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CELTIC RELIGION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDIVIDUALISED DEITIES

Like other religions, those of the Celtic lands of Europe supplemented the earlier animism by a belief in spirits, who belonged to trees, animals, rocks, mountains, springs, rivers, and other natural phenomena, and in folk-lore there still survives abundant evidence that the Celt regarded spirits as taking upon themselves a variety of forms, animal and human.  It was this idea of spirits in animal form that helped to preserve the memory of the older totemism into historic times.  It is thus that we have names of the type of Brannogĕnos (son of the raven), Artogĕnos (son of the bear), and the like, not to speak of simpler names like Bran (raven), March (horse), surviving into historic times. 
Bronze images, too, have been found at Neuvy-en-Sullias, of a horse and a stag (now in the Orleans museum), provided with rings, which were, as M. Salomon Reinach suggests, probably used for the purpose of carrying these images in procession.  The wild boar, too, was a favourite emblem of Gaul, and there is extant a bronze figure of a Celtic Diana riding on a boar’s back.  At Bolar, near Nuits, there was discovered a bronze mule.  In the museum at Mayence is a bas-relief of the goddess of horses, Epŏna (from the Gaulish Epos=Lat. equus, horse), riding on horseback.  One of the most important monuments of this kind is a figure of Artio, the bear-goddess (from Celtic Artos, a bear), found at Muri near Berne.  In front of her stood a figure of a bear, which was also found with her. 

The bull of the Tarvos Trigaranos bas-relief of Notre Dame was also in all likelihood originally a totem, and similarly the horned serpents of other bas-reliefs, as well as the boar found on Gaulish ensigns and coins, especially in Belgic territory.  There is a representation, too, of a raven on a bas-relief at Compiègne.  The name ‘Moccus,’ which is identified with Mercury, on inscriptions, and which is found inscribed at Langres, Trobaso, the valley of the Ossola and the Borgo san Dalmazzo, is undoubtedly the philological equivalent of the Welsh moch (swine). 
In Britain, too, the boar is frequently found on the coins of the Iceni and other tribes.  In Italy, according to Mr. Warde Fowler, the pig was an appropriate offering to deities of the earth, so that in the widespread use of the pig as a symbol in the Celtic world, there may be some ancient echo of a connection between it and the earth-spirit.  Its diet of acorns, too, may have marked it out, in the early days of life in forest-clearings, as the animal embodiment of the oak-spirit.  In the legends of the Celtic races, even in historic times, the pig, and especially the boar, finds an honoured place.  In addition to the animals aforementioned, the ass, too, was probably at one time venerated in one of the districts of Gaul, and it is not improbable that Mullo, the name of a god identified with Mars and regarded as the patron of muleteers, mentioned on inscriptions (at Nantes, Craon, and Les Provenchères near Craon), meant originally ‘an ass.’ 
The goddess Epŏna, also, whose worship was widely spread, was probably at one time an animal goddess in the form of a mare, and the name of another goddess, Damŏna, either from the root dam=Ir. dam, (ox); or Welsh daf-ad (sheep), may similarly be that of an ancient totem sheep or cow.  Nor was it in the animal world alone that the Celts saw indications of the divine.  While the chase and the pastoral life concentrated the mind’s attention on the life of animals, the growth of agriculture fixed man’s thoughts on the life of the earth, and all that grew upon it, while at the same time he was led to think more and more of the mysterious world beneath the earth, from which all things came and to which all things returned.  Nor could he forget the trees of the forest, especially those which, like the oak, had provided him with their fruit as food in time of need.  The name Druid, as well as that of the centre of worship of the Gauls of Asia Minor, Drunemeton (the oak-grove), the statement of Maximus of Tyre that the representation of Zeus to the Celts was a high oak, Pliny’s account of Druidism (Nat. Hist., xvi. 95), the numerous inscriptions to Silvanus and Silvana, the mention of Dervŏnes or Dervonnae on an inscription at Cavalzesio near Brescia, and the abundant evidence of survivals in folk-lore as collected by Dr. J. G. Frazer and others, all point to the fact that tree-worship, and especially that of the oak, had contributed its full share to the development of Celtic religion, at any rate in some districts and in some epochs. 

The development of martial and commercial civilisation in later times tended to restrict its typical and more primitive developments to the more conservative parts of the Celtic world.  The fact that in Cæsar’s time its main centre in Gaul was in the territory of the Carnutes, the tribe which has given its name to Chartres, suggests that its chief votaries were mainly in that part of the country.  This, too, was the district of the god Esus (the eponymous god of the Essuvii), and in some degree of Teutates, the cruelty of whose rites is mentioned by Lucan.  It had occurred to the present writer, before finding the same view expressed by M. Salomon Reinach, that the worship of Esus in Gaul was almost entirely local in character.  With regard to the rites of the Druids, Cæsar tells us that it was customary to make huge images of wickerwork, into which human beings, usually criminals, were placed and burnt.  The use of wickerwork, and the suggestion that the rite was for purifying the land, indicates a combination of the ideas of tree-worship with those of early agricultural life.  When the Emperor Claudius is said by Suetonius to have suppressed Druidism, what is meant is, in all probability, that the more inhuman rites were suppressed, leading, as the Scholiasts on Lucan seem to suggest, to a substitution of animal victims for men. 

On the side of civil administration and education, the functions of the Druids, as the successors of the primitive medicine men and magicians, doubtless varied greatly in different parts of Gaul and Britain according to the progress that had been made in the differentiation of functions in social life.  The more we investigate the state of the Celtic world in ancient times, the clearer it becomes, that in civilisation it was very far from being homogeneous, and this heterogeneity of civilisation must have had its influence on religion as well as on other social phenomena. 
The natural conservatism of agricultural life, too, perpetuated many practices even into comparatively late times, and of these we catch a glimpse in Gregory of Tours, when he tells us that at Autun the goddess Berecyntia was worshipped, her image being carried on a wagon for the protection of the fields and the vines.  It is not impossible that by Berecyntia Gregory means the goddess Brigindu, whose name occurs on an inscription at Volnay in the same district of Gaul.  The belief in corn-spirits, and other ideas connected with the central thought of the farmer’s life, show, by their persistence in Celtic as well as other folklore, how deeply they had entered into the inner tissue of the agricultural mind, so as to be linked to its keenest emotions.  Here the rites of religion, whether persuasive as in prayer, or compulsory as in sympathetic magic, whether associated with communal or propitiatory sacrifice, whether directed to the earth or to the heaven, all had an intensely practical and terribly real character, due to man’s constant preoccupation with the growth and storage of food for man and beast. 

In the hunting, the pastoral, and above all in the agricultural life, religion was not a matter merely of imagination or sentiment, but one most intimately associated with the daily practice of life, and this practical interest included in its purview rivers, springs, forests, mountains, and all the setting of man’s existence.  And what is true of agriculture is true also, in a greater or less degree, of the life of the Celtic metal-worker or the Celtic sailor.  Even in late Welsh legend Amaethon (old Celtic Ambactŏnos), the patron god of farming (Welsh Amaeth), and Gofannon, the patron god of the metal-worker (Welsh gof, Irish gobha), were not quite forgotten, and the prominence of the worship of the counterparts of Mercury and Minerva in Gaul in historic times was due to the sense of respect and gratitude, which each trade and each locality felt for the deity who had rid the land of monsters, and who had brought man into the comparative calm of civilised life.