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Thread: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

  1. #1
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    I am hoping someone can help. I recently discovered that in Goat's Hole (beautiful name, I know) in South Wales in Paviland, South Wales, there was discovered three bone spatulae, notched, and very similar to bone spatulae known to exist in parts of Europe as part of Shamanic ritual. This was around 30,000 years ago that these were placed. Much more recently, during the Bronze Age, Britain traded intensely with the Baltic region, which has a history of Shamanism, resulting in us having objects such as a cup carved out of a single piece of amber that was part of a set of grave goods.

    So I am thinking. Is anyone aware of the extent that Shamanism was either likely or possible in prehistoric Britain? That is, before the early Iron Age (when the "Celts" arrived with their pantheon). I am aware that because we were fickle with our religious beliefs on this island, we changed considerably before deciding that writing stuff down would be a grand idea and so we have no written records, only material culture. I personally am led to believe that the ancient, pre-"Celt" British were animistic and many were practicing Shamans (after all, many of the early people would have come to Britain via Doggerland from the Baltic region). This is the path I am drawn to and wish to pursue. What I need to do is find links between archaeological evidence found at Neolithic, Bronze Age and early Iron Age sites that have analogues to continental ritual use. For example, the antler skull caps found at Star Carr are often seen as a clear indicator of ritual. This may be the case, but maybe they were only used as camouflage in order to get closer to prey they were hunting? Or maybe they were props for story telling? If something similar was happening in another part of Europe which demonstrated a better link to ritual use, then one might surmise they at least were partly used for Shamanic ritual here, too.

    If anyone knows of good books that are relevant to the prehistory of Britain, that would be greatly appreciated, thank you, especially if I can get them as an ebook!

    Thank you in advance
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
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    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  2. #2
    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    Well, at the risk of plugging my own book, try Sacred Shadows. You might find some interesting and even unexpected things in there. And it's available very cheaply on Amazon Kindle (or as a paperback directly from the Wolfenhowle Press.) It's properly researched and fully referenced with a sizable bibliography that should help get you started. Good luck!
    www.thewolfenhowlepress.com


    Phantom Turnips never die.... they just get stewed occasionally....

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    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    Thanks Tylluan hoping to get an ereader for Christmas!
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  4. #4
    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    You're welcome! Don't forget though that you don't need an ereader for Kindle - Amazon do an app so you can download it to your computer.
    www.thewolfenhowlepress.com


    Phantom Turnips never die.... they just get stewed occasionally....

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    I am hoping someone can help. I recently discovered that in Goat's Hole (beautiful name, I know) in South Wales in Paviland, South Wales, there was discovered three bone spatulae, notched, and very similar to bone spatulae known to exist in parts of Europe as part of Shamanic ritual. This was around 30,000 years ago that these were placed. Much more recently, during the Bronze Age, Britain traded intensely with the Baltic region, which has a history of Shamanism, resulting in us having objects such as a cup carved out of a single piece of amber that was part of a set of grave goods.

    So I am thinking. Is anyone aware of the extent that Shamanism was either likely or possible in prehistoric Britain? That is, before the early Iron Age (when the "Celts" arrived with their pantheon). I am aware that because we were fickle with our religious beliefs on this island, we changed considerably before deciding that writing stuff down would be a grand idea and so we have no written records, only material culture. I personally am led to believe that the ancient, pre-"Celt" British were animistic and many were practicing Shamans (after all, many of the early people would have come to Britain via Doggerland from the Baltic region). This is the path I am drawn to and wish to pursue. What I need to do is find links between archaeological evidence found at Neolithic, Bronze Age and early Iron Age sites that have analogues to continental ritual use. For example, the antler skull caps found at Star Carr are often seen as a clear indicator of ritual. This may be the case, but maybe they were only used as camouflage in order to get closer to prey they were hunting? Or maybe they were props for story telling? If something similar was happening in another part of Europe which demonstrated a better link to ritual use, then one might surmise they at least were partly used for Shamanic ritual here, too.

    If anyone knows of good books that are relevant to the prehistory of Britain, that would be greatly appreciated, thank you, especially if I can get them as an ebook!

    Thank you in advance
    I know basically nothing about Celtic or pre-Celtic Briton, so I can't help much here, I'm afraid. I have a number of academic shamanism texts, but they are all in storage at the moment and they mostly deal with extant and relatively recent shamanic cultures... those that we have anthropological support for rather than archaelogical. I do know that a lot of new pagan 'research' into the shamanic practices of Neolithic peoples involves a good dose of UPG and educated guesswork, because even the archaeological 'evidence' that we do have is not completely fallible.

    I would be inclined to start with a book like Tylluan's (I've not read it myself, but on paper it ticks the boxes... neo-pagan with a specific historical interest in that area and good research skills, backed up by being fully referenced with a proper bibliography)... and then branch out into some of the listed sources. That gives you a solid place to start and a few good leads about where to go next.

  6. #6
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    Cheers Rae'ya, greatly appreciated! I will look into the app, Tylluan
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  7. #7
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    Other than Mrs. P's book, which spiritually looks like it would hit what you are looking for, I think you might consider giving The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origin of Art a look. Its not specifically about prehistoric Britain, but about prehistoric Europe (honestly, if you are looking to recreate a practice that goes back that far, you are going to have to cast a very wide net for inspiration and information) by archaeologist David Lewis-Williams (another book he co-authored, which might be of interest is The Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves)--I've not read either yet, they are about 5-6 books down on my "to read" list.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

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  8. #8
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Shamanism in pre-historic Britain

    Thanks thalassa.

    I don't find that unreasonable. Bronze Age Britons traded from Africa to the Baltic, so no doubt they shared and overlapped beliefs with those who they found agreeable enough to trade with. Thanks for the tips
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

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