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Author Topic: Celtic: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology  (Read 1040 times)

Riothamus12

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I've been thinking about this for a while and considering and I've often wanted to rewrite the key "texts" of Celtic mythology to at least in spirit reflect the original pagan form. I have a few key points which I think would open up a world of new insight if people simply took them into consideration. I do want others to share possible elements that can obviously be linked to common threads in Indo-European mythologies that shed light on the mythology and beliefs of the Celtic peoples.

Observation 1: it's pretty well known that the "older Gods being overthrown by new generations" is rather common here. The fomori are clearly analogous to the Jotun and or Titans, furthering this links is that Chronus being overthrown by one of his descendants is very similar to Lugh overthrowing Balor as he is actually a descendant of Balor. Thirdly, folklore and common sayings such as describing storms as being Lugh and Balor fighting suggests that Lugh among other common attributes associated with other sky Gods such as Zeus and Jupiter (justice, oaths, and so forth) further seem to suggest this. However, Lugh's associations also bare a similarity to Odin. This also suggests a long suspected, but as far as I can tell not outright stated link between Odin and the sky. However, that last part is obviously more speculative.

Observation the 2nd: Cuchulainn is the descendant of Lugh which among other aspects of his legend suggests a possible and very likely mythological link between him and Heracles/Hercules. Those being that they are fierce, inhumanly powerful warriors descended from the chief God who appears to be a sky God.

Observation the third: At least based on their attributes and associations there seems at least to my mind to be a link between Epona and Macha. They are both associated with horses, the land, and fertility which may also suggest a link between these two and Demeter who is also associated with at least two of these.

Observation the fourth: The link between Morrigna/The Morrigan. prophecy, the number 3, and fate may or may not be connected to the three fates who also appear in Norse, Greek, and Roman religion, thus it would make sense, given that the ancient Celtic religions were often heavy with symbolism connected to the number 3. Not to mention that this seems to be a common motif in Indo-European Pagan religions.

Observation the fifth: It seems that given the associations between land Goddesses and sovereignty, it seems likely that the leadership of chieftains was linked to the favor of Divine forces connected with nature. This is also not uncommon in a number of different religions.Some have theorized that misfortunes that befell entire clans or tribes may have been linked to the misdeeds of their cheiftains/kings and thus led to their ritualistic killing as a penalty for their failure and a means to restore the balance. How much evidence that can be at least deemed solid by scholars dedicated to the understanding of Celtic culture  in the most objective possible light, I do not know.

Observation the sixth; Brigid and Goibiniu have some rather obvious parallels between Vulcan and Hephaestus and Hestia and Vesta given they are both associated with fire and one in particular with smithing, so while they may not be exact copies... WHY DO PEOPLE NEVER MENTION THIS?! I mean this isn't exactly an uncommon motif in Indo-European religions and mythologies. Even if you can argue there isn't much directly written about them, the fact that they are both Deities linked with fire and one is foremost associated with blacksmiths should be pretty obvious.

Observation the Seventh or rather a question: Why the hell does no one write at least an annotated version of these stories with at least some of these as footnotes?

I do apologize for ranting a bit, but does anyone else have any really obvious insights people don't seem to bring up as much as they should or at all? There's probably more I could say here, but mostly I just wanted to start a thread that will at least possibly help develop a more accurate understanding of what the original forms of the myths and the accompanying religion were like in their heyday. So feel free to discuss, critique, or share.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2019, 11:49:55 pm by Riothamus12 »
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Aster Breo

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2019, 12:52:15 am »

[snip]

Observation the sixth; Brigid and Goibiniu have some rather obvious parallels between Vulcan and Hephaestus and Hestia and Vesta given they are both associated with fire and one in particular with smithing, so while they may not be exact copies... WHY DO PEOPLE NEVER MENTION THIS?! I mean this isn't exactly an uncommon motif in Indo-European religions and mythologies. Even if you can argue there isn't much directly written about them, the fact that they are both Deities linked with fire and one is foremost associated with blacksmiths should be pretty obvious.

Observation the Seventh or rather a question: Why the hell does no one write at least an annotated version of these stories with at least some of these as footnotes?

I do apologize for ranting a bit, but does anyone else have any really obvious insights people don't seem to bring up as much as they should or at all? There's probably more I could say here, but mostly I just wanted to start a thread that will at least possibly help develop a more accurate understanding of what the original forms of the myths and the accompanying religion were like in their heyday. So feel free to discuss, critique, or share.

Your observations are very interesting.  I'm always fascinated by the links people find between the various Powers.

However, I don't think it's true that these kinds of points are not made and discussed.  I've been involved in many such conversations regarding Brighid, specifically.

If you're interested in Brighid and the various connections and theories about Her, you might be interested in some of the materials on the Clann Bhride website (https://clannbhride.org/), particularly the essay "The Exalted Ones" (https://clannbhride.org/articles-and-essays/the-exalted-ones/), which discusses links between Brighid and other deities.  You might also be interested in the discussion in the Clann Bhride Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/clannbhride/).

I'm much less conversant with the other Irish deities, but I know these kinds of conversations do take place.  There are several Facebook groups for people following Irish or Celtic polytheist paths that might be interesting to you.

I need to get to bed, so don't have time right now to get into more depth, but I'll try to come back to this tomorrow night or Friday and post some links.

Hope that helps a little...
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EnderDragonFire

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2019, 02:27:06 am »
I've been thinking about this for a while and considering and I've often wanted to rewrite the key "texts" of Celtic mythology to at least in spirit reflect the original pagan form.

That's a rather monumental task, and might even be impossible. The Celts converted very ealy; most Celts were christian by the 500s, and by the 700s at the very latest Celtic paganism was well and truly dead, which is at least 200 years before the last vestiges of Hellenism faded out.

While that doesn't mean it's impossible to sift out the Christian themes from Celtic myths, it does make it a helluva lot harder than it would be for, say, Germanic, Slavic, or Baltic myths, or even for Hellenic ones.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Zlote Jablko

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2019, 09:23:41 am »
That's a rather monumental task, and might even be impossible. The Celts converted very ealy; most Celts were christian by the 500s, and by the 700s at the very latest Celtic paganism was well and truly dead, which is at least 200 years before the last vestiges of Hellenism faded out.

While that doesn't mean it's impossible to sift out the Christian themes from Celtic myths, it does make it a helluva lot harder than it would be for, say, Germanic, Slavic, or Baltic myths, or even for Hellenic ones.

Slavic and Celtic traditions are kind of in a similar boat. Truly pre-Christian Slavic mythology proper doesn’t really exist. We have epic songs, incantations, and folk tales with recurring mythological themes. I’ve actually tried writing a more “mythological” version of some stories, and it’s difficult to say the least.

One note about Lugh, and his nature per the OP; It seems like he replaced Taranis as the supreme storm deity. It’s widely thought that the story of the Three Sons of Tuireann is actually a reference to the Irish version of Taranis. Taranis was of course a thunder God, very important across the channel in neighboring Gaul.

In this story, one of Tuireann’s sons kills Lugh’s father, so Lugh has them repay him by sending them on quests that end up killing them. Lugh not only refuses to resurrect them, despite having an item that can do so, but we are also told that Tuireann died over grief for his sons. I know this story because it strongly resembles some Slavic tales, only in those stories the three sons are victorious, interestingly enough.

If Tuireann is equivalent to the Gaulish storm God Taranis, the message is clear; Lugh usurped the position of the thunder deity. In the process, he may have acquired some of the traits of Taranis.

EmberHearth

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2019, 01:51:59 am »
One note about Lugh, and his nature per the OP; It seems like he replaced Taranis as the supreme storm deity. It’s widely thought that the story of the Three Sons of Tuireann is actually a reference to the Irish version of Taranis. Taranis was of course a thunder God, very important across the channel in neighboring Gaul.

In part responding to the OP's comments about Lugh.  H.R. Ellis Davidson draws the connections between Lugh and Odin.

My personal UPG, is that Odin/Woden is Gwydion (foster-father of Leu Llaw Gyffes in the Welsh tales), and whom I relate to more as a mage/traveller.

Lugus, the Gaulic version, was widely popular on the European continent.

My Google-fu is currently failing me on the scholarly article that supported the concept.  I don't expect this to be a popular opinion, but Lugh became Loki.

From memory:
- The linguistic evidence discusses them as lightning-fire gods.  Loki in part by nature of his birth, when his father threw lightning at his mother (Laufey,  leaves). Lugh more by his spear, and the luck of storms on Lughnassadh, which suggests the sun was not his thing.
- Both are known by matronyms, highly unusual in places where patronyms are more common
- One of the puns on Lugh's name relates to "lú", meaning "little," connected not only to his (Welsh) birth story as a tiny, formless being, but also connecting him to the wren who became King of the Birds by hitching a ride on an eagle, then fluttering above his back.
- That "little" also connects to the Celtic knowledge of mistletoe, the tiny sacred plant growing in the tops of trees.
- The same mistletoe that killed Balder.

In the Norse lore, somewhat like Marvel, Lugh and Thor often travel together.  But, in the Norse lore, Lugh is Odin's blood brother.  Any toast to Odin, Loki gets half.

The Gaulic Lugus was a triple god, although his brothers were said to be killed.  The Welsh tale retains a twin brother, Dylan, who immediately jumps into the sea.

Another of my UPGs, is that this may have been a triple storm god.  Lugus/Lugh/Loki for Lightning.  Thor/Thunar/Taranis for thunder.  And probably Woden/Odin/Gwydion for wind.

The Snaptun Stone also connects Loki to the hearth, possibly the forge.

The main counter-argument has been connecting Loki to locks or knots, rather than "leuk-".  While that works with the connection to nets and being bound... I don't think we can entirely deny his connections to fire, heat, and Sirius the Dog Star as Lokabrenna:
https://www.constellation-guide.com/sirius-the-dog-star/

Also, I've seen arguments that the PIE "k" in "leuk-" has never been shown to become "g" in the Celtic.  But, I think what we have goes the other direction.  The Germanic Migration Period came about 400-800 CE, after most Celts were outwardly Christianized.

Still to be researched:
- Did the Anglo-Saxons in Britain honor the Celtic Lugh?  I'm wondering if that might be why there doesn't seem to be an Anglo-Saxon Loki.
- Urglaawe has mention of a character, Luul, that they have connected to a Continental Lollus:
http://urglaawe.blogspot.com/2016/12/regarding-berchtold.html
I wonder if that could be the Germanic-Continental piece of this puzzle.

Still reading & thinking.

EmberHearth

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2019, 01:47:09 pm »
My Google-fu is currently failing me on the scholarly article that supported the concept.  I don't expect this to be a popular opinion, but Lugh became Loki.


I found [one of] the links.  This one goes into details about Lugus, and makes comparisons with Odin (not Loki, although mistletoe is mentioned)
http://www.imbas.org/articles/lugus.html

This second link is new-to-me, and describes the complicated interconnections between those 4-6 characters of Celtic and Germanic lore:

http://www.historicalarts.co.uk/articles/sinsear/the_birth_of_lugh.html

Zlote Jablko

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2019, 09:36:31 pm »
I found [one of] the links.  This one goes into details about Lugus, and makes comparisons with Odin (not Loki, although mistletoe is mentioned)
http://www.imbas.org/articles/lugus.html

This second link is new-to-me, and describes the complicated interconnections between those 4-6 characters of Celtic and Germanic lore:

http://www.historicalarts.co.uk/articles/sinsear/the_birth_of_lugh.html

Ooh. Great first link on Lugh. I really do need to brush up more on Celtic mythology. I had no idea that there was a four-headed statue of Lugh. The three headed one rings a bell. One interesting trait of the Gods described among the west Slavs is that many of them are polycephalous. There was a three-headed God called Triglav (Literally three-head), as well as a four-headed deity called Sventovit. What's weird is that we mostly see this in the western part of Slavic territory, among the Wends as opposed to say, Russians. Maybe it's a sign of western influence on some Slavic groups.

One of the more interesting things mentioned here is that Lugh's foster father was the sea God Manannan mac Lir. A hero being fostered in the abode of the sea king shows up in the Nart Sagas as well, as well as some Slavic fairy tales. If you're at all interested in the Nart Saga's, I highly recommend Colarusso's books on the subject.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donbettyr
http://fairytale.wikia.com/wiki/The_Sea_King_and_Vasilisa_the_Wise


As for Loki and Odin, these are pretty complex characters. I won't weigh in on the Lugh connection right now, but I tend to see them as sort of composite figures. I wouldn't be surprised if they were partially inherited from Indo-European tradition. Loki also has a counterpart in the Nart Sagas, for example. (See below.) Still, there are those who see connections to Finnish mythology. Loki and his mother Laufey may be related Louhi/Loviatar, daughter of the underworld. The While PIE reconstruction is a big part of my practice, I tend to favor strong Finno-Ugric influences on the Balto-Slavs and Scandinavians. But then, that's just me.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrdon
« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 09:38:09 pm by Zlote Jablko »

EmberHearth

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2019, 08:16:37 pm »
Ooh. Great first link on Lugh. I really do need to brush up more on Celtic mythology. I had no idea that there was a four-headed statue of Lugh. The three headed one rings a bell. One interesting trait of the Gods described among the west Slavs is that many of them are polycephalous. There was a three-headed God called Triglav (Literally three-head), as well as a four-headed deity called Sventovit. What's weird is that we mostly see this in the western part of Slavic territory, among the Wends as opposed to say, Russians. Maybe it's a sign of western influence on some Slavic groups.

Possible.  It reminds me of the Gaulish figure, Tarvos Trigaranus.  Not exactly polycephalous, but a bull accompanied by 3 birds:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarvos_Trigaranus

One of the more interesting things mentioned here is that Lugh's foster father was the sea God Manannan mac Lir. A hero being fostered in the abode of the sea king shows up in the Nart Sagas as well, as well as some Slavic fairy tales. If you're at all interested in the Nart Saga's, I highly recommend Colarusso's books on the subject.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donbettyr
http://fairytale.wikia.com/wiki/The_Sea_King_and_Vasilisa_the_Wise

Lir may also have a Nordic counterpart.

While Njordr is the Vanir God of the human relationship to the sea, Aegir is the jotun (giant, similar to the Titans who preceded the Olympians) of the wild ocean.

One of Aegir's by-names is Hler.

As for Loki and Odin, these are pretty complex characters.

This is true.  And, I stated elsewhere, I'm trying to somewhat consolidate or resolve 3000 years of history/lore/archaeology.

I can see why some prefer to find one era, geography, or smaller set of peoples to study.

I won't weigh in on the Lugh connection right now, but I tend to see them as sort of composite figures. I wouldn't be surprised if they were partially inherited from Indo-European tradition. Loki also has a counterpart in the Nart Sagas, for example. (See below.) Still, there are those who see connections to Finnish mythology. Loki and his mother Laufey may be related Louhi/Loviatar, daughter of the underworld. The While PIE reconstruction is a big part of my practice, I tend to favor strong Finno-Ugric influences on the Balto-Slavs and Scandinavians. But then, that's just me.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrdon

I've looked at some of the PIE research, particularly the linguistics, but I'm a bit more interested in the Vanir.

The lore describes a war between the Aesir (usually thought of as more PIE and warlike) and the Vanir (somewhat more agricultural).

I've encountered a somewhat parallel effort to PIE, Waincraft, online, and it's intriguing.  They suggest that the Vanir / Wanes might be a memory of pre-PIE European culture.

I think they mean more like Basque than Finno-Ugaritic.

My pet theory is a little different, since there is historical evidence for conflict & cooperation between the Germanic and Celtic peoples.  So far, most of my connections to Caltic mythology have been Vanir (and possibly Vanic) deities.

Loki, though, is a jotun sometimes accounted with the Aesir.  So he doesn't quite fit the possible pattern.


My focus in recent months has been what I can find online about Urglaawe.  They also focus a little more on Vanir and Vanic deities.

Also, the person leading the reconstruction has been a huge advocate for Heathens Against Hate and Declaration 127

Unfortunately, I'm not in Pennsylvania, so resources on Urglaawe and the related low-magic traditions of Braucherei and Hexerei are... not close.  Some of their traditions are strictly oral and/or oathbound, so I don't currently have access to those parts.

Zlote Jablko

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2019, 09:23:11 pm »
I've looked at some of the PIE research, particularly the linguistics, but I'm a

I've encountered a somewhat parallel effort to PIE, Waincraft, online, and it's intriguing.  They suggest that the Vanir / Wanes might be a memory of pre-PIE European culture.

I think they mean more like Basque than Finno-Ugaritic.

My pet theory is a little different, since there is historical evidence for conflict & cooperation between the Germanic and Celtic peoples.  So far, most of my connections to Caltic mythology have been Vanir (and possibly Vanic) deities.

Ok, I totally agree with you on this. The only distinction I would make is between non-Indo-European influences found throughout all of Europe, and those found only in the far north. Dunno-Ugric influence is mostly just around the Baltic Sea region. The war between Gods is found all over Europe.

I agree with the idea that the Celts side with the fertility Gods though. The fact that they are called the children of Danu hints at this. In the Vedas, there’s a goddess named Danu who is mother of Indra’s adversary, Vritra. Her children, the Danavans, become the adversaries of the Indian Gods.

Her name is cognate to the Ossetian Sea king (whose daughters marry the Nart warriors) Donbettyr, so there we have a marriage between the house of Danu/Donbettyr and the warrior clan. Like I said, the sea king Donbettyr also fosters a number of Nart children, similar to Lugh adoption by Manannan. It seems like the sea-and-Earth tied fertility Gods of the Danavan/Danaan/Donbettyr/Vanir clan became the main Gods of Ireland. That’s my take.


EmberHearth

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2019, 01:11:36 am »
Ok, I totally agree with you on this. The only distinction I would make is between non-Indo-European influences found throughout all of Europe, and those found only in the far north. Dunno-Ugric influence is mostly just around the Baltic Sea region. The war between Gods is found all over Europe.

I agree with the idea that the Celts side with the fertility Gods though. The fact that they are called the children of Danu hints at this. In the Vedas, there’s a goddess named Danu who is mother of Indra’s adversary, Vritra. Her children, the Danavans, become the adversaries of the Indian Gods.

Her name is cognate to the Ossetian Sea king (whose daughters marry the Nart warriors) Donbettyr, so there we have a marriage between the house of Danu/Donbettyr and the warrior clan. Like I said, the sea king Donbettyr also fosters a number of Nart children, similar to Lugh adoption by Manannan. It seems like the sea-and-Earth tied fertility Gods of the Danavan/Danaan/Donbettyr/Vanir clan became the main Gods of Ireland. That’s my take.

It is certainly an interesting one.  Most of the reading I have done discusses Danu / Anu as a probably-widespread mother goddess whose name is used for several rivers, including the Danube.

In my reading on PIE reconstruction, I came across this odd little site: http://piereligion.org/pantheon.html

Some of what they say fits with what I've read in other sources.  They have links to a Julius Pokorny book that I hadn't heard of before...

But they also seem to be unaware of some context... Like, tying Fringa to Perkunos, but Freya to Priya? It's as if they didn't know that the Old High German root is the same for both.

So, I'm not confident in the scholarship of this site the way I am with Deo Mercurio and a few others.

I bring it up, though, because this site was one of the few places I've seen that reference a tendency for PIE deities to change gender across time and culture.

Like equating Donbettyr with Danu... I'm fascinated by the concept and possibilities. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to have an informed opinion.

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Re: On Reconstructing the Entirely Pagan Version of Celtic Mythology
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2019, 09:15:19 am »
It is certainly an interesting one.  Most of the reading I have done discusses Danu / Anu as a probably-widespread mother goddess whose name is used for several rivers, including the Danube.

In my reading on PIE reconstruction, I came across this odd little site: http://piereligion.org/pantheon.html

Some of what they say fits with what I've read in other sources.  They have links to a Julius Pokorny book that I hadn't heard of before...

But they also seem to be unaware of some context... Like, tying Fringa to Perkunos, but Freya to Priya? It's as if they didn't know that the Old High German root is the same for both.

So, I'm not confident in the scholarship of this site the way I am with Deo Mercurio and a few others.

I bring it up, though, because this site was one of the few places I've seen that reference a tendency for PIE deities to change gender across time and culture.

Like equating Donbettyr with Danu... I'm fascinated by the concept and possibilities. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to have an informed opinion.

I’ve heard the Fjorgynn-Perkunas connection. It makes sense in terms of Grimm’s law, but name similarities aren’t that convincing on their own, unless you can show shared etymological connections and actual mythological similarities.

What clinched the Donbettyr connection for me is the fact that it’s sometimes used in the plural form to refer to group of water deities. The phrase “land of the Donbettyrs” occurs at least twice in my book.  In that sense it’s better understood as an entire clan or tribal name, like “Danava” or “De Danaan.” So it’s not necessarily that Donbettyr is Danu, but they both seem to belong to the same divine family.

In Mallory’s encyclopedia on IE culture (free download online) he talks about Danu. If I recall, he says that rivers draining from the Black Sea in Ukraine like the Dnieper may have been deified as life-giving Goddesses back in the PIE homeland. Interesting idea. That also fits with the “daughter of the sea” motifs found in many stories.

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by Dynes Hysbys
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Last post December 05, 2015, 07:51:03 pm
by Lionrhod

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