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Celtic Religion and Gods
My Tribe - The Iceni
Hello! I’m Vencini, son of Ambriox, the main druid of the Iceni tribe. We Iceni live on the east coast of Britain and we are Celts. There are thousands of us, so you can see that we are like a little country. We have a class structure, where at the top are the king, queen and nobles, at the middle are the druids, warriors and bards, and at the bottom are the common people, or the peasants.
My family is middle-class, because I’m a druid’s son and my parents are both druids. We mainly eat porridge, which is frankly, boiled water with some oats thrown into it. Still, other times, we eat cow, sheep, pig, venison or wild boar. If one of our horses dies, we carve up the carcass.
We Celts are all over Europe - we’re in Gaul, central Europe, and the Iberian Peninsula , and even as far as central Anitola! Even though we’re from different places, we all speak a similar language, although each tribe has its own dialect. But we all share a religion with similar gods and goddesses.
I can see that you’re not from around here, and I’ll be all too happy to introduce you to our religion. You’ll find our religion interesting! We all worship deities and gods, and don’t pick a flower all steps on any of them! If you do that, you’ve just become a murderer and killed a deity! And also, don’t pollute the waters! You’ll be upsetting our gods! Ready? Right, let’s go!
We all worship many gods, and the Dagda, is a very important deity. He is the figure which all human beings and gods are modeled after, meaning that he’s like our father. His club is able to kill nine men with one blow! But with his hands, he can make dead people come back to life, so he’s super-powerful. He is so powerful that he can even make the sun stand still for as long as he wants. Sadly, he died at the second battle of Magh Turiedh, killed by Cethlenn, a prophetess.
Lugh, is another powerful god who is skilled with many weapons. When he grew up, he even killed his grandfather, Balor, an evil man. Lugh’s father, Mac Cinnfhaelaidh owned a magical cow that produced such good milk that everybody, including Balor, wanted to own it. The wicked Balor then went to Mac Cinnfhaelaidh’s brother, who was caring for the cow, in the appearance of a red-haired boy and devilishly tricked Mac Cinnfhaelaidh’s brother to get the cow. Mac Cinnfhaelaidh was reasonably angry and wanted revenge, so he asked a fairy woman to teleport him to the top of Balor’s tower, where he seduced Eithne, Balor’s imprisoned daughter. Balor had imprisoned his daughter because he heard a prophecy that his grandson would kill him. Balor’s plan didn’t work and Eithne gave birth to triplets. Evil Balor wrapped them up in a sheet, and then sent a messenger to drown them. The messenger managed to drown two of the babies in a whirlpool, but unwittingly dropped one. The fairy woman who teleported Mac Cinnfhaelaidh to Balor’s tower then rescued the baby and brought him back to his father, who gave him to his other brother, a smith, for safety reasons.
When the baby, Lugh was a young man, he went to a place called Tuatha Dé Dannan. The doorkeeper refused to let him in, but Lugh managed to outwit him by saying that he was a smith, harpist, champion, swordsman, historian, sorcerer, poet and craftsman. Lugh then beat the local champion in a flagstone-throwing tournament and entertained everybody by playing his harp. Then he found out that Tuatha Dé Dannans meekly accepted being opposed by Formorians. Lugh then heroically led them to the second battle of Mag Turiedh, defeating the Formorians and killing Balor. He then became king, and had many wives. Then one of his wives did a stupid thing - she had an affair with Cermait, son of Dagda. When Lugh found out, he immediately killed Cermait, but Cermait’s sons, sadly, drowned Lugh in Lock Lugborta.
Main Celtic Gods and Goddesses
As I have told you before, we worship many gods and goddesses. There are over 400 of them! But I’ll just mention the main ones. Ellen is a water goddess, and a doctor. If you’re sick, like I was once, get something valuable and chuck it into the river (make sure to blunt or break it first if it’s a knife). If Ellen doesn’t work, try the goddess Arnemetia or the god Condatis. But when you offer stuff to Condatis, you’ll have to chuck it in a spot where two rivers meet.
When you’re about to fight, offer something to Andraste, a warrior goddess, or Belatucadus, a warrior god. Once our tribe was not very lucky, the chieftain got my dad to offer a precious gold cup to Sulis so she could bless our tribe. Sulis is a hot spring goddess and the invading Romans built their famous baths in the city of Bath and called it Aquae Sulis, which means the waters of Sulis. Lugh, is our god of light. Taranis, is our god of sky and thunder. Sabrina, is another water goddess. Matrona, is our mother goddess. Cenunnos, the horned god who is associated with animals, includes the ram-horned snake and stags. We are polytheism, which means that we believe in many gods and deities.
Yes! Festivals! Festivals are my favorite times. May Day, or Beltane, is one of my favorite festivals. At May Day, my dad would be extra busy because May Day is a time when we have lots of rituals to make our gods happy. For luck, we build giant bonfires, with nine different types of wood, and then we jump over them! I and my friends at weapons training school are always competing to try who can jump over the bonfires the most without being burnt! Since it’s the start of summer, cattle are driven to fresh pastures to graze and as they’re being driven out, we make two big bonfires, and no, this time, we don’t jump over them. Instead, the cattle are driven between the bonfires to protect them from diseases.
Imbloc is a festival where we celebrate the time when lambs are being born and ewes are producing milk. Milk means some delicious drink and the milk can be turned into cheese. The flocks are also increased and Imbloc is on 1st Febuary.
On 1st August, we celebrate Lughnasad, where we celebrate harvest. Harvest is very important because it means food for us. If harvest is bad, we all starve. When harvest is good, it means food for us and there’s usually enough food to put into the precious winter stores that are our only supply of food during winter.
And yes! Finally! Samhain! We celebrate Samhain on the last evening in October and it is the biggest festival of all. Everybody parties like crazy and my dad and mum, along with the other adults, all get tipsy. It’s my top one favorite festival because the veil that separates us from the Land of the Dead gets hazy and spirits can come into our world, which means, my (sniff) uncle, who was killed in a battle, can visit us (Hooray!). It’s the opposite of Beltane. Instead of being driven out, the cattle are driven into the farmstead for the winter. If we didn’t put them in the farmstead, they’ll become frozen meat with legs.
Druids are our special priests. My dad, Ambriox, is the chief druid. He was 10 years old when he was sent off by his family to be trained as a druid. He had to be trained for 20 years, which was the minimum, and during his training, he met my mother, who was also trained to be a druid.
The druids are our soothsayers, philosophers, and doctors as well. Our druids also mix up medicines for us from herbs, and it has helped me once when I got stung by bees while collecting honey. Since my father is the chief druid, he gets to cut the mistletoe. We go into the forest, where my father, armed with a golden sickle, would climb up the tree and cut the mistletoe. The mistletoe was not allowed to touch the ground, so two druids would stand under the tree with a white cloth to catch the mistletoe.
Last year, we discovered that the white cloth is handy in other ways too. When my father climbed up, the branch he was holding on to snapped and he fell down. The white cloth caught him perfectly and prevented him from serious injury.
Our druids take care of everything. Once, I witnessed a fight between families over territory. Just as swords were drawn, my father was called onto the scene and he decided which family was the winner. The losing family wasn’t very happy about it, but they had to accept it because my father was the chief druid. And if anybody disobeys a druid, they get banned from attending sacrifices, which is the cruelest punishment we can suffer. My father, mother and our druids also take care of all the problems because they are the wise people. Anybody who sees an omen goes straight to a druid and the druid tells them what the omen means.
Druids have five special powers. They can conjure up mists to make themselves invisible, control the weather, change their shapes to anything they wanted, and best of all, travel through time. The travel-through-time power would be pretty useful. Then I could travel back through time and stop my uncle from dying! By the way, our neighboring Celts in Gaul send their people over here to Britain to be trained as druids before we send them back to Gaul . I suppose it’s because our teachers are best.
(SAFETY WARNING: DON’T READ THIS BIT IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH)
All the time, we make little offerings to the gods, such as when we’re sick. But sometimes, we have to sacrifice stuff. When my dad cuts the mistletoe, two white goats are always sacrificed to the gods to keep them happy. One night, some druids went and sacrificed a man. They fed him mistletoe and then bashed him on the head, slit his throat and strangled him. They then dumped the body into a bog as a sacrifice.
We don’t always sacrifice by using weapons. We sometimes sacrifice by the elements. ‘Death by Air’ is when our druids hang or throttle somebody with a cord. ‘Death by Fire’ is when our druids chuck somebody into a basket and set it on fire. ‘Death by Water’ is when our druids chuck somebody into a cauldron full of water and leave them to drown. And in ‘Death by Earth’, our druids bury somebody alive.
Sometimes, we also offer stuff by putting them into rivers. And when we sacrifice large scale, we build a large statue of straw and wood and then fill it with cattle, wild animals and victims before setting fire to the statue.
Even though it’s hard work building the statue, we can sacrifice quite a lot of stuff at once and it’s satisfying to see the stature catch fire. We also sometimes sacrifice people by filling them with arrows. It’s great target practice.
We also have another habit of bricking up an animal in a house to bring luck. It’s a very effective way to get rid of unwanted wildlife, such as stray dogs stealing your meat. Ever since we used that method of sacrificing, we have had more meat than before.
This bit is a little spooky, so cover your ears if you have too. You see, nothing lasts forever, and you know that we all eventually die. But a lot of people have wondered that, where do we go, after we die? Well, know I can tell you that your soul goes to the Otherworld, which is an afterlife.
The Otherworld can actually be a good thing, since that the gods live in the Otherworld and brilliant feasts are always happening there. Yes, you heard me right. Feasts. Just thinking about the word makes me hungry. Why, I haven’t been to a feast since Boudica became our queen. That’s why we’re very fierce in battle, since it doesn’t matter if we die. And to avoid capture by the enemy, which is very humiliating, we will commit suicide if we lose a battle to get to the Otherworld, where there is no such thing as pain and misery and there is only happiness and health.
The Otherworld is also a good excuse to get around debts, too. For example, one of my friends owed other person money and it was an amount he couldn’t afford to pay. So he simply said, “I’ll pay you in the next life” and the person let him go with the debt.
During Samhain, I earlier mentioned that the veil that separates the Land of the Living from the Otherworld gets hazy and spirits can enter our world and we can enter theirs. It isn’t always a good thing because evil fairies from the Otherworld can nick our children and replace them with changelings, which are fairy children. My parents are always very afraid of this happening, and they keep constant watch over me open to prevent this.
When you are in the Otherworld, you will also die eventually, and then you are born again into this world. When you die in this world you are born again in the Otherworld. When you die in the Otherworld, you are… Oh well then, you get the idea.
Significance of Celtic Religion and My Overall Comments
Our religion is very significant in our lives because we live by it. After all, the gods control our lives. If, say, we forgot to make an offering or sacrifice to a god, the god would not be happy and we might get a bad harvest or worst, lose a battle. But if we make some good sacrifices to the gods, then would get a good harvest or win a lot of battles, which is brilliant. Each god takes care of different things, so we must be sure to make the right sacrifices to the right god. For example, when we are sacrificing to a water god or goddess, we must use ‘Death by Water’ because it’s the only way that fits.
And to quote the famous Roman general Julius Caesar about our relatives in Gaul , we hold roughly equal views as other populations. When he wrote his book ‘The Gallic War’, he listed the five main gods and gave the Roman gods most like them. Mercury is the originator of all arts, like Lugh, Apollo dispels sickness, Minerva encourages skills, Jupiter governs the skies and Mars influences warfare. He also says that we trace our ancestry to Dis Pater.
Well, I think that our religion is very interesting, but you have to have a super-memory to remember all the names of our 400 gods and deities. And I think that training to be a druid is boring, since you have to be trained for at least 20 years! I could have done a lot of stuff in that time. But my father expects me to be trained as a druid when I grow up, since it’s in the family. Most of my relatives are all druids.
The Cut-Throat Celts by Teary Deary
Boudica and Her Barmy Armym by Valerie Wilding
The Usborne History of Britain by Ruth Brocklehurst
The Miles Kelly Book of British History by Philip Steele
Punta Gorda, Florida
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