Celtic Goddess Worship & Influences on Christianity - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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Spin off from: Misogyny around the world Topic split: So as to not "hijack" a thread though it should be noted that as people explore an issue new thoughts and points of views come up that in turn are part of the thread...

Oxymoron wrote:Most early Celtic European religious leaders were women.
Oxy was not speaking of the "Neolithic era" nice way to grab information to "prove" your point that has no bearing...
PoD wrote:This is why I ask for evidence about claims of priestesses.

There are no extant textual sources from the Neolithic era, the most recent available dating from the Bronze Age, and therefore all statements about any belief systems Neolithic societies may have possessed are glimpsed from archaeology.

The archaeologist Marija Gimbutas put forward a notion of a "woman-centered" society surrounding goddess worship throughout Pre History (Paleolithic and Neolithic Europe) and ancient civilizations, by using the term matristic "exhibiting influence or domination by the mother figure".

However, these views are questioned by the majority of the scientific community. Archaeologist Sarah M. Nelson criticizes Gimbutas suggesting that she used the same techniques used in the past to disparage women but in this case to glorify them, and quotes another archaeologist, Pamela Russell as saying "The archaeological evidence is, in some cases, distorted enough to make a careful prehistorian shudder".

Your turn.
(A quick Wiki search is fun, but hardly beats years of study) ;)

Ok, but I am not a neophyte in this regards.

I am going to concentrate on *Celtic/*Hibernia history/religion but it should be noted that other cultures also had large "societies surrounding goddess worship". *These are just Mother type Goddesses not regular Goddesses of other types.
Examples: Egyptian, Indigenous people, Aztec, Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Anatolia, Cucuteni-Trypillian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Turkic Siberians, Hinduism, Shaktism and Christianity.

Celtic/Hibernia history/religion is a mix of history and legend, it takes the form of both written and oral tradition. The parts that are legend are still important even though much of it can not be confirmed, because it still shows the mindset of the Celtic/Hibernia people.

First you need to know that Celtic religion is based on the idea of a trinity goddess set:
Image *Banba, *Fotla and *Eriu, all goddesses of sovereignty.
According to ancient Irish legend, Ireland was first called "the island of Banba of the women". Banba patron goddess of Ireland and one of the three goddesses of sovereignity who *Amerigin met when he invaded Ireland. Erin is a more modern name for Ireland which comes from the goddess Eriu.

Later in history the above goddesses faded out and these three came into prominence. Note: Each of these Goddesses is but one, in a triple Goddess set.

First there is the mother goddess *Danu or Anu. The Celts included the cult of the mother goddess in their rites, as archeological evidence testifies. Indeed, the Tuatha Dé were the descendants of the goddess Danu, and in some local instances, the ruler of the otherworld was a goddess, rather than a god.

Then there is *Druantia: a Gaelic-Celtic Goddess known as Queen of the Druids and Mother of the tree calendar, an ancient method the Celts used to divide their year.

Most favorable to the warrior class was *Morrígan: The Morrigan is the goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. This particular Goddess plays a large part in both the Ulster and Mythological Cycles.

Here is a large list of Gaulish, Brythonic, Gaelic and Welsh female deities, many of whom had large followings of female priestesses.

*Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire (the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is celebrated in many European countries. Ireland is full of springs and wells named after the goddess Brigid. Symbolically, water is seen as a portal to the Other-world and as a source of wisdom and healing.

At her most famous shrine Brigid taught humans how to gather and use herbs for their healing properties, how to care for their livestock, and how to forge iron into tools. As a goddess of childbirth and protector of all children, she is the patroness of midwifery.

This shrine, near Kildare, was located near an ancient Oak that was considered to be sacred by the Druids, so sacred in fact that no one was allowed to bring a weapon there. This ancient shrine of the goddess Brigit was home to the priestesses and warrior women called kelles.

The shrine is believed to have been an ancient college of priestesses who were committed to thirty years of service, after which they were free to leave and marry. There is a saying that Brigid rewards any offering to her, so offerings of coins were often tossed into her wells...the forerunner of the modern custom of throwing a penny into a fountain while you make a wish.

The Goddess Brigid is one of the biggest contributors to women lead religious sects.

*A Christian monastery was eventually built upon the site of her sacred shrine and continued this tradition and became known as a great European center of learning and culture. One who called this monastery home was Saint Brigid who is, perhaps, the most powerful religious figure in Irish history.

This Brigid is however, a real historical figure.

*Saint Brigid (451-475 C.E), a patron saint of Ireland, she was trained as a druid/priestess to the goddess Brigid in early life before converting to Christianity. She eventually founded, and lived the rest of her life, in a convent in Kildare.

Saint Brigid, one of the three patron saints of Ireland. Saint Brigid is said to have been baptized by St Patrick. Within a fenced enclosure at St Brigid’s Abbey of Kildare, which no man was permitted to enter, there was kept alive a sacred fire. From St Brigid onward it was tended by nineteen nuns, each being responsible for a day at a time. On the eve of the twentieth day the last nun would place logs by the fire with the prayer: ‘Brigid, guard your fire, this is your night.’ This ritual survived from ancient times when nineteen vestal virgins, or kelle, had tended the flame, the virgin guardians of sacred fires was passed onto Christian nuns.

Saint Brigid was a driving force in keeping pagan beliefs alive and integrating them into the modern Church.

*In fact, in the 5th century, the Irish Catholic Church ordained two women Bishops, Bridget of Kildare and St Beoferlic or Saint Beverley of York, of the Celtic Church in Northumbria and that they preformed mass and gave the sacrament.

At the *Council of Laodicea in AD 352, (CANON XI. PRESBYTIDES, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church)it was ordered that women should no longer be ordained as priests and shortly after the Church began to reject women from entering its ranks. Women were finally pushed out of the priestly order during the Middle Ages and diminished to the roles of nun and abbess.

Goddess worship is a deeply engrained theme with the Irish, they have named the isle after a Goddess, the sun and their calendar. The Irish see things in terms of the "Mother" as the most holy, not the "father". This is best seen in the symbolic marriage between the king and the goddess of sovereignty. This union was to "ensure fertility for the land and for his people in the year to come".

*Julius Caesar wrote a book about the Gauls/Celts known as the *Commentarii de Bello Gallico, meaning "The whole of Gaul is divided into three parts".. Caesar described the druids as being concerned with "divine worship, the due performance of sacrifices, private or public, and the interpretation of ritual questions." He claimed that they played an important part in Gaulish society, being one of the two respected classes along with the equites (a term meaning 'horsemen' which has been usually interpreted as referring to warriors) and that they performed the function of judges.

In one of the his books the Greek philosopher *Plutarch states "Women were highly honored, female symbolism formed sacred images and the relationship with motherhood was the central elements of the social fabric the society was held together by common allegiance to the customs of the tribe loosely organized around the traditions of the goddess".

The source of life was so integrally associated with women, it would seem to follow that the origins of life were female. Descent was also often traced through the mother and a strong emphasis was placed on the mother relationship.

The religious sect of the Celtic/Hibernia people were held by *Druids. In Druidism men and women had a fairly equilateral relationship and that it was just as acceptable for a woman to choose to study the Druid path as it was for her male peers.

In ancient Celtic society the Druids and Druid Priestesses composed an intellectual elite, whose knowledge and training placed them as priests/Priestesses of the Celtic religion. The Druids mediated for their people, preformed sacrifices, interpreted omens, and presided over religious ceremonies.

Celtic women served as chieftains, druids, poets, healers and warriors; they served as diplomats and judges; and they served as arbitrators, mediating in political and military disputes and in tribal assemblies.

*Tacitus reported "that the Celts made no distinction between male and female rulers" this Roman historian makes note of female druids attending meetings at the druid sanctuary at *Mona, where they reportedly encouraged the Britons to rebel against the Roman armies. Tacitus also gives an account of the Veleda, a powerful oracle of the Germanic Bructeri tribe, who ruled over a large portion of Germany and was considered semi-divine. Veleda was involved in political negotiations and was known to have successfully arbitrated several conflicts between tribes.

Classical writers speak of Druidesses in the third century. One of them predicted his approaching death to *Alexander Severus, another promised the empire to *Diocletian, others were consulted by *Aurelian.

Prominent Historical Leaders/Priestesses
In Celtic society, women could be found in authority, whether ruling a tribe, leading spiritual rites or leading them into war. Celtic women as warriors are common and female leaders were also spiritual leaders. *Camma, a priestess of the goddess Brigit and Artemis, was clearly a Druidess or Ban-drui/ban-fili. Celtic women were often appointed ambassadors and were involved in securing the treaty between Hannibal and the Volcae.

In Yorkshire, *Cartimandua, a woman of noble decent, ruled over the people of the Brigantes. She endeared herself to the Romans by handing over to them the rebel chief, Caratacus of the Catuvellauni in 51 AD, after leading a seven-year-long guerrilla campaign.

Highly educated, druids meted out justice, arbitrated political alliances, and had the gift of prophecy. One famous oracle was *Veleda, a Celtic woman who lived among the Germanic tribes and who arbitrated between two Roman factions on either side of the Rhine around 69-79 C.E. during Vespasian's rule as Roman emperor.

*Boudicca, Priestess Queen of the Iceni on the southeast coast of Britain was the leader of the southern Bristish tribes, who led a rebellion against the Governor Suetonius and by extension the Emperor Nero in 60/61 C.E. She succeeded in uniting several tribes and these laid waste to modern-day Colchester, Saint-Albans and London, where she was vanquished at the Battle of Watling Street. She poisoned herself to avoid capture.

Some women became teachers of the art of war such as *Scathach. Scathach was a legendary woman warrior and prophetess who trained the greatest hero of Irish legend, Cúchulainn.

Another priestess who was also a famous queen was the Irish ruler *Macha Mong Ruadh (Macha of the Red Hair) who ruled all of Ireland from377-331 B.C.

The Ulster Cycle also recounts the story of *Queen Mebd, who was a High Priestess of the old religion. Mebd took her army, led by *Cuchulainn, to do battle with Ulster’s king over a prize bull.

Other notable historical Women who were priestesses of the old religion and or were a priestess and became an abbess/nun/Saint with the advent of Christianity.

*Saint Attracta: A contemporary of St. Patrick from whom she received the veil. She is known as the foundress of several churches in the Counties of Galway and Sligo, Ireland.

*Cahan Lupita: An abbess of Kildare. Monastery of Kil-Auxille/monastery of Coleraine.

*Saint Cairech Dergain. Priestess of the kelles.

* Saint Ciar of Killkeary: Established a nunnery called Tech-Telle and founded another monastery, Killchree.

*Dairine: Princess of Tara and priestess of the kelles.

*Dechtire: Priestess of the kelles.

*Delbchaem daughter of Morgan, king of Coinchend, Priestess of the kelles.

*Duibhlinn or Dubh : Druidess & High Priestess

*Saint Fainche Irish saint of Rossory, Virgin Died c. 585 Fanchea was an Priestess of the kelles and an early nun with special capabilities as a directress of souls. She is said to be a native of Clogher, who persuaded her brother, Saint Enda, to become a monk. She was the abbess-founder of a convent at Rossory, Fermanagh, and was buried at Killane.

*Gobnait: Priestess/saint and abbess of Munster.

*Ite:"the Brigid of Munster" Priestess/abbess of Killeedy in County Limerick. one of the most prominent female saints in the Irish Church.

*Lasair Priestess & Saint of Meath.

*Saint Moninne: St. Moninne worked at a Kildare hospital in the time of St. Brighid where she healed the sick and gave generously to the poor. She established a community at the foot of Slieve Gullion in Killevy, County Armagh.

*Saint Muadhnait: St. Muadnat founded a monastery in Drumcliffe, County Sligo and a hard pre-christian follower.

*Narbflaith: Priestess of Crom, successive queen consort of Munster, Leinster and Tara.

KFlint wrote:As one can see the Irish/Celtic people have a long, long line of priestesses and Goddess worship. An unbroken line of religious and cultural identity that survived even the absorption of their ideals by Christianity.

Beresford Ellis, Peter, The Druids
Ellis Berresford, Peter. Celtic Women
Keane, Patrick. Yeats, Joyce, Ireland, and the Myth of the Devouring Female. Columbia: University of Missouri, 1988.
Larrington, Carolyn. The Feminist Companion to Mythology
Webster Wilde, Lyn. Celtic Women in Legend, Myth and History.
James, D. (Ed.). (1996). Celtic Connections: The Ancient Celts, their tradition and living legacy. London: Blandford Press
*Robert Graves
Emma Restall: Principles of Druidry
Erynn Rowan: Following A Celtic Path
Holmes, Cæsar's Conquest of Gaul
*Irish Book of Invasions
*Book of Armagh
James MacGeoghegan: The history of Ireland, ancient and modern
*The voyage of Bran
S.Duffy, ed., Medieval Ireland - An Encyclopedia
*The martyrology of Gorman
*Book of Leinster
Veronica Ions 1974, 2005: The World's mythology
Julius Caesar: Commentarii de Bello Gallico
User avatar
By MB.
I have this "classics of western spirituality" text on Celtic Spirituality belonging to my wife. This thread made me want to read it. The focus seems to be on the transition to the Christian period. I can say all of the above is new and interesting material to me.
User avatar
By U184
Pants, your response seemed as if you were trying to prove your point, without really doing any research on the subject. One would think if you were familiar with the subject matter, you would have gotten at least one of your remarks correct, as it is, they were all proven wrong rather easily.

However if you were not familiar with the subject matter, what on earth would make you do a substandard search and call it fact? Especially to one who obviously is familiar with the subject matter?

I suggest, that if you are not familiar with something, you try to learn either through the OP, debate or through your own research into the matter at hand, instead of trying to Wiki your way through.

Pants of Dog wrote:You then go on to mention mythological, and not historical, figures.

As stated in the OP:
KFlint wrote:Celtic/Hibernia history/religion is a mix of history and legend, it takes the form of both written and oral tradition. The parts that are legend are still important even though much of it can not be confirmed, because it still shows the mindset of the Celtic/Hibernia people.
This aspect of legend shows the deeply engrained level of females in the Celtic culture. The point I try to make by including legend, is to show the mindset of a people. In this case I show that the Celts are pointedly focused on the mother.

PoD wrote:The only example of a female druid you gave was Saint Brigid. There is no evidence that she actually was a female druid. ~ You claim that there is large list of Gaulish, Brythonic, Gaelic and Welsh female deities, many of whom had large followings of female priestesses. You give no evidence that these female priestesses ever existed. If I search for some that you mention, like the Kelles, I found no evidence either unless you count baby name books.
You mean from the EXHAUSTIVE search you did? :lol: Brigid was by no means the ONLY example, just the one you decided to deem as such or focus on.

Here is the reality of the matter, the druids were the priests and priestesses for their culture, thus any religious acolyte was, by definition, a druid. No distinction of deity was made for their sect, regardless of the God or Goddess that one subscribes to, they were still of the Druid cast.

The information in the OP provides evidence that the site of the Kells abbey/monastery was first a religious place for the Kells who worshiped Brigid. As stated above, all of those who were priests or priestesses, before Christianity, would have been of the druidical sect.

There is a vast amount of information pertaining to the Kelles, (or Kells) have you never heard of The book of Kells?

PoD wrote:You discuss Bridget of Kildare and St Beoferlic or Saint Beverley of York. Two women bishops in a time when almost every other bishop was a man. Like I said, this was uncommonly egalitarian but still shows that men controlled religion. & You then mention female saints and female abbesses, ignoring the fact that the Catholic authorites were almost exclusively men.
With this information, I merely showed the level of influence that was had with women in Irish culture and that they were able to integrate into the male driven Catholic church, at high levels of rank. It should also be noted, that few notable male priests crossed over from the old religion to that of Christianity, while a vast number of female priestesses did.

PoD wrote:You mention Tacitus. This is what Tacitus said:"armies on the point of collapse have been rallied by their women pleading with their men, thrusting forward their bared breasts, and making them realise the imminent prospect of enslavement." and "the victorious Romans were confronted by women in black robes who stood at their wagons and slew the fleeing warriors - their husbands, brothers or fathers - and then strangled their own children and cast them beneath the wheels of their wagons before cutting their own throats."
What Tacitus said was a lot of things, volumes of it in fact. Not all of what he said pertained to the Celts, he spoke of many cultures, what snippet of information did that section come from?

PoD wrote:http://womenofhistory.blogspot.com/2007 ... women.html <I have no idea how you interpret that as the Celts having female druids.
That would be because I did not attain my information from a blog spot that has limited information...

PoD wrote:I found one priestess with actual power that you mentioned. However, one person is not a whole class of people.
No but the many others that I provided, that you casually sweep aside, does indeed show a standard for that culture.

PoD wrote:You make vague allusions to Alexander Severus, Diocletian, and Aurelian. Again, you provide no evidence :lol:
I added all the sources I gathered information from, feel free to asks for specifics, as I would be happy to address them.

PoD wrote:You discuss Camma, a priestess of Artemis, an ancient Greek deity. She is not even Celtic.

The OP wrote:Camma, a priestess of the goddess Brigit and Artemis, was clearly a Druidess or Ban-drui/ban-fili.

Brigit AND Artemis as Camma was also part of the Greek/Roman world. Stop picking the parts that suit you.

Brigit is the goddess of wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), child birth & healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare.

Artemis was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek.

There are many similarities between these two Goddesses, also since Artemis predated the Roman and Greek visions it is possible they could be the seen as the same, or maybe Camma found her similar enough that she could worship her, as she did Brigit, and not seem out of place in the Greek and Roman world.

PoD wrote:You mention Cartimandua, who is not a priestess.
Really why is that? because you found no information on it, in ALL your searching? This seems to be a recurring theme of yours.

Cartimandua was a Priestess of Brigit & Artemis. University Collage Cork ~ Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia the author of this book is Professor John T. Koch who is a historian and linguist, who specializes in Celtic studies and taught Celtic Studies at Harvard University and Boston College.

PoD wrote:You mention Boudicca, who is not a priestess.

From the works of Tacitus: Observations of the Celts, that I referenced in the OP, one sees that Boudicca was a priestess of Andrasta. Even a small amount of "research" on your part would have reviled this. Other references: UNC.EDU ~ Carleton College ~ New World Encyclopedia

PoD wrote:The most reasonable thing would be to point out that even when people look for evidence of such, they are unable to find it. Your work here is commendable, yet you were unable to find such evidence.
I would point out, that when capable people look for evidence, it is easy enough to find. Your work was not so commendable, since all of your negative exhortations, were incorrect.

PoD wrote:And it goes on and on without any historical evidence of a class of priestesses or female druids, unless you count your link to stories of women casting spells on tides as historical evidence.
and it goes on... that you see but one small part of a matter, feel free to read the whole of said sources, not one part of one page...and again, feel free to PROVE your stance by showing refuting evidence, rather than saying it.
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