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Woodwose
January 7th, 2009, 09:11 AM
It's an understanding from the many historical accounts as well as archaelogical evidence in the form of bog-bodies, etc., that the pagan Celts practiced human sacrifice, both as a means of propitiating their gods, as well as for the purposes of divination. So I was wondering how Celtic Reconstructionists are able to reconcile their goal of reinacting historically authentic Celtic pagan religious rituals with the fact that historically these rituals would have included things like burning people in wicker cages, drowning them in vats of beer, shooting them with arrows, and stabbing them in the stomach and divining the future from their death throes, the flow of their blood and by examining their entrails?

http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1746/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1746-682.jpg

http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1746/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1746-676.jpg

http://www.geocities.com/the_pagan_research_foundation/head_shrine.jpg

http://www.utexas.edu/courses/wilson/ant304/projects/projects97/dentep/tollund1.jpg

Seren_
January 7th, 2009, 12:43 PM
The short answer: It's about reconstructing the practices in a modern context. Obviously, since offing someone for the sake of your religion is a big nono these days, I don't see there's anything that needs reconciling.

The aim isn't to go back to living in the Iron Age, so there are lots of things that aren't relevant to modern practice. I celebrate Beltane, but for me it has nothing to do with purifying my herd or moving to the summer shieling, but still the festival, and what I do for it, has relevance. I adapt.

The long answer: Looking at the archaeological evidence, the historical sources, and records of folklore up to modern times it's clear that many practices continued and evolved over time.

Things like offerings and sacrifices generally seem to have been performed for the benefit of the tribe or group as a whole. Human sacrifces certainly seem to have been, anyway. Other offerings and sacrifices appear to have been performed on a more personal basis. Since we no longer live in an Iron Age society, with kings and druids and so on, I don't see that human sacrifice is an issue in modern CR theology, as it were.

As Celtic cultures evolved, offerings and sometimes even (animal) sacrifices were made, but this was more personal in focus, especially once the more communal customs fell out of practice. I believe some CRs practice animal sacrifice under certain cirumstances, but for most it's not appropriate under modern circumstances.

Many CRs look to more modern examples of offerings and sacrifices (i.e. more symbolic ones, such as crooked pennies, for example, or destroying items of personal value instead) from within the particular Celtic culture they're focusing on, since these tend to be more appropriate to more modern circumstances, while having a clear link with past practices.

Skatha
January 7th, 2009, 01:17 PM
Extremely well put.

I personally believe that it is also noteworthy to mention the fact that most, if not all of the information we have regarding Celtic tribal ways of living come from the writings of the Romans who were quick to demonize their conquered subjects. The Romans were the ones to heavily accuse the Celts of extensive human and animal sacrifice, thus making them out to be barbaric monsters in need of a good dose of civilization. Yet the Romans themselves were very fond of throwing human beings to the lions simply for the fun of it (and don't think the lions got off easy afterwards). Pretty "barbaric" in my opinion, and also a negative mark against the credibility of the hypocritical Roman historians.

The archeological evidence which suggests that the practice of human and animal sacrifice was wide spread among the Celts is, in my opinion, often swayed due to the writings of the Romans. For example, the Lindow Man met his death by a three fold attack - he was strangled, hit on the head, and his throat was cut. Archeologists and historians are quick to say that this was a ritualistic death. However, there is no hard core evidence to back up this claim. Yes, the Lindow Man appears to have been a man of high status. But couldn't his death have simply been an elaborate murder plotted out by a jealous rival? And as far as the Wicker man is concerned - there is no proof other than the writings of Julius Ceasar to prove that this fantastical practice ever took place.

Am I trying to claim that human and animal sacrifice NEVER took place among the various tribes of the Celtic speaking peoples? Absolutely not. However, I am of the belief that, depending on the tribe, sacrifice of this nature was not as wide spread and common as historians like to believe.

Deerwoman
January 7th, 2009, 01:20 PM
Reconstructionists are able to reconcile their goal of reinacting historically authentic Celtic pagan religious rituals with the fact that historically these rituals would have included things like burning people in wicker cages, drowning them in vats of beer, shooting them with arrows, and stabbing them in the stomach and divining the future from their death throes, the flow of their blood and by examining their entrails?
Well the wicker thing has only one secondary source from the biased Julius Caesar... but I personally prefer the spilling of entrails and blood onto the trees of a sacred grove for an offering and for divination.

But seriously - it's been a long time since the Celtic gods were offered blood sacrifice in human form. Up until the mid 20th century animal sacrifice was still performed in local folk practices; for example cats and horses buried under the foundations of new homes, and calves or sheep found in trees as sacrifices to pagan agricultural gods. Vodun practitioners have told me it is better not to start offering blood, as once you do a deity will only crave more. I use other liquids instead - cider or my home-brewed mead. The Celts and Norse believed that in order for something to enter the Otherworld, it must go through a transition of some sort - by breaking an offering, burning it, cooking it - killing someone to make the change between life and death would have been the ultimate transition. Brewing is also a change of fruit and sugars to alcohol. Human sacrifice wasn't the only sacrifice the ancients practiced - hence the offering pits that have been found full of broken and burnt treasures. I choose to perform the old ways that won't get me life in prison or time for cruelty to animals. So I offer libations and burnt offerings as part of my practice.

David19
January 7th, 2009, 01:39 PM
The short answer: It's about reconstructing the practices in a modern context. Obviously, since offing someone for the sake of your religion is a big nono these days, I don't see there's anything that needs reconciling.

The aim isn't to go back to living in the Iron Age, so there are lots of things that aren't relevant to modern practice. I celebrate Beltane, but for me it has nothing to do with purifying my herd or moving to the summer shieling, but still the festival, and what I do for it, has relevance. I adapt.

The long answer: Looking at the archaeological evidence, the historical sources, and records of folklore up to modern times it's clear that many practices continued and evolved over time.

Things like offerings and sacrifices generally seem to have been performed for the benefit of the tribe or group as a whole. Human sacrifces certainly seem to have been, anyway. Other offerings and sacrifices appear to have been performed on a more personal basis. Since we no longer live in an Iron Age society, with kings and druids and so on, I don't see that human sacrifice is an issue in modern CR theology, as it were.

As Celtic cultures evolved, offerings and sometimes even (animal) sacrifices were made, but this was more personal in focus, especially once the more communal customs fell out of practice. I believe some CRs practice animal sacrifice under certain cirumstances, but for most it's not appropriate under modern circumstances.

Many CRs look to more modern examples of offerings and sacrifices (i.e. more symbolic ones, such as crooked pennies, for example, or destroying items of personal value instead) from within the particular Celtic culture they're focusing on, since these tend to be more appropriate to more modern circumstances, while having a clear link with past practices.


Well the wicker thing has only one secondary source from the biased Julius Caesar... but I personally prefer the spilling of entrails and blood onto the trees of a sacred grove for an offering and for divination.

But seriously - it's been a long time since the Celtic gods were offered blood sacrifice in human form. Up until the mid 20th century animal sacrifice was still performed in local folk practices; for example cats and horses buried under the foundations of new homes, and calves or sheep found in trees as sacrifices to pagan agricultural gods. Vodun practitioners have told me it is better not to start offering blood, as once you do a deity will only crave more. I use other liquids instead - cider or my home-brewed mead. The Celts and Norse believed that in order for something to enter the Otherworld, it must go through a transition of some sort - by breaking an offering, burning it, cooking it - killing someone to make the change between life and death would have been the ultimate transition. Brewing is also a change of fruit and sugars to alcohol. Human sacrifice wasn't the only sacrifice the ancients practiced - hence the offering pits that have been found full of broken and burnt treasures. I choose to perform the old ways that won't get me life in prison or time for cruelty to animals. So I offer libations and burnt offerings as part of my practice.

I'm not a Celtic Recon, so my opinion may not matter, but, I do really agree with you two, being a Recon isn't about living as the ancients did, it's about practicing the religion, in the modern world, and making adaptions, where necessary, religions do evolve and adapt to changing times, that's the sign of a living religion (e.g. like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Voudou and Santeria (especially Voudou which adapts from country to country, city to city, even individual to individual, etc), etc). Also, the Celtic Gods, probably, do understand that they won't be able to have human sacrificed to them anymore, and have adapted, just like the Aztec Gods have (there are a few Aztec Recons who don't have any problems practicing their religion, without going out and killing people, see these articles for more info: here (http://www.amoxtli.org/cuezali/blood.html), here (http://www.amoxtli.org/cuezali/spaper.html) and here (http://www.amoxtli.org/cuezali/place.html)).

Can I ask something to Celtic Recons, do any of you perform auto-sacrifice (sacrificing your own blood) to the Celtic Gods (or a specific God), like modern Aztec Recons do?, or is it something that isn't part of the religion (sorry, if that's OT, I'm just a bit curious).

Skatha
January 7th, 2009, 01:52 PM
David, I'm going to go ahead and say that it is a personal choice to do so. I know some people that have pricked a finger and offered a drop of blood, simply because they feel that, unlike material objects to sacrifice, blood is the very life force of their being, and therefore is the most intimate gift one could give to the Gods. I personally see nothing wrong with this practice as long as it is done in a safe, mature, and responsible manner, and that it is the personal choice of a legal adult.

Shawn Blackwolf
January 7th, 2009, 02:03 PM
David...

I have a bluestone...a small piece brought back to me , from a circle...
I shall not say from where...except the woman was Irish...

She could not concieve , and wanted a child...

And I asked her to bring me something back , when she returned...

She and her husband , Irish also , had been gifted with a runestone
I made for their wedding...a large one...inscribed with a number
of bind runes...so we were close...

She gave three drops of her blood , placed on the earth inside the
circle , in a trine...asked for the blessing of a child...and took a small
piece of bluestone for me...

When she returned , 2 months later...she was pregnant...:uhhuhuh:

And that stone ? Well...the energy is quite something...13 years later...:bigredgri

Tiberias
January 7th, 2009, 03:38 PM
Chunk of bluestone from a circle, huh? Yep, nothing better than breaking international law and vandalizing archaeological sites managed as a piece of national cultural heritage.

You should be ashamed.

Shawn Blackwolf
January 7th, 2009, 03:44 PM
First of all , I do not believe in shame...

Keep that for yourself...

Secondly...I did not vandalize , nor ask her to...

She did what she did , of her own free will , after
asking the permission of the land spirits , and her goddess...

And , I recieved it , with the love she gave it to me...

So...keep your shame...it is not mine , good sir...:bigredgri


Chunk of bluestone from a circle, huh? Yep, nothing better than breaking international law and vandalizing archaeological sites managed as a piece of national cultural heritage.

You should be ashamed.

Tiberias
January 7th, 2009, 04:01 PM
First of all , I do not believe in shame...

Keep that for yourself...Obviously.


Secondly...I did not vandalize , nor ask her to...By accepting an illegally looted antiquity, you are party to the act.


She did what she did , of her own free will , after

asking the permission of the land spirits , and her goddess...

And , I recieved it , with the love she gave it to me...So breaking a handful of laws and treaties and vandalizing irreplaceable public property is okay as long as your religion says it's okay and you do it with loving intent (towards the beneficiary of the act, that is, since it's hardly loving to anybody else with a stake in the site's integrity)?

Wow. Just...wow.

Shawn Blackwolf
January 7th, 2009, 04:11 PM
Your view...a fingernail chip , from a circle blown apart by stone killers ?

What can I say...I did not commit the act...and I trust the land spirits...I am Irish...:uhhuhuh:


Obviously.

By accepting an illegally looted antiquity, you are party to the act.

So breaking a handful of laws and treaties and vandalizing irreplaceable public property is okay as long as your religion says it's okay and you do it with loving intent (towards the beneficiary of the act, that is, since it's hardly loving to anybody else with a stake in the site's integrity)?

Wow. Just...wow.

Tiberias
January 7th, 2009, 04:22 PM
And my ancestry is very recently Spanish. That doesn't give me the right to go taking chunks off of the Dama de Elche, nor to accept a chunk from a friend just because they were thinking of me. Heck, even if I were a Spanish citizen, that still wouldn't make it okay.

I'm not sure what's the most troubling bit here. The fact that the vandalism actually occured? The fact that you see nothing wrong with the crime? Or the fact that your first post's message and tone could easily serve as encouragement for others to commit a similar crime? Tough choice.

The stone was not hers, and it was not yours. You had absolutely no right whatsoever, no matter what any "land spirits" said, to take or accept a piece of it. End of story.

odubhain
January 7th, 2009, 09:02 PM
It's an understanding from the many historical accounts as well as archaelogical evidence in the form of bog-bodies, etc., that the pagan Celts practiced human sacrifice, both as a means of propitiating their gods, as well as for the purposes of divination. So I was wondering how Celtic Reconstructionists are able to reconcile their goal of reinacting historically authentic Celtic pagan religious rituals with the fact that historically these rituals would have included things like burning people in wicker cages, drowning them in vats of beer, shooting them with arrows, and stabbing them in the stomach and divining the future from their death throes, the flow of their blood and by examining their entrails?

The simple answer is that they moved beyond the need for human sacrifice. First, animals were substituted in the sacrifices, then plants and crafted objects were the focus of offerings. In this transition, they were no different from other religions that also made such a transition in their sacrifices.

There is no need to recreate such practices as their descendents and evolutionary offspring are still with us today in Celtic lands and traditions.

Here's a few references from the tales that I teach in my Ogham Divination classes and associate with the meanings of the Ogham Ailm to explain this change and transition in sacrifice:


The Adventures of Art, the Son of Conn

Conn the Hundred-Fighter, had become enamored of a faerie woman to the extent that the Land itself has suffered. The people are without milk and corn for a year. The druids consulted their science and their wisdom to determine how the blight should be ended. The druids determined that the son of a sinless couple should be found and brought to Tara and slain. His blood had to be mingled with the soil of Tara to return blessings to the Land. Conn himself went in quest of this child and found him in the household of Daire Degamra from the Land of Wonders and Rigu Rosclethan from the Land of Promise. The child's name was Segda Saerlabraid and even though his father would not give him up, he chose to willingly go with Conn, King of Ireland. When the druids saw the boy their counsel was to slay him and then to mingle his blood with the earth of Ireland so that the blight could be lifted and its prosperity returned. Conn and his son Art as well as Finn stood together against the druids and the clamoring of the men of Ireland, protecting the boy. The boy himself then asked that he should be put to death if it was for such a noble purpose and to if it was to save such a noble land as Ireland. Just as this deed was about to be done, a mysterious woman appeared leading a cow which was also carrying two bags, one each on either of its sides. When the druids themselves could not determine the mystery of the woman and her cow, or even the bags themselves, she was then asked to explain. She said that the single cow before them had come to save the innocent youth and to rescue the prosperity of Ireland. It was itself to be slain in his place and after this deed was done, her blood was to be mixed with the earth. After the cow had been slain and her blood scattered and mixed with the earth of Tara, then the two bags were opened to reveal their mysteries. One bag was found to contain a single bird with one leg only, while the other bag held a similar bird, but this one having twelve legs instead of two or one. When the two birds were released they immediately flew into the air and began to fight. Amazingly, it was the one legged bird that prevailed and not the bird of twelve legs as had been expected. The druids could not determine the meaning of this conflict and once again the woman was consulted by all. She then read the signs, stating that it was the druids that should be hanged and that the boy should be spared. Everyone agreed that this must be a true saying, since the druids had failed in their attempts to read the mysteries. The druids must then be the bird with twelve legs and the boy may have been represented by the victorious bird with only one leg. And so it was that the young man was not put to death. The woman then further prophesied that Ireland itself would be without one third of its produce until Conn could put away his faerie woman, Becuma Cneisgel. The mysterious woman then left, taking Segda with her, while refusing all payments, jewels and treasures that were offered. This is how Segda Saerlabraid was saved from the blades of the druids and was not sacrificed for Conn's folly of the faerie lover.



Amirgen and Athirne

Greth came to the forge of Eccet Salach, the Wonder Smith, a master of every craft, perhaps a Druid or even a god. Greth sought an axe for his master Athirne:

Does Greth Eat Curds?
Does Greth Eat Curds?

Does Greth Eat Curds?

These are the first words of Amairgen after a silence of 14 years since birth (who was to become the chief poet of The Ulaid) to Greth the servant of Athirne, chief poet of the Ulaid.
They were followed by a possible satire in the form of these words:

A fair bush, A foul bush,
Bunches of garlic,
Hollow of a pine,
Apples fallen from a tree?

Curds.

Does Greth Eat Curds?

Does Greth Eat Curds?

Does Greth Eat Curds?

On hearing these words Greth fled in fear back to his master and reported all that had happened. Athirne and Greth then attempted to kill Amairgen for this satire but only succeeded in beheading a clay image of him instead (which the Wonder Smith had fashioned and dressed in his place). Amairgen and his sister were safely hiding at Slibh Mis tending the smith's cows. None-the-less, Athirne and his servant still had to pay honor price to the Wonder Smith for their deed. Also Athirne took the boy Amairgen in fosterage to teach him expertise in poetry that eventually led too Amairgen becoming Ulster's chief poet. That is another lesson of Aí and of sacrifice and how a boy without a father could become a great sage.

This story is found in the Book of Leinster and was told based on a translation by John Carey in the Celtic Heroic Age. It is a tale of incubation and motion, a tale of wisdom and ignorance, a tale of misdeeds and illusions, all woven into acts that led onward to inspiration and wisdom. The axe did the deed. The clay figure was sacrificed for honor, yet honor price was paid for the living to the living. A son without a father brought the headship of poetry to one who was transformed from the earth to the chief poet of the Ulaid. It was wrought by foresight and many skilled wonder from the concerns of a sister for the sake of a brother. Here we see that a son can have more than one father even as Nede mac Adne had three fathers (one of age, one of wisdom and one by birth). Indeed it is a wonder that a many skilled one can have the name of Salach or Sal (profane, filth, impurity, dross) as also did a Hazel of the Well of Segais. Yet with only a change of perspective or accent, Sál became the Sea and all its secrets, a child of wisdom and the source of creation. There is a mystery and a secret within these sounds and this sequence of actions. The fires of imbas illuminate the darkness that covers the waveless surface of the waters.

I am not a boy nor am I a man, I am a student of wisdom.
The secrets of the gods bring me riches.
I am the secret sage of learning
and have drunk from the Well of Creation.
Ancient thought is my name.
I am the grandson of the Speckled Horse.
The Nine Hazels of Wisdom gift me.

After chanting this chant, he sang again from his inspiration:

I am the columns of age
I am a ring of satire.
I am the will of the land.
I am the bright song in its courses.
I am the ground song of forever.
I am a judgment given in truth.
My body is its own inheritance.
My life has come and gone.
Who lives on the crimson plane but I?
Is it Senbecc or Abcan that utters these words?

One can drink or wonder and one can see visions in the depths.

The religion of our ancestors grew beyond the need for human sacrifice while embracing symbols for its higher ideals.


The Nine Dúile of Ailm

Foundations of Stones: Lessons,
Lessons of Form: Study,
Study of Nature: Learning,
Learning of Blood: Sacrifice,
Sacrifice of Spirit: Ritual,
Ritual of Mind: Science,
Science of Thought: Logic,
Logic of Perception: Observations,
Observations of Authority: Teachings.


Searles O'Dubhain

skilly-nilly
January 7th, 2009, 10:18 PM
Your view...a fingernail chip , from a circle blown apart by stone killers ?

What can I say...I did not commit the act...and I trust the land spirits...I am Irish...:uhhuhuh:

If every Irish Descendant had their own chip, there'd be none left at all.

I'm ethnically Irish and I think the preservation of ancient shrines is far more important than any one person's baby, or your collection of memorobilia. Why wouldn't a pressed blade of grass or leaf of clover be just as important? Or a photograph? Or a memory?


Not to get OT, I think that the OP is asking about a number of different practices in a lump.

1)Head-Taking
Taking heads and keeping/displaying skulls was a warrior practice culture-wide, so it would only really work today if warriors still met in one-on-one combat and both sides in a raid both honoured their enemies by taking their heads and felt honoured if, when killed, their heads were taken. Which is not the case.

2) Wicker-Men
I agree with the theory that the whole 'wicker construct full of people and other animals towering above the savage druid sacrificers' is a prehistoric urban myth fabricated by Romans.

3) Lindor man
There is a (to me) reasonable theory that some sacrifices were volunteers from the group of druids. In which case if a dedicant redirects hir life as a result of belief, ze is sacrificing hirself.

Yes, I give my own blood.

Deerwoman
January 7th, 2009, 11:00 PM
I do not offer my own blood, but I do use my own blood in my craft - mainly for consecrating ritual tools or charms for myself. Shawn, I am pure Scots-Irish, and I do not approve of what your friend did, not the blood but the stone she chose to bring back to you - she could have chosen anything.

... Back on topic.... The Scots must be a bit more bloodthirsty. Animal sacrifice was practiced up until fairly recently - the usual black chickens and cats for anything from a healing cure to a sacrifice upon the building of a new home.

Sacrifice simply means "to make sacred", and an offering was always something of value to the propitiant. Livestock would have held great value at one time, hence the mass sacrifices of cattle, sheep, horses and pigs by many pagan cultures, but most notably by the Romans and the Norse. When people became even more agricultural suddenly it was the grains and produce that were of value, which I believe started the traditions of saving the last sheaf of grain from a harvest as a sacrifice to the god(s) of agriculture and the harvest. This sheaf was usually given a place of honour at the feast table as the people believed it contained the spirit of the god or the grain itself. In some cultures the spirit of the harvest is male reflecting the myths of sacrificial king (think of John Barleycorn), in other cultures it was female - the Cailleach or Bride/maiden reflecting a female goddess of agriculture such as Demeter.

Most often in ancient pagan cultures, food was the sacrifice - simple every day food that everyone in the community ate, and at feasts they ate with their gods - I've found this the same for the Greeks, Romans, Norse and Celts. The difference in modern day being we no longer kill our own meals...

The book Food in the Ancient World contains numerous references to food as offerings and sacrifice in the Greco-Roman world, here's one of many:

"If a person wished to make an offing to a god, there was nothing to stop him or her offering a cake made in the home for human consumption."One of my favourite books of all time Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, contains a large amount of info on sacrifice and offerings performed by the ancient Celts and Germanic tribes:

"In the holy places of Celts, Germans, and Scandinavians regular rituals were organized to renew and strengthen communication with the supernatural world. The communal feast which included the hallowing of ale or mead to the gods was of major importance, and the sacrifice of living creatures was linked with this. Animals had to be slain, and meat and drink shared with the powers in whose honour men came together. [...]Such sacrifices, as well as the killing of victims, might take place on private occassions or at special times of crisis and danger, but always sacrifice formed an essential part of the communal feast held regularly in honour of the gods. (p.36)"

"While sacrifices might be made on special occassions, such as the arrival at a holy place, the setting up of a new house, victory in battle, the opening of the Assembly, or the death of a king, and might be also be carried out by private individuals, there were regular feasts in which all the community took part. (p.37)"

Ailyn
July 27th, 2009, 11:53 AM
I do practice blood sacrifice, thrice a year. Every time I give blood, I am giving it in the name of my Gods and in honor of Them, for the betterment of my society. So blood sacrifice isn't as creepy as some people think. I just couldn't poke myself with the needle or blade anymore.

And I believe that certain areas of Celtic culture practiced object sacrifice (for lack of a better term) in conjunction with human sacrifice. So I don't know how much they grew beyond human sacrifice. And does it really matter? At the time, human sacrifice was almost a scientific practice, the whole cause and effect thing. They really believed that if you kill a person by fire (as sacrifice), then the only possible and logical outcome would be to, say, have your village protected from fire. But now we, with modern science, understand that killing people by fire has no effect on your protection from fire. It may even increase your chances, depending on the size and controllability of said fire, and your own attentiveness. :D

Now, human sacrifice to honor the Gods is a different story. Maybe its not the bloodshed the Gods liked (or maybe it is), but the giving of something so precious and sacred. In those days, the worlds population wasn't even a sixth of what is now, infant mortality rates were high, people died young, so life was held in high esteem. Now, we have over-population and people don't realize life for the sacred thing it is. But we really like things. So by sacrificing things, we kinda give what so much of the world holds to be their highest and most precious. And there are other ways to give a life. Self-sacrifice in the name of humanity, the planet, etc...