Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Celtic God Teutates

The Celtic god Teutates is mentioned by the classical writer Lucan in the 2nd century CE and refers to him as part of a triad consisting also of Esus and Taranis.

"You[Celts] who by cruel blood outpoured think to appease the pitiless Teutates, the horrid Ausus with his barbarous altars, and Taranus whose worship is no gentler than that of the Scythian Diana."
[Lucan, Pharsalia]

The literary references to human sacrifice also marry up with the archaeological evidence.
Referring to the Iron-Age peat bog burial of `Lindow man` Miranda Green writes:

"Perhaps one of the most evocative examples of British human sacrifice is the recent discovery of a peat-bog burial dating to around 300BC. The victim, a young ginger-bearded male, was first poleaxed, then garotted and his throat cut, the elaboration and the victim`s nakedness suggesting a ritual killing. After death the man was placed, crouched, in a shallow pool at Lindow Moss near Wilmslow, Cheshire, possibly to propitiate water or cthonic deities. That the man was not a peasant is suggested by manicured finger-nails and by his neatly clipped moustache, worn in the style of Celtic portrayals in iconagraphy and in the literature. Ritual bog-burials are known elsewhere in the Iron Age, for instance in Denmark, but this is the first British occurrence of a murdered bog-body."
[The Gods of the Celts]

The Celtic triad mirrors similar triads among other Indo-European pantheons such as the Germanic and Indo-Iranian.

"Esus-Lugus, Taranis, and Teutates as a triad receiving human sacrifice may thus roughly match the Scandinavian set of Odin, Thor, and Freyr in pagan Sweden, who were given human victims at Uppsala up to the Christianization in the eleventh century. They, like Jupiter-Mars-Quirinus, were a stylized Western Indo-European embodiment of the erstwhile tripartite pantheon, thus a match for the Eastern structure first glimpsed at Mintanni[Mitra-Varuna, Indra, Nasatya.]"
[Jaan Puhvel, Comparative Mythology]

Later Berne commentaries on Lucan identify Teutates with the Roman god Mars. Other commentaries associate Esus with Mars. They also refer to a sacrifice of a man to Teutates by drowning in a vessel of water.

Commenting on the Celtic triad T.W. Rolleston writes:

"It is noteworthy that in these names we seem to be in the presence of a true Celtic, ie Aryan tradition."
[Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race]

The name Teutates is cognate with words in various Indo-European languages.
"Teutates[Toutates, Totates, Tutates] is derived from *tewta `people`[Old Irish tuath, Oscan touto, Gothic thiuda] and thus resembles in meaning the Umbrian Vofione and the Roman Quirinus."
[Jaan Puhvel, Comparative Mythology]

The name for the Germanic peoples, Teuton has the same meaning and is also reflected in the name of the Teutones a Germanic tribe who were closely associated with the Cimbri a tribe which may have been of Celtic origin.
It has also been speculated that there is a link between Tuisco/Tuisto and Teuton. Tuisco, the son of Mannus was the mythical ancestor of the Germanic peoples and referred to in Tacitus Germania.

It is significant that the various gods of this Celtic triad had different forms of human sacrifice offered to them. Taranis` offerings were burned, Esus` were drowned whilst those offered to Teutates were hanged. This could be a reference to the elements of fire, water and air.