Friday, 3 April 2009

Who Were The Celts: An Overview Religion



A statuette in the Museum of Brittany, Rennes, probably depicting Brigantia/Brigid: ca. 1st century CE, with iconography derived from Roman statues of Minerva.

The Celts had an indigenous polytheistic religion and culture.
Many Celtic gods are known from texts and inscriptions from the Roman period, such as Aquae Sulis, while others have been inferred from place names such as Lugdunum (stronghold of Lug). Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests, known as Druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having a human shape until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.
Celtic religious patterns were regionally variable, however some patterns of deity forms, and ways of worshiping these deities, appear over a wide geographical and temporal range. The Celts worshipped both gods and goddesses. In general, the gods were deities of particular skills, such as the many-skilled Lugh and Dagda, and the goddesses associated with natural features, most particularly rivers, such as Boann, goddess of the River Boyne. This was not universal, however, as Goddesses such as Brighid and The Morrígan were associated with both natural features (holy wells and the River Unius) and skills such as blacksmithing, healing, and warfare.
Triplicities are a common theme in Celtic cosmology and a number of deities were seen as threefold.
The Celts had literally hundreds of deities, some unknown outside of a single family or tribe, while others were popular enough to have a following that crossed boundaries of language and culture. For instance, the Irish god Lugh, associated with storms, lightning, and culture, is seen in a similar form as Lugos in Gaul and Lleu in Wales. Similar patterns are also seen with the continental Celtic horse goddess Epona, and what may well be her Irish and Welsh counterparts, Macha and Rhiannon, respectively.
Roman reports of the druids mention ceremonies being held in sacred groves. La Tène Celts built temples of varying size and shape, though they also maintained shrines at sacred trees, and votive pools.
Druids fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion, as priests and religious officiants, but also as judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. In general, they were the "college professors" of their time. Druids organized and ran the religious ceremonies, as well as memorizing and teaching the calendar. Though generally quite accurate, the Celtic calendar required manual correction about every 40 years, therefore knowledge of mathematics was required. Other classes of druids performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the perceived benefit of the community.
Celtic Christianity

A Celtic cross.

While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland moved from Celtic polytheism to Celtic Christianity in the fifth century AD. Ireland was converted under missionaries from Britain such as Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Saxon parts of Britain and central Europe. This brought the early medieval renaissance of Celtic art between 390 and 1200 A.D. developing many of the styles now thought of as typically Celtic, and found through much of Ireland and Britain, including the north-east and far north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. This was brought to an end by Roman Catholic and Norman influence, though the Celtic languages, as well as some and some influences from Celtic art, continued.
The development of Christianity in Ireland and Britain brought an early medieval renaissance of Celtic art between 400 and 1200, only ended by the Norman Conquest of Ireland in the late 12th century. Notable works produced during this period include the Book of Kells and the Ardagh Chalice. Antiquarian interest from the 17th century led to the term 'Celt' being extended, and rising nationalism brought Celtic revivals from the 19th century.

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