presents the subject from the comparative point of view, drawing upon evidence from Celtic burial mounds to elaborate upon ancient beliefs and customs related to the culture of the dead, including rites of rebirth and transmigration.

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[977] Cormac, 94. [978] Keating, 356. See also Stokes, Martyr. of Oengus, 186; RC xii. 427, § 15; Joyce, SH 274 f. [979] LL 213b; Trip. Life, i. 90, 93. [980] O'Curry, MS. Mat. 284. [981] Keating, 49. [982] Jocelyn, Vita S. Kentig. 27, 32, 34; Ailred, Vita S. Ninian. 6. [983] Gildas, § 4. [984] For the whole argument see Reinach, RC xiii. 189 f. Bertrand, Rev. Arch. xv. 345, supports a similar theory, and, according to both writers, Gallo-Roman art was the result of the weakening of

dugnathu inmaini." Dr. Stokes and Sir John Rhys have both privately confirmed the interpretation given above. [1265] "Dialogue of the Sages," RC xxvi. 33 f. [1266] Tethra was husband of the war-goddess Badb, and in one text his name is glossed badb (Cormac, s.v. "Tethra"). The name is also glossed muir, "sea," by O'Cleary, and the sea is called "the plain of Tethra" (Arch. Rev. i. 152). These obscure notices do not necessarily denote that he was ruler of an oversea Elysium. [1267] Nennius,

the Tuatha Dé Danann, the others of Cúchulainn and of the Fians. They are distinct in character and contents, but the gods of the first cycle often help the heroes of the other groups, as the gods of Greece and India assisted the heroes of the epics. We shall see that some of the personages of these cycles may have been known in Gaul; they are remembered in Wales, but, in the Highlands, where stories of Cúchulainn and Fionn are still told, the Tuatha Dé Danann are less known now than in 1567,

an enemy's name was thrown into them with the accompaniment of a curse, the spirit of the well would cause his death. In some cases the curse was inscribed on a leaden tablet thrown into the waters, just as, in other cases, a prayer for the offerer's benefit was engraved on it. Or, again, objects over which a charm had been said were placed in a well that the victim who drew water might be injured. An excellent instance of a cursing-well is that of Fynnon Elian in Denbigh, which must once have

of the Teutonic accounts. In Ireland a man wearing a horse's head rushed through the fire, and was supposed to represent all cattle; in other words, he was a surrogate for them. The legend of Each Labra, a horse which lived in a mound and issued from it every Midsummer eve to give oracles for the coming year, is probably connected with the Midsummer sacrifice of the horse.[727] Among the Teutons the horse was a divine sacrificial animal, and was also sacred to Freyr, the god of fertility, while

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