The Heroic Myths

THE Celts possessed many myths regarding ideal heroic figures or actual heroes who tended to become mythical. A kind of saga was formed about some of these, telling of their birth, their deeds, their amours, their procuring for men spoils from the gods' land, and their death or departure to Elysium while round them were ranged other personages whose deeds are also recounted, and who may have been the subjects of separate sagas. Groups of tribes had each their hero, who occasionally attained...

Plate Xi

Gauls and Romans in Combat Bas-relief from a sarcophagus found near Rome. those of a god invisibly leading armies to battle and embodied in chiefs who bore his name. Yet the epithet might be that of actual warriors, just as the German Emperor calls himself the war-lord. Lludd, as King, rebuilt London orCaer Ludd, and was buried at Ludgate Hill, which thus preserves his name and points to an earlier cult of Lludd at this place.38 He is also said to have been enclosed in a narrow prison an...

Mythic Powers Of The Gods

AS in most mythologies,the Celtic deities have powers which reflect those supposed to be possessed by medicine-men, as well as others peculiar to themselves. These were the subject of myths taught by the Druids, who knew many things concerning the might of the immortal gods.1 The gods were undying, and their abode was that of the ever-living ones, where none ever died. Caoiite describes the Tuatha De Danann to St. Patrick as beings who are unfading, and whose duration is perennial in contrast...

Plate Xxiv

The boar appears as a worshipful animal on Gaulish coins (see Plate III, i, 3, 6), and there was a Gallic boar-deity, Moccus (p. 124). It also plays a role in Irish saga (pp. 124-27, 172) and in the Welsh story of the Twrch Trwyth (or Porcus Troit) (pp. 108, 125, 187-88). Bronze figures found at, Houns-low, Middlesex. is equivalent to that of the goddesses called Matronae (akin to the Matres), whose designation appears in that of the Marne. Mabon means a youth, and Maponos the great (or divine)...

Plate Xxii

Rawlinson B 512, 119 a (in the Bodleian Library, Oxford), containing part of the story of The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal. oec-x fiJuit) iwpxbrnbefl A mb nifciuto fUn -tnqje-- ro biv fcn Tii4b V)UOjtoboj ajqsrh& h Uti -03 jvjyUlb on naope-tM-c v conrollupjbtri oivobvtoa v nvolff rnfcU). Ill'-coj4 uch rpcetrif- iqrylui toe-t Mv. hjcomoq t aouiv co . ctuU aceol i tivVatl. vintner cvvo cajw-eflt bA i vtniciiul b iwbidi vUwl. D nt 4'ctol mabnrofr. vln& poifr i-naccu qvaeo ) Ajvcm-abUid)...

Belief In Soul And Genii

IN Slavic belief the soul is a being quite distinct from the body, which it is free to leave even during life, so that there are many stories of human souls coming forth from the bodies of sleeping persons and either dwelling in trees or, in the shape of white birds, fluttering about in the world and finally returning to their normal habitations. It is inadvisable to go to bed thirsty, lest the soul, wearied by its search for water, may weaken the body. If a man faints, his soul leaves his body...

Divine Enmity And Punishment

THE gods were sometimes hostile to men, not always for obvious reasons, as is curiously illustrated in the Echtra Nerai, or Adventures of Nera, an introductory tale to the Tain Bo Cualnge. Here the gods are regarded as demons appearing with great power on Samhain Eve (Hallowe'en). King Ailill offered a reward to anyone who on that night would tie a withe round the foot of a captive hanged the previous day and several tried, but were afraid. Nera was bolder, but his withe kept springing off the...

Myths Of Origins

SAVAGE and barbaric peoples possess many grotesque myths of the origin of various parts of nature. In recently existing Celtic folk-lore and in stories preserved mainly in the Dindsenchas conceptions not unlike these are found and doubtless were handed down from the pre-Christian period, whether Celtic or pre-Celtic, while in certain instances a saint takes the place of an older pagan personage. In Brittany and elsewhere in France natural features rivers, lakes, hills, rocks are associated in...

Paganism And Christianity

PART from the occasional Christianizing of myths or _ the interpolation of Christian passages in order to make the legends less objectionable, the Irish scribes frequently created new situations or invented tales in which mythical personages were brought into contact with saints and missionaries, as many examples have shown. In doing this they not only accepted the pagan stories or utilized their conceptions, but sometimes almost contrasted Christianity unfavorably with the older religion. The...

Plate Viii Squatting

The deity has torques on his neck and lap, and is encircled by two serpents with rams' heads. Traces of horns appear on his head. He may possibly be a form of Cernunnos see Plate XVI , and would thus be a divinity of the underworld. From an altar found at Autun, Saone-et-Loire. For a representation on a Gaulish coin see Plate III, 3 cf. also Plates IX, XXV. Trespass on a sacred place is implied in the story of Eochaid, who eloped with his step-mother. Oengus, in disguise, told him not to camp...

Plate

Dispater was the great Celtic god of the underworld see p. 9 and is here represented holding a hammer and a cup for the hammer cf. the deity Sucellos, Plates XIII, XXVI, and see Plate IX, B the cup suggests the magic cauldron of the Celtic Elysium cf. pp. 41, 95-96, 100, 109-12, 120, 151, 192, 203-04 and see Plates IX, B, XXV . If the goddess beside him holding a cornucopia cf. Plate IX, A is really Aeracura, she probably represents an old earth goddess, later displaced by Dispater. From an...

Authors Preface

Rl a former work I have considered at some length the religion of the ancient Celts the present study describes those Celtic myths which remain to us as a precious legacy from the past, and is supplementary to the earlier book. These myths, as I show, seldom exist as the pagan Celts knew them, for they have been altered in various ways, since romance, pseudo-history, and the influences of Christianity have all affected many of them. Still they are full of interest, and it is not difficult to...

The Myths Of The British Celts

Celtic Mythology Temple

THE surviving myths of the British Celts Brythons , as distinguished from the Irish Celts Goidels , exist in the form of romantic tales in the Mabinogion and similar Welsh stories and in the Arthurian and Taliesin literature, or are referred to in the Triads and Welsh poems. Have the divinities who there figure as kings and queens, heroes and heroines, magicians and fairies, retained any of their original traits and functions The question is less easily answered than in the case of Irish...

Gods Helping Mortals

IN Greek mythology the gods were represented as coming to man's help, and in Christian legend saints were seen hovering above an army in battle and giving it substantial aid. So in Celtic myth deities were often kindly disposed toward men or assisted them, sometimes for ends of their own. Such a myth is associated with the historic King Mongan of Ulster in the sixth and seventh centuries. He is shown to be son of the god Manannan by a mortal mother, and as has been seen, he had powers of...

Worship Of The Dead Especially Ancestors

Ancient Lithuanians

AT first the pagan Slavs burned their dead, but later they practised burial as well as cremation.1 With singing and wailing the corpse was carried to the funeral-place, where a pyre had been erected and this, with the dead body laid upon it, was set on fire by the relatives. The pyre and the body having been consumed by the flames, the ashes, together with the charred remnants of bones, weapons, and jewels, and with all sorts of gifts, were collected in an urn and placed in a cairn. If the...

Plate Vi

Plan of the central chamber. 4. View of the stone-work of the Brug and its entrance, after the removal of the earth. 5. General ground-plan of the Brug. See also Plate I and cf. pp. 66-67, 176-77. fluenced by the view that some of the Tuatha De Danann had died as mortals, Dagda has long since passed away, and the mounds are places of sepulture, perhaps a reflection of the fact that kings were interred there. Yet they are apportioned by the chief survivors,...

Plate Xviii

The monument shows figures of Mercury cf. pp. 9, 158 and a child, and of a god with a club cf. Plates IV-V . Mercury and the child have been equated with Lug and his son, Cuchulainn see pp. 64-65, 82-84, 158-59 for Lug see also pp. 25, 28-33, 4 gt I22 gt and for Cuchulainn pp. 36, 69-71, 86-88, 128, 134, 139-59, 209, 212 . The latter has also been identified with Esus, but with scant plausibility see Plates XX, A, XXI . his origin is semi-divine. Sualtam's mother was of the sid-folk he was...

Plate Ii

Native Bear Demond Symbol

Coin of the Nervii, with horse and wheel-symbol cf. Plates III, 4, IV, XV . 2. Gaulish coin, with horse, conjoined circles, and S-symbol cf. Plates III, 3, IV, XIX, 2-5 . 3. Coin of the Cenomani, with man-headed horse cf. Plate III, 2 and wheel. 4. Coin of the Remi , with bull cf. Plates III, 5, IX, B, XIX, 1, 6, XX, B, XXI , and S-symbol. 5. Coin of the Turones, with bull. 6. Armorican coin, showing sword and warrior dancing before it exemplifying the cult of weapons 7. 8. Gaulish coins,...

Tuatha De Danann And Milesians

THE annalistic account of the conquest of the Tnatha.De Danann by the Milesians cannot conceal the divinity of the former nor the persistence of the belief in Drnidic magic and supernatural power. M. d'Arbois has shown that the scheme which makes the Tuatha-De Danann masters of_Lre-landior one hundred and .sixty-nine years untiLlheJMiksians came is the invention of Gilla Coemain, who died in 1072. The Bmk-of Invasions adopted it, and it assumes that the gods reigned in succession as kings until...

Plate Ix

The obverse shows a seated god and goddess. The god is squatting cf. Plates III, 3, VIII, XXV , and holds a torque in his hand. The goddess has a cornucopia cf. Plates XIV, XV , and a small female figure stands beside her. B. On the reverse is a squatting god with a purse in his right hand to the left is a god with a hammer see Plates XIII, XIV, XXVI , and to the right is a goddess. Three bulls' heads are shown below cf. Plates II, 4-5, 9, III, 5, XIX, 1, 6, XX, B, XXI . From an altar found...

The Division Of The SlD

CELTIC deities may have been associated in pagan times with hills and pre-historic tumuli, especially those near the Boyne and within these was the subterranean land of the gods, who also dwelt on distant islands. If this were the case, it would help to explain why mounds were regarded as the retreats of the Tuatha De Danann, and why they are still supposed to emerge thence as a kind of fairies. If the folk believed that the old gods had always been associated with mounds, it was easy for the...

The Loves Of The Gods

LIKE the gods of Greece and India, the deities of the Celts had many love adventures, and the stories concerning these generally have a romantic aspect. An early tale of this class records that one night, as Oengus slept, he saw a beautiful maiden by his bed-side. He would have caught hold of her, but she vanished, and until next night he was restless and ill. Again she appeared, singing and playing on a cymbal, and so it continued for a year till Oengus was sick of love. Fergne, a cunning...

The Strife Of The Gods

Finally the Miieskns the ancestors of the Irish, arrived and conquered the T.uatha De. Danann, as the amp eJiad defeated tJieJiomoriaiis 1 Little of this is actual history, but how much of it is invention, and how much is based on mythic traditions floating down from the past, is uncertain. What is certain is that the annalists, partly as a result of the euhemerizing process, partly through misunderstanding, mingled groups of gods with tribes or races of men and regarded them...