At 08:37 PM 6/28/00 -0400, Francine Nicholson wrote:
>> From: John Hooker [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
>> The problem with using written sources in Celtic mythology rather than
>> iconography is that the society was very changed by the Romans.
> Hold on--you completely lost me. The mythology of the Irish was
>affected by the *Romans*?
That's not exactly what I said. After the suppression of the Druidic class,
and the increase in market based economies, Celtic society changed.
Communication within Celtic society continued as it did before, but a
different class of individuals were the vehicle of that transmission. So
the effect of the Romans on tales written several hundred years later was
not direct. Rather, the content that would have been privy only to those of
the Druidic class would not have survived anywhere, only the "popular"
tales and the religious practices of the masses would have survived. Mind
you, even this evolves and develops a rather Medieval flavor.
One example I can cite is the discussion between Lucian an unnamed Celt,
where even though being very late (2nd century A.D.), conveyed a belief
structure that allowed for a type of symbolism that seems lacking in later
stories. The Celt said "We Celts do not believe the power of speech to be
Hermes, as do you Greeks, but Herakles, because he is much stronger than
Hermes" To me, this indicates a more than just a tolerance of syncretism,
and this adaptation of "foreign" deities shows up in the archaeological
record in apparently local or tutelary indigenous deities being absorbed
into the Celtic pantheon of the masses, while not affecting the core belief
as understood by the Druidic class. The iconography one finds on Celtic
coins spans many areas that apparently worshipped deities with different
Also, motifs in religious art carry forward from previous cultures into
earlier Celtic cultures, but do not seem to carry forward after the Roman
period.. I have a La Tene 1a brooch from Champagne of a type considered to
be prototypical that carries the same water bird head as the ritual wagon
from Acholhausen of the Urnfield culture.
In Ireland, there seems to be a very clear division between la Tene art,
and the later art of the time of the Book of Kells. I have looked through
Barry Raftery's corpus of la Tene art in Ireland, with the hopes of finding
some continuity in design elements (not subjects) and in composition. I
have yet to find any though. Many of the Irish design elements seem to be
more related to what has been dubbed "Celtic revival". This style shows up
in England and other places in the very late Roman period, I believe circa
5th century A.D. It seems to be a northern style and shares many design
elements with the wood and metalwork found in Scandinavia. The Pre-Roman
elements in literature that continue are embedded in much later expressions
and are difficult to extract. Thus, stating no evidence of the importance
of the solstices, is not terribly significant. Much has been lost.
Incidentally, although lacking in the visual arts, Celtic continuity in
composition seems to have moved from La Tene decoration through early Welsh
poetry (internal rhymes alliteration etc.) right up to Dylan Thomas. I find
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