Post Reply
Switch to Forum Live View Arming the Ancestors
5 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2010 - 1:52PM #1
Bairre
Posts: 122

I've been reading Dr. Barry Cunliffe's The Ancient Celts, and there is a chapter about Religious beliefs.  He, as well as most other Celticist, elaborate on the fact that much of what we know about the Celts comes from ritually deposited swords, shields, helmets and other weapons into lakes and rivers.  Most Celticists, including Cunliffe, speak of this as being most likely a sacrifice to the gods of war.


This got me thinking, because in the Irish and Welsh traditions, which are the only ones we have a written mythology (even if corrupted), lakes and rivers are generally associated with Goddesses.  However, with the exception of Ireland and Britain and one Gallic tribe's War Goddess (Andarta), war is associated with Gods.  With the Continental Celts especially, war was associated with Gods, such as Tauranis, Camulus, Rudianos, etc. 


However, I remembered that lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water were often associated with the Otherworld.  There are many stories in the Insular Celtic that speak to this.  What came to me was that it seems far more likely that the weapons deposited in the lakes and rivers throughout the ancient Celtic world were not offerings to Gods of war, but to the warrior ancestors.  The armour and weapons he or she would need in the Otherworld to be a warrior there.  I suppose the Lady in the Lake could be a story of the inverse of this, a sword ritually deposited in the Otherworld by decendents there to arm the ancestor, Arthur, here in this world.


I have written to Dr. Cunliffe and was trying to find contact information for other Celtic scholars who might have advice about this.  What do you guys think?

Quick Reply
Cancel
5 years ago  ::  May 21, 2010 - 7:23AM #2
Chiah
Posts: 36

Mar 22, 2010 -- 1:52PM, Bairre wrote:


I've been reading Dr. Barry Cunliffe's The Ancient Celts, and there is a chapter about Religious beliefs.  He, as well as most other Celticist, elaborate on the fact that much of what we know about the Celts comes from ritually deposited swords, shields, helmets and other weapons into lakes and rivers.  Most Celticists, including Cunliffe, speak of this as being most likely a sacrifice to the gods of war.


This got me thinking, because in the Irish and Welsh traditions, which are the only ones we have a written mythology (even if corrupted), lakes and rivers are generally associated with Goddesses.  However, with the exception of Ireland and Britain and one Gallic tribe's War Goddess (Andarta), war is associated with Gods.  With the Continental Celts especially, war was associated with Gods, such as Tauranis, Camulus, Rudianos, etc. 


However, I remembered that lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water were often associated with the Otherworld.  There are many stories in the Insular Celtic that speak to this.  What came to me was that it seems far more likely that the weapons deposited in the lakes and rivers throughout the ancient Celtic world were not offerings to Gods of war, but to the warrior ancestors.  The armour and weapons he or she would need in the Otherworld to be a warrior there.  I suppose the Lady in the Lake could be a story of the inverse of this, a sword ritually deposited in the Otherworld by decendents there to arm the ancestor, Arthur, here in this world.


I have written to Dr. Cunliffe and was trying to find contact information for other Celtic scholars who might have advice about this.  What do you guys think?




Cunliffe isn't all that great when dealing with religion, so I wouldn't really put too much store in what he says in The Ancient Celts about it, outside of the specifically archaeological information he gives, anyway. I would suggest getting hold of a copy of Bernhard Maier's The Celts: A History From Earliest Times to the Present instead, he's an expert in that area and the book is excellent overall. That's not to say Cunliffe is bad, but Maier is a bit more up to date in his treatment of the subject.


I think the big question, with regards to your theory, is how different were the gods and the ancestors, as far as the pre-Christian Celts were concerned?

Quick Reply
Cancel
5 years ago  ::  May 26, 2010 - 1:39PM #3
Bairre
Posts: 122

Well, I tend to view weapon deposits in lakes and rivers as a means to arm the ancestors.  However, I also tend to view votive deposits; such as gold and silver coins, torcs, and other fine accoutrements as ritual offerings to the Gods.  So long as they aren't associated with burials.


Its only a hunch, as it were.  I know that there is very little in surviving literature to explain this, and archeological evidence uses comparative analysis to figure out what might be the possible meanings of this.  I do tend to agree with the idea that the Gods and ancestors probably resembled something that is akin the the Orisha/Odinani view of Gods and ancestors.  I hold this view because of the research I've done into both the Celtic and Germanic as well as the the West African traditions.  I think these religious views developed indepentently, but they are strikingly similar.  They both have interesting synthesis with Christianity as well.  Just to throw that out there for anyone who want to do the research themselves.


Thank you for the book reference.  I looked into Dr. Maier, he is a professor at the University of Aberdeen, and he apparently has a couple of books on the topic. 

Quick Reply
Cancel
 
    Viewing this thread :: 0 registered and 1 guest
    No registered users viewing
    Advertisement

    Beliefnet On Facebook