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CELTIC-L  May 1999

CELTIC-L May 1999

Subject:

Re: *Gaelic* Good and Evil?

From:

Graeme Bailey <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Graeme Bailey <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 May 1999 20:11:06 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (330 lines)

At 08:16 AM 26-05-1999 +0200, Raimund wrote:
>Graeme Bailey wrote:
<...>
>> "The tumuli in Ireland may be related to burial customs like
>> the eye-witness description of a pagan ritual
>> and sacrifice on the Volga River in 922 AD "
>>
>> Isn't this a sort of 'rhetorical question'?
>> (Notice the word 'may' and the word 'like')
>
>Yes, but a sort of rhetorical question that implies that the two
>practices were similar or even the same, something for which we have
>absolutely no reason to assume this, as the Irish tumuli you mention
>were built some millenia BC while the Rus burial practice recorded by
>Ibn Fadlan took place almost a millenium AD, and also some thousand
>miles away from Ireland.

Should I have used the example from the Iliad, the scene is remote,
but the plot is similar? ie Similar ceremonies must have happened
from pre-800 BC to 922 AD?

Please note: My thinking in these
whole series of questions was like this...
1. Some people today are attracted by the novelty of 'paganism'
even to the extent of reviving what they believe to be these ancient
religions.
2. They don't seem to realise that these religions had some very ugly
features.
3. We have relatively scant *written* evidence for the pagan beliefs
of the early Celts, compared to an absolute mountain
of written evidence for the Christian faith.

I am still waiting for someone to try to convince me of
the reason why any of these pagan religions should be re-introduced,
or even what features of any were desirable and 'good' ?

You agree the Iliad was written sometime before 800 BC?
In it are pagan religious ideas which are curiously similar
to what we know of the early Celts?
eg war with religious overtones, the afterlife,
burial customs including human sacrifice,
burial mounds, chariots, religious motives surrounding fighting,
cauldrons, 'Gods' frequently involved in human affairs etc.

Notice I am *not* saying I believe the various pagan societies
to be the *same*, just that there are some *features* that are
apparently very similar...

I was trying to suggest that Christianity in its original form
unpolluted by later doctrines... is *fundamentally*
different from these pagan religions...

In the light of some recent topics,
The example of Patroclus' send-off (from the Iliad)
shows the existence of a real faith in the hereafter,
(putting the fire out with *wine* ??? :-)
combined with some interesting
points touching on washing, bones in jars, burial mounds, Hell etc
and provides an example
the religious thinking behind these (Greek) pagan's world-view...
In this (earlier-than-Irish-Celt's :-) example,
Before the ceremony, a big cauldron  is
brought, and Achilles is urged to wash the clotted
gore from his body... but he vows ...
"no water shall come near my head until I have burnt
Patroclus, ...and made him a mound...."

so the hero's body is burnt with a big fire,
with some considerable organisation and effort.
Trees are felled for a 30 m x 30 m pyre,
sheep, cattle, dogs, and horses are killed,
then twelve innocent lives are sacrificed,
"he put a dozen brave men, the sons of noble Trojans,
to the sword, and set the pyre alight so that the
pitiless flames might feed on them..."
then Achilles says (to the corpse of his friend, Patroclus)

"All hail from me, Patroclus, in the very Halls of Hades!
... twelve gallant Trojans, sons of nobles, will be
consumed in the same flames as you...
but ... Hector... I will throw him to the dogs to eat..."

(As in many early documents, illustrating the fear that one's bones
would be left for the dogs to eat...)

(Back to the funeral :-)
the fire is then symbolically put out with wine,
'with tears in their eyes, they collected the bones of their
dead comrade in a golden vase, sealed it with a double layer of fat...
and a large mound is made, surrounded with a
stone revetment..."
(Notice archaeologists... burial mounds, bones in jars...:-)

On the question of scholarly infallibility,
does anyone remember the famous 'Urnfield' theory,
(so-called from typical cremation cemeteries)
and which was abandoned *along with the evidence*?
or were just the explanations changed
of how these burial customs and their
similarities to similar customs in other places
just actually happened to be 'local',
spreading out as a 'local' custom,
and not derived from elsewhere as the scholars previously thought.

Come to think of it, about scholars sometimes being wrong,
anyone remember the Piltdown man?

About the geographic limits of Celtic cultures
and territories in approx 200 BC?
Didn't they stretch from Ireland to Turkey,
from Scotland to Northern Italy, even to the Iberian peninsula?
Didn't the ancient authors from Rome, Greece etc refer to these
Celts, and wouldn't this imply some reciprocal knowledge
or influence or exchange of ideas as well as trade goods?
When I read about the Celts, don't the authors continually compare
things from different areas, even from different times?

>Taken together with your other points, this creates a picture that
>implies a single pagan religion which centred on killing people for
>religious reasons, something which, in that way, definitly wasn't true.
>>

My original theme was about *relative* values,
eg the 'glorification of peace, love and mercy'
versus *various* pagan examples of the glorification
of war, and the killing of people
for various reasons,
eg for religious reasons,
fun, sport, entertainment ans service in the afterlife etc

<...>
>> the customs while picturesque and fascinating
>> may not be so always be so pleasant to experience in real life,

>I even would agree with you that what has come of it was not what Christ
>had intended, but that's not the point. The point is that we do not know
>what his intentions were, and they are also not plainly evident from
>what was written down in the bible.
<...>
The question of Christ's intentions can be found
by actually *reading* them in the New Testament :-)

>What I think is the problem is that you have only little idea about what
>happened in the past - most of what you know seems to be either taken
>froim basic history classes at school level or rather general books
>about history.

This is certainly true! :-)
I believe that a *lot* of things happened
in the past of which I am totally unaware :-)
I have read quite a lot though, and possibly for many years longer
than yourself... :-)
which of course is not really relevant to truth,
or whether any understanding is involved...?
eg your comments on the most important book of history
show that you have only superficial understanding of what
is actually contained in the New Testament,?
or do you have a bias in this area?

>From what you have written, I bet you've never read a
>detailed treatment about any of the people you wrote about, or if then
>only such by an extremely biased author.

This looks almost like a sweeping generalisation?
Almost like 'bias'... what is wrong with asking questions about
horrible pagan customs, even if they're pure Celt?
I was trying to illustrate that many
practices from the past were undesirable...

>Thus, you miss the knowledge
>necessary to make valid conclusions about the ideals and ideas of such
>societies, but nonetheless you claim things about them or their belief
>system.

In the example of Genghis Khan, how much knowledge do you
need???? to form a strong opinion that his 'values' should not be
praised, or his social, ritual or other habits should not be
emulated...
BTW I was reading from what is supposed to be the most thorough
treatment of GK, translated from the Dutch

>As such, most of your statements are based on preconceived ideas
>you have about those societies, and this you use to make judgements
>about the "value" of their morality, and conclude that their morality
>was inferior to "christian" morality.

I have said (quite a few times),
that I do *not* condone
the behaviour of those who have committed terrible deeds in
either pagan cultures, or in the name of 'Christianity'...
this is the point...
call this 'POINT A'

that the words of Christ, and his apostles are written down, and
therefore are a safeguard against those who would pervert them,
and a safeguard against new and strange doctrines...
call this 'POINT B'


>> I also should have put quotes consistently around the word 'values'
>> "The general thrust behind these issues is for people to compare
>> how pagan 'values' and practices compare with Christian values
>> and customs, which are *also* part of our cultural background."
>
>If you compare these values, I won't say anything against it. It is
>where you deduct a superiority that I will and do object, as long as you
>can't bring any arguments that are not again based on your own value
>system.
see 'POINT B'

>I do not think it is correct or acceptable
>to say that what we think is "superior". It is different, and more to
>our liking, but it is not <emphasis> the sole solution<end emphasis> for
>human interaction.

Well, the words of Christ summing up the way to live and behave
are pretty hard to beat?
Love God with all your heart etc , and love your neighbour as yourself...
"Who is my neighbour?"
(in context then follows the story about a neighbour, a man from another
'socio-cultural group', a Samaritan, who showed up the callousness
of the uncaring Jewish temple worker, and the unfeeling Jewish priest,
and who stopped and cared for the robbery victim...)
in Christian-bias-speak
"The parable of the Good Samaritan"

This story illustrates plainly Christ's message that one's neighbour
that we should love as much as ourselves
includes even other religions and to people not in 'the family'
or in the same political or cultural group...

>Other systems might be as fine or even better for
>others, even though we would not want to live in them.
>>
>> I confess I had in mind the point I was trying to stress about
>> the glorification of war in most 'pagan' cultures,
>
>Again, there's no reason to automatically assume that this is because of
>"religious" ideas.

I didn't assume it 'automatically'...
The following are not my words, but come from
the literature about the Celts produced by 'scholars'?
(maybe even some archaeologists? ):

From The Goddodin...
"They loved fighting ... in the attack.
The men who would not flee bore no shame."

The 2nd century BC Nicander of Colophon
noted that the Celts practised divination at the tombs of their
dead warriors...
...stone pillars to take human skulls...
a severed head is a common theme... the sanctuaries
suggest that their demanding and pitiless religion had a
blood-thirsty fascination with deified warrior-heroes...
for Teutates a man was drowned in a tub,
for Esus a man was hung in a tree... while for Taranis
several were burnt in a hollow tree...
Caesar describes ... when a war began... they would dedicate
the trophies .. ask their gods for victory with either
a sacrifice or a vow to sacrifice...
then afterwards kill the 'living spoils'...
(This implies that their gods required blood, ie lives,
and would be satisfied with the substitutes,
or the promise of the substitutes?)

"certain shared cultural features, like the custom of head-hunting
which was also practised by the Scordisi ... prove that ideas were
exchanged ... a torc from Cibar Varos is the earliest Celtic object
from Thrace..."

Raimund.. how far is Thrace from Ireland? 1000 m?

In my untutored opinion, the sacrifice of a living person
whether 'because of religious ideas' or not, is either murder,
or just sheer hypocritical murder...
take your pick :-)

>Most christian cultures of the last two millenia
>actually glorified war in a very similar way than those pagan cultures
>you mentioned did.

exaggerating? 2 millenia?
see 'POINT A' and see 'POINT B' :-)

>> and the claim I was making that the Christian New Testament
>> which contains the fundamental doctrines of Jesus Christ,
>> and the writings of Paul do not teach war but rather,
>> patience, humility, love, peace, etc....
>
>And again, I do have to note that a good deal of christians, even such
>that are theologians, will say something quite contrary to what you say.

see 'POINT A' no exceptions for murder
even if it is called 'Christian' murder
and 'POINT B' later doctrines are *not* Christian , :-)

<...>
>The point I wanted to make is that all of those people you
>mentioned in fact were not interested in crushing heretics or converting
>heathens at all cost (even at the cost of the lives of those who
>wouldn't want to convert), but were rather tolerant in regard to
>religious beliefs.

Doesn't the story of the 40 beautiful girls sacrificed on
Genghis Khan's grave *mean* anything to you?
Have you no spiritual discernment? No moral fibre?
No conscience?

Get real! Why will you not say that this behaviour
is at least 'wrong' if not 'disgusting'?

>Those people either wanted to conquer or to get money
>or valuables out of their neighbours, but in no were bothered about
>which religion somebody had.

War, Rape, Kidnap and plunder, but no concern about God?
No plea of 'self-defense'?
The statement of yours about 'They just just wanted...'
is sufficient to justify these patterns of behaviour?

Graeme M. Bailey <[log in to unmask]>
Graphics, 2D/3D and Fine Art especially Portraits

see Portrait examples at
http://fastinternet.net.au/~gbailey/GBPage1.html
or the general page which includes paintings, 3D, illustration at
http://fastinternet.net.au/~gbailey

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