The Religion of the Ancient Celts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 445 pages of information about The Religion of the Ancient Celts.

The sea had also its beneficent aspects.  The shore was “a place of revelation of science,” and the sea sympathised with human griefs.  At the Battle of Ventry “the sea chattered, telling the losses, and the waves raised a heavy, woeful great moan in wailing them."[589] In other cases in Ireland, by a spell put on the waves, or by the intuitive knowledge of the listener, it was revealed that they were wailing for a death or describing some distant event.[590] In the beautiful song sung by the wife of Cael, “the wave wails against the shore for his death,” and in Welsh myth the waves bewailed the death of Dylan, “son of the wave,” and were eager to avenge it.  The noise of the waves rushing into the vale of Conwy were his dying groans.[591] In Ireland the roaring of the sea was thought to be prophetic of a king’s death or the coming of important news; and there, too, certain great waves were celebrated in story—­Clidna’s, Tuaithe’s, and Rudhraidhe’s.[592] Nine waves, or the ninth wave, partly because of the sacred nature of the number nine, partly because of the beneficent character of the waves, had a great importance.  They formed a barrier against invasion, danger, or pestilence, or they had a healing effect.[593]

The wind was also regarded as a living being whose power was to be dreaded.  It punished King Loegaire for breaking his oath.  But it was also personified as a god Vintius, equated with Pollux and worshipped by Celtic sailors, or with Mars, the war-god who, in his destructive aspect, was perhaps regarded as the nearest analogue to a god of stormy winds.[594] Druids and Celtic priestesses claimed the power of controlling the winds, as did wizards and witches in later days.  This they did, according to Christian writers, by the aid of demons, perhaps the old divinities of the air.  Bishop Agobard describes how the tempestarii raised tempests which destroyed the fruits of the earth, and drew “aerial ships” from Magonia, whither the ships carried these fruits.[595] Magonia may be the upper air ruled over by a sky god Magounos or Mogounos, equated with Apollo.[596] The winds may have been his servants, ruled also by earthly magicians.  Like Yahweh, as conceived by Hebrew poets, he “bringeth the winds out of his treasures,” and “maketh lightnings with rain.”


[556] Gildas ii. 4.

[557] Jocelyn, Vila Kentig. c. xxxii.

[558] Trip.  Life, 315.

[559] LL 12_b_.  The translation is from D’Arbois, ii. 250 f; cf.  O’Curry, MC ii. 190.

[560] RC xxii. 400.

[561] RC xii. 109.

[562] Petrie, Tara, 34; RC vi. 168; LU 118.

[563] Joyce, OCR 50.

[564] D’Achery, Spicelegium, v. 216; Sebillot, i. 16 f., 56, 211.

[565] Gregory of Tours, Hist. ii. 10, speaks of the current belief in the divinity of waters, birds, and beasts.

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The Religion of the Ancient Celts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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