The gods Taranis, Toutatis and Esus are three Gaulish deities connected to one another through the writings of the Roman poet Lucan who wrote of them in the 1st century. Though the information we have on these deities is limited, their history emanates power and prestige, but the might of these gods also had a dark and bloody history – sacrificial rituals.
Of the Ancient Celtic gods, it is Taranis and Toutatis we know the most of, Taranis, whose very name means thunder has passed down one of the most iconic images of Celtic worship, the scope wheel. Toutatis was thought to be a deity of both war and protection whose name is believed to have meant “of the tribe” and Esus, the most elusive of the three, is a deity whose purpose remains uncertain but has been suggested to be a god connected with warfare, but the bloody history that connects the three? Human sacrificial rituals.
The ancient Celts’ sacrificial rituals and giving of blood to these deities was not as simple as taking a blade and ending a victims life, each of the gods were said to have a different ritual and means of sacrifice than the other. Lucan wrote of the barbarous nature of the sacrifices given to appease the godly trio, sacrificial rituals dedicated to Taranis were said to be held inside wicker figures and burnt to death, those who lost their lives through sacrifice to Toutatis were plunged headfirst into either water of vats of liquid and drowned. It is Esus though who was written as having the most brutal and bloody of sacrifices, according to Lucan while the sacrificial victims were stabbed and then hung from trees, priests would chant omens while watching the blood of their victims run from their wounds and fall to the earth below.
The Ancient Celts’ practice and barbarity of the sacrifices given to these deities are in my belief, a direct reflection of their importance and reverence amongst this most fascinating of ancient cultures.
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