The Boar in Celtic Culture


You watch the video about this subject in here: [The Boar in Celtic Culture]


There are many mythological accounts concerning boars in a variety of cultures throughout the world. Boar hunt, and all its process – from tracking the animal, chasing it and delivering the final blow at the end – as always been a very ritualistic activity, greatly linked to initiation rites, tests of manhood, strength and an exercise to prepare for war.
Hercules chased and captured a ferocious and gigantic boar; the goddess Artemis sent a boar to Calydon to ravage, lay waste, create chaos in that region because Oeneus, the king of the city, forgot about the yearly sacrificial rituals to the gods; in Norse mythology we have Gullinbursti – the god Freyr’s mount – a boar; In Hindu mythology, the boar Varaha is the third of the ten avatars of Vishnu and under that form Vishnu defeated the demon Hiranyaksha. Well, it’s not my intention to give you a list of mythological accounts about the boar, I just want you to understand that this was an animal of great importance in many cultures, but let’s focus on the Celtic culture.

Through archaeology we know our ancestors started the process of domesticating animals during the beginning of the Neolithic period. Of course they domesticated animals before this period, but the Neolithic marks a time when Man’s actions greatly changed the behaviour and the physical appearances of animals. Changes in the animals eating habits, changings in the habitats, inter-breading to enhance certain features of an animal – the earliest genetic changes – well, a variety of factors which contributed to change the physical appearances of animals. Boars were domesticated and we have transformed them into pigs, and for millions of years, in general to us there as always been this idea that boars were just wild pigs and pigs were domesticated wild pigs. So there was no great difference between the two. However, to the Celts, a pig was a pig and a boar was a completely different creature. In the Celtic languages there are different words for a pig and for a boar, I mean, the Celts didn’t just refer to boars as wild pigs. The Celts did not identify the two animals as being from the same species. For instance, he word for Boar in ancient Irish and Gaelic-Scottish is “torc”, in Welsh is “baedd gwyllt” and in Cornish “bath”, this shows us the singularity of the boar in the Celtic cultures.

Both the bear and the boar were considered to be the most fearsome creatures of the forests in pre-Christian times and throughout the early middle ages. The Celts highly respected and admired the capacity the boar had to defend itself when the creature felt threatened. So the boar became a symbol of courage and bravery, and also ferocity in battle. To the Celts and also among the Anglo-Saxons, the boar assumes the zoomorphic figuration of the Ideal Warrior, which is why the figure of the boar appears in decorations of weapons and in the equipment of warriors, most prominent in helmets and shields.

When the Celts went to war, one of the most characteristic objects they would take with them was the Carnyx, those long bronze trumpets, with an animal head from where the sound would come, and most of the heads were representations of a boar’s head, of course there were other
animal representations such as serpents, but the boar was the most used representation for these wind instruments. The boar being an animal linked to courage, bravery and ferocity in battle, it’s really interesting to see this very creature represented in these objects emitting a battle chant from the depths – frightening.

The boar is also associated with certain Celtic deities, such as Vitiris, a Celtic god who was worshipped in the British Isles, a very popular deity amongst young warriors and even roman warriors who adopted this god. And the god Mogons also associated with the boar and Moccus a deity from Gaul, worshipped by boar-hunters. The goddess Arduinna, also from Gaul, a goddess from a specific forest in ancient Gaul, and she is associated with hunt and the boar, she even rides a boar. And in ancient Lusitania, the cult of the god Endovélico involved sacrificing boars, and also pigs. So the boar was one of the main animals used in the cult of a variety of Celtic deities. And we have other spiritual/religious references to the boar, such as some of the warriors from ancient Celtic Scotland wore wild boar skins, or even a Celtic tribe from northern Britain, whose name was Orci which means “tribe of the boars”. And then a wondrous variety of statuettes and figurines of boars, and boars represented in coins. The boar was one of the most represented animals, second only to the horse.

In conclusion, the boar is one of the most representative animals of the Celtic culture, as a symbol associated with war, but above all, courage and bravery, ferocity in battle, and in a variety of folktales and Celtic legends, even the ones about King Arthur, the boar is also associated with magic and the other world, in Celtic mythology, especially in Welsh mythology, the boar can speak with humans and the creature is able to lead people into the world of the spirits, linking the animal to initiation rites; rites of passage.

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