Butchery And Meateating

Their food consists of a small number of loaves of bread together with a huge amount of meat, either boiled or roasted on charcoal or on spits. They partake of this in a cleanly but leonine fashion, raising up whole limbs in both hands and biting off the meat, while any part which is hard to tear off they cut through with a small dagger which hangs attached to their sword-sheath in its own scabbard.156 There is no doubt that meat and meat products formed a substantial part of the Celtic diet....

Nehalennia and the goddesses

The tribe of the Morini lived in what is now the Netherlands, bordering the North Sea coast. They venerated a local Celtic goddess, Nehalennia, and set up two temples in her honour. She was a divinity of seafarers, and protected merchants and other travellers who regularly risked their lives and their merchandise in the perilous journey across the sea. Nehalennia's cult was a successful one visitors came to worship from as far away as Besan on and Trier. And it was a wealthy cult the two...

Cattle

Herds of cattle were a measure of wealth and a symbol of prosperity in Celtic society, and were crucial to the Celtic economy for food, draught, milk and leather. Like pigs, cattle played an important role in pits, graves and sanctuaries, as food-offerings, as a component in the ritual feast, or as uneaten offerings to the gods. Indeed, long before the Celtic period in Britain, as early as the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, the occurrence of cattle as deposits in major symbolic monuments suggests...

Animals In The Celtic Economy

6 Reynolds 1979, pp. 47-56 Fowler 1983, pp. 188-99. 12 Fowler 1983, pp. 188-99 Davis 1987, pp. 169-95. 20 Meniel 1987a, pp. 47-64 Meniel 1986b, pp. 115-22. 25 Reynolds 1987, pp. 50-60 Grant 1984a, pp. 102-19. 30 Reynolds 1979, pp. 47-56 Meniel 1987a, pp. 12-15 Davis 1987, pp. 169-95 32 ibid. Reynolds 1987, pp. 40-4. 33 ibid. Ross 1986, pp. 67-76. 38 For example, Strabo IV, 4, 3. 39 Caesar, De Bella Gallico VI, 22. 43 ibid., p. 54 Proudfoot 1961, pp. 94-122. 44 Piggott 1965, p. 235 Cross and...

Sheep

Work at Butser have contributed greatly to our understanding of the raising and management of sheep. Much Iron Age land must have been covered in fields, and sheep were probably grazed on these fields in rotation, where their dung could enrich the soil. But if the wide-ranging Soay sheep were allowed to wander at will, then the new arable crop would have been in jeopardy from grazing, so there must have been some control or corralling system to protect the fields. Certainly, there must have...

Bears In Celtic Culture

Bears were least commonly represented a group of little jet amulets in the form of bears comes from northern Britain and dates to the Romano-Celtic period. An example at York accompanies a burial of the fourth century AD another was buried with the body of a child at Malton Yorks. , but it is too small to have been a toy a third was found at Bootle Lancs. There is evidence that particular divinities were occasionally perceived as having a close affinity with bears. Of these, the most important...

Hunting And Wild Animals

There is a strong hint in the vernacular literature of a close correlation between hunter hunted and the divine world. Hunted animals were sometimes perceived as messengers of the Otherworld powers, the means of bringing living humans, either directly or indirectly, to the underworld. The hunted creature itself may be enchanted or possess magical qualities it may be a transformed human or a god in zoomorphic form. Tales of the hunt involve, above all, the wild pig or boar and the stag. In...

Methods and use of cavalry forces

The Celts used cavalry units in a number of ways they could act as advance or reconnoitring troops they guarded marching columns they challenged and taunted they ambushed foraging Romans they cut off supplies and in pitched battles, they harried and outflanked. A favourite method of fighting was to charge, hurl javelins and then dismount to fight hand to hand. Cavalry operate best in open country Tacitus describes Celtic cavalry tactics in wooded areas of Britain, where troops dismounted and...

Enchantment And Shapechanging

We have discussed the way in which certain kinds of animal were depicted and perceived in the early literature. But underpinning any analysis of the roles different beasts could play are two basic principles concerning animals in general. The first is the concept of the enchanted creature, which possesses qualities beyond its natural limits the properties of human speech or wisdom, or the ability to communicate with the world of the supernatural. The second, related, idea is that of...

Selection Consumption And Ritual Feasting

An interesting aspect of animal-sacrifice concerns the criteria of selection. In many religions, the appearance, species, sex and age of beasts for sacrifice are important factors determining choice. Appearance is something we cannot generally trace archaeologically. That it may have mattered is implied by Pliny's comment in his Natural History22 that the two bulls chosen for sacrifice by the Druids on the occasion of the mistletoe festival on the sixth day of the moon were white. The Tables of...

Preface

This book has come about because of my longstanding fascination for the ancient Celts and, in particular, for Celtic myth and religion, upon which most of my previous research work has been based. In all the sources for the period of the pagan Celts roughly 600 BC - AD 400 , the role of animals in both the secular and the sacred worlds appears to have been dominant and essential. The close association between what were basically rural communities and the natural world manifested itself not only...

The Natural World Of The Celts

Modern urban dwellers are cushioned, to an extent, from the rhythm of the seasons, from the immediate effects of good or poor harvests and of the health and fertility of flocks and herds. But in any pre-industrial and essentially rural society, the association of communities with the natural environment and their dependence on it are both close and direct. The world of the Celts was no exception. The single farm or small nucleated settlement was the home of many Celtic peoples, and even the...

Stags

In addition to their role as the quarry of hunters in the Irish and Welsh literature, stags receive a great deal of attention in the vernacular tradition. They are associated with wild nature and with the forest, with speed and strength and sometimes with wisdom. The 'Tale of Culhwch and Olwen' describes a supernatural stag which can communicate with one of Arthur's men and helps in the quest for Mabon. In the Mabinogi, a stag is the agent through which Pwyll and Arawn meet.10 The Irish band of...

Epona

The Celtic goddess Epona is specifically identified by her horse symbolism. Her name is etymologically related to a Celtic word for horse and she is defined iconographically by the presence of one or more horses the goddess is usually depicted either riding side-saddle on a mare or between two ponies or horses figures 8.5, 8.6 . Epigraphic dedications and images of Epona indicate her immense popularity within the Celtic world she was first and foremost a Gaulish goddess, being venerated...

Dogs And Deities From Nodens To Nehalennia

As scavengers and carrion-eaters, dogs came to be associated with death, in both the classical and Celtic religious traditions. Some of the ritual treatment of dogs chapter 5 in Gaul and Britain may point to this aspect of their symbolism. The bodies of dogs have repeatedly been discovered, deliberately buried in deep pits and shafts, perhaps as offerings to the underworld. Dogs were used in the hunt chapter 3 and this may have been the origin of their symbolic link with death. But three...

Animals At

8 Piggott 1965, pp. 177-208 Megaw 1970, pp. 13-14 Megaw and Megaw 1989, pp. 25-7. 9 Delaney 1986, pp. 21-2 Megaw 1970, p. 23 Piggott 1965, p. 216 Megaw and Megaw 1989, pp. 41- 10 Anon. 1980b, pp. 260-1, no. 115. 11 Piggott 1965, p. 198, figure 111,5 Megaw 1970, no. 10. 12 Anon. 1980a, no. 3.58 Megaw and Megaw 1989, p. 34. 13 Piggott 1965, p. 181, plate XXXI Green 1989, figure 56. 15 Megaw and Megaw 1989, p. 27. 17 Ridgeway 1905, passim Hyland 1990, pp. 20-2. 19 Hyland 1990, pp. 20-2, 170-3. 22...

Hunting And The Supernatural

The relationship of the hunter to his prey is equivocal and ambiguous this is reflected in some of the iconography. There is no doubt about the desire of the hunter to overcome and kill his quarry. But there is also respect and the animal must in some manner consent to its death in order that the harmony of nature be maintained. So the weapons would have to be made in the correct manner and the right rituals observed. This is exactly the kind of attitude to wild animals displayed in the hunting...

Animals As Symbols Of

This chapter has necessarily been focused upon the role of horses in Celtic warfare. These were the animals which were directly concerned with fighting, in cavalry and chariot units. But there were symbolic ways also in which beasts were associated with war. Such creatures as geese, ravens and, in particular, boars were linked with weapons and with warriors because of their aggressive traits which evoked the idea of conflict and combat chapter 6 . Diodorus Siculus refers to the wearing of...

God And Beast

1 A tradition noted, for example, in the cult of Asklepios at Epidaurus in Greece, where sacred dogs were kept within the confines of the shrine see Jenkins 1957, pp. 60-76 Guthrie 1954, pp. 228, 246. 2 Thevenot 1968, pp. 67-9 Green 1989, figure 25. 4 Green 1986, pp. 159-60, figure 72 Wheeler 1932 Henig 1984, pp. 51-5 Collingwood and Wright 1965, nos. 305-8. 6 Green 1992a Webster 1986, p. 44. 10 ibid., p. 83 Thevenot 1952, pp. 99-103 Thevenot 1957, pp. 311-14 Deyts 1976, nos. 13, 174...

The Celtic Cavalry

Evidence of Celtic horsemanship and the use of the horse in battle comes from iconography and, above all, from the comments of classical writers, of whom Caesar is our most informative source pp. 77-9 . Strabo echoes the sentiments of many authors in his remark that the Gauls and the Germans excelled in cavalry and that the best Roman horse was recruited from them. It is highly probable that Celtic horsemen like those of Numidia and Spain - both also noted for their cavalry had ridden from...

The evidence of archaeology

The Woman Vix Burial

The two-wheeled chariot was probably introduced to Celtic Europe from Western Asia. In the Near East, the fast, light, manoeuvrable chariot is associated with cultures from the mid-second millennium BC. In the seventh and sixth centuries BC, some of the earliest Iron Age warriors were buried with four-wheeled wagons or carts see p. 68 . They were interred in wooden mortuary chambers, beneath large barrows. Hochdorf in Germany is a good example of this tradition Vix in Burgundy is another....

The hunters companions

Both classical commentators and iconography throw light on the way game was hunted by the Celts. There were different kinds of hunting the peasant wishing to rid himself of pests threatening his crops would perhaps use dogs, traps and snares. The knight-hunter, maybe practising the art of war, would use swift horses and sometimes specially bred and trained dogs. The main method employed in the pursuit of large and fast game certainly involved horses and big, aggressive dogs. The best type of...

The Meaning And Nature Of Sacrifice

Disused Burial Pit Danebury

The ancient Italic Tables of Iguvium Umbria allude to rites of passage or gate ceremonies involving the sacrifice of animals. These rites were complex and precise the town could only be purified by means of appropriate animal sacrifices at each of its three gates. Thus at one entrance, three oxen and three pregnant sows were killed at the second, three oxen and three sucking-pigs at the third, three white-faced oxen and three ewe-lambs. This is a fascinating insight into the intricacies of...

Uses of chariots in war the ancient sources

As we have seen, the Continental Celts used chariots until the second century BC various Mediterranean commentators on the Celts remark on this 'barbarian' form of warfare and display. Athenaeus speaks of the Celtic chieftain Louernius, who rode in his chariot over the plains, distributing gold and silver to the thousands who followed him. Bituitus, the king of the Arverni was displayed in the Roman triumph of 121 BC in multicoloured array, riding in a 'silver' chariot 'exactly as he had...

Pastoral Farming And Stock Management

Generally speaking, the most common animals to be found on Celtic farms were cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. In addition, there is evidence of goats, ranched deer, farm dogs used as guard dogs, sheepdogs and waste-scavengers and cats to keep down vermin. But within this general scenario, there were certain differences between settlements, and changes occurred through time. An interesting view of hillforts is that the function of some may have been either wholly or partially as stock enclosures....

The ravendeities

In Irish mythology, ravens were associated above all with the fearsome triple goddesses of war and destruction, the Morrigna singular Morrigan and the Badbh.49 These Insular ravens represented the bloodshed of the battlefield and the pitiless destruction of man by man. That ravens were linked with warfare in Iron Age Europe is indicated by the presence of such objects as the helmet from Romania, with its movable raven crest figure 4.17 see chapters 4, 6 . In Romano-Celtic iconography, ravens...

Horses

Ritual Deposit

In the sixth century BC, a cave at Byciskala, at the eastern edge of Celtic Europe, in Czechoslovakia, was the focus of an elaborate ritual which involved the interment of forty women, possibly the result of human sacrifice, and the ritual killing of two horses which had been quartered, together with other offerings of humans, animals and grain. In a cauldron was a human skull, and another skull had been Two Gaulish sanctuaries, Gournay-sur-Aronde Oise and Ribemontsur-Ancre Somme , display very...

Animals On Coins

By the second century BC the tradition of striking and using coinage had spread right through Celtic Europe, reaching its peak during the first century BC. The coins derived from Mediterranean prototypes but their iconography shows independence and individuality on the part of the Celtic die-cutters. The imagery on the reverse of many coins has zoomorphic themes some of these depict manifestly religious subjects and it is possible, on occasions, to link coin iconography with other Celtic art....

Food Without Slaughter

Most milk was probably taken from cattle. The Dexter cattle raised at Butser were found to give an adequate milk supply even when fed on relatively poor pasture.143 But certain factors need to be taken into account when cattle are reared for milk, especially during the Iron Age. Firstly, a milch-cow requires a great deal of water. Secondly, Celtic cows were smaller than modern species and gave milk for only a short time after calving.144 If milk was required as a regular and important source of...

Attitudes To Horses In The Celtic World

The evidence of literature and archaeology points to the high status accorded to horses in Celtic society. Many divinities were closely associated with them chapter 8 , and faunal remains from Iron Age sanctuaries such as Gournay-sur-Aronde Oise and Ribemont-sur-Ancre Somme point to reverential treatment of dead horses chapter 5 . At Gournay, seven horses which had died naturally were accorded special burial in the ditch. At the Ribemont shrine, the close association between man and horse is...

Pigs

Pork was an important source of food for the Celts chapter 2 and, because of this, there is abundant evidence for the sacrifice of pigs to the gods. Pig rituals fall into two groups the first where the animal was slaughtered but not eaten and was buried as a gift to the supernatural powers the second where pigs were butchered and the pork either was placed as a food-offering to the dead or was consumed in a ritual feast. Both types of pig remains occur in Celtic graves. In Gaulish cemeteries...

Prey And Predator The Celtic Hunter

Our knowledge of hunting practices among the Celts comes from a number of sources. First, such classical writers as Strabo, Caesar and Arrian refer to hunting in Celtic communities, who had a fine reputation for their prowess. Caesar1 remarks of the related Germanic peoples he encountered in the Rhineland, that 'all their life is spent in hunting and in the practice of the art of war'. Second, there is a certain amount of iconography, where hunters and their quarry are depicted. A rich source...

F

Even so, there is evidence that cattle, sheep and pigs were all exploited to some extent in each of these environments, implying that different ground-types were used by the occupants of both downland and valley settlements and suggesting a symbiotic relationship between the communities inhabiting the different areas. Annie Grant argues convincingly18 that an example of such interaction may be witnessed in the case of Danebury. This great fortified hill-settlement...

Chariots in early Ireland the vernacular literature

Some of the earliest Insular literary records, which may well pertain to pagan Celtic traditions, contain fascinating allusions both to chariots themselves and to chariot warfare. The 'Tochmarc Emer', the story of the Ulster hero Cu Chulainn's wife Emer, describes a fine chariot built of wicker and wood, on white bronze wheels, with a gold yoke, a silver pole and yellow plaited reins. In the most famous of Ulster tales, the 'Tain Bo Cuailnge', both Queen Medb of Connacht and her bitter...

Sacred Snakes

In Celtic symbolism, the snake represented concepts evoked by its particular properties snakes are essentially earthbound creatures who can slide in and out of impossibly narrow crevices in rocks and disappear below ground. Their carnivorous nature and the venom of some species must have led to their being regarded with fear and awe. The Old Testament vilifies snakes, linking Eden's serpent unequivocally with evil, condemned by God to eat the dust of the earth and to be shunned by all other...

Reasons For Hunting

Why were wild animals hunted in the Celtic Iron Age The faunal evidence from bone assemblages indicates that wild species formed an extremely small part of the diet of these communities, so food was not a primary reason chapter 2 . There is some evidence for butchery, so at least some of the herbivores were eaten. Other reasons for hunting included the desire for fur, the need to protect farmland from the destructive activities of such animals as deer, and finally - and this is likely to have...

Sacrifice And Ritual

Ritual behaviour involving the deliberate killing of animals was endemic in Celtic society the evidence for this activity is manifest in sanctuaries, graves and habitation sites, the last context indicating that the ritual was not an lite one and that it is impossible to separate symbolic from economic behaviour. Rituals involving animals did not, of course, first take place during the Celtic Iron Age. In Britain, for instance, there is abundant prehistoric evidence the deposition of animals in...

Changing Attitudes To The Animal World

It is an interesting paradox that, to an extent, the more 'civilized' a society becomes the worse is its attitude to animals. In its strictest sense, civilization means 'city-living' and it is true that the further removed one is from the natural world, the smaller may be one's sensitivity to it. Thus Keith Thomas, speaking of early modern England, comments that 'human civilization indeed was virtually synonymous with the conquest of nature'.1 Many of the Greek and Roman philosophers, products...

Cows and bulls

Early Irish society was underpinned by cattle-owning and cattle-raiding . This is clear from much of the literature. The greatest bull-story symbolizes the importance of this animal and of cattle in general to the fertility and florescence of Ireland as a whole. This is the 'Tain Bo Cuailnge' or 'Cattle Raid of Cooley', which chronicles the conflict between two supernatural bulls, the Findbennach, or White-Horned of Connacht in the south and the Donn or Brown of Cuailnge in Ulster.64 The fight...

The Celtic Horse

Gaulish and British horses were small compared to those of Italy. Domestic horses appeared in Gaul during the course of the Bronze Age pre-Roman equines, including types of pony, are depicted in French rock art. Horse-breeding formed an important part of Celtic culture since Celts were, as a race, larger than Latins, efforts were made by the Gauls to upgrade their indigenous stock by crossing with Italian stallions, to produce larger, Gallo-Roman horses for warfare.19 But in pre-Roman Gaul and...

Food And Farming Animals In The Celtic Economy

'All the . . . country produces . . . every kind of livestock'.1 The domestication of farm animals by humans can be traced back, in parts of the Old World, to around 5000 BC. By the beginning of the Iron Age, in the eighth century BC, the peoples of temperate Europe had a diverse economy which included cereal and garden crops and the rearing of animals, particularly cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. This mixed farming has been a feature of many, if not most, of past European societies.4 There is...

Sanctuaries

Animals were central to Celtic religion because of their importance in daily living. Sacred animals are dominant in Celtic imagery see chapters 6, 8 , and this preoccupation with the animal world is mirrored by sacrifices and rituals in holy places, in the sanctuaries where the Celts communed with the supernatural world. Shrines are especially good sites for learning about man-animal relationships. As is the case with sepulchral remains, animal deposits in shrines consist of both creatures...

Dogs In Celtic Culture

Dogs played an important part in the ritual activities of sanctuaries. The sacred site of Gournay was the scene of complex ritual involving dogs during the later Iron Age. Pieces of fifteen dogs were found, consisting especially of jaw-bones, implying that there were specific rites associated with heads or skulls. Certainly the bones present seem to have been carefully selected, and there is a marked absence of trunks, ribs and vertebrae.69 At Ribemont, pieces of dog were deposited in the ditch...

Geese and cranes

In Celtic iconography, geese are most commonly associated with war thus, because of their watchful and aggressive nature, these birds were perceived as appropriate emblems or companions for warrior-gods. The great freestanding stone goose, gazing alertly from the lintel of the Iron Age cliff-top temple of Roquepertuse in Provence guarded a shrine in which war-deities were venerated.60 The bronze figurine of a Celtic war-goddess from Dineault in Brittany61 depicts a young female wearing a...

The Hunters Quarry

Sacred Stag Bronze Age

The three sources of evidence alluded to above provide a wide variety of information as to the kinds of beasts which were hunted by the Celts. They included the larger, mainly herbivorous creatures such as the stag, boar and wild aurochs and the smaller, carnivorous fur-bearers, like the badger, fox and stoat. The hare was also surprisingly popular as prey. Caesar refers to the hunting of the aurochs, a kind of large wild cattle now extinct , among the Germans. He describes how keen the...

Pits

Pits Horses Dogs Iron Age Danebury

In Britain and in parts of Continental Europe, there is a consistent and repeated ritual activity which associates animal burials with pits, wells or shafts. Most striking is the behaviour of Iron Age communities in southern England, who used pits dug into the chalk for the storage of grain. What seems to have happened is that once a pit came to the end of its useful life and was no longer required, elaborate, pre-closure thanksgiving ceremonies took place, indicated archaeologically by the...

Hillfigures The Uffington White Horse

There are about fourteen white horses in Wessex, of which only one has a genuine claim to antiquity. This is the White Horse of Uffington, which was carved high up on the chalk escarpment, immediately below the Iron Age hillfort of Uffington Castle figure 6.21 . The interesting point about the drawing of this horse is that it was not a simple graffito cut into natural chalk. Instead, a trench was deliberately dug into the lynchet a deep accumulation of plough wash at the edge of a field and...

The Image Of The Horseman

In the La Tene Iron Age, depictions of horsemen appear on coins, jewellery, pottery, sculpture and metalwork. Mounted warriors and charioteers, both male and female figure 4.13 , are frequent motifs on Celtic coins a silver coin from Scarisoara in Romania has a mounted soldier on the reverse. The southern Gaulish sanctuary of Roquepertuse was decorated with human skulls, perhaps those of battle-victims here also were stone images of war-gods, and a stone frieze dating to the third or second...

Dogs

Third Branch of the Mabinogi, Manawydan laments the loss of his dogs, and comments that without them he cannot hunt and his livelihood is destroyed. Dogs were often highly prized in 'Math', Gwydion's gift to Pryderi in exchange for Dyfed's precious pigs includes twelve greyhounds and greyhounds are among the presents given to Pwyll by Arawn of Annwn, in the First Branch. Dogs are very closely associated with the supernatural archaeological evidence for dog ritual in pagan Celtic Europe suggests...

Figures

Bronze horse and rider from the seventh-century BC cult wagon model from Frontispiece J Opposite Bronze cat handle from the first-century AD Snowdon Bowl, Gwynedd 1.1 Iron Age pot with deer motif, Roanne, France 3 2.1 Sixth-century BC bronze bull figurine, Bycisk la, Czechoslovakia 5 2.2 Sizes of modern and ancient Celtic animals compared 7 2.3 Iron Age farm animals sheep and cattle 8 2.4 Second-to first-century BC bronze rein-ring decorated with bull heads, Manching, Bavaria 10 2.5...

Manuring

A third way is by the collection of dung from byres in which animals were kept in winter, which would then be spread over the fields before early spring ploughing. Certainly one or other method would be used before either autumn, winter or spring ploughing. If an animal is corralled overnight, most of its dung can be collected without too much effort Peter Reynolds s calculation of dung production per cow per day is an average of 25kg.104 At Danebury, the dung of sheep, which is...

The Artists Menagerie

During the pre-Roman Celtic Iron Age, the fascination, respect and admiration for the animal world manifested itself time and time again in the incorporation of animal designs in art, particularly metalwork. Animals were represented in their own right, for example as figurines, but more often zoomorphic forms were selected to form the interwoven parts of what were essentially abstract designs. The whole period, from about 700 BC to the first century AD, was a dynamic one, as far as art was...

The divine stag

Cernunnos France Statue

To the Celts, the stag symbolized wild nature. Its alertness, speed and its aggression and potency during the rutting season made it an object of reverence, and its spreading, tree-like antlers seemed to epitomize the forest. Often the antlers are emphasized in iconography. At Colchester Essex , a small bronze stag was dedicated to Silvanus Callirius at a Romano-Celtic shrine. The Celtic soubriquet means King of the Woodland . The magnificent stag figurine from the late Iron Age hoard of...

Bibliography

Van Aartsen, J. 1971 Deae Nehalenniae, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Middelburg. Abbaye de Daoulais 1987 Aux Temps des Celtes Ve-1er Si cle avant JC, Association Abbaye de Daoulais, Quimper. Alcock, L. 1972 By South Cadbury, is that Camelot . . . Excavations at Cadbury Castle 1966-70, Thames amp Hudson, London. Allen, D. F. 1976 Some contrasts in Gaulish and British coins , in P.-M. Duval and C. F. C. Hawkes eds , Celtic Art in Ancient Europe, Seminar Press, London, pp. 265-82. - 1980 The Coins of...