Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gathering theories

So where am I going with these Celtic spoons, not sure, but this pair of spoons below were found not far from my old house in Bath, down the lane following the fierce little brook (Locksbrook) that would eventually join up with the River Avon. I remember chasing the literature at the time, a friend had given me an old article on the subject and at the end, it was just one of those mysterious Celtic puzzles.  My mind had become locked into the silver baptismal spoon my daughter had had as a baby, no answer.

"Celtic spoons found at Loxbrook; One other interesting fact is that near the end of the brook before it joins the River Avon a pair of “Celtic” spoons were found. To quote (taken from Rev.Preb.Scarth 1870). “they were found while clearing the ground for quarrying stone to form a new road, and lay near the stream, at the depth of about 7 feet”. These spoons, of which other pairs have been found in England, Wales and Ireland, are considered by Scarth to be early christian spoons, probably dating from the 3rd or 4th century. Its interesting that they should be found just outside Bath, and near to a local stream. This leads one to believe that they were used for a baptismal rite, one spoon normally has a small hole in its bowl, also they are often incised with a faint cross in the bowl. The other characteristic is distinctive celtic curvilinear patterns that are found at the top of the spoons."

Then on checking the Westmoreland spoons, to be found at the British Museum, I found this written about them..... appertaining to the Druidical nature of the spoons....

"The spoons were found by a farmer digging in a bog near a natural spring. They were buried under 30-50 cm of peat and were about 200-250 cm apart. Objects were offered as sacrifices in bogs, lakes and rivers in the Iron Age and the spoons' location suggests that they might have been used in rituals. Spoons like these are usually found in pairs and one spoon always has a small hole on the right side. The other spoon does not have a hole, but is always decorated with a cross which divides the bowl into four quarters. Why? It has been suggested that something, perhaps water, blood or beer, might have been allowed to drip through the hole in one spoon onto the other spoon during attempts see into the future."

There is no sense to making the cross in the centre of the right hand spoon for measurement as  liquid dripping through would on the whole take the pathway of the lower r/h quarter.  Always I see the spoon as an anointing spoon, but this is because of a strong Catholic upbringing when I was young and the association of baptism and water, the 'ritual' though whatever it was has a more symbolic nature to it.

There are quite a few pairs found, as one can see from the above illustration

Romilly Allen - Celtic Art in Pagan and Christian times 1904

The Welsh spoons and those from the south of England are of the best workmanship, with embossed concentric or curvilinear designs on the handles, the reverses of which are in some cases engraved with curvilinear designs. In one Welsh pair (1 and 2) and in one English spoon (5) the junction of the bowl with the circular handle is strengthened
by wide lateral wings. That this junction was a weak part is shown by a small ornamented plate riveted on the back of a spoon found in London (8); the only other evidence of repair is a small gold plug inserted in one of the Cardigan pair (2). The spoons from the north of England, Scotland, and Ireland have engraved designs on the handles and are not embossed; the bowls are less circular than those from the south, the Irish spoons being specially elongated. In the Irish and Westmorland spoons the cross radiates from a small engraved circle; this might suggest an origin from a spoon with a central perforation similar to the French spoon, but the design is probably purely decorative....

Decoration aside, I shall have to read Romilly Allen's book, but their distribution points to a purposeful ceremonial use, the meaning of which has been lost in time.

Past and Present Tensions link;


  1. These are so beautiful Thelma. It would be so exciting to find one. The only really exciting thing we have found on the farm is a 3000BC axe head.

  2. Wish I knew the answer as to what their use was, but such things are lost in time. Remember once excavating an 18th century fox trap made out of Roman material and finding a Roman bracelet, the only other thing was a medieval jug, that lay on the side of a kiln and must have spoilt in the firing.