Cult and Mythology: A Comparative Study of Ancient Ireland, Britain and Gaul
By Noemie Beck
Abstract: This work consists of a comparative study of the female deities venerated by the Celts of Gaul, Ancient Britain and Ancient Ireland from the 8th c. BC to around 400 AD. The Celts had the peculiarity of transmitting their culture, religious beliefs and myths exclusively by oral means, from one generation to another. The available data relating to Celtic goddesses are thus all indirect and of a different nature and period according to the country concerned. They fall into three categories: contemporary Classical texts, which mainly pertain to Gaul and are very rare; the vernacular literature of early medieval Ireland, which was written down by Christian monks from the 7th c. AD; and archaeology from Gaul and Britain, which is very fragmentary and consists of places of devotion, dating from pre-Roman, Gallo-Roman and Romano-British times, votive epigraphy and iconography, dating from after the Roman conquest. Which goddesses did the Celts believe in? Did the Celts from Ireland, Britain and Gaul venerate similar goddesses? What were their nature and functions? How were they worshipped and by whom? Were they hierarchically organized within a pantheon? This thesis thus attempts, by gathering, comparing and analysing the various linguistic, literary, epigraphic and iconographical data from Gaul, Ancient Britain and Ireland, to establish connections and similarities, and thereby reconstruct a common pattern of Celtic beliefs as they relate to female deities. This research consists of five chapters: the mother-goddesses (Matres and Matronae); the goddesses purveying fertility and embodying the land and the natural elements (animals, trees, forests and mountains); the territorial- and war-goddesses; the river-goddesses (rivers, fountains and hot springs); and the goddesses personifying ritual intoxication.
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(H/T History of the Ancient World)