Monday, April 29, 2013

Ogma, master of poetry and inventor of ogham writing

Ogma, master of poetry and inventor of ogham writing



Another son of Brigit's was Ogma, master of poetry and inventor of ogham writing, the word being derived from his name. It is more probable that Ogma's name is a derivative from some word signifying "speech" or "writing," and that the connection with "ogham" may be a mere folk-etymology. Ogma appears as the champion of the gods, a position given him perhaps from the primitive custom of rousing the warriors' emotions by eloquent speeches before a battle. Similarly the Babylonian Marduk, "seer of the gods," was also their champion in fight. Ogma fought and died at Mag-tured; but in other accounts he survives, captures Tethra's sword, goes on the quest for Dagda's harp, and is given a síd after the Milesian victory. Ogma's counterpart in Gaul is Ogmíos, a Herakles and a god of eloquence, thus bearing the dual character of Ogma, while Ogma's epithet grianainech, "of the smiling countenance," recalls Lucian's account of the "smiling face" of Ogmíos. Ogma's high position is the result of the admiration of bardic eloquence among the Celts, whose loquacity was proverbial, and to him its origin was doubtless ascribed, as well as that of poetry. The genealogists explain his relationship to the other divinities in different ways, but these confusions may result from the fact that gods had more than one name, of which the annalists made separate personalities. }Most usually Ogma is called Brigit's son. Her functions were like his own, but in spite of the increasing supremacy of gods over goddesses, he never really eclipsed her.

Celtic ( Tuatha Dé Danann) Gods of Knowledge

Celtic ( Tuatha Dé Danann) Gods of Knowledge



Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba, who give a title to the whole group, are called tri dee Donand, "the three gods (sons of) Danu," or, again, "gods of dán" (knowledge), perhaps as the result of a folk-etymology, associating dân with their mother's name Danu.Various attributes are personified as their descendants, Wisdom being son of all three. Though some of these attributes may have been actual gods, especially Ecne or Wisdom, yet it is more probable that the personification is the result of the subtleties of bardic science, of which similar examples occur. On the other hand, the fact that Ecne is the son of three brothers, may recall some early practice of polyandry of which instances are met with in the sagas. M. D'Arbois has suggested that Iuchar and Iucharba are mere duplicates of Brian, who usually takes the leading place, and he identifies them with three kings of the Tuatha Déa reigning at the time of the Milesian invasion—MacCuill, MacCecht, and MacGrainne, so called, according to Keating, because the hazel (coll), the plough (cecht), and the sun (grian) were "gods of worship" to them. Both groups are grandsons of Dagda, and M. D'Arbois regards this second group as also triplicates of one god, because their wives Fotla, Banba, and Eriu all bear names of Ireland itself, are personifications of the land, and thus may be "reduced to unity." While this reasoning is ingenious, it should be remembered that we must not lay too much stress upon Irish divine genealogies, while each group of three may have been similar local gods associated at a later time as brothers. Their separate personality is suggested by the fact that the Tuatha Dé Danann are called after them "the Men of the Three Gods," and their supremacy appears in the incident of Dagda, Lug, and Ogma consulting them before the fight at Mag-tured—a natural proceeding if they {}were gods of knowledge or destiny. The brothers are said to have slain the god Cian, and to have been themselves slain by Lug, and on this seems to have been based the story of The Children of Tuirenn, in which they perish through their exertions in obtaining the eric demanded by Lug.Here they are sons of Tuirenn, but more usually their mother Danu or Brigit is mentioned.

Celtic Fertility Goddesses

Celtic Fertility Goddesses



The Matres, goddesses of fertility, do not appear by name in Ireland, but the triplication of such goddesses as Morrigan and Brigit, the threefold name of Dagda's wife, or the fact that Arm, Danu, and Buanan are called "mothers," while Buanan's name is sometimes rendered "good mother," may suggest that such grouped goddesses were not unknown. Later legend knows of white women who assist in spinning, or three hags with power over nature, or, as in the Battle of Ventry, of three supernatural women who fall in love with Conncrithir, aid him in fight, and heal his wounds. In this document and elsewhere is mentioned the "síd of the White Women."Goddesses of fertility are usually goddesses of love, and the prominence given to females among the síde, the fact that they are often called Be find, "White Women," like fairies who represent the Matres elsewhere, and that they freely offer their love to mortals, may connect them with this group of goddesses. Again, when the Milesians arrived in Ireland, three kings of the Tuatha Déa had wives called Eriu, Banba, and Fotla, who begged that Ireland should be called after them. This was granted, but only Eriu (Erin) remained in general use. The story is an ætiological myth explaining the names of Ireland, but the three wives may be a group like the Matres, guardians of the land which took its name from them.

Celtic War Goddesses

Celtic War Goddesses



Although the (Celtic) Irish gods are warriors, and there are special war-gods, yet war-goddesses are more prominent, usually as a group of three—Morrigan, Neman, and Macha. A fourth, Badb, sometimes takes the place of one of these, or is identical with Morrigan, or her name, like that of Morrigan, may be generic. Badb means "a scald-crow," under which form the war-goddesses appeared, probably because these birds were seen near the slain. She is also called Badbcatha, "battle-Badb," and is thus the equivalent of -athubodua, or, more probably, Cathubodua, mentioned in an inscription from Haute-Savoie, while this, as well as personal names like Boduogenos, shows that a goddess Bodua was known to the Gauls. The badb or battle-crow is associated with the Fomorian Tethra, but Badb herself is consort of a war-god Nét, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who may be the equivalent of Neton, mentioned in Spanish inscriptions and equated with Mars. Elsewhere Neman is Nét's consort, and she may be the Nemetona of inscriptions, e.g.at Bath, the consort of Mars. Cormac calls Nét and Neman "a venomous couple," which we may well believe them to have been.To Macha were devoted the heads of slain enemies, "Macha's mast," but she, according to the annalists, was slain at Mag-tured, though she reappears in the Cúchulainn saga as the Macha whose ill-treatment led to the "debility" of the Ulstermen. The name Morrigan may mean "great queen," though Dr. Stokes, {72}connecting mor with the same syllable in "Fomorian," explains it as "nightmare-queen."She works great harm to the Fomorians at Mag-tured, and afterwards proclaims the victory to the hills, rivers, and fairy-hosts, uttering also a prophecy of the evils to come at the end of time. She reappears prominently in the Cúchulainn saga, hostile to the hero because he rejects her love, yet aiding the hosts of Ulster and the Brown Bull, and in the end trying to prevent the hero's death.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Brigit-Celtic Cult Goddess

Brigit-Celtic Cult Goddess



Brigit, or goddesses with similar functions, was regarded by the Celts as an early teacher of civilisation, inspirer of the artistic, poetic, and mechanical faculties, as well as a goddess of fire and fertility. As such she far excelled her sons, gods of knowledge. She must have originated in the period when the Celts worshipped goddesses rather than gods, and when knowledge—leechcraft, agriculture, inspiration—were women's rather than men's. She had a female priesthood, and men were perhaps excluded from her cult, as the tabued shrine at }Kildare suggests. Perhaps her fire was fed from sacred oak wood, for many shrines of S. Brigit were built under oaks, doubtless displacing pagan shrines of the goddess. As a goddess, Brigit is more prominent than Danu, also a goddess of fertility, even though Danu is mother of the gods.

Celtic Danu is also identified with Brigit, Goddess of Knowledge


Celtic Danu is also identified with Brigit, Goddess of Knowledge




Danu is also identified with Brigit, goddess of knowledge (dán), perhaps through a folk-etymology. She was worshipped by poets, and had two sisters of the same name connected with leechcraft and smithwork.They are duplicates or local forms of Brigit, a goddess of culture and of poetry, so much loved by the Celts. She is thus the equivalent of the Gaulish goddess equated with Minerva by Cæsar, and found on inscriptions as Minerva Belisama and Brigindo. She is the Dea Brigantia of British inscriptions. One of the seats of her worship was the land of the Brigantes, of whom she was the eponymous goddess, and her name (cf. Irbrig, "power" or "craft"; Welsh bri, "honour," "renown") suggests her high functions. But her popularity is seen in the continuation of her personality and cult in those of S. Brigit, at {}whose shrine in Kildare a sacred fire, which must not be breathed on, or approached by a male, was watched daily by nineteen nuns in turn, and on the twentieth day by the saint herself. Similar sacred fires were kept up in other monasteries, and they point to the old cult of a goddess of fire, the nuns being successors of a virgin priesthood like the vestals, priestesses of Vesta. As has been seen, the goddesses Belisama and Sul, probably goddesses of fire, resembled Brigit in this. But Brigit, like Vesta, was at once a goddess of fire and of fertility, as her connection with Candlemas and certain ritual survivals also suggest. In the Hebrides on S. Bride's day (Candlemas-eve) women dressed a sheaf of oats in female clothes and set it with a club in a basket called "Briid's bed." Then they called, "Briid is come, Briid is welcome." Or a bed was made of corn and hay with candles burning beside it, and Bride was invited to come as her bed was ready. If the mark of the club was seen in the ashes, this was an omen of a good harvest and a prosperous year. It is also noteworthy that if cattle cropped the grass near S. Brigit's shrine, next day it was as luxuriant as ever.

The Celtic Earth Goddess- Danu

The Celtic Earth Goddess- Danu



Danu gave her name to the whole group of gods, and is called their mother, like the Egyptian Neith or the Semitic Ishtar. In the annalists she is daughter of Dagda, and has three sons. She may be akin to the goddess Anu, whom Cormac describes as "mater deorum hibernensium. It was well she nursed the gods." From her name he derives ana, "plenty," and two hills in Kerry are called "the Paps of Anu." Thus as a goddess of plenty Danu or Anu may have been an early Earth-mother, and what may be a dim memory of Anu in Leicestershire confirms this view. A cave on the Dane Hills is called "Black Annis' Bower," and she is said to have been a savage woman who devoured human victims. Earth-goddesses }usually have human victims, and Anu would be no exception. In the cult of Earth divinities Earth and under-Earth are practically identical, while Earth-goddesses like Demeter and Persephone were associated with the underworld, the dead being Demeter's folk. The fruits of the earth with their roots below the surface are then gifts of the earth- or under-earth goddess. This may have been the case with Danu, for in Celtic belief the gifts of civilisation came from the underworld or from the gods. Professor Rh[^y]s finds the name Anu in the datAnoniredi, "chariot of Anu," in an inscription from Vaucluse, and the identification is perhaps established by the fact that goddesses of fertility were drawn through the fields in a vehicle. Cormac also mentions Buanann as mother and nurse of heroes, perhaps a goddess worshipped by heroes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Supernatural World of the Tuatha De Danann


SUPERNATURAL WORLD OF THE TUATHA DÉ DANANN


The meaning formerly given to Tuatha Dé Danann was "the men of science who were gods," danann being here connected withdán, "knowledge." But the true meaning is "the tribes or folk of the goddess Danu,"199 which agrees with the cognates Tuatha or Fir Dea, "tribes or men of the goddess." The name was given to the group, though Danu had only three sons, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharbar. Hence the group is also called fir tri ndea, "men of the three gods."200 The equivalents in Welsh story of Danu and her folk are Dôn and her children. We have seen that though they are described as kings and warriors by the annalists, traces of their divinity appear. In the Cúchulainn cycle they are supernatural beings and sometimes demons, helping or harming men, and in the Fionn cycle all these characteristics are ascribed to them. But the theory which prevailed most is that which connected them with the hills or mounds, the last resting-places of the mighty dead. Some of these bore their names, while other beings were also associated with the mounds (síd)—Fomorians and Milesian chiefs, heroes of the sagas, or those who had actually been buried in them.201 Legend told how, after the defeat of the gods, the mounds were divided among them, the method {}of division varying in different versions. In an early version the Tuatha Dé Danann are immortal and the Dagda divides the síd.202 But in a poem of Flann Manistrech (ob. 1056) they are mortals and die.203 Now follows a regular chronology giving the dates of their reigns and their deaths, as in the poem of Gilla Coemain (eleventh century).204 Hence another legend told how, Dagda being dead, Bodb Dearg divided the síd, yet even here Manannan is said to have conferred immortality upon the Tuatha Dé Danann.205 The old pagan myths had shown that gods might die, while in ritual their representatives were slain, and this may have been the starting-point of the euhemerising process. But the divinity of the Tuatha Dé Danann is still recalled. Eochaid O'Flynn (tenth century), doubtful whether they are men or demons, concludes, "though I have treated of these deities in order, yet have I not adored them."206 Even in later times they were still thought of as gods in exile, a view which appears in the romantic tales and sagas existing side by side with the notices of the annalists. They were also regarded as fairy kings and queens, and yet fairies of a different order from those of ordinary tradition. They are "fairies or sprites with corporeal forms, endowed with immortality," and yet also dei terreni or síde worshipped by the folk before the coming of S. Patrick. Even the saint and several bishops were called by the fair pagan daughters of King Loegaire, fir síde, "men of the síd," that is, gods.207 The sídwere named after the names of the Tuatha Dé Danann {65}who reigned in them, but the tradition being localised in different places, several mounds were sometimes connected with one god. The síd were marvellous underground palaces, full of strange things, and thither favoured mortals might go for a time or for ever. In this they correspond exactly to the oversea Elysium, the divine land.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Peopling of Ireland by the Daughters of Cain

Ireland First Peopled by the Daughters of Cain




Various stories were told of the first peopling of Ireland. Banba, with two other daughters of Cain, arrived with fifty women and three men, only to die of the plague. Three fishermen next discovered Ireland, and "of the island of Banba of Fair Women with hardihood they took possession." Having gone to fetch their wives, they perished in the deluge at Tuath Inba.155 A more popular account was that of the coming of Cessair, Noah's granddaughter, with her father, husband, a third man, Ladru, "the first dead man of Erin," and fifty damsels. Her coming was the result of the advice of a laimh-dhia, or "hand-god," but their ship was wrecked, and all save her husband, Finntain, who survived for centuries, perished {51}in the flood.156 Cessair's ship was less serviceable than her grandparent's! Followed the race of Partholan, "no wiser one than the other," who increased on the land until plague swept them away, with the exception of Tuan mac Caraill, who after many transformations, told the story of Ireland to S. Finnen centuries after.157 The survival of Finntain and Tuan, doubles of each other, was an invention of the chroniclers, to explain the survival of the history of colonists who had all perished. Keating, on the other hand, rejecting the sole survivor theory as contradictory to Scripture, suggests that "aerial demons," followers of the invaders, revealed all to the chroniclers, unless indeed they found it engraved with "an iron pen and lead in the rocks."158

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celtic Fertility Goddesses

Celtic Fertility Goddesses


In the Matres, primarily goddesses of fertility and plenty, we have one of the most popular and also primitive aspects of Celtic religion. They originated in an age when women cultivated the ground, and the Earth was a goddess whose cult was performed by priestesses. But in course of time new functions were bestowed on the Matres. Possibly river-goddesses and others are merely mothers whose functions have become specialised. The Matres are found as guardians of individuals, families, houses, of towns, a province, or a whole nation, as their epithets in inscriptions show. The Matres Domesticæ are household goddesses; the Matres Treveræ, orGallaicæ, or Vediantæ, are the mothers of Trèves, of the Gallaecæ, of the Vediantii; the Matres Nemetiales are guardians of groves. Besides presiding over the fields as Matres Campestræ they brought prosperity to towns and people.141 They guarded women, especially in childbirth, as ex votos prove, and in this aspect they are akin to the Junones worshipped also in Gaul and Britain. The name thus became generic for most goddesses, but all alike were the lineal descendants of the primitive Earth-mother.142
Popular superstition has preserved the memory of these goddesses in the three bonnes damesdames blanches, and White Women, met by wayfarers in forests, or in the three fairies or wise women of folk-tales, who appear at the birth of {}children. But sometimes they have become hateful hags. The Matres and other goddesses probably survived in the beneficent fairies of rocks and streams, in the fairy Abonde who brought riches to houses, or Esterelle of Provence who made women fruitful, or Aril who watched over meadows, or in beings like Melusine, Viviane, and others.143 In Gallo-Roman Britain the cult of the Matres is found, but how far it was indigenous there is uncertain. A Welsh name for fairies, Y Mamau, "the Mothers," and the phrase, "the blessing of the Mothers" used of a fairy benediction, may be a reminiscence of such goddesses.144 The presence of similar goddesses in Ireland will be considered later.145 Images of the Matres bearing a child have sometimes been taken for those of the Virgin, when found accidentally, and as they are of wood blackened with age, they are known as Vierges Noires, and occupy an honoured place in Christian sanctuaries. Many churches of Nôtre Dame have been built on sites where an image of the Virgin is said to have been miraculously found—the image probably being that of a pagan Mother. Similarly, an altar to the Matres at Vaison is now dedicated to the Virgin as the "good Mother."146

Celtic Forest Goddesses

Celtic Forest Goddesses




In some cases forests were ruled by goddesses—that of the Ardennes by Dea Arduinna, and the Black Forest, perhaps because of the many waters in it, by Dea Abnoba.134 While some goddesses are known only by being associated with a god, e.g. Kosmerta with Mercury in Eastern Gaul, others have remained separate, like Epona, perhaps a river-goddess merged with an animal divinity, and known from inscriptions as a horse-goddess.135 But the most striking instance is found in the grouped goddesses.
{44}
Of these the Deoe Matres, whose name has taken a Latin form and whose cult extended to the Teutons, are mentioned in many inscriptions all over the Celtic area, save in East and North-West Gaul.136 In art they are usually represented as three in number, holding fruit, flowers, a cornucopia, or an infant. They were thus goddesses of fertility, and probably derived from a cult of a great Mother-goddess, the Earth personified. She may have survived as a goddess Berecynthia; worshipped at Autun, where her image was borne through the fields to promote fertility, or as the goddesses equated with Demeter and Kore, worshipped by women on an island near Britain.137 Such cults of a Mother-goddess lie behind many religions, but gradually her place was taken by an Earth-god, the Celtic Dispater or Dagda, whose consort the goddess became. She may therefore be the goddess with the cornucopia on monuments of the horned god, or Aeracura, consort of Dispater, or a goddess on a monument at Epinal holding a basket of fruit and a cornucopia, and accompanied by a ram's-headed serpent.138 These symbols show that this goddess was akin to the Matres. But she sometimes preserved her individuality, as in the case of Berecynthia and the Matres, though it is not quite clear why she should have been thus triply multiplied. A similar phenomenon is found in the close connection of Demeter and Persephone, while the Celts regarded three as a sacred number. The primitive division of the year into three seasons—spring, summer, and winter—may have had its effect in triplicating a goddess of fertility with which the course of the seasons was connected.139 In other mythologies groups of three goddesses are found, the }Hathors in Egypt, the Moirai, Gorgons, and Graiæ of Greece, the Roman Fates, and the Norse Nornæ, and it is noticeable that the Matres were sometimes equated with the Parcæ and Fates.140

Celtic Water Goddesses and Fairies

Celtic Water Goddesses


Goddesses, the earlier spirits of the waters, protected rivers and springs, or were associated with gods of healing wells. Dirona or Sirona is associated with Grannos mainly in Eastern Gaul and the Rhine provinces, and is sometimes represented carrying grapes and grain.130 Thus this goddess may once have been connected with fertility, perhaps an Earth-mother, and if her name means "the long-lived,"131 this would be an appropriate title for an Earth-goddess. Another goddess, Stanna, mentioned in an inscription at Perigueux, is perhaps "the standing or abiding one," and thus may also have been Earth-goddess.132 Grannos was also associated with the local goddesses Vesunna and Aventia, who gave their names to Vesona and Avanche. His statue also stood in the temple of the goddess of the Seine, Sequana.133 With Bormo were associated Bormana in Southern Gaul, and Damona in Eastern Gaul—perhaps an animal goddess, since the root of her name occurs in Irish dam, "ox," and Welsh dafad, "sheep." Dea Brixia was the consort of Luxovius, god of the waters of Luxeuil. Names of other goddesses of the waters are found on ex votos and plaques which were placed in or near them. The Roman Nymphæ, sometimes associated with Bormo, were the equivalents of the Celtic water-goddesses, who survived in the water-fairies of later folk-belief. Some river-goddesses gave their names to many rivers in the Celtic area—the numerous Avons being named from Abnoba, goddess of the sources of the Danube, and the many Dees and Dives from Divona. Clota was goddess of the Clyde, Sabrina had her throne "beneath the translucent wave" of the Severn, Icauna was goddess of the Yonne, Sequana of the Seine, and Sinnan of the Shannon.

Celtic Cult Goddesses


Celtic Cult Goddesses


The Celtic cult of goddesses took two forms, that of individual and that of grouped goddesses, the latter much more numerous than the grouped gods. Individual goddesses were worshipped as consorts of gods, or as separate personalities, and in the latter case the cult was sometimes far extended. Still more popular was the cult of grouped goddesses. Of these the Matres, like some individual goddesses, were probably early Earth-mothers, and since the primitive fertility-cults included all that might then be summed up as "civilisation," {41}such goddesses had already many functions, and might the more readily become divinities of special crafts or even of war. Many individual goddesses are known only by their names, and were of a purely local character.119 Some local goddesses with different names but similar functions are equated with the same Roman goddess; others were never so equated.
The Celtic Minerva, or the goddesses equated with her, "taught the elements of industry and the arts,"120 and is thus the equivalent of the Irish Brigit. Her functions are in keeping with the position of woman as the first civiliser—discovering agriculture, spinning, the art of pottery, etc. During this period goddesses were chiefly worshipped, and though the Celts had long outgrown this primitive stage, such culture-goddesses still retained their importance. A goddess equated with Minerva in Southern France and Britain is Belisama, perhaps from qval, "to burn" or "shine."121 Hence she may have been associated with a cult of fire, like Brigit and like another goddess Sul, equated with Minerva at Bath and in Hesse, and in whose temple perpetual fires burned.122 She was also a goddess of hot springs. Belisama gave her name to the Mersey,123 and many goddesses in Celtic myth are associated with rivers.
Some war-goddesses are associated with Mars—Nemetona (in Britain and Germany), perhaps the same as the Irish Nemon, and Cathubodua, identical with the Irish war-goddess Badb-catha, "battle-crow," who tore the bodies of the slain.124 Another goddess Andrasta, "invincible," perhaps the same as the Andarta of the Voconces, was worshipped by {42}the people of Boudicca with human sacrifices, like the native Bellona of the Scordisci.125
A goddess of the chase was identified with Artemis in Galatia, where she had a priestess Camma, and also in the west. At the feast of the Galatian goddess dogs were crowned with flowers, her worshippers feasted and a sacrifice was made to her, feast and sacrifice being provided out of money laid aside for every animal taken in the chase.126 Other goddesses were equated with Diana, and one of her statues was destroyed in Christian times at Trèves.127 These goddesses may have been thought of as rushing through the forest with an attendant train, since in later times Diana, with whom they were completely assimilated, became, like Holda, the leader of the "furious host" and also of witches' revels.128 The Life of Cæsarius of Arles speaks of a "demon" called Diana by the rustics. A bronze statuette represents the goddess riding a wild boar,129 her symbol and, like herself, a creature of the forest, but at an earlier time itself a divinity of whom the goddess became the anthropomorphic form.

Celtic War Gods

Celtic War Gods




Some sixty names or titles of Celtic war-gods are known, generally equated with Mars.70 These were probably local tribal }divinities regarded as leading their worshippers to battle. Some of the names show that these gods were thought of as mighty warriors, e.g.Caturix, "battle-king," Belatu-Cadros—a common name in Britain—perhaps meaning "comely in slaughter,"71 and Albiorix, "world-king."72 Another name, Rigisamus, from rix and samus, "like to," gives the idea of "king-like."73
Toutatis, Totatis, and Tutatis are found in inscriptions from Seckau, York, and Old Carlisle, and may be identified with Lucan's Teutates, who with Taranis and Esus mentioned by him, is regarded as one of three pan-Celtic gods.74 Had this been the case we should have expected to find many more inscriptions to them. The scholiast on Lucan identifies Teutates now with Mars, now with Mercury. His name is connected with teuta, "tribe," and he is thus a tribal war-god, regarded as the embodiment of the tribe in its warlike capacity.
Neton, a war-god of the Accetani, has a name connected with Irish nia, "warrior," and may be equated with the Irish war-god Nét. Another god, Camulos, known from British and continental inscriptions, and figured on British coins with warlike emblems, has perhaps some connection with Cumal, father of Fionn, though it is uncertain whether Cumal was an Irish divinity.75
Another god equated with Mars is the Gaulish Braciaca, god of malt. According to classical writers, the Celts were 9}drunken race, and besides importing quantities of wine, they made their own native drinks, e.g. [Greek: chourmi], the Irish cuirm, and braccat, both made from malt (braich).76 These words, with the Gaulish brace, "spelt,"77 are connected with the name of this god, who was a divine personification of the substance from which the drink was made which produced, according to primitive ideas, the divine frenzy of intoxication. It is not clear why Mars should have been equated with this god.

Celtic Gods and Religion

Celtic Gods and Religion






The passage in which Cæsar sums up the Gaulish pantheon runs: "They worship chiefly the god Mercury; of him there are many symbols, and they regard him as the inventor of all the arts, as the guide of travellers, and as possessing great influence over bargains and commerce. After him they worship Apollo and Mars, Juppiter and Minerva. About these they hold much the same beliefs as other nations. Apollo heals diseases, Minerva teaches the elements of industry and the arts, Juppiter rules over the heavens, Mars directs war.... All the Gauls assert that they are descended from Dispater, their progenitor."53
As will be seen in this chapter, the Gauls had many other gods than these, while the Roman gods, by whose names Cæsar calls the Celtic divinities, probably only approximately corresponded to them in functions. As the Greeks called by the names of their own gods those of Egypt, Persia, and Babylonia, so the Romans identified Greek, Teutonic, and Celtic gods with theirs. The identification was seldom complete, and often extended only to one particular function or attribute. But, as in Gaul, it was often part of a state policy, and there the fusion of cults was intended to break the power of the Druids. The Gauls seem to have adopted Roman civilisation easily, and to have acquiesced in the process of assimilation of their {}divinities to those of their conquerors. Hence we have thousands of inscriptions in which a god is called by the name of the Roman deity to whom he was assimilated and by his own Celtic name—Jupiter Taranis, Apollo Grannus, etc. Or sometimes to the name of the Roman god is added a descriptive Celtic epithet or a word derived from a Celtic place-name. Again, since Augustus reinstated the cult of the Lares, with himself as chief Lar, the epithet Augustus was given to all gods to whom the character of the Lares could be ascribed, e.g. Belenos Augustus. Cults of local gods became cults of the genius of the place, coupled with the genius of the emperor. In some cases, however, the native name stands alone. The process was aided by art. Celtic gods are represented after Greco-Roman or Greco-Egyptian models. Sometimes these carry a native divine symbol, or, in a few cases, the type is purely native, e.g. that of Cernunnos. Thus the native paganism was largely transformed before Christianity appeared in Gaul. Many Roman gods were worshipped as such, not only by the Romans in Gaul, but by the Gauls, and we find there also traces of the Oriental cults affected by the Romans.54
There were probably in Gaul many local gods, tribal or otherwise, of roads and commerce, of the arts, of healing, etc., who, bearing different names, might easily be identified with each other or with Roman gods. Cæsar's Mercury, Mars, Minerva, etc., probably include many local Minervas, Mars, and Mercuries. There may, however, have been a few great gods common to all Gaul, universally worshipped, besides the numerous local gods, some of whom may have been adopted from the aborigines. An examination of the divine names in Holder's Altceltischer Sprachschatz will show how numerous the local gods of the continental Celts must have been. Professor {24}Anwyl reckons that 270 gods are mentioned once on inscriptions, 24 twice, 11 thrice, 10 four times, 3 five times, 2 seven times, 4 fifteen times, 1 nineteen times (Grannos), and 1 thirty-nine times (Belenos).55
The god or gods identified with Mercury were very popular in Gaul, as Cæsar's words and the witness of place-names derived from the Roman name of the god show. These had probably supplanted earlier names derived from those of the corresponding native gods. Many temples of the god existed, especially in the region of the Allobrogi, and bronze statuettes of him have been found in abundance. Pliny also describes a colossal statue designed for the Arverni who had a great temple of the god on the Puy de Dôme.56 Mercury was not necessarily the chief god, and at times, e.g. in war, the native war-gods would be prominent. The native names of the gods assimilated to Mercury are many in number; in some cases they are epithets, derived from the names of places where a local "Mercury" was worshipped, in others they are derived from some function of the gods.57 One of these titles is Artaios, perhaps cognate with Irish art, "god," or connected with artos, "bear." Professor Rh[^y]s, however, finds its cognate in Welsh âr, "ploughed land," as if one of the god's functions connected him with agriculture.58 This is supported by another inscription to Mercurius Cultor at Wurtemberg. Local gods of agriculture must thus have been assimilated to Mercury. A god Moccus, "swine," was also identified with Mercury, and the swine was a frequent representative of the corn-spirit or of vegetation divinities in {25}Europe. The flesh of the animal was often mixed with the seed corn or buried in the fields to promote fertility. The swine had been a sacred animal among the Celts, but had apparently become an anthropomorphic god of fertility, Moccus, assimilated to Mercury, perhaps because the Greek Hermes caused fertility in flocks and herds. Such a god was one of a class whose importance was great among the Celts as an agricultural people.
Commerce, much developed among the settled Gauls, gave rise to a god or gods who guarded roads over which merchants travelled, and boundaries where their transactions took place. Hence we have an inscription from Yorkshire, "To the god who invented roads and paths," while another local god of roads, equated with Mercury, was Cimiacinus.59
Another god, Ogmíos, a native god of speech, who draws men by chains fastened to the tip of his tongue, is identified in Lucian with Heracles, and is identical with the Goidelic Ogma.60 Eloquence and speech are important matters among primitive peoples, and this god has more likeness to Mercury as a culture-god than to Heracles, Greek writers speaking of eloquence as binding men with the chains of Hermes.
Several local gods, of agriculture, commerce, and culture, were thus identified with Mercury, and the Celtic Mercury was sometimes worshipped on hilltops, one of the epithets of the god, Dumias, being connected with the Celtic word for hill or mound. Irish gods were also associated with mounds.
Many local gods were identified with Apollo both in his {}capacity of god of healing and also that of god of light.61 The two functions are not incompatible, and this is suggested by the name Grannos, god of thermal springs both in Britain and on the Continent. The name is connected with a root which gives words meaning "burning," "shining," etc., and from which comes also Irish grian, "sun." The god is still remembered in a chant sung round bonfires in Auvergne. A sheaf of corn is set on fire, and called "Granno mio," while the people sing, "Granno, my friend; Granno, my father; Granno, my mother."62 Another god of thermal springs was Borvo, Bormo, or Bormanus, whose name is derived from borvo, whence Welsh berw, "boiling," and is evidently connected with the bubbling of the springs.63 Votive tablets inscribed Grannos or Borvo show that the offerers desired healing for themselves or others.
The name Belenos found over a wide area, but mainly in Aquileia, comes from belo-s, bright, and probably means "the shining one." It is thus the name of a Celtic sun-god, equated with Apollo in that character. If he is the Belinus referred to by Geoffrey of Monmouth,64 his cult must have extended into Britain from the Continent, and he is often mentioned by classical writers, while much later Ausonius speaks of his priest in Gaul.65 Many place and personal names point to the popularity of his cult, and inscriptions show that he, too, was a god of health and of healing-springs. The plant Belinuntia {27}was called after him and venerated for its healing powers.66 The sun-god's functions of light and fertility easily passed over into those of health-giving, as our study of Celtic festivals will show.