Rites, Religious Organization - History of Religion


The ancient sources refer primarily to the rituals sacrifices, through which the Celts communicated with their gods. Caesar testifies that galls are weaving large willows out of willow twigs, placed inside living people, after which the sacrificial image is burnt. Other authors point to other methods of cruel ritualistic mortifications - hanging on a tree, cutting throats, drowning, burning in a vat. Probably, the ancient tradition is fixed primarily propitiatory rites, addressed to the terrible gods of war or chthonic deities.

Ancient authors note the prevalence among the Celts of rites divination. Thus, Titus Livius tells us that in conditions of excess population the galls were assembled by the settlers and decided to " places, which gods will be indicated in fortune telling & quot ;. This example of separating a new wave of immigrants is similar to the Italian custom of the "sacred spring," both of which apparently go back to the oldest Indo-European rituals that accompanied migration. The Celts believed in divine omens and had special rituals of their interpretation. Sacrifices, fortune-telling and other activities related to the conversion to the gods were accompanied by prayers.

Magic rituals were an impressive part of the ritual practice of the Celts. Celts possessed a rich arsenal of magical plots, good or evil. According to the beliefs of island Celts, conspiracies could heal or ruin a person, could turn it into a piece of turf or an insect, could raise a storm and a terrible wind - the power of the spell knew no boundaries. Widely used in witchcraft found magic items - special wands, rods, etc. The characteristic reception of magical influence is fixed by a saga: Lug, the divine leader of the Irish, bypasses his army "on one foot and covers one eye."

The Celts had their own calendar of sending the most important rituals. Irish tradition for a long time kept Samhain - the holiday of transition to winter (November 1), Beltan - the feast of the fire of the god Bel (May 1), Lugnazad - the feast of fertility and royal power, dedicated to the god Luga (August 1), and a number of other calendar holidays. These holidays of the annual cycle had, obviously, as their prototype, general-calendar calendar rituals.

Religious organization

In the Notes on the Gallic War Caesar notes that every year in a sacred place, located on the lands of the Carnot tribe, the Druids who came here from different Celtic tribes gathered. Such regular meetings indicate the existence of a Celtic intertribal religious union , whose activities required a single cult center and general sacred activities, for the sake of which the priests of different tribes.

It is characteristic that in the Celtic religious center it was precisely the priesthood. The Druids had their own tribal organization, built hierarchically: it is known that at meetings the high priest for life. In the social structure of individual Celtic communities, the Druids were influential corporations, which could only be reached after years of training "secret knowledge", conspiracies and charms. The high degree of separation of the religious status of the Druids and their colleges did not, however, lead to the formation of a closed religious group, a special caste. Druids were released from military service, led a secluded way of life, mostly in the woods. At the same time, of course, they actively participated in public life, if necessary. Their duties included sending collective sacrifices, monitoring the observance of the rules of the sacred actions, divination, the interpretation of signs, magical practice, the storage and transmission of inmost religious knowledge.

In the religious structure of Celtic societies, poets-song singers (Gallic bards, Irish filidies ) took a special place. Their songs had a high religious meaning: the songs they performed carried knowledge about the mysteries of the beginning and end of the world; the heroic tales of the Phyllis about glorious victories, rich prey were perceived as a magical means capable of ensuring a repetition of success; song hula filid was aimed at not only damaging the reputation, but also magically weaken the enemy. The inspired singer in the religious consciousness took on the form Veschu- nu, that sees the will of the gods. Possession of the power of the magic word, knowledge of the past, the gift of predicting the future - all this placed the songwriter in a special religious situation. In the religious hierarchy, the status of poets was below the status of the druids. "The place of the filid, in fact, intermediate - the possession of sacred receptions of poetic art allowed him to sort out, as it were, the reality of the past and the present, elevating it to a higher unity, the cosmic order, the custodians of knowledge about which were already druids."

In an archaic religious community, in effect, any person could possess the skills of magical skill. Some of them possessed these skills better than others, having mastered them, for example, according to the instructions of the druids. So, the saga Matchmaking to Etain It tells the story of a certain Fuamnah, which was brought up by the Druid, seer Bressand & quot ;, under whom it has become wise, cautious and well-versed in enchantments and secret knowledge & quot ;. Such experts could not constitute a separate category in the religious community, but nevertheless be on the special position of people who are versed in witchcraft. It is noteworthy that wise The magician Fuamnach is at the same time certified by the saga and as "insane". Obviously, the magical practices of the Celts implied the experience of ecstatic states.

The king's power had a high religious dimension in the Celts consciousness. On the king lay the duty of sending the most important collective sacred action. The vitality of the ruler, his moral qualities were magically associated with the natural elements and prosperity of his subjects, so the king acted as the carrier of not only political but also magical power. The involvement of the Celtic ruler in the magical foundations of the natural and social order indicates his closeness to the type of "sacred king" archaic societies. Confirmation of this can be the language data, through which expressed ideas about the ruler. The status of the king in the Celtic languages ​​was nominated by words that went back to the Indo-European basis * reg - (in Latin, they corresponded rex, regis).

E. Benveniste, exploring the semantics of concepts expressed through * reg -, established: "Indo-European rex is a more religious concept , than political. It is the duty of rex not to command and not to exercise power, but to establish rules and determine what relates to "right" in the literal sense of the word. The thus determined rex is much closer to the priest than to the autocrat. The royal power of this kind was preserved, on the one hand, by Italians and Celts, on the other - in Ancient India. " Taking into account some of the categorical language of E. Benveniste's formulation, it seems, on the whole, to agree with his observations.

In fact, it was the ruler who was at the head of the entire religious hierarchy of the tribal or early state Celtic community. The activities of druids and songwriters accompanied the execution of their religious duties by the supreme ruler.

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