Saturday, July 19, 2014

A four legged quadruped

This photo taken a couple of year back by the River Chelmer, so cold the trees are reflected in the river, is my version of the mirrored Celtic world.
Just been hunting for Pagans Hill Romano-British octagonal  temple, this sudden interest in that which is Celtic is of course reading someone else's blog, in this instance Past and Present Tensions, and once more travelling in the mind to other places.  A rather plump mongrel type dog statue was found at this temple at Chew Stoke in Somerset, I believe in the well of this temple, I cannot find online but maybe I have the drawing of it somewhere in my notes.  At the time, I enjoyed making miniatures and struggled with this octagonal temple but eventually succeeded, again there maybe a photo somewhere. Here is the depiction online of this unusual temple.....
LS always knows when I am in one of nostalgic moods, this time it is Solva in Wales and wandering round with Moss on my own, I had been looking for the cottage I took once or twice a year in Llandinogg, the farmhouse is still offering holidays and with the same people in charge, so who knows!
Looking for another dog is somewhat difficult, there are things left up in the air, but I have been looking, there is a site with 'oldie' dogs, but the spaniel I like is somewhere in Sussex, and we all know that on taking in 'rescue' dogs one's home has to be inspected.  Or perhaps it is because I have cold feet, in introducing into the household a lively creature.

Reconstruction drawing of Pagans Hill
A much earlier blog.. "Exploring the celtic world of gods is like chasing ghosts, their existence is only recorded by icongraphy at a somewhat later stage. Trying to find the gods of the shrines round my particular part of the West country is almost impossible. Yet if we take a theme, whether sun,moon, or animal, they will appear. So for a moment let us chase the dog motif, and how animals are seen as sacred. Cows, bulls, boars, birds and horses all figure strongly in the artwork of the Celts; these creatures have attributes and roles in the sacred world of nature, they can represent death, fertility, rebirth or war.
Nehalennia The first goddess and dog is a continental one, she seems to have protected travellers who crossed the North sea, and her shrine (now under water) was to be found at Zeeland (Holland,) linking the river Rhine to Britain. Over 121 altars were found with depictions of her, the dog that sits at her feet is large and is seen as a benevolent creature guarding his mistress. The dog in celtic mythology has two functions, and can often be found at healing shrines, dog saliva is seen as antiseptic and the licking that dogs do would probably been seen as healing. The dog also represents death, he can lead you or at least your spirit to the underworld, this of course in celtic mythology is'nt a final end, but a new beginning in a world filled with all the pleasures of life. The dog can also be sacrificed, as seen at Caerwent where several dog skulls have been found in the wells there. At the Lydney temple, high above the Severn, a temple somewhat similar to Nehalennia's temple, in that it is dedicated to mythological sea creatures the god Noden was worshipped and offerings of little bronze figurines of dogs were found.
The Pagan Hill temple overlooking Chew Valley, though a slightly later roman temple had parts of a dog stature, he is a somewhat homely creature, a slightly plump mongrel short haired and sitting down, his head is missing. Now whether he was part of a larger stature perhaps of the resident god is not known. Apollo is often seen as accompanied by a dog, and at the Apollo Nettleton Shrub temple, there is Cunomaglos (the Hound Lord), so this pairing of gods and dogs is seen as perfectly natural. Of course the roman goddess Diana with a faithful hound sitting at her feet can also be found at Nettleton Shrub, and also at Aqua Sulis, the craftmanship in these two statues reflecting a high standard of workmanship.
Again what we find is that the Roman influence and its gods dominate the Celtic pantheon, but that the indigenous god of 'place' is recognised. There is, for want of a better word, a metamorphis of beliefs at these Roman temple sites, translated into the celtic mythology, the cult of water shrines and its healing process is blended with the wider cosmology of the natural world, in which the animals also take their part......

And why a four legged quadruped? well in looking on the net at more intellectual articles on the dog from the temple, that was how he was described.

Moss enjoying the sun at Llandinogg


  1. It is so hot and overly oppressive here, that that four legged quadruped has definitely got the right idea. Just taken myFLQ for a walk and go badly midge-bitten on both arms for my trouble.

    1. It has been very sticky here to Pat, dogs must feel the heat as well. Storms have kept at bay today, but presumably will come back tonight. When we went over the green to look at the spot where the lightening had struck, we found an old drain cover exposed which must have created that sharp red ;ightening strike I saw....

  2. Thanks for the plug, Thelma! It's interesting that you illustrate reflections in the water. I had not thought about it before, but perhaps that was part of the fascination the Celts had with watery places for religious sites. Some years ago, a west-country metal detectorist sent me a bunch of Celtic coins, some fragmented brooches, a silver pellet and tiny flat silver ingot that he was representative of a Celtic site he had found (and reported). He told me that the coins had been scattered over the original ground surface. I emailed him back to thank him for the samples and told him that it would probably equidistant to the closest Roman sites, there should be a spring nearby and there also should be a lot of animal bones. He had told me nothing of the site except that it was in south Worcestershire. Well, he thought I must have been psychic -- he said it was in a location that I described and the road that approached the site was called "Three Springs Road" and there were many animal bones where he found the objects. It is a type of site I call a Druidic Council site, unrecognized by archaeologists but mentioned by Caesar in Gaul. It was a place where, also, clan leaders would scatter money to show that they had enough to waste. So next time you walk across a ploughed field near a spring, watch out for animal bone fragments from such a feast.

    My daughter married a MacDonald, and another MacDonald told me that there was a family legend about a time when the MacDonald Clan was very poor. When the MacDonald traveled to London, he would get a penny from each member of the clan and use the money to have a silver horse shoe made with the Clan crest or motto engraved on it. Just before entering London, the horseshoe would be loosely attached to a hoof so that it would would soon fall off. Whoever found the shoe would imagine that the MacDonalds were so rich that they could afford to shod their horses with silver. Talk about "keeping up appearances"!

    1. Well funnily enough John in your last but one blog you mentioned the Gundestrup Cauldron and the Desborough Mirror, think it was that mirror. Both of which we saw at the Celtic Exhibition at Stuttgart last year. It was like walking into a wonderland, never thought I would see the cauldron, a marvellous experience. There was a great sandstone carving of a statue as well dominating the room as well. If you type nemeton into the search box you should find about three blogs on the subject of water and springs.
      Lovely family story about the MacDonald's silver horseshoe, such vanity!

    2. Although I have read much about the Celtic mirroring in their designs, I don't think anyone ever mentioned anything about the mirroring of water, and yet so much of their art was deposited in water, bogs, etc. and I had not thought about it either. I think it is a valid connection. Sometimes, we get too conditioned to see what should be obvious. I'll see if I can find anything in mythology that might connect water reflections to the Celts -- Narcissus does not seem to, but someone once suggested that there was water around Silbury Hill and that the reflections of the moon in that water played an important part in the rituals there. I'll have to track that down.

      The only Celtic art I've seen "in the flesh" are the things in my own collection and the stock of a friend! When I left England I was still only interested in the classical stuff. I was looking forward to seeing so much at the British Museum when I went back in 1999 -- but the entire gallery was closed for renovations! I went to the National Gallery, instead, to revisit some favorite paintings. (I only had two days in London).

    3. Well the water imagery may be fanciful, but springs have collected their special healing power along the way. Silbury Mound is indeed on occasions surrounded by a 'moat' of water, but it is the Swallowhead Spring just over the fields that is looked upon as 'sacred', even today! This spring feeds the River Kennet, (Roman Cunetio) and there is a Roman settlement lying round the Silbury Mound. The road past is the Marlborough to Bath roman way.

    4. I was glad to hear that my recollection was not a "senior's moment", so I tracked the story down about the moon reflection at Silbury: (PDF file)

  3. Forgot to mention -- when I told that MacDonald story once, I got two in return from a weaver in a remote part of the Highlands (Scoraig):

    Alun's site is He is really quite the character and his "History" link is well worth looking at.

  4. Very much 'the character' fascinated by his weaving,I had a loom for sometime but warping it was always difficult so I gave it way. He and his family obviously followed the art of living off the land, Scotland is a difficult place to make a living in this way.

    1. Yes, I can imagine! He and his family have to be greatly self-sufficient. There is no road to their property and one has to hike in or take a boat. Their power comes from windmills. You have to admire people like that in this time.

      He also sent me a real Limerick:

      There once was two cats from Kilkenny,
      Each cat thought there was one cat too many
      So they fought and the fratched
      And the bit and they scratched
      Til instead of two cats there weren't any