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CELTIC-L  June 2000

CELTIC-L June 2000

Subject:

Re: Solstice 4

From:

Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Francine Nicholson <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 30 Jun 2000 16:19:39 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (192 lines)

> From: C. Gwinn [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
>
> I would like to add some more points to the mix. I must say that the
> proponents of the "no solstice celebrations for the Celts" theory have
> been displaying a keen lack of knowledge about the Gaulish calendar and
> festivals. Additionally, they suffer from a major logical fault: they say
> that there is no solstice/equinox references in Insular myth - yet they
> are
> quoting from material that POSTDATES the calendric shift! The Celtic
> calendar drifts - and this is incontrovertable.
>
        Mr. Gwinn: accepting your points requires accepting the existence of
the calendar shift as the cause of the Celtic emphasis on the quarter days.
Since I see plenty of evidence for social reasons to emphasize the quarter
days over the solstices/equinoxes AND I do not find Olmsted's arguments
compelling as the *cause* for the quarter-day celebrations, I don't accept
your basic premise. Since I do not accept your basic premise, I find the
ideas you base on the premise unacceptable. But refusing to buy the
arguments of Prof. Olmsted and youurself is not ignorance or illogic per se:
it's simply finding your evidence not convincing.

        I also do not accept another idea on which you base most of your
arguments: that Celtic deities are essentially equivalent to the Roman
pantheon. Therefore, I do not agree with your ideas about the deities.
Again, that is not ignorance or illogic--I don't accept your basic premise,
your evidence lacks finality, and your arguments are far from
incontrovertible. Period.

>  Most ancient Calendars did! The Roman calendar was off by 40 days by the
> 1st century BC and it took a major political figure like Julius Caesar to
> enforce an official reformation. The Irish and Britons would have had no
> great political leaders to enforce calendar reformations after the Roman
> persecution of the druids,
>
        Excuse me--you're assuming that what the Romans did in Gaul had an
effect on political and religious leadership in Ireland. You're also
assuming that anything done in Gaul by religious leaders would have been
adopted in Britain and Ireland. What evidence is there for either of those
ideas?

> who would have been solely responsible for such matters in Celtic
> communities.
>
        Not in Ireland!

> Of course the festivals no longer focus around the solstices and equinoxes
> in 7th century Ireland - the cnative Celtic alendar had been left to slip
> some 50 days out of place and was then abandoned by the 5th-6th century in
> favor of a Christian calendar. The avaerage man in 7th century Ireland
> would have no idea that his ancestors a millenium before celebrated Samain
> at the winter solstice.
>
        You are assuming that calendars were based on earlier calculations,
not current observations. Samhain is the end of harvest--and it makes no
sense to celebrate the end of harvest in December when it ended in October
at the latest.

> 1) As proof that reverence for the equinoxes may still have existed in
> Ireland, note the following phrase, which appears twice in Togail Bruidne
> Da Derga (190, 598): medon erraich co medon foghmair - "from mid-spring to
> mid-autumn." The phrase is found in reference to a king's reign. Now,
> spring was thought to begin with Imbolg on Feb 1st and end with Beltane on
> May 1st - the midlle of spring would then fall in mid March - only a week
> away from the vernal equinox. Similarly, mid-autumn would occur in mid
> September, a week from the autumnal equinox. Clearly this half-year
> division held some kind of significance and it may be important that it is
> reference to a king's reign - perhaps the solstices and equinoxes were
> important to the ruling classes while mostly ignored by the peasants.
>
        This is the first thing you've offered that actually fits in with
the rest of the evidence. But it does not signify that the solstices and
equinoxes were celebrated.

> 2) For the notion that the Old Celtic solstice festival drifted forward to
> the cross quarter day in Insular tradition:
>  It is widely agreed upon that Macha is the Irish reflex of Gaulish Epona.
> Gaulish Epona had her festival date on the 18th of December - only a few
> days before the winter solstice.
>
        Whoa--the *Romans*, not the Gauls, established a feast of Epona on
18 December. There is no evidence indicating that this was a Gaulish date.
The Romans established feasts when it suited them--just as they degraded the
function of Epona from a figure associated with sovereignty and fertility of
the tribe to a patroness of horsebreeders, they may well have changed the
date to something that suited them.

        In Ireland, amongst the Ulaid, Macha had her festival right around
Samain.

        As she would, given that she represents the female guardian of the
tribe and bringer of fertility who at Samhain would mate with the male
equivalent for the sake of the next harvest.

> 3) Caesar says in the Gallic wars that the Heluetii fixed a certain day
> close to the vernal equinox for the marshalling of troops.
>
        On a regular basis or for a specific event?

> It is possible that the Druids had a say in the choice of days for war
> (which is evidenced in the Coligny calendar's notions of favorable and
> unfavorable days). Going by Olmsted's theory that the month of Samonios
> contains a solstice, there would be a major festival (8 to 9 nights)
> occurring right around the spring equinox.
>
        Seems like that would be a rather important occasion. Wouldn't there
be more evidence for such an event?

> 4) That the solstice was an important part of the Coligny calendar (which
> is noted anyway in the complex counting scheme on the calendar that
> predicts solstices fairly accurately) is the fact that if the Solstice
> occurs in Samonios year 1, we should expect it to occur in Intercalary
> month 2, year 3. In fact, this Intercalary month has the heading
> Sonno-cingos, which means "Sun-march (step)." It is interesting that the
> word Sonno-cingos is not that different from the Welsh word for the
> solstice, Heul-dro ("Sun-turn") where -dro meaning "turn" comes from the
> root meaning "foot" while -cingos means "step."
>
        But they are hardly cognate!

> 5) As to whether or not the Celts believed the sun to be a divinity - note
> the inscription from Lausanne dedicated to "the genius of the sun and the
> moon."
>
        I've already explained why I think Latin inscriptions make poor
evidence for Celtic concepts, especially in issues of theology. The term
"genius" had a specific meaning in Roman religion, and I am not persuaded
that it meant "god" to the Gauls or other Continental Celts. It didn't
always mean "god" to the Romans, iirc. It could mean spirit.

> In Irish poems, the sun and the moon are frequently styled divinities
>
        Not exactly--they are considered intelligent powers, not gods.

> and there were altars dedicated to the sun even into Christian times. In
> the Carmina Gadelica, the sun (Grian)
>
        The majority of the Carmina poems treat the sun as a feminine
entity.

> is called Suil Dhe Mhoir "eye of the great god," which seems to parallel
> the Vedic notion that the sun is the eye shared by  both Mitra and Varuna.
>
        There you are again, trying to fit the Celtic figures into Roman
niches. And anyway, the Carmina poems date from the Christian period, so one
needs to allow for Christian theology. Depicting the sun as the eye of God
the Creator/Father is typically Christian.

> Note also that Ausonius, a Gallo-Latin poet from Bordeaux wrote the
> following:
> Ausonius [c. 395 A.D.], Commem. Professorum, 4.7-10.
>
> "You are sprung from the Druids of Bayeux,
> if the report does not lie.
> To you is a sacred lineage,
> from the temple of Belenus."
>
> 10.22-30.
> "Nor will I forget
> The old man named Phoebicus,
> who though servant of Belenus
> received no profit thereby
> sprung, it is said, from the Druids
> of Armorica [Brittany],
> he received a chair at Bordeaux
> through the help of his son."
>
> The fact that a priest of Belenus (equated with Apollo) was named
> Phoebicus "Of Phoebus" is interesting, for Phoebus was specfically the
> Greek name for Apollo in his later aspect as a sun god.
>
        Let's see, a poet from the Christian era--Christianity was declared
the offical religion in 325, iirc--speaks in retrospect about two pagan
deities who were associated by the Romans throughout Europe. We know that
the Romans associated Apollo with all Celtic gods with solar aspects. So
this quote is supposed to tell us what about the pre-Roman Gauls of 500
years before the poem was written?

> We also have to deal with the fact that Sulis Minerva has solar
> connections (evidenced in her name, her connection with fires and healing
> hot springs) and may indeed be the Celtic reflex of the Proto Indo
> European "Daughter of the Sun" (Vedic Surya, Baltic Saules' daughter,
> etc). Sulis Minerva seems to share points with the Irish Brigid (her
> protoype, Brigantia, was also styled Minerva), who is connected with
> fires, smiths, and sacred wells.
>
        All this stretching is supposed to prove what? That certain Celtic
deities had associations with the sun? Definitely certain Celtic deities
were supposed to be able to control the power of the sun--but that doesn't
make them identical with the sun!

        Francine Nicholson

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