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.

[144] Anwyl, Celt.  Rev. 1906, 28.  Cf. Y Foel Famau, “the hill of the Mothers,” in the Clwydian range.

[145] See p. 73, infra.

[146] Vallentin, op. cit. iv. 29; Maury, Croyances du Moyen Age, 382.

[147] Holder, s.v.

[148] See pp. 69, 317, infra.

[149] For all these see Holder, s.v.; Rh[^y]s, HL 103; RC iv. 34.

[150] Florus, ii. 4.

[151] See the table of identifications, p. 125, infra.

[152] We need not assume with Jullian, 18, that there was one supreme god, now a war-god, now a god of peace.  Any prominent god may have become a war-god on occasion.



Three divine and heroic cycles of myths are known in Ireland, one telling of the Tuatha De Danann, the others of Cuchulainn and of the Fians.  They are distinct in character and contents, but the gods of the first cycle often help the heroes of the other groups, as the gods of Greece and India assisted the heroes of the epics.  We shall see that some of the personages of these cycles may have been known in Gaul; they are remembered in Wales, but, in the Highlands, where stories of Cuchulainn and Fionn are still told, the Tuatha De Danann are less known now than in 1567, when Bishop Carsewell lamented the love of the Highlanders for “idle, turbulent, lying, worldly stories concerning the Tuatha Dedanans."[153]

As the new Achaean religion in Greece and the Vedic sacred books of India regarded the aboriginal gods and heroes as demons and goblins, so did Christianity in Ireland sometimes speak of the older gods there.  On the other hand, it was mainly Christian scribes who changed the old mythology into history, and made the gods and heroes kings.  Doubtless myths already existed, telling of the descent of rulers and people from divinities, just as the Gauls spoke of their descent from Dispater, or as the Incas of Peru, the Mikados of Japan, and the kings of Uganda considered themselves offspring of the gods.  This is a universal practice, and made it the more easy for Christian chroniclers to transmute myth into history.  In Ireland, as elsewhere, myth doubtless told of monstrous races inhabiting the land in earlier days, of the strife of the aborigines and incomers, and of their gods, though the aboriginal gods may in some cases have been identified with Celtic gods, or worshipped in their own persons.  Many mythical elements may therefore be looked for in the euhemerised chronicles of ancient Ireland.  But the chroniclers themselves were but the continuers of a process which must have been at work as soon as the influence of Christianity began to be felt.[154] Their passion, however, was to show the descent of the Irish and the older peoples from the old Biblical personages, a process dear to the modern Anglo-Israelite, some of whose arguments are based on the wild romancing of the chroniclers.

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