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.

To the images of the second class is usually attached the Roman name of a god, but generally the native Celtic name is added, but the images themselves are of the traditional Roman type.  Among statues and statuettes of bronze, that of Mercury occurs most often.  This may point to the fact that Caesar’s simulacra of the native Mercury were images, and that the old preference for representing this god continued in Roman times.  Small figures of divinities in white clay have been found in large numbers, and may have been ex votos or images of household lararia.[990]


Images of the gods in Gaul can be classified by means of their symbols—­the mallet and cup (a symbol of plenty) borne by the god with the hammer, the wheel of the sun-god, the cornucopia and torque carried by Cernunnos.  Other symbols occur on images, altars, monuments, and coins.  These are the swastika and triskele, probably symbols of the sun;[991] single or concentric circles, sometimes with rays;[992] crosses; and a curious S figure.  The triskele and the circles are sometimes found on faces figured on coins.  They may therefore have been tattoo markings of a symbolic character.  The circle and cross are often incised on bronze images of Dispater.  Much speculation has been aroused by the S figure, which occurs on coins, while nine models of this symbol hang from a ring carried by the god with the wheel, but the most probable is that which sees in it a thunderbolt.[993] But lacking any old text interpreting these various symbols, all explanations of them must be conjectural.  Some of them are not purely Celtic, but are of world-wide occurrence.


Here some reference may be made to the Celtic cult of weapons.  As has been seen, a hammer is the symbol of one god, and it is not unlikely that a cult of the hammer had preceded that of the god to whom the hammer was given as a symbol.  Esus is also represented with an axe.  We need not repeat what has already been said regarding the primitive and universal cult of hammer or axe,[994] but it is interesting to notice, in connection with other evidence for a Celtic cult of weapons, that there is every reason to believe that the phrase sub ascia dedicare, which occurs in inscriptions on tombs from Gallia Lugdunensis, usually with the figure of an axe incised on the stone, points to the cult of the axe, or of a god whose symbol the axe was.[995] In Irish texts the power of speech is attributed to weapons, but, according to the Christian scribe, this was because demons spoke from them, for the people worshipped arms in those days.[996] Thus it may have been believed that spirits tenanted weapons, or that weapons had souls.  Evidence of the cult itself is found in the fact that on Gaulish coins a sword is figured, stuck in the ground, or driving a chariot, or with a warrior dancing before it, or held

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