Saturday, December 20, 2014

Celtic Earth Mother Goddess, Matres

Celtic Earth Mother Goddess, Matres




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, or Gallaicæ, 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. 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.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Three Fairies that Appear at the Birth of a Child

Three Fairies that Appear at the Birth of a Child


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. 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. The presence of similar goddesses in Ireland will be considered later. 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."
In inscriptions from Eastern and Cisalpine Gaul, and from the Rhine and Danube region, the Matronæ are mentioned, and this name is probably indicative of goddesses like the Matres. It is akin to that of many rivers, e.g. the Marne or Meyrone, and shows that the Mothers were associated with rivers. The Mother river fertilised a large district, and 
exhibited the characteristic of the whole group of goddesses.
Akin also to the Matres are the Suleviæ, guardian goddesses called Matres in a few inscriptions; the Comedovæ, whose name perhaps denotes guardianship or power; the Dominæ, who watched over the home, perhaps the Dames of mediæval folk-lore; and the Virgines, perhaps an appellative of the Matres, and significant when we find that virgin priestesses existed in Gaul and Ireland. The Proxumæ were worshipped in Southern Gaul, and the Quadriviæ, goddesses of cross-roads, at Cherbourg

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Coming of the Fomorians to Ireland

The Coming of the Fomorians to Ireland


Two hundred years before Partholan's coming, the Fomorians had arrived, and they and their chief Cichol Gricenchos fought Partholan at Mag Itha, where they were defeated. Cichol was footless, and some of his host had but one arm and one leg. They were demons, according to the chroniclers, and descendants of the luckless Ham. Nennius makes Partholan and his men the first Scots who came from Spain to Ireland. The next arrivals were the people of Nemed who returned to Spain, whence they came (Nennius), or died to a man (Tuan). They also were descendants of the inevitable Noah, and their sojourn in Ireland was much disturbed by the Fomorians who had recovered from their defeat, and finally overpowered the Nemedians after the death of Nemed. From Tory Island the Fomorians ruled Ireland, and forced the 
Nemedians to pay them annually on the eve of Samhain (Nov. 1st) two-thirds of their corn and milk and of the children born during the year. If the Fomorians are gods of darkness, or, preferably, aboriginal deities, the tribute must be explained as a dim memory of sacrifice offered at the beginning of winter when the powers of darkness and blight are in the ascendant. The Fomorians had a tower of glass in Tory Island. This was one day seen by the Milesians, to whom appeared on its battlements what seemed to be men. A year after they attacked the tower and were overwhelmed in the sea. From the survivors of a previously wrecked vessel of their fleet are descended the Irish. Another version makes the Nemedians the assailants. Thirty of them survived their defeat, some of them going to Scotland or Man (the Britons), some to Greece (to return as the Firbolgs), some to the north, where they learned magic and returned as the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Firbolgs, "men of bags," resenting their ignominious treatment by the Greeks, escaped to Ireland. They included the Firbolgs proper, the Fir-Domnann, and the Galioin. The Fomorians are called their gods, and this, with the contemptuous epithets bestowed on them, may point to the fact that the Firbolgs were the pre-Celtic folk of Ireland and the Fomorians their divinities, hostile to the gods of the Celts or regarded as dark deities. The Firbolgs are vassals of Ailill and Medb, and with the Fir Domnann and Galioin are hostile to Cúchulainn and his men, just as Fomorians were to the Tuatha Dé Danann. The strifes of races and of their gods are inextricably confused.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ogmios, the Celtic God of Speech

Ogmios, the Celtic God of Speech



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.  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.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tuatha De' Danaan's Wars With The Firbolgs and Fomorians

Tuatha De' Danaan's Wars With The Firbolgs and Fomorians



     The Tuatha Dé Danann arrived from heaven—an idea in keeping with their character as beneficent gods, but later legend told how they came from the north. They reached 
Ireland on Beltane, shrouded in a magic mist, and finally, after one or, in other accounts, two battles, defeated the Firbolgs and Fomorians at Magtured. The older story of one battle may be regarded as a euhemerised account of the seeming conflict of nature powers. The first battle is described in a fifteenth to sixteenth century MS., and is referred to in a fifteenth century account of the second battle, full of archaic reminiscences, and composed from various earlier documents. The Firbolgs, defeated in the first battle, join the Fomorians, after great losses. Meanwhile Nuada, leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann, lost his hand, and as no king with a blemish could sit on the throne, the crown was given to Bres, son of the Fomorian Elatha and his sister Eri, a woman of the Tuatha Dé Danann. One day Eri espied a silver boat speeding to her across the sea. From it stepped forth a magnificent hero, and without delay the pair, like the lovers in Theocritus, "rejoiced in their wedlock." The hero, Elatha, foretold the birth of Eri's son, so beautiful that he would be a standard by which to try all beautiful things. He gave her his ring, but she was to part with it only to one whose finger it should fit. This was her child Bres, and by this token he was later, as an exile, recognised by his father, and obtained his help against the Tuatha Dé Danann. Like other wonderful children, Bres grew twice as quickly as any other child until he was seven. Though Elatha and Eri are brother and sister, she is among the Tuatha Dé Danann. There is the usual inconsistency of myth here and in other accounts of Fomorian and Tuatha Dé Danann unions. The latter had just landed, but already had united in marriage with the Fomorians. This inconsistency 
escaped the chroniclers, but it points to the fact that both were divine not human, and that, though in conflict, they united in marriage as members of hostile tribes often do.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tis the Season of the Giant Fomorians, who Represent Winter, Darkness and Death

Tis the Season of the Giant Fomorians, who Represent Winter, Darkness and Death




On the whole, the Fomorians came to be regarded as the powers of nature in its hostile aspect. They personified blight, winter, darkness, and death, before which men trembled, yet were not wholly cast down, since the immortal gods of growth and light, rulers of the bright otherworld, were on their side and fought against their enemies. Year by year the gods suffered deadly harm, but returned as conquerors to renew 

the struggle once more. Myth spoke of this as having happened once for all, but it went on continuously. Gods were immortal and only seemed to die. The strife was represented in ritual, since men believe that they can aid the gods by magic, rite, or prayer. Why, then, do hostile Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann intermarry? This happens in all mythologies, and it probably reflects, in the divine sphere, what takes place among men. Hostile peoples carry off each the other's women, or they have periods of friendliness and consequent intermarriage. Man makes his gods in his own image, and the problem is best explained by facts like these, exaggerated no doubt by the Irish annalists.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who Were The Fomorian Giants?

Who Were The Fomorian Giants?



From the annalistic point of view the Fomorians are sea demons or pirates, their name being derived from muir, "sea," while they are descended along with other monstrous beings from them. Professor Rh[^y]s, while connecting the name with Welsh foawr, "giant" (Gaelic famhair), derives the name 
from fo, "under," and muir, and regards them as submarine beings. Dr. MacBain connected them with the fierce powers of the western sea personified, like the Muireartach, a kind of sea hag, of a Fionn ballad. But this association of the Fomorians with the ocean may be the result of a late folk-etymology, which wrongly derived their name from muir. The Celtic experience of the Lochlanners or Norsemen, with whom the Fomorians are associated, would aid the conception of them as sea-pirates of a more or less demoniacal character. Dr. Stokes connects the second syllable mor with mare in "nightmare," from moro, and regards them as subterranean as well as submarine. But the more probable derivation is that of Zimmer and D'Arbois, from fo and morio(mor, "great "), which would thus agree with the tradition which regarded them as giants. They were probably beneficent gods of the aborigines, whom the Celtic conquerors regarded as generally evil, perhaps equating them with the dark powers already known to them. They were still remembered as gods, and are called "champions of the síd," like the Tuatha Dé Danann. Thus King Bres sought to save his life by promising that the kine of Ireland would always be in milk, then that the men of Ireland would reap every quarter, and finally by revealing the lucky days for ploughing, sowing, and reaping. Only an autochthonous god could know this, and the story is suggestive of the true nature of the Fomorians. The hostile character attributed to them is seen from the fact that they destroyed corn, milk, and fruit. But in Ireland, as elsewhere, this destructive power was deprecated by begging them not to destroy "corn nor milk in Erin beyond their fair tribute." Tribute was also paid to them on Samhain, the time when 
the powers of blight feared by men are in the ascendant. Again, the kingdom of Balor, their chief, is still described as the kingdom of cold. But when we remember that a similar "tribute" was paid to Cromm Cruaich, a god of fertility, and that after the conquest of the Tuatha Dé Danann they also were regarded as hostile to agriculture, we realise that the Fomorians must have been aboriginal gods of fertility whom the conquering Celts regarded as hostile to them and their gods. Similarly, in folk-belief the beneficent corn-spirit has sometimes a sinister and destructive aspect. Thus the stories of "tribute" would be distorted reminiscences of the ritual of gods of the soil, differing little in character from that of the similar Celtic divinities. What makes it certain that the Fomorians were aboriginal gods is that they are found in Ireland before the coming of the early colonist Partholan. They were the gods of the pre-Celtic folk—Firbolgs, Fir Domnann, and Galioin—all of them in Ireland before the Tuatha Dé Danaan arrived, and all of them regarded as slaves, spoken of with the utmost contempt. Another possibility, however, ought to be considered. As the Celtic gods were local in character, and as groups of tribes would frequently be hostile to other groups, the Fomorians may have been local gods of a group at enmity with another group, worshipping the Tuatha Dé Danaan.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ghosts and Fairies and the Tuath De De Danaan Burial Mounds

THE TUATHA DÉ DANANN


The meaning formerly given to Tuatha Dé Danann was "the men of science who were gods," danann being here connected with dán, "knowledge." But the true meaning is "the tribes or folk of the goddess Danu," 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." 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. 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. But in a poem of Flann Manistrech (ob. 1056) they are mortals and die. Now follows a regular chronology giving the dates of their reigns and their deaths, as in the poem of Gilla Coemain (eleventh century). 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. 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." 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. The síd were named after the names of the Tuatha Dé Danann

 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.
But why were the Tuatha Dé Danann associated with the mounds? If fairies or an analogous race of beings were already in pagan times connected with hills or mounds, gods now regarded as fairies would be connected with them. Dr. Joyce and O'Curry think that an older race of aboriginal gods or síd-folk preceded the Tuatha Déa in the mounds. These may have been the Fomorians, the "champions of the síd," while in Mesca Ulad the Tuatha Déa go to the underground dwellings and speak with the síde already there. We do not know that the fairy creed as such existed in pagan times, but if the síde and the Tuatha Dé Danann were once distinct, they were gradually assimilated. Thus the Dagda is called "king of the síde"; Aed Abrat and his daughters, Fand and Liban, and Labraid, Liban's husband, are called síde, and Manannan is Fand's consort. Labraid's island, like the síd of Mider and the land to which women of the síde invite Connla, differs but little from the usual divine Elysium, while Mider, one of the síde, is associated with the Tuatha Dé Danann. The síde are once said to be female, and are frequently supernatural women who run away or marry mortals. Thus they may be a reminiscence of old Earth goddesses. But they are not exclusively female, since there are kings of the síde, and as the name Fir síde, "men of the 
síde," shows, while S. Patrick and his friends were taken forsíd-folk.
The formation of the legend was also aided by the old cult of the gods on heights, some of them sepulchral mounds, and now occasionally sites of Christian churches. The Irish god Cenn Cruaich and his Welsh equivalent Penn Cruc, whose name survives in Pennocrucium, have names meaning "chief or head of the mound." Other mounds or hills had also a sacred character. Hence gods worshipped at mounds, dwelling or revealing themselves there, still lingered in the haunted spots; they became fairies, or were associated with the dead buried in the mounds, as fairies also have been, or were themselves thought to have died and been buried there. The haunting of the mounds by the old gods is seen in a prayer of S. Columba's, who begs God to dispel "this host (i.e. the old gods) around the cairns that reigneth." An early MS also tells how the Milesians allotted the underground part of Erin to the Tuatha Déa who now retired within the hills; in other words, they were gods of the hills worshipped by the Milesians on hills. But, as we shall see, the gods dwelt elsewhere than in hills.


Tumuli may already in pagan times have been pointed out as tombs of gods who died in myth or ritual, like the tombs of Zeus in Crete and of Osiris in Egypt. Again, fairies, in some aspects, are ghosts of the dead, and haunt tumuli; hence, when gods became fairies they would do the same. And once they were thought of as dead kings, any 
notable tumuli would be pointed out as theirs, since it is a law in folk-belief to associate tumuli or other structures not with the dead or with their builders, but with supernatural or mythical or even historical personages. If síde ever meant "ghosts," it would be easy to call the dead gods by this name, and to connect them with the places of the dead.


Many strands went to the weaving of the later conception of the gods, but there still hung around them an air of mystery, and the belief that they were a race of men was never consistent with itself.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Celtic Goddesses of Rivers, Springs and Wells

Celtic Goddesses of Rivers, Springs and Wells




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. Thus this goddess may once have been connected with fertility, perhaps an Earth-mother, and if her name means "the long-lived," this would be an appropriate title for an Earth-goddess. Another goddess, Stanna, mentioned in an inscription at Perigueux, is perhaps {43}"the standing or abiding one," and thus may also have been Earth-goddess. 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. 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.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Celtic Danu was an Early Earth Mother

Celtic Danu was an Early Earth Mother





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 victi.   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 Rhys 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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Comparative Table of Divinities with Similar Names in Ancient Ireland Britian and Gaul



COMPARATIVE TABLE OF DIVINITIES WITH SIMILAR NAMES IN IRELAND, BRITAIN, AND GAUL.

Italics denote names found in Inscriptions.
IRELAND.BRITAIN.GAUL.
AnextiomarusAnextiomarus
AnuAnna (?)Anoniredi, "chariot of Anu"
BadbBodua
Beli, BelinusBelenos
BelisamaBelisama
BrigitBrigantiaBrigindu
BronBranBrennus (?)
BuanannBuanu
CumalCamulosCamulos
DanuDôn
EponaEpona
GoibniuGovannon
GrannosGrannos
LerLlyr
LugLlew or Lleu (?)LugusLugores
Mabon, MaponosMaponos
ManannanManawyddan
MatresMatres
MiderMedros (?)
ModronMatrona (?)
NemonNemetona
NétNeton
NuadaNodons, Nudd
Hael, Llûdd (?)
OgmaOgmíos
SilvanusSilvanus
TaranTaranis
Totatis, TutatisTeutates

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Custom of Burying Grave-Goods with the Dead, or Slaying Wife or Slaves on the Tomb

The Custom of Burying Grave-Goods with the Dead, or Slaying Wife or Slaves on the Tomb



The custom of burying grave-goods with the dead, or slaying wife or slaves on the tomb, does not necessarily point to a cult of the dead, yet when such practices survive over a long period they assume the form of a cult. These customs flourished among the Celts, and, taken in connection with the reverence for the sepulchres of the dead, they point to a worship of ancestral spirits as well as of great departed heroes. Heads of the slain were offered to the "strong shades"—the ghosts of tribal heroes whose praises were sung by bards. When such heads were placed on houses, they may have been devoted to the family ghosts. The honour in which mythic or real heroes were held may point to an actual cult, the hero being worshipped when dead, while he still continued his guardianship of the tribe. We know also that the tomb of King Cottius in the Alps was a sacred place, that Irish kings were often inaugurated on ancestral burial cairns, and that Irish gods were associated with barrows of the dead

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Celtic Belief that Fairies Were the Ghosts of the Dead

Celtic Belief that Fairies Were the Ghosts of the Dead





    The cult of the dead culminated at the family hearth, around which the dead were even buried, as among the Aeduii; this latter custom may have been general. In any case the belief in the presence of ancestral ghosts around the hearth was widespread, as existing superstitions show. In 
Brittany the dead seek warmth at the hearth by night, and a feast is spread for them on All Souls' eve, or crumbs are left for them after a family gathering. But generally the family ghost has become a brownie, lutin, or pooka, haunting the hearth and doing the household work.  Fairy corresponds in all respects to old ancestral ghost, and the one has succeeded to the place of the other, while the fairy is even said to be the ghost of a dead person. Certain archæological remains have also a connection with this ancient cult. Among Celtic remains in Gaul are found andirons of clay, ornamented with a ram's head. M. Dechelette sees in this "the symbol of sacrifice offered to the souls of ancestors on the altar of the hearth." The ram was already associated as a sacrificial animal with the cult of fire on the hearth, and by an easy transition it was connected with the cult of the dead there. It is found as an emblem on ancient tombs, and the domestic Lar was purified by the immolation of a ram. Figurines of a ram have been found in Gaulish tombs, and it is associated with the god of the underworld.The ram of the andirons was thus a permanent representative of the victim offered in the cult of the dead. A mutilated inscription on one of them may stand for Laribus augustis, and certain markings on others may represent the garlands twined round the victim. Serpents with rams' heads occur on the monuments of the underworld god. The serpent was a chthonian god or the 
emblem of such a god, and it may have been thought appropriate to give it the head of an animal associated with the cult of the dead.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Celtic Practice of Feeding the Dead

The Celtic Practice of Feeding the Dead



The dead were also fed at the grave or in the house. Thus cups were placed in the recess of a well in the churchyard of Kilranelagh by those interring a child under five, and the ghost of the child was supposed to supply the other spirits with water from these cups. In Ireland, after a death, food is placed out for the spirits, or, at a burial, nuts are placed in the coffin. In some parts of France, milk is poured out on the grave, and both in Brittany and in Scotland the dead are supposed to partake of the funeral feast. These are survivals from pagan times and correspond to the rites in use among those who still worship ancestors. In Celtic districts a cairn or a cross is placed over the spot where a violent or accidental death has occurred, the purpose being to appease the ghost, and a stone is often added to the cairn by all passers-by

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ancient Celts Festivals of the Dead

Ancient Celts Festivals of the Dead



Festivals were held in Ireland on the anniversaries of the death of kings or chiefs, and these were also utilised for purposes of trade, pleasure, or politics. They sometimes occurred on the great festivals, e.g. Lugnasad and Samhain, and were occasionally held at the great burial-places.546 Thus the gathering at Taillti on Lugnasad was said to have been founded by Lug in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, and the Leinstermen met at Carman on the same day to commemorate King Garman, or in a variant account, a woman called Carman. She and her sons had tried to blight the corn of the Tuatha Dé Danann, but the sons were driven off and she died of grief, begging that a fair should always be held in her name, and promising abundance of milk, fruit, and fish for its observance. These may be ætiological myths explaining the origin of these festivals on the analogy of funeral festivals, but more likely, since Lugnasad was a harvest festival, they are connected with the custom of slaying a representative of the corn-spirit. The festival would become a commemoration of all such victims, but when the custom itself had ceased it would be associated with one particular personage, the corn-goddess regarded as a mortal.
This would be the case where the victim was a woman, but where a male was slain, the analogy of the slaying of the divine king or his succedaneum would lead to the festivals being regarded as commemorative of a king, e.g. Garman. This agrees with the statement that observance of the festival produced plenty; non-observance, dearth. The victims were slain to obtain plenty, and the festival would also commemorate those who had died for this good cause, while it would also appease their ghosts should these be angry at their violent deaths. Certain of the dead were thus commemorated at Lugnasad, a festival of fertility. Both the corn-spirit or divinity slain in the reaping of the corn, and the human victims, were appeased by its observance.548 The legend of Carman makes her hostile to the corn—a curious way of regarding a corn-goddess. But we have already seen that gods of fertility were sometimes thought of as causing blight, and in folk-belief the corn-spirit is occasionally believed to be dangerous. Such inversions occur wherever revolutions in religion take place.

Friday, August 8, 2014

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.
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.