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Celtic Gods and Deities!
Part One

A Brit-Am Study

An Ongoing Study in
Western Hebrew-Celtic Culture.
Religion and Customs

Celtic Gods and Deities! Part One.

An Aversion to Images.
The Worship of Baal.
The Phoenician Taatus and Thunder.
Nehalennia and the Hebrew Nahal.


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Celtic Gods and Deities!
Part One.

An Aversion to Images.
The early Celts (at least in the west) had an aversion to displaying their images in plastic form. There may have been exceptions but these were relatively rare. After the Roman conquest the use of images became more common.
The Scottish Gael by Donald MacClean, 1912, Chapter XIV:
After their subjugation to Rome they apparently imitated their conquerors, and allowed their gods to be represented under terrestrial forms; those Gallic and other statues that have been discovered being referable to an era subsequent to that event. Gildas speaks of some of the statues of the British deities being to be seen in the sixth century, when he wrote. That of Isis, the tutelary goddess of Paris, remained in the Abbey of St. Germain des Priz until 1511, when it was removed by the order of the Bishop of Meaux.
The use of images in worship is forbidden (on the whole) by the Mosaic Law though here too exceptions (such as depictions of the Cherubim in the Sanctuary etc) may also be noted. Excavations in Samaria have revealed a strong Egyptian and Canaanite religious influence. Isis was an Egyptian goddess.

The Worship of Baal.
The Hebrew word "baal" means "lord, master, husband". At one stage or in some contexts the term may even have been applicable to the God of Israel. At all events the Canaanites used this name for their own numerous deities whom they also consolidated into one figure. The Bible uses the term in the Canaanite way. "Baal" could also be pronounced as "bel". He became identified as a sun-god who dies and is resurrected. We find the worship of Baal or Bel amongst the Celts. In Welsh Tradition the island of Britain was considered a particulat possession of Bel. Bel along with Don was an ancestor of the Welsh People. The very name Wales may be derived from "Bel" as we shall show elsewhere.
The Scottish Gael by Donald MacClean, 1912, Chapter XIV:
It appears to me that the principal Celtic deity was the sun, Belus, Belenus, or Baal. Herodian says, the Aquileians [northeast Italy] worshipped this god, whom they considered the same as Apollo, whence we see why the Hyperborei [British or Scandinavians] especially venerated him, for he was the personification of that luminary. The Caledonians [Picts of Scotland] worshipped this deity under the name of Baal, or Beil, and to his honor they lighted fires on Midsummer-day, or the 1st of May. This festival, which is not even yet discontinued, was called Baal-tein, or beltain, signifying the fire of Baal, and was formerly commemorated so generally that it became a term in Scots' law, which is yet in use. ....The Highlanders passed through the fire to Baal as the ancient Gentiles did; and they thought it a religious duty to walk round their fields and flocks with burning matter in their right hands, a practice once universal throughout the country.
The custom noted above of passing through the fire etc is similar to that of one of the forms of the worship of Moloch who may also have been identified as another emanation of baal.

Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions
by James Bonwick [1894]
Thus,--we have Beal-agh, fire of Baal, in the Giant Ring at Belaugh, Co. Down, four miles from Belfast, 579 ft. in diameter. There is Bal-Kiste, or Baal, Lord of the chest or ark; Meur-Bheil, the finger of Be'il; Bel? god of fire; Baal Tinne, for the summer solstice; Suil-Beal, oracle of Druids; Bealtime, the Baal month.

Four miles north of Cork is Beal-atha-magh-adhoir,--the field for the worship of Baal. Sliabh-bulteine was the hill of Bel. The ark-Breith, a covered coracle, was drawn by oxen. The old Irish name for the year was Bealaine or Bliadhain, the circle of Baal.

The Bel-tor of Dartmoor, the Belenus of Gaul, the Beal of the Gaedhil, the Bali of India, the Belus obelisk of Pomona in Orkney, the Bealtien cake of Scotland, the Bel-eg, priest or learned one of Brittany, the Punic Bal--all take us outside of Ireland. But Camden declared the cromlech on Sliabh Greine, hill of the sun, was to Beli.
As reported by J. J. Thomas--
"The Irish expression,
'Bal mhaith art'-- May Bel be propitious to thee!
or 'Bal dhia dhuit', the god Bal to you!
were deemed complimentary addresses to a stranger along the sequestered banks of the Suir, in the South of Ireland, about twenty-two years ago."

Irish literature notices the presence of two religious sects once existing in the country; viz. those who adored fire, and those who adored water. The first were Baalites [Samhaisgs]; the second Lirites [Swans].

The Phoenician Taatus and Thunder.
The Phoenician god Taatus was worshipped in the west under almost the same name.

The god Irmin or Herman has a name similar to the Hebrew term "Hermon" connoting strength, vigor, and destruction cf. Mount Hermon north of the Galilee. Irmin was represented by a pole which is similar to how the Canaanites and Ancient Israelites adored their pagan deities.
Taran the god of thunder has a name (already noted by Bochart in the 1600s) similar to the hebrew "Taram" from the root "Ra-am" meaning thunder. Dialects of the north switched the suffix "-m" by an "-n" as found also in Midrashic Hebrew and Aramaic.
The Scottish Gael by Donald MacClean, 1912, Chapter XIV:
The god whom Caesar calls Mercury, was Teut, or Theuth, Dhu taith, or Teutates, i. e. the god Taute, who was no other than the Taatus of the Phoenicians. The word bears a strong resemblance to the Armoric Tad, or Tat, a father.
The Gallo-Belgic name for Teutates, Schoepflin says, was Wodan, who was worshipped by the Saxons. They also adored Hermes, or Mercury, under the name of Irmin, or Ermensul, a statue of whom was found at Eresburg, by Charlemagne.
...The Gauls worshipped Taran, or Tanar, who was the god of thunder, and corresponds to the Jupiter Tonans of the Romans. Torran signifies, among the present Highlanders, the low murmur of distant thunder; taruinach is applied to the loudest peals; and torneonach is an uncommon noise. Doctor Mac Pherson thinks the name may be Nd'air neo- nach, or wrathful father. In Cheshire an altar was found inscribed D. O. M. TANARO, to the great Jupiter Tanarus.

Nehalennia and the Hebrew Nahal.
A statuette of a goddess named Nehalennia has been found in what is now the Netherlands. In Hebrew "Nachal" (pronounceable as "Nahal") connotes primarily the flowing of a stream of water.
Nahal may also also take the form (dependent on the grammatical structure) "Nehal" e.g. we find the name (based on the same word-root) "Shemiah HaNehalami" transalted as "Shemaiah of Nehelam" (Jeremiah 29:31).

"Nahal" in Biblical Hebrew has the following additional connotations:
1. Flowing.
2. Inheriting, passing through generations.
3. Bequeathing.
4. Possession.
5. Stream leading to larger body of water.
6. Lowland, stream-filled valley.
7. Raging and destructive Torrent [of water].
Source: "Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew" (Based on the Commentary of Samson Raphael Hirsch) by Matityahu Clark, USA, 1999.

The goddess Nehalennia was associated with water and with crossing the sea.
The Scottish Gael by Donald MacClean, 1912, Chapter XIV:
Nehelania, supposed to have been the new moon, was a goddess worshipped by Gauls and Germans, and at Brittenburg, near the Rhine, a stone was found, dedicated to Nehelania Creta, which would make it appear that she presided over agriculture, in which case, Nehelenia of Marl would correspond to the Anu of the Irish, and Anactis of the Scots, to whose immediate care the productions of the earth and waters were confided.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nehalennia (spelled variously) is a Germanic or Celtic goddess attested by votive deposits discovered around what is now called the province of Zeeland, the Netherlands, where the Rhine River flowed into the North Sea, whose worship dates back at least to the 2nd century BC, and who flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

Nehalennia is attested on 28 inscriptions discovered in the Dutch town of Domburg, a similar number discovered between 1971 and 1972 in the town of Colijnsplaat, and 2 others from the Cologne-Deutz area of what is now Cologne, Germany.

Nehalennia is almost always depicted with marine symbols and a large, benign-looking dog at her feet.

In some depictions she rests her foot on a ship, or holds a ship's oar. Several of the offerings have inscriptions thanking her for safe passage across the North Sea.

It is known that the tribe of the Morini, who lived in what is now the Netherlands, bordering the North Sea coast, worshipped Nehalennia.

Gaulish Goddess: Spririt of the Boat, Goddess of the Vessel
Nehalennia is a goddess known from inscriptions found at Deutz in Germany and Domburg and Zierikeeze in the Zealand region of the Netherlands. ... Almost 160 similar votive altars bearing the goddess' image have been found in the Zealand region and two were recently discovered in Cologne, Germany. Most pieces show a young female figure, accompanied by a hound, sitting on a throne in an apse between two columns, holding a basket of apples in her lap. Sometimes the apples are replaced with what seem to be loaves and on occasion the woman's foot rests on the prow of a Romanesque vessel.

Sixty inscriptions to Nehelennia have been discovered....:

To the goddess Nehalennia Vegisonius Martinus, citizen from the land of the Sequani and seaman, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

The following is from an altar now kept at the Rijksmuseum in Oudheden, Netherlands:
To the Nehelenian Goddesses, Marcus Exginggius Agricola from the country of the Treveri, salt merchant to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

Another inscription from Zealand reads:
To the goddess Nehalennia, on account of goods duly kept safe, Marcus Secundinius Silvanus, trader in Pottery with Britain, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

The various inscriptions have been found in Belgium (two inscriptions from Papenborek), Germany (two inscriptions from Cologne) and all the remaining inscriptions come from the Netherlands (with the vast majority from Zierikzee).

Although the debate remains as to whether Nehalennia was a Celtic or a Germanic deity, the inscriptions above can leave us with little doubt that she was worshipped by Celts..

...Many of the shrines dedicated to her were erected by naval traders, probably after survival of a storm which would explain her association with naval vessels. Other aspects of the goddess' cult are the apples she holds and the dog that almost always accompanies her. The dog as a sacred animal is associated with divination. It is also a creature associated with both hunting and the otherworld. In many cultures apples are the food of the gods and are associated with the otherworld, such as in the Celtic realm of Afallon. It is certainly possible that, in common with other deities associated with transportation, Nehalennia was perceived as a psychopomp possibly transporting the souls of the dead across the waters to the isles of the blessed.

One of the main centres of Nehalennia's cult seems to have been on the island of Walcheren in the Netherlands where many altars were erected during the second and third centuries CE.

Go to Table of Contents:
Western Hebrew-Celtic Culture.
Religion and Customs.

See Also:
Various Celtic Traditions.

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