Early History Of The Celts

.. te with the gods only through the Druids, except for the divine father god of the tuath – any member of his tuath was able to contact him. The Druids were very appreciated and very influential and powerful. They were the teachers, doctors, and lawyers of Celtic society. But of these two orders, one is that of the Druids, the other that of the knights. The former are engaged in things sacred, conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion.

To these a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction, and they [the Druids] are in great honour among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments; if any one, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they interdict him from the sacrifices. The Druids had definitive control in sacred and mundane matters. They were the authority in everything from legal matters to contact with gods. They were experts in the natural world, the animals, useful plants, and the movement and influences of the sun, moon and stars. The laws, history, and traditions of all Celtic life were stored in their memories.

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It took twenty years to learn all the Druidical cannon, for the Druid functioned not only as minister of religion, with its doctrine of immortality and complete moral system, but also as philosopher, teacher and natural scientist and keeper of the law and its interpretation. Students who were learning to become Druids themselves were taught by repeating the masters words until they would memorize everything. Many of the Druids were literate and they sometimes used writing when dealing with other peoples, they did not want to use it when it came to their knowledge and tradition. They felt this matters should be known by heart and they did not want to risk the knowledge falling into wrong hands and being used against their people. Religion and Mythology The Celts were polytheistic and their gods were of a more primitive, Indo-European origin. Celtic gods often came in threes; so it was not difficult for them to later accept the Christian concept of Trinity.

Celtic had no temples required for their religious rituals, they concentrated mainly on the natural environment. When they were going to worship a god, they would make a circle in the open, set an altar in the middle and in that way make a sacred place. Their religion was very much in harmony with their natural surroundings. The Celts measured time by nights followed by days, not the reverse as we do today. They even had a calendar, kept by the Druids, which was based on lunar, and not solar motion.

Four major religious festivals marked their seasons. – Imbolc, which was held in February, was a pastoral festival of fertility and growth. It was connected with the first milking of the cows. – Beltaine was celebrated in May, and was also related to the fertility of cattle and crops and honoured the Druids. Beltaine is commonly associated with fire rites.

– Lugnasa was celebrated from mid July to mid August and it was the harvest festival. A great feast would be held on August 1st to celebrate the richness of the harvest and to honour the gods. – Samhain was the start of the New Year. It was celebrated on October 31 and commemorated the creation of order out of chaos and the beginning of the world. During this celebration the border between this world and the Otherworld opened and the spirits visited the earth. It was a dangerous time when humanity was vulnerable and exposed to the supernatural world.

The Otherworld in Celtic belief was the place where the gods and other supernatural beings lived, sometimes imagined as underground and sometimes as islands in the sea. It was the land of joy there was no sickness, old age, death and happiness was eternal. The Otherworld was not what is Heaven today everyone went to the Otherworld, regardless of the way they acted in this world. Some of the names that the Celts had for the Otherworld were Land of the Young, the Land of the Living and Delightful Plain. The Celts believed in transmigration of souls. The Otherworld was as real to the Celts as the this world, and although human beings did not usually go there before they died, stories of visits there or visits of the inhabitants Otherworld here, were accepted as convincing.

When someone died, there were some rituals connected to death. They included a big feast in the area of the graveyard and also putting things into the grave together with the body. There were many gods and goddesses in Celtic beliefs. Each tuath had their gods. There were gods that more tribes had in common, because of similar names or they ruled over similar areas.

Generally each tuath had a divine father or tribal god who was linked to the welfare of the tuath. Magic and ritual was how humans had interaction with the gods. Sacrifices were offered to the deities. Celtic Gods had many names; they varied from tuath to tuath. Lugh was a very resourceful god.

He was believed to be skilled at and have domination over all the arts and horsemanship, a warrior god, inventor of games, patron of travellers and commerce. He is the most universal of the Celtic gods. Cernunnos, know more often as the Horned God, was the ruler and protector of the animals. The blacksmith god, sometimes named Goibhnui, was skilled at smith craft and patron of that art and others. He was also the god of healing, because of the central role of iron in Celtic life and the belief that it had magical properties.

Water sources and thermal springs were also under his dominion. There was also Oghma, the patron of eloquence, and Donn, the god of the dead and ruler of the Otherworld. Goddesses in Celtic belief were generally triads and most often their influence was tied to a specific geographic area. Brigid, also spelled Brigit and Brighid, had a widely spread influence as a mother goddess, patroness of arts and crafts, healing, poetry and traditional learning, livestock and produce, and the rites of spring. The functions of the gods were also very important: The Sky Father The function of this god is that he is, usually, the father of all other gods together with the Earth Mother. Depending on the religion this god is also the head of the pantheon, or at least his father or grandfather and often also the god of thunder and lightning. The controller of the lower realm is the one who is in charge of the Otherworld and who is taking the dead there. The earth mother was, together with the Sky father, parent of all the gods.

She was connected with the fertility of the land, crops, and herds, as well as people. She would also defend the tuath when it was threatened by use of magic rather than physical weapons. There were gods and goddesses of places like sacred trees, clearings, wells, and the like. Most male gods were associated with a female consort, often mother goddess figures. Shapeshifting was common among Celtic gods and goddesses who often took the form of their favourite animals.

Animals were also important in Celtic religious beliefs. Birds were linked with the gods as bringers of omens and messengers. Swans, if portrayed wearing gold or silver chains, were supernatural and often represented gods in bird form. Ravens were messengers of the gods and their calls were considered prophetic. The salmon was regarded as the holder of Otherworld wisdom and a symbol for sacred rivers and pools.

The salmon was also considered prophetic, as was the trout. Water sources were especially sacred. The Celts believed that the waters possessed healing powers and that they were entrances into the Otherworld. Gifts were thrown into springs, rivers and sacred wells as gifts to the gods. The Romans considered the Celts very barbaric, because of some of their beliefs and their customs of war.

One of the Celtic rituals was human sacrifice. Another custom was based on the fact that they believed that the humans soul is in the head, so they cut off their enemies heads and kept them as trophies. They were also regarded as superstitious for their blessing the houses and performing rituals. Introduction of Christianity When the Romans conquered the Celts, they brought Christian faith with them. The Christianity was well established in Celtic Britain by the 4th century AD and from there it spread to Ireland probably by means of British captives.

In the 5th century the Saxons and other Germanic tribes occupied Britain and pushed most of the Celtic Christians into Wales and Cornwall. At the same time, Saint Patrick and other British missionaries founded a new church in Ireland and that church became the centre of Celtic Christianity. St. Patrick is said to have established Christianity in Ireland and introduced literacy, and in the next few centuries it either overthrew or absorbed the old pagan ways. Pagan festivals and holidays were adapted into Christian holy days, and many of the local god and goddess stories converted into tales of Irish saints. The most famous example is the Celtic goddess Brigid, or Bride, who is now known in the Christian Church as St.

Brigit, the leading female saint of Ireland. The Christianity on territories occupied by Rome was Episcopal under the control of a bishop, but that kind of Christianity demanded more urbanization than there was in the Celtic world. Irish Christianity soon became monastic under the leadership of abbots. The Irish monks and monasteries did much to save the knowledge of ancient Roman literature in early medieval Europe. Between the late 6th and the early 8th centuries, Irish missionaries were Christianising Europe, and they founded numerous monasteries in what is today France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. This was the Golden Age of Ireland.

It wasn’t until the late sixth century that Christianity was reintroduced into Britain; this brand of Christianity, more associated with the practices of the Roman church, came into conflict with Celtic Christianity and its unique practices. By the tenth century, the unique Celtic Christianity of Britain had largely been subordinated to Saxon Christianity. Celtic Christianity in Ireland weakened when the Vikings invaded in the 9th and 10th centuries and by the 12th century its characteristic institutions, which differed from the prevailing traditions of the Roman church, basically disappeared from Europe. CONCLUSION There are many theories about Celtic origins, about their mythology and their culture, but they are often only theories. Writing history as such is very complicated and can never be seen as completely accurate.

Therefore, one can never be sure of the events from the past. The early Celtic history is based on second-hand sources, and many things are too vague to be considered absolute truth. For the most part we can only speculate. Todays romantic view of the Celts is that of magic, heroes and the supernatural. On the other side, there is a sceptic view that denies all connections between the tribes that are considered Celtic. Well probably never know with complete certainty.

Nonetheless, we try to find out, we try to shed light, to conclude. With the help of the sources that we can rely on archaeological evidence, Romans and monks we can make more theories, but they will still be only theories. Bibliography Caesar, Julius : De bello Gallico (Gallic Wars) Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Celtic Empire Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne,.


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