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Chapter 2: ‘Celtic Spells and Counterspells’ from Book: Understanding Celtic Religion: Revisiting the Pagan Past

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Book Series: New Approaches to Celtic Religion and Mythology ISBN: 9781783167920 Year: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.16922/1783167920-02 Language: English
Publisher: University of Wales Press
Subject: Religion
Added to DOAB on : 2015-10-27 16:09:11
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This is a chapter from Understanding Celtic Religion: Revisiting the Pagan Past, edited by Katja Ritari and Alexandra Bergholm. Although it has long been acknowledged that the early Irish literary corpus preserves both pre-Christian and Christian elements, the challenges involved in the understanding of these different strata have not been subjected to critical examination. This volume draws attention to the importance of reconsidering the relationship between religion and mythology, as well as the concept of ‘Celtic religion’ itself. When scholars are attempting to construct the so-called ‘Celtic’ belief system, what counts as ‘religion’? Or, when labelling something as ‘religion’ as opposed to ‘mythology’, what do these entities entail? This volume is the first interdisciplinary collection of articles which critically reevaluates the methodological challenges of the study of ‘Celtic religion’; the authors are eminent scholars in the field of Celtic Studies representing the disciplines of theology, literary studies, history, law and archaeology, and the book represents a significant contribution to the present scholarly debate concerning the pre-Christian elements in early medieval source materials.

Keywords

celtic --- religion --- pagan --- past --- mythology

The Baptized Muse

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ISBN: 9780198726487 Year: Pages: 288 DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198726487.001.0001 Language: English
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Subject: Religion --- Languages and Literatures
Added to DOAB on : 2018-03-22 11:01:57
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With the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, increasing numbers of educated people converted to this new belief. As Christianity did not have its own educational institutions, the issue of how to harmonize pagan education and Christian convictions became increasingly pressing. Especially classical poetry, the staple diet of pagan education, was considered morally corrupting (because of its deceitful mythological content) and damaging for the salvation of the soul (because of the false gods it advocated). But Christianity recoiled from an unqualified anti-intellectual attitude, while at the same time the experiment of creating an idiosyncratic form of genuinely Christian poetry failed (the sole exception being the poet Commodianus). This book argues that, instead, Christian poets made creative use of the classical literary tradition, and—in addition to blending it with Judaeo-Christian biblical exegesis—exploited poetry’s special ability of enhancing the effectiveness of communication through aesthetic means. It seeks to explore these strategies through a close analysis of a wide range of Christian, and for comparison partly also pagan, writers mainly from the fourth to sixth centuries. The book reveals that early Christianity was not a hermetically sealed uniform body, but displays a rich spectrum of possibilities in dealing with the past and a willingness to engage with and adapt the surrounding culture(s), thereby developing diverse and changing responses to historical challenges. By demonstrating throughout that authority is a key in understanding the long denigrated and misunderstood early Christian poets, this book reaches the ground-breaking conclusion that early Christian poetry is an art form that gains its justification by adding cultural authority to Christianity. Thus, in a wider sense this book engages with the recently emerged scholarly interest in aspects of religion as cultural phenomena.

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