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Celts, The (Second Edition)

Product no.: 014-02-5074-3
The Celts is a remarkable achievement, not least because the Celts, in the belief that knowledge was a spiritual possession, left virtually no written records.

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Publisher's Synopsis
Using archaeological evidence and descriptions from classical sources, Chadwick reveals the Celts to be a people feared and admired in equal measure, who occupied vast swathes of Europe for over a thousand years from the 8th century BC.

The Celts history is one of resilience and unlikely survival, as first the Romans - for whom they were both formidable opponents and, later, invaluable allies - and then the Anglo-Saxons, descended on the lands the Celts had made their home. By shedding light on the pagan and Christian religions, the mythology, institutions and artistic heritage of the Celts, Chadwick crafts an intimate portrait of early life across Europe and the British Isles.

First published in 1971, The Celts has proved to be a huge influence over a generation of academics and anyone interested in the Celts.

"A masterpiece... the culmination of a lifetime's study by one of our greatest Celtic scholars."      ~Barry Cunliffe

"Little is known in detail of pre-Christian sanctuaries in Ireland, although ritual centres undoubtedly existed. Owing to the conservation of oral tradition in Ireland, however, a rich corpus of mythology survived to be written down in the early Christian period. The remarkable affection of the Celts in Ireland for their pre-Christian past allowed them, without compromising their newly won faith, to preserve something of their pagan tradition. Some of the individuals who figure in the myths were undoubtedly gods, although Christian ethics did not permit them to be represented as such. It is possible to establish correlations between certain details relating to places and things, and even aspects of behaviour, as recounted in the literature, and archaeological material, particularly that of the continental and insular Celts of the La Tène period [in modern Switzerland]. A close study of these correlations and their interpretation is difficult and, if uncritical, may be misleading. Much remains to be done, but such a study is essential in any attempt to understand the beliefs of the pre-Christian Celts.

Turning to the literature itself, there are, for example, traces of the triad of Gaulish divinities in three goddesses concerned with battle and death who occur in Irish stories, although here the goddesses do not occur as a triad, but individually. These are the Mórrígan, ‘the great Queen’, and Macha and Badb. Badb is the essential goddess of battle, and frequently appears as a crow or a raven. The Mórrigan is thought to be the forerunner of Morgan la Faye in the medieval Arthurian Cycle. But she was an unpleasant person. An ancient elegy tells ofa Leinster prince who was drowned in his little curagh, and of the ‘hateful laugh’ of the woman (the Mórrígan) who ‘has flung her white mane [the breakers] against Coning in his curagh’. Of Macha we hear comparatively little. Brigantia also is attested by inscriptions in both Gaul and Britain. According to Cormaes Glossary she is the daughter of the Dagdá and the patron of poets, but she forms a triad with her two sisters who are the goddesses of smiths and laws, an odd association. She is believed to have been Christianized as St Brigid."       ~Chap. 6: Religion and Mythology - The Evidence of the Celts

Author Chadwick, Nora
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 306 pp.
Publisher Penguin Books 1997
Browse these categories as well: Celtic Culture and Customs, Mythology, Folk and Fairy Tales, Primitive and Derivative Religions

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