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.

[756] See Rh[^y]s, Welsh People, 44; Livy, v. 34.

[757] Cf. IT iii. 407, 409.

[758] Caesar, v. 14.

[759] Strabo, iv. 5. 4.

[760] Dio Cass. lxxvi. 12; Jerome, Adv.  Jovin. ii. 7.  Giraldus has much to say of incest in Wales, probably actual breaches of moral law among a barbarous people (Descr.  Wales, ii. 6).

[761] RC xii. 235, 238, xv. 291, xvi. 149; LL 23_a_, 124_b_.  In various Irish texts a child is said to have three fathers—­probably a reminiscence of polyandry.  See p. 74, supra, and RC xxiii. 333.

[762] IT i. 136; Loth, i. 134 f.; Rh[^y]s, HL 308.

[763] Zimmer, “Matriarchy among the Picts,” in Henderson, Leabhar nan Gleann.

[764] See p. 259, infra.

[765] See p. 274, infra.



Whether the early Celts regarded Heaven and Earth as husband and wife is uncertain.  Such a conception is world-wide, and myth frequently explains in different ways the reason of the separation of the two.  Among the Polynesians the children of heaven and earth—­the winds, forests, and seas personified—­angry at being crushed between their parents in darkness, rose up and separated them.  This is in effect the Greek myth of Uranus, or Heaven, and Gaea, or Earth, divorced by their son Kronos, just as in Hindu myth Dyaus, or Sky, and Prithivi, or Earth, were separated by Indra.  Uranus in Greece gave place to Zeus, and, in India, Dyaus became subordinate to Indra.  Thus the primitive Heaven personified recedes, and his place is taken by a more individualised god.  But generally Mother Earth remains a constant quantity.  Earth was nearer man and was more unchanging than the inconstant sky, while as the producer of the fruits of the earth, she was regarded as the source of all things, and frequently remained as an important divinity when a crowd of other divinities became prominent.  This is especially true of agricultural peoples, who propitiate Earth with sacrifice, worship her with orgiastic rites, or assist her processes by magic.  With advancing civilisation such a goddess is still remembered as the friend of man, and, as in the Eleusinia, is represented sorrowing and rejoicing like man himself.  Or where a higher religion ousts the older one, the ritual is still retained among the folk, though its meaning may be forgotten.

The Celts may thus have possessed the Heaven and Earth myth, but all trace of it has perished.  There are, however, remnants of myths showing how the sky is supported by trees, a mountain, or by pillars.  A high mountain near the sources of the Rhone was called “the column of the sun,” and was so lofty as to hide the sun from the people of the south.[766] It may have been regarded as supporting the sky, while the sun moved round it.  In an

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