Birthplace Of An Old Religion

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The question has been asked before, but never yet either fully, or seriously attempted to be, answered.

The first noteworthy fact to consider is that, whether or not Druidism was identical with the old Religion - an aspect of it, shall we say? - both Druidism and the Fertility Cult in its specifically Western form 'grew up together'. Possibly from as early as circa 1800 BC, but certainly from circa 450 BC, the Druidism of the conquering Celts and the Fertility Cult of the subjugated earlier inhabitants were faiths in close and constant proximity. Perhaps more to the point, in assessing the possible mutual influence on Druidism and what we might well call 'Western Fertility', is the fact that, in all those places where Western Fertility developed its specific aspect ('witchcraft' of a later day), it did so always and only in physical proximity to the Celts and their religion.

Using the modern names of the countries, Western Fertility is a religion developed only where Celts had achieved a military domination: Britain, France, Northern Spain; both western and eastern; Germany, Switzerland, the French and Swiss Alps, and that part of Northern Italy which was known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul. It is true, in this last case, that we are assured by Polybius that the Gauls were so quickly and completely assimilated into the native population whom the Celtic Gauls had conquered, that 'Gallic' (as Polybius calls the language) had ceased to be spoken by 150 BC. (1)

[1] Polybius, 2.35.4. Quoted in The Latin Language, L.R. Palmer; London: Faber & Faber, 1954.

Nevertheless, too much importance may be attached to the Cisalpine Celts' loss of their native tongue. Both 'Gallic' and the 'proto-Latin' tongues of the Cisalpine Gauls' neighbours were all members of the Indo-European speech family, and the adoption of Lepontic, Venetic, Ligurian, Rhaetic or any other of the neighbouring Italic dialects would have been no more difficult, and just, one thinks, as inevitable, as the adoption of English by German-speaking immigrants. In any case, 'Gallic' - and the ideas conveyed by it - had an important influence on Roman thought and Roman speech before 'Gallic' disappeared, as we saw in considering the number of 'Gallic' loan-words in Latin which are connected with horse-management.

Here, then, is a fact deduced from observation of the distribution of Celts over Western Europe: the more dominant the Celtic immigrant population, the 'purer' the form of Western Fertility; the nearer to what we may call 'the religious norm' shall we find the Old Religion.

There is a second important point to be considered. It has been said, rightly, that Celtic energy and Celtic recklessness, combined with Celtic ingenuity in devising new weapons of war and Celtic skill in using them, never led them to the creation of an empire. True. But what has almost always been forgotten by those who make that statement is that, for all that there was never any imperial bond linking all Celts together under some supreme government, the strong tribal and family bonds have never weakened, from the time that the Celts first mysteriously appear in the historical record until today. Perhaps it was that the Celts, recognising the fact that this 'family' loyalty could never be weakened, considered that an imperial organisation of Celtdom was unnecessary.

But, scattered over Western Europe as the Celts might have been, the tribal links remained unsevered. The Veneti of the northern Adriatic (modern Venice) never forgot their kinship with the Veneti of Brittany (centred upon the modern city of Vannes, which is named after them); the Brigantes of that part of north-west Spain which is now called Galicia ('lands of the Gauls') were closely linked, both by sentiment and an appreciation of the advantages of family links, with their tribal cousins of Italy, Austria, France and Yorkshire.

This constant maintenance of tribal links - Carausius, the Menapian, could have come to the usurped throne of the Western Empire either from the mouth of the Scheldt or from Cork Harbour - enabled Celts to move without hindrance across a vast territory which, though not politically, fiscally or militarily organised into an empire, yet permitted every Celtic-speaking Celt to pass freely across territories nominally under the jurisdiction of other peoples. That the Celts and Celtic-speaking peoples have jealously guarded this privileged position is still evident today in the ease with which an Irishman may pass from Ireland to Australia, Mexico, France, Poland or to the United States of America.

Though the Druids excited the interest and earned the respect of many of the leading minds of the Ancient World, what we know of the organisation of this still mysterious priesthood, and of the beliefs that they taught, we owe to 'the great Roman statesman and stylist, C. Julius Caesar', whose interest in the Druids, however, was hardly religious and certainly not subjective. Seeing them as the rallying force behind those Celts whom he intended to subjugate, Caesar studied them and their organisation only the better to destroy their influence over the warlike Celt.

So that it is from Caesar that we learn, in what we now see to be considerable detail, of the Druids' organisation into classes, of their dress, of their traditional ceremonies, of their power in the tribal society, and - which most concerns us here - of their beliefs. Unfortunately, it is here that Caesar, never long-winded, becomes almost too brief.

However, he does state categorically that:

(a) They taught the doctrine of metempsychosis (2) (that is, the transmigration of souls from body to body).

(b) They taught the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. This is not necessarily implied in the doctrine of metempsychosis, which may argue the perpetual transmission of the soul, but not of the personal identity. The doctrine of the soul's immortality implies the immortality of the personal identity.

(c) 'From their knowledge of astrology, they drew omens and saw futurity revealed before their eyes.'

[2] Diodorus Siculus, writing some fifty years after Caesar (De Bella Gallica), confirms this when he writes: 'Among the Celts the doctrine of Pythagoras prevails, according to which the souls of men are immortal, and, after a fixed term, recommence to live, taking upon themselves a new body.'

(d) - and 'they were professionally acquainted with the art of magic'.

This is the sum of what the ancient commentators - Sotion of Alexandria, (3) Cicero, Caesar, Diodorus Siculus and Pliny the Elder have to tell us of the Druids' religious beliefs. Let us see if our deductions may not enable us to add some certain conclusions to the above modest list From what I have written earlier:

(e) The Druids' ascription of worshipful quality to the mistletoe (see page 54) indicates plainly that, primarily, Druidism was a Fertility Cult, here seen, not in its pure form, but overlaid with the doctrine of Sympathetic Magic. The doctrine of Sympathetic Magic, which derived from the simpler form of the Fertility Cult, and is the ancestor of Homeopathy — similia similibus curantur ('like is cured by like') - holds that things which have an appearance in common (e.g. the viscid white juice of the mistletoe and human semen) have their other qualities in common, and that, therefore, whatever is done to the simulacrum must, , by the power of Sympathetic Magic, be executed upon its more important analogue. (This is, hi fact, no different from the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Pope's spiritual power, supposedly based on a promise of Christ's to St Peter [Matt. xvi. 19.] that to Peter and his successors should be given the power that 'whatever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven ... "

This famous 'Power of the Keys' is indistinguishable, in sentiment, from that belief in Sympathetic Magic so often and so roundly condemned as the basest superstition by the Roman Church.) A further piece of evidence in support of the claim that Druidism was in whole or part a Fertility Cult, is the ascription of a sacred character to the oak-tree (see page 54). If the name, Druid, be a translation of the Celtic, we seem to have a totemistic (or animistic) name based on that of a tree. 'Druid', from Greek, 'oak', means, in its Greek form, 'son of the Oak'. Now, this may be a translation into Greek of the Celtic name, or it may be an interpretation of a name which, to the Greeks, sounded like 'son of the Oak'.

[3] Dr G.B. Gardner dates Sotion at 'about 200 BC'. This is incorrect. Sotion of Alexandria, the philosopher and grammarian, was preceptor to Lucius Annaeus Seneca - Seneca, the philosopher -who was born in Spain about 6 BC.

But the name itself, as used by the Druids, could possibly have been Greek. Cultural exchange between Druid Britain and Greece and Greek-speaking Roman learning was closely maintained over centuries, and that Greek names were adopted for what one might consider purely Celtic ideas is well illustrated by the name of the mythical microscopic super-man, King Kuon of Bordeaux, where 'huon' is simply pure Greek 'dog'.

(g) Accepting the common culture (with only unimportant dialectal differences in the common speech until well after the beginning of the present era) of Celtdom, we may take it that evidence of religious beliefs in one part of the sprawling Celtic 'sphere of influence' may be accepted as evidence that such religious beliefs were common to all Celtdom.

Evidence of this kind is supplied by the altar dedicated to the Horned God, Cernunnos (Latinised Celtic, but so spelt on the altar itself), which was found, under the existing Christian altar of the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris; the Celtic altar now being on display in the Musee de Cluny, in the same city.

On the Cernunnos altar (the name means 'Horned One', 'Old Hornie'), (4) only the head of the divinity is shewn; a completely human head, as of a middle aged, bearded man, but with stag's antlers, on which are hung, one each side of the head, two torques, of a type commonly found in any museum of Celtic antiquities.

[4] The name appears in every variation throughout the area of Indo-European speech. This chief god of the Fertility Cult - the 'Devil' or 'Satan' of the later Witches' Sabbats - was (and is still) known in Ireland as Conall Cernac. His name is enshrined in both English 'Cornwall' and Breton 'Kerne' (the French 'Cornouaille'). Another example of what has happened in Paris, where the shrine of Cernunnos was 'rehabilitated' for the purposes of the New Faith, is to be found at Cerne Abbas, in Dorset, where, in Anglo-Saxon times, a large monastic foundation grew up upon the site (or, most probably, within the original buildings) of a Shrine of Cernunnos.

Here it was that the learned AElfric, educated in the Romano-British city of Winchester (Venta Belgarum), translated the Pentateuch into Old English and wrote his famous Homilies. He was master of the monastic school at Cerne, and his Grammar, Homilies, Lives of the Saints and Translations from the Bible, were all written at Cerne between 987 and 998. Above now ruined Cerne, the great club-wielding (but no longer horned), ithyphallic Cernunnos still stands in chalk-white majesty -immense against the green hillside. Both the Latin proper name, Cornicen ('hornblower'), and English Hornblower recall ancient Cernunnos.

Not only the sophisticated workmanship of the altar, especially of its well-chiselled inscription, but also the fact that its temple was of such evident importance that a chief temple of the New Faith was built on the site of Cernunnos's, amply testify to the high standing of the Horned God throughout Celtdom.

Summing up, then, we have five fundamental points of doctrine on which Western Fertility ('witchcraft') and Druidism are obviously in agreement:

1. Both are Fertility Cults.

2. Both acknowledge, apparently as the Supreme Divinity, a Horned God. (We shall examine the female counterpart of this Horned God later.)

3. Both postulate the immortality of the soul.

4. Both subscribe to the doctrine of metempsychosis - that is, the transmigration of souls. (I find no evidence for the statement, often made, that the Druids believed that men's souls, on the death of the body, would pass, not into human, but into animal, bodies.)

5. Both practise 'magic', and seek to predict the future in similar ways.

The Horned God: Based on the universal symbol of the Bull, as the archetype ofNature's fertility, here is the horned, three-faced (that is, omniscient), priapic God of Fertility from the buried city of

Mohenjo-daro, in the Punjab. About 2000 BC.

Allowing for the fact that essential differences between Druidism and Western Fertility on their first coming together may well have been 'ironed out' over centuries of friendly intercourse - for instance, even some modern 'witches' hesitate to consider a belief in reincarnation part of the original corpus of Old Religion belief - it still seems impossible to reject the conclusion that Druidism was, or eventually became, identical with that ancient faith that I call Western Fertility or the Old Religion.

Too much importance may, I feel, be attached to the absence, in one region of this continental

religion, of elements which, in another region, are all-important. 'In the Triads (of the Welsh Barddas),' Dr Gardner notes, 'there is not the slightest trace of anything connected with the worship of Diana' - the Supreme Divinity of Italian Witchcraft, which has relegated the once supreme Horned God to the ritual presence of a billy-goat. (So much for male superiority!)

But, as I shall presently shew, Diana was not forgotten farther West, though her name appears in slightly different form; and I shall also shew that her daughter, Aradia, was not only not ignored in the West, but, more, I shall indicate that Aradia's name originated there.

Kleurplaten Halloween Volwassenen

The enduring faith: The great Horned God ofCeltic Fertility - Cernunnos he was called by the Gauls. This head from Heidelberg (after Jacobsthal) is unusual in that it shews Cernunnos with the 'third eye' recently found on a Mayan statue of a god uncovered in the jungles of Yucatan. The 'third eye" depicted here is so reminiscent of the Celtic 'magical' shamrock that one may hardly suppose there to be no link.

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