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.

Those on shore took up the strain in chorus.[847] Thus the rite was described by one who took part in it a century ago, but Martin, writing in the seventeenth century, gives other details.  The cup of ale was offered with the words, “Shony, I give you this cup of ale, hoping that you will be so kind as to send plenty of seaweed for enriching our ground for the ensuing year.”  All then went in silence to the church and remained there for a time, after which they indulged in an orgy out-of-doors.  This orgiastic rite may once have included the intercourse of the sexes—­a powerful charm for fertility.  “Shony” was some old sea-god, and another divinity of the sea, Brianniul, was sometimes invoked for the same purpose.[848] Until recently milk was poured on “Gruagach stones” in the Hebrides, as an offering to the Gruagach, a brownie who watched over herds, and who had taken the place of a god.[849]


Prayer accompanied most rites, and probably consisted of traditional formulae, on the exact recital of which depended their value.  The Druids invoked a god during the mistletoe rite, and at a Galatian sacrifice, offered to bring birds to destroy grasshoppers, prayer was made to the birds themselves.[850] In Mona, at the Roman invasion, the Druids raised their arms and uttered prayers for deliverance, at the same time cursing the invaders, and Boudicca invoked the protection of the goddess Andrasta in a similar manner.[851] Chants were sung by the “priestesses” of Sena to raise storms, and they were also sung by warriors both before and after a battle, to the accompaniment of a measured dance and the clashing of arms.[852] These warrior chants were composed by bards, and probably included invocations of the war-gods and the recital of famous deeds.  They may also have been of the nature of spells ensuring the help of the gods, like the war-cries uttered by a whole army to the sound of trumpets.[853] These consisted of the name of a god, of a tribe or clan, or of some well-known phrase.  As the recital of a divine name is often supposed to force the god to help, these cries had thus a magical aspect, while they also struck terror into the foe.[854] Warriors also advanced dancing to the fray, and they are depicted on coins dancing on horseback or before a sword, which was worshipped by the Celts.[855] The Celtiberian festival at the full moon consisted entirely of dancing.  The dance is a primitive method of expressing religious emotion, and where it imitates certain actions, it is intended by magical influence to crown the actions themselves with success.  It is thus a kind of acted prayer with magical results.


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