Pre Roman Britain Religion Celtic Polytheism

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Pre Roman Britain Religion Celtic Polytheism. Jack Johnson. General Overview . The Romans described a variety of deities worshipped by the people of Northwestern Europe.
Pre Roman Britain ReligionCeltic PolytheismJack JohnsonGeneral Overview
  • The Romans described a variety of deities worshipped by the people of Northwestern Europe.
  • It is perceived that there was a division between one group of gods relating to masculinity, the sky and individual tribes and a second, female group of goddesses relating to associations with fertility, the earth and a universality that transcended tribal differences.
  • Religious Practices
  • Religious practices revolved around offerings and sacrifices, sometimes human but more often involving the ritual slaughter of animals or the deposition of metalwork, especially war loot.
  • Weapons and horse trappings have been found in the bog at Llyn Cerrig Bach on Anglesey and are interpreted as votive offerings cast into a lake.
  • Numerous weapons have also been recovered from rivers, especially the Thames, but also the Trent and Tyne. Some buried hoards of jewellery are interpreted as gifts to the earth gods.
  • Druids
  • Caesar's texts tell us that the priests of Britain were Druids, a religious elite with considerable holy and spiritual powers.
  • Great Britain appears to have been the seat of the Druidic religion.
  • Tacitus' account of the later raid on Anglesey led by Suetonius Paulinus gives some indication of its nature.
  • No archaeological evidence survives of the Druids, although a number of burials made with ritual trappings and found in Kent may suggest a religious character to the subjects.
  • Religious Sites
  • The traditional view is that religion was practised in natural settings in the open air. However, several sites interpreted as Iron Age shrines seem to contradict this view which may derive from Victorian and later Celtic romanticism.
  • However, evidence of an open air shrine was found at Hallaton, Leicestershire. Here, a collection of objects known as the Hallaton Treasure were buried in a ditch in the early 1st century AD. The only structural evidence was a wooden palisade built in the ditch.
  • European Relation
  • Sites such as at Hayling Island in Hampshire were discovered to have been religious practising sites temple was a small cella surrounded by a ring of postholes thought to have formed an ambulatory which is very similar to Romano-Celtic temples found elsewhere in Europe.
  • A rectangular structure at Danebury and a sequence of six-poster structures overlooking calf burials and culminating in a trench-founded rectangular structure.
  • Cadbury Castle, Somerset, have been similarly interpreted. An example at Sigwells, overlooking Cadbury Castle, was associated with metalwork and whole and partial animal burials to its east.
  • Named gods(some British, some NW European)
  • Deae Matres, genii cucullati, Epona, Cernunnos, Toutatis
  • Coventina, Nodens, Sulis, Belatucadrus, Antenociticus - and Senuna
  • Cult of severed head
  • Temples – a new phenomenon? Regional?
  • Interpretatio Romana
  • continuity
  • Roman embrace of British Religion
  • The Hayling Island example was a circular wooden building set within a rectangular precinct and was rebuilt in stone as a Romano-British temple in the 1st century AD to the same plan.
  • Celtic Deities
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