Ancient history


As in other cultures of antiquity, sacrifices were an essential element of religious practice among the Celts. The texts mention in particular the practice of human sacrifices, clearly attested by a certain number of discoveries. The poet Lucain evokes “those who appease with dreadful blood the cruel Teutates and the horrible Esus at the savage altars and Taranis, an altar no less cruel than that of the Scythian Diana”. A commentator of Lucan (Scholies of Bern) left us some precisions as for the nature of the human sacrifices devoted to these gods the victims intended for Taranis were immolated by fire, those intended for Teutates drowned in a tank, finally, those intended for Esus, hanging from a tree and flayed. Different types of human sacrifice, for augural or other purposes, are also mentioned by Diodorus of Sicily (Bibl. hist., V, 31) and Strabo (Geogr., IV, 4, 5), according to whom "they were looking for omens in the convulsions of a man, designated as a victim, who was struck in the back with a blow of a sword. They never sacrificed without a druid present. There are also several forms of human sacrifice among them:for example, certain victims were killed with arrows, or they were crucified in the temples, or even a giant effigy was made of straw and wood and after throwing cattle and wild animals of all kinds and men, they made a holocaust of them. The most common sacrifices, however, had to have as victims animals and agricultural products (cereals and others). This is at least what the remains collected from the places of worship show. Sacrifices of objects are, however, by far the best attested, whether buried or aquatic votive deposits, or trophies of weapons, exhibited after being generally dismembered and intentionally deformed or damaged. Sacrifices fell within the jurisdiction druids, especially vates.

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