Ancient Celtic Religion

Definition

The polytheistic religion of the ancient Celts in Iron Age Europe remains obscure for lack of written records, but archaeology and accounts by classical authors help us to piece together a number of the key gods, sacred sites, and cult practices. Variations existed across regions and the centuries, but common features of the Celtic religion include the reverence for sacred groves and other natural sites like rivers and springs, the dedication of votive offerings to gods such as foodstuffs, animal and (more rarely) human sacrifices, and the depositing of valuable and everyday goods with the deceased in tombs. With a religion led by druids who were loath to commit their knowledge to writing, there are no sacred texts, hymns or prayers which survive in written records. There are also significant gaps in our knowledge such as the Celtic view of their own origins, the universe and their place within it, and the ultimate fate of their world. Nevertheless, we do have, thanks to a combination of studies and methodologies, a reasonable if tantalisingly incomplete picture of the gods, beliefs, and religious practices of pre-Christian Europe.

More about: Ancient Celtic Religion

Timeline

  • c. 100 BCE
    Approximate date for the manufacture of the Gundestrup Cauldron.
  • c. 100 BCE
    The bronze figure known as the 'God of Bouray', likely a representation of the Celtic Cernunnos, is made.
  • 14 CE - 37 CE
    The Gallo-Roman Nautae Parisiaci monument is made which includes a panel showing the Celtic god Cernunnos.
  • 59 CE
    The druid centre on Anglesey is systematically attacked by a Roman army.
  • c. 1100 CE
    The Lebor Gabála Erenn ('Book of invasions') recounts, through tales of mythology, the ancient and medieval history of Ireland.
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