Ancient Celtic religion
Ancient Celtic religion known as Celtic paganism, comprises the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age people of Western Europe now known as the Celts between 500 BC and 500 AD, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, in the case of the Insular Celts the British and Irish Iron Age. Little is known with any certainty about the subject, apart from documented names that are thought to be of deities, the only detailed contemporary accounts are by hostile and not-well-informed Roman writers. Celtic paganism was one of a larger group of Iron Age polytheistic religions of the Indo-European family, it comprised a large degree of variation both geographically and chronologically, although "behind this variety, broad structural similarities can be detected" allowing there to be "a basic religious homogeneity" among the Celtic peoples. The Celtic pantheon consists of numerous recorded theonyms, both from Greco-Roman ethnography and from epigraphy. Among the most prominent ones are Teutatis and Lugus.
Figures from medieval Irish mythology have been interpreted as iterations of earlier pre-Christian Insular deities in the study of comparative mythology. According to Greek and Roman accounts, in Gaul and Ireland, there was a priestly caste of "magico-religious specialists" known as the druids, although little is known about them. Following the Roman Empire's conquest of Gaul and southern Britannia, Celtic religious practices began to display elements of Romanisation, resulting in a syncretic Gallo-Roman culture with its own religious traditions with its own large set of deities, such as Cernunnos, Telesphorus, etc. In Roman Britain this lost at least some ground to Christianity by the time the Romans left in 410, in the next century began to be replaced by the pagan Anglo-Saxon religion over much of the country. Christianity had resumed missionary activity by the 5th and the 6th centuries in Ireland, the Celtic population was Christianized supplanting the earlier religious traditions. However, polytheistic traditions left a legacy in many of the Celtic nations, influenced mythology, served as the basis for a new religious movement, Celtic Neopaganism, in the 20th century.
Comparatively little is known about Celtic paganism because the evidence for it is fragmentary, due to the fact that the Celts who practiced it wrote nothing down about their religion. Therefore, all we have to study their religion from is the literature from the early Christian period, commentaries from classical Greek and Roman scholars, archaeological evidence; the archaeologist Barry Cunliffe summarised the sources for Celtic religion as "fertile chaos", borrowing the term from the Irish scholar Proinsias MacCana. Cunliffe went on to note that "there is more, evidence for Celtic religion than for any other example of Celtic life; the only problem is to assemble it in a systematic form which does not too oversimplify the intricate texture of its detail." The archaeological evidence does not contain the bias inherent in the literary sources. Nonetheless, the interpretation of this evidence can be colored by the 21st century mindset. Various archaeological discoveries have aided understanding of the religion of the Celts.
Most surviving Celtic art is not figurative. Surviving figurative monumental sculpture comes entirely from Romano-Celtic contexts, broadly follows provincial Roman styles, though figures who are deities wear torcs, there may be inscriptions in Roman letters with what appear to be Romanized Celtic names; the Pillar of the Boatmen from Paris, with many deity figures, is the most comprehensive example, datable by a dedication to the Emperor Tiberius. Monumental stone sculptures from before conquest by the Romans are much more rare, it is far from clear that deities are represented; the most significant are the Warrior of Hirschlanden and "Glauberg Prince", the Mšecké Žehrovice Head, sanctuaries of some sort at the southern French oppida of Roquepertuse and Entremont. There are a number of Celtiberian standing "warrior" figures, several other stone heads from various areas. In general early monumental sculpture is found in areas with higher levels of contact with the classical world, through trade.
It is possible. Small heads are more common surviving as ornament in metalwork, there are animals and birds that may have a religious significance, as on the Basse Yutz Flagons; the Strettweg Cult Wagon is associated with libations or sacrifices, pairs of metal "spoons" used for divination have been found. Celtic coinage, from the late 4th century BC until conquest copies Greek and Roman examples, sometimes closely, but the heads and horses that are the most popular motifs may have a local religious significance. There are the coins of the Roman provinces in the Celtic lands of Gaul, Raetia and Britannia,Most of the surviving monuments and their accompanying inscriptions belong to the Roman period and reflect a considerable degree of syncretism between Celtic and Roman gods. A notable example of this is the horned god, called Cernunnos.
Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure. For Celts in close contact with Ancient Rome, such as the Gauls and Celtiberians, their mythology did not survive the Roman Empire, their subsequent conversion to Christianity and the loss of their Celtic languages, it is through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved. The Celtic peoples who maintained either political or linguistic identities left vestigial remnants of their ancestral mythologies that were put into written form during the Middle Ages. Although the Celtic world at its height covered much of western and central Europe, it was not politically unified nor was there any substantial central source of cultural influence or homogeneity. Inscriptions of more than three hundred deities equated with their Roman counterparts, have survived, but of these most appear to have been genii locorum, local or tribal gods, few were worshiped.
However, from what has survived of Celtic mythology, it is possible to discern commonalities which hint at a more unified pantheon than is given credit. The nature and functions of these ancient gods can be deduced from their names, the location of their inscriptions, their iconography, the Roman gods they are equated with, similar figures from bodies of Celtic mythology. Celtic mythology is found in a number of distinct, if related, subgroups corresponding to the branches of the Celtic languages: Ancient Celtic religion mythology in Goidelic languages, represented chiefly by Irish mythology Mythological Cycle Ulster Cycle Fenian Cycle Cycles of the Kings mythology in Brittonic languages Welsh mythology Cornish mythology Breton mythology As a result of the scarcity of surviving materials bearing written Gaulish, it is surmised that the most of the Celtic writings were destroyed by the Romans, although a written form of Gaulish using Greek and North Italic alphabets was used. Julius Caesar attests to the literacy of the Gauls, but wrote that their priests, the druids, were forbidden to use writing to record certain verses of religious significance while noting that the Helvetii had a written census.
Rome introduced a more widespread habit of public inscriptions, broke the power of the druids in the areas it conquered. Although early Gaels in Ireland and parts of modern Wales used the Ogham script to record short inscriptions, more sophisticated literacy was not introduced to Celtic areas that had not been conquered by Rome until the advent of Christianity. Indeed, many Gaelic myths were first recorded by Christian monks, albeit without most of their original religious meanings; the oldest body of myths stemming from the Heroic Age is found only from the early medieval period of Ireland. As Christianity began to take over, the gods and goddesses were eliminated as such from the culture. What has survived includes material dealing with the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians, which forms the basis for the text Cath Maige Tuired "The Battle of Mag Tuireadh", as well as portions of the history-focused Lebor Gabála Érenn; the Tuatha Dé represent the functions of human society such as kingship and war, while the Fomorians represent chaos and wild nature.
The leader of the gods for the Irish pantheon appears to have been the Dagda. The Dagda was the figure on which male humans and other gods were based because he embodied ideal Irish traits. Celtic gods were considered to be a clan due to their lack of specialization and unknown origins; the particular character of the Dagda was as a figure of burlesque lampoonery in Irish mythology, some authors conclude that he was trusted to be benevolent enough to tolerate jokes at his own expense. Irish tales depict the Dagda as a figure of power, armed with a club. In Dorset there is a famous outline of an ithyphallic giant known as the Cerne Abbas Giant with a club cut into the chalky soil. While this was produced in modern times, it was long thought to be a representation of the Dagda; this has been called into question by recent studies which show that there may have been a representation of what looks like a large drapery hanging from the horizontal arm of the figure, leading to suspicion that this figure represents Hercules, with the skin of the Nemean lion over his arm and carrying the club he used to kill it.
In Gaul, it is speculated that the Dagda is associated with Sucellus, the striker, equipped with a hammer and cup. The Morrígan was a tripartite battle goddess of the Celts of Ancient Ireland, she was known as the Morrígan, but the different sections she was divided into were referred to as Nemain and Badb, with each representing different aspects of combat. She is most known for her involvement in the Táin Bó Cúailnge
Fianna were small, semi-independent warrior bands in Irish mythology. They are featured in the stories of the Fenian Cycle, they are based on historical bands of aristocratic landless young men in early medieval Ireland. The historical institution of the fiann is known from references in early medieval Irish law tracts. A fiann was made up of landless young men and women young aristocrats who had not yet come into their inheritance of land. A member of a fiann was called a fénnid. Geoffrey Keating, in his 17th-century History of Ireland, says that during the winter the fianna were quartered and fed by the nobility, during which time they would keep order on their behalf, but during the summer, from Beltaine to Samhain, they were obliged to live by hunting for food and for pelts to sell. Keating's History is more a compilation of traditions than a reliable history, but in this case scholars point to references in early Irish poetry and the existence of a closed hunting season for deer and wild boar between Samhain and Beltaine in medieval Scotland as corroboration.
Some legendary depictions of fianna seem to conform to historical reality: for example, in the Ulster Cycle the druid Cathbad leads a fiann of 27 men which fights against other fianna and kills the 12 foster-fathers of the Ulster princess Ness. Ness, in response, leads her own fiann of 27 in pursuit of Cathbad. However, the stories of the Fiannaíocht, set around the time of Cormac mac Airt, depict the fianna as a single standing army in the service of the High King, although it contains two rival factions, the Clann Baíscne of Leinster, led by Fionn mac Cumhaill, the Clann Morna of Connacht, led by Goll mac Morna, lives apart from society, surviving by hunting; the Dord Fiann was the war-cry of the Fianna, they employed its use prior to and amid battle, either as a mode of communication or to put fear into their enemies. In the legend "The Death of Fionn", Fionn raises the Dord Fiann when he sees his grandson Oscar fall in battle against the armies of Cairbre Lifechair, proceeds to strike back at the enemy with great furiosity killing many dozens of warriors.
The Battle of Gabhra marked the demise of the Fianna. They had three mottoes: Glaine ár gcroí Neart ár ngéag Beart de réir ár mbriathar Fionn mac Cumhaill: last leader of the Fianna Cumhall: Fionn's father, the former leader Goll mac Morna Caílte mac Rónáin Conán mac Morna Diarmuid Ua Duibhne: a warrior of the Fianna who ran off with Fionn's intended bride Grainne and was killed by a giant boar on the heath of Benn Gulbain. Foster son of Aengus. Lughaid Stronghand: sorcerous warrior, nephew of Fionn mac Cumhaill, one of the four who could have untied the knots Diarmuid bound the sea-kings with, but refused to do so. Lover of Aife, daughter of Manannan Oisín, son of Fionn mac Cumhaill: Oscar, son of Oisín Cael Ua Neamhnainn In more recent history, the name Fianna Éireann has been used, as Fianna Fáil has been used: as a sobriquet for the Irish Volunteers, on the cap badge of the Irish Army, the name in Irish of the Army Ranger Wing, in the opening line of the Irish-language version of the Irish national anthem, as the name of the Fianna Fáil political party.
Irish Fairy Tales, a 1920 book by James Stephens containing many tales of the Fianna
In mythology and speculative fiction, shapeshifting is the ability of a being or creature to transform its physical form or shape. This is achieved through an inherent ability of a mythological creature, divine intervention or the use of magic; the idea of shapeshifting is present in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism, as well as the oldest extant literature and epic poems, including works such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad, where the shapeshifting is induced by the act of a deity. The idea persisted through the Middle Ages, where the agency causing shapeshifting is a sorcerer or witch, into the modern period, it remains children's literature and works of popular culture. The most common form of shapeshifting myths is that of therianthropy, the transformation of a human being into an animal or conversely, of an animal into human form. Legends allow for transformations into plants and objects and the assumption of another human countenance. Popular shapeshifting creatures in folklore are werewolves and vampires, the huli jing of East Asia, the gods and demons of numerous mythologies, such as the Norse Loki or the Greek Proteus.
Shapeshifting to the form of a wolf is known as lycanthropy, such creatures who undergo such change are called lycanthropes. Therianthropy is the more general term for human-animal shifts, but it is used in that capacity, it was common for deities to transform mortals into animals and plants. Other terms for shapeshifters include metamorph, the Navajo skin-walker and therianthrope; the prefix "were-," coming from the Old English word for "man", is used to designate shapeshifters. While the popular idea of a shapeshifter is of a human being who turns into something else, there are numerous stories about animals that can transform themselves as well. Examples of shapeshifting in classical literature include many examples in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Circe's transforming of Odysseus' men to pigs in Homer's The Odyssey, Apuleius's Lucius becoming a donkey in The Golden Ass. Proteus was noted among the gods for his shapeshifting. Nereus told Heracles; the Titan Metis, the first wife of Zeus and the mother of the goddess Athena, was believed to be able to change her appearance into anything she wanted.
In one story, she was so proud, that her husband, tricked her into changing into a fly. He swallowed her because he feared that he and Metis would have a son who would be more powerful than Zeus himself. Metis, was pregnant, she built armor for her daughter. The banging of her metalworking made Zeus have a headache, so Hephaestus clove his head with an axe. Athena sprang from her father's head grown, in battle armor. In Greek mythology, the transformation is a punishment from the gods to humans who crossed them. Zeus transformed King Lycaon and his children into wolves as a punishment for either killing Zeus' children or serving him the flesh of Lycaon's own murdered son Nyctimus, depending on the exact version of the myth. Demeter transformed Ascalabus into a lizard for mocking her sorrow and thirst during her search for her daughter Persephone, she turned King Lyncus into a lynx for trying to murder her prophet Triptolemus. Athena transformed Arachne into a spider for challenging her as a weaver and/or weaving a tapestry that insulted the gods.
She turned Nyctimene into an owl, though in this case it was an act of mercy, as the girl wished to hide from the daylight out of shame from being raped by her father. Artemis transformed Actaeon into a stag for spying on her bathing, he was devoured by his own hunting dogs. Galanthis was transformed into a weasel or cat after interfering in Hera's plans to hinder the birth of Heracles. Atalanta and Hippomenes were turned into lions after making love in one of Zeus' temples. Io was a priestess of Hera in Argos, a nymph, raped by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection. Hera punished young Tiresias by transforming him into a woman and, seven years back into a man. King Tereus, his wife Procne and her sister Philomela were all turned into birds, after Tereus raped Philomela and cut out her tongue, in revenge she and Procne served him the flesh of his murdered son Itys. While the Greek gods could use transformation punitively – such as Medusa, turned to a monster for having sexual intercourse with Poseidon in Athena's temple – more the tales using it are of amorous adventure.
Zeus transformed himself to approach mortals as a means of gaining access: Danaë as a shower of gold Europa as a bull Leda as a swan Ganymede, as an eagle Alcmene as her husband Amphitryon Hera as a cuckoo Leto as a quail Maia as a gopher Semele as a mortal shepherd Io, as a cloud Nemesis transformed into a goose to escape Zeus' advances, but he turned into a swan. She bore the egg in which Helen of Troy was found. Vertumnus transformed himself into an old woman to gain entry to Pomona's orchard. In other tales, the woman appealed to other gods to protect her from rape, was transformed. Unlike Zeus and
Coventina was a Romano-British goddess of wells and springs. She is known from multiple inscriptions at one site in Northumberland county of England, an area surrounding a wellspring near Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall, it is possible that other inscriptions, two from Hispania and one from Narbonensis, refer to Coventina, but this is disputed. Dedications to Coventina and votive deposits were found in a walled area, built to contain the outflow from a spring now called "Coventina's Well"; the well and the walled area surrounding it are nearby the site variously referred to as Procolita, Brocolitia, or Brocolita, once a Roman fort and settlement on Hadrian's Wall, now known as Carrawburgh. The remains of a Roman Mithraeum and Nymphaeum are found near the site; the well itself was a spring in a rectangular basin 2.6m x 2.4m in the centre of a walled enclosure 11.6m x 12.2m within a wall 0.9m thick. The contents of the well included 13487 coins from Mark Anthony to Gratian, a relief of three water nymphs, the head of a male statue, two dedication slabs to the goddess Coventina, ten altars to Coventina and Minerva, two clay incense burners, a wide range of votive objects.
The site near Coventina's Well was excavated by British archaeologist, John Clayton, in 1876. The date of the wall at Coventina's Well is uncertain, but some have theorized that it was built sometime after the completion of the Roman fort. Since Hadrian's Wall does not deviate to avoid the well, this may suggest that the boundary wall around the well was built some time after in order to control the flow of water in a marshy area. Evidence from coin hoards and stones which covered them and those blocking the well suggest a abrupt end around 388 due to events linked to anti-Pagan edicts of Theodosius I. Excavation of the site revealed several inscribed altars, some with depictions of Coventina in typical Roman nymph form - reclining clothed and associated with water. On one, Coventina is either depicted with two attendants. At least ten inscriptions to Coventina are recorded from Carrawburgh. Several stone altars contained dedications to Coventina. An example of an inscription from the site reads: Deae Coventinae / T D Cosconia / nvs Pr Coh / I Bat L M“To the Goddess Coventina, Titus D Cosconianus, Prefectus of the First Cohort of Batavians and deservedly.”
Three altars dedicated to Mithras were placed there by the Prefects of the military garrison. In his book The Skystone, Jack Whyte represents Coventina as the inspiration for The Lady of the Lake. Seamus Heaney's poem "Grotus and Conventina" from his 1987 collection'The Haw Lantern'. Tehomet.net has historical, folkloric and literary resources for Coventina, plus photographs of the archaeological site and the artifacts found there. Includes directions to the site and associated museum. Brocolita at Roman-Britain.org
Beltane is the anglicised name for the Gaelic May Day festival. Most it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, it was observed throughout Ireland and the Isle of Man. In Irish the name for the festival day is Lá Bealtaine, in Scottish Gaelic Là Bealltainn and in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn/Boaldyn, it is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain and Lughnasadh—and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai. Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature, it is associated with important events in Irish mythology, it was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle and people, to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, their flames and ashes were deemed to have protective powers; the people and their cattle would walk around or jump over the bonfire or pass between two bonfires, sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and re-lit from the Beltane bonfire.
These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí. Doors, windows and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush: a thorn bush decorated with flowers and bright shells. Holy wells were visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. Many of these customs were part of May Day or Midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe. Beltane celebrations had died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the late 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Beltane, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. Neopagans in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Beltane at the other end of the year. Beltane was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh. Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when livestock were driven out to the summer pastures.
Rituals were held at that time to protect them from harm, both natural and supernatural, this involved the "symbolic use of fire". There were rituals to protect crops, dairy products and people, to encourage growth; the aos sí were thought to be active at Beltane and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to appease them. Most scholars see the aos sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. Beltane was a "spring time festival of optimism" during which "fertility ritual again was important connecting with the waxing power of the sun". Beltane and Samhain are thought to have been the most important of the four Gaelic festivals. Sir James George Frazer wrote in The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion that the times of Beltane and Samhain are of little importance to European crop-growers, but of great importance to herdsmen. Thus, he suggests that halving the year at 1 May and 1 November dates from a time when the Celts were a pastoral people, dependent on their herds; the earliest mention of Beltane is in Old Irish literature from Gaelic Ireland.
According to the early medieval texts Sanas Cormaic and Tochmarc Emire, Beltane was held on 1 May and marked the beginning of summer. The texts say that, to protect cattle from disease, the druids would make two fires "with great incantations" and drive the cattle between them. According to 17th-century historian Geoffrey Keating, there was a great gathering at the hill of Uisneach each Beltane in medieval Ireland, where a sacrifice was made to a god named Beil. Keating wrote that two bonfires would be lit in every district of Ireland, cattle would be driven between them to protect them from disease. There is no reference to such a gathering in the annals, but the medieval Dindsenchas includes a tale of a hero lighting a holy fire on Uisneach that blazed for seven years. Ronald Hutton writes that this may "preserve a tradition of Beltane ceremonies there", but adds "Keating or his source may have conflated this legend with the information in Sanas Chormaic to produce a piece of pseudo-history."
Excavations at Uisneach in the 20th century found evidence of large fires and charred bones, showing it to have been ritually significant. From the late 18th century to the mid 20th century, many accounts of Beltane customs were recorded by folklorists and other writers. Bonfires continued to be a key part of the festival in the modern era. All hearth fires and candles would be doused before the bonfire was lit on a mountain or hill. Ronald Hutton writes that "To increase the potency of the holy flames, in Britain at least they were kindled by the most primitive of all means, of friction between wood." In the 19th century, for example, John Ramsay described Scottish Highlanders kindling a need-fire or force-fire at Beltane. Such a fire was deemed sacred. In the 19th century, the ritual of driving cattle between two fires—as described in Sanas Cormaic 1000 years before—was still practised across most of Ireland and in parts of Scotland. Sometimes the cattle would be made to leap over flames or embers.
The people themselves would do likewise. In the Isle of Man, people ensured that the smoke blew over their cattle; when the bonfire had died down, people would daub themselves with its ashes and sprinkle it over their c
The Mabinogion are the earliest prose stories of the literature of Britain. The stories were compiled in Middle Welsh in the 12th–13th centuries from earlier oral traditions; the two main source manuscripts were created c. 1350–1410, as well as a few earlier fragments. These stories offer drama, romance, tragedy and humour, were created by various narrators over time; the title covers a collection of eleven prose stories of different types. There is a classic hero quest, "Culhwch and Olwen"; the sophisticated complexity of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi defies categorisation. The stories are so diverse that it has been argued that they are not a true collection. Scholars from the 18th century to the 1970s predominantly viewed the tales as fragmentary pre-Christian Celtic mythology, or in terms of international folklore. There are traces of mythology, folklore components, but since the 1970s an understanding of the integrity of the tales has developed, with investigation of their plot structures and language styles.
They are now seen as a sophisticated narrative tradition, both oral and written, with ancestral construction from oral storytelling, overlay from Anglo-French influences. The first modern publications were English translations by William Owen Pughe of several tales in journals in 1795, 1821, 1829; however it was Lady Charlotte Guest in 1838–45 who first published the full collection, bilingually in Welsh and English. She is assumed to be responsible for the name "Mabinogion", but this was in standard use since the 18th century. Indeed, as early as 1632 the lexicographer John Davies quotes a sentence from Math fab Mathonwy with the notation "Mabin." in his Antiquae linguae Britannicae... dictionarium duplex, article "Hob". The Guest translation of 1877 in one volume has been influential and remains read today; the most recent translation is a compact version by Sioned Davies. John Bollard has published a series of volumes with his own translation, with copious photography of the sites in the stories.
The tales continue to inspire new fiction, dramatic retellings, visual artwork, research. The name first appears in 1795 in William Owen Pughe's translation of Pwyll in the journal Cambrian Register under the title "The Mabinogion, or Juvenile Amusements, being Ancient Welsh Romances." The name appears to have been current among Welsh scholars of the London-Welsh Societies and the regional eisteddfodau in Wales. It was inherited as the title by the first publisher of the complete collection, Lady Charlotte Guest; the form mabynnogyon occurs once at the end of the first of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi in one manuscript. It is now agreed that this one instance was a mediaeval scribal error which assumed'mabinogion' was the plural of'mabinogi,', a Welsh plural occurring at the end of the remaining three branches; the word mabinogi itself is something of a puzzle, although derived from the Welsh mab, which means "son, young person". Eric P. Hamp of the earlier school traditions in mythology, found a suggestive connection with Maponos "the Divine Son", a Gaulish deity.
Mabinogi properly applies only to the Four Branches, a organised quartet likely by one author, where the other seven are so diverse. Each of these four tales ends with the colophon "thus ends this branch of the Mabinogi", hence the name. Lady Charlotte Guest's work was helped by the earlier research and translation work of William Owen Pughe; the first part of Charlotte Guest's translation of the Mabinogion appeared in 1838, it was completed in seven parts in 1845. A three-volume edition followed in 1846, a revised edition in 1877, her version of the Mabinogion remained standard until the 1948 translation by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, praised for its combination of literal accuracy and elegant literary style. Several more, listed below, have since appeared. Dates for the tales in the Mabinogion have been much debated, a range from 1050 to 1225 being proposed, with the consensus being that they are to be dated to the late 11th and 12th centuries; the stories of the Mabinogion appear in either or both of two medieval Welsh manuscripts, the White Book of Rhydderch or Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch, written circa 1350, the Red Book of Hergest or Llyfr Goch Hergest, written about 1382–1410, though texts or fragments of some of the tales have been preserved in earlier 13th century and manuscripts.
Scholars agree that the tales are older than the existing manuscripts, but disagree over just how much older. It is clear, thus the tale of Culhwch ac Olwen, with its primitive warlord Arthur and his court based at Celliwig, is accepted to precede the Arthurian romances which show the influence of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and the romances of Chrétien de Troyes.. Those following R. S. Loomis would date it before 1100, see it as providing important evidence for the development of Arthurian legend, with links to Nennius and early Welsh poetry.. By contrast, The Dream of Rhonabwy is set in the reign of the historical Madog ap Maredudd, must therefore either be contemporary with or postdate his reign, being early 13thC. Much debate has been focused on the dating of the Four Bran