The Religion of the Ancient Celts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 382 pages of information about The Religion of the Ancient Celts.

[587] Melusine, ii. 200.

[588] Sebillot, ii. 170.

[589] Meyer, Cath.  Finntraga, 40.

[590] RC xvi. 9; LB 32_b_, 55.

[591] Meyer, op. cit. 55; Skene, i. 282, 288, 543; Rh[^y]s, HL 387.

[592] Meyer, 51; Joyce, PN i. 195, ii. 257; RC xv. 438.

[593] See p. 55, supra; IT i. 838, iii. 207; RC ii. 201, ix. 118.

[594] Holder, s.v. “Vintius.”

[595] Agobard, i. 146.

[596] See Stokes, RC vi. 267.

CHAPTER XII.

RIVER AND WELL WORSHIP.

Among the Celts the testimony of contemporary witnesses, inscriptions, votive offerings, and survivals, shows the importance of the cult of waters and of water divinities.  Mr. Gomme argues that Celtic water-worship was derived from the pre-Celtic aborigines,[597] but if so, the Celts must have had a peculiar aptitude for it, since they were so enthusiastic in its observance.  What probably happened was that the Celts, already worshippers of the waters, freely adopted local cults of water wherever they came.  Some rivers or river-goddesses in Celtic regions seem to posses pre-Celtic names.[598]

Treasures were flung into a sacred lake near Toulouse to cause a pestilence to cease.  Caepion, who afterwards fished up this treasure, fell soon after in battle—­a punishment for cupidity, and aurum Tolosanum now became an expression for goods dishonestly acquired.[599] A yearly festival, lasting three days, took place at Lake Gevaudan.  Garments, food, and wax were thrown into the waters, and animals were sacrificed.  On the fourth day, it is said, there never failed to spring up a tempest of rain, thunder, and lightning—­a strange reward for this worship of the lake.[600] S. Columba routed the spirits of a Scottish fountain which was worshipped as a god, and the well now became sacred, perhaps to the saint himself, who washed in it and blessed it so that it cured diseases.[601]

On inscriptions a river name is prefixed by some divine epithet—­dea, augusta, and the worshipper records his gratitude for benefits received from the divinity or the river itself.  Bormanus, Bormo or Borvo, Danuvius (the Danube), and Luxovius are found on inscriptions as names of river or fountain gods, but goddesses are more numerous—­Acionna, Aventia, Bormana, Brixia, Carpundia, Clutoida, Divona, Sirona, Ura—­well-nymphs; and Icauna (the Yonne), Matrona, and Sequana (the Seine)—­river-goddesses.[602] No inscription to the goddess of a lake has yet been found.  Some personal names like Dubrogenos (son of the Dubron), Enigenus (son of the Aenus), and the belief of Virdumarus that one of his ancestors was the Rhine,[603] point to the idea that river-divinities might have amours with mortals and beget progeny called by their names.  In Ireland, Conchobar was so named from the river whence his mother Nessa drew water, perhaps because he was a child of the river-god.[604]

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