|Homepage Ralph Häussler||
Some amazing pre-Roman 'Celtic' enclosures / sanctuaries:
Religions are not static, especially unwritten ones. And if we want to understand the origins of Celtic religion, we need to start at the beginning. We need to go back at least to the early Iron Age (600 BCE) where we find many developments that shape the nature of Celtic religions, cult practises and art.
As always, we must not focus on just one or two features. We need a more 'holisitic' view of religious activities between 600 BCE and the Roman period. There are lots of little fragments of evidence that we need to piece together in a gigantic jigsaw puzzle (a puzzle where at least 95% of the pieces are unfortunately missing...).
Prior to the Roman period, there is an enormous amount of evidence for religious activities across the 'Celtic' regions of Europe...
The 'Nature' Myth
There is this romantic idea that the relationship between Celtic religion and 'Nature' is something exceptional.
It might be when compared to monotheistic religions. But Celtic religions are no different from other ancient religions. Also for the Greeks and Romans, all natural features were sacred, like springs and mountains. It is very much part of polytheistic religions that the entire landscape is endowed with divine meaning. The majority of Greek and Roman temples and sanctuaries were created in conspicious geographical locations. We only have to remember the Roman Arval brotherhood and their 'sacred grove'!
This is no different from the 'Celts'.
And this will have consequences for our interpretations:just because a site is related to a natural, geographical location, to a spring, river or cave, does not automatically mean that it's related to 'Celtic' ideals: Romans, Greeks and people of most other (polytheistic) religions would have made a similar choice!
Nature vs. Ceremonial Enclosure
Moreover, we must also take into account that many purposely built sacred sites in the pre-Roman Iron Age were not related to particular natural locations. like the hundreds of ritual/ceremonial enclosures (like Thetford in Britain), these huge rectangular sites, surrounded by a ditch and a palisade, with one single entrance (much like a Roman forum...).