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Pagan Celtic Britain (1967)

por Anne Ross

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2023100,053 (3.93)3
Although some aspects of pre-Roman and pre-Christian beliefs remain shrouded in mystery, the author of this comprehensive, profusely illustrated volume contends that neither the Roman invasion of Britain nor the coming of Christianity eliminated pagan religious practice. Dr. Anne Ross writes from wide experience of living in Celtic-speaking communities where she has traced vernacular tradition. She employs archaeological and anthropoligical evidence, as well as folklore, to provide broad insight into the early Celtic world.… (más)

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If you are looking for exhaustive detail about what is known of Celtic religion in the British Isles this is the book for you. the author lists and describes possible cult sites, depictions of deities and the animals both real and mythical associated with them. The summarizes some tales that may contain information about pre-Christian beliefs despite not having been recorded until Christian times. One chapter is devoted to what is know of the Celtic cult of the head, another to the horned god. There are over 200 line drawings of artifacts and over 90 black and while photographs. Each chapter has end note;, the book has a bibliography and an index. While full of information, the book is very dry, the sort of work that can be used for reference, or read a few pages at a time. Ross originally published this work in 1967, This 2005 edition does not appear to have been revised in to include more recent studies. In the introduction to this edition Ross describes recent work in the field as augmenting rather than altering her work. ( )
  ritaer | May 20, 2019 |
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  kgreply | Jul 21, 2016 |
This book is full of archeological and anthropological evidence which is used to provide proof for the various cults of the Celts. Along the way the reader is introduced to many deities, their attributes and localities as well as the reasoning why they had a following among the ancient Celts.

Anne Ross is obviously well versed in her subject and is very capable of demonstrating her knowledge in a manner that is easy to follow. There is a fluidity of thought and content that increases the understanding and knowledge of the reader in a logical and methodical manner that one is not nearly ware of until retrospect is utilized, something that I have found to be of profound worth when studying texts that deal with weighty matter. Cross referencing with other works, annotating, and sometimes clarifying from references that Ross makes, helps enormously build upon the foundation of understanding into the lives of the Ancestors in Celtic Britain, members of what she refers to as the ‘Druidic Caste’ (p79).

Rather than use what I call a ‘shotgun approach’ by blasting the reader with general knowledge of the lives of the ancients, Anne Ross divides their beliefs into a coherent series of cults that she demonstrates and emphasizes with plates of artifacts and factual documentation from archeological finds throughout Britain. The eight sections or chapters that she divides the beliefs into, when examined with mentions in other sources of similar content, provide a very clear picture of why, how, and when the various groups of Celtic people in Britain employed the use of these beliefs. She explains her use of the word ‘cult’ on page 94 as, “…a convenient term to apply to the different religious ideas prevalent among the pagan Celts, but it would be incorrect to imagine rigid barriers between them or think that they were mutually exclusive.”

Ross starts with perhaps the most obvious; the sanctuaries, temples and various cult sites. Perhaps one of the most definitive descriptions or explanations as to the importance of these sites is found on pages 50-51 where she states, “It is clear that the early Celtic peoples regarded all such places as entrances to the otherworld…” One simple line that immediately puts so much into context! It is a well known fact that the Celts carried a strong belief of the Otherworld with them throughout their travels. That the Otherworld played an integral part in their lives is obvious from the many references in literature that have been preserved from that time and for me at least, the concept that these structures provide a portal to the Otherworld is not something I had ever considered seriously enough before. I acknowledged that they were worship sites much like the temples of the classical Greek and Roman deities but to view them as distinct portals was something new to me.

This leads immediately and smoothly into the transmigration of souls where Ross introduces the Cult of Graves and the belief that, “Death is regarded as a stage in the progression of life.” (p65) This section explains in quite a bit of detail as to why graves and burial rites were so predominant in their lives. It is clear that contrary to Judeo-Christian belief that while there is an afterlife it is designated as either a paradise or a hell, whereas the ancient Celtic people saw everything as a step or stage in an ongoing process whereby one might learn and forever progress. This is something akin to existentialism in which each person must take responsibility for their own actions and by learning as they progress shape their own destinies and future.

Quite a lot of space is dedicated to the Horned God in Britain and Ross compares, again with archeological and anthropological proof, the importance and correlation of this deity with those in other Celtic realms. In fact, so much is written about him (Cernunnos) that one is led to believe that his role and importance is often understated or overlooked in many works. Yet Ross states that this cult is, “…perhaps second only in importance to the cult of the head.” A statement that makes one wonder if this is perhaps a personal observation on her part or if there is a whole colony of belief that the Cult of the Head was the preeminent cult among these people. Certainly she discusses the importance of the head in detail in that particular section and accounts for the prevalence of heads in statuary and coins that have been found. But a question for me that requires further research on my part is how can one cult be determined to be of more significance than another?

Anne Ross devotes space to the Warrior God in Britain, the Goddesses, Sacred and Magic Birds, and finally Divine Animals. Each of these sections is insightful, explanatory, well correlated and documented fully with examples of the Celts. It is of particular interest the manner in which she outlines the relevance of each deity, animal or bird and how the festivals were used in conjunction with each significant entity. Being a nature people as the Celts were it is easy to understand why they saw symbolism in their lives and how each sign or manifestation had deep and intense meaning for them. Ross provides a background that brings clarity to the reader whose knowledge is not as insightful as hers and in such a manner that a reflective attitude is required in order to assimilate all that is provided.

As a resource for those who Hearth Culture is Celtic, this is a work worth having. This is not a book that can be read then left on the shelf however. It should be used continually to provide explanation, background, evidence and practical knowledge for those following the Path. It may not be the ‘One’ essential book for this purpose but it certainly fulfils a need that is lacking in many works. To understand the world of the Celts may not ever be totally achieved but Pagan Celtic Britain certainly helps the reader along the way to reaching this goal. Any knowledge obtained that brings the lives and culture of the Celts into perspective is worth any effort required to gain insight. ( )
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Although some aspects of pre-Roman and pre-Christian beliefs remain shrouded in mystery, the author of this comprehensive, profusely illustrated volume contends that neither the Roman invasion of Britain nor the coming of Christianity eliminated pagan religious practice. Dr. Anne Ross writes from wide experience of living in Celtic-speaking communities where she has traced vernacular tradition. She employs archaeological and anthropoligical evidence, as well as folklore, to provide broad insight into the early Celtic world.

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