Atlantis Online
November 25, 2020, 10:48:34 pm
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Comet theory collides with Clovis research, may explain disappearance of ancient people
http://uscnews.sc.edu/ARCH190.html
 
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

Gaelic & Celtic Myth


Pages: 1 2 [3]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Gaelic & Celtic Myth  (Read 2912 times)
Nicole Jimmelson
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4259



« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2007, 10:48:24 pm »

A line in this poem allows us to see Gwyn in another and less sinister rôle. "The lover of Creurdilad, the daughter of Lludd," he calls himself; and an episode in the mythical romance of "Kulhwch and Olwen", preserved in the Red Book of Hergest, gives the details of his courtship. Gwyn had as rival a deity called Gwyrthur ap Greidawl,


p. 259

that is "Victor, son of Scorcher". 1 These two waged perpetual war for Creurdilad, or Creudylad, each in turn stealing her from the other, until the matter was referred to Arthur, who decided that Creudylad should be sent back to her father, and that Gwyn and Gwyrthur "should fight for her every first of May, from henceforth until the day of doom, and that whichever of them should then be conqueror should have the maiden". What satisfaction this would be to the survivor of what might be somewhat flippantly described as, in two senses, the longest engagement on record, is not very clear; but its mythological interpretation appears fairly obvious. In Gwyn, god of death and the underworld, and in the solar deity, Gwyrthur, we may see the powers of darkness and sunshine, of winter and summer, in contest, 2 each alternately winning and losing a bride who would seem to represent the spring with its grain and flowers. Creudylad, whom the story of "Kulhwch and Olwen" calls "the most splendid maiden in the three islands of the mighty and in the three islands adjacent", is, in fact, the British Persephoné. As the daughter of Lludd, she is child of the shining sky. But a different tradition must have made her a daughter of Llyr, the sea-god; for her name as such passed, through Geoffrey of Monmouth, to Shakespeare, in whose hands she became that pathetic figure, Cordelia in "King Lear". It may not be altogether unworthy of notice, though perhaps it is only a coincidence, that in some myths


p. 260

the Greek Persephoné is made a daughter of Zeus and in others of Poseidon. 1

Turning from the sky-god and his son, we find others of Dôn's children to have been the exponents of those arts of life which early races held to have been taught directly by the gods to men. Dôn herself had a brother, Mâth, son of a mysterious Mathonwy, and recognizable as a benevolent ruler of the underworld akin to Beli, or perhaps that god himself under another title, for the name Mâth, which means "coin, money, treasure ", 2 recalls that of Plouton, the Greek god of Hades, in his guise of possessor and giver of metals. It was a belief common to the Aryan races that wisdom, as well as wealth, came originally from the underworld; and we find Mâth represented, in the Mabinogi bearing his name, as handing on his magical lore to his nephew and pupil Gwydion, who, there is good reason to believe, was the same divine personage whom the Teutonic tribes worshipped as "Woden" and "Odin". Thus equipped, Gwydion son of Dôn became the druid of the gods, the "master of illusion and phantasy", and, not only that, but


p. 261

the teacher of all that is useful and good, the friend and helper of mankind, and the perpetual fighter against niggardly underworld powers for the good gifts which they refused to allow out of their keeping. Shoulder to shoulder with him in this "holy war" of culture against ignorance, and light against darkness, stood his brothers Amaethon, god of agriculture, and Govannan, a god of smithcraft identical with the Gaelic Giobniu. He had also a sister called Arianrod, or "Silver Circle", who, as is common in mythologies, was not only his sister, but also his wife. So Zeus wedded Heré; and, indeed, it is difficult to say where otherwise the partners of gods are to come from. Of this connection two sons were born at one birth--Dylan and Lieu, who are considered as representing the twin powers of darkness and light. With darkness the sea was inseparably connected by the Celts, and, as soon as the dark twin was born and named, he plunged headlong into his native element. "And immediately when he was in the sea," says the Mabinogi of Mâth, son of Mâthonwy, "he took its nature, and swam as well as the best fish that was therein. And for that reason was he called Dylan, the Son of the Wave. Beneath him no wave ever broke." He was killed with a spear at last by his uncle, Govannan, and, according to the bard Taliesin, the waves of Britain, Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man wept for him. 1 Beautiful legends grew up around his death. The clamour of the waves dashing


p. 262

upon the beach is the expression of their longing to avenge their son. The sound of the sea rushing up the mouth of the River Conway is still known as "Dylan's death-groan " 1. A small promontory on the Carnarvonshire side of the Menai Straits, called Pwynt Maen Tylen, or Pwynt Maen Dulan, preserves his name. 2

The other child of Gwydion and Arianrod grew up to become the British sun-god, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the exact counterpart of the Gaelic Lugh Lamh-fada, "Light the Long-handed". Like all solar deities, his growth was rapid. When he was a year old, he seemed to be two years; at the age of two, he travelled by himself; and when he was four years old, he was as tall as a boy of eight, and was his father's constant companion.

One day, Gwydion took him to the castle of Arianrod--not her castle in the sky, but her abode on earth, the still-remembered site of which is marked by a patch of rocks in the Menai Straits, accessible without a boat only during the lowest spring and autumn tides. Arianrod had disowned her son, and did not recognize him when she saw him with Gwydion. She asked who he was, and was much displeased when told. She demanded to know his name, and, when Gwydion replied that he had as yet received none, she "laid a destiny upon" him, after the fashion of the Celts, that he should be without a name until she chose to bestow one on him herself.


p. 263

To be without a name was a very serious thing to the ancient Britons, who seem to have held the primitive theory that the name and the soul are the same. So Gwydion cast about to think by what craft he might extort from Arianrod some remark from which he could name their son. The next day, he went down to the sea-shore with the boy, both of them disguised as cordwainers. He made a boat out of sea-weed by magic, and some beautifully-coloured leather out of some dry sticks and sedges. Then they sailed the boat to the port of Arianrod's castle, and, anchoring it where it could be seen, began ostentatiously to stitch away at the leather. Naturally, they were soon noticed, and Arianrod sent someone out to see who they were and what they were doing. When she found that they were shoemakers, she remembered that she wanted some shoes. Gwydion, though he had her measure, purposely made them, first too large, and then too small. This brought Arianrod herself down to the boat to be fitted.

While Gwydion was measuring Arianrod's foot for the shoes, a wren came and stood upon the deck. The boy took his bow and arrow, and hit the wren in the leg--a favourite shot of Celtic "crack" archers, at any rate in romance. The goddess was pleased to be amiable and complimentary. "Truly," said she, "the lion aimed at it with a steady hand." It is from such incidents that primitive people take their names, all the world over. The boy had got his. "It is no thanks to you," said Gwydion to Arianrod, "but now he has a name. And a good

p. 264

name it is. He shall be called Llew Llaw Gyffes 1."

This name of the sun-god is a good example of how obsolete the ancient pagan tradition had become before it was put into writing. The old word Lleu, meaning "light", had passed out of use, and the scribe substituted for a name that was unintelligible to him one like it which he knew, namely Llew, meaning "lion". The word Gyffes seems also to have suffered change, and to have meant originally not "steady", but "long" 2.

At any rate, Arianrod was defeated in her design to keep her son nameless. Neither did she even get her shoes; for, as soon as he had gained his object, Gwydion allowed the boat to change back into sea-weed, and the leather to return to sedge and sticks. So, in her anger, she put a fresh destiny on the boy, that he should not take arms till she herself gave them him.

Gwydion, however, took Lleu to Dinas Dinllev his castle, which still stands at the edge of the Menai Straits, and brought him up as a warrior. As soon as he thought him old enough to have arms, he took him with him again to Caer Arianrod. This time, they were disguised as bards. Arianrod received them gladly, heard Gwydion's songs and tales, feasted them, and prepared a room for them to sleep in.

The next morning, Gwydion got up very early, and prepared his most powerful incantations. By his druidical arts he made it seem as if the whole


p. 265

country rang with the shouts and trumpets of an army, and he put a glamour over everyone, so that they saw the bay filled with ships. Arianrod came to him in terror, asking what could be done to protect the castle. "Give us arms," he replied, "and we will do the best we can." So Arianrod's maidens armed Gwydion, while Arianrod herself put arms on Lleu. By the time she had finished, all the noises had ceased, and the ships had vanished. "Let us take our arms off again," said Gwydion; "we shall not need them now." "But the army is all round the castle!" cried Arianrod. "There was no army," answered Gwydion; "it was only an illusion of mine to cause you to break your prophecy and give our son arms. And now he has got them, without thanks to you." "Then I will lay a worse destiny on him," cried the infuriated goddess. "He shall never have a wife of the people of this earth." "He shall have a wife in spite of you," said Gwydion.

So Gwydion went to Mâth, his uncle and tutor in magic, and between them they made a woman out of flowers by charms and illusion. "They took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw." They called her Blodeuwedd (Flower-face), and gave her to Lleu as his wife. And they gave Lleu a palace called Mur y Castell, near Bala Lake.

All went well until, one day, Gronw Pebyr, one of the gods of darkness, came by, hunting, and

p. 266

killed the stag at nightfall near Lieu's castle. The sun-god was away upon a visit to Mâth, but Blodeuwedd asked the stranger to take shelter with her. That night they fell in love with one another, and conspired together how Lleu might be put away. When Lleu came back from Mâth's court, Blodeuwedd, like a Celtic Dalilah, wormed out of him the secret of how his life was preserved. He told her that he could only die in one way; he could not be killed either inside or outside a house, either on horseback or on foot, but that if a spear that had been a year in the making, and which was never worked upon except during the sacrifice on Sunday, were to be cast at him as he stood beneath a roof of thatch, after having just bathed, with one foot upon the edge of the bath and the other upon a buck goat's back, it would cause his death. Blodeuwedd piously thanked Heaven that he was so well protected, and sent a messenger to her paramour, telling him what she had learned. Gronw set to work on the spear; and in a year it was ready. When she knew this, Blodeuwedd asked Lleu to show her exactly how it was he could be killed.

Lleu agreed; and Blodeuwedd prepared the bath under the thatched roof, and tethered the goat by it. Lieu bathed, and then stood with one foot upon the edge of the bath, and the other upon the goat's back. At this moment, Gronw, from an ambush, flung the spear, and hit Lleu, who, with a terrible cry, changed into an eagle, and flew away. He never came back; and Gronw took possession of both his wife and his palace.




Click to enlarge
BLODEUWEDD'S INVITATION TO GRONW PEBYR




p. 267

But Gwydion set out to search everywhere for his son. At last, one day, he came to a house in North Wales where the man was in great anxiety about his sow; for as soon as the sty was opened, every morning, she rushed out, and did not return again till late in the evening. Gwydion offered to follow her, and, at dawn, the man took him to the sty, and opened the door. The sow leaped forth, and ran, and Gwydion ran after her. He tracked her to a brook between Snowdon and the sea, still called Nant y Llew, and saw her feeding underneath an oak. Upon the top of the tree there was an eagle, and, every time it shook itself, there fell off it lumps of putrid meat, which the sow ate greedily. Gwydion suspected that the eagle must be Lleu. So he sang this verse:


"Oak that grows between the two banks;
Darkened is the sky and hill!
Shall I not tell him by his wounds,
That this is Lleu?"

[paragraph continues] The eagle, on hearing this, came half-way down the tree. So Gwydion sang:


"Oak that grows in upland ground,
Is it not wetted by the rain?
Has it not been drenched
By nine score tempests?
It bears in its branches Lleu Llaw Gyffes."

[paragraph continues] The eagle came slowly down until it was on the lowest branch. Gwydion sang:


"Oak that grows beneath the steep;
Stately and majestic is its aspect!
Shall I not speak it?
That Lleu will come to my lap?"

p. 268

[paragraph continues] Then the eagle came down, and sat on Gwydion's knee. Gwydion struck it with his magic wand, and it became Lleu again, wasted to skin and bone by the poison on the spear.

Gwydion took him to Mâth to be healed, and left him there, while he went to Mur y Castell, where Blodeuwedd was. When she heard that he was coming, she fled. But Gwydion overtook her, and changed her into an owl, the bird that hates the day. A still older form of this probably extremely ancient myth of the sun-god--the savage and repulsive details of which speak of a hoary antiquity--makes the chase of Blodeuwedd by Gwydion to have taken place in the sky, the stars scattered over the Milky Way being the traces of it. 1 As for her accomplice, Lleu would accept no satisfaction short of Gronw's submitting to stand exactly where Lleu had stood, to be shot at in his turn. To this he was obliged to agree; and Lleu killed him. 2

There are two other sons of Beli and Dôn of whom so little is recorded that it would hardly be worth while mentioning them, were it not for the wild poetry of the legend connected with them. The tale, put into writing at a time when all the gods were being transfigured into simple mortals, tells us that they were two kings of Britain, brothers. One starlight night they were walking together. "See," said Nynniaw to Peibaw, "what a fine, wide-spreading field I have." "Where is it?" asked


p. 269

[paragraph continues] Peibaw. "There," replied Nynniaw; "the whole stretch of the sky, as far as the eye reaches." "Look then," returned Peibaw, "what a number of cattle I have grazing on your field." "Where are they?" asked Nynniaw. "All the stars that you can see," replied Peibaw, "every one of them of fiery-coloured gold, with the moon for a shepherd over them." "They shall not feed on my field," cried Nynniaw. "They shall," exclaimed Peibaw. "They shall not," cried Nynniaw, "They shall," said Peibaw. "They shall not," Nynniaw answered; and so they went on, from contradiction to quarrel, and from private quarrel to civil war, until the armies of both of them were destroyed, and the two authors of the evil were turned by God into oxen for their sins. 1

Last of the children of Dôn, we find a goddess called Penardun, of whom little is known except that she was married to the sea-god Llyr. This incident is curious, as forming a parallel to the Gaelic story which tells of intermarriage between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomors. 2 Brigit, the Dagda's daughter, was married to Bress, son of Elathan, while Cian, the son of Diancecht, wedded Ethniu, the daughter of Balor. So, in this kindred mythology, a slender tie of relationship binds the gods of the sky to the gods of the sea.

The name Llyr is supposed, like its Irish equivalent Lêr, to have meant "the Sea". 3 The British sea-god is undoubtedly the same as the Gaelic; indeed,


p. 270

the two facts that he is described in Welsh literature as Llyr Llediath, that is, "Llyr of the Foreign Dialect", and is given a wife called Iweridd (Ireland) 1, suggest that he may have been borrowed by the Britons from the Gaels later than any mythology common to both. As a British god, he was the far-off original of Shakespeare's "King Lear". The chief city of his worship is still called after him, Leicester, that is, Llyr-cestre, in still earlier days, Caer Llyr.

Llyr, we have noticed, married two wives, Penardun and Iweridd. By the daughter of Dôn he had a son called Manawyddan, who is identical with the Gaelic Manannán mac Lir. 2 We know less of his character and attributes than we do of the Irish god; but we find him equally a ruler in that Hades or Elysium which the Celtic mind ever connected with the sea. Like all the inhabitants. of that other world, he is at once a master of magic and of the useful arts, which he taught willingly to his friends. To his enemies, however, he could show a different side of his character. A triad tells us that


"The achievement of Manawyddan the Wise,
After lamentation and fiery wrath,
Was the constructing of the bone-fortress of Oeth and Anoeth", 3

which is described as a prison made, in the shape of


p. 271

a bee-hive, entirely of human bones mortared together, and divided into innumerable cells, forming a kind of labyrinth. In this ghastly place he immured those whom he found trespassing in Hades; and among his captives was no less a person than the famous Arthur. 1

"Ireland" bore two children to Llyr: a daughter called Branwen and a son called Brân. The little we know of Branwen of the "Fair Bosom" shows her as a goddess of love--child, like the Greek Aphrodité, of the sea. Brân, on the other hand, is, even more clearly than Manawyddan, a dark deity of Hades. He is represented as of colossal size, so huge, in fact, that no house or ship was big enough to hold him. 2 He delighted in battle and carnage, like the hoodie-crow or raven from which he probably took his name, 3 but he was also the especial patron of bards, minstrels, and musicians, and we find him in one of the poems ascribed to Taliesin claiming to be himself a bard, a harper, a player on the crowth, and seven-score other musicians all at once. 4 His son was called Caradawc the Strong-armed, who, as the British mythology crumbled, became confounded with the historical Caratacus, known popularly as "Caractacus".

Both Brân and Manawyddan were especially connected with the Swansea peninsula. The bone-fortress of Oeth and Anoeth was placed by tradition in


p. 272

[paragraph continues] Gower. 1 That Brân was equally at home there may be proved from the Morte Darthur, in which store-house of forgotten and misunderstood mythology Brân of Gower survives as "King Brandegore". 2

Such identification of a mere mortal country with the other world seems strange enough to us, but to our Celtic ancestors it was a quite natural thought. All islands--and peninsulas, which, viewed from an opposite coast, probably seemed to them islands--were deemed to be pre-eminently homes of the dark Powers of Hades. Difficult of access, protected by the turbulent and dangerous sea, sometimes rendered quite invisible by fogs and mists and, at other times, looming up ghostlily on the horizon, often held by the remnant of a hostile lower race, they gained a mystery and a sanctity from the law of the human mind which has always held the unknown to be the terrible. The Cornish Britons, gazing from the shore, saw Gower and Lundy, and deemed them outposts of the over-sea Other World. To the Britons of Wales, Ireland was. no human realm, a view reciprocated by the Gaels, who saw Hades in Britain, while the Isle of Man was a little Hades common to them both. Nor even was the sea always necessary to sunder the world of ghosts from that of "shadow-casting men". Glastonbury Tor, surrounded by almost impassable swamps, was one of the especial haunts of Gwyn ap Nudd. The Britons of the north held that beyond the Roman


p. 273

wall and the vast Caledonian wood lived ghosts and not men. Even the Roman province of Demetia--called by the Welsh Dyfed, and corresponding, roughly, to the modern County of Pembrokeshire--was, as a last stronghold of the aborigines, identified with the mythic underworld.

As such, Dyfed was ruled by a local tribe of gods, whose greatest figures were Pwyll, "Head of Annwn" (the Welsh name for Hades), with his wife Rhiannon, and their son Pryderi. These beings are described as hostile to the children of Dôn, but friendly to the race of Llyr. After Pwyll's death or disappearance, his widow Rhiannon becomes the wife of Manawyddan. 1 In a poem of Taliesin's we find Manawyddan and Pryderi joint-rulers of Hades, and warders of that magic cauldron of inspiration 2 which the gods of light attempted to steal or capture, and which became famous afterwards as the "Holy Grail". Another of their treasures were the "Three Birds of Rhiannon", which, we are told in an ancient book, could sing the dead to life and the living into the sleep of death. Fortunately they sang seldom. "There are three things," says a Welsh triad, "which are not often heard: the song of the birds of Rhiannon, a song of wisdom from the mouth of a Saxon, and an invitation to a feast from a miser."

Nor is the list of British gods complete without mention of Arthur, though most readers will be surprised to find him in such company. The


p. 274

genius of Tennyson, who drew his materials mostly from the Norman-French romances, has stereotyped the popular conception of Arthur as a king of early Britain who fought for his fatherland and the Christian faith against invading Saxons. Possibly there may, indeed, have been a powerful British chieftain bearing that typically Celtic name, which is found in Irish legend as Artur, one of the sons of Nemed who fought against the Fomors, and on the Continent as Artaius, a Gaulish deity whom the Romans identified with Mercury, and who seems to have been a patron of agriculture. 1 But the original Arthur stands upon the same ground as Cuchulainn and Finn. His deeds are mythical, because superhuman. His companions can be shown to have been divine. Some we know were worshipped in Gaul. Others are children of Dôn, of Llyr, and of Pwyll, dynasties of older gods to whose head Arthur seems to have risen, as his cult waxed and theirs waned. Stripped of their godhead, and strangely transformed, they fill the pages of romance as Knights of the Table Round.

These deities were the native gods of Britain. Many others are, however, mentioned upon inscriptions found in our island, but these were almost all exotic and imported. Imperial Rome brought men of diverse races among her legions, and these men brought their gods. Scattered over Britain, but especially in the north, near the Wall, we find evidence that deities of many nations--from Germany to Africa, and from Gaul to Persia--were


p. 275

sporadically worshipped. 1 Most of these foreign gods were Roman, but a temple at Eboracum (now York) was dedicated to Serapis, and Mithras, the Persian sun-god, was also adored there; while at Corbridge, in Northumberland (the ancient Corspitium), there have been found altars to the Tyrian Hercules and to Astarte. The war-god was also invoked under many strange names--as "Cocidius" by a colony of Dacians in Cumberland; as Toutates, Camulus, Coritiacus, Belatucador, Alator, Loucetius, Condates, and Rigisamos by men of different countries. A goddess of war was worshipped at Bath under the name of Nemetona. The hot springs of the same town were under the patronage of a divinity called Sul, identified by the Romans with Minerva, and she was helped by a god of medicine described on a dedicatory tablet as "Sol Apollo Anicetus". Few of these "strange gods", however, seem to have taken hold of the imagination of the native Britons. Their worshippers did not proselytize, and their general influence was probably about equal to that of an Evangelical Church in a Turkish town. The sole exceptions to this rule are where the foreign gods are Gaulish; but in several instances it can be proved that they were not so much of Roman, as of original Celtic importation. The warlike heaven-god Camulus appears in Gaelic heroic myth as Cumhal, the father of Finn, and in British mythical history as Coel, a duke of Caer Coelvin (known earlier as


p. 276

[paragraph continues] Camulodunum, and now as Colchester), who seized the crown of Britain, and spent his short reign in a series of battles. 1 The name of the sun-god Maponos is found alike upon altars in Gaul and Britain, and in Welsh literature as Mabon, a follower of Arthur; while another Gaulish sun-god, Belinus, who had a splendid temple at Bajocassos (the modern Bayeux), though not mentioned in the earliest British mythology, as its scattered records have come down to us, must have been connected with Brân; for we find in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History "King Belinus" as brother of "King Brennius", 2 and in the Morte Darthur "Balin" as brother of "Balan". 3 A second-century Greek writer gives an account of a god of eloquence worshipped in Gaul under the name of Ogmios, and represented as equipped like Heracles, a description which exactly corresponds to the conception of the Gaelic Ogma, at once patron of literature and writing and professional strong man of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Nemetona, the war-goddess worshipped at Bath, was probably the same as Nemon, one of Nuada's Valkyr-wives, while a broken inscription to athubodva, which probably stood, when intact, for Cathubodva, may well have been addressed to the Gaulish equivalent of Badb Catha, the "War-fury". Lugh, or Lleu, was also widely known on the Continent as Lugus. Three important towns--


p. 277

[paragraph continues] Laon, Leyden, and Lyons--were all anciently called after him Lugu-dunum (Lugus' town), and at the last and greatest of these a festival was still held in Roman times upon the sun-god's day--the first of August--which corresponded to the Lugnassad (Lugh's commemoration) held in ancient Ireland. Brigit, the Gaelic Minerva, is also found in Britain as Brigantia, tutelary goddess of the Brigantes, a Northern tribe, and in Eastern France as Brigindo, to whom Iccavos, son of Oppianos, made a dedicatory offering of which there is still record. 1

Other, less striking agreements between the mythical divine names of the Insular and Continental Celts might be cited. These recorded should, however, prove sufficiently that Gaul, Gael, and Briton shared in a common heritage of mythological names and ideas, which they separately developed into three superficially different, but essentially similar cults.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnotes
253:1 Lady Guest's Mabinogion, a note to Math, the Son of Mathonwy.

253:2 The Story of Lludd and Llevelys. See chap. XXIV--"The Decline and Fall of the Gods".

253:3 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 128.

254:1 See a monograph by the Right Hon. Charles Bathurst: Roman Antiquities in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire.

254:2 See chap. XXIV--"The Decline and Fall of the Gods".

254:3 Hibbert Lectures, pp. 178, 199.

255:1 So translated by Lady Guest. Professor Rhys, however, renders it, "in whom God has put the instinct of the demons of Annwn". Arthurian Legend, p. 341.

255:2 Lady Guest's Mabinogion. Note to "Kulhwch and Olwen".

255:3 Black Book of Caermarthen, poem XXXIII. Vol. I, p. 293, of Skene's Four Ancient Books.

255:4 I have taken the liberty of omitting a few lines whose connection with their context is not very apparent.

255:5 Gwyn was said to specially frequent the summits of hills.

256:1 This line is Professor Rhys's. Skene translates it: "Whilst I am called Gwyn the son of Nudd".

257:1 I have here preferred Rhys's rendering: Arthurian Legend, p. 364.

257:2 A name for Hades, of unknown meaning.

257:3 Dormarth means "Death's Door". Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 156-158.

257:4 Rhys has it:


"Dormarth, red-nosed, ground-grazing
On him we perceived the speed
Of thy wandering on Cloud Mount."
--Arthurian Legend, p. 156.


258:1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 383. Skene translates: "I am alive, they in their graves!"

259:1 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 561.

259:2 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, pp. 561-563.

260:1 Dyer: Studies of the Gods in Greece, p. 48.

Gwyn, son of Nudd, had a brother, Edeyrn, of whom so little has come down to us that he finds his most suitable place in a foot-note. Unmentioned in the earliest Welsh legends, he first appears as a knight of Arthur's court in the Red Book stories of "Kulhwch and Olwen", the "Dream of Rhonabwy", and "Geraint, the Son of Erbin". He accompanied Arthur on his expedition to Rome, and is said also to have slain "three most atrocious giants" at Brentenol (Brent Knoll), near Glastonbury. His name occurs in a catalogue of Welsh saints, where he is described as a bard, and the chapel of Bodedyrn, near Holyhead, still stands to his honour. Modern readers will know him from Tennyson's Idyll of "Geraint and Enid", which follows very closely the Welsh romance of "Geraint, the Son of Erbin".

260:2 Rhys--who calls him "a Cambrian Pluto": Lectures on Welsh Philology, P. 414.

261:1 Book of Taliesin, man. The Death-song of Dylan, Son of the Wave, Vol. I, p. 288 of Skene.

262:1 Rhys: Hibbert Lecturer, p. 387.

262:2 Rhys: Celtic Folklore, p. 210.

264:1 i.e. The Lion with the Steady Hand.

264:2 See Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, note to p. 237.

268:1 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 240.

268:2 Retold from the Mabinogi of Math, Son of Mathonwy, In Lady Guest's Mabinogion.

269:1 The Iolo Manuscripts: collected by Edward Williams, the bard, at about the beginning of the nineteenth century--The Tale of Rhitta Gawr.

269:2 See Chapter VII--"The Rise of the Sun-God".

269:3 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 130.

270:1 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 130.

270:2 The old Irish tract called Coir Anmann (the Choice of Names) says: "Manannán mac Lir . . . the Britons and the men of Erin deemed that he was the god of the sea".

270:3 Iolo MSS., stanza 18 of The Stanzas of the Achievements, composed by the Azure Bard of the Chair.

271:1 See note to chap. XXII--"The Treasures of Britain".

271:2 Mabinogi of Branwen, Daughter of Llyr.

271:3 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 245.

271:4 Book of Taliesin, poem XLVIII, in Skene's Four Ancient Books of Wales. Vol. I. p. 297.

272:1 The Verses of the Graves of the Warriors, in the Black Book of Caermarthen. See also Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 347.

272:2 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 160.

273:1 Mabinogi of Manawyddan, Son of Llyr.

273:2 Book of Taliesin, poem xiv, Vol. I, p. 276, of Skene.

274:1 Rhys: Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 48 and note.

275:1 See a paper in the Edinburgh Review for July, 1851--"The Romans in Britain".

276:1 It is said that the "Old King Cole" of the popular ballad, who "was a merry old soul", represents the last faint tradition of the Celtic god.

276:2 Geoffrey of Monmouth, Book III, chap. 1.

276:3 Morte Darthur, Book I, chap. xvi.

277:1 For full account of Gaulish gods, and their Gaelic and British affinities, see Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, I and II--"The Gaulish Pantheon".


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cml/cml20.htm
Report Spam   Logged
Nicole Jimmelson
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4259



« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2007, 10:49:27 pm »

CHAPTER XVII
THE ADVENTURES OF THE GODS OF HADES
It is with the family of Pwyll, deities connected with the south-west corner of Wales, called by the Romans Demetia, and by the Britons Dyfed, and, roughly speaking, identical with the modern county of Pembrokeshire, that the earliest consecutive accounts of the British gods begin. The first of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi tell us how "Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed", gained the right to be called Pen Annwn, the "Head of Hades". Indeed, it almost seems as if it had been deliberately written to explain how the same person could be at once a mere mortal prince, however legendary, and a ruler in the mystic Other World, and so to reconcile two conflicting traditions. 1 But to an earlier age than that in which the legend was put into a literary shape, such forced reconciliation would not have been needed; for the two legends would not have been considered to conflict. When Pwyll, head of Annwn, was a mythic person whose tradition was still alive, the unexplored, rugged, and savage country of Dyfed, populated by the aboriginal Iberians whom the Celt had driven into such remote districts, appeared to those who dwelt upon the


p. 279

eastern side of its dividing river, the Tawë, at least a dependency of Annwn, if not that weird realm itself. But, as men grew bolder, the frontier was crossed, and Dyfed entered and traversed, and found to be not so unlike other countries. Its inhabitants, if not of Celtic race, were yet of flesh and blood. So that, though the province still continued to bear to a late date the names of the "Land of Illusion" and the "Realm of Glamour", 1 it was no longer deemed to be Hades itself. That fitful and shadowy country had folded its tents, and departed over or under seas.

The story of "Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed", 2 tells us how there was war in Annwn between its two kings--or between two, perhaps, of its many chieftains. Arawn ("Silver-Tongue") and Havgan ("Summer-White") each coveted the dominions of the other. In the continual contests between them, Arawn was worsted, and in despair he visited the upper earth to seek for a mortal ally.

At this time Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, held his court at Narberth. He had, however, left his capital upon a hunting expedition to Glyn Cûch, known to-day as a valley upon the borders of the two counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen. Like so many kings of European and Oriental romance, when an adventure is at hand, he became separated from his party, and was, in modern parlance, "thrown out". He could, however, still hear the music of his hounds, and was listening to them, when he also


p. 280

distinguished the cry of another pack coming towards him. As he watched and listened, a stag came into view; and the strange hounds pulled it down almost at his feet. At first Pwyll hardly looked at the stag, he was so taken up with gazing at the hounds, for "of all the hounds that he had seen in the world, he had never seen any that were like unto these. For their hair was of a brilliant shining white, and their ears were red; and as the whiteness of their bodies shone, so did the redness of their ears glisten." They were, indeed, though Pwyll does not seem to have known it, of the true Hades breed--the snow-white, red-eared hounds we meet in Gaelic legends, and which are still said to be sometimes heard and seen scouring the hills of Wales by night. Seeing no rider with the hounds, Pwyll drove them away from the dead stag, and called up his own pack to it.

While he was doing this, a man "upon a large, light-gray steed, with a hunting-horn round his neck, and clad in garments of gray woollen in the fashion of a hunting garb" appeared, and rated Pwyll for his unsportsmanlike conduct. "Greater discourtesy," said he, "I never saw than your driving away my dogs after they had killed the stag, and calling your own to it. And though I may not be revenged upon you for this, I swear that I will do you more damage than the value of a hundred stags."

Pwyll expressed his contrition, and, asking the new-comer's name and rank, offered to atone for his fault. The stranger told his name--Arawn, a king of Annwn--and said that Pwyll could gain his forgiveness only in one way, by going to Annwn

p. 281

instead of him, and fighting for him with Havgan. Pwyll agreed to do this, and the King of Hades put his own semblance upon the mortal prince, so that not a person in Annwn--not even Arawn's own wife--would know that he was not that king. He led him by a secret path into Annwn, and left him before his castle, charging him to return to the place where they had first met, at the end of a year from that day. On the other hand, Arawn took on Pwyll's shape, and went to Narberth.

No one in Annwn suspected Pwyll of being anyone else than their king. He spent the year in ruling the realm, in hunting, minstrelsy, and feasting. Both by day and night, he had the company of Arawn's wife, the most beautiful woman he had ever yet seen, but he refrained from taking advantage of the trust placed in him. At last the day came when he was to meet Havgan in single combat. One blow settled it; for Pwyll, Havgan's destined conqueror, thrust his antagonist an arm's and a spear's length over the crupper of his horse, breaking his shield and armour, and mortally wounding him. Havgan was carried away to die, and Pwyll, in the guise of Arawn, received the submission of the dead king's subjects, and annexed his realm. Then he went back to Glyn Cûch, to keep his tryst with Arawn.

They retook their own shapes, and each returned to his own kingdom. Pwyll learned that Dyfed had never been ruled so well, or been so prosperous, as during the year just passed. As for the King of Hades, he found his enemy gone, and his domains

p. 282

extended. And when he caressed his wife, she asked him why he did so now, after the lapse of a whole year. So he told her the truth, and they both agreed that they had indeed got a true friend in Pwyll.

After this, the kings of Annwn and Dyfed made their friendship strong between them. From that time forward, says the story, Pwyll was no longer called Prince of Dyfed, but Pen Annwn, "the Head of Hades".

The second mythological incident in the Mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, tells how the Head of Hades won his wife, Rhiannon, thought by Professor Rhys to have been a goddess either of the dawn or of the moon. 1 There was a mound outside Pwyll's palace at Narberth which had a magical quality. To anyone who sat upon it there happened one of two things: either he received wounds and blows, or else he saw a wonder. One day, it occurred to Pwyll that he would like to try the experience of the mound. So he went and sat upon it.

No unseen blows assailed Pwyll, but he had not been sitting long upon the mound before he saw, coming towards him, "a lady on a pure-white horse of large size, with a garment of shining gold around her", riding very quietly. He sent a man on foot to ask her who she was, but, though she seemed to be moving so slowly, the man could not come up to her. He failed utterly to overtake her, and she passed on out of sight.

The next day, Pwyll went again to the mound.


p. 283

[paragraph continues] The lady appeared, and, this time, Pwyll sent a horseman. At first, the horseman only ambled along at about the same pace at which the lady seemed to be going; then, failing to get near her, he urged his horse into a gallop. But, whether he rode slow or fast, he could come no closer to the lady than before, although she seemed to the eyes of those who watched to have been going only at a foot's pace.

The day after that, Pwyll determined to accost the lady himself. She came at the same gentle walk, and Pwyll at first rode easily, and then at his horse's topmost speed, but with the same result, or lack of it. At last, in despair, he called to the mysterious damsel to stop. "I will stop gladly," said she, "and it would have been better for your horse if you had asked me before." She told him that her name was Rhiannon, daughter of Heveydd the Ancient. The nobles of her realm had determined to give her in marriage against her will, so she had come to seek out Pwyll, who was the man of her choice. Pwyll was delighted to hear this, for he thought that she was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen. Before they parted, they had plighted troth, and Pwyll had promised to appear on that day twelvemonth at the palace of her father, Heveydd. Then she vanished, and Pwyll returned to Narberth.

At the appointed time, Pwyll went to visit Heveydd the Ancient, with a hundred followers. He was received with much welcome, and the disposition of the feast put under his command, as the Celts seem to have done to especially honoured

p. 284

guests. As they sat at meat, with Pwyll between Rhiannon and her father, a tall auburn-haired youth came into the hall, greeted Pwyll, and asked a boon of him. "Whatever boon you may ask of me," said Pwyll thoughtlessly, "if it is in my power, you shall have it." Then the suitor threw off all disguise, called the guests to witness Pwyll's promise, and claimed Rhiannon as his bride. Pwyll was dumb. "Be silent as long as you will," said the masterful Rhiannon; "never did a man make worse use of his wits than you have done." "Lady," replied the amazed Pwyll, "I knew not who he was." "He is the man to whom they would have given me against my will," she answered, "Gwawl, the son of Clûd. You must bestow me upon him now, lest shame befall you." "Never will I do that," said Pwyll. "Bestow me upon him," she insisted, "and I will cause that I shall never be his." So Pwyll promised Gwawl that he would make a feast that day year, at which he would resign Rhiannon to him.

The next year, the feast was made, and Rhiannon sat by the side of her unwelcome bridegroom. But Pwyll was waiting outside the palace, with a hundred men in ambush. When the banquet was at its height, he came into the hall, dressed in coarse, ragged garments, shod with clumsy old shoes, and carrying a leather bag. But the bag was a magic one, which Rhiannon had given to her lover, with directions as to its use. Its quality was that, however much was put into it, it could never be filled. "I crave a boon," he said to Gwawl. "What is

p. 285

it?" Gwawl replied. "I am a poor man, and all I ask is to have this bag filled with meat." Gwawl granted what he said was "a request within reason", and ordered his followers to fill the bag. But the more they put into it, the more room in it there seemed to be. Gwawl was astonished, and asked why this was. Pwyll replied that it was a bag that could never be filled until someone possessed of lands and riches should tread the food down with both his feet. "Do this for the man," said Rhiannon to Gwawl. "Gladly I will," replied he, and put both his feet into the bag. But no sooner had he done so than Pwyll slipped the bag over Gwawl's head, and tied it up at the mouth. He blew his horn, and all his followers came in. "What have you got in the bag?" asked each one in turn. "A badger," replied Pwyll. Then each, as he received Pwyll's answer, kicked the bag, or hit it with a stick. "Then," says the story, "was the game of 'Badger in the Bag' first played."

Gwawl, however, fared better than we suspect that the badger usually did; for Heveydd the Ancient interceded for him. Pwyll willingly released him, on condition that he promised to give up all claim to Rhiannon, and renounced all projects of revenge. Gwawl consented, and gave sureties, and went away to his own country to have his bruises healed.

This country of Gwawl's was, no doubt, the sky; for he was evidently a sun-god. His name bewrays him; for the meaning of "Gwawl" is "light". 1 It


p. 286

was one of the hours of victory for the dark powers, such as were celebrated in the Celtic calendar by the Feast of Samhain, or Summer End.

There was no hindrance now to the marriage of Pwyll and Rhiannon. She became his bride, and returned with him to Dyfed.

For three years, they were without an heir, and the nobles of Dyfed became discontented. They petitioned Pwyll to take another wife instead of Rhiannon. He asked for a year's delay. This was granted, and, before the end of the year, a son was born. But, on the night of his birth, the six women set to keep watch over Rhiannon all fell asleep at once; and when they woke up, the boy had vanished. Fearful lest their lives should be forfeited for their neglect, they agreed to swear that Rhiannon had eaten her child. They killed a litter of puppies, and smeared some of the blood on Rhiannon's face and hands, and put some of the bones by her side. Then they awoke her with a great outcry, and accused her. She swore that she knew nothing of the death of her son, but the women persisted that they had seen her devour him, and had been unable to prevent it. The druids of that day were not sufficiently practical anatomists to be able to tell the bones of a child from those of a dog, so they condemned Rhiannon upon the evidence of the women. But, even now, Pwyll would not put her away; so she was assigned a penance. For seven years, she was to sit by a horse-block outside the gate, and offer to carry visitors into the palace upon her back. "But it rarely happened,"

p. 287

says the Mabinogi, "that any would permit her to do so."

Exactly what had become of Rhiannon's child seems to have been a mystery even to the writer of the Mabinogi. It was, at any rate, in some way connected with the equally mysterious disappearance on every night of the first of May--Beltaine, the Celtic sun-festival--of the colts foaled by a beautiful mare belonging to Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, one of Pwyll's vassals. Every May-day night, the mare foaled, but no one knew what became of the colt. Teirnyon decided to find out. He caused the mare to be taken into a house, and there he watched it, fully armed. Early in the night, the colt was born. Then there was a great noise, and an arm with claws came through the window, and gripped the colt's mane. Teirnyon hacked at the arm with his sword, and cut it off. Then he heard wailing, and opened the door, and found a baby in swaddling clothes, wrapped in a satin mantle. He took it up and brought it to his wife, and they decided to adopt it. They called the boy Gwri Wallt Euryn, that is "Gwri of the Golden Hair".

The older the boy grew, the more it seemed to Teirnyon that he became like Pwyll. Then he remembered that he had found him upon the very night that Rhiannon lost her child. So he consulted with his wife, and they both agreed that the baby they had so mysteriously found must be the same that Rhiannon had so mysteriously lost. And they decided that it would not be right for them to keep the son of another, while

p. 288

so good a lady as Rhiannon was being punished wrongfully.

So, the very next day, Teirnyon set out for Narberth, taking the boy with him. They found Rhiannon sitting, as usual, by the gate, but they would not allow her to carry them into the palace on her back. Pwyll welcomed them; and that evening, as they sat at supper, Teirnyon told his hosts the story from beginning to end. And he presented her son to Rhiannon.

As soon as everyone in the palace saw the boy, they admitted that he must be Pwyll's son. So they adopted him with delight; and Pendaran Dyfed, the head druid of the kingdom, gave him a new name. He called him "Pryderi 1", meaning "trouble", from the first word that his mother had uttered when he was restored to her. For she had said: "Trouble is, indeed, at an end for me, if this be true".


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnotes
278:1 Rhys. Studies in the Arthurian Legend, p. 282.

279:1 It is constantly so-called by the fourteenth-century Welsh poet, Dafydd ab Gwilym, so much admired by George Borrow.

279:2 This chapter is retold from Lady Guest's translation of the Mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed.

282:1 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 678.

285:1 Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 123 and note. Clûd was probably the goddess of the River Clyde. See Rhys: Arthurian Legend, p. 294.

288:1 Pronounced Pridairy.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cml/cml21.htm
Report Spam   Logged
unknown
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 1603



« Reply #32 on: March 05, 2007, 01:03:02 am »

Hi Nicole

I have got to find time to read all this, thanks for posting it.
Report Spam   Logged

"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
Mark of Australia
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 703



« Reply #33 on: March 18, 2007, 06:37:39 am »

Hi all

 I was wondering if anyone else has heard of how the ancient Celts were said by some classical author ,to believe in reincarnation of the soul and that after someone dies the soul does not enter another incarnation until 9 years later .

 I read that in some book about the ancient Celts .
Report Spam   Logged
Bianca
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 41646



« Reply #34 on: March 18, 2007, 07:35:38 pm »


Mark:

Check CELTS, KARMA AND REINCARNATION at:

www.summerlands.com/crossroads/library/celts_and_karma.html-28k





Sorry, Mark.  The above link won't work.  I think it is too old.

But you can get it  - for sure, if you

'google':    CELTS, KARMA AND REINCARNATION -   That does work.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2007, 08:01:32 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
Bianca
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 41646



« Reply #35 on: May 12, 2007, 06:46:40 pm »




Celts, Karma and Reincarnation

Recent discussions about the concept of reincarnation among the Celtic people and the Druids as compared to the teachings of Pythagoras have sparked insights for me that should have been obvious. The first of these insights is that the Celts believed in a world of the spirit. This belief means, among other things, that the Celts believed that spirits could exist in this world by inhabiting the bodies of people, of animals, of plants, of trees and even manifest themselves as the spirits of places (wells, brughs, caves, stones, rivers, ponds, and fields). This migration of spirit between worlds, places, animals and people was a reflection of the communal nature of Celtic life. A belief in spiritual migration and transmigration does not rule out the Celt's most common spiritual belief, the belief that there is a life in another world after death in this one. Before I cover these additional topics in Celtic/Druidic spiritual belief, let me cite some examples from Celtic literature concerning these matters.
In the tales that lead to the "Tain Bó Cuailgne" is the story of the two swineherds, Friuch and Rucht, "The Quarrel of the Two Pig-keepers and how the Bulls were Begotten." These two men got into a contest as to who had greater Magical power. This led them to shapechange into a variety of forms over periods of years. First they were birds of prey and they fought and quarreled. Next, they were men again. Then they went through a series of changes that included being: water creatures, stags, warriors, phantoms, and dragons, until they finally became worms. One worm fell into the spring of the river Cronn in Cuailnge, where a cow belonging to Dáire mac Fiachna swallowed it. This cow gave birth to Dub, the great, dark bull of Cuailnge. The other worm suffered a similar fate in the wellspring of Garad, located in Connacht, where a cow belonging to Medb and Aillill drank it. It became Finnbennach, the white-horned bull of Ai Pain. The exploits surrounding these two great creatures is another story, for another time, to be found in the Táin Bó Cuailgne itself. It is a primary example of how spirit flowed between people, places, animals, and even objects.

Celtic Beliefs in Spirit

Another common belief in the continuity of spirit, was for the spirit of the departed to enter into stones or trees. This is often told about two lovers who die, have a tree spring from their graves and eventually re-unite with one another as intertwined branches, wooden objects, or even Ogham staves. The story of Baile and Aillinn is one such tale. These two lovers became a Yew and an Apple tree after their deaths. Eventually Ogham staves were made from their woods. When the staves were presented to the king at Tara, they sprang together and were kept in the treasure room from that day forward. The fate of Deirdre and Naoise is another tale of ill-fated love. Two pines grew from their graves, intertwining together, never to be parted. To this very day, Celtic people hold trees sacred, especially those that grow from a grave.

The Celtic belief that spirit could inhabit a place, is found in the common feeling regarding graveyards and passage graves. These places are known to contain ghosts and spirits. Many stones are said to be Druids and others who have been changed to that state by Magick. The "sleeping king" or "warrior band" idea is another example of how the Land itself contains the spirit of people. This idea that famous warriors will awaken in the hour of need is the essence of spirit being stored within the Land itself. Foundation sacrifices were also known to have occurred where a person willingly gave their spirit to a structure or to a place, to become its guardian. This belief in the connection between spirit, person and place is still alive today in the belief that the last soul to die is the guardian of the graveyard. It is also intertwined with the Celtic belief that the soul must revisit the three sods (soils) before passing through the doorway to the Otherworld: the place of birth, the place of baptism and the "sod of death".

Even in their art, Celts reflected their ideas that spirit was an interconnected weaving of all things together in a tapestry of life. Nowhere is this more evident than in the art of Celtic knotwork. Knotwork is a symbol of the interconnection between destiny, the Three Worlds and the human soul. This belief in interconnection also shows up in the Magical practices of "taking a measure" and the tying of knots in cords and threads. There are also practices that center around the "cord of life" (which is the umbilical cord itself) and how it should be honored and guarded, but that is a thread for another day.

This brief introduction has attempted to present an idea of the Celtic beliefs in the interconnectivity of life, of the connection to the land, of the soul's journeys through many forms and bodies, of the doorway of death, and the various forms of reincarnation available to the spirit. It has only touched upon the surface of the topic, which is mentioned in a vast number of tales, beliefs, and traditions. All of these works demonstrate the Celtic belief in the reincarnation of the spirit in its many forms.

Other Lives

Allusions to the Celts having believed in another life have sometimes been interpreted to mean that they embraced the concept of "karma" (whatever that is). There is a body of evidence to support a Celtic belief in re-incarnation as well as another life after death. This belief takes many forms. Some of these forms are noted as being a transmigration of the soul. Stories contain instances of shapeshifting. Instances exist that tell of Otherworldly experiences. Lives are said to be gifts from the Sidhe. Reincarnations are manifestations and gifts of the gods, while other cases are considered to manifest as a common spirit returning along family lines. Of course, there are also the stories about those that sleep and do not die (awaiting a call), and the magicians that live backwards in time like Merlin, as well as warriors who are resurrected with and without a soul. There may be other instances of Otherworldly life or reincarnation in Celtic tradition, but these seem to be the most often cited.

The writings of the Poseidonian and Alexandrian Schools of history, as well as Caesar, support the possibility that the Druids generally practiced and taught a belief in reincarnation. Instances also occur in the insular literature that can be taken to mean that reincarnation was thought to have occurred in the case of exceptional people. There are also mentions of a belief in a spirit that passed from one member of a family to another that occurs in the tales and survived in Celtic folk practice. Much more definitive evidence or a skillful documented research effort on a level of at least a Ph.D. dissertation should be attempted before the evidence can be said to be substantial. This does not mean that evidence does not exist (however scanty that it is).

"How Cúchulainn was Begotten"

There are references to a belief in reincarnation among the Celts and Druids to be found in traditional writings. These references seem to be characteristic of a common Indo-European spiritual belief. It seems to have been a universally held concept until relatively recently. An example of a belief in reincarnation can be found in Thomas Kinsella's translation of the story of "How Cúchulainn was Begotten."

"The men of Ulster pressed on until they reached Brug on the Boann river, and night overtook them there. It snowed heavily upon them, and Conchobor told his people to unyoke the chariots and start looking for a shelter. Conall and Bricriu searched about and found a solitary house, newly built. They went up to it and found a couple there and were made welcome. But when they returned to their people, Bricriu said it was useless to go there unless they brought their own food and set the table themselves – that even so it would be meager enough. Nevertheless, they went there with all of their chariots, and crowded with difficulty into the house. Soon they found the door to the store-room, and by their usual mealtime the men of Ulster were drunk with their welcome and in good humour.

Later the man of the house told them his wife was in her birth-pangs in the store-room. Deichtine went in to her and helped her to bear a son. At the same time, a mare at the door of the house gave birth to two foals. The Ulstermen took charge of the baby boy and gave him the foals as a present, and Deichtine nursed him.

When morning came there was nothing to be seen eastward from the Brugh – no house, no birds – only their own horses, the baby and the foals. They went back to Emain and reared the baby until he was a boy.

He caught an illness then, and died. And they made a lamentation for him, and Deichtine's grief was great at the loss of her foster son. She came home from lamenting him and grew thirsty and asked for a drink, and the drink was brought in a cup. She set it to her lips to drink from it and a tiny creature slipped into her mouth with the liquid. As she took the cup from her lips she swallowed the creature and it vanished.

She slept that night and dreamed that a man came toward her and spoke to her, saying she would bear a child by him – that it was he who had brought her to the Brug to sleep with her there, that the boy she had reared was his, that he was again planted in her womb and was to be called Se/tanta, that he himself was Lug mac Etnenn, and that the foals should be reared with the boy."

This is clearly reincarnation along family lines. The above story about Cú Chulainn is a translation of an eighth century tale, "Compert Con Culainn," as found in Lebor na hUidre and other ancient manuscripts. Another work that mentions this type of reincarnation is "Compert Mongain" (where Mongan is born through the actions of Manannán, and as a reincarnation of Fionn). The story of how Daogas was begotten of himself is the third example of this form of reincarnation to be found in Irish writings. It is to be found in a story translated on page 135, Volume II of the Ossianic Society Transactions. The examples of Finn being the reincarnation of Cumhal or of Mongan being the incarnation of Manannán seem to support this belief. Who has not heard the expression, "a chip off the old block?"

The men of Ulster desired to have Cúchualinn married so that he would be assured of having progeny. They wished that he could be reincarnated to them again, but were thwarted in their desires when he killed his only son as recounted in another tale about him. The evidence for this belief in the men of Ulster is based on this passage out of "Tochmarc Emire," where it was said:

"There was the danger besides that Cúchulainn might die young and leave no son, which would be tragic: they knew it was only out of Cúchulainn himself that the like of him might come again, For this reason also he should have a woman."

"Cauldron of Poesy"

This idea is also echoed in the teaching attributed to Amergin in the "Cauldron of Poesy" materials:

"Where is the root of poetry in a person; in the body or in the soul? They say it is in the soul, for the body does nothing without the soul. Others say it is in the body where the arts are learned, passed through the bodies of our ancestors. It is said this is the seat of what remains over the root of poetry; and the good knowledge in every person's ancestry comes not into everyone, but comes into every other person." - translation by Erynn Laurie

The Filidh Amergin is talking about a skill being passed along family lines in an almost instinctive manner. He also ascribes certain knowledge and awareness to come from the soul through heightened spiritual experiences. Here we are touching the edges of what I believe to be an ancient and valid Celtic belief in a reincarnation that occurs within families. Cormac of Caisheal seems to be echoing this concept in his glossary:

The tuirgen is "...the birth that passes from every nature to another... a transitory birth which has traversed all nature from Adam and goes through every wonderful time down to the world's doom."

Diodorus seems to be saying the same thing of Druidic belief: "... the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite number of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body..."

Caesar is also echoing this idea when he says that the Druids teach, "...souls do not suffer death, but after death pass from one to another..."

The Druids' beliefs and teachings about the soul indicate that the essence of a person was not thought to die at the death of the body, but to live on. I think that the tale of "How Cúchualinn was Begotten" clearly shows one possibility for what can happen to a soul after death: i.e. it is reborn into another body. This is exactly what the Druids were said to have taught in the quotation by Diodorus and in the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus:

They "..were of loftier intellect, and bound by the rules of brotherhood as decreed by Pythagoras's authority, exalted by investigations of deep and serious study, and despising human affairs, declared souls to be immortal."

The Alexandrian School

The soul does not have to reincarnate in this world but can stay in the Otherworld. The life into which one is reborn appears to be tied to fate and the will of the gods. The Alexandrian School of ancient historians considered the Druids to be philosophers who followed the ways of Pythagoras, though I suspect this association by them to be because both schools of philosophy taught the belief of reincarnation. I do not think that the Druids were Pythagorean, nor do I think that Pythagoras was a Druid. Here are some of the historians that seem to have held this belief (as provided in an email source):

Hippolytus - (circa 170 - 236 CE) Christian author writing in Greek, of whose work only fragments remain, claimed that the Druids had adopted the teachings of Pythagoras

Clement of Alexandria - (circa 150 - 211/216 CE) Athenian known also as Titus Flavius Clement, a Greek theologian, founder and head of the Christian school of Alexandria, also believed the Druids learned from Pythagoras. Wrote on the topic of Druids as philosophers

Cyril of Alexandria - (archbishop of Alexandria in 412 - 444 CE) Quotes the same passages that Clement did from Polyhistor's book on Pythagoras, holding that the Druids learned their knowledge from Pythagoras. Also wrote about the Druids as philosophers

Timaeus of Tauromenion - (circa 356 - 260 BCE) Sicilian Greek writer whose work was extensively used by Diogenese Laertius and Clement of Alexandria

Polyhistor - (born circa 105 BCE) Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor, Greek who wrote of the Druids as philosophers and was the main source on Pythagoras:

"The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among the Gauls' teaching that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body."

Timagenes - (circa mid-first century BCE) Alexandrian who is cited by Diodorus Siculus as an authority on Druids, also quoted in the works of Ammianus Marcellinus. He wrote around the same time as Polyhistor. He gives the earliest mention of the Druids being the historians of the Celts. Truly belongs to the Posidonius School

Multiple Incarnations

Additional information that seems to indicate the occurrence of multiple incarnations are to be found in the tales surrounding Fintan, Tuan Mac Carrel, and Gwion Bach, as well as the lament of the Hag of Beara. Beyond this I have also seen such beliefs in reincarnation expressed as an on-going Celtic tradition in the _Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries_ by W. Y. Evans-Wentz.

If the concept of Karma existed among the Celts, it might have manifested itself in the principle of repaying debts, whether incurred in one life or another:

"They lent sums of money to each other which are repayable in the next world, so firmly are they convinced that the souls of men are immortal."

- Valerius Maximus -

Such debts would have reflected on the honor of oneself and one’s family. The obligation to repay them went beyond lives and lifetimes.

"Contracts were sometimes composed with provision for payment in future lives, and there was full expectation of payment, for the Celts were firm believers in reincarnation of some sort. Reincarnation as descendants in the family line seems to have been a Celtic belief, and so your grandchildren (who may well be you reborn) might pay back your neighbor's grandchildren at the completion of a contract's term of agreement. Most contracts were also sealed with a material forfeiture in the event of failure to fulfill the contract. The loyalty and trust of family was essential in the making of any contracts, because failure to fulfill a contract obligated your tuath to pay your debts if you could not."

- Erynn Laurie on Nemeton-L

Debts of behavior and morality might also have required repayment, but I’m not certain they were considered to be sins as defined in modern dictionaries. If the Celts had a concept similar to sin, it probably did not occur until after they embraced Christianity. The Early Irish Penitentials and Rules (of monasteries) detailed the actions necessary for repayment and restitution for "sinful" behaviors. There does seem to be earlier evidence that pre-Christian Irish Celts thought that one could be dishonored and redeemed through actions and payments (hence the concepts of eraic and honor price in the Brehon Laws). Modern concepts of Karma seem to have developed in the East from a bedrock of earlier beliefs that were similar to those of the Celts. The Buddhist idea of Karma owes much to its Vedic and Hindu roots. Those roots are branches of the Indo-European tradition to the Euro-Indian tradition (depending on which culture you think more greatly influenced the other). I tend to view the relative mix of such Indo-European beliefs as a cyclical affair that has flowed back and forth over the aeons. Celts don't have Karma per se, they have debts, honor, and obligations (none of which vanish at the end of a lifetime). In this belief in continuity of obligation, I also see a belief in the continuance of spirit.

The idea that a person's power could be obtained through the possession of their head (and hence their soul) is another indicator of the Celtic belief in the connection between the soul and the body, and hence in the manner that one’s spirit was passed or supported by the other.

Other Lives

I don't think that these ancient beliefs exactly mirrored modern New Age thought or even Hindu practice and belief. I do think that such episodes as those of Fintan, Tuan Mac Carrel and Taliesin allude to the ability of one's spirit to connect with other lives across the boundaries between lives. These connections may not mean that a person has actually lived before but they can mean that a person's spirit is able, through trance, to experience other lives in other times. Isaac Bonewits states this clearly in "Some Notes on Indo-European Paleopaganism and its Clergy," (c) 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits, reprinted from "The Druids' Progress" #1:

"There are definite indications that the Indo-European clergy held certain polytheological and mystical opinions in common, although only the vaguest outlines are known at this point. There was a belief in reincarnation (with time spent between lives in an Other World very similar to the Earthly one), in the sacredness of particular trees, in the continuing relationship between mortals, ancestors and deities, and naturally in the standard laws of magic (see Real Magic)."

Experiences of reincarnation and memories of past lives are frequently reported by the general public, though the objective substantiation of such previous lives and their experiences is not well documented in scholarly literature. Recent studies in Near Death Experiences (NDE) that have appeared in medical journals seem to support objective evidence of an afterlife and the ability of souls to return to physical bodies. My own mystical experiences support the idea that spirit has many corporal existences, though my mental disciplines and natural skepticism require further investigation and validation to completely establish and document this process.

The Afterlife

The afterlife seems to be much like this one. It is a dream state, at times vivid, at other times, very remote. Whenever I have experienced being killed within a dream, it generally results in the following consequences:

Another dream occurs,

I become the person that killed me in the dream,

I do not die but lose interest in the dream anyway,

I become something else within the dream,

I wake up and realize that I've been dreaming.

Why should being awake, dying or being killed in this life be much different from the experiences of our dream lives? In my own experiences with death in this life, I have seen that it is not too different from dreams or the illusions of life. This seems to be the same question that the ancient Druids asked themselves about realities. Their teachings about this mystery are best discovered through the experiences of imbas and pathworking. There are tales in the Mabinogion that seem to demonstrate a kinship between dreaming and life, especially in regards to death being a temporary condition.

In the tale of Gronw Pebyr and Blodeuwedd, Llew was tricked into revealing how he could be killed:

He must be both within and without a house at the same time, neither on horseback nor on foot, and could only be slain by a spear that took an entire year to be made.

When Llew was killed in the only way that he could be killed in this life according to the tale, he became an eagle almost instantaneously (even though he was a wounded eagle). He cheated death by having his spirit go from one body to another. Gwydion found him in an oak tree and cured him through his powers of Draíocht. Lugh was immediately transformed into a person again. He was clearly killed by the spear of Gronw Pebyr and restored to life after being dead by Gwydion (in the transmigrated form of an eagle)?. This tale is clearly about life, death, re-incarnation and the ability of Draíocht to transform between states of being. Such tales as this and the two swineherds of the gods are all about states of being and lessons of life. The lesson in this tale seems to be that life and death go through many transformations, yet one never really dies. We change in many ways and can even become a part of the Land itself (as well as a part of its legends).

Final Thoughts and Musings

In some of the tales we have discussed, it is clear that exceptional people were thought to have been reborn. In other tales, transformations occurred through a variety of animal types. The soul and spirit have been described by Celtic tradition as going from one life and body to another in tales and in teachings as reported by the Classical historians of ancient times. Indo-European traditions also teach much the same thing, with notable survivals of this belief among the Gnostics and the Hindus in modern times. Personal experiences and the beliefs and experiences of others tend to support a continuity of spirit as well. The sleeping warrior or king is another example of a sustained after life and continuity of the self that has not been detailed in this discussion but it should be familiar to all from the tales of Merlin, Arthur or those of the Fianna. Who is to say what we experience after death? What people among us have visited the Otherworldly realms? Where are our Draiothe that we can discover the mysteries of the soul? It is in these questions and our answers to them that we will find our truth and we will experience our own rebirth.

Return to the Library
 
Celts, Karma and Reincarnation

Recent discussions about the concept of reincarnation among the Celtic people and the Druids as compared to the teachings of Pythagoras have sparked insights for me that should have been obvious. The first of these insights is that the Celts believed in a world of the spirit. This belief means, among other things, that the Celts believed that spirits could exist in this world by inhabiting the bodies of people, of animals, of plants, of trees and even manifest themselves as the spirits of places (wells, brughs, caves, stones, rivers, ponds, and fields). This migration of spirit between worlds, places, animals and people was a reflection of the communal nature of Celtic life. A belief in spiritual migration and transmigration does not rule out the Celt's most common spiritual belief, the belief that there is a life in another world after death in this one. Before I cover these additional topics in Celtic/Druidic spiritual belief, let me cite some examples from Celtic literature concerning these matters.
In the tales that lead to the "Tain Bó Cuailgne" is the story of the two swineherds, Friuch and Rucht, "The Quarrel of the Two Pig-keepers and how the Bulls were Begotten." These two men got into a contest as to who had greater Magical power. This led them to shapechange into a variety of forms over periods of years. First they were birds of prey and they fought and quarreled. Next, they were men again. Then they went through a series of changes that included being: water creatures, stags, warriors, phantoms, and dragons, until they finally became worms. One worm fell into the spring of the river Cronn in Cuailnge, where a cow belonging to Dáire mac Fiachna swallowed it. This cow gave birth to Dub, the great, dark bull of Cuailnge. The other worm suffered a similar fate in the wellspring of Garad, located in Connacht, where a cow belonging to Medb and Aillill drank it. It became Finnbennach, the white-horned bull of Ai Pain. The exploits surrounding these two great creatures is another story, for another time, to be found in the Táin Bó Cuailgne itself. It is a primary example of how spirit flowed between people, places, animals, and even objects.

Celtic Beliefs in Spirit

Another common belief in the continuity of spirit, was for the spirit of the departed to enter into stones or trees. This is often told about two lovers who die, have a tree spring from their graves and eventually re-unite with one another as intertwined branches, wooden objects, or even Ogham staves. The story of Baile and Aillinn is one such tale. These two lovers became a Yew and an Apple tree after their deaths. Eventually Ogham staves were made from their woods. When the staves were presented to the king at Tara, they sprang together and were kept in the treasure room from that day forward. The fate of Deirdre and Naoise is another tale of ill-fated love. Two pines grew from their graves, intertwining together, never to be parted. To this very day, Celtic people hold trees sacred, especially those that grow from a grave.

The Celtic belief that spirit could inhabit a place, is found in the common feeling regarding graveyards and passage graves. These places are known to contain ghosts and spirits. Many stones are said to be Druids and others who have been changed to that state by Magick. The "sleeping king" or "warrior band" idea is another example of how the Land itself contains the spirit of people. This idea that famous warriors will awaken in the hour of need is the essence of spirit being stored within the Land itself. Foundation sacrifices were also known to have occurred where a person willingly gave their spirit to a structure or to a place, to become its guardian. This belief in the connection between spirit, person and place is still alive today in the belief that the last soul to die is the guardian of the graveyard. It is also intertwined with the Celtic belief that the soul must revisit the three sods (soils) before passing through the doorway to the Otherworld: the place of birth, the place of baptism and the "sod of death".

Even in their art, Celts reflected their ideas that spirit was an interconnected weaving of all things together in a tapestry of life. Nowhere is this more evident than in the art of Celtic knotwork. Knotwork is a symbol of the interconnection between destiny, the Three Worlds and the human soul. This belief in interconnection also shows up in the Magical practices of "taking a measure" and the tying of knots in cords and threads. There are also practices that center around the "cord of life" (which is the umbilical cord itself) and how it should be honored and guarded, but that is a thread for another day.

This brief introduction has attempted to present an idea of the Celtic beliefs in the interconnectivity of life, of the connection to the land, of the soul's journeys through many forms and bodies, of the doorway of death, and the various forms of reincarnation available to the spirit. It has only touched upon the surface of the topic, which is mentioned in a vast number of tales, beliefs, and traditions. All of these works demonstrate the Celtic belief in the reincarnation of the spirit in its many forms.

Other Lives

Allusions to the Celts having believed in another life have sometimes been interpreted to mean that they embraced the concept of "karma" (whatever that is). There is a body of evidence to support a Celtic belief in re-incarnation as well as another life after death. This belief takes many forms. Some of these forms are noted as being a transmigration of the soul. Stories contain instances of shapeshifting. Instances exist that tell of Otherworldly experiences. Lives are said to be gifts from the Sidhe. Reincarnations are manifestations and gifts of the gods, while other cases are considered to manifest as a common spirit returning along family lines. Of course, there are also the stories about those that sleep and do not die (awaiting a call), and the magicians that live backwards in time like Merlin, as well as warriors who are resurrected with and without a soul. There may be other instances of Otherworldly life or reincarnation in Celtic tradition, but these seem to be the most often cited.

The writings of the Poseidonian and Alexandrian Schools of history, as well as Caesar, support the possibility that the Druids generally practiced and taught a belief in reincarnation. Instances also occur in the insular literature that can be taken to mean that reincarnation was thought to have occurred in the case of exceptional people. There are also mentions of a belief in a spirit that passed from one member of a family to another that occurs in the tales and survived in Celtic folk practice. Much more definitive evidence or a skillful documented research effort on a level of at least a Ph.D. dissertation should be attempted before the evidence can be said to be substantial. This does not mean that evidence does not exist (however scanty that it is).

"How Cúchulainn was Begotten"

There are references to a belief in reincarnation among the Celts and Druids to be found in traditional writings. These references seem to be characteristic of a common Indo-European spiritual belief. It seems to have been a universally held concept until relatively recently. An example of a belief in reincarnation can be found in Thomas Kinsella's translation of the story of "How Cúchulainn was Begotten."

"The men of Ulster pressed on until they reached Brug on the Boann river, and night overtook them there. It snowed heavily upon them, and Conchobor told his people to unyoke the chariots and start looking for a shelter. Conall and Bricriu searched about and found a solitary house, newly built. They went up to it and found a couple there and were made welcome. But when they returned to their people, Bricriu said it was useless to go there unless they brought their own food and set the table themselves – that even so it would be meager enough. Nevertheless, they went there with all of their chariots, and crowded with difficulty into the house. Soon they found the door to the store-room, and by their usual mealtime the men of Ulster were drunk with their welcome and in good humour.

Later the man of the house told them his wife was in her birth-pangs in the store-room. Deichtine went in to her and helped her to bear a son. At the same time, a mare at the door of the house gave birth to two foals. The Ulstermen took charge of the baby boy and gave him the foals as a present, and Deichtine nursed him.

When morning came there was nothing to be seen eastward from the Brugh – no house, no birds – only their own horses, the baby and the foals. They went back to Emain and reared the baby until he was a boy.

He caught an illness then, and died. And they made a lamentation for him, and Deichtine's grief was great at the loss of her foster son. She came home from lamenting him and grew thirsty and asked for a drink, and the drink was brought in a cup. She set it to her lips to drink from it and a tiny creature slipped into her mouth with the liquid. As she took the cup from her lips she swallowed the creature and it vanished.

She slept that night and dreamed that a man came toward her and spoke to her, saying she would bear a child by him – that it was he who had brought her to the Brug to sleep with her there, that the boy she had reared was his, that he was again planted in her womb and was to be called Se/tanta, that he himself was Lug mac Etnenn, and that the foals should be reared with the boy."

This is clearly reincarnation along family lines. The above story about Cú Chulainn is a translation of an eighth century tale, "Compert Con Culainn," as found in Lebor na hUidre and other ancient manuscripts. Another work that mentions this type of reincarnation is "Compert Mongain" (where Mongan is born through the actions of Manannán, and as a reincarnation of Fionn). The story of how Daogas was begotten of himself is the third example of this form of reincarnation to be found in Irish writings. It is to be found in a story translated on page 135, Volume II of the Ossianic Society Transactions. The examples of Finn being the reincarnation of Cumhal or of Mongan being the incarnation of Manannán seem to support this belief. Who has not heard the expression, "a chip off the old block?"

The men of Ulster desired to have Cúchualinn married so that he would be assured of having progeny. They wished that he could be reincarnated to them again, but were thwarted in their desires when he killed his only son as recounted in another tale about him. The evidence for this belief in the men of Ulster is based on this passage out of "Tochmarc Emire," where it was said:

"There was the danger besides that Cúchulainn might die young and leave no son, which would be tragic: they knew it was only out of Cúchulainn himself that the like of him might come again, For this reason also he should have a woman."

"Cauldron of Poesy"

This idea is also echoed in the teaching attributed to Amergin in the "Cauldron of Poesy" materials:

"Where is the root of poetry in a person; in the body or in the soul? They say it is in the soul, for the body does nothing without the soul. Others say it is in the body where the arts are learned, passed through the bodies of our ancestors. It is said this is the seat of what remains over the root of poetry; and the good knowledge in every person's ancestry comes not into everyone, but comes into every other person." - translation by Erynn Laurie

The Filidh Amergin is talking about a skill being passed along family lines in an almost instinctive manner. He also ascribes certain knowledge and awareness to come from the soul through heightened spiritual experiences. Here we are touching the edges of what I believe to be an ancient and valid Celtic belief in a reincarnation that occurs within families. Cormac of Caisheal seems to be echoing this concept in his glossary:

The tuirgen is "...the birth that passes from every nature to another... a transitory birth which has traversed all nature from Adam and goes through every wonderful time down to the world's doom."

Diodorus seems to be saying the same thing of Druidic belief: "... the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite number of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body..."

Caesar is also echoing this idea when he says that the Druids teach, "...souls do not suffer death, but after death pass from one to another..."

The Druids' beliefs and teachings about the soul indicate that the essence of a person was not thought to die at the death of the body, but to live on. I think that the tale of "How Cúchualinn was Begotten" clearly shows one possibility for what can happen to a soul after death: i.e. it is reborn into another body. This is exactly what the Druids were said to have taught in the quotation by Diodorus and in the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus:

They "..were of loftier intellect, and bound by the rules of brotherhood as decreed by Pythagoras's authority, exalted by investigations of deep and serious study, and despising human affairs, declared souls to be immortal."

The Alexandrian School

The soul does not have to reincarnate in this world but can stay in the Otherworld. The life into which one is reborn appears to be tied to fate and the will of the gods. The Alexandrian School of ancient historians considered the Druids to be philosophers who followed the ways of Pythagoras, though I suspect this association by them to be because both schools of philosophy taught the belief of reincarnation. I do not think that the Druids were Pythagorean, nor do I think that Pythagoras was a Druid. Here are some of the historians that seem to have held this belief (as provided in an email source):

Hippolytus - (circa 170 - 236 CE) Christian author writing in Greek, of whose work only fragments remain, claimed that the Druids had adopted the teachings of Pythagoras

Clement of Alexandria - (circa 150 - 211/216 CE) Athenian known also as Titus Flavius Clement, a Greek theologian, founder and head of the Christian school of Alexandria, also believed the Druids learned from Pythagoras. Wrote on the topic of Druids as philosophers

Cyril of Alexandria - (archbishop of Alexandria in 412 - 444 CE) Quotes the same passages that Clement did from Polyhistor's book on Pythagoras, holding that the Druids learned their knowledge from Pythagoras. Also wrote about the Druids as philosophers

Timaeus of Tauromenion - (circa 356 - 260 BCE) Sicilian Greek writer whose work was extensively used by Diogenese Laertius and Clement of Alexandria

Polyhistor - (born circa 105 BCE) Alexander Cornelius Polyhistor, Greek who wrote of the Druids as philosophers and was the main source on Pythagoras:

"The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among the Gauls' teaching that the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body."

Timagenes - (circa mid-first century BCE) Alexandrian who is cited by Diodorus Siculus as an authority on Druids, also quoted in the works of Ammianus Marcellinus. He wrote around the same time as Polyhistor. He gives the earliest mention of the Druids being the historians of the Celts. Truly belongs to the Posidonius School

Multiple Incarnations

Additional information that seems to indicate the occurrence of multiple incarnations are to be found in the tales surrounding Fintan, Tuan Mac Carrel, and Gwion Bach, as well as the lament of the Hag of Beara. Beyond this I have also seen such beliefs in reincarnation expressed as an on-going Celtic tradition in the _Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries_ by W. Y. Evans-Wentz.

If the concept of Karma existed among the Celts, it might have manifested itself in the principle of repaying debts, whether incurred in one life or another:

"They lent sums of money to each other which are repayable in the next world, so firmly are they convinced that the souls of men are immortal."

- Valerius Maximus -

Such debts would have reflected on the honor of oneself and one’s family. The obligation to repay them went beyond lives and lifetimes.

"Contracts were sometimes composed with provision for payment in future lives, and there was full expectation of payment, for the Celts were firm believers in reincarnation of some sort. Reincarnation as descendants in the family line seems to have been a Celtic belief, and so your grandchildren (who may well be you reborn) might pay back your neighbor's grandchildren at the completion of a contract's term of agreement. Most contracts were also sealed with a material forfeiture in the event of failure to fulfill the contract. The loyalty and trust of family was essential in the making of any contracts, because failure to fulfill a contract obligated your tuath to pay your debts if you could not."

- Erynn Laurie on Nemeton-L

Debts of behavior and morality might also have required repayment, but I’m not certain they were considered to be sins as defined in modern dictionaries. If the Celts had a concept similar to sin, it probably did not occur until after they embraced Christianity. The Early Irish Penitentials and Rules (of monasteries) detailed the actions necessary for repayment and restitution for "sinful" behaviors. There does seem to be earlier evidence that pre-Christian Irish Celts thought that one could be dishonored and redeemed through actions and payments (hence the concepts of eraic and honor price in the Brehon Laws). Modern concepts of Karma seem to have developed in the East from a bedrock of earlier beliefs that were similar to those of the Celts. The Buddhist idea of Karma owes much to its Vedic and Hindu roots. Those roots are branches of the Indo-European tradition to the Euro-Indian tradition (depending on which culture you think more greatly influenced the other). I tend to view the relative mix of such Indo-European beliefs as a cyclical affair that has flowed back and forth over the aeons. Celts don't have Karma per se, they have debts, honor, and obligations (none of which vanish at the end of a lifetime). In this belief in continuity of obligation, I also see a belief in the continuance of spirit.

The idea that a person's power could be obtained through the possession of their head (and hence their soul) is another indicator of the Celtic belief in the connection between the soul and the body, and hence in the manner that one’s spirit was passed or supported by the other.

Other Lives

I don't think that these ancient beliefs exactly mirrored modern New Age thought or even Hindu practice and belief. I do think that such episodes as those of Fintan, Tuan Mac Carrel and Taliesin allude to the ability of one's spirit to connect with other lives across the boundaries between lives. These connections may not mean that a person has actually lived before but they can mean that a person's spirit is able, through trance, to experience other lives in other times. Isaac Bonewits states this clearly in "Some Notes on Indo-European Paleopaganism and its Clergy," (c) 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits, reprinted from "The Druids' Progress" #1:

"There are definite indications that the Indo-European clergy held certain polytheological and mystical opinions in common, although only the vaguest outlines are known at this point. There was a belief in reincarnation (with time spent between lives in an Other World very similar to the Earthly one), in the sacredness of particular trees, in the continuing relationship between mortals, ancestors and deities, and naturally in the standard laws of magic (see Real Magic)."

Experiences of reincarnation and memories of past lives are frequently reported by the general public, though the objective substantiation of such previous lives and their experiences is not well documented in scholarly literature. Recent studies in Near Death Experiences (NDE) that have appeared in medical journals seem to support objective evidence of an afterlife and the ability of souls to return to physical bodies. My own mystical experiences support the idea that spirit has many corporal existences, though my mental disciplines and natural skepticism require further investigation and validation to completely establish and document this process.

The Afterlife

The afterlife seems to be much like this one. It is a dream state, at times vivid, at other times, very remote. Whenever I have experienced being killed within a dream, it generally results in the following consequences:

Another dream occurs,

I become the person that killed me in the dream,

I do not die but lose interest in the dream anyway,

I become something else within the dream,

I wake up and realize that I've been dreaming.

Why should being awake, dying or being killed in this life be much different from the experiences of our dream lives? In my own experiences with death in this life, I have seen that it is not too different from dreams or the illusions of life. This seems to be the same question that the ancient Druids asked themselves about realities. Their teachings about this mystery are best discovered through the experiences of imbas and pathworking. There are tales in the Mabinogion that seem to demonstrate a kinship between dreaming and life, especially in regards to death being a temporary condition.

In the tale of Gronw Pebyr and Blodeuwedd, Llew was tricked into revealing how he could be killed:

He must be both within and without a house at the same time, neither on horseback nor on foot, and could only be slain by a spear that took an entire year to be made.

When Llew was killed in the only way that he could be killed in this life according to the tale, he became an eagle almost instantaneously (even though he was a wounded eagle). He cheated death by having his spirit go from one body to another. Gwydion found him in an oak tree and cured him through his powers of Draíocht. Lugh was immediately transformed into a person again. He was clearly killed by the spear of Gronw Pebyr and restored to life after being dead by Gwydion (in the transmigrated form of an eagle)?. This tale is clearly about life, death, re-incarnation and the ability of Draíocht to transform between states of being. Such tales as this and the two swineherds of the gods are all about states of being and lessons of life. The lesson in this tale seems to be that life and death go through many transformations, yet one never really dies. We change in many ways and can even become a part of the Land itself (as well as a part of its legends).

Final Thoughts and Musings

In some of the tales we have discussed, it is clear that exceptional people were thought to have been reborn. In other tales, transformations occurred through a variety of animal types. The soul and spirit have been described by Celtic tradition as going from one life and body to another in tales and in teachings as reported by the Classical historians of ancient times. Indo-European traditions also teach much the same thing, with notable survivals of this belief among the Gnostics and the Hindus in modern times. Personal experiences and the beliefs and experiences of others tend to support a continuity of spirit as well. The sleeping warrior or king is another example of a sustained after life and continuity of the self that has not been detailed in this discussion but it should be familiar to all from the tales of Merlin, Arthur or those of the Fianna. Who is to say what we experience after death? What people among us have visited the Otherworldly realms? Where are our Draiothe that we can discover the mysteries of the soul? It is in these questions and our answers to them that we will find our truth and we will experience our own rebirth.

« Last Edit: May 12, 2007, 07:05:54 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
Pages: 1 2 [3]   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy