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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 13:31:03 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (114 lines)

Hi Stiof,

> Is there any one point (or several) you can make that shows that druidic
> practice can be
> linked *directly* to the use of any one or several motifs?

Probably not. The difficulty is that actual druidic practice is virtually
impossible to demonstrate with material remains. There are those "ritual
spoons":

http://www.lugodoc.demon.co.uk/Druids/spoons.gif

that have been associated with druids, but even assuming that this
association is correct, no one has been able to identify what the druidic
practice would have been. They have two features that overlap considerably
on all of the examples: a small hole near the edge of one of the pair, and
a cross on the other. The decoration on the handles can vary.

It seems likely that the hole and the cross with its solar symbol at the
centre would be connected. We could thus imagine that the hole was used
for sighting, or for light to pass through which would shine on the centre
or on one of the quadrants. This would associate the function of the
spoons with the lituus, the J-shaped staff first used by the Etruscans and
continued by the Romans to quarter the heavens and in augury -- although
it was later used as symbol. The spoons are mainly an insular phenomenon
with only one outside example (France). What would remain would be to
explain why the hole is positioned at the edge and just how the two spoons
were aligned to get a variable result.

I think that another possibility is that the hole was used to drain a
liquid which would result in restricting the level of the liquid in that
spoon. If, then, something was floated on the surface and the other spoon
was placed over the first spoon and then inveted, then the floated object
would come to rest somewhere in the quadrant or on the solar symbol. If
this is true, then some sort of divination would be the most likely
function.

I find it rather synchronistic that Ray mentions Manching as just before
that I had decided to use an object found there (1984) to demonstrate a
link to the mystery cults and to the Gundestrup imagery. The object is a
gold foil-covered bough which Vincent Megaw (_Celtic Art_, 2001) gives an
allusion to Sir James Frazer by calling it "the golden bough":

http://tinyurl.com/2qxuv2

He dates it "to around the third century B.C." and says that it came from
a storage pit. The branch is wood with bronze buds and the gold foil is
0.001 to 0.06 mm thick. "On the surface can be made out a pattern of
concentric circles and triskels, Ferdinand Maier, for many years director
of the Manching excavations, believes that the idea for making such a
thing was borrowed from the Greek colony of Tarentum [Taras]in the south
of Italy, where between the late fourth and early second centuries BC, the
goldsmiths were renowned for their skill in gilding bronze leaves for
funerals and other solemn occaisons. On the other hand, the decoration on
the Manching branch recalls the so-called 'plastic' style of contemporary
knobbed arm-and foot-rings as well as the great iron pair of brooches from
Conflans in the Aube. As to what purpose the branch was put, images of
Druids and scared groves inescapably come to mind, although despite the
huge area which has been uncovered at Manching, there has been no other
sign of ritual activity."

The leaves are ivy-shaped (of the flower stem leaf):

http://www.dgsgardening.btinternet.co.uk/ivy.JPG

Between the blooming and the berries of this shoot is the winter months
representing Dionysos' epiphany and the ivy "like Dionysos it could well
be called the 'twice born'" (Kerényi)

The bough can be favorably compared with the one illustrated on the
"procession" plate of the Gundestrup cauldron:

http://www.sheshen-eceni.co.uk/images/tgc_001.JPG

where it is used to divide the two registers.

A coin from Naxos, on the west coast of Sicily and dated 430-415 B.C.
shows another such bough along with the Dionysian imagery of the Selinus,
thyrsus, kantharos and Herm:

http://imagedb.coinarchives.com/img/nac/029/00096q00.jpg

The abandonment of the storage pit at Manching brings to mind other
abandoned grain storage pits where a ritual took place immediately
afterward. Other examples of branches have been found (although not so
splendid). One object was a cow's skull -- which might have something to
do with death from illness of the owner of the pit as cow sacrifices are
thought to be related to matters of health. Another object was a raven
with its wings pinned open -- which could signify that the owner died in
battle. The source of these was a BAR publication that discussed the
contents of pits -- it has been many years since I read it and the title
and author escapes me.

I would take the bough deposit to represent an undifferentiated death and
resurrection of the pits former owner -- something that might signify a
natural death. Of course, the example from Manching seems to indicate that
this was not just anyone, but someone of importance warranting such an
expenditure.

As I said at the start of this message, material evidence of druidic
activities would be very hard to find and this is about the best that I
can offer. The adoption of themes in art is an entirely different matter
and the makers of such art must have had some familiarity, at least, with
the religious nature of the designs that they evolved so cleverly over the
centuries. This shows up very well in Armorican coin designs where
considerable thought goes into the way they are developed and this I have
tracked in the almost minute to minute thoughts of specific individuals.

Cheers,

John

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