Gaulish mythology

Gallic mythology Gallic mythology

The religion or mythology Gallic is the set of beliefs and rites specific to the peoples of Gaul. Due to the absence of direct written sources before Roman times, its peculiarities before Romanization remain poorly understood, and difficult to distinguish from those of the Gallo-Roman religion.

Gallic mythology

Gaulish mythology (texts)

The druids, from the nobility, form the intellectual elite. They meet once a year in the forest of Carnutes, near Orleans, where they elect a supreme pontiff. Masters of literature and poetry, endowed with privileges, exempt from tax and armed service, they must devote twenty years to their instruction, the memorization of sacred texts. Written transcription is prohibited. However, in Caesar's time, they knew about writing.

They are versed in the science of numbers and study the movements of the stars. They claim to know the dimensions of the universe. Intermediaries between humans and the world of the gods, to which only they have access, they regulate religious ceremonies, preside over sacrifices and interpret auguries. According to them, souls pass from one body to another after death or continue to live in a parallel world.

This belief stimulates courage and helps overcome fear of death. Mistletoe, an evergreen perennial plant, would be to the tree what the soul is to the body, an emanation of the god or even an avatar of the latter. Its picking on the oak is linked to a cult given to the cycle of the seasons.

The cult of Lug (Mercury) extends over vast regions of Europe (his name is identifiable in the name of about fifteen cities (Lyon/Lugdunum, Liegnitz/Lugidunum, Leyde, Carlisle/Castra Luguvallium, Lugdunum Convenarum) The great harvest festival, Lugnasad, is celebrated in all countries celts. The Goddesses Rosmerta, Nantosvelta, Damona, Sirona, Nemetona and others are consorts of male deities.

It is always difficult to distinguish them from the masters, matronae, divine mothers, progenitor of peoples, who carry cornucopias, baskets of fruit and symbols of fertility. The father-god Dispater is the great master of the earth, and the Gauls claim to be their descendants.

The cult of a blacksmith god corresponding to Vulcan is known by his insular name Goibniu, in Ireland, or Gofanon, at Wales. Esus, a good god however greedy for human blood is represented as a worker, associated with the bull with the three cranes Tarvos Trigaranus (they are both represented on the pillar of the Nautes discovered in 1711 in Paris). The bull symbolizes fertility and power in battle. The deer is by its antlers which grow back each year the symbol of the renewal of nature.

The Celts practice naturist cults, dedicated to the sky, the stars, the earth, the hills, the mountains, the forests and the clearings, even certain trees, the lakes, the sea, animals symbols of strength. At the end of the third century, the Anthology Greek would have mentioned the "jealous Rhine" to which the Celts ask to rule on the legitimacy of their newborns.

A Gallic leader victorious in Italy prides himself on being the son of the Rhine. The names of tribes (Éburons / yews, Tarbelli / bulls) and those of certain characters (Brannogenos / son of the raven, Matugenos / son of the bear) are evocative.

Julius Caesar, in the Gallic Wars, draws up the catalog of the deities honored by the Celts. For strategic reasons, he designates them by their Roman name; Mercury, inventor of the arts, protector of roads and commerce, Apollo who hunts disease, Minerva, Jupiter… Regarding Mars, he adds that the Celts, at the start of a war, devote everything they took to him. ; once victorious, they immolate the living spoils and pile up all the rest in a sacred place.

In many tribes, one can see these heaps formed of various remains; it is rare for a man to dare, in defiance of religious law, to conceal his booty at home or to carry a sacrilegious hand over his offerings: such a crime is punished by a terrible death.

Certain Gallic peoples appease Teutates and Esus with immolations. Medieval texts relate the sacrifices offered to them: for Teutates, a man is plunged into a basin until he suffocates. For Esus, we hang a man from a tree and tear him to pieces. For Taranis, we burn several in a hollow tree.