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.(A quick Wiki search is fun, but hardly beats years of study)
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".
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:
*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.
U184 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.
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