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LIBRARY OF 
WELLESLEY COLLEGE 




PURCHASED FROM 
Sweet Fund 



Religions Ancient and Modern 



CELTIC RELIGION 



RELIGIONS: ANCIENT AND MODERN. 

ANIMISM. 

By Edward Clodd, Author of Tht Story of Creation. 
PANTHEISM. 

By James Allanson Picton, Author of The Religion of the 

Universe. 

THE RELIGIONS OF ANCIENT CHINA. 

By Professor Giles, LL. D. , Professor of Chinese in the University 
of Cambridge. 

THE RELIGION OF ANCIENT GREECE. 

By Jane Harrison, Lecturer at Newnham College, Cambridge, 
Author of Prolegomena to Study of Greek Religion. 

ISLAM. 

By Syed Ameer Ali, M.A., C.I.E., late of H.M.'s High Court 
of Judicature in Bengal, Author of The Spirit of Islam and The 
Ethics of Islam.. 

MAGIC AND FETISHISM. 

By Dr. A. C. Haddon, F.R.S., Lecturer on Ethnology at Cam- 
bridge University. 
THE RELIGION OF ANCIENT EGYPT. 

By Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie, F.R.S. 
THE RELIGION OF BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA. 

By Theophilus G. Pinches, late of the British Museum. 
BUDDHISM. 2 vols. 

By Professor Rhys DAVIDS, LL.D., late Secretary of The Royal 

Asiatic Society. 
HINDUISM. 

By Dr. L. D. Barnett, of the Department of Oriental Printed 

Books and MSS., British Museum, 
SCANDINAVIAN RELIGION. 

By William A. Craigik, Joint Editor of the Oxford English 

Dictionary. 

CELTIC RELIGION. 

By Professor Anwyl, Professor of Welsh at University College, 
Aberystwyth. 

THE MYTHOLOGY OF ANCIENT BRITAIN AND IRELAND. 

By Charles Squire, Author of The Mythology of the British 

Islands. 
JUDAISM. 

By Israel Abrahams, Lecturer in Talmudic Literature in 

Cambridge University, Author oi Jewish Life in the Middle Ages. 
SHINTO. By W. G. Aston, C.M.G. 
THE RELIGION OF ANCIENT MEXICO AND PERU. 

By Lewis Spence, M.A. 
THE RELIGION OF THE HEBREWS. 

By Professor Yastrow. 



CELTIC RELIGION 

IN PRE-CHRISTIAN TIMES 



By 

EDWARD ANWYL, M.A. 

LATE CLASSICAL SCHOLAR OF ORIEL COLLEGE, OXFORD 

PROFESSOR OF WELSH AND COMPARATIVE PHILOLOGY AT 

THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF WALES, ABERYSTWYTH 

ACTING-CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTRAL WELSH BOARD 

FOR INTERMEDIATE EDUCATION 



CHICAGO 
THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING COMPANY 






1; 



Edinburgh : T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty , 



u 



FOREWORD 

It is only as prehistoric archaeology has come to 
throw more and more light on the early civilisa- 
tions of Celtic lands that it has become possible to 
interpret Celtic religion from a thoroughly modern 
viewpoint. The author cordially acknowledges 
his indebtedness to numerous writers on this sub- 
ject, but his researches into some portions of the 
field especially have suggested to him the possi- 
bility of giving a new presentation to certain facts 
and groups of facts, which the existing evidence 
disclosed. It is to be hoped that a new interest in 
the religion of the Celts may thereby be aroused. 

E. Anwyl. 

Aberystwyth, 
Fehniary 15, 1906. 



i 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGB 

I. Introductory : The Celts, .... 1 

II. The Chief Phases of Celtic Civilisation, . 8 

in. The Correlation of Celtic Religion with 

THE Growth of Celtic Civilisation, . . 19 

IV. Celtic Religion and the Development of 

Individualised Deities, 29 

V. The Humanised Gods of Celtic Religion, . 36 

VI. The Celtic Priesthood, 44 

VII. The Celtic Other-World, .... 57 



-( 



CELTIC RELIGION 
CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY : THE CELTS 

In dealing with the subject of ' Celtic Religion ' 
the first duty of the writer is to explain the 
sense in which the term ' Celtic ' will be used in 
this work. It will be used in reference to those 
countries and districts which, in historic times, 
have been at one time or other mainly of Celtic 
speech. It does not follow that all the races 
which spoke a form of the Celtic tongue, a tongue 
of the Indo-European family, were all of the 
same stock. Indeed, ethnological and archaeologi- 
cal evidence tends to establish clearly that, in 
Gaul and Britain, for example, man had lived for 
ages before the introduction of any variety of 
Aryan or Indo-European speech, and this Avas 
probably the case throughout the whole of 
Western and Southern Europe. Further, in the 

A I 



CELTIC RELIGION 

light of comparative philology, it has now become 
abundantly clear that the forms of Indo-European 
speech which we call Celtic are most closely 
related to those of the Italic family, of which 
family Latin is the best known representative. 
From this it follows that we are to look for the 
centre of dissemination of Aryan Celtic speech in 
some district of Europe that could have been the 
natural centre of dissemination also for the Italic 
languages. From this common centre, through 
conquest and the commercial intercourse which 
followed it, the tribes which spoke the various 
forms of Celtic and Italic speech spread into the 
districts occupied by them in historic times. The 
common centre of radiation for Celtic and Italic 
speech was probably in the districts of Noricum 
and Pannonia, the modern Carniola, Carinthia, 
etc., and the neighbouring parts of the Danube 
valley. The conquering Aryan-speaking Celts 
and Italians formed a military aristocracy, and 
their success in extending the range of their 
languages was largely due to their skiU in arms, 
combined, in all probability, with a talent for 
administration. This military aristocracy was of 
kindred type to that which carried Aryan speech 
into India and Persia, Armenia and Greece, not 
to speak of the original speakers of the Teutonic 

2 



INTRODUCTORY: THE CELTS 

and Slavonic tongues. In view of the necessity of 
discovering a centre, whence the Indo-European 
or Aryan languages in general could have 
radiated Eastwards, as well as AVestwards, the 
tendency to-day is to regard these tongues as 
having been spoken originally in some district 
between the Carpathians and the Steppes, in the 
form of kindred dialects of a common speech. 
Some branches of the tribes which spoke these 
dialects penetrated into Central Europe, doubt- 
less along the Danube, and, from the Danube 
valley, extended their conquests together with 
their various forms of Aryan speech into South- 
ern and Western Europe. The proportion of 
conquerors to conquered was not uniform in all 
the countries where they held sway, so that the 
amount of Aryan blood in their resultant popula- 
tion varied greatly. In most cases, the families 
of the original conquerors, by their skill in the art 
of war and a certain instinct of government, suc- 
ceeded in making their own tongues the dominant 
media of communication in the lands where they 
ruled, with the result that most of the languages 
of Europe to-day are of the Aryan or Indo- 
European type. It does not, however, follow 
necessarily from this that the early religious 
ideas or the artistic civilisation of countries now 

3 



CELTIC RELIGION 

Aryan in speecli came necessarily from the con- 
querors rather than the conquered. In the last 
century it was long held that in countries of 
Aryan speech the essential features of their civili- 
sation, their religious ideas, their social institu- 
tions, nay, more, their inhabitants themselves, 
were of Aryan origin. 

A more critical investigation has, however, 
enabled us to distinguish clearly between the de- 
velopment of various factors of human life which in 
their evolution can follow and often have followed 
more or less independent lines. The physical 
history of race, for instance, forms a problem by 
itself and must be studied by anthropological and 
ethnological methods. Language, again, has 
often spread along lines other than those of race, 
and its investigation appertains to the sphere of 
the philologist. Material civilisation, too, has 
not of necessity followed the lines either of 
racial or of linguistic development, and the search 
for its ancient trade-routes may be safely left to 
the archteologist. Similarly the spread of ideas 
in religion and thought is one which has advanced 
on lines of its own, and its investigation must be 
conducted by the methods and along the lines of 
the comparative study of religions. 

In the wide sense, then, in which the word 

4 



INTRODUCTORY: THE CELTS 

' Celtic religion ' will be used in this work, it will 
cover the modes of religious thought prevalent in 
the countries and districts, which, in course of 
time, were mainly characterised by their Celtic 
speech. To the sum-total of these religious 
ideas contributions have been made from many 
sources. It would be rash to affirm that the 
various streams of Aryan Celtic conquest made 
no contributions to the conceptions of life and of 
the world which the countries of their conquest 
came to hold (and the evidence of language 
points, indeed, to some such contributions), but 
their quota appears to be small compared with 
that of their predecessors ; nor is this surprising, 
in view of the immense period during which the 
lands of their conquest had been previously 
occupied. Nothing is clearer than the marvel- 
lous persistence of traditional and immemorial 
modes of thought, even in the face of conquest 
and subjugation, and, whatever ideas on religion 
the Aryan conquerors of Celtic lands may have 
brought with them, they whose conquests were 
often only partial could not eradicate the inveter- 
ate beliefs of their predecessors, and the result in 
the end was doubtless some compromise, or else 
the victory of the earlier faith. 

But the Aryan conquerors of Gaul and Italy 

5 



CELTIC RELIGION 

themselves were not men who had advanced up 
the Danube in one generation. Those men of 
Aryan speech who poured into the Italian 
peninsula and into Gaul were doubtless in 
blood not unmixed with the older inhabitants 
of Central Europe, and had entered into the 
body of ideas which formed the religious beliefs 
of the men of the Danube valley. The common 
modifications of the Aryan tongue, by Italians 
and Celts alike, as compared with^Greek, suggests 
contact with men of different speech. Among 
the names of Celtic gods, too, like those of other 
countries, we find roots that are apparently irre- 
ducible to any found in Indo-European speech, 
and we know not what pre-Aryan tongues may 
have contributed them. Scholars, to-day, are far 
more alive than they ever were before to the 
complexity of the contributory elements that 
have entered into the tissue of the ancient 
religions of mankind, and the more the relics 
of Celtic religion are investigated, the more com- 
plex do its contributory factors become. In the 
long ages before history there were unrecorded 
conquests and migrations innumerable, and ideas 
do not fail to spread because there is no historian 
to record them. 

The more the scanty remnants of Celtic religion 

6 



INTRODUCTORY: THE CELTS 

are examined, the clearer it becomes that many of 
its characteristic features had been evolved during 
the vast period of the ages of stone. During these 
millennia, men had evolved, concomitantly with 
their material civilisation, a kind of working 
philosophy of life, traces of which are found in 
every land where this form of civilisation has 
prevailed. Man's religion can never be dissociated 
from his social experience, and the painful stages 
through which man reached the agricultural life, 
for example, have left their indelible impress on 
the mind of man in Western Europe, as they 
have in every land. We are thus compelled, 
from the indications which we have of Celtic 
religion, in the names of its deities, its rites, and 
its survivals in folk-lore and legend, to come to 
the conclusion, that its fundamental groundwork 
is a body of ideas, similar to those of other lands, 
which were the natural correlatives of the phases 
of experience through which man passed in his 
emergence into civilised life. To demonstrate 
and to illustrate these relations will be the aim 
of the following chapters. -^ 



CHAPTER II 

THE CHIEF PHASES OF CELTIC CIVILISATION 

In the chief countries of Celtic civilisation, Gaul, 
Cisalpine and Transalpine, Britain and Ireland, 
abundant materials have been found for elucidat- 
ing the stages of culture through which man 
passed in prehistoric times. In Britain, for 
example, paheolithic man has left numerous 
specimens of his implements, but the forms 
even of these rude implements suggest that they, 
too, have been evolved from still more primitive 
types. Some antiquarians have thought to detect 
such earlier types in the stones that have been 
named ' eoliths ' found in Kent, but, though these 
' eoliths ' may possibly show human use, the 
question of their history is far from being settled. 
It is certain, however, that man succeeded in 
maintaining himself for ages in the company of 
the mammoth, the cave-bear, and other animals 
now extinct. Whether paleolithic man survived 
the Ice Age in Britain has not so far been satisfac- 

8 



PALAEOLITHIC MAN 

torily decided. In Gaul, however, there is fair 
evidence of continuity between the Palaeolithic 
and Neolithic periods, and this continuity must 
obviously have existed somewhere. Still in spite 
of the indications of continuity, the civihsation of 
primitive man in Gaul presents one aspect that 
is without any analogues in the life of the palaeo- 
lithic men of the River Drift period, or in that of 
man of the New Stone Age. The feature in 
question is the remarkable artistic skill shown 
by the cave men of the Dordogne district. Some 
of the drawings and carvings of these men reveal 
a sense of form which would have done credit to 
men of a far later age. A feature such as this, 
whatever may have been its object, whether it 
arose from an effort by means of 'sympathetic 
magic ' to catch animals, as M. Salomon Reinach 
suggests, or to the mere artistic impulse, is a 
standing reminder to us of the scantiness of our 
data for estimating the lines of man's religious 
and other development in the vast epochs of 
prehistoric time. 

We know that from the life of hunting man 
passed into the pastoral stage, having learned to 
tame animals. How he came to do so, and by 
what motives he was actuated, is still a mystery. 
It may be, as M. Salomon Reinach has also 

9 



CELTIC RELIGION 

suggested, that it was some curious and inde- 
finable sense of kinship with them that led him 
to do so, or more probably, as the present writer 
thinks, some sense of a need of the alliance of 
animals against hostile spirits. In all probability 
it was no motive which we can now fathom. The 
mind of early man was like the unfathomable 
mind of a boy. From the pastoral life again 
man passed after long ages into the Kfe of 
agriculture, and the remains of neoHthic man 
in Gaul and in Britain give us glimpses of his 
life as a farmer. The ox, the sheep, the pig, the 
goat, and the dog were his domestic animals ; 
he could grow wheat and flax, and could supple- 
ment the produce of his farm by means of hunt- 
ing and fishing. Neolithic man could spin and 
weave; he could obtain the necessary flint for 
his implements, which he made by chipping and 
polishing, and he could also make pottery of a 
rude variety. In its essentials we have here the 
beginnings of the agricultural civilisation of man 
all the world over. In life, neolithic man dwelt 
sometimes in pit-dwellings and sometimes in hut- 
circles, covered with a roof of branches supported 
by a central pole. In death, he was buried with 
liis kin in long mounds of earth called barrows, 
in chambered cairns and cromlechs or dolmens. 

lO 



BURIAL IN LATER STONE AGE 

The latter usually consist of three standing 
stones covered by a cap-stone ; forming the 
stony skeleton of a grave that has been exposed 
to view after the mound of earth that covered it 
has been washed away. In their graves the dead 
were buried in a crouching attitude, and fresh 
burials were made as occasion required. Some- 
times the cromlech is double, and occasionally 
there is a hole in one of the stones, the signi- 
ficance of which is unknown, unless it may have 
been for the ingress and egress of souls. Graves 
of the dolmen or cromlech type are found in all 
the countries of Western Europe, North Africa, 
and elsewhere, wherever stone suitable for the 
purpose abounds, and in this we have a striking 
illustration of the way in which lines of develop- 
ment in man's material civilisation are sooner or 
later correlated to his geographical, geological, 
and other surroundings. The religious ideas of | 
man in neolithic times also came into correlation 
with the conditions of his development, and the 
uninterpreted stone circles and pillars of the 
world are a standing witness to the religious 
zeal of a mind that was haunted by stone. Be- J 
fore proceeding to exemplify this thesis the 
subsequent trend of Celtic civilisation may be 
briefly sketched. 

II 



CELTIC RELIGION 

Through the pacific intercourse of commerce, 
bronze weapons and implements began to find 
their way, about 2000 B.C. or earlier, from Central 
and Southern Europe into Gaul, and thence into 
Britain, In Britain the Bronze Age begins at 
about 1500 or 1400 B.C., and it is thought by 
some archteologists that bronze was worked at 
this period by the aid of native tin in Britain 
itself. There are indications, however, that the 
introduction of bronze into Britain was not by 
way of commerce alone. About the beginning 
of the Bronze period are found evidences in this 
island of a race of different type from that of 
neolithic man, being characterised by a round 
skull and a powerful build, and by general indi- 
cations of a martial bearing. The remains of 
\ this race are usually found in round barrows. 

This race, which certainly used bronze weapons, 
is generally believed to have been the first wave 
that reached Britain of Aryan conquerors of Celtic 
speech from the nearest part of the continent, 
where it must have arrived some time previously, 
probably along the Rhine valley. As the type of 
Celtic speech that has penetrated farthest to the 
west is that known as the Goidelic or Irish, it has 
not unreasonably been thought that this must 
have been the type that arrived in Britain first, 

12 



TYPES OF CELTIC SPEECH 

There are indications, too, that it was this type 
that penetrated furthest into the west of Gaul. 
Its most marked characteristic is its preservation 
of the pronunciation of U as ' oo ' and of QU, 
while the ' Brythonic ' or Welsh variety changed 
U to a sound pronounced like the French ' u ' or 
the German ' ti ' and also QU to P. There is a 
similar line of cleavage in the Italic languages, 
where Latin corresponds to Goidelic, and Oscan 
and Umbrian to Brythonic. Transalpine Gaul 
was probably invaded by Aryan-speaking Celts 
from more than one direction, and the infiltration 
and invasion of new-comers, when it had once 
begun, Avas doubtless continuous through these 
various channels. There are cogent reasons for 
thinking that ultimately the dominant type of 
Celtic speech over the greater part of Gaul came 
to be that of the P rather than the QU type, 
owing to the influx from the East and North- 
east of an overflow from the Rhhie valley of 
tribes speaking that dialect ; a dialect which, by 
force of conquest and culture, tended to spread 
farther and farther West. Into Britain, too, as 
time went on, the P type of Celtic was carried, 
and has survived in Welsh and Cornish, the 
remnants of the tongue of ancient Britain. We 
know, too, from the name Eporedia (Yvrea), that 

13 



CELTIC KELIGION 

this dialect of Celtic must have spread into 
Cisalpine Gaul. The latter district may have 
received its first Celtic invaders direct from the 
Danube valley, as M. Alexandre Bertrand held, 
but it would be rash to assume that all its in- 
vaders came from that direction. In connection, 
however, with the history of Celtic religion it is 
not the spread of the varying types of Celtic 
dialect that is important, but the changes in the 
civilisation of Gaul and Britain, which reacted on 
religious ideas or which introduced new factors 
into the religious development of these lands. 

The predatory expeditions and wars of conquest 
of military Celtic tribes in search for new homes 
for their superfluous populations brought into 
prominence the deities of war, as was the case 
also with the ancient Romans, themselves an 
agricultural and at the same time a predatory 
race. The prominence of war in Celtic tribal life 
at one stage has left us the names of a large 
number of deities that were identified with Mars 
and Bellona, though all the war-gods were not 
originally such. In the Roman calendar there 
is abundant evidence that Mars was at one time 
an agricultural god as well as a god of war. The 
same, as will be shown later, was the probable 
history of some of the Celtic deities, who were 

14 



THE IRON AGE IN GAUL 

identified in Roman times with Mars and Bellona. 
Caesar tells us that Mars had at one time been 
the chief god of the Gauls, and that in Germany 
that was still the case. In Britain, also, we find 
that there were several deities identified with 
Mars, notably Belatucadrus and Cocidius, and 
this, too, points in the direction of a development 
of religion under military influence. The Gauls 
appear to have made great strides in military 
matters and in material civilisation durinsr the 
Iron Age. The culture of the Early Iron Age of 
Hallstatt had been developed in Gaul on charac- 
teristic lines of its own, resulting in the form now 
known as the La Tene or Marnian type. This 
type derives it name from the striking specimens 
of it that were discovered at La Tene on the 
shore of Lake Neuchafcel, and in the extensive 
cemeteries of the Marne valley, the burials of 
which cover a period of from 350-200 B.C. It 
was during the third century B.C. that this char- 
acteristic culture of Gaul reached its zenith, and 
gave definite shape to the beautiful curved designs 
known as those of Late-Celtic Art. Iron appears 
to have been introduced into Britain about 300 
B.C., and the designs of Late-Celtic Art are here 
represented best of all. Excellent specimens of 
Late-Celtic culture have been found in Yorkshire 

15 



CELTIC RELIGION 

and elsewhere, and important links with con- 
tinental developments have been discovered at 
Aylesford, Aesica, Limavady, and other places. 
Into the development of this typical Gaulish 
culture elements are believed to have entered by 
way of the important commercial avenue of the 
Rhone valley from Massilia (Marseilles), from 
Greece (via Venetia), and possibly from Etruria. 
Prehistoric archaeology affords abundant proofs 
that, in countries of Celtic speech, metal-working 
in bronze, iron, and gold reached a remarkably' 
high pitch of perfection, and this is a clear in- 
dication that Celtic countries and districts which 
were on the line of trade routes, like the Rhone 
valley, had attained to a material ci\^lisation of 
no mean character before the Roman conquest. 
In Britain, too, the districts that were in touch 
with continental commerce had, as Csesar tells 
us, also developed in the same direction. The 
religious counterpart of this development in civi- 
lisation is the growth in many parts of Gaul, as 
attested by Ceesar and by many inscriptions and 
place-names, of the worship of gods identified 
with Mercury and Minerva, the deities of civili- 
sation and commerce. It is no accident that one 
of the districts most conspicuous for this worship 
was the territory of the Allobrogic confederation, 

i6 



CIVILISATION NOT HOMOGENEOUS 

where the commerce of the Rhone valley found 
its most remarkable development. From this 
sketch of Celtic civilisation it will readily be 
seen how here as elsewhere the religious develop- 
ment of the Celts stood closely related to the 
development of their civilisation generally. It 
must be borne in mind, however, that all parts of 
the Celtic world were not equally affected by the 
material development in question. Part of the 
complexity of the history of Celtic religion arises 
from the fact that we cannot be always certain 
of the degree of progress in civilisation which 
any given district had made, of the ideas which 
pervaded it, or of the absorbing interests of its 
life. Another difficulty, too, is that the accounts 
of Celtic religion given by ancient authorities do 
not always harmonise with the indisputable 
evidence of inscriptions. The probability is that 
the religious practices of the Celtic world were 
no more homogeneous than its general civilisa- 
tion, and that the ancient authorities are sub- 
stantially true in their statements about certain 
districts, certain periods, or certain sections of 
society, while the inscriptions, springing as 
they do from the influence of the Gallo-Roman 
civilisation, especially of Eastern Gaul and 
military Britain, give us most valuable supple- 

B 17 



CELTIC RELIGION 

mentary evidence for districts and environments 
of a different kind. The inscriptions, especially 
by the names of deities which they reveal, have 
afforded most valuable clues to the history of 
Celtic religion, even in stages of civilisation 
earlier than those to which they themselves 
belong. In the next chapter the correlation of 
Celtic religious ideas to the stages of Celtic 
civilisation will be further developed. 



i8 



CHAPTER III 

THE CORRELATION OF CELTIC RELIGION WITH 
THE GROWTH OF CELTIC CIVILISATION 

In dealing with the long vista of prehistoric time, 
it is very difficult for us, in our effort after per- 
spective, not to shorten unduly in our thoughts 
the vast epochs of its duration. We tend, too, to 
forget, that in these unnumbered millennia there 
was ample time for it to be possible over certain 
areas of Europe to evolve what were practically 
new races, through the prepotency of particular 
stocks and the annihilation of others. During 
these epochs, again, after speech had arisen, there 
was time enough to recast completely many a 
language, for before the dawn of history language 
was no more free from change than it is now, and 
in these immense epochs whatever ideas as to the 
world of their surroundings were vaguely felt by 
prehistoric men and formulated for them by their 
kinsmen of genius, had abundant time in which 
to die or to win supremacy. There must have 
been asons before the dawn even of conscious 

19 



CELTIC RELIGION 

animism, and the experiment of trying sympa- 
thetic magic was, when first attempted, probably 
regarded as a master-stroke of genius. The Stone 
Age itself was a long era of great if slow progress 
in civilisation, and the evolution of the practices 
and ideas which emerge as the concomitants of 
its agricultural stage, when closely regarded, bear 
testimony to the mind's capacity for religious 
progress in the light of experience and intelligent 
experiment, and at the same time to the errors 
into which it fell. The Stone Age has left its 
sediment in all the folk-lore of the world. To 
the casual observer many of the ideas embedded 
in it may seem a mass of error, and so they are 
when judged unhistorically, but when viewed 
critically, and at the same time historically, they 
afford many glimpses of prehistoric genius in a 
world where life was of necessity a great experi- 
ment. The folk-lore of the world reveals for the 
same stages of civilisation a wonderful uni- 
formity and homogeneity, as Dr. J. G. Frazer 
has abundantly shown in his Golden Bough. 
This uniformity is not, however, due to necessary 
uniformity of origin, but to a great extent to the 
fact that it represents the state of equilibrium 
arrived at between minds at a certain level and 
their environment, along lines of thought directed 

20 



MAN AND HIS PROBLEMS 

by the momentum given by the traditions of 
millennia, and the survival in history of the men 
who carefully regarded them. The apparently J 
unreasoned prohibitions often known as ' taboos/ 
man)^ of which still persist even in modern civil- 
ised life, have their roots in ideas and experiences 
which no speculation of ours can now completely 
fathom, however much we may guess at their 
origin. Many of these ancient prohibitions have 
vanished under new conditions, others have often 
survived from a real or supposed harmony with 
new experiences, that have arisen in the course of 
man's history. After passing through a stage 
when he was too preoccupied with his material 
cares and wants to consider whether he was 
haunted or not, early man in the Celtic world as 
elsewhere, after long epochs of vague unrest, came 
to realise that he was somehow haunted in the 
daytime as well as at night, and it was this sense 
of being haunted that impelled his intellect and 
his imagination to seek some explanation of his 
feelings. Primitive man came to seek a solution 
not of the Universe as a whole (for of this he had 
no conception), but of the local Universe, in which 
he played a part. In dealing with Celtic folk- lor e,"^ 
it is very remarkable how it mirrors the charac- 
teristic local colouring and scenery of the districts 

21 



CELTIC RELIGION 

in which it has originated. In a country like 
Wales, for example, it is the folk-lore of springs, 
caves, mountains, lakes, islands, and the forms of 
its imagination, here as elsewhere, reflect unmis- 
takably the land of its origin. Where it depicts 
an ' other world,' that ' other world ' is either on 
an island or it is a land beneath the sea, a lake, 
or a river, or it is approachable only through some 
cave or opening in the earth. In the hunting- 
grounds of the Celtic world the primitive hunter 
knew every cranny of the greater part of his 
environment with the accuracy born of long 
familiarity, but there were some peaks which he 
could not scale, some caves which he could not 
penetrate, some jungles into which he could not 
enter, and in these he knew not what monsters 
might lurk or unknown beings might live. In 
Celtic folk-lore the belief in fabulous monsters 
has nob yet ceased. Man was surrounded by 
dangers visible and invisible, and the time came 
when some prehistoric man of genius propounded 
the view that all the objects around him were no 
less living than himself This animistic view of 
the world, once adopted, made great headway 
from the various centres where it originated, and 
man derived from it a new sense of kinship with 
his world, but also new terrors from it. Knowing 

22 



SPIRITS IN CELTIC RELIGION 

from the experience of dreams that he himself 
seemed able to wander away from himself, he 
thought in course of time that other living things 
were somehow double, and the world around him 
came to be occupied, not merely with things that 
were aUve, but with other selves of these things, 
that could remain in them or leave them at will. 
Here, again, this new prehistoric philosophy gave 
an added interest to life, but it was none the less 
a source of fresh terrors. The world swarmed 
with invisible spirits, some friendly, some hostile, 
and, in view of these beings, life had to be regu- 
lated by strict rules of actions and prohibitions. 
Even in the neolithic stage the inhabitants of 
Celtic countries had attained to the religious 
ideas in question, as is seen not only by their 
folk-lore and by the names of groups of goddesses 
such as the Matres (or mothers), but by the fact 
that in historic times they had advanced well 
beyond this stage to that of named and indi- 
vidualised gods. As in all countries where the 
gods were individualised, the men of Celtic lands, 
whether aborigines or invaders, had toiled along 
the steep ascent from the primitive vague sense 
of being haunted to a belief in gods who, like 
Esus, Teutates, Grannos, Bormanus, Litavis, had 
names of a definite character. 

23 



CELTIC RELIGION 

Among the prohibitions which had estabhshed 
themselves among the races of Celtic lands, as 
elsewhere, was that directed against the shedding 
of the blood of one's own kin. There are indi- 
cations, too, that some at any rate of the tribes 
inhabiting these countries reckoned kinship 
through the mother, as in fact continued to be 
the case among the Picts of Scotland into historic 
times. It does not follow, as we know from other 
countries, that the pre-Aryan tribes of Gaul and 
Britain, or indeed the Aryan tribes themselves in 
their earhest stage, regarded their original ances- 
tors as human. Certain names of deities such as 
Tarvos (the bull), Moccos (the pig), Epona (the 
goddess of horses), Damona (the goddess of 
cattle), Mullo (the ass), as well as the fact that 
the ancient Britons, according to Cassar, preserved 
the hen, the goose, and the hare, but did not kill 
and eat them, all point to the fact that in these 
countries as elsewhere certain animals were held 
in supreme respect and were carefully guarded 
from harm. Judging from the analogy of kindred 
phenomena in other countries, the practice of 
respecting certain animals was often associated 
with the belief that all the members of certain 
clans were descended from one or other of them, 
but how far this system was elaborated in the 

24 



TRACES OF ANIMAL WORSHIP 

Celtic world it is hard to say. This phenomenon, 
which is widely known as totemism, appears to be 
suggested by the prominence given to the wild 
boar on Celtic coins and ensigns, and by the place 
assigned on some inscriptions and bas-reliefs to 
the figure of a horned snake as well as by the 
effiofies of other animals that have been dis- 
covered. It is not easy to explain the beginnings 
of totemism in Gaul or elsewhere, but it should 
always be borne in mind that early man could not 
regard it as an axiomatic truth that he was the 
superior of every other animal. To reach that 
proud consciousness is a very high step in the 
development of the human perspective, and it is 
to the credit of the Celts that, when we know 
them in historic times, they appear to have 
attained to this height, inasmuch as the human 
form is given to their deities. It is not always ' 
remembered how great a step in religious evolu- 
tion is implied when the gods are clothed with 
human attributes. M. Salomon Reinach, in his 
account of the vestiges of totemism among the 
Celts, suggests that totemism was merely the 
hypertrophy of early man's social sense, which 
extended from man to the animals around him. 
This may possibly be the case, but it is not 
improbable that man also thought to discover in 

25 



CELTIC RELIGION 

certain animals much-needed allies against some 
of the visible and invisible enemies that beset him. 
In his conflict with the malign powers around 
him, he might well have regarded certain animals 
as being in some respects stronger combatants 
against those powers than himself; and where they 
were not physically stronger, some of them, like 
the snake, had a cunning and a subtlety that 
seemed far to surpass his own. In course of time 
certain bodies of men came to regard themselves 
as being in special alliance with some one animal, 
and as being descended from that animal as their 
common ancestor. The existence side by side of 
various tribes, each with its definite totem, has 
not yet been fully proved for the Gaulish system, 
and may well have been a developed social 
arrangement that was not an essential part of 
such a mode of thought in its primary forms. 
The place of animal-worship in the Celtic religion 
will be more fully considered in a later chapter. 
Here it is only indicated as a necessary stage in 
relation to man's civilisation in the hunting and 
the pastoral stages, which had to be passed 
through before the historic deities of Gaul and 
Britain in Roman times could have come into 
being. Certain of the divine names of the historic 
period, like Artio (the bear-goddess), Moccus (the 

26 



TOTEMISM AND ANIMALS 

pig), Epona (the mare), and Damona (the sheep), 
bear the unmistakable impress of having been at 
one time those of animals. 

As for the stage of civilisation at which totemism 
originated, there is much difference of opinion. 
The stage of mind which it implies would suggest 
that it reflects a time when man's mind was pre- 
occupied with wild beasts, and when the alliances 
and friendships, which he would value in life, 
might be found in that sphere. There is much 
plausibility in the view put forward by M. Salomon 
Reinach, that the domestication of animals itself 
implies a totemistic habit of thought, and the 
consequent protection of these animals by means 
of taboos from harm and death. It may well be 
that, after all, the usefulness of domestic animals 
from a material point of view was only a secondary 
consideration for man, and a happy discovery after 
unsuccessful totemistic attentions to other animals. 
We know not how many creatures early man tried 
to associate with himself but failed. 

In all stages of man's history the alternation of 
the seasons must have brought some rudiments of 
order and system into his thoughts, though for a 
long time he was too preoccupied to reflect upon 
the regularly recurring vicissitudes of his life. In 
the pastoral stage, the sense of order came to 

27 



CELTIC RELIGION 

be more marked than in that of hunting, and 
[quickened the mind to fresh thought. The earth 
came to be regarded as the Mother from whom 
all things came, and there are abundant indica- 
tions that the earth as the Mother, the Queen, the 
Long-lived one, etc., found her natural place as a 
goddess among the Celts. Her names and titles 
"^were probably not in all places or in all tribes the 
same. But it is in the agricultural stage that 
she entered in Celtic lands, as she did in other 
countries, into her completest religious heritage, 
and this aspect of Celtic religion will be dealt 
with more fully in connection with the spirits 
of vegetation. This phase of religion in Celtic 
countries is one which appears to underlie some 
of its most characteristic forms, and the one 
which has survived longest in Celtic folk-lore. 
The Earth-mother with her progeny of spirits, of 
springs, rivers, mountains, forests, trees, and corn, 
appears to have supplied most of the grouped and 
individualised gods of the Celtic pantheon. The 
Dis, of whom Csesar speaks as the ancient god of 
the Gauls, was probably regarded as her son, to 
whom the dead returned in death. Whether he 
is the Gaulish god depicted with a hammer, or as 
a huge dog swallowing the dead, has not yet been 
established with any degree of certainty. 

28 



CHAPTER IV 

CELTIC RELIGION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF 
INDIVIDUALISED DEITIES 

Like other religions, those of the Celtic lands of 
Europe supplemented the earlier animism by a 
belief in spirits, who belonged to trees, animals, 
rocks, mountains, springs, rivers, and other natural 
phenomena, and in folk-lore there still survives 
abundant evidence that the Celt regarded spirits 
as taking upon themselves a variety of forms, 
animal and human. It was this idea of spirits in 
animal form that helped to preserve the memory 
of the older totemism into historic times. It is 
thus that we have names of the type of Branno- 
genos (son of the raven), Artogenos (son of the 
bear), and the like, not to speak of simpler names 
like Bran (raven), March (horse), surviving into 
historic times. Bronze images, too, have been 
found at Neuvy-en-SuUias, of a horse and a stag 
(now in the Orleans museum), provided with 
rings, which were, as M. Salomon Reinach suggests, 

29 



CELTIC RELIGION 

probably used for the purpose of carrying these 
images in procession. The wild boar, too, was a 
favourite emblem of Gaul, and there is extant a 
bronze figure of a Celtic Diana riding on a boar's 
back. At Bolar, near Nuits, there was discovered 
a bronze mule. In the museum at Mayence is a 
bas-relief of the goddess of horses, Epona (from 
the Gaulish Epos = L£it. equus, horse), riding on 
horseback. One of the most important monu- 
ments of this kind is a figure of Artio, the bear- 
goddess (from Celtic Artos, a bear), found at 
Muri near Berne. In front of her stood a figure 
of a bear, which was also found with her. The 
bull of the Tarvos Trigaranos bas-relief of Notre 
Dame was also in all likelihood originally a totem, 
and similarly the horned serpents of other bas- 
reliefs, as Avell as the boar found on Gaulish 
ensigns and coins, especially in Belgic territory. 
There is a representation, too, of a raven on a 
bas-relief at Compiegne. The name ' Moccus,' 
which is identified with Mercury, on inscriptions, 
and which is found inscribed at Langres, Trobaso, 
the valley of the Ossola and the Borgo san 
Dalmazzo, is undoubtedly the philological equiva- 
lent of the Welsh mock (swine). In Britain, too, 
the boar is frequently found on the coins of the 
Iceni and other tribes. In Italy, according to 

30 



SURVIVALS OF ANIMAL WORSHIP 

Mr. Warde Fowler, the pig was an appropriate 
offering to deities of the earth, so that in the 
widespread use of the pig as a symbol in the 
Celtic world, there may be some ancient echo of 
a connection between it and the earth-spirit. Its 
diet of acorns, too, may have marked it out, in 
the early days of life in forest- clearings, as the 
animal embodiment of tlie oak-spirit. In the 
legends of the Celtic races, even in historic times, 
the pig, and especially the boar, finds an honoured 
place. In addition to the animals aforementioned, 
the ass, too, was probably at one time venerated 
in one of the districts of Gaul, and it is not im- 
probable that Mullo, the name of a god identified 
Avith Mars and regarded as the patron of muleteers, 
mentioned on inscriptions (at Nantes, Craon, and 
Les Provencheres near Craon), meant originally 
' an ass.' The goddess Epona, also, whose worship 
was widely spread, was probably at one time an 
animal goddess in the form of a mare, and the 
name of another goddess, Damona, either from 
the root dain=lY. dam, (ox); or Welsh daf-ad 
(sheep), may similarly be that of an ancient totem 
sheep or cow. Nor was it in the animal world 
alone that the Celts saw indications of the divine. 
While the chase and the pastoral life concentrated 
the mind's attention on the life of animals, the 

31 



CELTIC RELIGION 

I growth of agriculture fixed man's thoughts on 
the life of the earth, and all that grew upon it, 
while at the same time he was led to think more 
and more of the mj^sterious world beneath the 
earth, from which all things came and to which 
all things returned. Nor could he forget the 
trees of the forest, especially those which, like the 
oak, had provided him with their fruit as food in 
time of need. The name Druid, as well as that of 
the centre of worship of the Gauls of Asia Minor, 
Drunemeton (the oak-grove), the statement of 
Maximus of Tyre that the representation of Zeus 
to the Celts was a high oak, Pliny's account of 
Druidism {Nat. Hist., xvi. 95), the numerous 
inscriptions to Silvanus and Silvana, the mention 
of Dervones or Dervonnae on an inscription at 
Cavalzesio near Brescia, and the abundant evidence 
of survivals in folk-lore as collected by Dr. J. G. 
Frazer and others, all point to the fact that tree- 
worship, and especially that of the oak, had 
contributed its full share to the development of 
Celtic religion, at any rate in some districts and in 

\ some epochs. The development of martial and 
commercial civilisation in later times tended to 
restrict its typical and more primitive develop- 
ments to the more conservative parts of the Celtic 
world. The fact that in Caesar's time its main 

32 



DRUIDISM 

centre in Gaul was in the territory of the Carnutes, 
the tribe which has given its name to Chartres, 
suggests that its chief votaries were mainly in 
that part of the country. This, too, was the 
district of the god Esus (the eponymous god of 
the Essuvii), and in some degree of Teutates, the 
cruelty of whose rites is mentioned by Lucan. It 
had occurred to the present writer, before finding 
the same view expressed by M. Salomon Reinach, 
that the worship of Esus in Gaul was almost 
entirely local in character. With regard to the~l 
rites of the Druids, Caesar tells us that it was 
customary to make huge images of wickerwork, 
into which human beings, usually criminals, 
were placed and burnt. The use of wickerwork, 
and the suggestion that the rite was for purifying 
the land, indicates a combination of the ideas of 
tree-worship with those of early agricultural life. J 
When the Emperor Claudius is said by Suetonius 
to have suppressed Druidism, what is meant is, in 
all probabiHty, that the more inhuman rites were 
suppressed, leading, as the Scholiasts on Lucan 
seem to suggest, to a substitution of animal 
victims for men. On the side of civil administra- 
tion and education, the functions of the Druids, 
as the successors of the primitive medicine men 
and magicians, doubtless varied greatly in different 
C 33 



CELTIC RELIGION 

parts of Gaul and Britain; according to the 
progress that had been made in the differentiation 
of functions in social life. The more we investi- 
gate the state of the Celtic world in ancient 
times, the clearer it becomes, that in civilisation it 
was very far from being homogeneous, and this 
heterogeneity of civilisation must have had its 
influence on relisjion as well as on other social 
phenomena. The natural conservatism of agri- 
cultural life, too, perpetuated many practices even 
into comparatively late times, and of these we 
catch a glimpse in Gregory of Tours, when he 
tells us ihat at Autun the goddess Berecyntia was 
worshipped, her image being carried on a wagon 
for the protection of the fields and the vines. It is 
not impossible that by Berecyntia Gregory means 
the goddess Brigindu, whose name occurs on an 
inscription at Volnay in the same district of Gaul. 
The belief in corn-spirits, and other ideas connected 
with the central thought of the farmer's life, show, 
by their persistence in Celtic as well as other folk- 
lore, how deepl}^ they had entered into the inner 
tissue of the agricultural mind, so as to be linked 
to its keenest emotions. '' Here the rites of religion, 
whether persuasive as in prayer, or compulsory as 
in sympathetic magic, whether associated with com- 
munal or propitiatory sacrifice, whether directed 

34 



PRACTICAL IN CHARACTER 

to the earth or to the heaven, all had an intensely 
practical and terribly real character, due to man's 
constant preoccupation with the growth and 
storage of food for man and beast. In the hunt- 
ing, the pastoral, and above all in the agricultural 
life, religion was not a matter merely of imagi- 
nation or sentiment, but one most intimately 
associated with the daily practice of life, and this 
practical interest included in its purview rivers, 
springs, forests, mountains, and all the setting of 
man's existence/ And what is true of agriculture 
is true also, in a greater or less degree, of the life 
of the Celtic metal-worker or the Celtic sailor. 
Even in late Welsh legend Amaethon (old Celtic 
Amhactonos), the patron god of farming (Welsh 
Amaeth), and Gofannon, the patron god of the 
metal-worker (Welsh gof, Irish gobha), were not 
quite forgotten, and the prominence of the worship 
of the counterparts of Mercury and Minerva in 
Gaul in historic times vv'as due to the sense of 
respect and gratitude, which each trade and each 
locality felt for the deity who had rid the land 
ot monsters, and who had brought man into the 
comparative calm of civilised life. 



35 



CHAPTER V 

THE HUMANISED GODS OF CELTIC RELIGION 

One of the most striking facts connected with 
the Celtic religion is the large number of names of 
deities which it includes. These names are known 
to us almost entirely from inscriptions, for the 
most part votive tablets, in acknowledgment of 
some benefit, usually that of health, conferred 
by the god on man. In Britain these votive 
tablets are chiefly found in the neighbourhood of 
the Roman walls and camps, but we cannot be 
always certain that the deities mentioned are 
indigenous. In Gaul, however, we are on surer 
ground in associating certain deities with certain 
districts, inasmuch as the evidence of place- 
names is often a guide. These inscriptions are 
very unevenly distributed over Gaulish territory, 
the Western and the North-Western districts 
being very sparsely represented. 

In the present brief sketch it is impossible to 
enter into a full discussion of the relations of the 

36 



LOCAL AND NON-LOCAL DEITIES 

names found on inscriptions to particular 
localities, and the light thus thrown on Celtic 
religion ; but it may be here stated that investiga- 
tion tends to confirm the local character of most[ 
of the deities which the inscriptions name. Out' 
of these deities, some, it is true, in the process of 
evolution, gained a wider field of worshippers, 
while others, like Lugus, may even have been 
at one time more widely worshipped than they 
came to be in later times. Occasionally a name 
like Lugus (Irish Lug), Segomo (Irish, in the 
genitive, Segamonas), Camulos, whence Camulo- 
dunum (Colchester), Belenos (Welsh Belyn), 
Mapunos (Welsh Mahon), Litavis (Welsh Llydaw), 
by its existence in Britain as well as in Gaul, sug- 
gests that it was either one of the ancient deities 
of the Aryan Celts, or one whose worship came 
to extend over a larger area than its fellows. 
Apart from a few exceptional considerations of 
this kind, however, the local character of the 
deities is most marked. 

A very considerable number are the deities of | 
springs and rivers. In Noricum, for example, we \ 
have Adsalluta, a goddess associated with Savus 
(the river Save). In Britain ' the goddess' Deva 
(the Dee), and Belisiima (either the Kibble or 
the Mersey), a name meaning ' the most warlike 

37 



CELTIC RELIGION 

goddess,' are of this type. We have again Axona 
the goddess of the river Aisne, Sequana, the 
goddess of the Seine, Rituna of the river Rieu, 
numerous nymphs and many other deities of 
fountains. Doubtless many other names of local 
deities are of this kind. Aerial phenomena 
appear to have left very few clear traces on the 
names of Celtic deities. Vintios, a god identified 
with Mars, was probably a god of the wind, 
Taranucus, a god of thunder, Leucetios, a god of 
lightning, Sulis (of Bath) a sun-goddess, but 
beyond these there are few, if any, reflections of the 
phenomena of the heavens. Of the gods named 
on inscriptions nearly all are identified with 
Mercury, Mars, or Apollo. The gods who came to 
be regarded as culture-deities appear from their 
names to be of various origins : some are human- 
ised totems, others are in origin deities of vegeta- 
tion or local natural phenomena. As already 
indicated, it is clear that the growth of com- 
mercial and civilised life in certain districts had 
brought into prominence deities identified with 
Mercury and Minerva as the patrons of civilisa- 
tion. Military men, especially in Britain, appear 
to have favoured deities like Belatucadros (the 
brilliant in war), identified with Mars. 
About fourteen inscriptions mentioning him have 

38 



DEITIES IDENTIFIED 

been found in the North of England and the South 
of Scotland. The goddess Brigantia (the patron- 
deity of the Brigantes), too, is mentioned on four 
inscriptions: Cocidius, identified with Mars, is 
mentioned on thirteen : while another popular 
god appears to have been Silvanus. Among the 
most noticeable names of the Celtic gods identified 
with Mercury are Adsmerius or Atesmerius, 
Dumiatis (the god of the Puy de Dome), lovantu- 
carus (the lover of youth), Teutates (the god of 
the people), Caletos (the hard), and Moccus (the 
boar). Several deities are identified with Mars, 
and of these some of the most noticeable names 
are Albiorix (world-king), Caturix (battle-king), 
Dunatis (the god of the fort), Belatucadrus (the 
brilliant in war), Leucetius (the god of lightning), 
Mullo (the mule), Ollovidius (the all-knowing) 
Vintius (the wind-god), and Vitucadrus (the 
brilliant in energy). The large number of names 
identified with Mars reflects the prominent place! 
at one time given to war in the ideas that affected i 



O' 



the growth of the religion of the Celtic tribes. ! 
Of the gods identified with Hercules, the most 
interesting name is Ogmios (the god of the 
furrow) given by Lucian, but not found on any 
inscription. The following gods too, among 
others, are identified with Jupiter : Aramo (the 

39 



CELTIC RELIGION 

gentle), Ambisagrus (the persistent), Bussumarus 
(the large-Hpped), Taranucus (the thunderer), 
Uxellimus (the highest). It would seem from 
this that in historic times at any rate Jupiter 
did not play a large part in Celtic religious 
ideas. 

There remains another striking feature of Celtic 
religion which has not yet been mentioned, 
piamely the identification of several deities with 
' Apollo. These deities are essentially the presid- 
ing deities of certain heahng-springs and health- 
resorts, and the growth of their worship into 
popularity is a further striking index to the 
development of religion side by side with certain 
aspects of civiHsation. One of the names of a 
Celtic Apollo is Borvo (whence Bourbon), the 
deity of certain hot springs. This name is Indo- 
European, and was given to the local fountain- 
god by the Celtic-speaking invaders of Gaul : it 
simply means 'the Boiler.' Other forms of the 
name are also found, as Bormo and Bormanus. 
At AquiB Granni (Aix-la-Chapelle) and elsewhere 
the name identified with Apollo is Grannos. We 
find also Mogons, and Mogounus, the patron 
deity of Moguntiacum (Mainz), and, once or twice, 
/Maponos (the great youth). The essential feature 
( of the Apollo worship was its association in 

40 






CELTIC GODDESSES 

Gallo-Roman civilisation with the idea of healing, 
an idea which, through the revival of the worship 
of ^sculapius, affected religious views very 
strongly in other quarters of the empire. It was 
in this conception of the gods as the guides of 
civilisation and the restorers of health, that 
Celtic religion, in some districts at any rate, shows 
itself emerging into a measure of light after a 
long and toilsome progress from the darkness of 
prehistoric ideas. What Csesar says of the 
practice of the Gauls of beginning the year with 
the night rather than with the day, and their 
ancient belief that they were sprung from Dis, the 
god of the lower world, is thus typified in their 
religious history. 
,AKln dealing with the deities of the Celtic world 
we must not, however, forget the goddesses, 
though their history presents several problems 
of great difficulty. Of these goddesses some are 
known to us by groups — Proximoe (the kins- 
women), Dervonnse (the oak-spirits), Niskai (the 
water-sprites), Mairse, Matronse, Matres or Matrse 
(the mothers), Quadrivise (the goddesses of cross 
roads). The Matres, Matrse, and Matronse are 
often qualified by some local name. Deities of 
this type appear to have been popular in Britain, 
in the neighbourhood of Cologne and in Provence. 

41 



CELTIC EELIGION 

In some cases it is uncertain whether some of 
these grouped goddesses are Celtic or Teutonic. 
It is an interesting parallel to the existence of 
these grouped goddesses, when we find that in 
some parts of Wales ' Y Mamau ' (the mothers) 
is the name for the fairies. These grouped 
goddesses take us back to one of the most inte- 
resting stages in the early Celtic religion, when 
the earth-spirits or the corn-spirits had not yet 
been completely individualised. Of the indi- 
vidualised goddesses many are strictly local, being 
the names of springs or rivers. Others, again, 
appear to have emerged into greater individual 
prominence, and of these we find several asso- 
ciated on inscriptions, sometimes with a god 
of Celtic name, but sometimes with his Latin 
counterpart. It is by no means certain that the 
names so linked together were thus associated in 
early times, and the fashion may have been a 
later one, which, like other fashions, spread after 
it had once begun. The relationship in some 
cases may have been regarded as that of mother 
and son, in others that of brother and sister, in 
others that of husband and wife; the data are 
not adequate for the final decision of the question. 
Of these associated pairs the following may be 
noted, Mercurius and Rosmerta, Mercurius and 

42 



WELSH SURVIVALS OF NAMES 

Dirona, Granniis (Apollo) and Sirona, Sucellus 
and Nantosvelta, Borvo and Damona, Cicolluis 
(Mars) and Litavis, Bormanus and Bormana, 
Savus and Adsalluta, Mars and Nemetona. One 
of these names, Sirona, probably meant the long- 
lived one, and was applied to the earth-mother. 
In Welsh one or two names have survived which, 
by their structure, appear to have been ancient 
names of goddesses ; these are Rhiannon (Rigan- 
tona (the great queen), and Modron (Matruna, the 
great mother). The other British deities will be 
more fully treated by another writer in this series 
in a work on the ancient mythology of the British 
Isles. It is enough to say that research tends 
more and more to confirm the view that the key 
to the history of the Celtic deities is the realisa- 
tion of the local character of the vast majority of 
them. 



43 



CHAPTER VI 

THE CELTIC PRIESTHOOD 

No name in connection with Celtic religion is 
more fahiiliar to the average reader than that of 
the Druids, yet there is no section of the history 
of Celtic religion that has given rise to greater 
discussion than that relating to this order. Even 
the association of the name with the Indo- 
European root dru-, which we find in the Greek 
word driis, an oak, has been questioned by such 
a competent Celtic scholar as M. d'Arbois de 
Jubainville, but on this point it cannot be said 
that his criticism is conclusive. The writers of 
the ancient world who refer to the Druids, do not 
always make it sufficiently clear in what districts 
the rites, ceremonies, and functions which they 
were describing prevailed. Nor was it so much 
the priestly character of the Druids that produced 
the deepest impression on the ancients. To some 
philosophical and theological writers of antiquity 
their doctrines and their apparent affinities with 

44 



THE TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS 

Pythagoreanism were of miicli greater interest 
than their ceremonial or other functions. One 
thing at any rate is clear, that the Druids and 
their doctrines, or supposed doctrines, had made 
a deep impression on the writers of the ancient 
world. There is a reference to them in a frasf- 
ment of Aristotle (which may not, however, be 
genuine) that is of interest as assigning them 
a place in express terms both among the Celts 
and the Galatse. The prominent feature of their 
teaching which had attracted the attention of 
other writers, such as the historian Diodorus 
Siculus and the Christian theologian Clement of 
Alexandria, was the resemblance of their doctrine 
concerning the immortality and transmigration of 
the soul to the views of Pythagoras. Ancient i 
writers, however, did not always remember that 
a religious or philosophical doctrine must not be 
treated as a thing apart, but must be interpreted 
in its whole context in relation to its development 
in history and in the social life of the community 
in which it has flourished. To some of the 
ancients the superficial resemblance between 
the Druidic doctrine of the soul's future and 
the teaching attributed to Pythagoras was the 
essential point, and this was enough to give 
the Druids a reputation for philosophy, so that 

45 



CELTIC RELIGION 

a writer like Clement of Alexandria goes so far as 
to regard the Druids of the ' Galatee ' along with 
the prophets of the Egyptians, the ' ChaldiBans ' 
of the Assyrians, the ' philosophers of the Celts,' 
and the Magi of the Persians as the pioneers of 
philosophy among the barbarians before it spread 
to the Greeks. The reason for the distinction 
drawn in this passage between the 'Druids of 
the Galatse ' and ' the philosophers of the Celts ' 
is not clear. Diodorus Siculus calls attention to 
the Druidic doctrine that the souls of men were 
immortal, and that after the lapse of an appointed 
number of years they came to life again, the soul 
then entering into another body. He says that 
there were certain 'philosophers and theolo- 
gians' that Avere called Druids who were held 
in exceptional honour. In addition to these, the 
Celts, he says, had also seers, who foretold the 
future from the flight of birds and by means 
of the offering of sacrifices. According to him it 
was these priestly seers who had the masses in 
subjection to them. In great affairs they had, he 
says, the practice of divination by the slaughter 
of a human victim, and the observ^ation of the 
attitude in which he fell, the contortions of the 
limbs, the spurting of the blood, and the like. 
This, he states, was an ancient and established 

46 



THE DRUIDS AS THINKERS 

practice. Moreover, it was the custom, according 
to Diodorus, to make no sacrifice without the j 
presence of a philosopher (apparently a Druid in ! 
addition to the sacrificing seer), the theory being | 
that those who were authorities on the divine \ 
nature were to the gods intelligible mediators 
for the offering of gifts and the presentation of 
petitions. These philosophers were in great re- 
quest, together with their poets, in war as well 
as in peace, and were consulted not merely by 
the men of their own side, but also by those of 
the eneni}''. Even when two armies were on the 
point of joining battle, these philosophers had 
been able, Diodorus says, to step into the space 
between them and to stop them from fighting, 
exactly as if they had charmed wild beasts. The 
moral which Diodorus draws from this is, that 
even among the wildest of barbarians the spirited 
principle of the soul yields to wisdom, and that 
Ares (the god of war) even there respects the 
Muses. It is clear from this account that Diodorus 
had in mind the three classes of non-military 
professional men among the Celts, to whom other 
ancient writers also refer, namely, the Bards, the 
Seers, and the Druids. His narrative is apparently* 
an expansion, in the light of his readmg and 
philosophical meditation, of information supplied 

47 



CELTIC RELIGION 

by previous writers, notably Posidonius. The 
latter, too, appears to have been Julius Caesar's 
chief authority, in addition to his own observa- 
tion, but Caesar does not appear expressly to 
indicate the triple division here in question. The 
account which he gives is important, and would 
be even more valuable than it is had he told us 
how far what he describes was written from his own 
personal information, and the degree of variation 
(if any) of religious practice in different districts. 
However, Cesar's statements deserve the closest 
consideration. After calling attention to the 
division of the Gaulish aristocracy into two main 
sections, the Druids and the Knights, he proceeds 
to speak of the Druids. These were occupied, he 
says, with religious matters, they attended to public 
and private sacrifices, and interpreted omens. 
Moreover, they were the teachers of the country. 
To them the young men congregated for knowledge, 
and the pupils held their teachers in great respect. 
They, too, were the judges in public and private 
; disputes : it was they who awarded damages and 
penalties. Any contumacy in reference to their 
judgments was punished by exclusion from the 

! sacrifices. This sentence of excommunication was 

i 

/ the severest punishment among the Gauls. The 
men so punished were treated as outlaws, and 

48 



CiESAR'S ACCOUNT OF THE DRUIDS 

cut off' from all human society, with its rights 
and privileges. Over these Druids there was one 
head, who wielded the highest influence among 
them. On his death the nearest of the others 
in dignity succeeded him, or, if several were equal, 
the election of a successor was made by the vote 
of the Druids. Sometimes the primacy was not 
decided without the arbitrament of arms. The 
Druids met at a fixed time of the year in a con- 
secrated spot in the territory of the Carnutes, the 
district which was regarded as being in the centre 
of the whole of Gaul. This assembly of Druids 
formed a court for the decision of cases brought 
to them from everywhere around. It was thought, 
Csesar says, that the doctrine of the Druids was 
discovered in Britain and thence carried over into 
Gaul. At that time, too, those who wanted to 
make a profounder study of it resorted thither 
for their training. The Druids had immunity 
from military service and from the payment of 
tribute. These privileges drew many into train- 
ing for the profession, some of their own accord, 
others at the instance of parents and relatives. 
While in training they were said to learn by heart 
a large number of verses, and some went so far 
as to spend twenty years in their course of pre- 
paration. The Druids held it wrong to put their 
D 49 



CELTIC RELIGION 

religious teaching in writing, though, in almost 
everything else, whether public or private affairs, 
they made use of Greek letters. Caesar thought 
that they discouraged writing on the one hand, 
lest their teaching should become public property ; 
on the other, lest reliance upon writing should 
lessen the cultivation of the memory. To this 
risk Csesar could testify from his own knowledge. 
jTheir cardinal doctrine was that souls did not 
perish, but that after death they passed from 
one person to another; and this they regarded 
as a supreme incentive to valour, since, with the 
prospect of immortality, the fear of death counted 
for nothing. They carried on, moreover, many 
discussions about the stars and their motion, the 
srreatness of the universe and the lands, the nature 
of things, the strength and power of the immortal 
gods, and communicated their knowledge to their 
pupils. In another passage Csesar says that the 
Gauls as a people were extremely devoted to 
religious ideas and practices. Men who were 
seriously ill, who were engaged in war, or who 
stood in any peril, offered, or promised to offer, 
human sacrifices, and made use of the Druids 
as their agents for such sacrifices. Their theory 
was, that the immortal gods could not be 
appeased unless a human life were given for a 

50 



THE DRUIDS AND PYTHAGORAS 

human life. In addition to these private sacrifices, 
they had also similar human sacrifices of a public 
character. Cassar further contrasts the Germans 
with the Gauls, saying that the former had no 
Druids to preside over matters of religion, and 
that they paid no attention to sacrifices. 

In his work on divination, Cicero, too, refers to 
the profession which the Druids made of natural 
science, and of the power of foretelling the future, 
and instances the case of the ^duan Diviciacus, 
his brother's guest and friend. Nothing is here 
said by Cicero of the three classes imiilied in 
Diodorus, but Timagenes (quoted in Ammianus) 
refers to the three classes under the names 
'bardi,' 'euhages' (a mistake for 'vates'), and 
' drasidse ' (a mistake for ' druidse '). The study of 
nature and of the heavens is here attributed to 
the second class of seers (vates). The highest 
class, that of the Druids, were, he says, in accord- 
ance with the rule of Pythagoras, closely linked 
together in confraternities, and by acquiring a 
certain loftiness of mind from their investigations 
into things that were hidden and exalted, they 
despised human affairs and declared the soul 
immortal. We see here the view expressed that 
socially as well as intellectually the Druids lived 
according to the Pythagorean philosophy. Origen 

51 



CELTIC RELIGION 

also refers to the view that was prevalent in his 
time, that Zamolxis, the servant of Pythagoras, 
had taught the Druids the philosophy of Pytha- 
goras. He further states that the Druids practised 
sorcery. The triple division of the non-military 
aristocracy is perhaps best given by Strabo, the 
Greek geographer, who here follows Posidonius. 
i The three classes are the Bards, the Seers 
I (ouateis=vates), and Druids. The Bards were 
/ hymn- writers and poets, the Seers sacrificers and 
i men of science, while the Druids, in addition to 
natural science, practised also moral philosophy. 
They were regarded as the justest of men, and on 
this account were intrusted with the settlement 
of private and pubhc disputes. They had been the 
means of preventing armies from fighting when 
on the very verge of battle, and were especially 
intrusted with the judgment of cases involving 
human life. According to Strabo, they and 
their fellow-countrymen held that souls and the 
universe were immortal, but that fire and water 
would sometime prevail. Sacrifices were never 
made, Strabo says, without the intervention of 
the Druids. Pomponius Mela says that in his 
time (c. 44 A.D.), though the ancient savagery was 
no more, and the Gauls abstained from human 
sacrifices, some traces of their former practices 

52 



THE DRUIDS AS TEACHERS 

still remained, notably in their habit of cutting a 
portion of the flesh of those condemned to death 
after bringing them to the altars. The Gauls, 
he says, in spite of their traces of barbarism, 
had an eloquence of their own, and had the 
Druids as their teachers in philosophy. These 
professed to know the size and form of the earth 
and of the universe, the motions of the sky and 
stars, and the will of the gods. He refers, as 
Caisar does, to their work in education, and says 
that it was carried on in caves " or in secluded 
groves. Mela speaks of their doctrine of im- 
mortality, but says nothing as to the entry of 
souls into other bodies. As a proof of this 
belief he speaks of the practice of burning and 
burying with the dead things appropriate to the 
needs of the living. Lucan, the Latin poet, in 
his Pharsalia, refers to the seclusion of the 
Druids' groves and to their doctrine of immor- 
tality. The Scholiasts' notes on this passage are 
after the manner of their kind, and add very 
little to our knowledge. In Pliny's Natural 
History (xvi, 249), however, we seem to be face 
to face with another, though perhaps a distorted, 
tradition. Pliny Avas an indefatigable compiler, 
and appears partly by reading, partly by personal 
observation, to have noticed phases of Celtic 

S3 



CELTIC RELIGION 

religious practices which other writers had over- 
looked. In the iirst place he calls attention to 
\ the veneration in which the Gauls held the 
\ mistletoe and the tree on which it grew, provided 
\ that that tree was the oak. Hence their pre- 
I dilection for oak groves and their requirement 
' of oak leaves for all religious rites. Pliny here 
remarks on the consonance of this practice with 
the etymology of the name Druid as interpreted 
even through Greek (the Greek for an oak being 
dr€ts). Were not this respect for the oak and 
for the mistletoe paralleled by numerous examples 
of tree and plant-worship given by Dr. Frazer 
and others, it might well have been suspected 
that Pliny was here quoting some writer who 
had tried to argue from the etymology of the 
name Druid. Another suspicious circumstance 
in Pliny's account is his reference to the serpent's 
egg composed of snakes rolled together into a 
ball. He states that he himself had seen such 
an 'egg,' of about the size of an apple. Pliny, 
too, states that Tiberius Ca?sar abolished by a 
decree of the Senate the Druids and the kind 
of seers and physicians the Gauls then had. 
This statement, when read in its context, pro- 
bably refers to the prohibition of human sacri- 
fices. The historian Suetonius, in his account 

54 



A^ARYING USE OF THE NAME DRUID 

of the Emperor Claudius, also states that Augustus 
had prohibited ' the religion of the Druids ' 
(which, he says, ' Avas one of fearful savagery ') 
to Roman citizens, but that Claudius had entirely 
abolished it. What is here also meant, in view 
of the description given of Druidism, is doubtless 
the abolishing of its human sacrifices. In later 
Latin writers there are several references to 
Druidesses, but these were probably only sor- 
ceresses. In Irish the name drui (genitive 
druad) meant a magician, and the Avord derwydd 
in medicieval Welsh Avas especially used in refer- 
ence to the vaticinations Avhich Avere then popular 
in Wales. 

When Ave analyse the testimony of ancient 
writers concerning the Druids, Ave see in the 
first place that to different minds the name con- 
noted different things. To Ctesar it is the general 
name for the non-military professional class, 
Avhether priests, seers, teachers, laAvyers, or judges. 
To others the Druids are pre-eminently the philo- 
sophers and teachers of the Gauls, and are dis- 
tinguished from the seers designated rates. To 
others again, such as Pliny, they Avere the priests 
of the oak-ritual, Avhence their name Avas derived. 
In vicAv of the variety of grades of civilisation 
then co-existing in Gaul and Britain, it is not 

55 



CELTIC RELIGION 

improbable that the development of the non- 
military professional class varied very considerably 
in different districts, and that all the aspects of 
Druidism which the ancient writers specify found 
their appropriate places in the social system of 
the Celts. In Gaul and Britain, as elsewhere, 
the office of the primitive tribal medicine- 
man was capable of indefinite development, and 
all the forms of its evolution could not have 
proceeded pari passu where the sociological con- 
ditions found such scope for variation. It may 
well be that the oak and mistletoe ceremonies, 
for example, lingered in remote agricultural dis- 
tricts long after they had ceased to interest men 
alongf the main routes of Celtic civilisation. The 
bucolic mind does not readily abandon the prac- 
tices of millennia. 

In addition to the term Druid, we find in 
Aulus Hirtius' continuation of Coesar's Gallic 
War (Bk. viii., c. xxxviii., 2), as well as on two 
inscriptions, one at Le-Puy-en-Velay (Dep. Haute- 
Loire), and the other at Macon (Dep. Saone-et- 
Loire), another priestly title, ' gutuater.' At Macon 
the office is that of a ' gutuater Martis,' but of its 
special features nothing is known. 



56 



CHAPTER VII 

THE CELTIC OTHER-WORLD 

In the preceding chapter we have seen that the 
behef was widely prevalent among Greek and 
Roman writers that the Druids taught the im- 
mortality of the soul. Some of these writers, 
too, point out the undoubted fact, attested by 
Archeology, that objects which would be service- \ 
able to the living were buried with the dead, and I 
this was regarded as a confirmation of the view ) 
that the immortality of souls was to the Celts an f 
object of belief. The stud}^ of Archasology on the 
one hand, and of Comparative Religion on the 
other, certainly leads to the conclusion that in 
the Bronze and the Early Iron Age, and in all 
probability in the Stone Age, the idea prevailed 
that death was not the end of man. The holed 
cromlechs of the later Stone Age were probably 
designed for the egress and ingress of souls. The 
food and the weapons that were buried with 
the dead were thought to be objects of genuine 

57 



CELTIC KELIGION 

need. Roman religion, too, in some of its rites 
provided means for the periodical expulsion of 
hungry and hostile spirits of the dead, and for 
their pacification by the offer of food. A tomb 
and its adjuncts were meant not merely for the 
honour of the dead, but also for the protection 
of the living. A clear line of distinction was 
drawn between satisfied and beneficent ghosts 
like the Manes, and the unsatisfied and hostile 
ghosts like the Lemures and Larvae. To the 
Celtic mind, when its analytical powers had 
come to birth, and man was sufficiently self- 
conscious to reflect upon himself, the problem of 
his own nature pressed for some solution. In 
these solutions the breath, the blood, the name, 
the head, and even the hair generally played a 
part, but these would not in themselves explain 
the mysterious phenomena of sleep, of dreams, of 
epileps}^ of madness, of disease, of man's shadow 
and his reflection, and of man's death. By long 
familiarity with the scientific or quasi-scientific 
explanations of these things, we find it difficult 
to realise fully their constant fascination for early 
]nan, who had his thinkers and philosophies 
\ like ourselves. One very widely accepted solution 
1 of early man in the Celtic Avorld was, that within 
•him there was another self which could live a 

58 



EARLY IDEAS OF THE SOUL 

life of its own apart from the body, and which 
survived even death, burial, and burning. Some- 
times this inner self was associated with the breath, 
whence, for example, the Latin ' anima ' and the 
Welsh 'enaid,' both meaning the soul, from the 
root an-, to breathe. At other times the term 
employed for the second self had reference to 
man's shadow : the Greek ' skia,' the Latin 'umbra,' 
the Welsh ' ysgawd,' the English ' shade.' There 
are abundant evidences, too, that the life-prin- 
ciple was frequently regarded as being especially 
associated with the blood. Another tendency, of 
which Principal Rhj^s has given numerous ex- 
amples in his Welsh folk-lore, was to regard the 
soul as callable of taking a visible form, not 
necessarily human, preferably that of some winged 
creature. In ancient writers there is no informa- 
tion as to the views prevalent among the Celts 
regarding the forms or the abodes of the spirits 
of the dead, beyond the statement that the Druids 
taught the doctrine of their re-birth. We are 
thus compelled to look to the evidence afforded 
by myth, legend, and folk-lore. These give fair 
indications as to the types of earlier popular 
belief in these matters, but it Avould be a mistake 
to assume that the ideas embodied in them had 
remained entirely unchanged from remote times. 

59 



CELTIC RELIGION 

The mind of man at certain levels is quite capable 
of evolving new myths and fresh folk-lore along 
the lines of its own psychology and its own logic. 
The forms which the soul could take doubtless 
varied greatly in men's opinions in different dis- 
tricts and in different mental perspectives, but 
folk-lore tends to confirm the view that early 
man, in the Celtic world as elsewhere, tended to 
emphasise his conception of the subtlety and 
mobility of the soul as contrasted with the body. 
Sooner or later the primitive philosopher was 
bound to consider whither the soul went in dreams 
or in death. He may not at first have thought 
of any other sphere than that of his own normal 
life, but other questions, such as the home of the 
spirits of vegetation in or under the earth, would 
suggest, even if this thought had not occurred 
to him before, that the spirits of men, too, had 
entrance to the world below. Whether this world 
was further pictured in imagination depended 
largely on the poetic genius of any given people. 
The folk-lore of the Celtic races bears abundant 
testimony to their belief that beneath this world 
there was another. The 'annwfn' of the Welsh 
was distinctly conceived in the folk-lore embodied 
in mediseval poetry as being ' is elfydd ' (beneath 
the world). In medieval Welsh legend, again, 

60 



THE HOME OF THE DEAD 

this lower world is regarded as divided into 
kingdoms, like this world, and its kings, like 
Arawn and Hafgan in the Mabinogi of Pwyll, 
are represented as being sometimes engaged in 
conflict. From this lower world had come to man 
some of the blessings of civilisation, and among 
them the much prized gift of swine. The lower 
Avorld could be even plundered by enterprising 
heroes. Marriages like that of Pwyll and Rhiannon 
were possible between the dwellers of the one 
world and the other. The other-world of the 
Celts does not seem, however, to have been always 
pictured as beneath the earth. Irish and Welsh 
legend combine in viewing it at times as situated 
on distant islands, and Welsh folk-lore contains 
several suggestions of another world situated be- 
neath the waters of a lake, a river, or a sea. In 
one or two passages also of Welsh mediseval poetry 
the shades are represented as wandering in the 
woods of Caledonia (Coed Celyddon). This was 
no doubt a traditional idea in those families that 
migrated to Wales in post-Roman times from 
Strathclyde. To those who puzzled over the fate 
of the souls of the dead the idea of their re-birth 
was a very natural solution, and Mr. Alfred Nutt, 
in his Voyage of Bran, has called attention to 
the occurrence of this idea in Irish legend. It 

6i 



CELTIC RELIGION 

does not follow, however, that the souls of all 
men would enjoy the privilege of this re-birth. 
As Mr. Alfred Nutt points out, Irish legend seems 
to regard this re-birth only as the privilege of 
the truly great. It is of interest to note the 
curious persistence of similar ideas as to death 
and the other-world in literature written even in 
Christian times and by monastic scribes. In 
Welsh, in addition to Annwfn, a term which 
seems to mean the 'Not-world,' we have other 
names for the world below, such as ' anghar,' 
the loveless place ; ' difant,' the unrimmed place 
(whence the modern Welsh word ' difancoU,' lost 
for ever) ; ' aft'wys,' the abyss ; ' affan,' the land 
invisible. The upper-world is sometimes caUed 
' elfydd,' sometimes ' adfant,' the latter term 
meaning the place whose rim is turned back. 
Apparently it implies a picture of the earth as 
a disc, whose rim or lip is curved back so as to 
prevent men from falling over into the ' difant,' 
or the rimless place. In modern Celtic folk-lore 
the various local other-worlds are the abodes of 
fairies, and in these traditions there may possibly 
be, as Principal Rhj^s has suggested, some inter- 
mixture of reminiscences of the earlier inhabit- 
ants of the various districts. Modern folk-lore, 
like mediaeval legend, has its stories of the inter- 

62 



CELTIC COXCEPTION OF OTHER-WORLD 

marriages of natives of this world with those of 
the other-world, often located underneath a lake. 
The curious reader Avill find several examples of 
such stories in Princi^^al Rhys's collection of Welsh 
and Manx folk-lore, i In Irish legend one of 
the most classical of these stories is that of the 
betrothal of Etain, a story which has several 
points of contact with the narrative of the meet- 
ing of Pwyll and Rhiannon in the Welsh Ma- 
binogi. The name of Arthur's wife, Gwenhw}^ar, 
which means ' the White Spectre,' also suggests 
that originally she too played a part in a story 
of the same kind. In all these and similar 
narratives, it is important to note the way in 
which the Celtic conceptions of the other-world, 
in Britain and in Ireland, have been coloured by 
the geographical aspects of these two countries, 
by their seas, their islands, their caves, their 
mounds, their lakes, and their mountains. The 
local other-worlds of these lands bear, as we 
might have expected, the clear impress of their 
origin. On the whole the conceptions of the 
other-world which we meet in Celtic legend are 
joyous ; it is a land of youth and beauty. Cuchu- 
lainn, the Irish hero, for example, is brought 
in a boat to an exceedingly fair island round 
which there is a silver wall and a bronze palisade. 

63 



CELTIC RELIGION 

In one Welsh legend the cauldron of the Head 
of Annwfn has around it a rim of pearls. One 
Irish story has a naive description of the glories 
of the Celtic Elysium in the words — ' Admirable 
was that land : there are three trees there always 
bearing fruit, one pig always alive, and another 
ready cooked.' Occasionally, however, we find 
a different picture. In the Welsh poem called 
' Y Gododin ' the poet Aneirin is represented as 
expressing his gratitude at being rescued by the 
son of Llywarch Hen from 'the cruel prison of 
the earth, from the abode of death, from the 
loveless land.' The salient features, therefore, of 
the Celtic conceptions of the other- world are 
their consonance with the suggestions made by 
Celtic scenery to the Celtic imagination, the 
vagueness and variability of these conceptions 
in different minds and in different moods, the 
absence of any ethical considerations beyond the 
incentive given to bravery by the thought of 
immortality, and the remarkable development 
of a sense of possible inter-relations between the 
/ two worlds, whether pacific or hostile. Such 
conceptions, as we see from Celtic legend, proved 
an admirable stimulus and provided excellent 
material for the development of Celtic narrative, 
and the weird and romantic effect was further 

64 



CELTIC SCENERY AND CHARACTER 

heightened by the general beUef in the possi- 
biUties of magic and metamorphosis. Moreover, 
the association with innumerable place-names of 
legends of this type gave the beautiful scenery of 
Celtic lands an added charm, which has attached 
their inhabitants to them with a subtle and un- 
conquerable attachment scarcely intelligible to 
the more prosaic inhabitants of prosaic lands. 
To the' poetic Celt the love of country tends 
to become almost a religion. The Celtic mind 
cannot remain indifferent to lands and seas whose 
very beauty compels the eyes of man to gaze 
upon them to their very horizon, and the lines 
of observation thus drawn to the horizon are 
for the Celt continual temptations to the thought 
of an infinity beyond. The preoccupation of the 
Celtic mind with the deities of his scenerj^, his 
springs, his rivers, his seas, his forests, his moun- 
tains, his lakes, was in thorough keeping with the 
tenour of his mind, when tuned to its natural 
surroundings. j^In dealing with Celtic religion, \ "^ 
mythology, and legend, it is not so much the 
varying local and temporal forms that demand 
our attention, as the all-pervading and animating 
spirit, which shows its essential character even 
through the scanty remains of the ancient Celtic 
world. ICeltic religion bears the impress of \ 

E 65 



CELTIC RELIGION 

nature on earth far more than nature in the 
heavens. The sense of the heaven above has 
perhaps survived in some of the general Indo- 
European Celtic terms for the divine principle, 
and there are some traces of a religious interest 
in the sun and the god of thunder and lightning, 
but every student of Celtic religion must feel 
jthat the main and characteristic elements are 
I associated with the earth in all the variety of its 
local phenomena. The great earth-mother and 
her varied offspring ever come to vieAv in 
Celtic religion under many names, and the 
features even of the other-world could not be dis- 
sociated for the Celt from those of his mother- 
' earth. The festivals of his year, too, were associ- 
ated Avith the decay and the renewal of her 
annual life. The bonfires of November, May, 
Midsummer, and August were doubtless meant 
to be associated with the vicissitudes of her 
life and the spirits that were her children. 
For the Celt the year began in November, so 
that its second half-year commenced with the 
first of May. The idea to which Csesar refers, 
that the Gauls believed themselves descended 
from Dis, the god of the lower world, and began 
the year with the night, counting their time 
not by days but by nights, points in the same 

66 



CELTIC RELIGION AND NATURE'S LIFE 

direction, namely that the darkness of the earthl 
had a greater hold on the mind than the bright- 
ness of the sky. The Welsh terms for a week 
and a fortnight, wythnos (eight nights) and 
jn/thefnos (fifteen nights) respectively confirm 
Caesar's statement. To us now it may seem~[ 
more natural to associate religion with the con- i 
templation of the heavens, but for the Celtic lands 
at any rate the main trend of the evidence is to 
show that the religious mind was mainly drawn 
to a contemplation of the earth and her varied o 
life, and that the Celt looked for his other-world 
either beneath the earth, with her rivers, lakes, "^ 
and seas, or m the islands on the distant horizon, 
where earth and sky met. This predominance j 
of the earth in religion was in thorough keeping 
with the intensity of religion as a factor in his 
daily pursuits. It was this intensity that gave the 
Druids at some time or other in the history 
of the Western Celts the power which Csesar 
and others assign to them. The whole people o| 
the Gauls, even with their military aristocracy; 
were extremely devoted to religious ideas, though^ 
these led to the inhumanity of human sacrifices; 
At one time their sense of the reality of the other- 
world was so great, that they behoved that loans 
contracted in this world would be repaid there, 

67 



CELTIC RELIGION 

and practical belief could not go much further 
than that. All these considerations tend to show 
how important it is, in the comparative study of 
religions, to investigate each religion in its whole 
sociological and geographical environment as well 
as in the etymological meaning of its terms. 

In conclusion, the writer hopes that this 
brief sketch, which is based on an independent 
study of the main evidence for the religious 
ideas and practices of the Celtic peoples, Avill help 
to interest students of religion in the dominant 
modes of thought which from time immemorial 
held sway in these lands of the West of Europe, 
and which in folk-lore and custom occasionally 
show themselves even in the midst of our highly 
developed and complex civilisation of to-day. 
The thought of early man on the problems of 
his being — for after all his superstitions reveal 
thought — deserve respect, for in his efforts to 
think he was trying to grope towards the light. 



68 



SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Rh^s, Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom. 
Ruts, Celtic Folk-lore, Welsh and Manx. 
Reinach, S., Cultes, Mythcs et Religion. 
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69 



Printed by T. aud A. Conitable, Printers to His Majeisty 
at the Edinburgh University Press. 



Date Due 



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Anwyl, Edward 

Celtic religion in pre-Christian times / 



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Anwyl, Edward, 1866-1914, 

Celtic religion in pre- 
Christian times 



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