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CELTIC-L  October 2001

CELTIC-L October 2001

Subject:

Re: It is always the same, Karl

From:

"Mag.phil. Raimund KARL" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Wed, 17 Oct 2001 22:10:51 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (298 lines)

Hi Christobal,

pepd perez schrieb:
>
>   First, pepd is not even a nickname, you can call me
>  Cristobal, or Cristobo.

Sorry about that. I'll try to remember, even though it would be a lot
easier if you would sign your messages.

>    I know you want to be disturbing, and I know it is
>  good to have someone close to remind us all that we
>  must not accept anything as granted. But there is a
> limit: You can`t use "common sense" as a tool to prove
> that Celts were Martians,

Well, I can, if I leave out the evidnece this works out pretty well.
Only as soon as evidence comes into play, my theory crumbles (even
though it is one of my most beloved pet theories;-)

> but neither you can`t say that "there is no proof that Lugh Lambfadha
> and Lugus are the same one".

No, I can very well say that there is no proof that Lugh and Lugus are
the same. The only thing I can't say is that there is no evidnece that
might justify such an equation, as there is evidence that justifies it.
However, it is not at all that strong as was long believed - in fact,
even though I personally do not believe in Maier's critical view, his
view nonetheless has weakened a connection that was long though to be
one of the most indisputeable ones we had about pagan Celtic religion.
I do not subscribe to Maier's position especially because I can hardly
imagine that the god Lugus and the Lugu-sites would not be thrown into
the same pot by the population after a while, given the close similarity
of the word and the element in the site names. Thus, even though perhaps
named originally Lugu-whatever for completely different reasons, these
sites, in my opinion, would soon have accquired an "affinity" with
Lugus, and thus worship of this god will probably have become important
there soon, too.

> Well, if you have to prove something like that beyond any doubt,
> when researching ancient history, you will be in trouble. What would
> it be a proof, then? Along that way, investigation becomes
> eventually a futile effort.

One can be of differing opinions about that, and especially about how
careful one must be and how much evidence there is necessary, and on
what methodical grounds one should operate in ones research before a
valid conclusion can be reached. In my opinion, simply taking such
equations as those of Lugh to Lugus for granted because they fit well
with what we want to find out in the first place is risky, to say the
least.

> If we can`t know anything, then just read epic Irish books as (very
> good) literature, and stop wasting money to dig up useless engraved
> stones,

See, Christobal, there isn't only black and white, not only we can say
or we can't, but there are millions of shades of grey in between these
two extremes. Things might be more or less likely, there may be only
some or many objections to a theory, and something that might have been
accepted as almost a fact yesterday can be demonstrably wrong today.
Most of us who are in the actual research are cautious because we have
found out that our academic ancestors were quick to draw wideranging
conclusions that, in the meantime, most often had, in the best cases, to
be modified considerably to be in accordance with new facts, in the
worst cases been shown to have been outright machinations for political
purposes. And we do this to find out more about the past than those that
came before us knew, which often means to have to do away with what they
said because in the light of new evidence or with new insights from new
research, what these before us said can no longer be accepted as acurate
descriptuions of the past.

> or statues of a man who bears a wheel (I thought that was the same
> that depicted in the Gundestrup cauldron, but of course I may be
> wrong).

See, this is one point. Fifty years ago, no one would have seriously
doubted that all depictions of a man with a wheel from northwestern
Europe would be those of the same deity, the "wheel-god". This was based
on the assumption that, in fact, all the people who lived across most of
northwestern Europe shared the same culture. Nowadays, it can be shown
that these people across northwestern Europe may have shared a lot of
cultural elements, but that there also were a lot of very considerable
differences between them, which make it likely that they did not share
the same culture, but rather only had closely related cultures - which
in turn means, that we can no longer be sure that every depiction of a
person with a wheel necessarily had to be a depiction of the same
wheel-god, as the people who made the one depiction might well have
meant something completely different than those who made a very similar
depicition a generation earlier and a hundred kilometers away.

This might seem as if this would be a loss of knowledge to you, but in
fact it is only a loss of security but a gain of knowledge, as it adds
complexity to a picture that was rather simple and two-dimensional
before, and we simply only didn't know about the possible differences.
This makes explanations harder, but not impossible, and it makes them
more accurate, even though more confusing.

>  There are some facts that we all, Celtic-maniacs, assume when
> approach this sort of things: first, Western Europe is just a small
> region. If a belief was accepted in Gaul, then very probably it was
> also common in the Isles, and Bohemia (or Hungary, or whatever they
> called it).

No, for several reasons:

First, Western Europe in Antiquity was not just a small region, but in
fact a horribly large one. Even when riding, it took you weeks to get
from the British Channel to the Mediterrenean Sea. A journey from what
now is Vienna to what now is Salzburg, today a mere three hour ride by
car even if you don't go faster than the speed limit, was a ten day
journey on foot for someone who was a good walker, and a seven day
journey by horse - under favourable weather conditions that is, of
course. Getting from northern Spain to Hungary would have taken between
five weeks and two months by horse, considerably longer on foot. Thus,
travelling from Spain to Hungary and back would have been a quarter of a
years journey, if not a half years journey. That's a horribly large
region, both for persons and for information to travel.

Second, if it was just such a small region, why did the Romans, who were
equally close to Gaul as the British were, a different culture and
different beliefs? And what about the Bohemians or Hungarians or even
Austrians, who are much closer to Italy than to Britain? Why should they
have had the same beliefs as the British, where the Romans were so much
closer? Why, in fact, do the Ligurians and the Aquitanians, which were
even much closer to the Gauls then the British were, have different
beliefs?

Third, we are talking about at least several hundred years here, the
Irish beliefs first being attested in about 700 AD, while the Gaulish
beliefs you are talking about date from between a Millenium and 750
years earlier. Now, did the people who lived in the 10th to 13th century
AD believe the same things as we do? If not, why should we assume that
the ancient Gauls and the Early Irish did believe the same things?

These are only three of several more reasons that could be named as to
why it is in no way justified to simply assume that this was a small
region in which people all believed the same because they were so close
to each other anyways. They were not. As such, we need pretty damn good
arguments to claim that there were any connections between beliefs
separated by such a huge distance in both space and time.

> We know, through placenames, and personal names, and ethnic names,
> that people living all that area were mainly the same.

No, we know from the sources that they spoke related languages, which
may have been mutually understandable over most of the area, but this is
not guaranteed, with those few hints that we have.

> . Second, it is (relatively) acceptable using sources from, say,
> engraved stones and the Book of Invasions simultaneously, because
> beliefs can survive for centuries with minor changes.

They can, but they not necessarily do. For the drawbacks of using Irish
monastioc literature, see McCone's Pagan Past and Christian Present in
Early Irish Literature, for example. Much which might seem as "Pagan"
belief at the first look actually might as well turn out to be good
christian belief of teh Early Middle Ages.

> Popular religion in wide areas of Europe was still pre-christian
> not long ago.

That is what you would like to have it, but in fact, much more of
allegedly "pre-christian" elements in popular religion has been shown to
be actually pretty much christian lately, with more thorough research by
folklorists and European Ethnologists.

>  It makes no sense, to me, comparing our generally accepted ideas
> about, for instance, identifying Gaulish "Mars" with Lugus, and
> the theories about the celts developed along the 19th century.

But in fact, this identification of Gaulish Mars with Lugus and it's
equation with Irish Lug is one of those theories about the Celts
developed in the 19th century.

> No one here is defending "volkgeist", as an explanation for anything.

No one said that anyone would do.

> And we have all given up tracking old migrations and the spread of
> Celts, as they used to do.

Which isn't the point though. It is fine to attempt to find out if there
were any migrations and if there were, who actually was migrating for
what reason. The problem with migrations was also that they were also
only assumed, not documented by the evidence most often, which is why
they came that much out of fashion nowadays.

> All what we want, now, it is to make an acceptably reliable
> picture of celtic Pantheon of gods and godesses.

Well, I understand that you want to make such a picture, and I would
very much love to get such a picture myself (and of course, I do have
one for myself, to a certain extent). But, in fact, we would have the
same problem with the assumptions as we had in case of the migrations
(and with those pretty old pictures of "Celtoic Religion" we had only 50
years ago). Such easy and quick assumptions have much too often been
made.

A pretty good example are all those sun-god ideas. Most of them are
based on that thin a layer of evidence, a layer that is virtually
inexistent. Chris has posted those Irish texts of the Christian god as
the sun lately, and interpreted this as possible hints at a
pre-christian sun-god in Ireland (which is no doubt a possibility).
However, this has reminded me of a song I often sang as a kid in church,
which had the text:

Du bist das Licht der Welt     /  you are the light of the world
du bist der Glanz der uns      /  you are the brightness that
unseren Tag erhellt            /  lightens up our days
Du bist der Freudenschein      /  you are the shine of joy
der uns so glücklich macht     /  which makes us so happy
dringst selber in uns ein      /  which enters us
Du bist der Stern in der Nacht /  you are the star at night
der aller Finsternis wehrt     /  who defends against all darkness
bist wie ein Feuer entfacht    /  you are enflamed like a fire
das sich aus Liebe verzehrt    /  that burns out of love
du das Licht der Welt          /  you, the light of the world
(the awkward translation is mine)

I remember the text pretty well, because it had that kind of beat that I
liked then, and I used to sing it over and over again. Still, I never
thought of Christ as a sun-god, nor do I think the author, who wrote
that text in the early seventees, ever did. He simply used the sun and
the fire and the warmth they give as a metaphor for the love of Christ
and the warmth it gives to the faithful (which I no longer am).
Now, why should the Irish monks who wrote about god as the sun not have
used similar metaphors, why do we need to assume that they somehow
hinted at a prechristian sun-god by using such descriptions as god as
the king of the sun?

As such, Irish monastic texts depicting God as the sun are hardly solid
evidence for a pre-christian sun-worship in Ireland. Evidence for
sun-worship in ancient Gaul and ancient Ireland is scarce at best, still
every second Celtic god is described as "having a solar aspect" on
rather dubious interpretations of wheels-as-sun-symbols, or
horses-as-sun-symbols, or something-else-as-sun-symbols, while we have
actually almost nothing that hints at that any of these interpretations
might be true other than those few references in overtly christian
monastic texts.

Even though you might not like it, the situation in regard to documented
evidence is hardly better for any other "Celtic" god. As such, we might
end up with not being able to say much if anything at all about "Celtic"
gods, in fact not even if something as "Celtic gods" existed at all. But
in the end, isn't it better to know that we don't know this rather than
to delude ourselves into that we know while in fact only impressing a
completely "unceltic" modern construct on the past that has nothing at
all to do with the beliefs of any Iron Age people living anywhere in
Europa a bit more than twothousand years ago?

>  Before you ask me "How can you be sure that popular religion was
> non-Christian?" let me tell you one notice about Galicia: people
> who lived by the river Tamega, used to slay a chicken when there
> were floods, in order to get the river calm again.

And why do you think that is a pre-christian practice? Since when do
people do this in this area? Might it not be that they kill a chicken
that represents the devil in order to threaten away the devil that
aroused the river? Or that they slay the chicken to get rid of the had
that has cast an evil spell on that river? This practice might in fact
be based on very much christian concepts, it only seems strange to your
modern perception of what christianity is.

> Another common practice: casting the statue of the local saint to
> the river, when droughts. Or diping it in the sea (this one is an
> Asturian usage) asking for a fruitful fish.
>  See what I mean? Even after 2000 years of Christian influence!

No, I don't see. As I said, much of this might be very much based on
christian superstitions. Wasn't St.Peter a fisherman? As such, asking
for the aid of the holy fisherman by dipping his statue into the see
might at least as much be a christian concept as going to church and
pray for good fishing. One would need to look at this at much more
detail, to see if there are any prechristian elements in this, and if
they still have any considerable influence, or if they are not that
thoroughly christianised to have nothing at all to do with the origins
they came from, even when a pre-christian origin can be documented for
them. Especially in the last two cases you mentioned, one need not even
go that far to be able to see that these are, in fact, thoroughly
christian concepts that, even if they might come from an originally
pagan practice, have nothing at all to do with the pagan original, but
are fully christianised.

RAY
________________________________________________________________________
Mag.phil. Raimund KARL <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Universität Wien, Institut für Alte Geschichte
A-1010 Wien, Dr. Karl Lueger Ring 1
Privat: A-1120 Wien, Hasenhutgasse 7-11/9/4
Tel/AB/Fax: (+43 1) 8103629 oder mobil: (+43 676) 3048830
________________________________________________________________________

     Besuchen Sie die Homepage der Studienrichtung Keltologie unter
       Visit the Celtic Studies at Vienna University homepage at
            <http://www.univie.ac.at/keltologie/index.html>
________________________________________________________________________

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