The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Page: 124


Pliny, xvi. 45; Cæsar, vi. 18. See my article "Calendar (Celtic)" in Hastings' Encyclopædia of Rel. and Ethics, iii. 78 f., for a full discussion of the problems involved.

Footnote 890:(return)

O'Donovan, Book of Rights, Intro. lii f.

Footnote 891:(return)

O'Donovan, li.; Bertrand, 105; Keating, 300.

Footnote 892:(return)

Samhain may mean "summer-end," from sam, "summer," and fuin, "sunset" or "end," but Dr. Stokes (US 293) makes samani- mean "assembly," i.e. the gathering of the people to keep the feast.

Footnote 893:(return)

Keating, 125, 300.

Footnote 894:(return)

See MacBain, CM ix. 328.

Footnote 895:(return)

Brand, i. 390; Ramsay, Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, ii. 437; Stat. Account, xi. 621.

Footnote 896:(return)

Hazlitt, 297-298, 340; Campbell, Witchcraft, 285 f.

Footnote 897:(return)

Curtin, 72.

Footnote 898:(return)

Fitzgerald, RC vi. 254.

Footnote 899:(return)

See Chambers, Mediæval Stage, App. N, for the evidence from canons and councils regarding these.

Footnote 900:(return)

Tille, Yule and Christmas, 96.

Footnote 901:(return)

Chambers, Popular Rhymes, 166.

Footnote 902:(return)

Hutchinson, View of Northumberland, ii. 45; Thomas, Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel. xxxviii. 335 f.

Footnote 903:(return)

Patrol. Lot. xxxix. 2001.

Footnote 904:(return)

IT i. 205; RC v. 331; Leahy, i. 57.

Footnote 905:(return)

See p. 169, supra.

Footnote 906:(return)

The writer has himself seen such bonfires in the Highlands. See also Hazlitt, 298; Pennant, Tour, ii. 47; Rh[^y]s, HL 515, CFL i. 225-226. In Egyptian mythology, Typhon assailed Horus in the form of a black swine.

Footnote 907:(return)

Keating, 300.

Footnote 908:(return)

Joyce, SH ii. 556; RC x. 214, 225, xxiv. 172; O'Grady, ii. 374; CM ix. 209.

Footnote 909:(return)

See Mannhardt, Mythol. Forschung. 333 f.; Frazer, Adonis, passim; Thomas, Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel. xxxviii. 325 f.

Footnote 910:(return)

Hazlitt, 35; Chambers, Mediæval Stage, i. 261.

Footnote 911:(return)

Chambers, Book of Days, ii. 492; Hazlitt, 131.

Footnote 912:(return)

Hazlitt, 97; Davies, Extracts from Munic. Records of York, 270.

Footnote 913:(return)

See p. 237, supra; LL 16, 213.

Footnote 914:(return)

Chambers, Med. Stage, i. 250 f.

Footnote 915:(return)

Cormac, s.v. "Belltaine," "Bel"; Arch. Rev. i. 232.

Footnote 916:(return)

D'Arbois, ii. 136.

Footnote 917:(return)

Stokes, US 125, 164. See his earlier derivation, dividing the word into belt, connected with Lithuan. baltas, "white," and aine, the termination in sechtmaine, "week" (TIG xxxv.).

Footnote 918:(return)

Need-fire (Gael. Teinne-eiginn, "necessity fire") was used to kindle fire in time of cattle plague. See Grimm, Teut. Myth. 608 f.; Martin, 113; Jamieson's Dictionary, s.v. "neidfyre."

Footnote 919:(return)

Cormac, s.v.; Martin, 105, says that the Druids extinguished all fires until their dues were paid. This may have been a tradition in the Hebrides.

Footnote 920:(return)

Joyce, PN i. 216; Hone, Everyday Book, i. 849, ii. 595.

Footnote 921:(return)

Pennant, Tour in Scotland, i. 291.

Footnote 922:(return)

Hazlitt, 339, 397.

Footnote 923:(return)

Hone, Everyday Book, ii. 595. See p. 215, supra.

Footnote 924:(return)

Sinclair, Stat. Account, xi. 620.

Footnote 925:(return)

Martin, 105.

Footnote 926:(return)

For these usages see Ramsay, Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, ii. 439 f.; Sinclair, Stat. Account, v. 84, xi. 620, xv. 517. For the sacramental and sacrificial use of similar loaves, see Frazer, Golden Bough2, i. 94, ii. 78; Grimm, Teut. Myth. iii. 1239 f.

Footnote 927:(return)

New Stat. Account, Wigtownshire, 208; Hazlitt, 38, 323, 340.

Footnote 928:(return)

See Miss Owen, Folk-lore of the Musquakie Indians, 50; Frazer, Golden Bough2, ii. 205.

Footnote 929:(return)

For notices of Beltane survivals see Keating, 300; Campbell, Journey from Edinburgh, i. 143; Ramsay, Scotland and Scotsmen, ii. 439 f.; Old Stat. Account, v. 84, xi. 620, xv. 517; Gregor, Folk-lore of N.E. of Scotland, 167. The paganism of the survivals is seen in the fact that Beltane fires were frequently prohibited by Scottish ecclesiastical councils.

Footnote 930:(return)

Meyrac, Traditions ... des Ardennes, 68.

Footnote 931:(return)

Bertrand, 119.

Footnote 932:(return)

Ibid. 407; Gaidoz, 21; Mannhardt, Baumkultus, 514, 523; Brand, i. 8, 323.

Footnote 933:(return)

Mannhardt, op. cit. 525 f.; Frazer, Golden Bough2, iii. 319.

Footnote 934:(return)

P. 234, supra.

Footnote 935:(return)

Frazer, op. cit. i. 74; Brand, i. 222, 237, 246, 318; Hone, Everyday Book, ii. 595; Mannhardt, op. cit. 177; Grimm, Teut. Myth. 621, 777 f.

Footnote 936:(return)

See my Childhood of Fiction, ch. v.

Footnote 937:(return)

Frazer, i. 82, ii. 247 f., 275; Mannhardt, 315 f.

Footnote 938:(return)

Martin, 117. The custom of walking deiseil round an object still survives, and, as an imitation of the sun's course, it is supposed to bring good luck or ward off evil. For the same reason the right hand turn was of good augury. Medb's charioteer, as she departed for the war, made her chariot turn to the right to repel evil omens (LU 55). Curiously enough, Pliny (xxviii. 2) says that the Gauls preferred the left-hand turn in their religious rites, though Athenæus refers to the right-hand turn among them. Deiseil is from dekso-s, "right," and svel, "to turn."

Footnote 939:(return)

Hone, i. 846; Hazlitt, ii. 346.

Footnote 940:(return)

This account of the Midsummer ritual is based on notices found in Hone, Everyday Book; Hazlitt, ii. 347 f.; Gaidoz, Le Dieu Soleil; Bertrand; Deloche, RC ix. 435; Folk-Lore, xii. 315; Frazer, Golden Bough2, iii. 266 f.; Grimm, Teut. Myth. ii. 617 f.; Monnier, 186 f.

Footnote 941:(return)

RC xvi. 51; Guiraud, Les Assemblées provinciales dans l'Empire Romain.

Footnote 942:(return)

D'Arbois, i. 215, Les Celtes, 44; Loth, Annales de Bretagne, xiii. No. 2.

Footnote 943:(return)

RC xvi. 51.

Footnote 944:(return)

Strabo, iv. 4. 6.

Footnote 945:(return)

Dion. Per. v. 570.

Footnote 946:(return)

Pliny, xxii. 1.

Footnote 947:(return)

Greg, de Glor. Conf. 477; Sulp. Sev. Vita S. Martini, 9; Pass. S. Symphor. Migne, Pat. Graec. v. 1463, 1466. The cult of Cybele had been introduced into Gaul, and the ritual here described resembles it, but we are evidently dealing here with the cult of a native goddess. See, however, Frazer, Adonis, 176.

Footnote 948:(return)

Anwyl, Celtic Religion, 41.

Footnote 949:(return)

See Hartland, Science of Fairy-Tales, 84 f.

Footnote 950:(return)

Professor Rh[^y]s suggests that nudity, being a frequent symbol of submission to a conqueror, acquired a similar significance in religious rites (AL 180). But the magical aspect of nudity came first in time.

Footnote 951:(return)

Adamnan, Vita S. Col. ii. 45.

Footnote 952:(return)

See Gomme, Ethnology in Folk-lore, 30 f., Village Community, 114.





In primitive religion the place of worship is seldom a temple made with hands, but rather an enclosed space in which the symbol or image of the god stands. The sacredness of the god makes the place of his cult sacred. Often an open space in the forest is the scene of the regular cult. There the priests perform the sacred rites; none may enter it but themselves; and the trembling worshipper approaches it with awe lest the god should slay him if he came too near.

The earliest temples of the Gauls were sacred groves, one of which, near Massilia, is described by Lucan. No bird built in it, no animal lurked near, the leaves constantly shivered when no breeze stirred them. Altars stood in its midst, and the images of the gods were misshapen trunks of trees. Every tree was stained with sacrificial blood. The poet then describes marvels heard or seen in the grove—the earth groaning, dead yews reviving, trees surrounded with flame yet not consumed, and huge serpents twining round the oaks. The people feared to approach the grove, and even the priest would not walk there at midday or midnight lest he should then meet its divine guardian. Dio speaks of human sacrifices offered to Andrasta in a British grove, and in 61 A.D. the woods of Mona, devoted to strange rites, were cut down by {280} Roman soldiers. The sacred Dru-nemeton of the Galatian Celts may have been a grove.955 Place-names also point to the widespread existence of such groves, since the word nemeton, "grove," occurs in many of them, showing that the places so called had been sites of a cult. In Ireland, fid-nemed stood for "sacred grove." The ancient groves were still the objects of veneration in Christian times, though fines were levied against those who still clung to the old ways.

Sacred groves were still used in Gallo-Roman times, and the Druids may have had a preference for them, a preference which may underlie the words of the scholiast on Lucan, that "the Druids worship the gods without temples in woods." But probably more elaborate temples, great tribal sanctuaries, existed side by side with these local groves, especially in Cisalpine Gaul, where the Boii had a temple in which were stored the spoils of war, while the Insubri had a similar temple. These were certainly buildings. The "consecrated place" in Transalpine Gaul, which Cæsar mentions, and where at fixed periods judgments were given, might be either a grove or a temple. Cæsar uses the same phrase for sacred places where the spoils of war were heaped; these may have been groves, but Diodorus speaks of treasure collected in "temples and sacred places" ([Greek: en tois hierois chai temenesin]), and Plutarch speaks of the "temple" where the Arverni hung Cæsar's sword. The "temple" of the Namnite women, unroofed and re-roofed in a day, must have been a building. There is no evidence that the insular Celts had temples. In {281} Gallo-Roman times, elaborate temples, perhaps occupying sites of earlier groves or temples, sprang up over the Romano-Celtic area. They were built on Roman models, many of them were of great size, and they were dedicated to Roman or Gallo-Roman divinities. Smaller shrines were built by grateful worshippers at sacred springs to their presiding divinity, as many inscriptions show. In the temples stood images of the gods, and here were stored sacred vessels, sometimes made of the skulls of enemies, spoils of war dedicated to the gods, money collected for sacred purposes, and war standards, especially those which bore divine symbols.