Tag Archive: Celtic Gods


THE DRUID CROWNS

UD:April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To you alone ’tis given the heavenly gods
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote”.

(Pharsalia Book 1:453-456)

 

200-150 BC - Deal

 

Recently published material from the Celtic settlement at Roseldorf, situated on the Sandberg in the western Weinviertel in Lower Austria, has furnished a wealth of new archaeological material pertaining to the Iron Age inhabitants of this area in particular, and pan-Celtic cult/religious practices in general.

 Excavations at Roseldorf, the largest La Tène settlement in Austria, have uncovered a Celtic settlement of supra-regional economic and cultural importance, as attested to by the discovery of coins of the Vindelici Manchinger type and Buschl-quinars from Lower Bavaria, as well as coinage produced by Gaulish and Balkan Celtic tribes. Furthermore, many small zoomorphic figurines from Roseldorf have parallels especially in the northeast, in the Celtic settlements at Nowa Cerekwia in Poland and Němčice in Moravia (Holzer 2014).

 

 

In the present context, of particular interest at Roseldorf are 3 cult districts with seven sanctuaries which played a major role in the functional orientation of the complex. Although evidence of human sacrifice has not been identified at the site, evidence of post-mortem manipulation of the bodies has been established, consistent with the Celtic practice of exhumation.

 

 Roseldorf - antler 1

Carved and pierced deer-antler,  believed to have been attached to a statue of the Celtic God Cernunnos

 

(After Holzer V. (2014) Roseldorf – An Enclosed Central Settlement of the Early and Middle La Tène Period in Lower Austria. In: Paths of Complexity. Centralization and Urbanization in Iron Age Europe. Oxford/Philadelphia 2014. p. 122-131)

From the first sanctuary area (object 1), the antler shows signs of complex artificial treatment. The natural coronet has been removed and a new one cut to extend the pedicle in order to fix it more easily with an iron nail or pin. It is believed to have formed part of the statue of a deity, probably Cernunnos.

On Cernunnos: https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/cernunnos-and-the-ram-headed-serpent/

 

 

 

Rosel Skulls

Fragments of human skulls found at the second large sanctuary (object 30) at Roseldorf.

(On Celtic Excarnation see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/excarnation/ )

 

 

Rosel horses

Remains of horse sacrifices in the second large sanctuary at Roseldorf

The numerous horse harnesses, horse skeletons and chariot parts etc. discovered in this area have led archaeologists to interpret it as a sanctuary to the Celtic horse-goddess Epona

On the Celtic Horse Goddess:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/epona-the-celtic-horse-goddess-in-thrace/

 

 

 

 

 

THE DRUID CROWN

 

 

Perhaps the most interesting artifact to come from the site is an iron ‘Druid’s Crown’ discovered in the first large sanctuary at Roseldorf. The crown has been ritually ‘killed’ before deposition – i.e. deliberately bent/deformed, according to Celtic religious ritual.

 

1 - a - a -a - Roseldorf-Ensemble Druids crown etc.

Ceramic, antler, bone, weapons and other artifacts from the sanctuary area of the Celtic settlement at Roseldorf

 

 

Roseldorf - Druid crown GOOD

The Roseldorf Druid Crown

(after Holzer 2014)

 

 

 

 

The Roseldorf Druid Crown corresponds to Parfitt’s type I, with an encircling headband and two bands crossed at the apex (Holzer 2009b: 175–177, 182; Parfitt 1995: 72–82; see Holzer 2014). The best example of such a crown was discovered in the burial of a Celtic ‘warrior-priest’ at Mill Hill Cemetery in Deal (Kent), England. Dating to the early 2nd century BC, the Deal Crown was found on the head of a warrior buried with his sword and shield, and consisted of two sheets of bronze, decorated in La Tène style, held together with rivets. The metal was worn directly on the head (i.e. not padded or strengthened with leather); when discovered impressions of human hair remained in the corrosion on the inner surface.

 

 

 

Deal skeleton

Burial of the Deal Priest-Warrior with weapons and Druid Crown

 

 

Also found in the grave were: an iron sword with bronze scabbard fittings and suspension rings for holding the sword on a belt; bronze parts from a wooden shield, and a bronze brooch decorated with applied coral studs.

 

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_prb/s/skull__crown_of_deal_warrior.aspx

 

 

 

Although not as elaborate as the Deal Crown, and incomplete, the Roseldorf example is particularly significant as it represents the first such found in an archaeological context in mainland Europe, and the oldest Druid Crown yet discovered.

 

 

200-150 BC - Deal

The Deal Crown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: Feb. 2017

 

 

Ram intor

 

 

In contrast to other creatures, depictions of the ram in Celtic art are comparatively rare. For example, on fibulae with zoomorphic decoration less than 2% feature the ram, and in the vast majority of cases where the animal is represented it is most often the head alone, naturalistic or schematically, which is portrayed (see: Cluytens M. (2009) Réflexions sur la symbolique du bélier chez les Celtes protohistoriques à travers les représentations figurées, Lunula. Archaeologia protohistorica 17, 201-206).

 

Fibule ajourée en bronze et corail découverte dans la sépulture d'une princesse gauloise à Orainville (Aisne), datée des années 300-275 DOUBLE V.

Fibula from the burial of a Celtic woman at Orainville (Aisne), France (bronze/coral) decorated with ram head motif (300-275 BC)

 

Pernik Ram

Zoomorphic/ram head attachment from a Celtic (Scordisci) firepot from Boznik (Pernik region), Bulgaria (late 2nd / early 1st century BC)

https://www.academia.edu/5046182/Zoomorphic_Cult_Firepots

 

 

Danubian kantharos with ram heads from Csobaj, Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén - grave of a woman discovered at Csobaj

Danubian kantharos with ram head handles from the burial of a Celtic woman at Csobaj, (Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén), Hungary

(3rd c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/the-archaeology-of-heads/

 

a-stekleni-jagodi-v-obliki-ovnovih-glavic-novo-mesto-kapiteljska-njiva-grob-vii-28-5-4-st-pr-n-st

Glass beads in the form of ram heads from burial VII-28 at Kapiteljska Njiva (Novo Mesto), Slovenia

(5/4 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

The head of the creature is also frequently present in anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations of hybrid ‘monsters’, most notably the ram-horned serpent which is a well-attested cult image throughout Celtic Europe both before and during the Roman period and which appears, for example, three times on the Gundestrup Cauldron.

 

The antlered deity of the Gundestrup cauldron, commonly identified with Cernunnos, holding a ram-horned serpent and a torc.

The antlered deity of the Gundestrup cauldron, identified with Cernunnos, holding a ram-horned serpent and torc.

 

 

As in the Gundestrup case, the enigmatic hybrid creature is often associated with the horned or antlered god Cernunnos, in whose company it is regularly depicted. This pairing is found as early as the fourth century BC, for example in Northern Italy, where a huge antlered figure with torcs and a serpent was carved on the rocks in Val Camonica. Other examples include a carving at the curative sanctuary at Mavilly (Cote d’Ôr), carvings at Beauvais (Oise) and Néris-les-Bains (Allier) in Gaul, or on an altar at Lypiatt (Gloucestershire), England (Green M. (2002) Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. Routledge). Perhaps the best known example of this hybrid creature is the ram-horned serpent represented on the cheek-piece of the Agris Helmet (dated to the 4th century BC), which was discovered in 1981 during archaeological excavations in Perrats Cave (Agris, southwestern France).

 

Detail of the Ram-Horned Serpent on the Cheek-piece of the Agris Helmetated from the 4th century BC. which was found in 1981 during archaeological excavations in Perrats Cave

Detail of the Ram-Headed serpent on the Agris Helmet

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/the-mechanism-of-dreams-vegetal-style-and-the-silivas-helmet/

 

rinovantes & Catuvellauni. Cunobelin. Circa AD 10-43. AE Unit (2.01 g). Struck ca AD 10-15. Coiled serpent with ram’s head obverse

Coiled serpent with ram’s head on the obverse of a Celtic bronze issue (Trinovantes or Catuvellauni) from southern England (struck AD 10-15)

 

Sliven RAm Good

Horned serpent attachment from a Celtic firepot discovered at Sliven, Bulgaria (1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/5046182/Zoomorphic_Cult_Firepots

 

 

 

Other such images include those from a bronze statuette from Étang-sur-Arroux (Saône-et-Loire; below) and a stone sculpture at Sommerécourt (Haute-Marne; both in France) which depicts Cernunnos’ body encircled by two horned snakes that feed from bowls of fruit and corn-mash in the god’s lap, while at Cirencester in Gloucestershire (England)  two snakes, eating fruit or corn, rear up on each side of the deity.

 

Cernunnos comes from Cirencester, England. This find shows a man grasping two horned serpents by the neck

Depiction of Cernunnos, grasping two horned serpents, from Cirencester

 

 

Another such relief, from Vendoeuvres (Indre, France) depicts Cernunnos wearing a sagum; he holds between his legs a large round object, and has two antlers on his head, the tines are held by two putti standing on either side above large serpents.

 

 

stone - Cernunus with putti serpents. Gallo-Roman Stone. Vendoeuvres, Indres. France.

The Cernunnos relief from Vendoeuvres (2nd c. AD)

 

 

 

 

Despite being described by most commentators as a ‘monster’, in fact in most iconography the ram-headed serpent is depicted as a beneficent beast, evocative of plenty and fertility  – representing a dualistic scheme illustrating the interdependence of life and death, and encapsulating the theme of regeneration intrinsic in Celtic religious belief. 

 

 

 

 

A bronze image at Étang-sur-Arroux - Cernunnos

Bronze statue of Cernunnos from Etang-sur-Arroux (cavities at the top of his head indicate that the statue was horned). The deity is depicted with torcs at the neck and on the chest, and two ram-headed serpents encircle him at the waist.

 

 

 

 

GUND RAM 2

 

Ram-Headed serpent and other fantastic beasts depicted on interior plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Cernunnos see also:

handgriff-eines-kubels-vom-oseberg-schiff-vermutete-keltische-herkunft-undatiert

 

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/a-god-by-any-other-name-cernunnos-christ-buddha-and-the-oseberg-bucket/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UD: April 2017

 

 

 

Neu bo

 

Extensive archaeological data clearly indicates that the wild boar had a special significance in Bronze and Iron Age European society, and the importance of the animal in Iron Age society and religion is well attested to by numerous depictions in Celtic works of art from across the continent.

 

60-worked-bones-and-boar-tusks-from-the-garment-of-a-shaman-chieftain-burial-at-upton-lovell-wiltshire-england-the-grave-goods-included-four-axeheads-inca-prestigious-battle-axe-made-of-black

60 worked bones and boar tusks from the garment of a shaman-chieftain, discovered in a  burial at Upton Lovell (Wiltshire), England. Other grave goods included four axeheads and a prestigious battle-axe made of black dolerite.

(ca. 1,800 BC)

 

bronze-pendants-mounted-on-boar-tusks-grave-of-woman-and-child-hueneburg-s-germany-583-bce

Bronze pendants mounted on decorated boar tusks, discovered in the double burial of a Celtic woman and child at the Heuneburg (Baden-Württemberg), Germany

(583 BC)

 

 

lictt - cluj

Celtic bronze boar figurines from (left) the Gutenberg Votive Deposit, Lichtenstein (2-1 c. BC), and (right) Luncani (Cluj), Romania (1st c. BC)

 

2-1-jh-v-chr-wurde-in-den-1970er-jahren-bei-altenburg-rheinau-an-der-deutsch-schweizerischen-grenze

Bronze boar figurine from the Celtic settlement at Altenburg-Rheinau, on the German/Swiss border

(2/1 c. BC)

 

 

Boars occur everywhere in Celtic Europe – as figurines, helmet crests, on war trumpets (carnyxs) and on coins, confirming their particular association with power and warfare.

 

gund houn

Bronze boar attachments from Celtic helmets from Hounslow, England (left), and (right) warrrior helmet with boar attachment depicted on the Gundestrup cauldron (both late 2nd/early 1st c. BC).

 

 

Obverse of a Celtic silver coin from Esztergom, Hungary (early 1st c. BC)

Celtic helmet with boar attachment depicted on the obverse of a Celtic silver coin from Esztergom, Hungary (early 1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

On that most distinctive of Celtic musical instruments, the Carnyx (war trumpet), it is once again the boar that is the most frequently portrayed animal (see ‘The Boar Headed Carnyx’ article). Also particularly impressive are a number of life-sized bronze statues of boars discovered in Celtic burial contexts and sanctuaries such as that from the Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Bulgaria, or those found in the sanctuary at Neuvy-en-Sullias (Loiret) France.

 

 

Neu bo

Bronze boar statue from the Celtic sanctuary at Neuvy-en-Sullias (1st c. BC)

 

 

mezek j

Bronze boar statue from the Celtic chariot burial at Mezek, Bulgaria (3rd c. BC)

 

 

While the pig is the most common animal placed in Iron Age burials as food for the afterlife, the remains of boars are rarely found in such contexts, indicating that the wild boar, as opposed to domestic pigs, was not viewed solely as a food source. The religious significance of the animal is confirmed by its portrayal on artifacts such as the Celtiberian cult-vehicle from Mérida (Spain), or the ‘Boar Warrior’ statue from Euffigneix, (Haute-Marne) France, the latter probably a representation of the Celtic boar god Moccos.

 

 

Limestone pillar statue from Euffigneix, (Haute-Marne) France (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

merida-cult-add

‘The Boar Hunt’ – Bronze Celtiberian cult-vehicle from Mérida (Spain) (1st c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 
The fact that the wild boar is, besides birds of prey, the most frequently depicted animal in Celtic art, logically indicates that it had a special significance in society. The available archaeological and numismatic evidence also strongly suggests that boar hunts may have played an important role in Iron Age warrior initiations, forming part of the ‘rite of passage’ rituals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UD: November 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutr 1

 

 

 

A fascinating series of inscriptions discovered in the ‘Roman’ cemetery at Poetovio in Pannonia (Ptuj, e. Slovenia) have provided sensational new evidence on Celtic society and religion during the Roman period, and the use of a unique Celtic alphabet on the Balkans.

 

 

 

 Among the graffiti on ceramic vessels found at the western cemetery at Poetovio, a number of Celtic inscriptions have been identified which may be divided into 2 main groups:

The first group of inscriptions includes a number of vessels, which date from the 1st / 3rd c. AD, inscribed with Celtic names. Example of such include the names TOCIES – written on a jug dating to the late 1st/ 2nd c., and M. BITTIV, inscribed on the body of another jug, Bittius/Bitus being one of the most common Celtic personal names, recorded in numerous inscriptions across Europe from the British Isles to Galatia (Egri 2007; see also mac Gonagle 2012).

 

 

 

Bituis - Tocies

 

The TOCIES and BITTIV inscriptions

(after Egri 2007)

 

 

 

 

While the aforementioned inscriptions give us valuable information on the ethnic composition of this region during the period, most interesting from the Poetovio site are two religious inscriptions, which provide fascinating evidence on Celtic (Romano-Celtic) religion and the use of the Celto-Etruscan alphabet on the Balkans.

 

 

 

 

 

THE NUTRICES

 

 

The first of these inscriptions – MATERIA – (written on a jar in cursive letters) is particularly interesting because it is further evidence of a phenomenon already identified by archaeological data from the area – the worship of the Celtic Mother Goddess, in the form of the Nursing Matres or Nutrices.

 

 

mat

(after Bόnis 1942)

 

 

 

 

The Nursing Matres or Nutrices was a cult widespread in the Celtic world, and particularly significant around Poetovio where 2 sanctuaries and numerous depictions, often with inscriptions, have been discovered.

 

 

 

mat. poet

Representation of the Nutrices from Poetovio

(LIMC, vol. 6.2, p. 620, n°4)

 

 

 

 

mat. gl

Five statuettes in white terracotta of nursing Matres discovered in a well in Auxerre (Yonne).

(Deyts, 1998, n° 30, p. 68)

 

 

 At Poetovio the Nutrices are always venerated in the plural form, often portrayed as 3 women, one of them holding and breastfeeding a baby. A significant number of dedicators to the Nutrices at the site also have Celtic names indicating that the cult of the Nursing Matres were brought here by a Celtic group which had settled the region with other Celtic tribes when they occupied the later Regnum Noricum  (Šašel Kos 1999).

 

 

 

 

 

Alphabet of the Illiterate

 

 

The most extraordinary Celtic inscription to be found at Poetovio is undoubtedly that found on a beaker at the site. Dated to the 2nd/3rd c. AD, and written in a Celto-Etruscan script, this inscription reads:

 

ARTEBUDZ BROGDUI

 

which has been translated as ‘Artebudz for Brogdos’. Both names are Celtic, and the vessel was a votive offering to Brogdos – a deity guarding the border between the world of the living and the after-world (Eichner et al 1994:137; Egri 2007).

 

brogdos p

 

The Brogdos Inscription

(after Istenič 2000)

 

 

 

 The use of such a Celtic alphabet on the Balkans has hitherto been known from a series of pre-Roman inscriptions discovered prior to the First World War, in the 1950’s and a handful of recent publications from sites such as Grad near Reka (a cremation urn), the situla fragment from the site in Posočje, as well as the bronze plaque fragment from Gradič above Kobarid (Turk et al 2009), and on a number of Celtic coins (particularly of the Paeonian model) and other artifacts (see Numismatics section). It is interesting to note that in each case, as with the Poetevio inscription, this Celtic script appears to be used in religious contexts, suggesting that the alphabet was strictly controlled and used only by the Celtic priests/druids, while the Greek and Latin alphabets were used for more mundane purposes.

 

silver-votive-plaque-vrh-gradu-sentviska-gora-eastern-slovenia-2-1-c-bc

Silver votive plaque from Vrh Gradu (Šentviška Gora), eastern Slovenia  (2-1 c. BC)

 

1 - GRAD a-b

 

The Grad (A) and Posočje (B) inscriptions

(After Turk et al 2009)

 

 

1 - TARANIS incs.

Fragment of bone with inscription to the Thunder God Taranis in a Celto-Etruscan script, from Tesero di Sottopendonda (Trente) Italy (4/3 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

 However, until now all archaeological evidence of the use of this Celtic alphabet has been confined to the pre-Roman period. Thus, the significance of the BROGDOS inscription from Poetovio cannot be overstated, as it represents not only a further example of this alphabet, but provides conclusive archaeological evidence that this writing system was still known and used in certain parts of the Balkans throughout the Roman period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Bόnis E. (1942) Die kaiserzeitliche Keramik von Pannonien. Dissertationes Pannonicae 2.20. Budapest.

Egri M. (2007) Graffiti on Ceramic Vessels from the Western Cemetery at Poetovio. In: Funerary Offerings and Votive Depositions in Europe’s 1st Millennium AD. Cluj-Napoca 2007. P. 37 – 48.

Eichner H., Istenič J., Lovenjak M. (1994) Ein römerzeitliches Keramikgefäss aus Ptuj (Pettau, Poetovio) in Slowenien mit Inschrift in unekanntem Alphabet und epichorischer (vermutlich kelticher) Sprache. In: Arheološki Vestnik 45, 1994, 131-142.

Istenič  J. (2000) Poetovio, the western cemeteries II. Ljubljana.

Mac Gonagle B. (2012) https://www.academia.edu/3292310/The_Thracian_Myth_-_Celtic_Personal_Names_in_Thrace

Šašel Kos (1999) Pre-Roman Divinities of the Eastern Alps and Adriatic – Situla 38, Ljubljana.

Turk P., Božič D., Istenič J., Osmuk N., Šmit Ž. (2009)New Pre-Roman Inscriptions from Western Slovenia : The Archaeological Evidence. In: Protohistoire Européenne II, 2009. Éditions monique mergoil Montagnac. p. 47–64.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: March 2016

 

 

a - a - a - Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd bog tankard - of bronze and (wood) yew - Cast Bronze handle - S shaped triskele motifs - ca. 50 BC

 

 

Alcohol, especially beer, played a particularly important role in Celtic society. While imported wine was favoured among the richer classes, the common drink of the Celts was a form of beer called kormi /korma (*PC Kormi, OIr cuirm, OW curum, Gaul. Curmi; Matasovic EDPC:217; Diosc. De mat. Med. 2):

 

“And the liquor which is, among the rich, wine brought from Italy or from the country around Massalia; and this is drunk unmixed, but sometimes a little water is mixed with it. But among the poorer classes what is drunk is a beer made of wheat prepared with honey, and oftener still without any honey; and they call it Κορμα” (Ath. IV:36).

 

 

Classical authors and archaeological finds paint a fascinating picture of Celtic banquets. Even allowing for the exaggeration common to classical depictions of the ‘barbarians’, enormous vessels like the Vix Krater or Gundestrup Cauldron, attest to the immense scale and lavishness of some of these occasions.

 

 

Vix k.

THE VIX KRATER

 (late 6th c. BC)

 

At Vix, where the Celts settled in the 6th century BC, a fortress was erected, and in a circle of around 10 km. are dotted dozens of burial sites. On the southern side of these mounds the most spectacular tomb, that of the Lady of Vix, was discovered in 1953. The Celtic Princess was buried with a number of remarkable artifacts including a magnificent bronze krater of Etruscan or Greek origin, 1.63 m. in height, weighing 208 kg., and made to contain 1,100 liters (290 gallons) of liquid; it is the largest known metal vessel from antiquity.

 

 

 

 

 

gund

The Gundestrup Cauldron

 

Made by Thracian craftsmen for the Celtic Scordisci, the Gundestrup cauldron is the most spectacular of Celto-Thracian artifacts, and the finest example of late Iron Age European silverwork.

 

(Further on the Gundestrup Cauldron see  Bergquist, Taylor 1987, Taylor 1992, Haywood 2004, Kruta 2004; also ‘The Scordisci Wars’ article on this site)

 

 

 

  In terms of archaeological data, particularly interesting is recently published archaeobotanical evidence for beer-making in southeastern France, which confirms classical accounts of the importance of beer among the Celts. An archaeological sample from a fifth century BC Celtic house at the site of Roquepertuse produced a concentration of carbonized barley (Hordeum vulgare) grains. The sample was taken from the floor of the dwelling, close to a hearth and an oven.

 The barley grains are predominantly sprouted and the assemblage represents the remains of deliberate malting, related to beer-brewing. An oven was discovered nearby which was used to stop the germination process at the desired level by drying or roasting the grain (Bouby et al 2011).

 

Roq.

The carbonized barley grains from the Celtic site at Roquepertuse

 

 

 

 

Langstone 1

 Celtic beer tankard (bronze/wood) from Langstone (Newport), Wales (1st c. AD)

The Langstone tankard is a Celtic from of drinking vessel used for communal drinking of beer and cider and especially prevalent across western Britain

 

a - a - a - Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd bog tankard - of bronze and (wood) yew - Cast Bronze handle - S shaped triskele motifs - ca. 50 BC

Celtic tankard of wood (yew) and bronze discovered in a bog at Trawsfynydd (Gwynedd), Wales (ca. 50 BC). The cast bronze handle of the vessel is decorated with triskele motifs, indicating that it had a ceremonial/religious function.

On the significance of the triskele in Celtic culture:

https://www.academia.edu/11899946/An_Tr%C3%ADbh%C3%ADs_Mh%C3%B2r_-_On_The_Triskelion_in_Iron_Age_Celtic_Culture

 

 

 

 

THE MEN WHO COULDN’T DIE

 

 

The Celtic custom of drinking neat wine and large quantities of beer was alien to the classical Greek and Roman cultures. Poseidonius (cited in Ath. 4:36) describes their ‘shocking’ dining habits:

“and they drink it (beer) out of the same cup, in small draughts, not drinking more than a cythus at a time, but they take frequent draughts”. When enough refreshment had been partaken of, mealtimes often became quite energetic occasions – “The Celts sometimes engage in single combat at dinner. Assembling in arms they engage in a mock battle drill”. Although mostly good natured, these ‘games’ could often escalate and become deadly:

“Sometimes wounds are inflicted, and irritation caused by this may lead even to the slaying of the opponent unless by-standers hold them back” (Ath. op cit).

 

 

Diodoros (1st c. BC) attempts to explain this ‘insane’ custom by reference to Celtic belief in metempsychosis:

“And it is their custom, even during the course of the meal, to seize upon any trivial matter as an occasion for keen disputation and then to challenge one another to single combat, without any regard for their lives; for the belief of Pythagoras prevails among them, that the souls of men are immortal and that after a prescribed number of years they commence upon a new life, the soul entering into another body”.

 

(Diodorus V.28:5-6)

On the Celtic belief in Metempsychosis see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/catubodua-queen-of-death/

 

 

Aylesford better

The Aylesford ‘Bucket’

This sort of receptacle, with a capacity of 3-5 liters (6-9 pints), formed part of a drinking service for wine, which was imported in quantity and drunk during feasts, probably linked to religious ceremonies.

(1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/23291021/CELTIC_CEREMONIAL_BUCKETS_AND_BELGIC_EXPANSION

 

 

 

 

THE GREAT BEER GOD

 

The Celts also ‘exported’ their beer to Thrace during the eastern expansion of the 4th/ 3rd c. BC, and the fact that the liquid nectar was ‘worshipped’ among the Balkan Celts is testified to in the name of the local God (epithet of Apollo)Κυρμιληνός – in an inscription from Ezerovo, Bulgaria (KDP 236; Detschew 1957:271), the Celtic epithet of the Greek God being yet another example of the synthesis of cultures in Thrace during this period (Detschew op cit.). Besides Κυρμιληνός, the element also occurs in many Celtic personal names such as Curmillus, Curmissus etc. (Holder AC 1: 1203), indicating that these individuals were probably brewers by profession.

 

 

 The last word on this subject undoubtedly belongs to a Pannonian Celt called Curmi-Sagius (Meid 2005), whose name literally means ‘The Beer Seeker’ / ‘He Who Searched For Beer’ – apparently a particularly devoted disciple of the Great Beer God…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sláinte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Modern) Literature Cited

 

Bergquist A.K., Taylor, T. F. (1987). The origin of the Gundestrup cauldron. In:  Antiquity 61: 10-24.

Bouby L. Boissinot P., Marinval P. (2011). Never Mind the Bottle. Archaeobotanical Evidence of Beer-brewing in Mediterranean France and the Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages During the 5th Century BC. In: Human Ecology, June 2011, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 351-360

Detschew D. (1957) Die thrakischen Sprachreste. Wien

Haywood J. (2004). The Celts: Bronze Age to New Age.

Holder A. Alt-celtischer Sprachschatz. B. 1–3. Leipzig 1896-1910

Kruta V. (2004)The Celts – History and Civilization.

Meid W. (2005). Keltische Personennamen in Pannonien, Archaeolingua, Budapest.

Taylor  T. (1992). The Gundestrup cauldron. In:  Scientific American, 266: 84-89.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: April 2017

 

 

epo 1

 

 

 

 

The Celtic goddess Epona is specifically identified by her horse symbolism. Her name is etymologically related to a Celtic word for horse, and is defined iconographically by the presence of one or more horses, being generally depicted either riding side-saddle on a mare or between two ponies or horses. Epigraphic dedications and images of Epona indicate her immense popularity within the Celtic world, and she was venerated particularly in the east of Gaul and the Rhineland, but known also across the continent from Britain to the Balkans (Green 1992. P. 204 – 207).

 

 

 

 

ETYMOLOGY

 

The name of the goddess derives from the Proto-Celtic *ekWo- ‘horse’, Gaulish Epos – ‘Horse’ (Olr. ech, Ogam EQO-DDI, W: MW ebawl ‘foal’ [m] (GPC ebol) BRET: OBret. eb ‘horse’, ebol ‘foal’, MBret. ebeul [m] CO: OCo. ebol gl. Pullus  CELTIB: Ekua-laku [PN] (A.63). Gaulish Equos – ‘name of the ninth month’ (Coligny) may be an archaic form (with preserved qu < *kw). The Brit. forms (except OBret. eb) are from a derivative *ekwalo- (cf. also Celtib. ekualaku and ekualakos, which has been interpreted as a Nom. sg. of an adjective ‘belonging to ekuala’; Matasovic (2009).

The element is common in Celtic names such as Epacus, Epasius, Eppius, Eppia, Επηνοσ (Epenos), Epomeduos, Eporedorix, and the names of tribes such as the Επίδιοι (Epidii) in Scotland, or in placenames such as Epomanduodurum in France (Delmarre pp. 163-164 and pp. 355-389), while Indo- European cognates of Gaulish epo- are frequent in PN’s over a wide area.

 

Gaulish coin of the Meldi tribe (60-50 BC), bearing the abbreviated legend ΕΠΗΝΟ

Marble relief from Saint-Béat (Haute-Garonne) France, depicting Epona, the Celtic horse Goddess (enthroned), surrounded by geometric symbols and fantastic aquatic/hybrid creatures.

(1/2 c. AD)

 

 

 It should be noted, however, that the supposed autonomy of Celtic civilization in Gaul suffered a major setback with Fernand Benoit’s study of the funereal symbolism of the horseman with the serpent-tailed (“anguiforme”) daemon, which he established as a theme of victory over death, and Epona; both he found to be late manifestations of Mediterranean-influenced symbolism, which had reached Gaul through contacts with the east (Benoît 1950).

Unusually for a Celtic deity, most of whom were associated with specific localities, the worship of Epona, one of the few Celtic divinities worshiped in Rome itself, was widespread in the Roman Empire between the first and third centuries AD (see below).

 

1907, fouilles de la ville gallo-romaine d'Alésia.

Statuette of Epona, 2/3rd century AD, from Alesia, Gaul

 

 

 

Epona’s name is known through dedicatory inscriptions (mostly in Latin or Greek), and through passing references in Latin literature. Although the name Epona is Celtic, no inscriptions to the goddess have been found in the Celtic languages, as the custom of setting up dedications was introduced by the Romans.

The most northerly Epona inscription comes from Auchendavy (Strathkelvin District, Strathclyde Region) in Scotland.  The altar was unearthed in 1771 during excavations of the Forth and Clyde canal and is now in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.

 

The altar from Auchendavy (Strathkelvin District, Strathclyde Region, Scotland)

Marti /
Minervae /
Campestri/bus Herc(u)l(i) /
Eponae /
Victoriae /
M(arcus) Coccei(us) /
Firmus /
|(centurio) leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae)

The altar is dedicated to Mars, Minerva, the Goddesses of the Parade Ground, Hercules, Epona, and Victory by Marcus Cocceius Firmus, a centurion of the 2nd Legion, and most likely a member of the emperor Marcus Aurelius’ bodyguard.

epona-dish

Silver plate depicting Epona enthroned, from the Petrijanec Hoard in northern Croatia (Dated to 294 AD)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/epona-enthroned-the-celtic-horse-goddess-on-a-roman-silver-plate-from-petrijanec-croatia/

 

 

 

EPONA IN THRACE

 

 The earliest evidence for the worship of Epona in Thrace comes from  a small inscribed cult relief, discovered in the Sofia area of western Bulgaria. Dated to the late 4th/ 3rd c. BC, the carved ‘Scordus’ stone illustrates well the religious beliefs of the Celtic Scordisci who obviously worshiped Epona, the tribal ancestor-god and the warrior hero. The ritual function of the object is unclear, but carved stones displaying various imagery were widely used in Celtic cult practices. On one side of the relief a mare is depicted, which has been interpreted as a hippomorphic personification of Epona (Green 1986: 91-94, 173-174; 1992: 90-92; 1995: 479; Manov 1993 with cited lit.).

As mentioned, Epona was known as a deity of fertility and prosperity but she was also associated with beliefs relevant to death and the underworld. The other side of the carved stone shows a man in a fight to the death with an enormous snake.  On the edge of the Sofia relief, a second snake is depicted together with a male facing to the front contiguous to a short incised inscription – ΣΚΟΡΔΟ (= genitive: ‘belonging to Scordus), i.e. the tribal eponym and ancestor-god Scordus, attested as Scordiscus in the sources (Appianus, Illyr. 2) (Manov 1993).

 

 

a - a - a epona sof

Inscribed cult relief bearing a dedication to the Celtic tribal God Scordus (Sofia region, w. Bulgaria. 4th – 3rd c. BC)

(After Manov 1993)

See:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

 

 

 

The survival and popularity of the cult of the Celtic horse goddess in Thrace in the Roman period is testified to by a number of inscriptions and depictions of Epona during this period:

An example from Aptaat (Kruschari district, Dobrich region, northeastern Bulgaria) is one of the few inscriptions in Greek (Reinach 1902 p.237; Magnen & Thévenot #33 (inscription), #219 (depiction). It does not name Epona explicitly, but is carved on an imperial type stone bas-relief of Epona seated between two horses which face inwards, offering them food from her lap. Passers by were thus expected to recognize the goddess by her attributes alone, the name being considered superfluous.

Θεαν έπηχοον Αίλιος Πανλίν [ος άνεθη]

‘Aelius Paulinus has given this image of the auspicious goddess’.

The inscription is dated to the beginning to the 2nd century A.D. (100 – 122) when the Celtic Cohors II Gallorum equitata was stationed in Moesia.

 

exquisite example of a plaque depicting the ‘Danubian Horsemen’ and their central goddess… seemingly a version of Epona.

Lead cult plaque from Thrace (2/3 century) depicting Epona and the ‘Danubian Horsemen’ –  a magnificent example of the synthesis of Thracian and Celtic religious beliefs during the Roman period.

for discussion see: http://atlanticreligion.com/2014/08/23/epona-and-the-cult-of-the-danubian-horsemen/; also https://www.academia.edu/4004264/Contribution_to_the_Study_of_the_Danubian_Horsemen_Cult_Iconographic_Syncretism_of_the_Danubian_Goddess_and_Celtic_Fertility_Deities

 

 

An altar with an inscription to the Celtic Goddess Epona (Deae Eponae Reginae) by Valerius Rufus, beneficiaries consularis legionis of the XI legion confirms Celtic presence in the Roman forces at the Abritus military complex, also in northeastern Bulgaria. The inscription has been dated to 215 AD (Иванов, Р. 1993:29). Other evidence for the worship of the Celtic horse Goddess in Thrace comes from Augustae (modern Hurletz, Koslodui district, Vratza region) in northwestern Bulgaria where a marble votive tablet to the Celtic Goddess has been discovered (Reinach S. Rép. Des reliefs II, 153, nr. 3; Seure, Arch. Thrace II, 177; Kazarow  1938: P. 85. Inv no. 399. Fig. 224), and a bas-relief of the goddess from Plovdiv (Magnen, Thévenot 1953; Tudor 1997).

 

 

Marble relief of the Celtic goddess with the Thracian horseman – from Augustae (mod. Hurletz) near Koslodui on the Danube in NW Bulgaria. (1st – 2nd c. AD)

After G. Kazarow 1938, p. 84, Abb. 224. Now at National Archaeological Museum in Sofia, inv. No. 7518. (Thanks to Dr. E. Paunov)

 

 

 

Thus, the Epona cult continued to be popular in both northern and southern Thrace even after the Roman conquest, the influence of Celtic legions of the Roman army being instrumental in this phenomenon (see also Botoucharova 1949).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Celtic legions in Thrace see:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/hounds-of-the-empire-celtic-roman-legions-on-the-balkans/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Cited

 

Benoît F. (1950) Les mythes de l’outre-tombe. Le cavalier à l’anguipède et l’écuyère Épona. Brussels, Latomus Revue d’études latines

Botoucharova L. (1949) Un nouveaux monument de la deese celto-romaine Epona. – In: RA, 1949, t. XXXIII

Green M. (1992) Animals in Celtic Life and Myth. London/New York

Kazarow  (1938) Die Denkmaler des Thrakischen Reitergottes in Bulgarien I-II. Budapest, 1938 = Dissertationes Pannonicae ser. 2 fasc. 14.

Matasovic R. (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leiden/Boston

Magnen R. and E. Thévenot (1953). Epona: déesse Gaulois des chevaux protectrice des cavaliers. Bordeaux

Tudor D. (1997) Corpus Momentorum Religionis Equitum Danuvinorum: The Analysis and Interpretation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UD: April 2017

 

 

“And those who pacify with blood accursed
Savage Teutates, Hesus’ horrid shrines,
And Taranis’ altars cruel as were those
Loved by Diana, goddess of the north”.

Lucanus (Pharsalia, Book 1)

 

 

gdd tar

 

 

The three Celtic deities best known from classical sources are Teutates, Esus, and Taranis. Teutates is identified with Mars or Mercury, and receives as human sacrifice drowned captives and fallen warriors. Esus too is identified with Mercury, but also with Mars, and he accepts as sacrifice prisoners who are hanged on trees and then dismembered.

The Celtic ‘Thunder-God’ – Taranis, who is also known from nine inscriptions found in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, France and Belgium, and figures as the character of Taran in the Cymric (Welsh) Mabinogi of Branwen ferch Llŷr, is identified with Jupiter, as a warlord and a sky god. Human sacrifices to Taranis were made by burning prisoners (Mac Congail/Krusseva 2010).

 

 

 

 

Taranis (with wheel and thunderbolt) (0.103 m.)

(Le Chatelet, Gourzon, (Haute-Marne), France)

 

 

 

Noteworthy is the fact that the main Celtic God, Lugh/Lugus, is not mentioned by Lucanus (op cit), leading to the suggestion of Rübekeil (2003:38), in view of his hypothesis of a Celtic origin of the Germanic god Odin, that Lugus refers to the trinity Teutates-Esus-Taranis considered as a single god (Rübekeil L. Wodan und andere forschungsgeschichtliche Leichen: exhumiert, Beiträge zur Namenforschung 38 (2003), 25–42).

 Based on writings in the ninth century comment on Lucan, the Berne Scholia, and descriptions in Caesar’s De Bello Gallica, Taranis has been identified as the deity to whom both Julius Caesar and Strabo describe human sacrifices being offered by being burnt alive in ‘wicker men’. The Berne Scholia also describes Taranis as a ‘master of war’, and links him with the Roman deity Jupiter. Taranis’ name is derived from the Proto-Celtic root  *torano- ‘thunder’ [Noun] (GOlD: Olr. torann – ‘thunder, noise’ W: MW taran [f] ‘(peal of) thunder, thunderclap’, BRET: OBret. taran gl. tonitru, MoBret. taran [m] CO: OCo. taran gl. tonitruum, MCo. taran).

 

statue-de-jupiter-taranis-la-main-droite-une-roue-a-dix-raies-attribut-gaulois-et-ayant-a-sa-gauche-un-aigle-oiseau-de-jupiter-musee-lapidaire-davignon

Jupiter Taranis – Roman era statue of Taranis syncretised with Jupiter, with eagle and solar/Taranis wheel (attributes of the respective deities) in the  Musée lapidaire d’Avignon.

 

 

 

 

 The Gaulish word for ‘thunder’ is preserved in the Gasconian dialect of French (taram). The Celtic forms are best explained by a metathesis *tonaro- > *torano-. The unmetathesized form is perhaps attested as the OBrit. Theonym Tanaro and in the old name of the river Po, Tanarus ‘thundering’. (REF: LEIA T-l13, GPC III: 3447, Delamarre 290, Deshayes 2003: 714; See Matasovic R., Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Leinen/Boston 2009. P. 384, with relevant lit.).

 

a - a Fragment of bone with insc. to Taranis in a C-et script from Sottopendonda Italy 4-3 c. BC

Fragment of bone with inscription to Taranis in a Celto-Etruscan script, from Tesero di Sottopendonda (Trente) Italy (4/3 c. BC)

 

 

 

 

THE WHEEL OF TARANIS

 

Bronze applique,  decorated with zoomorphic/bird figures and solar/Taranis wheels, discovered in the Forest of Moidons (Burgandy), France

(6th c. BC)

 

 

Associated with the Celtic Thunder God is the Solar Wheel or Wheel of Taranis. The wheel was an important symbol in Celtic polytheism, associated with a specific god, known as the wheel-god, identified as the sky-, sun-, or thunder-god, whose name is attested to as Taranis by Lucanus (op cit). Numerous representations of the Wheel of Taranis are found on coins and other artifacts across Celtic Europe, from Britain in the west to Thrace in the east:

 

 

Votive wheels (Rouelles), thought to correspond to the cult of Taranis. Thousands of such wheels have been found in sanctuaries and other sites across Celtic Europe.

(Musée d’Archéologie Nationale, France)

 

gold-beads-and-pendants-from-necklace-in-a-bog-near-szarazd-regoly-hillfort-late-2nd-c-bc-szarazd-regoly-tolna-county

Gold beads and pendants, including solar/Taranis wheels, from the Celtic Szárazd-Regöly hoard, discovered in a swamp near Regöly hillfort (Tolna), Hungary

(1st c. BC)

 

 

Gaul. Aedui tribe. (Circa 80-50 BC)

AR Quinarius. Helmeted head of Roma left /  horse prancing left, Wheel of Taranis below.

 

 

 

thasos-taranis-rev

Reverse of a Balkan Celtic tetradrachm from central Bulgaria. Note the solar/Taranis wheel in the top left corner.

(1st c. BC)

https://www.academia.edu/6144182/Celtic_Thasos_Type_Coinage_from_Central_Bulgaria

 

 

 

1 c. BC CALÈTES (Pays de Caux) Quart de statère, de Bordeaux-Saint-Clair - électrum - 1 c. BC OBVERSE

Obverse of a quarter stater of the Caletes tribe with solar/Taranis wheel on the subjects face, discovered at Bordeaux-Saint-Clair (Haute-Normandie), France (1 c. BC)

Belgic Gaul, Treviri AV Stater. ca. 60–30/25 BC.

Celticized horse rearing left, in upper field star, V with dotted border, & cross with four annulets between arms, pellet-cross under belly, star under tail; Wheel of Taranis, two stars & globule in front, above a row of pellets, herringbone pattern, solid line above which three stars.

 

 

 

 

THUNDER ON THE BALKANS

 

In southeastern Europe a range of Celtic artifacts have also been found which depict the Wheel of Taranis. The Celtic deity holding the solar wheel is represented, for example, on Plate C of the Gundestrup Cauldron thought to have been produced by the Thraco-Celtic Scordisci tribes in northwestern Bulgaria in the late 2nd c. BC. Artifacts depicting the Wheel of Taranis in this region range from Celtic coins dating from the 3rd c. BC onwards, to Romano-Celtic artifacts from the same region dating to the 3rd/4th c. AD.

 

 

Taranis with Wheel as depicted on plate C of the Gundestrup cauldron

 

In the 20’s of the 2nd c. BC the Scordisci tribe in Thrace came under attack from the north. An expansion of the Germanic Cimbri tribe was finally repulsed near the Celtic settlement of Singidunum (Belgrade), and the Cimbri migrated further west (Rankin D. Celts and the Classical World. New York 1987:19 ). It is likely that it was during these events that the most famous of Scordisci treasures, the Gundestrup cauldron, was looted and carried off by the Cimbri (Bergquist A.K., Taylor T.F. The Origin of the Gundestrup Cauldron, Antiquity, vol. 61, 1987. 10-24).

See also:

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-scordisci-wars/

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic tetradrachms from the Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia) –  2nd / 1st c. BC. Note the Wheel of Taranis in front of the horseman on the reverse. A large number of tetradrachms found in this hoard bore the symbol of the Taranis Wheel (Nos. 45 – 64).

(After Kos P., Mirnik I. The Ribnjacka Hoard (Bjelovar, Croatia). In The Numismatic Chronicle 159 (1999)

 

a - Taranis b buck

Celtic belt buckle of the Laminci type with Taranis Wheel from Dalj, eastern Croatia (1 c. BC)

https://balkancelts.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/a-taranis-belt-buckle-from-dalj-eastern-croatia/

 

 

 

Scordisci AR Drachm. Dachreiter type. Serbia/Bulgaria (2/ 1 c. BC)

Laureate head right / Horse trotting left. Wheel of Taranis above

 

 

 

 

Evidence for the worship of Taranis across Europe, and the depiction of the Solar Wheel associated with this Celtic deity on coins and other artifacts, is particularly important as it again illustrates that although regional differences existed between the pan-Celtic peoples in terms of material culture, certain core religious beliefs and iconography were shared, and remained constant despite temporal and geographic dispersion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Congail