Religion and mythology of the celts

3154 mots 13 pages

In this essay I have chosen to discuss the religion and mythology of the Celts. However, on first approaching the

subject, one could be forgiven a slight feeling of trepidation on reading the introductory remarks of the scholars. For

example, Barry Cunliffe in ‘The Ancient Celts’, quoting the Irish scholar Proinsias MacCana, refers to the “fertile

chaos of the insular tradition” ( my italics) (1). Dillon and Chadwick in ‘The Celtic Realms’ describe the evidence

available as “disparate” and “paradoxical” (2), while Charles Thomas in ‘Celtic Britain’, in somewhat unscholarly

language, points to the “messy and sprawling world of pre-Christian religion” in the Celtic world (3).

I am tempted to use the word disparate in connection with the authors themselves ! To say the least, different shades

of emphasis emerge when reading them . Just two examples will illustrate my point: while Cunliffe mentions in

connection with religious sites, that “sufficient will have been said to indicate that built temples existed throughout the

Celtic world” (4), Thomas states “insofar as there were Celtic temples at all…..”(5); and while Dillon and Chadwick

make much of the Celtic belief in rebirth and the “common heritage of the druid and the brahmin” of India (6), Cunliffe

makes only one brief mention of it, quoting Julius Caesar’s report that the druids believed “that after death the soul

passes from one body to another” (7). That having been said, there is of course much ground for general agreement, so

let’s try to assemble the picture.

O– O – O – O – O

While the terms religion and mythology should not be confused (the dictionary definition of myths is folk tale or

legend, and therefore distinct from beliefs), there appears to be a certain amount of interweaving between the two in

en relation

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