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The Religion of the Ancient Celts

The Religion of the Ancient Celts

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Published by: EternalEdens on Feb 07, 2008
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THE RELIGIONOF THEANCIENT CELTSBYJ.A. MACCULLOCHHON. D.D.(ST. ANDREWS); HON. CANON OF CUMBRAE CATHEDRALAUTHOR OF "COMPARATIVE THEOLOGY""RELIGION: ITS ORIGIN AND FORMS" "THE MISTY ISLE OF SKYE""THE CHILDHOOD OF FICTION: A STUDY OF FOLK-TALES AND PRIMITIVE THOUGHT"Edinburgh: T. & T. CLARK, 38 George Street1911Printed byMORRISON & GIBB LIMITED,FORT. & T. CLARK, EDINBURGH.LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT, AND CO. LIMITED.NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS.TOANDREW LANGPREFACEThe scientific study of ancient Celtic religion is a thing of recentgrowth. As a result of the paucity of materials for such a study,earlier writers indulged in the wildest speculative flights andconnected the religion with the distant East, or saw in it the remainsof a monotheistic faith or a series of esoteric doctrines veiled underpolytheistic cults. With the works of MM. Gaidoz, Bertrand, and D'Arboisde Jubainville in France, as well as by the publication of Irish textsby such scholars as Drs. Windisch and Stokes, a new era may be said to
 
have dawned, and a flood of light was poured upon the scanty remains ofCeltic religion. In this country the place of honour among students ofthat religion belongs to Sir John Rh[^y]s, whose Hibbert Lectures _Onthe Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by Celtic Heathendom_(1886) was an epoch-making work. Every student of the subject since thattime feels the immense debt which he owes to the indefatigableresearches and the brilliant suggestions of Sir John Rh[^y]s, and Iwould be ungrateful if I did not record my indebtedness to him. In hisHibbert Lectures, and in his later masterly work on _The ArthurianLegend_, however, he took the standpoint of the "mythological" school,and tended to see in the old stories myths of the sun and dawn and thedarkness, and in the divinities sun-gods and dawn-goddesses and a hostof dark personages of supernatural character. The present writer,studying the subject rather from an anthropological point of view and inthe light of modern folk survivals, has found himself in disagreementwith Sir John Rh[^y]s on more than one occasion. But he is convincedthat Sir John would be the last person to resent this, and that, inspite of his mythological interpretations, his Hibbert Lectures mustremain as a source of inspiration to all Celtic students. More recentlythe studies of M. Salomon Reinach and of M. Dottin, and the valuablelittle book on _Celtic Religion_, by Professor Anwyl, have broken freshground.[1]In this book I have made use of all the available sources, and haveendeavoured to study the subject from the comparative point of view andin the light of the anthropological method. I have also interpreted theearlier cults by means of recent folk-survivals over the Celtic areawherever it has seemed legitimate to do so. The results are summarisedin the introductory chapter of the work, and students of religion, andespecially of Celtic religion, must judge how far they form a trueinterpretation of the earlier faith of our Celtic forefathers, much ofwhich resembles primitive religion and folk-belief everywhere.Unfortunately no Celt left an account of his own religion, and we areleft to our own interpretations, more or less valid, of the existingmaterials, and to the light shed on them by the comparative study ofreligions. As this book was written during a long residence in the Isleof Skye, where the old language of the people still survives, and wherethe _genius loci_ speaks everywhere of things remote and strange, it mayhave been easier to attempt to realise the ancient religion there thanin a busier or more prosaic place. Yet at every point I have felt howmuch would have been gained could an old Celt or Druid have revisitedhis former haunts, and permitted me to question him on a hundred matterswhich must remain obscure. But this, alas, might not be!I have to thank Miss Turner and Miss Annie Gilchrist for valuable helprendered in the work of research, and the London Library for obtainingfor me several works not already in its possession. Its stores are aninvaluable aid to all students working at a distance from libraries.J.A. MACCULLOCH.THE RECTORY,BRIDGE OF ALLAN,_October_ 1911.FOOTNOTES:
 
[1] See also my article "Celts" in Hastings' _Encyclopdia of Religion
and Ethics_, vol. iii.[TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Throughout this book, some characters are usedwhich are not part of the Latin-1 character set used in this e-book. Thestring "[^y]" is used to represent a lower-case "Y" with a circumflexmark on top of it, "[=a]" is used to represent a lower-case "A" with aline on top of it, and "[oe]" is used to represent the "oe"-ligature.Numbers in braces such as "{3}" are used to represent the superscriptionof numbers, which was used in the book to give edition numbers tobooks.]CONTENTSCHAP. PAGEI. INTRODUCTORY 1II. THE CELTIC PEOPLE 8III. THE GODS OF GAUL AND THE CONTINENTAL CELTS 22IV. THE IRISH MYTHOLOGICAL CYCLE 49V. THE TUATHA D DANANN 63
VI. THE GODS OF THE BRYTHONS 95VII. THE CCHULAINN CYCLE 127
VIII. THE FIONN SAGA 142IX. GODS AND MEN 158X. THE CULT OF THE DEAD 165XI. PRIMITIVE NATURE WORSHIP 171XII. RIVER AND WELL WORSHIP 181XIII. TREE AND PLANT WORSHIP 198XIV. ANIMAL WORSHIP 208XV. COSMOGONY 227XVI. SACRIFICE, PRAYER, AND DIVINATION 233XVII. TABU 252XVIII. FESTIVALS 256XIX. ACCESSORIES OF CULT 279XX. THE DRUIDS 293XXI. MAGIC 319XXII. THE STATE OF THE DEAD 333XXIII. REBIRTH AND TRANSMIGRATION 348XXIV. ELYSIUM 362LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THE NOTES THROUGHOUT THIS WORK(_This list is not a Bibliography._)BRAND: Rev. J. Brand, _Observations on the Popular Antiquities of GreatBritain._ 3 vols. 1870.BLANCHET: A. Blanchet, _Trait des monnaies gauloises._ 2 vols. Paris,
1905.BERTRAND: A. Bertrand, _Religion des gaulois._ Paris, 1897.

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