THE RELIGION OF THE ANCIENT CELTS
Animal worship pure
and simple had declined among the Celts of historic
times, and animals were now regarded mainly as symbols or attributes of
divinities. The older cult had been connected with the pastoral stage in which
the animals were divine, or with the agricultural stage in which they
represented the corn-spirit, and perhaps with totemism. We shall study here (1)
traces of the older animal cults; (2) the transformation of animal gods into
symbols; and (3) traces of totemism.
The presence of a bull with three cranes (Tarvos Trigaranos) on the Paris
altar, along with the gods Esus, Juppiter, and Vulcan, suggests that it was a
divine animal, or the subject of a divine myth. As has been seen, this bull may
be the bull of the Táin bó Cuailgne. Both it and its opponent were
reincarnations of the swine-herds of two gods. In the Irish sagas reincarnation
is only attributed to gods or heroes, and this may point to the divinity of the
bulls. We have seen that this and another altar may depict some myth in which
the bull was the incarnation of a tree or vegetation spirit. The divine nature
of the bull is attested by its presence on Gaulish coins as a religious symbol,
and by images of the animal with three horns--an obvious symbol of divinity.1
On such an image in bronze the Cimbri, Celticised Germans, swore. The images are
pre-Roman, since they are found at Hallstadt and La Tène. Personal names like
Donnotaurus (the equivalent of the Donn Taruos of the Táin) or
Deiotaros ("divine bull"), show that men were called after the divine
Similarly many place-names in which the word taruos occurs, in Northern
Italy, the Pyrenees, Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere, suggest that the places
bearing these names were sites of a bull cult or that some myth, like that
elaborated in the Táin, had been there localised.3
But, as possibly in the case of Cúchulainn and the bull, the animal tended to
become the symbol of a god, a tendency perhaps aided by the spread of Mithraism
with its symbolic bull. A god Medros leaning on a bull is represented at
Haguenau, possibly a form of Mider or of Meduris, a surname of Toutatis, unless
Medros is simply Mithras.4
Echoes of the cult of the bull or cow are heard in Irish tales of these animals
brought from the síd, or of magic bulls or of cows which produced
enormous supplies of milk, or in saintly legends of oxen leading a saint to the
site of his future church.5
These legends are also told of the swine,6
and they perhaps arose when a Christian church took the place of the site of a
local animal cult, legend fusing the old and the new cult by making the once
divine animal point out the site of the church. A late relic of a bull cult may
be found in the carnival procession of the Bœuf Gras at Paris.
A cult of a swine-god Moccus has been referred to. The boar was a divine
symbol on standards, coins, and altars, and many bronze images of the animal
have been found. These were temple treasures, and in one case the boar is
But it was becoming the symbol of a goddess, as is seen by the altars on which
it accompanies a goddess, perhaps of fertility, and by a bronze image of a
goddess seated on a boar. The altars occur in Britain, of which the animal may
be the emblem--the "Caledonian monster" of Claudian's poem.8
The Galatian Celts abstained from eating the swine, and there has always been a
prejudice against its flesh in the Highlands. This has a totemic appearance.9
But the swine is esteemed in Ireland, and in the texts monstrous swine are the
staple article of famous feasts.10
These may have been legendary forms of old swine-gods, the feasts recalling
sacrificial feasts on their flesh. Magic swine were also the immortal food of
the gods. But the boar was tabu to certain persons, e.g. Diarmaid, though
whether this is the attenuated memory of a clan totem restriction is uncertain.
In Welsh story the swine comes from Elysium--a myth explaining the origin of its
domestication, while domestication certainly implies an earlier cult of the
animal. When animals come to be domesticated, the old cult restrictions, e.g.
against eating them, usually pass away. For this reason, perhaps, the Gauls, who
worshipped an anthropomorphic swine-god, trafficked in the animal and may have
Welsh story also tells of the magic boar, the Twrch Trwyth,
hunted by Arthur, possibly a folk-tale reminiscence of a boar divinity.12
Place-names also point to a cult of the swine, and a recollection of its
divinity may underlie the numerous Irish tales of magical swine.13
The magic swine which issued from the cave of Cruachan and destroyed the young
crops are suggestive of the theriomorphic corn-spirit in its occasional
Bones of the swine, sometimes cremated, have been found in Celtic graves in
Britain and at Hallstadt, and in one case the animal was buried alone in a
tumulus at Hallstadt, just as sacred animals were buried in Egypt, Greece, and
When the animal was buried with the dead, it may have been as a sacrifice to the
ghost or to the god of the underworld.
The divinity of the serpent is proved by the occurrence of a horned serpent
with twelve Roman gods on a Gallo-Roman altar.16
In other cases a horned or ram's-headed serpent appears as the attribute of a
god, and we have seen that the ram's-headed serpent may be a fusion of the
serpent as a chthonian animal with the ram, sacrificed to the dead. In Greece
Dionysus had the form both of a bull and a horned serpent, the horn being
perhaps derived from the bull symbol. M. Reinach claims that the primitive
elements of the Orphic myth of the Thracian Dionysos-Zagreus -- divine serpents
producing an egg whence came the horned snake Zagreus, occur in dislocated form
in Gaul. There enlacing serpents were believed to produce a magic egg, and there
a horned serpent was worshipped, but was not connected with the egg. But they may once
have been connected, and if so, there may be a common foundation both for the
Greek and the Celtic conceptions in a Celtic element in Thrace.17
The resemblances, however, may be mere coincidences, and horned serpents are
known in other mythologies--the horn being perhaps a symbol of divinity. The
horned serpent sometimes accompanies a god who has horns, possibly Cernunnos,
the underworld god, in accordance with the chthonian character of the serpent.18
In the Cúchulainn cycle Loeg on his visit to the Other-world saw two-headed
serpents--perhaps a further hint of this aspect of the animal.19
In all these instances of animal cults examples of the tendency to make the
divine animal anthropomorphic have been seen. We have now to consider some
instances of the complete anthropomorphic process.
An old bear cult gave place to the cult of a bear goddess and probably of a
god. At Berne--an old Celtic place-name meaning "bear"--was found a
bronze group of a goddess holding a patera with fruit, and a bear approaching
her as if to be fed. The inscription runs, Deae Artioni Licinia Sabinilla.20
A local bear-cult had once existed at Berne, and is still recalled in the
presence of the famous bears there, but the divine bear had given place to a
goddess whose name and symbol were ursine. From an old Celtic Artos, fem.
Arta, "bear," were derived various divine names. Of these Dea
Artio(n) means "bear goddess," and Artaios, equated with Mercury, is
perhaps a bear god.21
Another bear goddess, Andarta, was honoured at Die (Drôme), the word perhaps
meaning "strong bear"--And- being an augmentive.22
Numerous place-names derived from Artos perhaps witness to a widespread
cult of the bear, and the word also occurs in Welsh, and Irish personal names--Arthmael,
Arthbiu, and possibly Arthur, and the numerous Arts of Irish texts. Descent from
the divine bear is also signified in names like Welsh Arthgen, Irish Artigan,
from Artigenos, "son of the bear." Another Celtic name for
"bear" was the Gaulish matu Irish math, found in Matugenos,
"son of the bear," and in MacMahon, which is a corrupt form of Mac-math-ghamhain,
"son of the bear's son," or "of the bear."23
Similarly a cult of the stag seems to have given place to that of a god with
stag's horns, represented on many bas-reliefs, and probably connected with the
The stag, as a grain-eater, may have been regarded as the embodiment of the
corn-spirit, and then associated with the under-earth region whence the corn
sprang, by one of those inversions of thought so common in the stage of
transition from animal gods to gods with animal symbols. The elk may have been
worshipped in Ireland, and a three antlered stag is the subject of a story in
the Fionn saga.25
Its third antler, like the third horn of bull or boar, may be a sign of
The horse had also been worshipped, but a goddess Epona (Gaul. epo-s,
"horse"), protectress of horses and asses, took its place, and had a
far-spread cult. She rides a horse or mare with its foal, or is
seated among horses, or feeds horses. A representation
of a mare suckling a foal--a design analogous to those in which Epona feeds
foals--shows that her primitive equine nature had not been forgotten.26
The Gauls were horse-rearers, and Epona was the goddess of the craft; but, as in
other cases, a cult of the horse must have preceded its domestication, and its
flesh may not have been eaten, or, if so, only sacramentally.27
Finally, the divine horse became the anthropomorphic horse-goddess. Her images
were placed in stables, and several inscriptions and statuettes have been found
in such buildings or in cavalry barracks.28
The remains of the cult have been found in the Danube and Rhine valleys, in
Eastern Gaul, and in Northern Italy, all Celtic regions, but it was carried
everywhere by Roman cavalry recruited from the Celtic tribes.29
Epona is associated with, and often has, the symbols of the Matres, and
one inscription reads Eponabus, as if there were a group of goddesses
A goddess who promoted the fertility of mares would easily be associated with
goddesses of fertility. Epona may also have been confused with a river-goddess
conceived of as a spirited steed. Water-spirits took that shape, and the Matres
were also river-goddesses.
A statuette of a horse, with a dedication to a god Rudiobus, otherwise
unknown, may have been carried processionally, while a mule has a dedication to
Segomo, equated elsewhere with Mars. A mule god Mullo, also equated with Mars,
is mentioned on several inscriptions.31
The connection with Mars may have been found in the fact that the October horse was sacrificed to him
for fertility, while the horse was probably associated with fertility among the
Celts. The horse was sacrificed both by Celts and Teutons at the Midsummer
festival, undoubtedly as a divine animal. Traces of the Celtic custom survive in
local legends, and may be interpreted in the fuller light of the Teutonic
accounts. In Ireland a man wearing a horse's head rushed through the fire, and
was supposed to represent all cattle; in other words, he was a surrogate for
them. The legend of Each Labra, a horse which lived in a mound and issued from
it every Midsummer eve to give oracles for the coming year, is probably
connected with the Midsummer sacrifice of the horse.32
Among the Teutons the horse was a divine sacrificial animal, and was also sacred
to Freyr, the god of fertility, while in Teutonic survivals a horse's head was
placed in the Midsummer fire.33
The horse was sporadically the representative of the corn-spirit, and at Rome
the October horse was sacrificed in that capacity and for fertility.34
Among the Celts, the horse sacrificed at Midsummer may have represented the
vegetation-spirit and benefited all domestic animals--the old rite surviving in
an attenuated form, as described above.
Perhaps the goddess Damona was an animal divinity, if her name is derived
from damatos, "sheep," cognate to Welsh dafad,
"sheep," and Gaelic damh, "ox." Other divine animals,
as has been seen, were associated with the waters, and the use of beasts and
birds in divination doubtless points to their divine character. A cult of
bird-gods may lurk behind the divine name Bran, "raven," and the
reference to the magic birds of Rhiannon in the Triads.
Animal worship is connected with totemism, and certain things point to its
existence among the Celts, or to the existence of conditions out of which
totemism was elsewhere developed. These are descent from animals, animal tabus,
the sacramental eating of an animal, and exogamy.
(1) Descent from animals.--Celtic names implying descent from animals
or plants are of two classes, clan and personal names. If the latter are
totemistic, they must be derived from the former, since totemism is an affair of
the clan, while the so-called "personal totem," exemplified by the
American Indian manitou, is the guardian but never the ancestor of a man.
Some clan names have already been referred to. Others are the Bibroci of
south-east Britain, probably a beaver clan (bebros), and the Eburones, a
yew-tree clan (eburos).35
Irish clans bore animal names: some groups were called "calves,"
others "griffins," others "red deer," and a plant name is
seen in Fir Bile, "men of the tree."36
Such clan totemism perhaps underlies the stories of the "descendants of the
wolf" at Ossory, who became wolves for a time as the result of a saintly
curse. Other instances of lycanthropy were associated with certain families.37
The belief in lycanthropy might easily attach itself to existing wolf-clans, the
transformation being then explained as the result of a curse.37
The stories of Cormac mac Art, suckled by a she-wolf, of Lughaid mac Con,
"son of a wolf-dog," suckled by that animal, and of Oisin, whose
mother was a fawn, and who would not eat venison, are perhaps totemistic, while to totemism or to a cult of animals may be ascribed what early
travellers in Ireland say of the people taking wolves as god-fathers and praying
to them to do them no ill.38
In Wales bands of warriors at the battle of Cattraeth are described in Oneurin's
Gododin as dogs, wolves, bears, and ravens, while Owein's band of ravens
which fought against Arthur, may have been a raven clan, later misunderstood as
Certain groups of Dalriad Scots bore animal names--Cinel Gabran, "Little
goat clan," and Cinel Loarn, "Fox clan." Possibly the custom of
denoting Highland clans by animal or plant badges may be connected with a belief
in descent from plants or animals. On many coins an animal is represented on
horseback, perhaps leading a clan, as birds led the Celts to the Danube area,
and these may depict myths telling how the clan totem animal led the clan to its
Such myths may survive in legends relating how an animal led a saint to the site
of his church.41
Celtic warriors wore helmets with horns, and Irish story speaks of men with cat,
dog, or goat heads.42
These may have been men wearing a head-gear formed of the skin or head of the
clan totem, hence remembered at a later time as monstrous beings, while the
horned helmets would be related to the same custom. Solinus describes the
Britons as wearing animal skins before going into battle.43
Were these skins of totem animals under whose protection they thus placed
themselves? The "forms of beasts, birds, and fishes" which the
Cruithne or Picts tattooed on their bodies may have been totem marks, while the
painting of their bodies with woad among the southern Britons may
have been of the same character, though Cæsar's words
hardly denote this. Certain marks on faces figured on Gaulish coins seem to be
It is not impossible that an early wolf-totem may have been associated,
because of the animal's nocturnal wanderings in forests, with the underworld
whence, according to Celtic belief, men sprang and whither they returned, and
whence all vegetation came forth. The Gallo-Roman Silvanus, probably an
underworld god, wears a wolf-skin, and may thus be a wolf-god. There were
various types of underworld gods, and this wolf-type--perhaps a local wolf-totem
ancestor assimilated to a local "Dispater"--may have been the god of a
clan who imposed its mythic wolf origin on other clans. Some Celtic bronzes show
a wolf swallowing a man who offers no resistance, probably because he is dead.
The wolf is much bigger than the man, and hence may be a god.45
These bronzes would thus represent a belief setting forth the return of men to
their totem ancestor after death, or to the underworld god connected with the
totem ancestor, by saying that he devoured the dead, like certain Polynesian
divinities and the Greek Eurynomos.
In many individual names the first part is the name of an animal or plant,
the second is usually genos, "born from," or "son
of," e.g. Artigenos, Matugenos, "son of the bear" (artos,
matu-); Urogenos, occurring as Urogenertos, "he who has the strength
of the son of the urus"; Brannogenos, "son of the raven";
Cunogenos, "son of the dog."46 These names may be
derived from clan totem names, but they date back to a time
when animals, trees, and men were on a common footing, and the
possibility of human descent from a tree or an animal was believed
in. Professor Rhŷs has argued from the frequency of personal names in
Ireland, like Cúrói, "Hound of Roi," Cú Corb, "Corb's
Hound," Mac Con, "Hound's Son," and Maelchon, "Hound's
Slave," that there existed a dog totem or god, not of the Celts, but of a
This assumes that totemism was non-Celtic, an assumption based on preconceived
notions of what Celtic institutions ought to have been. The names, it should be
observed, are personal, not clan names.
(2) Animal tabus.--Besides the dislike of swine's flesh already noted
among certain Celtic groups, the killing and eating of the hare, hen, and goose
were forbidden among the Britons. Cæsar says they bred these animals for
amusement, but this reason assigned by him is drawn from his knowledge of the
breeding of rare animals by rich Romans as a pastime, since he had no knowledge
of the breeding of sacred animals which were not eaten--a common totemic or
animal cult custom.48
The hare was used for divination by Boudicca,49
doubtless as a sacred animal, and it has been found that a sacred character
still attaches to these animals in Wales. A cock or hen was ceremonially killed
and eaten on Shrove Tuesday, either as a former totemic animal, or, less likely,
as a representative of the corn-spirit. The hare is not killed in certain
districts, but occasionally it is ceremonially hunted and slain annually, while
at yearly fairs the goose is sold exclusively and eaten.50
Elsewhere, e.g. in Devon, a ram or lamb is ceremonially slain and eaten,
the eating being believed to confer luck.51
The ill-luck supposed to follow the killing of certain animals may also be
reminiscent of totemic tabus. Fish were not eaten by the Pictish Meatæ and
Caledonii, and a dislike of eating certain fresh-water fish was observed among
certain eighteenth century Highlanders.52
It has been already seen that certain fish living in sacred wells were tabu, and
were believed to give oracles. Heron's flesh was disliked in Ireland, and it was
considered unlucky to kill a swan in the Hebrides.53
Fatal results following upon the killing or eating of an animal with which the
eater was connected by name or descent are found in the Irish sagas. Conaire was
son of a woman and a bird which could take human shape, and it was forbidden to
him to hunt birds. On one occasion he did so, and for this as well as the
breaking of other tabus, he lost his life.54
It was tabu to Cúchulainn, "the hound of Culann," to eat dog's flesh,
and, having been persuaded to do this, his strength went from him, and he
perished. Diarmaid, having been forbidden to hunt a boar with which his life was
connected, was induced by Fionn to break this tabu, and in consequence he lost
his life by one of the boar's bristles entering his foot, or (in a variant) by
the boar's killing him. Another instance is found in a tale of certain men
transformed to badgers. They were slain by Cormac, and brought to his father
Tadg to eat. Tadg unaccountably loathed them, because they were transformed men
and his cousins.55
In this tale, which may contain the débris of totemic usage, the
loathing arises from the fact that the badgers are men--a common form of myths
explanatory of misunderstood totemic customs, but the old idea of the relation
between a man and his totem is not lost sight of. The other tales may also be reminiscent of a
clan totem tabu, later centred in a mythic hero. Perhaps the belief in lucky or
unlucky animals, or in omens drawn from their appearance, may be based on old
totem beliefs or in beliefs in the divinity of the animals.
(3) Sacramental eating of an animal.--The custom of "hunting the
wren," found over the whole Celtic area, is connected with animal worship
and may be totemistic in origin. In spite of its small size, the wren was known
as the king of birds, and in the Isle of Man it was hunted and killed on
Christmas or S. Stephen's day. The bird was carried in procession from door to
door, to the accompaniment of a chant, and was then solemnly buried, dirges
being sung. In some cases a feather was left at each house and carefully
treasured, and there are traces of a custom of boiling and eating the bird.56
In Ireland, the hunt and procession were followed by a feast, the materials of
which were collected from house to house, and a similar usage obtained in
France, where the youth who killed the bird was called "king."57
In most of these districts it was considered unlucky or dangerous to kill the
bird at any other time, yet it might be ceremonially killed once a year, the
dead animal conferred luck, and was solemnly eaten or buried with signs of
mourning. Similar customs with animals which are actually worshipped are found
and they lend support to the idea that the Celts regarded the wren as a divine
animal, or perhaps a totem animal, that it was necessary to slay it ritually,
and to carry it round the houses of the community to obtain its divine
influence, to eat it sacramentally or to bury it. Probably like
customs were followed in the case of other animals,59
and these may have given rise to such stories as that of the eating of
MacDatho's wonderful boar, as well as to myths which regarded certain animals, e.g.
the swine, as the immortal food of the gods. Other examples of ritual survivals
of such sacramental eating have already been noted, and it is not improbable
that the eating of a sacred pastoral animal occurred at Samhain.
(4) Exogamy.--Exogamy and the counting of descent through the mother
are closely connected with totemism, and some traces of both are found among the
Celts. Among the Picts, who were, perhaps, a Celtic group of the Brythonic
stock, these customs survived in the royal house. The kingship passed to a
brother of the king by the same mother, or to a sister's son, while the king's
father was never king and was frequently a "foreigner." Similar rules
of succession prevailed in early Aryan royal houses--Greek and Roman,--and may,
as Dr. Stokes thought, have existed at Tara in Ireland, while in a Fian tale of
Oisin he marries the daughter of the king of Tír na n-Og, and succeeds him as
king partly for that reason, and partly because he had beaten him in the annual
race for the kingship.60
Such an athletic contest for the kingship was known in early Greece, and this
tale may support the theory of the Celtic priest-kingship, the holder of the
office retaining it as long as he was not defeated or slain. Traces of
succession through a sister's son are found in the Mabinogion, and Livy
describes how the mythic Celtic king Ambicatus sent not his own but his sister's
sons to found new kingdoms.61
Irish and Welsh divine and heroic groups are named after the mother,
not the father--the children of Danu and of Don,
and the men of Domnu. Anu is mother of the gods, Buanann of heroes. The
eponymous ancestor of the Scots is a woman, Scota, and the earliest colonisers
of Ireland are women, not men. In the sagas gods and heroes have frequently a
matronymic, and the father's name is omitted--Lug mac Ethnend, Conchobar mac
Nessa, Indech, son of De Domnann, Corpre, son of Etain, and others. Perhaps
parallel to this is the custom of calling men after their wives--e.g. the
son of Fergus is Fer Tlachtga, Tlachtga's husband.62
In the sagas, females (goddesses and heroines) have a high place accorded to
them, and frequently choose their own lovers or husbands--customs suggestive of
the matriarchate. Thus what was once a general practice was later confined to
the royal house or told of divine or heroic personages. Possibly certain cases
of incest may really be exaggerated accounts of misunderstood unions once
permissible by totemic law. Cæsar speaks of British polyandry, brothers, sons,
and fathers sharing a wife in common.63
Strabo speaks of Irish unions with mothers and sisters, perhaps referring not to
actual practice but to reports of saga tales of incest.64
Dio Cassius speaks of community of wives among the Caledonians and Meatæ, and
Jerome says much the same of the Scoti and Atecotti.65
These notices, with the exception of Cæsar's, are vague, yet they refer to
marriage customs different from those known to their reporters. In Irish sagas
incest legends circle round the descendants of Etain--fathers unite with
daughters, a son with his mother, a woman has a son by her three brothers (just
as Ecne was son of Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba), and is also mother of Crimthan by that son.66
Brother and sister unions occur both in Irish and Welsh story.67
In these cases incest with a mother cannot be explained by totemic usage, but
the cases may be distorted reminiscences of what might occur under totemism,
namely, a son taking the wives of his father other than his own mother, when
those were of a different totem from his own. Under totemism, brothers and
sisters by different mothers having different totems, might possibly unite, and
such unions are found in many mythologies. Later, when totemism passed away, the
unions, regarded with horror, would be supposed to take place between children
by the same mother. According to totem law, a father might unite with his
daughter, since she was of her mother's totem, but in practice this was frowned
upon. Polygamy also may co-exist with totemism, and of course involves the
counting of descent through the mother as a rule. If, as is suggested by the
"debility" of the Ultonians, and by other evidence, the couvade was a
Celtic institution, this would also point to the existence of the matriarchate
with the Celts. To explain all this as pre-Aryan, or to say that the classical
notices refer to non-Aryan tribes and that the evidence in the Irish sagas only
shows that the Celts had been influenced by the customs of aboriginal tribes
among whom they lived68
is to neglect the fact that the customs are closely bound up with Celtic life,
while it leaves unexplained the influence of such customs upon a people whose
own customs, according to this theory, were so totally different.
The evidence, taken as a whole, points to the
existence of totemism among the early Celts, or, at all events, of the elements
which elsewhere compose it.
Celtic animal worship dates back to the primitive hunting and pastoral
period, when men worshipped the animals which they hunted or reared. They may
have apologised to the animal hunted and slain--a form of worship, or, where
animals were not hunted or were reared and worshipped, one of them may have been
slain annually and eaten to obtain its divine power. Care was taken to preserve
certain sacred animals which were not hunted, and this led to domestication, the
abstinence of earlier generations leading to an increased food supply at a later
time, when domesticated animals were freely slain. But the earlier sacramental
slaying of such animals survived in the religious aspect of their slaughter at
the beginning of winter.69
The cult of animals was also connected with totemic usage, though at a later
stage this cult was replaced by that of anthropomorphic divinities, with the
older divine animals as their symbols, sacrificial victims, and the like. This
evolution now led to the removal of restrictions upon slaying and eating the
animals. On the other hand, the more primitive animal cults may have remained
here and there. Animal cults were, perhaps, largely confined to men. With the
rise of agriculture mainly as an art in the hands of women, and the consequent
cult of the Earth-mother, of fertility and corn-spirits probably regarded as
female, the sacramental eating of the divine animal may have led to the slaying
and eating of a human or animal victim supposed to embody such a spirit. Later
the two cults were bound to coalesce, and the divine animal and the animal
embodiment of the vegetation spirit would not be differentiated. On the other hand, when men began to take
part in women's fertility cults, the fact that such spirits were female or were
perhaps coming to be regarded as goddesses, may have led men to envisage certain
of the anthropomorphic animal divinities as goddesses, since some of these, e.g.
Epona and Damona, are female. But with the increasing participation of men in
agriculture, the spirits or goddesses of fertility would tend to become male, or
the consorts or mothers of gods of fertility, though the earlier aspect was
never lost sight of, witness the Corn-Mother. The evolution of divine
priest-kings would cause them to take the place of the earlier priestesses of
these cults, one of whom may have been the divine victim. Yet in local survivals
certain cults were still confined to women, and still had their priestesses.70
1. Reinach, BF 66, 244. The bull and three cranes may be a rebus on the name
of the bull, Tarvos Trikarenos, "the three-headed," or perhaps Trikeras,
2. Plutarch, Marius, 23; Cæsar, vii. 65; D'Arbois, Les Celtes, 49.
3. Holder, s.v. Tarba, Tarouanna, Tarvisium, etc.;
D'Arbois, Les Druides, 155; S. Greg. In Glor. Conf. 48.
4. CIL xiii. 6017; RC xxv. 47; Holder, ii. 528.
5. Leahy, ii. 105 f.; Curtin, MFI 264, 318; Joyce, PN i. 174; Rees,
453. Cf. Ailred, Life of S. Ninian, c. 8.
6. Jocelyn, Vila S. Kentig. c. 24; Rees, 293, 323.
7. Tacitus, Germ. xlv.; Blanchet, i. 162, 165; Reinach, BF 255 f., CMR
i. 168; Bertrand, Arch. Celt. 419.
8. Pennant, Tour in Scotland, 268; Reinach, RC xxii. 158, CMR
9. Pausan, vii. 17, 18; Johnson, Journey, 136.
10. Joyce, SH ii. 127; IT i. 99, 256 (Bricriu's feast and the tale of
11. Strabo, iv. 4. 3, says these swine attacked strangers. Varro, de Re Rustica,
ii. 4, admires their vast size. Cf. Polyb. ii. 4.
12. The hunt is first mentioned in Nennius, c. 79, and then appears as a full-blown
folk-tale in Kulhwych, Loth, i. 185 f. Here the boar is a transformed
13. I have already suggested, p.
106, supra, that the places where Gwydion halted with the swine of
Elysium were sites of a swine-cult.
14. RC xiii. 451. Cf. also TOS vi. "The Enchanted Pigs of
Oengus," and Campbell, LF 53.
15. L'Anthropologie, vi. 584; Greenwell, British Barrows, 274, 283,
454; Arch. Rev. ii. 120.
16. Rev. Arch. 1897, 313.
17. Reinach, "Zagreus le serpent cornu," Rev. Arch.
18. Reinach, BF 185; Bertrand, 316.
19. "Cúchulainn's Sick-bed," D'Arbois, v. 202.
20. See Reinach, CMR i. 67.
21. CIL xiii. 5160, xii. 2199. Rhŷs, however, derives Artaios from ar,
"ploughed land," and equates the god with Mercurius Cultor.
22. CIL xii. 1556-1558; D'Arbois, RC x. 165.
23. For all these place and personal names, see Holder and D'Arbois, op. cit.
Les Celtes, 47 f., Les Druides, 15 7 f.
24. See p. 32,
supra; Reinach, CMR i. 72, Rev. Arch. ii. 123.
25. O'Grady, ii. 123.
26. Epona is fully discussed by Reinach in his Epona, 1895, and in articles
(illustrated) in Rev. Arch. vols. 26, 33, 35, 40, etc. See also ii.
27. Reinach suggests that this may explain why Vercingetorix, in view of siege by
the Romans, sent away his horses. They were too sacred to be eaten. Cæsar, vii.
71; Reinach, RC xxvii. 1 f.
28. Juvenal, viii. 154; Apul. Metam. iii. 27; Min. Felix, Octav.
29. For the inscriptions, see Holder, s.v. "Epona."
30. CIL iii. 7904.
31. CIL xiii. 3071; Reinach, BF 253, CMR i. 64, Répert. de
la Stat. ii. 745 Holder, ii. 661-652.
32. Granger, Worship of the Romans, 113; Kennedy, 135.
33. Grimm, Teut. Myth. 49, 619, 657, 661-664.
34. Frazer, Golden Bough 2, ii. 281, 315.
35. Cæsar, v. 21, 27. Possibly the Dea Bibracte of the Aeduans was a beaver goddess.
36. O'Curry, MC ii. 207; Elton, 298.
37. Girald. Cambr. Top. Hib. ii. 19, RC ii. 202; Folk-Lore, v. 310; IT iii. 376.
38. O'Grady, ii. 286, 538; Campbell, The Fians, 78; Thiers, Traité des Superstitions, ii. 86.
39. Lady Guest, ii. 409 f.
40. Blanchet, i. 166, 295, 326, 390.
41. See p. 209, supra.
42. Diod. Sic. v. 30; IT iii. 385; RC xxvi. 139; Rhŷs, HL
43. Mon. Hist. Brit. p. x.
44. Herodian, iii. 14, 8; Duald MacFirbis in Irish Nennius, p. vii; Cæsar,
v. 10; ZCP iii. 331.
45. See Reinach, "Les Carnassiers androphages dans l'art gallo-romain," CMR
46. See Holder, s.v.
47. Rhŷs, CB4 267.
48. Cæsar, v. 12.
49. Dio Cassius, lxii. 2.
50. See a valuable paper by N. W. Thomas, "Survivance du Culte des Animaux dans
le Pays de Galles," in Rev. de l'Hist. des Religions, xxxviii. 295
f., and a similar paper by Gomme, Arch Rev. 1889, 217 f. Both writers
seem to regard these cults as pre-Celtic.
51. Gomme, Ethnol. in Folklore, 30, Village Community, 113.
52. Dio, Cass. lxxii. 21; Logan, Scottish Gael, ii. 12.
53. Joyce, SH ii. 529; Martin, 71.
54. RC xxii. 20, 24, 390-1.
55. IT iii. 385.
56. Waldron, Isle of Man, 49; Train, Account of the Isle of Man, ii.
57. Vallancey, Coll. de Reb. Hib. iv. No. 13; Clément, Fétes, 466.
For English customs, see Henderson, Folklore of the Northern Counties, 125.
58. Frazer, Golden Bough2, ii. 380, 441, 446.
59. For other Welsh instances of the danger of killing certain birds, see Thomas, op.
cit. xxxviii. 306.
60. Frazer, Kingship, 261; Stokes, RC xvi. 418; Larminie, Myths and
61. See Rhŷs, Welsh People, 44; Livy, v. 34.
62. Cf. IT iii. 407, 409.
63. Cæsar, v. 14.
64. Strabo, iv. 5. 4.
65. Dio Cass. lxxvi. 12; Jerome, Adv. Jovin. ii. 7. Giraldus has much to say
of incest in Wales, probably actual breaches of moral law among a barbarous
people (Descr. Wales, ii. 6).
66. RC xii. 235, 238, xv. 291, xvi. 149; LL 23a, 124b. In
various Irish texts a child is said to have three fathers--probably a
reminiscence of polyandry. See p.
74, supra, and RC xxiii. 333.
67. IT i. 136 Loth, i. 134 L; Rhŷs, HL 308.
68. Zimmer, "Matriarchy among the Picts," in Henderson, Leabhar nan
69. See p. 259, infra.
70. See p. 274, infra.