Sunday, January 30, 2011

Myths of the island Celts of Great Britain

Myths of the island Celts of Great Britain and Ireland were introduced into medieval culture and thus survived to the present day, although in a Christianized form. Parts of myths reappear in several major legendary cycles, including the Ulster Cycle about the achievements of the Irish hero Cuchulainn. The Mythological Cycle tells the stories of several prehistoric migrations to Ireland. Another important source is The Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh prose. Traces of Celtic mythology can be found in all these stories in which ancient gods are now represented as various heroes. Animals play an important role in these myths and are a reminder of the special status of honor they were accorded in Celtic culture.

Although relatively recent sources are available about the Celtic people of the islands, the mythology and religion of the mainland Celts are only known from accounts by Roman authors and from archaeological finds.

The names of several hundred names Celtic gods are known from inscriptions. lt is thought that most of them were local or regional names and probably not known across the entire Celtic culture. A likely reason is that there was never a unified Celtic kingdom. Furthermore, Roman authors often compared them to Roman gods in order to illustrate their function and attributes. Very often they were associated with features of the landscape, such as rivers and mountains. Notably, animals also had a special status as companions or manifestations of the gods. It is most likely that animal, river, spring, mountain, and tree cults preceded the worship of gods. Mother goddesses and matrons also played an important part in the pantheon. The same role was later frequently taken over by Christian saints. Originally, they were associated with fertility cults. Teutates, the god of war, Taranis, the god of the sky and thunder (similar to the Roman god Jupiter), and Belenus, the god of fire (compared to the Greek-Roman god Apollo), were some of the more popular Gallic gods. The goddess Belisama reminded the Roman authors of Minerva. Epona, the goddess of the horses, later came to be worshiped in Rome. Both cultures were mixed to some extent during the Roman occupation of Gaul, which explains how the names and functions of Celtic and Roman gods came to be frequently combined.

Offerings and funeral rites played a major role in Celtic religious culture. As with many other nature-oriented religions, offerings were given to appease the gods whose territory the humans were intruding upon. Animals were commonly sacrificed or weapons offered before battles and wars. There were also various forms of human sacrifices. People believed that this would maintain the cycle of life. New life would come from death. Valuable burial objects Introduction ... were found which indicates that the Celts believed in an afterlife. Caesar also claimed in his De bello gallica that Celtic people believed in the transmigration of the soul.

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