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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

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Author Topic: The Religion of the Ancient Celts  (Read 1391 times)
Rachel Dearth
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« Reply #120 on: May 05, 2010, 01:17:23 pm »

(a) A bronze statuette from Autun represents a similar figure, probably horned, who presents a torque to two ram's headed serpents. Fixed above his ears are two small heads. 2 On a monument from Vandœuvres is a squatting horned god, pressing a sack. Two genii stand beside him on a serpent, while one of them holds a torque. 3

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« Reply #121 on: May 05, 2010, 01:17:32 pm »

(b) Another squatting horned figure with a torque occurs on an altar from Reims. He presses a bag, from which grain escapes, and on it an ox and stag are feeding. A rat is represented on the pediment above, and on either side stand Apollo and Mercury. 4 On the altar of Saintes is a squatting but headless god with torque and purse. Beside him is a goddess with a cornucopia, and a smaller divinity with a cornucopia and an apple. A similar squatting figure, supported by male and female deities, is represented on the other side of the altar. 5 On the altar of Beaune are three figures, one horned with a cornucopia, another three-headed, holding a basket. 6 Three figures, one female and two male, are found on the Dennevy altar. One god is three-faced, the other has a cornucopia, which he offers to a serpent. 7








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Rachel Dearth
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« Reply #122 on: May 05, 2010, 01:17:44 pm »

(c) Another image represents a three-faced god, holding a serpent with a ram's head. 1

(d) Above a seated god and goddess on an altar from Malmaison is a block carved to represent three faces. To be compared with these are seven steles from Reims, each with a triple face but only one pair of eyes. Above some of these is a ram's head. On an eighth stele the heads are separated. 2
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Rachel Dearth
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« Reply #123 on: May 05, 2010, 01:17:58 pm »

Cernunnos may thus have been regarded as a three-headed, horned, squatting god, with a torque and ram's-headed serpent. But a horned god is sometimes a member of a triad, perhaps representing myths in which Cernunnos was associated with other gods. The three-headed god may be the same as the horned god, though on the Beaune altar they are distinct. The various representations are linked together, but it is not certain that all are varying types of one god. Horns, torque, horned snake, or even the triple head may have been symbols pertaining to more than one god, though generally associated with Cernunnos.

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« Reply #124 on: May 05, 2010, 01:18:08 pm »

The squatting attitude of the god has been differently explained, and its affinities regarded now as Buddhist, now as Greco-Egyptian. 3 But if the god is a Dispater, and the ancestral god of the Celts, it is natural, as M. Mowat points out, to represent him in the typical attitude of the Gauls when sitting, since they did not use seats. 4 While the horns were probably symbols of power and worn also by chiefs on their helmets, 5 they may also show that the god was an anthropomorphic form of an earlier animal god, like the wolf-skin of other gods. Hence also horned animals would be regarded as symbols of the god, and this may account for






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« Reply #125 on: May 05, 2010, 01:18:31 pm »

their presence on the Reims monument. Animals are sometimes represented beside the divinities who were their anthropomorphic forms. 1 Similarly the ram's-headed serpent points to animal worship. But its presence with three-headed and horned gods is enigmatic, though, as will be seen later, it may have been connected with a cult of the dead, while the serpent was a chthonian animal 2 These gods were gods of fertility and of the underworld of the dead. While the bag or purse (interchangeable with the cornucopia) was a symbol of Mercury, it was also a symbol of Pluto, and this may point to the fact that the gods who bear it had the same character as Pluto. The significance of the torque is also doubtful, but the Gauls offered torques to the gods, and they may have been regarded as vehicles of the warrior's strength which passed from him to the god to whom the victor presented it.

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« Reply #126 on: May 05, 2010, 01:18:41 pm »

Though many attempts have been made to prove the non-Celtic origin of the three-headed divinities or of their images, 3 there is no reason why the conception should not be Celtic, based on some myth now lost to us. The Celts had a cult of human heads, and fixed them up on their houses in order to obtain the protection of the ghost. Bodies or heads of dead warriors had a protective influence on their land or tribe, and myth told how the head of the god Bran saved his country from invasion. In other myths human heads speak after being cut off. 4 It might thus easily have been believed that the representation of a god's head had a still more powerful protective influence, especially when it was triplicated, thus looking in all directions, like Janus.

The significance of the triad on these monuments is





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« Reply #127 on: May 05, 2010, 01:18:56 pm »

uncertain, but since the supporting divinities are now male, now female, now male and female, it probably represents myths of which the horned or three-headed god was the central figure. Perhaps we shall not be far wrong in regarding such gods, on the whole, as Cernunnos, a god of abundance to judge by his emblems, and by the cornucopia held by his companions, probably divinities of fertility. In certain cases figures of squatting and horned goddesses with cornucopia occur. 1 These may be consorts of Cernunnos, and perhaps preceded him in origin. We may also go further and see in this god of abundance and fertility at once an Earth and an Under-earth god, since earth and under-earth
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« Reply #128 on: May 05, 2010, 01:19:04 pm »

are much the same to primitive thought, and fertility springs from below the earth's surface. Thus Cernunnos would be another form of the Celtic Dispater. Generally speaking, the images of Cernunnos are not found where those of the god with the hammer (Dispater) are most numerous. These two types may thus be different local forms of Dispater. The squatting attitude of Cernunnos is natural in the image of the ancestor of a people who squatted. As to the symbols of plenty, we know that Pluto was confounded with Plutus, the god of riches, because corn and minerals came out of the earth, and were thus the gifts of an Earth or Under-earth god. Celtic myth may have had the same confusion.
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« Reply #129 on: May 05, 2010, 01:19:15 pm »

On a Paris altar and on certain steles a god attacks a serpent with a club. The serpent is a chthonian animal, and the god, called Smertullos, may be a Dispater. 2 Gods who are anthropomorphic forms of earlier animal divinities, sometimes have the animals as symbols or attendants, or are regarded as hostile to them. In some cases Dispater



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« Reply #130 on: May 05, 2010, 01:19:22 pm »

may have outgrown the serpent symbolism, the serpent being regarded locally as his foe; this assumes that the god with the club is the same as the god with the hammer. But in the case of Cernunnos the animal remained as his symbol.

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« Reply #131 on: May 05, 2010, 01:19:32 pm »

Dispater was a god of growth and fertility, and besides being lord of the underworld of the dead, not necessarily a dark region or the abode of "dark" gods as is so often assumed by writers on Celtic religion, he was ancestor of the living. This may merely have meant that, as in other mythologies, men came to the surface of the earth from an underground region, like all things whose roots struck deep down into the earth. The lord of the underworld would then easily be regarded as their ancestor. 1

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« Reply #132 on: May 05, 2010, 01:19:44 pm »

3. The hammer and the cup are also the symbols of a god called Silvanus, identified by M. Mowat with Esus, 2 a god represented cutting down a tree with an axe. Axe and hammer, however, are not necessarily identical, and the symbols are those of Dispater, as has been seen. A purely superficial connection between the Roman Silvanus and the Celtic Dispater may have been found by Gallo-Roman artists in the fact that both wear a wolf-skin, while there may once have been a Celtic wolf totem-god of the dead. 3 The Roman god was also associated with the wolf. This might be regarded as one out of many examples of a mere superficial assimilation of Roman and Celtic divinities, but in this case they still kept certain symbols of the native Dispater--the cup and hammer.




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« Reply #133 on: May 05, 2010, 01:19:51 pm »

Of course, since the latter was also a god of fertility, there was here another link with Silvanus, a god of woods and vegetation. The cult of the god was widespread--in Spain, S. Gaul, the Rhine provinces, Cisalpine Gaul, Central Europe and Britain. But one inscription gives the name Selvanos, and it is not impossible that there was a native god Selvanus. If so, his name may have been derived from selva, "possession," Irish sealbh, "possession," "cattle," and he may have been a chthonian god of riches, which in primitive communities consisted of cattle. 1 Domestic animals, in Celtic mythology, were believed to have come from the god's land. Selvanus would thus be easily identified with Silvanus, a god of flocks.
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« Reply #134 on: May 05, 2010, 01:20:00 pm »

Thus the Celtic Dispater had various names and forms in different regions, and could be assimilated to different foreign gods. Since Earth and Under-earth are so nearly connected, this divinity may once have been an Earth-god, and as such perhaps took the place of an earlier Earth-mother, who now became his consort or his mother. On a monument from Salzbach, Dispater is accompanied by a goddess called Aeracura, holding a basket of fruit, and on another monument from Ober-Seebach, the companion of Dispater holds a cornucopia. In the latter instance Dispater holds a hammer and cup, and the goddess may be Aeracura. Aeracura is also associated with Dispater in several inscriptions. 2 It is not yet certain that she is a Celtic goddess, but her presence with this evidently Celtic god is almost sufficient proof of the fact. She may thus represent the old Earth-goddess, whose place the native Dispater gradually usurped.



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