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.
of Pyrenaean inscriptions, who may not be Celtic, the names of over 400 native deities, whether equated with Roman gods or not, are known.  Some of these names are mere epithets, and most of the gods are of a local character, known here by one name, there by another.  Only in a very few cases can it be asserted that a god was worshipped over the whole Celtic area by one name, though some gods in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland with different names have certainly similar functions.[151]

The pantheon of the continental Celts was a varied one.  Traces of the primitive agricultural rites, and of the priority of goddesses to gods, are found, and the vaguer aspects of primitive nature worship are seen behind the cult of divinities of sky, sun, thunder, forests, rivers, or in deities of animal origin.  We come next to evidence of a higher stage, in divinities of culture, healing, the chase, war, and the underworld.  We see divinities of Celtic groups—­gods of individuals, the family, the tribe.  Sometimes war-gods assumed great prominence, in time of war, or among the aristocracy, but with the development of commerce, gods associated with trade and the arts of peace came to the front.[152] At the same time the popular cults of agricultural districts must have remained as of old.  With the adoption of Roman civilisation, enlightened Celts separated themselves from the lower aspects of their religion, but this would have occurred with growing civilisation had no Roman ever entered Gaul.  In rural districts the more savage aspects of the cult would still have remained, but that these were entirely due to an aboriginal population is erroneous.  The Celts must have brought such cults with them or adopted cults similar to their own wherever they came.  The persistence of these cults is seen in the fact that though Christianity modified them, it could not root them out, and in out-of-the-way corners, survivals of the old ritual may still be found, for everywhere the old religion of the soil dies hard.


[53] Caesar, de Bell.  Gall. vi. 17, 18.

[54] Bloch (Lavisse), Hist, de France, i. 2, 419; Reinaoh, BF 13, 23.

[55] Trans.  Gaelic Soc. of Inverness, xxvi. p. 411 f.

[56] Vallentin, Les Dieux de la cite des Allobroges, 15; Pliny, HN xxxiv. 7.

[57] These names are Alaunius, Arcecius, Artaius, Arvernorix, Arvernus, Adsmerius, Canetonensis, Clavariatis, Cissonius, Cimbrianus, Dumiatis, Magniacus, Moecus, Toeirenus, Vassocaletus, Vellaunus, Visuoius, Biausius, Cimiacinus, Naissatis.  See Holder, s.v.

[58] Rh[^y]s, HL 6.

[59] Huebner, vii. 271; CIL iii. 5773.

[60] Lucian, Heracles, 1 f.  Some Gaulish coins figure a head to which are bound smaller heads.  In one case the cords issue from the mouth (Blanchet, i. 308, 316-317).  These may represent Lucian’s Ogmios, but other interpretations have been put upon them.  See Robert, RC vii. 388; Jullian, 84.

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