Archaic celtic stones

In the Hallstatt period, generally after iooo bce, the Celts lived in central Europe, for they had not yet migrated westwards and northwards to the British Isles. However, Celtic traditions there arc recognizable as forerunners of what came later. In that period, the Celts set up aniconic stones as holy stopping-places in the landscape. In their form and location, they pre-figure the later Celtic Crosses. Many have a roughly humanoid form that continues the much older tradition of making stone representations of the female principle. Some of the central European stones, such as the Hallstatt period pillar-cross from Tübingen-Kilchberg in south Germany (now in the Württembergisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart), have a 'head' part that is incised with an X-shape. Dating from 1,000 years or more before the Christians adopted the cross, these stones resemble the much later Celtic stone crosses in parts of Cornwall and Wales. Even when the Celtic Cross had become a stylized form, certain sculptors made crosses that echo the shouldered humanoid forms of the earlier Continental stones. Surviving examples of this kind of 'goddess-cross' can be seen in west Wales at Carew and Nevern. A true goddess-stone like those on which the crosses are based still stands in its original position just outside the churchyard of St Martin's in Guernsey. She is La Gran'mere du Chimiquerc, a Celtic goddess image which was revered there long before the church was built. In the form of a female Herrn, 'The Grandmother of the Cemetery' is an armless stone figure with breasts and a radiate collar that resembles the patterns on some Celtic images in Germany.

A pointed stone with a rudimentary human face from Rottenburg, at Stammheim in Stuttgart, is an early type of humanoid stone. It is a megalith whose shape roughly suggested the human form, which was 'humanized' by having the suggestion of a face carved onto it. Later, actual human representations were carved by the Celts. Some appear to

Stele Kilchberg

Right: Prc-Celtic carved stones from central Europe. Left: carved menhir from Algund, South Tyrol, Italy, with axes, swords and wagon. Right: stele from Weilheim, near Tübingen, Germany, c. 2000 bch, sculpted with weapons.

Bhlow: The Husjatyn god-pillar from the River Zbrucz in Galicia, Poland, with images of the deities of the Pagan Slavs, is a direct parallel of the Celtic pillar-stones and the Roman Jupiter Columns.

have been images of goddesses and gods, while others served as commemorative memorials to individuals. It is thought that the Celts took the idea of setting up memorial images of the deceased individual from the Etruscans. There was a similar tradition among the Pagan Slavs further east. They erected carved stone pillars in honour of deities such as Triglav, Svantovit and Gerovit. They were often square-section pillars with faces of the gods carved at the top. The Polish Husjatyn pillar, illustrated here, is a typical example. Its cap resembles the capstones on the Irish high crosses at Ahenny.

In addition to ancestral memorials, there were also representations of deities in animal form, for in European Paganism animals can be manifestations of the divine equally as well as the human form. Thus, in addition to goddesses and gods, the boar, deer, stag, horse, dog and wolf appear frequently in sacred art. Although animal attributes accompany many Celtic carvings of humanoid deities, they also appear by themselves on Gallic and Pictish memorials and in certain contexts on later Celtic Crosses. In addition to the spirits of the animal world, Celtic cosmology recognizes intermediate beings that exist somewhere between the human and the animal. They appear as human-animal form images that include serpent-footed and horned men.

Horns and the horn-like ieaf-crown' surmount the human head in many La Tene carvings. These seem to prc-figure both the form of the wheel-head of crosses and the haloes surrounding the heads of saints and the deity in Christian iconography. This halo-like form appears in the hairstyles of Celtic goddesses such as Epona and The Mothers. Two-faced figures also appear in Pagan Celtic art. Usually called jani-form, after the Roman god Janus, they seem to have originated in Etruscan practice. The most striking of these La Tene janiform images is a larger-than-life size, two-faced stone figure that was discovered at Holzgerlingen in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. This was a pillar in the form of a sculpted humanoid, with the figure's arms held tightly across the waist; the two-faced head had a pair of horns that took the form of a separated 'leaf crown'. Other multiple representations include the sculpture of a three-faced male deity from Soissons in France. This is so skilfully designed that there is a central face whose left and right eyes become respectively the right and left eyes of the other faces. All three have ears of wheat for beards, while the carving below of a cock and a ram infer a connection with the Roman god Mercury.

The lower part of another Celtic image from Steinenbronn, also kept in Stuttgart, shows how the human figure melds into the stone cross. Dating from the fourth century bce, this stone bears patterns that demonstrate the multivalcncy of Celtic

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Left: The lower part of a broken Celtic stone figure found at Steinenbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, c. 400 bce, carved with T- and cross-tesselation patterns that appear later in Christian Celtic art.

Monster Turon Polska

A horned Celtic pillar-image of the fifth century bce. Reconstruction at a tumulus in the Federlesmahd woodland at Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. (Nigel Petwick)

design. Perhaps representing a costume, the patterns fade from a tesse-lation of Ts and crosses into a rectangular grid which in turn gives way to swirling patterns that may represent the phases of the moon. The tesselated pattern, which contained crosses 400 years before the Christian religion came into being, appears in Britain much later in Celtic manuscripts and on crosses, showing the continuity of Celtic art over time and distance. Humanoid Celtic pillar-stones have also been discovered in the British Isles. The so-called serpent stone from Maryport, Cumbria, is a carved stone phallus with a human head at the top. A humanoid pillar-stone at Minnigaff in Dumfries and Galloway has a bearded human head at the top on one side, whle bearing a cross with a bird on the other. The head tops a pillar which has no other carving. Thus it resembles the Herms and Xoana that were characteristic monuments of European Paganism.

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