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CELTIC-L  February 2008

CELTIC-L February 2008

Subject:

Re: John's theory

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Thu, 21 Feb 2008 00:19:51 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (228 lines)

Hi Fióna

> What proofs can you offer that the druids were
> re-adopted by Celtic A groups? And during what time
> period?

You answer that yourself, later in your message -- Celtic A Ireland
adopted the Druids. The time period I estimate to be in the 1st century
A.D. with bards from England and perhaps elsewhere who tagged their own
story elements onto traditional Irish stories dating back much earlier.

> Some evidence suggests that the development of the
> druid caste was west to east, not east to west.

That comes from Caesar (Vi.13):

"It is thought that the druidic system was invented in Britain and then
imported into Gaul. There it is that those wishing to make a more detailed
study of it generally go to learn."

Setting aside any possibilities that he was misinformed, it is possible
that more traditional forms of druidism survived in Britain at that time
-- giving the impression that that is where it originated.

> I am also inclined to think that much of what may have
> become druid religious practice has its roots in the
> native traditions of the late upper Paleolithic,
> through Mesolithic, culminating at the Neolithic. I am
> convinced that the incoming Gaels borrowed heavily
> from the native traditions, and blended the earlier
> traditions with thier own, which later became more
> confounded, confused and circuitous with the coming of
> the early Xn church.

The druids certainly adapted to the beliefs of all Celtic A peoples.
Personally, I cannot see the connections to the Palaeolithic or
Mesolithic, but I know of lots from the Neolithic.

> The Continental draoi and those of Britain and Wales
> may have been eliminated by the coming of the Romans,
> *but* the caste seems to have had a longer history in
> Ireland. As well, Kuno Myer lists in his Primer of
> Irish Metrics, Appendix A, a list of the Filidh Poets
> of Ireland.
>
> The druid caste in Ireland does not seem to parallel
> the druid caste system used in Britain, or on the
> Continent ie Bards, Vates, and Druids. In Ireland,
> there were three main divisions of the druid class:
>
> i) bards, who were considered unskilled and who could
> not command a fee, (they were not of the Aes Dana of
> the Nemed caste); they were considered to have natural
> talent, but no more than wandering minstrels.
>
> ii) Filidh who were Nemed poets of the Aes Dana and
> who underwent years of training, memorizing the
> various poetic forms;
>
> iii)and Druids who held the highest positions.

Yes, a very different tradition with probable earlier connections.

> The Druids were eliminated
>> as a class, but
>> certainly, at least, the bards survived as it is
>> very clearly a bard who
>> discusses the Ogmios metaphor with Lucian of
>> Samothrace in the second
>> century A.D. in Gaul. (I mentioned this in an
>> earlier message).
>
> See above re: druids being eliminated.
> Unless the divisions and training requirements were
> different on the Continent than those in Ireland, I
> think it is unlikely that a bard would be thinking in
> terms of metaphor, let alone be able to discuss them.
> Perhaps the term bard is incorrect in that an outsider
> to the culture could not distinguish between a bard
> and a Vates, or Fili.

The continental bards were different:

"Among all the Gauls in general there are three groups of men who are held
in special honour: the Bards, the Vates, and the Druids. The Bards are
singers and poets, the Vates perform ritual ceremonies and study natural
philosophy, while the Druids engage in moral as well as natural
philosophy. They are considered the most just of men. For this reason they
are entrusted with deciding both private and public disputes, so that in
earlier times they acted as arbitrators in war and made those on the point
of going into battle stop,..."
(Strabo,IV, 4, 4.)


>> We hear that Brennus (the one at Delphi), mocked the
>> Greeks for having deities in human form.
>
> Yes, he did...but Brennus was not a druid, he was a
> war chieftain, and may have been a sacral king, but
> not a druid. The idea of portraying a God in the form
> of a mere human is quite ridiculous to the Celtic way
> of thinking...its like trying to portray the wind as a
> human.
It's difficult to say whether he was just a military commander or was a
ruler. Regardless of whether we think Dunham was right, this period is
much earlier than what he discusses and it seems likely to me that he
would have had considerable knowledge of his people's (the elite) beliefs.
> The gods, in the mystery
>> cults, are not worshipped
>> like the mainsteam Greek religion did, but the
>> devotees reenact the events
>> of the gods that are part of these cults. They saw
>> these events as
>> metaphors of natural laws.
>
> To the best of my knowledge, the Celts (at least the
> Irish ones) did not re-enact events, but rather, had a
> body of sacred myth, which was categorized as primary
> and secondary tales. Primary tales were sacred, and
> told by qualified druids or filidh, in verse form,
> during specific times of the year between Samhain and
> Belteine. No tales were told from after Belteine to
> just before Samhain, as this was a time of work, and
> no one had time to be sitting around in the
> Cheiftain's hall swilling ale and idly listening to
> stories. The primary tales quite often contain
> metaphors but usually regard the keeping of law and
> social customs.

Again, the Irish Druids are a later development and we cannot back track
that easily from the stories written down in the Medival period. It is not
impossible, but one has to be very careful in doing such things -- such as
finding earlier mythological elements that have not been changed. One can
more easily go from the past forward in time, but one can get lost trying
to do it the other way.

>
>> The Greeks all described the Druids in ways that
>> identifies their beliefs
>> as being part of the mystery cults, and all of these
>> are Greek and Roman.
>
> I would be cautious in citing the Greeks and Romans as
> authorities, as they interpretted what they saw
> through their own cultural bias. The Romans of course
> were politically motivated to gain support for an
> unpopular military campaign, and the Greeks, well,
> they were victims of the Celts. In both cases, what
> they recorded must be approached with a degree of
> caution and especially as concerns broad
> generalizations.

This is not so much true with the Greeks, many of whom were well versed in
far-off traditions. Greek culture was not monolithic and their
philosophers made studies of many traditions and adopted or readapted many
of them. They were very complex and diverse people.


> The most notable aspect is that the Druids forbad
>> putting their beliefs in
>> writing. This is shared by all of the Mystery Cults.
>
> What is the earliest date given for writing either in
> Ogham or Latinized Ogham script among the insular
> Celts? My understanding is that Ogham is quite late,
> circa the very early Christian period, and that prior
> to that there was no known writing among the insular
> Celts (except that some among the learned castes could
> read and write Greek and Latin). The Ogham I refer to
> here is that of incised stone or notches in wood. My
> understanding is that all of the incriptions which
> survive to date are in a latinized form, and are not
> in the native language-with the exception of some of
> the Pictish stones, which seem to be a short hand
> form, using many double letters (perhaps a mix of
> Latin and Brythonic).

Ogham is very late. The Celts wrote in their own language (when it suited
them) There is a huge corpus of Celtic coin inscriptions, and even in
Bitain you can find examples of coin inscriptions in Celtic which use some
Greek letters. Theta is fairly common, but you also find Delta and even an
example or two of Digamma. The Longostolates in southern France recorded
their own Celtic names using either Greek or Iberian letters in
combination with Greek words. The earliest coins are 2nd century B.C.


> Tribal ppls often have strong oral traditions, and
> this is true of the insular Celts. As concerns the ban
> on writing, could it be  at that time (pre-Xn) that
> writing just simply didnt exist? - and that the idea
> that they didnt want their teachings falling into the
> wrong hands was again interpretted from within
> cultural bias?

See above.

> Although the writing ban is common to all Mystery
> cults,  that there was a ban on writing among the
> druids, doesnt mean their practices were a Mystery
> cult as this shouldnt be the only criteria. Thats like
> saying everything with wheels must be a car.

The artistic elements do add to the argument and the Gundestrup cauldron
is a bit of an iconographic "Rosetta Stone". You can see that the
influences were Dionysian and Orphic. Also, the belief of the
transmigration of souls was a Pythagoran belief (he started as an Orphic).

> During the period in question, I am thinking it would
> have been quite impractical for Celts to be lugging
> around books- being as they tended to be quite a
> mobile people for the most part. Lugging books about
> while tending cattle gets a bit tedious. In light of
> that,  it is more likely that the documenting
> historian in question saw this lack of books and
> writing through his own cultural bias.

Any records recorded on anything but stone, pottery or metal would not
likely have survived. The earliest inscriptions in a Celtic language
(Lepontic)that we have are from the Golasecca culture in N. Italy and
might date as early as the 7th century B.C. and certainly do date 6th to
5th centuries B.C.

Cheers,

John

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