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MacBain does a decent job of running down the little we know about Celtic deities, but the majority of this book consists of speculation about connections between these gods and other Indo-European gods, and Celtic religion and other pagan religions, and a whole host of other things, most of which seems to be completely wrong. MacBain also displays the prejudices of his time regarding women and other cultures. Very scientific, very serious. Basically it's a very vague overview of Celtic beliefs, with applauding this respectable researcher or critisizing that one.
Almost nothing on the myths themselves, only speculations about which Celtic god corresponds with that Roman one, or what Druids did, or which real race the Fomorians represent, stuff like that. I liked it though, it felt very nostalgic, reminded me of my philological studies at the univerisity. There had been so much books written the same wa Very scientific, very serious.
There had been so much books written the same way. Aug 18, Colton Warner rated it really liked it. Slightly difficult to follow without a semi-advanced prior knowledge to Celtic mythology. It is a very advanced set of knowledge. Alexander MacBain's prestigious scholarly status was represented in his writing. Dec 10, Misty Kaiser added it. Awesome if you're interested Celtic Mythos, probably pretty boring if you're not. Naoise rated it liked it Aug 01, Nora Unkel rated it liked it Jun 08, Mark Patterson rated it liked it Jan 03, Druids not only led spiritually, but functioned as arbiters and judges.
There is some evidence to suggest that the druid hierarchy spanned Celtic Europe with some archdruids having ultimate jurisdiction over large areas. It is very difficult to interpret the archeological and historical evidence since the Celts had no written language. Aside from digging in the ground and trying to make sense of what they find, scholars must rely on the Greek and Roman historians and the myths as they were finally written, centuries later.
These manuscripts were Irish and Welsh, with the Irish being earlier. Since this site deals with Scotland, it the Irish tradition we will discuss, as that is the mythology that went to Dalriada along with fledging Christianity and that informs Highland folklore and customs to this day as well as many of our own.
The Celtic calendar was lunar based, with thirteen months.
Extra days as needed were added at new year's as a "time between times. The four fire festivals take place on the last evening of a month and the following day because the Celts, like the Jews, count a day from sunset to sunset. Samhain is celebrated on October November 1 our Halloween. It is the end of the harvest, the beginning of winter and once marked the Celtic new year. At Samhain, the barrier between our world and the Otherworld thins, allowing contacts between the spirits faeries and humans.
Normal rules of human conduct do not apply and one may "run wild". Great bonfires are lit and participants join hands and circle the fire, or young men take blazing torches and circle sunwise their homes and lands to protect them from evil spirits. This was also a festival of the dead and the church was easily able to transform these holidays into All Saint's Day November 1 and All Soul's Day November 2.
Imbolc is celebrated February later transformed into Candlemas by the church, and popular now as Groundhog Day.
Celtic Mythology and Religion
Imbolc marked the beginning of Spring hard to imagine where we live! Dedicated to the ancient mother goddess in her maiden aspect, it was later transformed into a feast day for the Irish saint of the same name and attributes , St.
The myth surrounding this festival is common to many ancient pagan religions. The god, Bel or Cernunnos, the horned god of Ireland dies but is reborn as the goddess' son. He then impregnates her ensuring the neverending cycle of rebirth.
This is very basic fertility worship. May Day traditions includes young people picking flowers in the woods and spending the night there , and the dance around the May Pole, weaving red for the god and white for the goddess streamers round and round. A great bonfire celebrates the return of the sun. In Ireland, the first bonfire was lit on Tara by the High King followed by all the others. On May Day itself, the Highland tradition has the entire community leading the cattle to summer pasturage, not to return until Samhain.
The final celebration of the agricultural year is Lughnasadh Lammas in England , the feast of the god Lugh and the first fruits of the harvest generally wheat or corn. Lughnasadh is celebrated July August 1. In Scotland, the first stalks of corn are called "John Barleycorn", of course, and were used to make the first beer of the fall season. Now, John Barleycorn refers to that greatest of Scots drinks many distilleries are closed for August, reopening for the fall whisky-making season on September 1.
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Apollo drives away diseases, Minerva promotes handicrafts, Jupiter rules the heavens, and Mars controls wars. In characteristic Roman fashion, however, Caesar does not refer to these figures by their native names but by the names of the Roman gods with which he equated them, a procedure that greatly complicates the task of identifying his Gaulish deities with their counterparts in the insular literatures. He also presents a neat schematic equation of god and function that is quite foreign to the vernacular literary testimony.
Yet, given its limitations, his brief catalog is a valuable and essentially accurate witness. In comparing his account with the vernacular literatures, or even with the continental iconography, it is well to recall their disparate contexts and motivations. On the other hand, the lack of structure is sometimes more apparent than real. It has, for instance, been noted that of the several hundred names containing a Celtic element attested in Gaul the majority occur only once, which has led some scholars to conclude that the Celtic gods and their cults were local and tribal rather than national.
The seeming multiplicity of deity names may, however, be explained otherwise—for example, many are simply epithets applied to major deities by widely extended cults. The notion of the Celtic pantheon as merely a proliferation of local gods is contradicted by the several well-attested deities whose cults were observed virtually throughout the areas of Celtic settlement. The Irish and Welsh cognates of Lugus are Lugh and Lleu, respectively, and the traditions concerning these figures mesh neatly with those of the Gaulish god.
An episode in the Middle Welsh collection of tales called the Mabinogion , or Mabinogi , seems to echo the connection with shoemaking, for it represents Lleu as working briefly as a skilled exponent of the craft. The probable explanation of this apparent confusion, which is paralleled elsewhere, is that the Celtic gods are not rigidly compartmentalized in terms of function.
The solar connotations of Belenus from Celtic: His name survives in Arthurian romance under the forms Mabon, Mabuz, and Mabonagrain. He was the son of Dagda or Daghda , chief god of the Irish, and of Boann , the personified sacred river of Irish tradition. In the literature the Divine Son tends to figure in the role of trickster and lover. At Bath she was identified with the goddess Sulis, whose cult there centred on the thermal springs.
Through the plural form Suleviae, found at Bath and elsewhere, she is also related to the numerous and important mother goddesses—who often occur in duplicate or, more commonly, triadic form. Her nearest equivalent in insular tradition is the Irish goddess Brighid , daughter of the chief god, Dagda.
Like Minerva she was concerned with healing and craftsmanship, but she was also the patron of poetry and traditional learning. The insular literatures show that certain deities were associated with particular crafts. Caesar makes no mention of a Gaulish Vulcan, though insular sources reveal that there was one and that he enjoyed high status.
With Chapters Upon Druid Circles and Celtic Burial
The weapons that Goibhniu forged with his fellow craft gods, the wright Luchta and the metalworker Creidhne, were unerringly accurate and lethal. Medieval Welsh also mentions Amaethon, evidently a god of agriculture, of whom little is known. Essentially these reflect the coupling of the protecting god of tribe or nation with the mother-goddess who ensured the fertility of the land. It is in fact impossible to distinguish clearly between the individual goddesses and these mother-goddesses, matres or matronae , who figure so frequently in Celtic iconography, often, as in Irish tradition, in triadic form.
Both types of goddesses are concerned with fertility and with the seasonal cycle of nature, and, on the evidence of insular tradition, both drew much of their power from the old concept of a great goddess who, like the Indian Aditi, was mother of all the gods. Welsh and Irish tradition also bring out the multifaceted character of the goddess, who in her various epiphanies or avatars assumes quite different and sometimes wholly contrasting forms and personalities.
She may be the embodiment of sovereignty, youthful and beautiful in union with her rightful king, or aged and hideously ugly when lacking a fitting mate.
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The goddess is the Celtic reflex of the primordial mother who creates life and fruitfulness through her union with the universal father-god. Welsh and Irish tradition preserve many variations on a basic triadic relationship of divine mother, father, and son. The rich abundance of animal imagery in Celto-Roman iconography, representing the deities in combinations of animal and human forms, finds frequent echoes in the insular literary tradition.
Other animals that figure particularly prominently in association with the pantheon in Celto-Roman art as well as in insular literature are boars, dogs, bears, and horses. The horse, an instrument of Indo-European expansion, has always had a special place in the affections of the Celtic peoples. Little is known about the religious beliefs of the Celts of Gaul.
The Celtic gods
They believed in a life after death , for they buried food, weapons, and ornaments with the dead. The druids, the early Celtic priesthood, taught the doctrine of transmigration of souls and discussed the nature and power of the gods. The Irish believed in an otherworld, imagined sometimes as underground and sometimes as islands in the sea.
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